Dean Fundraiser Set For Tonight

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Local backers of Democratic presidential hopeful Howard Dean said more than 100 people were expected at a Reno fund-raiser Saturday night to help raise $5,000 for his campaign.

At least 140 people committed to the $25-a-plate event featuring wine and deserts, said Brian Hutchinson, the head of Students for Dean at the University of Nevada, Reno.

The event at Hutchinson's home was believed to be the first formal fund-raiser in northern Nevada this year for any of the nine Democratic candidates. Dean, the governor of Vermont, is scheduled to attend a fund-raiser in Las Vegas on Oct. 28.

"There's a lot of speculation that Nevada is going to be a battleground state," Hutchinson said Saturday.

"We want to send a message to the Dean campaign, other Democrats in Nevada and finally to Republicans in Nevada that there is a Dean presence here," he said.

Hutchinson said he's serving as a co-coordinator of a loosely knit group of about 200 people calling themselves "Northern Nevada for Dean."

"But to say we have a director or a head, we really don't. It's just a grass roots thing," said Hutchinson, the co-founder and vice president of a nonprofit company based in San Diego - My Debt Counselor - that provides debt counseling to those in need.

"One of the really interesting thing about the Dean campaign is it is not run top down. It is empowering local communities. For a lot of us, it's the first time we've done anything political in our lives,"

The Dean backers in the Reno area became connected through Dean's Web site in March, he said.

"As far as I know, the only other group out there organizing in northern Nevada is a real small contingent of supports for" Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, he said.

Telephone calls seeking comment at Nevada Democratic Party headquarters in Las Vegas Saturday went unanswered.

Terry McAuliffe, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, promised during a visit to Las Vegas in September that Democrats would target Nevada in the 2004 presidential campaign.

Bush won 50 percent of the vote in Nevada in 2000. Democrat Al Gore took 46 percent, Ralph Nader took 2 percent, and the rest were scattered among minor candidates.