ST. LOUIS -- Pushing a centrist agenda, the Democrats' platform committee drafted a statement of principles calling for open trade, teacher certification and continued support for the death penalty despite objections from liberal, education and labor interest groups.
The policy positions dovetail with the agenda of Vice President Al Gore, the Democratic presidential candidate who also supports capital punishment despite growing debate nationwide about its fairness.
Meeting Friday, the committee added an amendment to the death penalty plank in the party platform, calling for DNA evidence to be used when appropriate and for efforts to ensure defendants effective legal counsel, which is in line with Gore's view.
''Some believe serious consideration ought to be given to repealing the death penalty,'' said Gerald Shea, assistant to the president for government affairs of the AFL-CIO, citing differences of opinion on the committee. ''I think the party is committed to being tough on crime.''
The Democratic Party spent the past decade trying to shake a soft-on-crime image that Republicans promoted.
Texas Gov. George W. Bush, Gore's Republican opponent, has come under fire for heading a state with the nation's highest number of executions: more than 130 since Bush took office in 1995.
North Carolina Gov. Jim Hunt, who oversees the draft committee, said he believes Democrats will support the stand.
''There are differences in the party about the death penalty,'' he said. ''But the vice president and I support it in certain cases.''
The draft committee will submit the document to the platform committee on July 29 in Cleveland.
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