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    State of Play

    Gambling Money at Issue in State Elections

    State Capital Strategies
    Friday, Aug. 28, 1998

    Gubernatorial candidates in Alabama and South Dakota are pushing plans to fund public education through gambling revenues. In New York, gaming forces are filling campaign coffers in an attempt to get casinos legalized.

    Alabama: Lt. Gov. Don Siegelman, the Democratic nominee for governor, hit the airwaves to drum up support for his proposed state lottery for education. Siegelman proposes creating a state lottery to raise money for college tuition and pre-kindergarten programs. The idea is based on Georgia's successful lottery-funded college tuition program.

    Siegelman won't get any help from outgoing Alabama House Speaker Jimmy Clark (D). At a gathering of the Business Council of Alabama, Clark denounced the education lottery and predicted that Alabama residents will not want to live in a state with gambling. Clark, who is retiring from the legislature, is backing Republican Gov. Fob James in the general election and has already contributed $10,000 to the incumbent governor's campaign.

    South Dakota: Use of gambling revenues for state government is turning into an issue in the South Dakota governor's race, too. Democratic challenger Bernie Hunhoff wants to earmark gambling revenue for education purposes – a step legislators deliberately avoided in the 1980s because they didn't want school funding depending on unstable gambling play. Hunhoff is running against Republican Gov. Bill Janklow.

    New York: In New York, pro- and anti-casino interests contributed $250,000 to top lawmakers this year. Donald Trump contributed the most money to prevent New York casinos, which would compete with his Atlantic City casinos. The majority of donations were made during June when legislative debate stirred anew over legalizing casinos across the state. The Senate failed to pass an Assembly-approved casino bill before adjourning.

    More State Political News From:
    Florida | Kansas | Maine | Massacusetts
    Michigan | New Hampshire | Ohio | Vermont | Wisconsin

    Florida: GOP Speaker Certain to Bring Change


    House Speaker-designate John Thrasher (R) is preparing significant changes in House organization when he takes over in November. Thrasher's election to speaker is a certainty; Democrats do not have the numbers to win a House majority in November. Current Speaker Dan Webster, the first Republican to hold the job in 122 years, suspended the old system of committees and subcommittees and replaced it with six councils, each with the power to decide what legislation moved to the floor from their general areas.

    Thrasher wants to return to an older system and allow the Rules Committee to decide what bills get to the floor and when. Also, fewer Democratic committee chairs are likely as the party's influence dwindles due to fewer victories and retirements.

    Kansas: Low Turnout Likely in November

    Political pundits predict lower than normal voter turnout in the general election because many moderate Republicans believe they did their duty in the primary election by turning out to defeat conservative gubernatorial candidate and state GOP Chairman David Miller. Moderate Republican Gov. Bill Graves won the nomination. As a result, the hard work is over for moderate Republicans, sources say, and many Republicans say they will sit out the general election. This attitude has given a ray of hope to Democrats who hope to turn out their supporters for success.

    Maine: Term-Limited Speaker Still in Play


    House Speaker Elizabeth "Libby" Mitchell (D) will be forced out of office by term limits and the powerful position is up for grabs. But Mitchell may continue to hold sway. Democratic lawyer Steven Rowe is considered the favorite to replace her as speaker. But insiders say Mitchell's son, Charles, is running for his mother's House seat. If elected, the sources suggest, Charles Mitchell is likely to serve one term and step aside so his mother can reclaim the seat - and, perhaps, the speaker's job. That sort of political ploy is not illegal, but it runs counter to the intent of voter-approved term limitations and could trigger a voter backlash.

    An ambitious career politician, Elizabeth Mitchell ran two unsuccessful campaigns for Congress. Earlier this year, she explored a challenge to Gov. Angus King (I), but pulled out when it was apparent she could not defeat King. Sources say she is positioning herself for a gubernatorial run in four years.

    Massachusetts: Incumbency Scares Off Competition

    Few incumbent legislators will have opponents in the Sept.15 primary elections. For the 40 state Senate seats, only nine have competition – one Republican and eight Democratic primary races are scheduled. Of the 160 state House districts on the primary ballot, Democrats will have 41 contested races while Republicans will only have seven. The low number of contested primaries could keep down turnout in an off-election year; however, competitive gubernatorial races are likely to boost voter turnout. Un-enrolled voters can vote in either party's primary, although party registrants are restricted to the ballot of their affiliation.

    Michigan: Fieger Targets Child Insurance Program


    Democratic gubernatorial challenger Geoffrey Fieger continues to criticize Gov. John Engler's (R) administration. Fieger opposes Engler's effort to privatize the MIChild health insurance program application process. Fieger cites alleged repeated errors by private companies that have denied health insurance to eligible clients.

    Reports by families attempting to get insurance for their children say the out-of-state private firm running the application process has changed the application rules repeatedly because of errors. Official numbers show that over 141,000 children are eligible for the program, yet only 164 children have been enrolled. Fieger also criticized Engler for waging a "flashy" media campaign regarding his program instead of focusing the media campaign on outreach to local organizations and facilities that serve low-income families.

    New Hampshire: DLegislative Leaders Reconcile

    A reconciliation has warmed the relationship between two key legislative leaders, Senate President Joe Delahunty (R) and House Speaker Donna Sytek (R), both of Salem. They spoke several times last week before releasing their appointments to the conference committee on the education funding plans. Reports were that they came to an agreement from each side. Rumors suggest Sytek didn't want Jim Rubens in the committee for fear that his gubernatorial ambitions would make it that much harder to get consensus.

    Ohio: Democrats Call for Patients' Bill of Rights


    Democrats running in Ohio have united in their call for the introduction and passage of a patient's bill of rights. However, no plan has been introduced. And Republicans, who control both chambers, have flatly refused to consider the idea. Few significant developments are expected until the new session begins in early January. At that point, however, it could become lawmakers' top priority.

    Vermont: Gov. Dean Holds Substantial Lead, Poll Says

    A poll conducted last week by Mason-Dixon political research in Washington, D.C., in conjunction with the Rutland Herald/WCAX, gave Gov. Howard Dean (D) a 45-point lead over his opponent, Bernie Rome (R), and a 36-point lead over the other candidate in the Republican primary, Ruth Dwyer. It looks like Dwyer has the lead on Rome in the September primary. The poll also covered the lieutenant governor's race. Incumbent Doug Racine had a four-point lead over his challenger, Barbara Snelling, a former lieutenant governor with 100 percent name recognition. The poll also showed Vermont residents were divided over Act 60, the state's controversial education funding law.

    Wisconsin: Poll Projects Strong Showing by Gov. Thompson

    A new poll for the conservative Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, conducted by the Harris Group, gives Gov. Tommy Thompson (R) a comfortable lead over two potential challengers. Thompson was the choice of 58 percent of likely voters while Democrat Ed Garvey was the choice of 27 percent in the most likely match-up in November. In another head-to-head test, state Sen. Gary George (D) of Milwaukee collected 24 percent to Thompson's 60 percent. Neither Garvey nor George has yet begun a media campaign.

    © Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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