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What's 'minor' about this candidate?

It looks prim and polite: five Democrats in New Hampshire running for president and coming together for high-minded debates. Tom Brokaw handled the first, Cokie Roberts the second. News pros were matched to political pros. The public was to be well-served.

It wasn't. The public is being manipulated by television executives and Democratic Party officials. Whether by coincidence or conspiracy, they have relegated Larry Agran, Lenora Fulani and Gene McCarthy--to take only three candidates--to the outer circles of attention while reserving the inner circle for Jerry Brown, Bill Clinton, Tom Harkin, Bob Kerrey and Paul Tsongas.

The argument is that the anointed five are major candidates with current or past service in the Senate or statehouse, while the unanointed others are irrelevant never-was-beens.

Applied to Larry Agran, this dismissal not only ignores his record as the progressive mayor of Irvine, Calif., but it mocks the ethic that the electorate deserves as wide a selection of options as possible.

Agran is not in New Hampshire on a lark, nor is his candidacy a caper. That was proven in the one televised debate he did manage to get onstage, although for a moment it looked as if he were headed for jail. That was in Nashua in December, when Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) presided over a discussion of health care. After Rockefeller mouthed some platitudes on the importance of the discussion, Agran rose from the center of the hall to demand that he be allowed a place on the platform. Rockefeller called on security to oust this disturber of New Hampshire's peace. But the crowd, more enlightened in the ways of free speech than Rockefeller the patrician, protested that Agran had a right to be heard. By popular demand, he went up to take his seat--near a squirming Rockefeller, it turned out--and so did Lenora Fulani, the two of them joining Gene McCarthy and the big fellas. Agran more than held his own.

The sky didn't fall, and the oceans didn't rise.

Instead of the New Hampshire primary being a Democrats' free-for-all, it has been a free-for-some. To their discredit, the some--the Favored Five--have lacked the broadness of spirit to protest that Agran should be allowed to debate among them. Their model for narrow-mindedness is Chris Spirou, the New Hampshire Democratic Party chairman whose idea of full intellectual exchange occurred in November at a state convention. He shut off Agran's microphone because he was a "minor" candidate.

What's minor about being on the ballot in 27 states--with 23 pending--and raising $200,000 in 37 states and none of it PAC money? What's minor about having repeatedly won elections for 12 years as a liberal Democrat in conservative Republican Orange County, Calif.?

One reason Agran, an honors graduate from Harvard Law, is a major candidate is that he is breaking in a major was from the tepid reforms called for by conventional Democrats. Cut the military budget by half, he has proposed. That isn't a wild notion--$150 billion for the Pentagon is still plenty, with a few billion thrown in for fraud and waste to as to allow defense contractors a gradual and more merciful withdrawal from their addictions. Agran isn't a tame-the-Pentagon Democrat because he reads The Progressive or The Nation too much. It's worse than that: He's been a mayor, the one political job in America that sees the devastations to families, schools and neighborhoods caused by squandering our wealth for military adventurism and defense fantasies. Mayors, much more than senators or governors, see the mounting human pain caused by the pro-military money hemorrhage of the past three decades. Why, Agran is asking, "must the average American family be taxed $2,000 a year to pick up the tab for European and Japanese security? Isn't it time for the Europeans and the Japanese to pay all the costs--whatever they are--to defend their own citizens? ... Meanwhile, our government should get on with the business of defending the interests of American citizens in Seattle and Birmingham, in Manchester and New York.

Agran represents the voice of local government. Maybe he is qualified for the presidency, maybe not, which can also be said of the others now in New Hampshire. His experience has been traditionally Democratic--in city hall delivering the services. His popularity in Nixon-Reagan country suggests his deliveries have been efficient. Agran's own party refuses to hear him, with much of the media plugging their ears also.

Among the bosses--party and news--it has been decided arbitrarily that Agran is a loser. The larger loss is the public's.

Candidate Agran speaks to cities

Prior to leaving Philadelphia for Washington, D.C., American Cities Conference participants heard a keynote address by presidential candidate Larry Agran, the former Mayor of Irvine, Calif.

Although frustrated by the media focus on the other five Democratic candidates, Agran's campaign has the only comprehensive program designed to address the concerns of cities. Under his plan for "A New American Security," Agran will "put human need at home ahead of military overkill abroad." His proposal would cut $150 billion from the military budget and reinvest it here at home. Savings would be gained by withdrawal of all permanent U.S. troops from Europe and Japan and cuts in the foreign military aid budget.

Aid to education, a comprehensive health care program, environmental protection, deficit reduction, and a revived revenue sharing program would constitute the new priorities under this initiative.
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Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:includes related article on Agran's address to the American Cities Conference; presidential candidate Larry Agran
Author:McCarthy, Colman
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:Feb 17, 1992
Words:900
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