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    Political Junkie
    Send your questions about campaigns and elections.
    Will Roth Leave Delaware Senate Seat Open?

    By Ken Rudin
    Special to
    Friday, May 21, 1999

    Question: How many other senators whose terms are up in 2000 are likely to retire? What's the latest on 77-year old Bill Roth (R-Del.)? Will Delaware Gov. Tom Carper (D) run for his seat? – Stan Ward, Columbia, Md.

    Will Roth seek a sixth term next year? (Collection of Ken Rudin)
    Answer: Thus far, five senators are calling it quits: three Democrats (Daniel Patrick Moynihan of N.Y., Frank Lautenberg of N.J. and Richard Bryan of Nev.) and two Republicans (John Chafee of R.I. and Connie Mack of Fla.). The most widely heard name to join the group is Roth, a Republican who is in his fifth term. Roth has avoided giving a straight answer on his plans, and I've talked to as many people who think he will retire as those who think he will run again. So I really don't know what he is going to do.

    As for whether Carper will run for Roth's seat, the term-limited governor has been equally vague about his plans, and will continue to be until Roth makes up his mind. Also waiting to see what Roth does is Rep. Mike Castle (R), the state's only congressman. Castle, who preceded Carper as governor, also would like to be senator, but would run only if Roth retired.

    As for other possible retirees, I've seen references to both Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) and Slade Gorton (R-Wash.), but both are expected to run again.

    Question: I have seen speculation about the national political prospects of New York Gov. George Pataki – about his potential for the presidency. Am I missing something, or is that a lot of "spin" coming out of his office? I mean, the man has the charisma and personality of a post, and has no coattails – he couldn't even carry the rest of the state Republican ticket last year despite winning personally by a large margin. Does any serious observer (outside of New York state) consider Pataki a credible presidential candidate? – Pat Cihon, Syracuse, N.Y.

    Answer: You must realize that some people consider any governor of New York to be presidential timber simply because he is the governor of New York. Apparently, Pataki is among those people. He has made multiple visits to New Hampshire and elsewhere, selling himself as a philosophical heir to Ronald Reagan and suggesting that he should play a role in deciding what course the GOP will take in 2000 – and perhaps landing a spot on the ticket as well.

    To tell you the truth, Pataki has not made much of an impression, but part of the reason is that there isn't much of an opening for him. The Republican field seems to be at a point where, if Texas Gov. George W. Bush makes a major misstep, plenty of other declared hopefuls are ready to take up the reins. As for his vice presidential hopes, there is no indication that Republican convention delegates would ever turn to Pataki, a pro-abortion rights candidate who has been trying to move the GOP platform away from its steadfast opposition to abortion. And any hopes he could make it onto the ticket would be also dashed if his ongoing feud with New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani ultimately costs the GOP an opportunity to win a Senate seat – especially if the opponent is First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, one Democrat Republicans would love to see get beaten.

    For more on Pataki, see my July 16 column.

    Question: Any thoughts on the next Maryland governor's race? How do you see Kathleen Kennedy Townsend's chances? – Arlene Hawkridge, Chestertown, Md.

    Townsend lost her first bid for public office, a congressional race in Maryland in 1986. (Collection of Ken Rudin)
    Answer: There has been a great turnaround in the public perception of Townsend, the eldest child of the late Robert F. Kennedy, who has been the lieutenant governor since 1995. After being chosen to run on the ticket led by now-Gov. Parris Glendening (D), Townsend seemed ill at ease and ill-informed on the stump, widely seen as a lightweight. By most accounts she has markedly improved to the point where she is more favorably seen than the governor himself. She will head into the 2002 race in good shape. Still, she has a long way to go before winning the battle for the nomination. Doug Duncan, the county executive in voter-rich Montgomery County, has made little secret that he is interested. Others, including Baltimore County Executive Dutch Ruppersberger, Prince George's County Executive Wayne Curry and Rep. Ben Cardin of Baltimore, may join the race as well. Townsend does not have as obvious a geographic base. Republican names being bandied about include Rep. Bob Ehrlich, state Sen. Bob Neall and Dick Bennett, the party's 1998 candidate for lieutenant governor. For the record, the GOP has not won the Maryland governorship since 1966, when some fellow named Spiro Agnew was elected.

    Post Scripts: The May 7 column listed governors with the longest tenures of the 20th century: James Rhodes (R-Ohio), George Wallace (D-Ala.), Terry Branstad (R-Iowa) and Edwin Edwards (D-La.). All served four terms, or 16 years. I omitted Wisconsin's Tommy Thompson from the list because the last two years of his current term (his fourth) will take place in the 21st century. Ron Parsons of Sioux Falls, S.D. notes that Gov. Bill Janklow (R) is in his fourth (though not consecutive) term as well, but as with Thompson, the final two years come in the next millenium. But I did forget North Carolina's Jim Hunt (D) who, as David Hughes of Charlotte reminded me, is a year away from finishing his fourth, non-consecutive term, for a total of 16 years.

    And a lot of mail was generated by my conversation with Ron Simpson in the April 16 column over Louisiana's so-called "jungle" primary. I've always considered the term "jungle primary" as part of the political lexicon – like "Super Tuesday," or "winner-take-all" primaries. Simpson thought I was making a racial remark by using the term. David Holland of Northridge, Calif., wrote that he understands the "offense taken" by Simpson, noting, "The 'jungle' term suggests that the procedure is primitive and uncivilized." Andy K., who used to live in Louisiana as a Northerner, thought I was "unnecessarily rude" to Simpson. "I can tell you," he wrote, "you can't be too sure if you are insulting someone. People in Louisiana often think people in Washington are insulting them." The opposite reaction came from Michelle of San Francisco, who thought Simpson's "anger over your use of the term 'jungle politics' was very, very amusing, and I loved your response. Living in California, I've heard the term used before and certainly don't see how he or anyone else could find it offensive. Thanks for bringing a smile to this political junkie's face!"

    David Holland, by the way, suggested a different term when all candidates run on the same ballot, regardless of party: "blanket primary." I'll go with that one unless there is a better suggestion out there.

    Got a question? Ask Ken Rudin:

    Ken Rudin, political editor at National Public Radio, is also the creator of's ScuttleButton contest.

    © Copyright 1999 Ken Rudin

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