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    State of Play

    Illinois: Friends and Foes Call Democrat Conservative

    State Capital Strategies
    Friday, Aug. 7, 1998

    No Democrat has occupied the Illinois governor's mansion in 22 years, and Republicans want to extend that run to 26. They're calling U.S. Rep. Glenn Poshard, the Democratic gubernatorial nominee, too conservative in a state with a history of electing moderates. Poshard opposes abortion, gun control and gay rights. Secretary of State George Ryan, the Republican nominee, is running television ads calling Poshard an extremist – a characterization Poshard rejects. But many liberal Democrats may end up skipping the governor's box on the ballot in November.

    Ryan has more than $4 million in cash on hand, compared to the $500,000 in Poshard's war chest, according to campaign records. That lack of funds is the latest bad news for Poshard, who has been plagued since his stunning primary victory by bad poll numbers, internal disorganization and intra-party accusations that he's too far right on guns, abortion and the environment.

    Ryan has deftly played upon the Democratic rift over Poshard, and sources say he is quietly courting black and gay votes in Chicago. But Poshard still has the support of organized labor, a roaring rally with Vice President Al Gore demonstrated in Springfield July 29. But other Democrats appear increasingly uncomfortable with his candidacy.

    More State Political News From:
    Florida | Michigan | Minnesota | New York
    North Dakota | Oregon | Wyoming

    Florida: State Senator's Switch is a Boost to GOP


    A Democratic state senator in Florida has switched to the Republican side, almost ensuring continued GOP control of the Senate. Sen. George Kirkpatrick's party change prompted Alachua County Democrats to call for him to return contributions, resign, and run for reelection as a Republican. His switch is a blow to Democrats, who had high hopes for this fall's elections. Kirkpatrick has served in the state legislature for 18 years.

    Meanwhile, Democrats looked forward to this week's visit from Vice President Al Gore, whose trip included a meeting to try and mend relationships between white and black Democrats. The problem began in January when African-American state Rep. Willie Logan, the incoming Democratic House leader, was ousted from office. That action angered and alienated many black legislators and voters.

    Michigan: House Members Find Little Success in Senate Races

    State House members facing term limits found formidable foes in incumbent senators this week. Only one of seven representatives survived a contested primary for the state Senate. Democratic Rep. Burton Leland was the lone victor, beating longtime Detroit-area Sen. Michael O'Brien. Another seven House members seeking Senate seats faced no primary opposition.

    Meanwhile, several districts may remain in the family. Three wives of GOP representatives won primaries to fill seats being vacated by their term-limited husbands. Overall, term limits will force out 64 of the 110 House members. The limits restrict lawmakers to serving three two-year terms for House members and two four-year terms for senators.

    Minnesota: Humphrey Leads in Pre-Primary Poll


    A recent poll shows Attorney General Hubert H. "Skip" Humphrey III well ahead of his four opponents in the Democratic gubernatorial primary. The survey, commissioned by the Minneapolis Star Tribune and a local radio station, found Humphrey with 48 percent support in the Sept. 15 primary. Mark Dayton followed with 12 percent, former state Sen. Ted Mondale got 11 percent and Mike Freeman had 9 percent. The poll had a large margin of error – almost eight points.

    State Sen. Doug Johnson, chairman of the Senate tax committee, is also in the race, and is expected to have strong support in northeastern Minnesota. The party endorsed Freeman, a Hennepin County attorney, in June. The AFL-CIO also threw Freeman its support, giving him access to important voter lists. The poll also showed 14 percent of respondents were undecided, and more than 50 percent said they might switch preferences before the primary.

    The primary winner will face St. Paul Mayor Norm Coleman (R), a well-funded rising star with token primary opposition.

    New York: LaRocca Seeks Investigation of Ross Donations

    Gubernatorial candidate James LaRocca (D) has alleged that donations from the campaign of Lt. Gov. Betsy McCaughey Ross, his Democratic rival, might be bribes. LaRocca, a former state transportation secretary, asked the state Board of Elections to investigate the matter. A contribution from the Ross campaign to the Nassau County Democratic organization just prior to the Democratic state convention in July was one of the donations in question. Ross did not seek the convention endorsement; instead she used petition signatures to secure her ballot slot in the gubernatorial race.

    North Dakota: Justice Meschke Retires After 13 Years

    State Supreme Court Justice Herbert Meschke will retire Oct. 1. Meschke is a former longtime Minot lawyer, appointed to the bench by Gov. George Sinner in 1985. Meschke won the seat in the 1986 election, then won a full 10-year term in 1990. He was also a Democratic member of the North Dakota Legislature – first in the House in 1965, then in the Senate in 1967 and 1969, rising to the position of Senate Minority Leader.

    Meschke, 70, plans to move back to Minot. Now Republican Gov. Edward Schafer will have a second opportunity to appoint a justice to the bench. His first appointee, Mary Maring, survived an election with former Agriculture Commissioner Sarah Vogel. No potential replacements have been named.

    Oregon: Clear-cutting Ban Would Reduce Timber Harvest


    A ballot initiative seeking to ban clear-cutting on public and private land in Oregon would reduce timber harvests by more than 60 percent. A fiscal impact estimate on the initiative from the secretary of state notes that those reductions would lose more than $65 million in state, county, and school revenues.

    Opponents of the measure say it will hurt both large and small woodlands owners. Not only would the initiative ban clear-cutting, it would also forbid the use of herbicides and pesticides on forest lands. Forest interests have formed a coalition and have vowed to spend what it takes to defeat the measure this fall.

    Wyoming: Primaries Spark Political Activity


    Gubernatorial candidates are busy with the upcoming state primary Aug. 18. Republican Gov. Jim Geringer mixed politics with business as he traveled the state, visiting county fairs and rodeos and appearing in parades in addition to holding meetings on governmental issues. Geringer's opponent in the GOP primary, Sweetwater County sheep rancher Bill Taliaferro, has been making the rounds of the rodeo and fair circuit himself and plans to visit all 23 counties before the primary. While he is warmly received, his fund-raising efforts have proven sluggish; many Republicans seem reluctant to back him against an incumbent governor. Taliaferro is stressing agricultural and economic issues in his grass roots campaign.

    Secretary of State Diana Ohman (R) says she is not actively running a write-in gubernatorial campaign, but says she would run if she received enough write-in votes in the August primary. Ohman announced earlier this year she would not seek reelection but had not ruled out a bid for another office until the June filing deadline. The former state school superintendent, who surprised fellow Republicans by deciding to run for secretary of state at the last minute four years ago, has sparred with Geringer over state land and other issues and earlier toyed with either challenging Geringer in the primary or running as an independent. Ohman says it would be difficult to win nomination via write-in ballots, since she still would need to tally more write-in votes than either Geringer or Taliaferro.

    The three Democrats, meanwhile, have been campaigning quietly. State Sens. John Vinich of Hudson and Keith Goodenough of Casper and University of Wyoming history professor Phil Roberts of Laramie are spending most of their time poking at Geringer's record, particularly on fiscal and economic development issues. Vinich is hammering at Geringer for transferring $100,000 from a tax rebate program for the elderly and disabled and accusing him of using it to give big raises to his staff and cabinet. Geringer denies the charge. State Sen. Mark Harris, D-Green River, recently endorsed Vinich.

    © Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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