Democratic National Committee Chairman John White confirmed yesterday that he will step down from the party chairmanship this winter and said he has become increasingly convinced that a new chairman can be elected without a debilitating battle among competing factions in the party.
White's strong support for President Carter in the primary battle with Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) made him a controversial figure in the party and an unlikely prospect to retain the chairmanship without a major fight. White said it was always his intention to leave the DNC post once "the dust has settled" from the 1980 elections.
"The only way I would be a candidate [to remain chairman] is if we can't settle on a consensus candidate," he said. "A bloodbath has to be avoided.I don't intend to walk away from this party and have it in shambles."
White said a consensus is developing among Democratic officials around the country to have the DNC elect a new chairman at a meeting in Washington around the last week of February. The date for the meeting is expected to be set by the party's executive committee, scheduled to meet here Dec. 9.
A number of Democrats have been mentioned to replace White, but nothing close to a consensus candidate has begun to emerge. Two key figures in the effort to find a chairman acceptable to the various Democratic factions are expected to be Richard Moe, Vice President Mondale's chief of staff, and Paul Kirk, a longtime adviser to Kennedy. Mondale and Kennedy are the presumed leading contenders for the party's 1984 presidential nomination. Moe and Kirk handled last summer's negotiations between the Carter and Kennedy campaigns leading up to the Democratic National Convention.