Gore Stumps for Morella Opponent

Former Vice President Al Gore began a five-state Democratic campaign swing Sunday, raising $100,000 for Maryland congressional candidate Christopher Van Hollen Jr.

Van Hollen is trying to unseat Republican Rep. Constance Morella in one of the nation's most watched races as Democrats try to seize control of the House.

"When you are in a struggle this close, it really matters who is speaker of the House, who organizes the committees, whether or not Tom DeLay is setting the agenda of the Congress,'' Gore said, referring to the House majority whip from Texas.

In recent weeks, the 2000 Democratic nominee for president has criticized President Bush's policies on Iraq, the economy and terrorism.

Gore said Sunday he would not have voted for the resolution Congress approved last week authorizing Bush to use force in Iraq, but added he respects Congress' decision.

Gore spent most of September on the road campaigning for Democrats. He also raises money for them through his political action committee, Leadership '02.

He planned to take part in rallies and fund-raisers in Iowa on Monday and Tuesday, making stops in Dubuque, Mount Vernon, Iowa City, Des Moines, Ames and Mason City for Democratic candidates in four of the state's five House races.

He then heads to Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Connecticut.

Gore, is expected to announce after next month's election whether he will seek the presidency in 2004. He is among several White House hopefuls who have campaigned for Democratic candidates in Iowa this year.

About 60 people attended the Sunday fund-raiser at a private residence in Chevy Chase, contributing at least $1,000 per person.

Morella, who has represented the largely Democratic suburban Washington district since 1987, has said this year's redrawing of district boundaries to include more traditionally Democratic voters makes her one of the most vulnerable incumbents.

Bush raised $500,000 for Morella's campaign in a June fund-raiser.

A survey released earlier this month by The Baltimore Sun and The Gazette newspapers in suburban Washington found Van Hollen leading Morella 43 percent to 40 percent, with 17 percent of voters undecided. The poll had a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points.