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    State of Play

    Louisiana: Governor's Letter Rankles Party

    State Capital Strategies
    Friday, July 17, 1998

    Gov. Mike Foster (R) says he wants the state's fragmented Republican Party to come together, but his latest effort has created internal friction. Foster sent 2,700 letters to GOP loyalists, asking them to contribute $1,000 each to a "Republican Victory" fund to build party unity. However, Foster added a major caveat to his fund-raising effort – the state Republican Party cannot use any of the money he raises to target his Democratic friends.

    Foster, who was a Democrat until the eve of qualifying to run for governor in 1995, said a lot of Democrats have supported his agenda and he will not go against them. State Republican Party officials have talked of targeting as many as 50 Democrats in the 1999 legislative elections, many of whom Foster has described as friends, allies and floor leaders for his administration. Foster and GOP leaders are downplaying potential conflicts and say any money the governor raises will be used for basic activities, such as organizing Republican events at the precinct level and updating voter rolls and mailing lists. In recent years, the Louisiana Republican Party has been fragmented, with differing agendas often arising from such segments as the Christian Right, traditional mainstream – and affluent – Republicans, and Republican elected officials.

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    Alabama: Democrat Siegelman Courting GOP Crossover Support


    Lt. Gov. Don Siegelman, the Democratic gubernatorial nominee, may be getting some help in November from an unlikely source: disgruntled Alabama Republicans. According to recent news reports, Mobile attorney Sage Lyons, a former finance director for incumbent Gov. Fob James (R), said he's leaning toward supporting Siegelman's bid. Lyons had backed Montgomery businessman Winton Blount in the Republican primary and runoff elections. Lyons, a former Democratic speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives, said he and Siegelman are friends, but he admits they don't agree on many issues.

    According to Siegelman campaign officials, the candidate is reaching out to Blount's supporters – and his contributors – with calls and letters. Response is said to be positive.

    Alaska: Ballot Now Has One Kott, Not Two

    Peter Kott has withdrawn as a candidate for the seat held by his father, Republican Pete Kott of Eagle River. The younger Kott filed this spring when his father, chairman of the House Rules committee, was considering a run for lieutenant governor. He withdrew July 7, leaving his father unopposed in both the Republican primary and the November election.

    Colorado: Johnson's Appeal Denied


    State Sen. Joan Johnson was excluded from the Aug. 11 primary ballot for secretary of state, and the Colorado Supreme Court has declined to consider her appeal. Johnson's candidacy was denied because she didn't have enough certified signatures to qualify. She says she turned in more than enough signatures, but the secretary of state's office ruled many of them ineligible. Now neither candidate for secretary of state faces a primary opponent; Republican incumbent Vikki Buckley will face Democrat Ric Bainter on Nov. 3.

    Delaware: Carper Nominates New State Labor Secretary

    Gov. Tom Carper (D) nominated Lisa Blunt-Bradley, deputy secretary of the state's Health and Social Services Department, to replace Darrel Minott as state Labor secretary. Minott has been nominated to be replace Robert Coy as director of the Delaware Economic Development Office, as Coy resigned to go into the private sector. Blunt-Bradley is a longtime associate of Carper's.

    Illinois: Lieutenant Governor Seat Empty

    Lt. Gov. Bob Kustra (R) officially resigned July 1, leaving the much-maligned post vacant and fueling renewed calls to get rid of the office, which has no constitutional duties and no provision to fill vacancies. Kustra will soon become president of Eastern Kentucky University.

    Maine: Reform Party Meeting Draws Only Baker's Dozen

    The Reform Party in Maine sank to new lows last weekend – in numbers. Published reports indicate only 13 individuals attended the party's annual convention, a stark contrast from several years ago when Texas billionaire and party founder Ross Perot drew hundreds. Wendall Kinney, the current chair, commented that although the party has no gubernatorial candidate this year, they will not lose faith. The Reform Party's biggest challenge is keeping its official status.

    The group endorsed Independent Gov. Angus King. The party has nearly 24,000 enrolled members – almost 2 percent of all Maine's registered voters.

    Mississippi: Settlement Draws Attention to Attorney General


    Attorney General Mike Moore (D) hit it big again, amending the state's settlement with tobacco companies to rake in an additional $550 million over the next five years. In 25 years, that would boost the total payments to the state to more than $4 billion, and the state could conceivably have a $1 billion health care trust fund in just a few years.

    For Moore, who is considering a gubernatorial bid, the increase is another political show stopper. It might be enough to change Lt. Gov. Ronnie Musgrove's mind about considering a bid for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. Democrats are increasingly worried these two state superstars will tear one another apart in the primary. Moore says he's weighing whether to run and its effect on his family.

    New Hampshire: Shaheen Leads Pre-Primary Polls

    Several recent polls show Gov. Jeanne Shaheen (D) far ahead of any of her four active GOP rivals. The Republican field includes businessman Jay Lucas, state Sen. Jim Rubens, perennial candidate Fred Bramante, and former Manchester Mayor Emile Beaulieu. The primary is Sept. 8.

    North Dakota: State Plane Proposal Sparks Controversy

    Democrats believe they have found a campaign issue in Republican Gov. Ed Schafer's plan to buy a new state airplane. North Dakota officials have agreed to trade in the state's current 1978 twin engine plane for a new one under a lease-purchase agreement with Raytheon of Oklahoma City. But one of the bidders, Monroe Chase of Mandan, says the state didn't follow proper bid procedures in making the lease-purchase agreement. And Democrats – remembering that a proposed plane purchase helped bring down Gov. Allen Olson in the early 1980s – complain Schafer is buying a $4 million plane when he's asking state agencies for 95-percent budgets.

    Ohio: Lobbyist Draws Jail Time, Community Service


    Former lobbyist Thomas Strussion was sentenced July 8 to 30 days in jail, 300 hours of community service, five years probation and a $1,250 fine for attempted influence peddling involving a former insurance department official. Strussion admitted giving $10,000 and other gifts to David Randall, the former deputy director of the agency. In return, state investigators say, Randall wrote letters on behalf of two of Strussion's clients, seeking approval by the state human services department for the companies to participate in state Medicaid programs. He also helped other Strussion clients do business in Ohio. Last month, Randall pleaded guilty to two counts of bribery and one count of lying to investigators for taking bribes from Strussion and PIE Mutual Insurance. Once the state's largest provider of medical malpractice insurance, PIE now is under state control.

    Randall is scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 4. He faces up to 10 years and six months in prison. Strussion has promised to help federal and state investigators in a continuing probe of lobbyists and the state insurance department.

    Tennessee: Sundquist Seeking Second Term

    Gov. Don Sundquist (R) has formally declared his bid for reelection. The governor said he will seek improvements in his first-term initiatives, including economic development, education, health and safety and streamlining state government. He said he will continue to push for privatization of state services, particularly prisons, and for the charter schools legislation that failed in the state legislature this year.

    Sundquist picked up two major endorsements last week, from Democratic Lt. Gov. John Wilder of Somerville and from the state chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business, which represents small businesses.

    Vermont: Trial Begins in Campaign Finance Challenge


    The first challenge to the state's new campaign finance system, which is set to be in place for 2000 – began July 6 in U.S. District Court. At issue is a provision in the 1997 law that says people and groups that aren't candidates but want to talk about candidates' positions must report money spent on everything from radio and TV ads to leaflets and bumper stickers. The Vermont Right to Life Committee has sued to have the law declared unconstitutional, claiming it violates the First Amendment right to freedom of speech. The group wants to distribute voter guides without filing the reports.

    The law could directly challenge to a 1976 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Buckley vs. Valeo, that declared the government could regulate expressly political speech but not implied endorsements. The ruling, many argue, opened the door to a tidal wave of soft money spending in which outside interest groups talk about candidates' political positions, but don't tell people to vote for or against any specific candidate.

    Virginia: Virginia Power Leads Lobbyist Spending

    Reports to the secretary of the commonwealth show record spending – $8.7 million – by lobbyists. Virginia Power was the biggest spender, reporting $217,790 – almost twice as much as the second biggest, Newport News Shipbuilding, which rang up a $118,861 lobbying bill.

    Virginia Power led the charge on electric deregulation legislation approved by the 1998 General Assembly. Newport News Shipbuilding won a $98 million tax break to underwrite a research center for a new carrier program. This is a component of the "Navy-only" strategy the yard adopted since it dumped commercial shipbuilding.

    Washington: Mother/Son Team Possible in Legislature

    State Sen. Pam Roach (R), chair of the law and justice committee, hopes her son joins her in the legislature next year. Dan Roach is running for the seat vacated by Rep. Eric Robertson and is also a finalist for the short-term appointment to the vacant seat. The names of three finalists will be sent to the King and Pierce county councils, which will vote for Robertson's replacement July 27. Robertson, a State Patrol officer, resigned to be the patrol's lobbyist and spokesman.

    © Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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