DEAN FAN Dwight Pelz. Sandeep Kaushik
Former Vermont governor and current presidential candidate Howard Dean once again proved the depth of his support in liberal Seattle at a June 23 evening rally held at the Bell Harbor International Conference Center on Seattle's waterfront. The event drew about 800 locals, who gathered to watch a videotape of Dean's formal campaign kickoff speech, delivered earlier in the day in Burlington, Vermont.

In the speech, delivered before a cheering throng of 5,000 Vermonters, Dean reiterated now-familiar campaign themes, castigating the current administration's "narrow-minded ideological advisers" and decrying inside-the-Beltway Democratic officials for betraying the party's rank and file with what he characterized as their go-along-to-get-along approach to crucial political issues.

"Our politicians--many of them good people--have been paralyzed by fears of losing office," Dean said. Contrasting the president's prodigious money-raising machine with his own grassroots appeal, Dean said of President Bush, "He calls his biggest fundraisers 'Rangers' and 'Pioneers.' We call ourselves 'Americans.'"

Dean, while stressing his outsider status with attacks on the "political process in Washington"--which he said validated the Founding Fathers' fears that "economic power would one day seize political power"--also strove to broaden his appeal by broaching less incendiary themes celebrating community and offering a vision for a more positive future. "We are built on mousepads, shoe leather, and hope," Dean said of his campaign.

The Seattle event was emceed by King County Council Member Dwight Pelz, who had the crowd roaring with his fervent attacks on the current administration. His query about whether the president was "lying through his teeth" about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq drew a thunderous response from the crowd.

Many attendees indicated that they had not been politically active in the past. Todd Hass, a 35-year-old research scientist at the University of Washington, said he came across Dean by chance when the candidate recently appeared on Charlie Rose. Describing himself as "rather apolitical," Hass said that he was drawn to Dean because the candidate seemed like "a really straight shooter."

sandeep@thestranger.com