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    State of Play

    Kansas: Conservative vs. Moderate in Governor Primary

    State Capital Strategies
    Friday, May 15, 1998

    State Republican Chairman David Miller has announced he will challenge moderate Gov. Bill Graves for the Republican gubernatorial nomination. Miller, a former legislator, Christian Coalition staffer and political director of the anti-abortion group Kansas for Life, said he will stress morality, abortion and excessive government spending in the campaign. Insiders don't give him much of chance in the race, but they do figure he will garner the ultra-conservative vote, which could make up about 20 to 30 percent of the GOP primary turnout.

    Still, moderate Republicans are not taking the challenge lightly. In 1990, governor Mike Hayden (R) faced a tough challenge by conservative Nester Weigand. Miller was Weigand's running mate.

    Steve Abrams, a socially conservative Arkansas City veterinarian and State Board of Education member, pulled out of the race when Miller entered. Miller has since encouraged Abrams to seek the state GOP chairmanship, and Abrams reportedly is seriously considering the post.

    More State Political News From:
    Alabama | Arizona | Florida | Georgia | Indiana
    New Hampshire | New Mexico | New York | Utah | Wisconsin


    Alabama: Governor's Race Made Interesting by Old, New Faces

    AL

    Although some GOP lawmakers are displeased with former governor Guy Hunt challenging incumbent Gov. Fob James for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, many expect him to do well – possibly forcing a runoff. Hunt's negative poll numbers reportedly are on par with James's, and while the two veterans have been busy battling each other, a virtual newcomer has threatened to steal the show in November: Montgomery businessman Winton Blount.

    Blount's poll numbers are rising steadily, according to a new survey of 400 registered voters, conducted for state newspapers last week by Southern Opinion Research. James won support from 39 percent of respondents, and Blount got 30 percent, doubling his earlier ratings. More significantly, Blount's gain has both James's and Hunt's loss. Blount's recent TV ads likely contributed to his popularity boost, poll co-director Patrick Cotter said.

    Other Republican hopefuls trail behind. Hunt garnered 14 percent; Tuscaloosa businessman Mac McAllister got 9 percent and former state finance director Phil Williams took 2 percent. Seven percent of respondents said they were undecided.

    On the Democratic side, the same poll showed Lt. Gov. Don Siegelman with a huge lead over his closest rival, Birmingham attorney Lenora Pate. Siegelman garnered 68 percent, while Pate got a paltry 15 percent. Meanwhile, Wayne Sowell of Birmingham and Lee Lamb of Montgomery are relative unknowns with voters. Fifteen percent of those polled said they remain undecided.


    Arizona: Gov. Hull Still Unchallenged in Arizona GOP Primary

    Gov. Jane Dee Hull (R) has dodged the latest threat from conservatives. U.S. Rep. Matt Salmon has decided he will not challenge Hull for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, but is considering a 2002 bid instead. Salmon said a lack of funds and bad timing prompted him to back away from this year's challenge. Sources say the two agree on several key issues, and Hull may even consult Salmon during the campaign.

    Before publicly bowing out, Salmon complained that state GOP Chair Tony Hellon was biased, openly supporting Hull when more conservative candidates were mulling primary challenges. State Sen. Tom Patterson and former Maricopa County Supervisor Tom Rawles also considered challenging Hull in the primary, but changed their minds. Rawles is now considering running as a Libertarian in the fall.

    Rumors place former Republican governor Evan Mecham as a possible late entry into the race, but he has yet to announce his intentions.


    Florida: Brady Steps Down as Democrats Prepare to Face Bush

    Florida Democratic Party Chair Terrie Brady resigned last week after five years on the job. Broward County Democratic Party Chairman Mitch Ceaser is likely to be nominated for the post – an effort to bring investors from South Florida back to the party.

    Party leaders will choose Brady's successor at the executive meeting next month. State Rep. Willie Logan (D), the former House speaker-designate, criticized officials for endorsing Ceaser, saying they were playing king-maker and discouraging others considering running for the job. Such paternalism has gotten the party in trouble in previous years, Logan said. Leon County Democratic Chairman Jon Ausman is another top contender.

    State Democrats, already weakened by racial tensions and disjointed leadership, must battle though a contentious primary to face Republican Jeb Bush in the governor's race. Six Democrats have filed candidacy papers thus far, though former state senator Rick Dantzler and Lt. Gov. Buddy McKay are expected to duke it out for the nomination.


    Georgia: Ethics Investigation Postponed

    GA

    The State Ethics Commission on May 7 postponed action on four cases involving three statewide candidates. The panel will not hear the complaints against gubernatorial candidates Guy Millner (R), Secretary of State Lewis Massey (D) and former insurance commissioner John Oxendine (R) before the members meet in June. The primary election is July 21.

    Massey is accused of accepting illegal campaign contributions during both his 1996 campaign for secretary of state and his current gubernatorial bid, and for illegally using telephones in the secretary of state's office to solicit political contributions. He has denied all charges. Millner is accused of failing to report $127,000 in contributions and $642,000 in expenditures during his 1994 gubernatorial race. He has attributed the errors to a software problem. Oxendine allegedly accepted an illegal $7,500 contribution from an insurance company and failed to itemize $7,900 in credit card reimbursements.


    Indiana: GOP Discord Could Prove Fruitful for House Democrats

    Democrats in the Indiana House are encouraged by the May 5 primary results, and many expect to win a legislative majority this fall. Democrats say they hope to turn two factors into a 52-seat edge in the 100-seat House: the defeat of eleven-term incumbent state Rep. Jerry Bales (R) and the strong presence of former governor Evan Bayh, the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate.

    But a long summer of work lies ahead. While the Monroe County GOP strongly backed firefighter Jeff Ellington in his successful battle against Bales, House Republican Leader Paul Mannweiler and the state party backed the incumbent. Ellington's victory signals major rifts in the state Republican Party.

    In another race, freshman Rep. Jerry Torr (R) defeated high-profile candidate Nancy Irsay, wife of the late Indianapolis Colts owner, to win re-nomination. Without a strong Democratic opponent, Torr's reelection appears likely.


    New Hampshire: Health Problems Plague State Senators

    The New Hampshire Senate may soon have to hire a nurse to get a quorum. Sen. Allen Whipple (D) and President Joe Delahunty (R) suffered health problems on the same day last week. The next day, a 22-year-old woman ran a red light in front of the statehouse and struck Republican Sen. Carl Johnson's car. The car was totaled, but Johnson said wearing his seatbelt let him escape with his one minor injury – a cut on his head that required a few stitches.


    New Mexico: Johnson Calls Ancient Carvings "Graffiti"

    NM

    Comments by New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson (R) prompted a shocked murmur from the crowd at the Albuquerque Convention and Visitors Bureau's annual luncheon May 6. In a speech, Johnson called the ancient rock etchings at Petroglyph National Monument "graffiti."

    "I admit, I used to (rock climb) there...where the graffiti are," he said during his speech about the benefits of tourism to New Mexico. A Johnson spokesperson said later that the governor was simply speaking off the cuff and had no intention of insulting anyone.

    The monument has been a center of controversy; the state is considering extending Paseo del Norte through the southern end of the monument to help with traffic. Native American groups say the Petroglyph etchings are sacred and should be protected.


    New York: Pataki Reportedly Chooses Running Mate

    New York Gov. George Pataki (R) reportedly has picked state Supreme Court justice Mary O. Donohue as his running mate. Donohue, 51, was elected to her judgeship in 1996 after a stint as Rensselaer County District Attorney from 1992 to 1996. Before serving in public office, Donohue taught elementary and junior high school and practiced law. Republicans hope Donohue, who is Catholic and favors abortion rights, will help Pataki gain support among women. The nomination will become official at the state Republican convention in early June.


    Utah: Church Shocks Some With 'Political Diversity' Statement

    NM

    The Church of the Latter-day Saints, whose members have long identified with the state Republican Party, is making a push for greater political diversity among its members. Church leaders said recently the perception that the Republican Party is the church's party is wrong and should change.

    Elder Marlin Jensen, a member of the third tier in church leadership, told reporters that faithful LDS members are obligated to participate in politics. There is no reason a church member couldn't be a Democrat and still loyal to the faith, he said.

    Jensen, a Democrat, said that while his party stands for some issues that do not square with the LDS faith, there is no reason for an LDS Democrat to switch parties. Jensen said the fact that church members are overwhelmingly Republican could harm the church in the long run as GOP fortunes rise and fall nationally.

    Jensen's comments mark the first time a church official has expressed concern about the decline of the Democratic Party in Utah. Democratic leaders were caught off-guard. "I'm in shock," Democratic arty Chair Meghan Zanolli Holbrook said. "I have never heard anything like this in the years I've been here."

    Almost 90 percent of Utah's Republican-majority Legislature are members of the church.


    Wisconsin: Lorge May Take on Thompson in Primary

    Republican Assembly Rep. Bill Lorge of Waupaca may challenge Gov. Tommy Thompson in the September gubernatorial primary. Thompson is expected to make his reelection plans official once all legislative business from the extraordinary and special sessions has concluded. The extraordinary session ended May 13, while the special session ended May 15.

    Lorge differs from Thompson on several issues, and occasionally differs from his Republican colleagues in the Assembly. Most observers expect he will file for another term in the Assembly rather than take on the popular Thompson. For now, Lorge is asking to address delegates at the GOP's annual convention in June.

    © Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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