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    State of Play

    Georgia: Switching Parties to Stay in Power

    State Capital Strategies
    Friday, April 10, 1998

    Georgia Senate President Pro Tem Sonny Perdue (D) is pondering a switch to the GOP and has been phoning several conservative Democrats this week to encourage additional defections.

    A conservative Democrat, Perdue apparently fears he will lose personal influence if the Senate falls under Republican control next year. Several senators have confirmed that Perdue called them last week, which infuriated Senate Democratic leaders who overheard the plans. SCS sources say key Democrats promise not to consider Perdue as president pro tem if the party retains control of the upper chamber.

    Perdue's efforts apparently have not included contact with key Republican senators, who say Perdue would have a slim chance at the GOP's speaker job just because he switched parties and brought a few legislators with him.

    Democratic Lt. Gov. Bob Peeler's retirement after the session will trigger a leadership shuffle regardless of Perdue's plans. Senate Democratic Majority leader Charles Walker is considered fairly liberal and has traditionally disagreed with the more conservative Perdue. Democrats in the Georgia legislature will not enjoy the support of term-limited Gov. Zell Miller (D) next session.

    More State Political News From:
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    Alabama: Pardoned Governor Jumps in Race


    Former Alabama governor Guy Hunt, who was forced from office after he was found guilty of using the governor's office for personal gain, has entered the June 2 GOP gubernatorial primary. Hunt's candidacy follows a special session in which the state Board of Pardon and Appeals granted him a full pardon and his attorney paid the final $200,000 installment of court-ordered restitution. The pardon declared Hunt, the first Republican governor of Alabama during this century, innocent of all charges.

    Hunt was removed from office after his 1993 conviction for using tax-free funds earmarked for his 1987 inauguration for personal gain. Judge Sally Greenhaw had extended Hunt's probation by five years because he was paying restitution so slowly. But Greenhaw canceled the probation when Hunt paid the full restitution on March 31. He said donations and an unidentified loan funded the final payment.

    Several leading Republican sources said they contributed to the fund to retire the debt, but they complained last week that Hunt didn't make his gubernatorial plans public prior to their donations.

    His candidacy could cause problems for incumbent Republican Gov. Fob James, as he likely will siphon off some the right-wing Christian vote. A James-Hunt primary would probably benefit another primary candidate, Montgomery businessman Winton Blount III.

    Meanwhile, Democratic Lt. Gov. Don Siegelman faces only token primary opposition, leaving him a strong campaign war chest for the general election.

    Alaska: Guarding Against Gerrymandering

    Alaska House members will seek state constitutional amendments on reapportionment and redistricting to block future gerrymandering. The amendments will create a five-member Reapportionment Board, with appointments from the legislative majority, legislative minority and the chief justice of the Alaska Supreme Court. The amendments will require apportionment plans to avoid legal challenges. The proposal, by Republican Reps. Brian Porter and Eldon Mulder, passed by a vote of 27 to 11.

    House members oppose the current plan in which the governor, a Democrat, controls the reapportionment process.

    Florida: Potential Running Mate Says No


    Democratic Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Pinelas reportedly has turned down an offer to be running mate to Lt. Gov. Buddy MacKay, the Democratic gubernatorial front-runner. Sources close to MacKay say that while the lieutenant governor did not make a formal offer, he was exploring Pinelas's interest in the Democratic ticket. MacKay is considered likely to turn to either Miami State Attorney Katherine Ferndandez Rundle or Orange County Mayor Linda Chapin.

    Idaho: Tarnasky Expected to Join Governor's Race

    Coeur d'Alene physician William Tarnasky is expected to join Boise attorney Robert Huntley, a former state supreme court justice, in the Democratic primary for governor. While Huntley is the front-runner in the primary, Republican U.S. Sen. Dirk Kempthorne remains the leader for the general election.

    Illinois: GOP Criticizes Lawmaker's Retainer, Resignation


    A controversial contract between a vulnerable state lawmaker and a stronger candidate has escalated tension between House Republicans and Democrats – and prompted GOP leaders to seek an investigation by the attorney general.

    The saga began last year when Democratic state Rep. Glenn Bradford resigned his seat mid-term. The resignation proved convenient for Democrats. Bradford, who was considered weak, was replaced by Jay Hoffman – a proven vote-getter more likely to keep the seat in November. Republicans criticized Bradford's resignation as a political move.

    This week reports surfaced that House Speaker Michael Madigan granted Bradford a $20,000 legal service contract six days after he resigned. The contract retained Bradford to conduct legal work for the House Democrats. The GOP claims the contract was a payoff – especially since Bradford still has not done any work. Bradford said the contract stipulated a $2,500 monthly retainer and required that he be available upon request. Some Democrats have asked him to return the money.

    Iowa: Clinton Photo Sparks Political Debate

    Two recent photo opportunities in the Iowa Senate took on a decidedly political flavor.

    In preparation for a portrait of herself in the Iowa Senate chambers, Republican Senate President Mary Kramer removed a picture President Clinton that normally hangs on the wall behind her chamber chair. Democrats criticized Kramer's action, but she argued that she took the picture down to reduce glare during the photo shoot. After the criticism, Kramer apologized publicly.

    Ironically, a group of state Senate pages has their photo taken in the Senate chamber the same day, and they also removed the president's photograph. When asked why, several students said they felt Clinton was setting a bad example.

    Kansas: GOP Chairman May Challenge Graves


    David Miller, chairman of the Kansas Republican Party, reportedly wants to challenge incumbent Gov. Bill Graves for the Republican gubernatorial nomination. A former Christian Coalition organizer, Miller could expect strong support from conservatives and would probably attract the support of Kansans for Life, an anti-abortion group that owns the most well-known computerized phone dialing/message database in Kansas. Official word on Miller's intentions is expected soon. Graves, a moderate Republican, has struggled throughout his term with criticism from conservative and Republicans who oppose abortion rights.

    Kentucky: Lawmaker Faces Weapons Charge

    A Kentucky state representative was charged with carrying a .22-caliber handgun on an airplane at Dallas-Fort Worth Airport in late March. Democratic Rep. Pete Worthington , who was arrested for carrying the handgun, said he simply forgot the weapon was in his suitcase. Airport security officials released Worthington when they were satisfied he did not intentionally bring the gun onto the airplane. However, Worthington faces state and federal charges and fines from $500 to $2,500 for carrying the weapon in the airport and on the flight.

    Mississippi: Candidates Take Diverse Trails


    Attorney General Mike Moore and Lt. Gov. Ronnie Musgrove are taking different tracks to attract the attention of the Democratic faithful as they consider running for governor. Moore is spending much time in Washington, trying to complete the tobacco industry deal. Musgrove, meanwhile, has rounded up fund-raisers and support back in Mississippi. Musgrove also is working behind the scenes to limit Moore's ability to take credit for any funds the state receives as part of a tobacco settlement.

    Musgrove argues that the final details must be complete before any money can be spent. He also wants funding to fight to come from a separate tobacco fund administered by the Dept. of Public Safety, not the attorney general's office.

    In the meantime, former Democratic governor Bill Allan is hinting at another gubernatorial run – this time as an independent on an anti-gambling platform. However, insiders insist that the reclusive trial lawyer is simply feinting, and say they doubt he could muster significant support.

    New York: Moynihan Endorses Vallone's Bid

    U.S. Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, one of the state's leading Democrats, has endorsed New York City Council Speaker Peter Vallone for the Sept. 15 Democratic primary. The winner will challenge Republican incumbent Gov. George Pataki on the November ballot.

    Citing his respect for Vallone, Moynihan also acknowledged the need for a Democratic front-runner to emerge from the field. Vallone's platform focuses on creating jobs and improving the state's education and health care systems. Lt. Gov. Betsy McCaughey Ross – Pataki's 1994 running mate who recently switched to the Democratic side – leads Vallone slightly in the polls.

    Oklahoma: Familiar Name, Different Party

    Democrat J.C. Watts, Sr. – father of Republican U.S. Rep. J.C. Watts Jr. – is running for labor commissioner of Oklahoma. This race, his first statewide bid, pits him against incumbent commissioner Brenda Reneau (R). He has won election previously on the local level. Watts's name identification, boosted by the congressional tenure of his son, will no doubt help his efforts.

    Oregon: Kitzhaber Leads Poll


    Democratic Gov. John Kitzhaber is far ahead of his likely Republican opponent Bill Sizemore in a statewide poll of 600 registered voters. Kitzhaber garnered a 67 percent favorable rating in the survey, compared with Sizemore's 26 percent. Sources close to the Kitzhaber campaign say they are pleased with the results, although they expect the margin to tighten after the May 19 primary.

    Sizemore is executive director of Oregon Taxpayers United, a group that has pushed several high-profile tax initiatives in recent years. He is expected to win the Republican nomination, despite four lesser-known primary rivals. Sizemore must overcome his high negative ratings – almost 35 percent of those who recognized his name responded with a negative impression.

    Wisconsin: GOP Takes State Senate Control

    Republicans gained control of the Wisconsin state Senate after a victory by Republican state Rep. Mary Lazich in the 28th District. Now that Republicans enjoy a one-vote majority (17-16) in the state Senate, they control both legislative chambers and the governor's office, which will give them clear advantages during the legislative session this spring. The special election filled the seat vacated by Democrat Lynn Adelman, who was appointed to a federal judgeship.

    Negotiations between the two chambers will determine the session's agenda, called by the legislature and set to begin April 28. In an effort to tighten the schedule, Senate leaders have said "less is more." But Assembly Speaker Scott Jensen says many bills deserve action, insisting that Republicans need to establish a record of governing. Meanwhile, lawmakers are also preparing for a separate special budget session called by the governor beginning April 28.

    Wyoming: Ohman Declines Reelection Bid

    Secretary of State Diana Ohman's decision not to see reelection has prompted a flurry of political announcements in Wyoming. Ohman, a Republican, is concluding her first term as secretary of state after a single term as state superintendent of public instruction. Ohman said she based her decision on her desire to allow newcomers to participate in state government. She offered no hints of her future plans.

    Possible candidates for secretary of state include recently retired House Speaker Bruce Hinchey (R) and state Sen. Jayne Mockler (D). Mockler has floated the idea of running as a Republican, but GOP insiders say her liberal positions would damage any credibility within the party.

    © Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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