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Former Democratic presidential challenger says party unwelcoming

BY MELISSA DAWKINS | NOVEMBER 28, 2011 7:20 AM

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Presidential hopeful Harry Braun will not participate in the Iowa Democratic caucuses in January, despite a four-month campaign in Iowa.

Braun, originally running against President Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination, said he reregistered as an independent last week. Independent candidates cannot participate in either the Republican or Democrat Iowa caucuses.

"The caucuses are a process of party organization," said Sue Dvorsky, the Iowa Democratic Party chairwoman. "You have to be a registered Democrat or registered Republican to participate."

Braun said he decided to run as an independent after being ignored by the Democratic Party.

"The Democratic Party would not acknowledge my campaign," he said. "… In Iowa, they get to make those decisions."

However, Dvorsky said, Braun was not denied campaign opportunities in Iowa. He visited Iowa City several times during the summer.

"Mr. Braun and any other candidates are welcome to do such a thing," Dvorsky said. "He has been welcomed to speak at any meeting at which he asked to speak."

Tim Hagle, a University of Iowa political-science associate professor, said some Democrats may consider Braun a distraction candidate.

"When your party has the incumbent president, they don't want to have someone challenge that party, because he could divide the party," Hagle said. "The Democratic Party wants to stay unified behind Obama."

Dvorsky said Obama will definitely be the Democratic Party's nominee in Iowa.

"The president is going to be our nominee. Mr. Braun is one of many," she said. "We focus on the top here."

While Hagle said a candidate challenging an incumbent of the same party has not been successful in a long time, he said incumbents have been challenged in different ways.

"In 1976, when Gerald Ford was in office, he was challenged by Ronald Reagan," Hagle said. "It went fairly long into the process."

Braun said he is running in 2012 because he has the solutions to the nation's problems; he contended that Obama does not.

"He's not a Democrat," Braun said. "… He hasn't accomplished anything … Neither of the political parties have any ideas on how to solve these problems."

But Hagle said Braun's candidacy is largely for the purpose of highlighting issues of importance to him.

"He's got some idea or method he's trying to push," Hagle said.

Braun said his main concern is the country's environmental priorities. He wants to invest government dollars in mainstreaming hydrogen fuel, as well as revamping the U.S. system of government.

"We're not only destroying the only planet in the universe we can live on. We're at the ending stages," Braun said. "… Hydrogen fuel is the only fuel that can replace [fossil fuels] since it's completely renewable."

He also wants to pass a "Democracy Amendment," which would require a majority approval by voters on all government acts.

"The U.S. has always been a republic," he said. "Not a democracy at all."

But Dvorsky said Braun's campaign will not hurt Obama in the Iowa caucuses.

"We have a great president," she said. "And that's who's going to be our nominee."


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