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    State of Play

    Alabama: Runoff Campaign Devolves Into Name-Calling

    State Capital Strategies
    Friday, June 12, 1998

    The Alabama GOP gubernatorial runoff campaign has quickly deteriorated into a sort of political "Planet of the Apes." Challenger Winton Blount started the name-calling, recounting a State Board of Education meeting in which incumbent Gov. Fob James imitated an ape during a discussion on evolution in school textbooks. In his drive to court the Christian right, James has vehemently opposed evolution teaching, giving ammunition to his critics who say his ultra-conservative views hurt the state's image. Blount said Alabama doesn't need a governor that "dances around a stage like a monkey.''

    James quickly fired back, calling Blount a "fat monkey" – a not-so-veiled reference to Blount's waist size. First Lady Bobbie James jumped into the fray, calling Blount a "big fat sissy," although she later apologized.

    Amid all the verbal jousting, Blount picked up endorsements from the other three Republican gubernatorial candidates – former Gov. Guy Hunt, Tuscaloosa businessman Mac McAllister and former State Finance Director Phil Williams – after the June 2 primary.

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    Alaska: Anchorage Mayor Declines Gubernatorial Bid


    Despite the "Draft Mystrom '98" campaign, Anchorage Mayor Rick Mystrom has decided against a gubernatorial bid. Ray Metcalfe, a former GOP House member, filed as a candidate for the newly created Republican Moderate party, and he is unopposed in his new party's primary. Metcalfe could, however, draw votes away from the Republican nominee in the general election. Those seeking the traditional GOP nomination: John Lindauer, Wayne Anthony Ross and state Sen. Robin Taylor.

    Nels Anderson Jr., a former legislator from Dillingham, is running against Gov. Tony Knowles for the Democratic nomination. While Anderson is unlikely to beat Knowles, he may win support from rural voters frustrated over subsistence. Bright and articulate, Anderson, 58, has legislative experience and is well respected in his region. He served in the state House from 1974-1980 and in the state Senate from 1982-83, and says he was prompted to run by the state's inability to resolve the conflict over subsistence. Brad Snowden and perennial candidate Don Wrightare also running.

    Arkansas: Democrats Oust Chair; Choose New Leadership

    A contested race for state Democratic Party chair became an upset victory for Little Rock real estate developer Vaughn McQuarry, who defeated acting chair Janet Peck Mobley. McQuarry received support from the activist Young Democrat faction who argue the party has done nothing to fill the void left by the departure of past state leaders: President (and former governor) Bill Clinton, former senator David Pryor and retiring Sen. Dale Bumpers. All but one party staff member resigned after McQuarry won. He promises to fill the positions within the month.

    Colorado: Norton and Johnson Qualify for Ballot


    Two noteworthy candidates qualified for statewide races June 5 with signature petitions. State Senate President Tom Norton qualified for the GOP gubernatorial ballot, and faces state Treasurer Bill Owens in the primary. Former governor John Love, the last Republican elected to the post in Colorado, accompanied Norton at a recent press conference.

    State Sen. Joan Johnson qualified for the Democratic primary for secretary of state, where she faces former state Common Cause director Ric Bainter. Incumbent Secretary of State Vikki Buckley is unopposed for the GOP nomination.

    Senate Majority Leader Jeff Wells (R) circulated petitions to qualify in the race for attorney general, but did not file them. Sources say Wells was miffed that the Colorado GOP convention passed over his moderate leadership credentials to nominate several conservative candidates.

    Iowa: Community Activist Lands Spot on Democratic Ticket

    Democratic gubernatorial nominee Tom Vilsack chose Sally Pederson as his running mate at the June 6 Democratic convention. Pederson is a political newcomer, but a longtime community activist in health and education issues. A former food editor for Better Homes and Gardens magazine and Meredith Corp. executive, Pederson has been registered as both a Republican and Independent. The party hopes her candidacy will draw support from voters who share the same moderate views.

    Kansas: Controversial Candidate Enters Governor's Race


    Much to the chagrin of many Democrats, the controversial Rev. Fred Phelps will run for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. An anti-homosexual activist, Phelps has a history of picketing gay pride rallies and funerals of gays.

    Democratic sources report House Minority Leader Tom Sawyer will file for the nomination to deny Phelps any chance at the race. Sawyer is currently serving his 6th term in the House. He served as House Majority Leader from 1991-1992, and as Minority Leader since 1993.

    Democrats have had a tough time finding a solid opponent for Gov. Bill Graves (R), who is seeking reelection. Graves must defeat former state party chairman David Miller, a moral foundation candidate who opposes abortion rights and has 10 years of legislative experience.

    Massachusetts: Energy Deregulation Ally Takes Industry Job

    State Sen. John O'Brien (D) will not run for reelection, but will instead become vice president of a power supply company. O'Brien was a key author of the 1997 energy deregulation law, and consumer groups are already accusing him of crafting legislation favorable to the industry he was preparing to join. O'Brien insists he decided to accept the industry position independently of previous legislative work. But the announcement comes at a highly inopportune time.

    O'Brien's announcement gave state representatives in his district only 24 hours notice to enter the Senate race. Critics say O'Brien has been trying to prevent several local officials from running in order to pave the way for his former chief of staff, John Wilson.

    Michigan: Attorney General Retires After 36 Years

    Longtime Attorney General Frank Kelly (D) announced May 27 he will not seek a 12th term, leaving a job he has held for 36 years. His announcement leaves Democrats with a major vacancy, but plenty of candidates are eager to fill the void. Leading contenders include Macomb County Prosecutor Carl Marling and Wayne County Sheriff Robert Ficano. In addition, Democratic Reps. David Gubow, Nick Ciaramitaro, Laura Baird and John Freeman are also eyeing the race. Term limits will require the next attorney general to serve a maximum of eight years.

    Kelly's departure will affect down-ballot Democrats who have relied on his popularity to bring Democratic voters to the polls.

    Minnesota: Freeman Beats Humphrey for DFL Endorsement


    Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman (D) won the Minnesota Democratic Farm Labor Party gubernatorial endorsement in a June 5-7 vote in St. Cloud. Freeman faces five other candidates, including Attorney General Hubert H. "Skip" Humphrey III (D), the endorsement runner-up, in the primary.

    Meanwhile, a June 3 poll by the St. Paul Pioneer Press showed three of six DFL candidates would defeat the Republican front-runner – St. Paul Mayor Norm Coleman – in trial heats. Humphrey had the largest margin of victory: 16 points. Freeman defeated Coleman by 9 points in the survey, and former State senator Ted Mondale (D) was in a statistical dead heat with Coleman.

    Likely Republican primary voters favor Coleman by 39 percent, compared to 20 percent for Lt. Gov. Joanne Benson and 13 percent for Allen Quist, the 1994 Republican gubernatorial candidate who won his party's endorsement.

    Unlike the Democrats, who are headed for a wide-open Sept. 15 primary election, the three major Republican gubernatorial candidates say they will abide by the party's endorsement, which will be decided June 18-20 at the state GOP convention.

    But Benson has not wasted time. She chose state Sen. Tom Neuville as her running mate for the gubernatorial race. Neuville, a strong opponent of legalized abortion and one of the legislature's most conservative members, is expected to take an active role in the campaign. He should help Benson court conservative votes at the convention.

    New Mexico: Casino Issue Headlines Gubernatorial Race

    Voters in this fall's general election will not only select New Mexico's governor, but will also make a decision about casinos across the state. Gov. Gary Johnson (R) will face Democratic nominee Martin Chávez, former Albuquerque Mayor and outspoken gambling opponent. Chávez defeated five other candidates in the June 2 primary.

    Diane Denish, a business owner from Albuquerque, joins him on the ticket. Denish won a close contest for the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor, beating Secretary of State Stephanie Gonzales (D).

    Johnson and Lt. Gov. Walter Bradley (R) faced no primary opposition. If Johnson wins reelection, he will be the first governor of New Mexico to win back-to-back terms. He defeated Gov. Bruce King (D) in 1994.

    South Dakota: Janklow Boosts Reelection Bid in Disaster Scene


    Some Democratic insiders concede this week that Gov. Bill Janklow may (R) have "welded shut the door" on his opponents and opened the way to victory with a well-received visit to the tornado-ravaged small town of Spencer.

    Arriving an hour or so after the May 30 tornado ripped through the town of 320, Janklow helped pull people from the rubble. He remained on-site for several days and directed relief efforts. After the governor's public call for help, an estimated 8,000 people helped sift through the houses and businesses to find the victims' personal belongings before bulldozers come in to clear up the mess.

    Janklow's quick response in dealing with misfortune came just a week after Democratic challenger Bernie Hunhoff shocked political insiders in both parties by selecting Elsie Meeks, a Native American woman, as his running mate. Hunhoff's brief stir was swept aside by the national story that developed around the Spencer disaster; newspapers and TV stations statewide have focused on Spencer the entire week since the tornado hit.

    Texas: Republicans Joined Democratic Speaker's Event


    Democratic House Speaker Pete Laney reportedly held a campaign event last week that attracted a significant number of legislators and key politicos – including Republicans. Though Laney faces an opponent this fall, the Democratic caucus will receive proceeds from the event. About 20 districts are considered swing seats in a chamber Democrats control by an eight-seat margin. The Democratic caucus is losing some key members, including many committee leaders, so candidates will need the money Laney raised to match GOP fund-raising by candidates such as Gov. George W. Bush (R). Given the amount of attention Bush is getting this year, full GOP control of the state legislature would be a substantial feather in his cap.

    © Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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