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    State of Play

    Alabama: Pushing and Shoving Over So-Called Polls

    State Capital Strategies
    Friday, May 29, 1998

    Businessman Winton Blount's campaign admitted hiring an out-of-state communications firm to conduct a push poll aimed at Gov. Fob James (R). According to a tape recording of one conversation between a pollster and an Alabama citizen – a recording provided by the James campaign – the pollster asks: "If you knew that he (James) was encouraging elected officials and our children to disobey laws that they didn't like, public cursing and signing into law school-prayer bills that he admitted aren't worth the paper they are written on, and is lending his name to militia groups out West that advocate the violent overthrow of the federal government, would you be more or less likely to vote for James?''

    The James campaign has condemned the push poll and pointed out that Blount criticized push polls when a similar survey was used against him during his 1994 gubernatorial bid. Just last month, Blount recalled that campaign and said candidates who use such tactics ought to be exposed and penalized. Five candidates are vying for the nomination in the Republican gubernatorial primary June 2.

    In a separate political development, Alabama Democrats elected a new interim chairman. Mobile attorney Jack Miller will complete the term of Chairman Joe Turnham, who resigned to run for the 3rd Congressional District seat currently held by Republican Rep. Bob Riley. Miller says he will not run again after this current term expires in January. Miller managed James's winning Democratic campaign for governor in 1978, and has since attacked James on a number of fronts – including the governor's school-prayer activism. He contends the prayer issue is personal and quips that Alabamians have been praying for years with out James's help. James was reelected to the governorship as a Republican in 1994.

    More State Political News From:
    Arkansas | Delaware | Florida | Georgia | Indiana
    Kansas | New Hampshire | Oregon | Tennessee

    Arkansas: Columnists Call For Bryant to Withdraw


    Two political columnists from leading newspapers have called for Attorney General Winston Bryant to withdraw from the June 9 Democratic primary runoff for U.S. Senate. The columnists argue that top vote-getter Blanche Lambert Lincoln should be spared a second primary to save time and money for the November general election against state Sen. Fay Boozman (R). Bryant has given no indication he would consider withdrawing. Labor interests have endorsed Bryant for the runoff after abandoning him in the primary in favor of Nate Coulter, who finished last.

    Delaware GOP Nominates Statewide Slate

    Delaware Republicans unanimously endorsed statewide GOP office holders for reelection during their May 15-16 convention. U.S. Rep. Michael Castle, Attorney General Jane Brady, Auditor Thomas Wagner and Treasurer Janet Rzewnicki were among those to get the official nod. None of those candidates face serious challenges in the July 31 primary, but Rzewnicki is expected to face a tough challenge against Democrat Jack Markell this fall.

    Money will be a major issue for Rzewnicki. Markell is a financial executive who has raised more money to date than Rzewnicki has ever spent on a treasurer's campaign, and he only officially announced his candidacy May 21. Rzewnicki also brings some baggage to the race – particularly memories of an unsubstantiated personal attack Rzewnicki fired at Gov. Tom Carper (D) when she ran against him two years ago.

    Republicans look forward to 2000, when gubernatorial, lieutenant governor and insurance commissioner races will be on the ballot. State House Speaker Terry Spence (R) is expected to announce his Republican gubernatorial bid in January 1999. The race is expected to attract a crowd; Carper cannot seek a third term.

    Florida: Gubernatorial Candidates Look for Running Mates


    In Florida, where candidates for governor and lieutenant governor run as a ticket, both leading gubernatorial candidates are rumored to be close to selecting running mates.

    Republican Jeb Bush apparently has narrowed his choice to one of two state senators. Bush's previous choice, Secretary of State Sandra Mortham, withdrew her candidacy earlier this year after critics went after her both personally and professionally. Sources say Bush's top choice is state Sen. Jim Horne (R) of Jacksonville, a soft-spoken young accountant who helped push through the state's education budget. Horne is vice chair of the Senate Commerce and Economic Opportunities Committee.

    Bush's other leading choice appears to be Sen. Locke Burt (R) of Ormond Beach. As the Senate Majority Leader, Burt has been an attack dog on several visible conservative issues, including using the electric chair to put criminals to death. If Bush picks Horne, former Senate president Ander Crenshaw (R) is likely to run for Horne's seat. Crenshaw resigned to mount a failed bid for governor in 1994.

    Lt. Gov. Buddy MacKay, the Democratic front-runner, appears to be leaning toward Dade County state attorney Katherine Fernandez-Rundle as his running mate. A tough-on-crime prosecutor, Rundle would also help MacKay with South Florida Hispanic voters. Rumors persist that MacKay may still be looking for an African-American running mate. State Rep. Les Miller of Tampa and state Rep. Cynthia Chesnutt of Gainesville are possibilities, as is Orange County Mayor Linda Chapin. Earlier this year, Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Pinelas reportedly turned down an informal offer to become MacKay's running mate.

    Georgia: Rumors Suggest FBI Probe of Insurance Commissioner


    The word among insurance industry and political insiders suggests that the FBI is investigating Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine (R) for bribery and extortion. In 1997, newspapers reported a link between campaign contributions and Oxendine's campaign and hikes in auto insurance rate. The state's ethics board held hearings on several campaign irregularities earlier in 1998 as well. Oxendine and those close to him deny that any investigation is under way.

    Oxendine has raised more than $1 million to run for reelection as insurance commissioner, a low-profile state race, a war chest that far exceeds the record for contributions in a non-election year. Sources note that more than half of the money came from the insurance industry, and they report that Oxendine requires a $1,000 annual contribution to enter the "Commissioner's Club," his inner circle.

    Although industry insiders may have felt pressure to support Oxendine, insurers are alarmed by the stance taken by his opponent, state Rep. Henrietta Canty (D). Canty is a longtime member of the state House Insurance Committee who has consistently introduced legislation to outlaw insurance "red-lining" in African-American communities. Although Oxendine will be considered a huge front-runner, he was a significant underdog when he beat incumbent Tim Ryles in 1994.

    Indiana: Embattled Treasurer Has Breast Cancer

    State Treasurer Joyce Brinkman, who earlier this year decided not to seek reelection, has been diagnosed with breast cancer. Brinkman lost favor with state Republican leaders after her office was repeatedly criticized for management problems. While Brinkman wanted to seek reelection, sources said, she received no support the state Republican Central Committee. She is currently undergoing treatment for her illness following surgery, and has not returned to work. She has no plans to resign.

    Kansas: Record Numbers of Republicans Unopposed

    As the June 10 state filing deadline approaches, a preliminary look at state legislative races indicates that record numbers of House Republicans could go unopposed in the general election. This is good news to the state Republican Party, which meets in Wichita May 30 to choose a successor to David Miller, who resigned earlier this month to challenge incumbent Gov. Bill Graves (R) in the primary.

    Miller has recommended Steve Abrams from Arkansas City. Abrams had been thinking about challenging Graves, but dropped out to support Miller. Moderates and even socially conservative Republicans prefer someone other than Miller's hand-picked choice to lead the party. No substantial challenges to Abrams have been made public.

    New Hampshire: Senate Speculation Ends – Delahunty Won't Run


    New Hampshire Senate President Joe Delahunty (R) stunned even his closest friends by announcing May 28 he will not seek reelection to a seventh term. One of the most powerful figures in New Hampshire politics, Delahunty's retirement guarantees a competitive battle by both parties for his District 20 seat.

    Delahunty's decision followed a retirement announcement by Senate Majority Leader Jack Barnes (R), who is leaving after three terms in the Senate and two in the House. Barnes was Delahunty's top lieutenant. When Barnes made his retirement public, speculation swirled immediately that Delahunty might leave too.

    The front-runner for Barnes's Senate seat is Rep. Mary Brown (R), a two-term legislator and member of the House Finance Committee. Democrats are looking at veteran Sandown school board member Jim Devine, but the district leans Republican.

    Oregon: Low Voter Support Could Hurt GOP Nominee

    Tax activist and Republican gubernatorial nominee Bill Sizemore says he has no intention of backing down from a November showdown with Gov. John Kitzhaber (D). GOP pundits have become increasingly concerned that Sizemore doesn't stand a chance against Kitzhaber after revelations of poor personal business practices.

    Sizemore received just 52 percent of the vote in the Republican primary against a weak field. Political consultants say he should have received 75 to 80 percent because his three opponents mounted no visible campaigns. By comparison, Kitzhaber collected 88 percent of the vote in the primary against two challengers. With such low primary support, more suggestions that Sizemore withdraw are likely from Oregon Republicans.

    Tennessee: Republicans Set Priorities; Sundquist Challenged


    Tennessee Republicans announced in a letter to major contributors that legislative control is the party's top priority for the 1998 and 2000 election cycles. The House is Democratically controlled by a 61-38 margin, and Democrats hold an 18-15 majority in the Senate. State GOP Chairman Jim Burnett's letter suggested that the party can sway voters by citing examples of the majority Democratic leadership's abuse of power. "Speaker Jimmy Naifeh abides by the rules when it suits him and ignores them when his political goals conflict with them," Burnett wrote. The GOP needs legislative majorities by the 2001 session to avoid huge losses the party says it suffered during legislative reapportionment following the last census.

    Elsewhere in Tennessee, Gov. Don Sundquist (R) will face an election challenge after all, despite a healthy treasury and continuing popularity. Sundquist's strength has not deterred Shirley Beck-Vosse, a conservative Republican activist from Memphis. Beck-Vosse filed to run against Sundquist for the Republican gubernatorial nomination just before the noon May 28 deadline. A real estate agent, Beck-Vosse said Sundquist is not a true conservative and will rely on extensive contacts in the Christian Coalition network in his primary campaign.

    © Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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