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    State of Play

    Florida: MacKay Battling Both Parties in Nomination Race

    State Capital Strategies
    Friday, May 1, 1998

    Democratic Lt. Gov. Buddy MacKay is running into campaign problems – from both Republicans and Democrats. Recent polls indicate Republican front-runner Jeb Bush is well ahead of MacKay, with few respondents remaining undecided. In a poll of 813 registered voters by Mason-Dixon/Political Media Research, Bush garnered 53 percent and MacKay took 35 percent in a general election matchup, with 12 percent undecided. The poll's margin of error was plus or minus 3.5 percent.

    When top Democratic fund-raisers tried unsuccessfully to coax big names into the race, the well-publicized process took on an "anyone-but-MacKay" aura. That attitude could open doors for former Democratic state senator Rick Dantzler, who has been trying to win over black lawmakers and other Democrats convinced that the 66-year-old MacKay cannot beat Bush. However, the Mason-Dixon poll showed Dantzler with only 39 percent name recognition. He garnered the support of only 5 percent of likely Democratic voters, compared with MacKay's 62 percent. House Democratic Leader Buzz Ritchie and Fort Lauderdale Rep. Mandy Dawson-White, a player in the House Black Caucus, recently endorsed Dantzler.

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    Arizona: Proposal to Ban Lobbyist Gifts Resurfaces


    Buoyed by Republican Gov. Jane Dee Hull's support, a ban on lobbyist gifts to lawmakers may get new life. Republican state Sen. Tom Patterson's bill would close a legal loophole that permits lawmakers to accept free entertainment from lobbyists and the people who hire them. Legislators have accepted tickets to sporting events most often.

    The proposal also would limit legislators' ability to eat expensive meals free by putting a $25 ceiling on lobbyist dining spending. Opponents of the ban say lawmakers should be able to accept the gifts as long as they comply with existing disclosure laws.

    Patterson, who chairs the Senate Government Reform Committee, was expected to attach the proposal to an unrelated committee bill. A House panel had defeated his original Senate bill containing the proposal. This latest maneuver would allow the issue to bypass the House committee and go directly to the full House.

    Arkansas: Press Row, Computers Scrap for Space

    Touching off a skirmish between watchdogs and technocrats, an Arkansas House management committee proposed making room on the chamber floor for new computer scanning equipment. The plan would displace the press corps, however, moving reporters to a corner of a gallery high above the House chamber to make room. Instant media outcry forced Democratic speaker-designate Bob Johnson to ask the management committee to rethink its options for placing the equipment.

    Georgia: Bowers Says Let the Voters Decide

    Republican gubernatorial hopeful Michael Bowers has refused to quit the race despite party pressure after he acknowledged financially supporting a longtime paramour. Bowers says he will leave the decision up to the voters.

    The revelation of the affair last year crippled the former front-runner's chances for the Republican nomination, but Bowers refused to bow out. Bower's wife recently said the GOP criticism was ironic, because they stayed together and were going to make their marriage work.

    Idaho: Salmon Preservation Divides Gubernatorial Candidates


    The buzz in Boise environmental circles is that Democratic gubernatorial candidate Robert Huntley may support breaching the lower four Snake River dams to save salmon and steelhead runs. A former Idaho Supreme Court Justice, Huntley is expected to announce his salmon and steelhead recovery plans May 8 in Lewiston, then fly back to Boise for another news conference.

    Huntley is considered the front-runner among Democrats seeking to challenge U.S. Sen. Dirk Kempthorne, the likely GOP candidate, in November. Kempthorne opposes breaching the lower Snake River dams and endorses fish-friendly dam turbines, which he has championed for the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory scientists in Idaho Falls.

    Huntley formally announced his candidacy April 27. Meanwhile, Kempthorne's only Republican opponent, David Shepherd of Lewiston, failed to show up for the Republican Party's annual Lincoln Day dinner in Lewiston.

    Massachusetts: Turnpike Tolls, Taxes Could be on Fall Ballot

    Four significant referenda could turn up on the Massachusetts ballot this November – including an end to Massachusetts Turnpike tolls and a cut in investment income taxes from 12 percent to 5 percent. The third issue would establish a system to publicly finance political campaigns. The fourth, currently tied up in court, recommends a reduction in the earned income tax to 5 percent from 5.95 percent.

    Legislators have until May 6 to decide whether to pass the initiative petitions as bills, although sources report that is unlikely. Supporters of the initiatives must gather 10,821 signatures by July 1 to take the items straight to Massachusetts voters in November.

    Minnesota: State Senator Bypasses Political Process


    Democratic State Sen. Doug Johnson wants to bypass his party's endorsement process in his bid for the governor's mansion. Johnson intends to take the campaign directly into a crowded primary instead of attempting to win support through the traditional Democratic Farmer Labor (DFL) party process.

    Facing candidates with more notable names and healthy coffers, Johnson proposes a permanent income tax cut and rural economic development. The other DFL candidates are former U.S. Senate nominee Mark Dayton, 1994 gubernatorial nominee John Marty, Attorney General Hubert H. "Skip" Humphrey III, former state senator Ted Mondale and Mike Freeman, son of a former governor. The leading GOP candidates are Lt. Gov. Joanne Benson and St. Paul Mayor Norm Coleman.

    Nebraska: GOP Primary Breaks Cash Records

    The state's heated and expensive Republican gubernatorial primary continues to be unpredictable. State Auditor John Breslow has doubled the previous record for primary spending to win the nomination over U.S. Rep. Jon Christensen and Lincoln Mayor Mike Johanns. Campaign sources say internal polling shows Christensen in the front-runner position, while Breslow loses ground to Johanns.

    New Hampshire: Challenger Emerges in Speaker's Race


    One candidate already has come forward to challenge the incumbent for New Hampshire House Speaker in 1999. Five-term State Rep. Ken Weyler (R) confirmed his plans to oppose Speaker Donna Sytek (R) in her bid for a second term, but sources speculate Weyler has little chance of beating her. Characterized as smart and relentless, Weyler also appears abrasive. Sytek's biggest problem from Weyler's challenge is the perception that she can be challenged – a situation that might attract a more formidable threat.

    Insiders speculate that Sytek may be looking for a change. Senate President Joe Delahunty (R) muses every two years about possible retirement. If Delahunty does retire, Sytek would be a strong contender for his district.

    New York: Leichter to Retire After 30 Years as a Legislator

    State Sen. Franz Leichter (D) will not seek reelection to his New York City district. The senior member of Senate judiciary and water resources committees, Leichter told reporters he has spoken with officials in the Clinton administration about a position in Washington D.C. Leichter began his legislative tenure as an Assembly member from 1968 to 1974 before moving to the Senate in 1975.

    Daniel O'Donnell, a former public defender currently in private practice, has expressed interest in the seat. A Democrat, he is the brother of talk show host Rosie O'Donnell.

    Oregon: Debts, Business Deals Dog Sizemore's Bid


    Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Sizemore is not letting published reports about failed business dealings derail his campaign. On consecutive days, the Portland Oregonian and the Salem Statesman Journal ran articles detailing Sizemore's business debts. Republican leaders insist that Sizemore, the head of Oregon Taxpayers United, will remain their nominee.

    Newspaper reports indicate Sizemore owes nearly $800,000 to creditors and original investors for his company, Illuminated Toy, Inc. Some of those debts date back 12 years. Also, reports demonstrate that Sizemore did not disclose his personal bankruptcy status at the time he took out the loans.

    Vermont: Dwyer Enters Republican Gubernatorial Primary

    Republican Ruth Dwyer formally entered governor's race, announcing her bid to the House Republican Caucus in the final days of the legislative session. The announcement before legislators was clearly designed to rally the loyalists. Dwyer faces Bernie Rome in the Sept. 8 primary. She is expected to make an issue of Gov. Howard Dean's national work for the Democratic Party and possible national ambitions, saying Dean is out of touch with Vermont citizens.

    Washington: Speaker Ballard back on ballot


    Republican House Speaker Clyde Ballard has reversed his retirement plans and decided to seek reelection. His retirement plans hinged on the state's term limit law, which was rejected by the Supreme Court in January.

    Key lobbyists and even some officials of Democratic Gov. Gary Locke's administration reportedly urged Ballard to seek reelection. Legislative players wanted the savvy Ballard to remain because of the lack of leadership in the state GOP. The legislature experienced high turnover in 1994 and the election of a record number of freshmen.

    Wyoming: Wild West Image Wanes, Urban Moderates on the Rise

    The state legislature is beginning to reflect Wyoming's gradual rural-to-urban shift and the slow decline of traditional agriculture and minerals industries, says retiring House Majority Whip Budd Betts.

    Betts cites tensions this year between conservative Republicans who controlled the leadership and the "urban moderate Republicans," many of whom represent the state's traditionally Democratic southern tier of counties. Last session's pronounced acrimony was triggered primarily by cultural changes within the state, he said. Betts, who operates a dude ranch in rural northwest Wyoming, is retiring to spend more time with his business and family.

    © Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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