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    State of Play

    New York: Upstate Dems Seek New Candidate

    State Capital Strategies
    Friday, March 13, 1998

    Rumors continue that several upstate Democrats are wooing Thomas Golisano (Ind.) to run for governor as a Democrat. Golisano, a businessman and 1994 Independence Party nominee, would need to receive permission from the State Democratic Committee to mount a bid for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. That permission is not likely – the committee is full of supporters of New York City Council Speaker Peter Vallone. Five Democrats are currently in the race.

    The Golisano recruitment effort exacerbates the state party's split. Previously, Democrats from the state's most populous counties tried to choose a consensus candidate to oppose Republican Gov. George Pataki. That effort has been unsuccessful – and scrapped temporarily.

    Vallone and Lt. Gov. Betsy Ross are considered front-runners for the nomination. Ross, who switched to the Democratic Party last September, has sparked a new dynamic in the party's quest for consensus. She has excellent name identification, but some party activists decline to endorse her before she has more experience with the party.

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    Alaska: Leman Shifts Sights on Campaign

    AK State Sen. Loren Leman, once expected to enter the GOP primary for governor, may run for lieutenant governor. A gubernatorial primary – coupled with a general election run against incumbent Gov. Tony Knowles (D) – would be costly, sources report. Without Leman, state Sen. Robin Taylor and millionaire John Lindauer would face off in the Republican primary. Taylor holds the edge in that race, but ultimately Knowles appears to be the man to beat; he has courted favor with the state's important oil industry and other business groups.

    Taylor would benefit if Leman sought the lieutenant governorship. He wants to reach out to centrist voters in the Republican primary, and if Leman, a conservative Republican, joins him on the ticket as a candidate for lieutenant governor, they could overtake Lindauer.

    Some Republican pundits suggest Knowles is vulnerable on tribal sovereignty and other issues that do not sit well with rural voters, most of whom are Democratic. In addition, Knowles's efforts to court the oil industry could hurt if a left-wing environmentalist challenges him in the Democratic primary.

    Georgia: Insurance Commissioner Facing Ethics Charges

    Insurance Commissioner James Oxendine (R) faces a preliminary hearing later this month on several ethics charges. He has been accused of using campaign money to rent a luxury apartment in downtown Atlanta and collecting substantial illegal contributions from insurers. Oxendine's counsel is his ex-wife, Lee Oxendine, who has also represented other top Republicans, as well as insurance interests.

    Illinois: Primary Race Moving to Home Stretch


    The four-way race for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in Illinois is turning into a two-way race in the home stretch, with U.S. Rep. Glenn Poshard and former state Attorney General Roland Burris leading in several polls. The field also includes former U.S. Justice Department official John Schmidt and former U.S. Attorney Jim Burns. Burris still edges Poshard in most polls, but Poshard is gaining, largely due to some surprising verbal and financial support from House Speaker Mike Madigan. Madigan's support of Poshard, a down-state lawmaker, is unusual for the Chicago legislator, particularly since Burris, Schmidt and Burns are all from Chicago.

    Leading Democrats reportedly are worried Poshard is the only Democrat who can beat George Ryan, the popular Republican secretary of state, in the general election. If Poshard wins the primary, his conservative views – including opposition of abortion rights – and support outside Cook County could help Democrats gain votes in typical GOP strongholds. The issue of race has flared up at various points during the campaign. Burris, who is black, still leads the primary polls – and could easily win the primary if white voters are split among the other three candidates.

    Mississippi: Candidates Eyeing Second Spot Candidates are quietly lining up, anticipating a 2000 gubernatorial run by Lt. Gov. Ronnie Musgrove (D). Among those considering the lieutenant governor's race are state Rep. Grey Ferris (D) and state Sens. Bill Hawks (R), Travis Little (D), Hillman Frazier (D) and Senate Secretary Amy Tuck (D).

    Musgrove, who has not made a formal announcement, could face Attorney General Mike Moore in a Democratic gubernatorial primary. Meanwhile, Republicans keep whispering that First Lady Pat Fordice could make a gubernatorial run in 2000, although Republican Gov. Kirk Fordice reportedly is cool to the idea.

    Missouri: Wilson Leaves Governor Bid to Holden


    Lt. Gov. Roger Wilson will not run for governor in 2000, leaving the door open for State Treasurer Bob Holden to become the Democratic front-runner title. Wilson cited family reasons for opting out of his expected bid. However, insiders speculate that the $700,000 already in Holden's campaign coffers made Wilson consider his viability very carefully.

    Term limits prevent Democratic Gov. Mel Carnahan from seeking another term. U.S. Rep. Jim Talent (R) is considered a Republican front-runner for the race.

    Rank-and-file Democrats were shocked at Wilson's announcement, yet relieved that the party would not endure a bitter primary fight between Wilson and Holden. After Wilson's announcement, speculation began that former St. Louis Mayor Vince Schoemehl could enter the Democratic primary. Wilson could consider a third run for lieutenant governor in 2000.

    New Mexico: Mayoral Race a Draw – a Five-Card Draw.

    A hand of five-card draw decided the mayoral race in the small New Mexico town of Estancia. The race between incumbent James Farrington and challenger JoAnn Carlson ended in a tie, with each candidate receiving 68 votes. State law dictates ties are to be broken with a game of chance. That chance left Carlson out of the mayor's office. But she has not given up. She is expected to contest the original election results.

    Ohio: State Senator Faces Bribery, Mail Fraud Charges


    Jeffrey Johnson, a state senator since 1990 and a candidate in the Democratic primary for the 11th Congressional District, has been indicted on bribery and mail-fraud charges. He is accused of soliciting personal loans and campaign contributions in exchange for state contracts and state liquor licenses.

    Johnson, who had been considered a strong candidate for the congressional seat, says the charges are false and that he will continue his campaign. Other Democrats in the primary to succeed retiring U.S. Rep. Louis Stokes (D) are former Cleveland NAACP president Marvin McMickle, state Rep. Peter Lawson Jones, and state Rep. Barbara Boyd.

    Rhode Island: Attorney General Won't Seek Reelection Rhode Island Attorney General Jeffrey Pine stunned supporters by abandoning his expected campaign for a third term. The Republican incumbent, who has been considered a future candidate for governor or U.S. Senate, cited personal financial reasons for his decision.

    South Carolina: Video Poker Fodder for Candidates, Legislature


    Video poker may have the edge to spin the 1998 governor's race. Democrats have been accused of using Republican Gov. David Beasley's effort to ban video poker to stir up fear – and contributions to Democratic candidates. Beasley wants the legislature to ban the games, but his aggressive nature on the issue could backfire if proponents of a video poker public referendum get their way.

    The referendum to save video poker could make it on the November ballot. The games are popular among middle-class whites – some of whom are already upset that Beasley does not support the flying of the confederate flag at the South Carolina statehouse. If they turn out in large numbers to vote in favor of video poker, they may also vote against Beasley.

    Democrats may walk a fine line on the issue. If they align with the poker industry, they may feel a backlash from conservative Christians who oppose gambling. At the same time, Democrats have needed the recent influx of campaign contributions from the video poker industry. The party must soon decide if those dollars will help or hurt in the end.

    Meanwhile, the politically charged proposal to ban the gaming did not reach the Senate floor on March 10 as expected. Instead, debate was postponed until March 24 by unanimous vote that day.

    Virginia: Democrats Select New Party Leader

    VA Virginia Democrats elected state Delegate Kenneth Plum as new state party chairman. Plum replaces Sue Wrenn, who recently resigned. The party faces a rebuilding challenge after last fall's general election, in which Democrats lost all three statewide elections for the first time in history.

    Plum, who represents the 36th House District, will serve as chairman through 2001. Currently, Plum is co-chair of the House Science and Technology Committee.

    © Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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