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CAMPAIGN CONFIDENTIAL

Former Colorado senator Gary Hart certainly looks like he’s serious about running for president. Hart, who has been giving foreign policy addresses around the nation as he tests the waters for a run, appeared at the Westchester County (N.Y.) Democratic Committee’s gala dinner March 20, where he spoke briefly about the war in Iraq. There would be no reason for the Coloradan to attend such a local party gathering unless he were trying to generate some retail political momentum for a run, observers said. Asked about his presidential aspirations, Hart said he would make his decision “after the war ends.”

At the dinner, the presidential campaign team of Missouri Representative Richard Gephardt earned some praise from Paul Francis, a managing partner of a Manhattan investment firm, the Cedar Street Group, and a big Democratic giver. Francis told the Forward that staffers of several campaigns had approached him for contributions. Gephardt, however, “called me himself,” Francis said. “That shows organization.”

New York is being organized for Gephardt by political consultant Hank Morris, the architect of the careers of the state’s two top Jewish elected officials, the senior senator, Charles Schumer, and the state comptroller, Alan Hevesi.

The presidential campaign of Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, for its part, is being organized in New York by Paul Rivera, who last worked as an operative for the unsuccessful 2002 Democratic candidate for governor, former state comptroller H. Carl McCall. The campaign reportedly has installed itself in the same Midtown space occupied by the McCall campaign. “We put a lot of money into that space,” a former McCall staffer said, speaking on condition of anonymity. “I guess that’s all going to Kerry.”

In other Westchester news, Monica Lewinsky’s stepsister is fundraising for the presidential campaign of former Vermont governor Howard Dean. Diane Straus Tucker, daughter of R. Peter Straus — who is married to Monica’s mom, Marcia Lewis — is listed as the contact for a March 30 fundraiser to be held at the Bedford Hills home of Jerry and Terry Feldman. Contributions levels range from $250 to $2,000.

In more 2004 news, Stuart Brody, chairman of New York state’s Democratic Rural Conference, representing 42 county parties, buzzed at the dinner about the presidential candidate “cattle call” that his group is holding at Lake Placid, N.Y., the weekend of May 30. Eight of the nine candidates in the Democratic field have expressed interest in attending the event, where they will be quizzed about their positions on rural issues, Brody said.

Not to leave out the Republicans, the chairman of the New York State Republican Committee, Alexander Treadwell, met last week with Mandell Ganchrow, chairman of a pro-Israel political action committee, Hudpac, and a former president of the Orthodox Union. They discussed how to exploit President Bush’s popularity in the Orthodox Jewish community to put the state in the Republican column in 2004.

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