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    State of Play

    Texas: All in the Family, Keeping an Eye on 2000?

    State Capital Strategies
    Friday, May 8, 1998

    Former Republican president George Bush recently held two fund-raisers in Texas with an unusual and somewhat distant connection to his son, Gov. George W. Bush. The former president's fund-raising events support agriculture commissioner Rick Perry, who is running for lieutenant governor. Perry faces a formidable opponent in Democrat John Sharp, who recently held a fund-raiser hosted by such party leaders as Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock and House Speaker Pete Laney.

    Bush's appearance, however, may have been designed to benefit his son. Political observers believe that if Perry wins the state's second highest elective office, Gov. Bush will be free to pursue a presidential bid in 2000 without exposing himself to criticism that his successor would be a Democrat.

    More State Political News From:
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    California: Poll Shows Davis Surprisingly Strong


    Lt. Gov. Gray Davis has surged ahead in the race for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, according to the latest California Field poll. Davis had been a distant third in the campaign thus far, trailing millionaire Al Checchi and U.S. Rep. Jane Harman, both Democrats who had aired television ads for weeks. The comparatively cash-poor Davis began went on the air with his ads two weeks ago.

    Nineteen percent of poll respondents said they were likely to vote for Davis, 17 percent favored Checchi and 11 percent chose Harman. Sources say Checchi's negative ads have hurt Harman, as has her failure to give details about her positions on issues.

    Meanwhile, Attorney General Dan Lungren (R) has begun trying to strengthen party support for his bid. Rumors persist that blocks of Republican voters will cross over to vote Democratic in the June 2 primary, California's first open primary election. Lungren's efforts during May are targeted to avoid that crossover.

    Checchi has succeeded in reaching many swing voters and moderates of both parties, and a Checchi primary victory could create problems for the more conservative Lungren.

    Florida: Webster Wins Plaudits for Speaker Tenure

    The state House recently honored House Speaker Daniel Webster (R) for his government service. Both Republicans and Democrats joined in the praise for Webster's hard work and conciliatory style during the past session. House members unveiled a portrait of Webster and donated $5,000 for a trip of his choice. Rep. John Thrasher (R) will take over as speaker later this year.

    Iowa: Lightfoot's Use of Knife During Debate is Questioned


    Republican gubernatorial front-runner Jim Lightfoot's tactic of placing a pocket knife on the lectern of his primary opponent during a debate may have backfired. Without any comment, Lightfoot laid the knife on David Oman's lectern during his opening remarks. Meanwhile, Lightfoot's media advisor looked on, ashen-faced.

    After the debate, Lightfoot aides said the knife symbolized Oman's attempt to stab Lightfoot in the back. Oman pounced on the gesture as he launched advertisements, pointing out that Lightfoot skipped the first 13 gubernatorial debates and pulled a knife on his opponent when he finally participated.

    Maryland: Endorsement Embarrassment Won't Hurt Glendening

    Most political insiders now say Baltimore Mayor Kurt Schmoke's decision to endorse Harford County Executive Eileen Rehrmann in the Democratic gubernatorial primary embarrassed Gov. Parris Glendening, but it should have little impact on the race.

    Glendening's other primary opponent, millionaire former Washington Redskins guard Ray Schoenke, has yet to register much of a blip in the polls despite early ads on Baltimore TV. If Schoenke and Rehrmann split the anti-Glendening Democratic vote in the Sept. 15 primary, Glendening could have an easier ride to a November rematch with expected Republican nominee Ellen Sauerbrey.

    Massachusetts: Lt. Gov. Candidate Announces Pregnancy

    One GOP gubernatorial campaign happily announced some expectant news. Jane Swift, acting Gov. Paul Cellucci's running mate, is pregnant with her first child and expects to give birth in late October, two weeks before the general election. Most political analysts predict Swift's pregnancy will help her political ambitions, although conservative activists are urging her to consider whether she needs to be with her newborn in November, not in the statehouse working full time. Swift is the first candidate in Massachusetts history to announce her pregnancy during a campaign.

    Meanwhile, former Boston Mayor Raymond Flynn has dropped out of the Democratic race for governor in favor of the Democratic race for the 8th Congressional District. Flynn becomes the best known candidate in the race to succeed Democratic U.S. Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy II, who is not seeking reelection.

    Mississippi: Moore's Bid May Thwart Mabus


    Former Gov. Ray Mabus has not yet announced whether he will seek the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in 1999. The increasing likelihood that Attorney General Mike Moore (D) will run has led observers to count a bid by Mabus as a long shot.

    Lt. Gov. Ronnie Musgrove (D) is considering a bid for attorney general if Moore runs for governor, for at least two reasons. First, Musgrove would not have to battle the popular attorney general in a primary. Second, Musgrove would escape the term limits he faces as lieutenant governor. The down side to a campaign for attorney general: losing his pivotal position controlling legislation in the state Senate.

    Nebraska: GOP Primary Campaigns Enter Homestretch

    The three GOP candidates for governor are in the home stretch before the May 12 primary. After setting new spending records, the candidates have moved on to a battle of negative attacks and a race for the title of "Most Conservative." The winner of the primary will be the front-runner for the general election in the Republican-dominated state. Moderate Bill Hoppner is the likely Democratic nominee.

    The Republican race pits State Auditor John Breslow, U.S. Rep. Jon Christensen and Lincoln Mayor Mike Johanns in a race considered too close to call at this point. In eleventh-hour attempts to blunt perceived gains in the polls by Johanns, Christensen has called attention to the mayor's Democratic past and his 1991 endorsement of President Clinton's deficit-reduction plan and economic stimulus package. Like Johanns, Breslow also joined the Republican Party only recently. He switched from the Democratic side in 1990.

    New Jersey: McGreevey's PAC Protects Political Profile


    In an effort to keep his statewide profile high, 1997 Democratic gubernatorial nominee and Woodbridge Mayor Jim McGreevey has opened a federal political action committee (PAC). McGreevey, one of six members of the PAC's executive committee, has named the group the Committee for Working Families. The PAC is a clear attempt to keep McGreevey alive in New Jersey politics until his next attempt at statewide office – probably for governor in 2001. Other executive committee members include state Democratic Chair Thomas Giblin, U.S. Rep. Robert Menendez, state Sen. John Adler and state Assembly members Loretta Weinberg and Donald Tucker.

    North Carolina: House Majority Leader Looks Ahead to 2000

    State House Majority Leader Leo Daughtry (R) has opened his campaign headquarters – the first physical symbol of his plans to seek the 2000 GOP gubernatorial nomination. His campaign reported a $200,000 balance in April financial reports.

    While Daughtry staffers say they are concentrating on his role as House majority leader, the team is raising funds for the GOP House Caucus's November election efforts. Republicans want to increase their one-seat majority in the state Legislature. Later this month, all of the state's Republican congressional representatives will back an event scheduled for the North Carolina Republican Majority Committee.

    Another GOP hopeful, Raleigh Mayor Tom Fetzer, opened his statewide committee in April, but has not yet announced whether he will run. Sources report his first event in Raleigh attracted moderate financial support. Daughtry and Fetzer are expected to face 1996 primary candidate Richard Vinroot, the former mayor of Charlotte, in the primary.

    Oregon: Insiders Sketching New Sizemore Scenarios

    State Senate President Brady Adams has been mentioned as a GOP candidate for governor if Republican front-runner Bill Sizemore drops out. Republican insiders are beginning to discount the damaged Sizemore's chances to defeat Gov. John Kitzhaber (D). Sizemore continues to receive negative statewide press coverage regarding business failings, but Sizemore and his staff insist they will not quit.

    Political observers report that Sizemore could drop out after winning the GOP nomination May 19, allowing the party to select an alternate general election nominee.

    Tennessee: Gov. Sundquist's 'Cakewalk' Taking Shape


    State Rep. John Mark Windle will not seek the Democratic nomination for governor – another development fueling the frequent characterization of Republican Gov. Don Sundquist's reelection bid as a "cakewalk."

    Windle championed a battle by state employees against prison privatization during this legislative session. Sundquist-led prison privatization efforts failed in April. Sources say Windle could not raise the $1 million necessary to mount a viable bid. His withdrawal leaves only Covington lawyer Michael Whitaker, who chairs the Tennessee State Racing Commission, and political gadfly John Jay Hooker of Nashville as possible challengers to Sundquist.

    Wyoming: Major House Leadership Changes Imminent

    Three of the top four House leaders – Speaker Bruce Hinchey (R), Speaker Pro Tem Peg Shreve (R) and Majority Whip Budd Betts (R) – have announced they are leaving office. Hinchey will pursue Gail Zimmerman's Senate seat, while Shreve is retiring and running Cynthia Lummis's campaign for state treasurer. Betts is retiring to spend more time with family.

    © Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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