Conservative Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-Calif.) may face a primary challenge next year from Patricia McClain, a former Playboy Playmate who describes herself as "a staunch Republican with an IQ of 140."

McClain, a 42-year-old legal assistant and freelance writer, said she supports a strong military, opposes gun control and believes that states, rather than the federal government, should determine abortion laws.

In a telephone interview this week, McClain said local voters have become alienated from the seven-term lawmaker, who as a member of the House Judiciary Committee voted to impeach President Clinton and is known for his work on immigration.

As for her magazine career, McClain said that although she appeared in Playboy in 1976, she has continued to do work for the magazine "all the time, but not naked."

And what does Gallegly think about his potential challenger? "You don't have a lot of control over who runs against you," Gallegly said, adding he would keep focusing on his official duties. "I don't know how to respond to someone I don't know about and I've never heard of, and probably if I had, I wouldn't admit it."

GOP Pressures Clinton on Tax Cut Bill

GOP congressional leaders continued pressuring President Clinton yesterday not to veto their $792 billion tax cut package.

In a letter to Clinton, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) questioned why he would oppose tax cuts when their budget plan reserves $2.2 trillion for Social Security and Medicare reform over 10 years and reduces the national debt by $2 trillion during the same period.

"Mr. President, there is no honest reason to veto this common-sense tax relief legislation," they wrote.

White House spokesman Barry Toiv dismissed the lawmakers' plea for their bill, which reduces each income tax bracket by 1 percentage point and cuts taxes on capital gains, research and development, and health insurance. "No letter or public relations campaign," he said, will change the president's dissatisfaction with the bill, which he said risks "our economy" and Social Security, among other things.

Hastert, who touted the tax bill in his home state last week, will appear today in Seattle with Rep. Jennifer Dunn (R-Wash.) to highlight the elimination of the estate tax under the GOP plan.

Gore's Late for an Online Date

Al Gore, the high-tech vice president, participated in his second online chat on his campaign Web site last week.

Gore told folks in cyberspace that he makes a "point of responding directly to your questions and e-mails through our electronic town hall." But what he didn't tell people was why he was 25 minutes late for the 9 p.m. session.

It turns out Gore couldn't get to his keyboard on time because he was finishing up the second of two swanky fund-raising dinners with President Clinton. Strictly speaking, the intimate gatherings at the Hay-Adams Hotel did not raise any money for Gore 2000; the private affairs were arranged to thank some of Gore's most prodigious fund-raisers and to recruit a few new heavyweights. Clinton brought along his top-drawer money man Terry McAuliffe to help shake the trees for the VP. Similar dinners are planned for next month.

Campaign manager Craig Smith filled in for Gore, fielding online questions for the first half-hour of the hour-long session.

Postscript

Conservative activist Grover Norquist, who heads Americans for Tax Reform, likes Texas Gov. George W. Bush, and he thinks Bush will win the GOP nomination next year. And he strongly defends Bush against his opponents, who have stepped up their criticism of the governor. But Norquist took exception to a Washington Post article yesterday that described him as a Bush "supporter," which sounds too much like a Bush endorsement. Norquist said he has not and will not endorse anyone in the primaries.

Staff writers Ceci Connolly and Terry M. Neal contributed to this report.