WASHINGTON – Howard Dean (search) won the first vote of the 2004 presidential campaign season on Tuesday, although it was more of a voting rights rally than a chance to express a preference for a candidate.
The former Vermont governor got 43 percent of the votes, followed by Al Sharpton (search) with 34 percent, former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun with 12 percent and Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, with 8 percent.
The other five major Democratic candidates for the party's presidential nomination were not on the ballot. No delegates were selected; that comes later in caucuses on Feb. 12.
Turnout was higher than in previous presidential primaries with 12 percent of registered voters casting ballots compared to 8.4 percent in 2002.
Mayor Anthony A. Williams (search), who did not endorse any candidate, said he believed citizens showed they were serious about winning voting rights in Congress for the District of Columbia, something now barred by the Constitution.
"(They) took time out of their day to come out and vote and show by their expression of democracy, denial of democracy in this city," said Williams.
City leaders moved the primary from May to December in an effort to call attention to the lack of voting rights, but the Democratic Party undermined the effort by insisting that the vote be nonbinding. City officials asked supporters of the missing five candidates to show up at the polls anyway to support the voting rights goal, urging them to cast blank ballots.