WASHINGTON (Dec. 3)
When Steve Grossman’s 9-year-old son dropped out of a baseball league, telling his father that “when you stopped coming to my games, it took all the fun out of it,” the Democratic Party’s national chairman knew it was time to quit.
After splitting his time between Capitol Hill and Boston for 22 months as the head of the Democratic National Committee, Grossman resigned this week, citing the desire to spend more time with his son and ailing father.
But don’t expect this “genetic” Democrat and lifelong Jewish activist to drop out of the public spotlight.
Grossman’s resume reads like an entry in who’s who in Democratic and Jewish circles: former Massachusetts Democratic Party chair, president and chairman of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, honorary national vice chairman of United Jewish Appeal, campaign chairman of the Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston.
In fact, Grossman almost stepped down last year to run for Massachusetts governor.
While he plans to stay involved in the party, Grossman’s surprise departure announced Wednesday hit Washington like a lead balloon.
“While it is good news for his family,” President Clinton said, Grossman’s resignation “is a loss for the Democratic Party. Steve has been a leader, a party builder, a prolific fund-raiser and a wonderful friend to Hillary and me.”
Grossman won the hearts of Democrats by shattering fund-raising records as he nearly wiped out the party’s $18 million debt, though the debt rose again to about $8 million after last month’s congressional elections.
Grossman took the job when few would because of the party’s mounting debt and investigations over fund raising in the 1996 campaign.
While the party under Grossman’s watch returned millions in illegal contributions and ran up millions more in legal bills fending off criminal accusations, his legacy is likely to be remembered for the record amounts of money that he raised to reduce these debts and fund the 1998 congressional elections.
During his tenure, the DNC raised some $40 million.
“It was his leadership and commitment to Democratic principles that helped turn what was supposed to be a Republican midterm rout into a Democratic victory,” said Ira Forman, executive director of the National Jewish Democratic Council, referring to Democratic gains in the elections last month.
It was the first time this century that a second-term president’s party won seats in a congressional midterm election.
Washington’s Jewish community has already begun to mourn the loss of one of its closest allies. Grossman will stay in the post until a successor is found, but intends to leave no later than March.