- The Washington Times - Friday, June 16, 2000

A Ridge too tall

"Here's a new twist in the Republican veepstakes: Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge's pro-choice stand on abortion may not be his only big obstacle another could be the fact that Ridge himself is too big," the New York Post's Deborah Orin writes.

"The buzz in GOP circles is that when focus groups see video of Ridge with George W. Bush, the combo flops because the taller, massively built Ridge seems to overpower the slim Bush, whose official height is 6 feet," Miss Orin said.

"Ridge's height has been reported as 6-foot-3 for years although his office (perhaps eager to scale him down to Bush-suitable size) [Wednesday] gave it as 6-foot-2.

"Several GOP sources claimed Bush-land is conducting its own focus-group testing video of wannabe veeps with Bush, but the Bush camp flatly denies that… .

"But other Republicans say whether or not Bush-land is focus-grouping veeps, GOP strategists outside the campaign certainly are and undoubtedly funneling what they find to Bush Central."

McCollum's path

Florida Education Commissioner Tom Gallagher is leaving the U.S. Senate race, leaving U.S. Rep. Bill McCollum as the only Republican candidate for Florida's open seat, a campaign official said Thursday.

Mr. Gallagher made the decision, according to Reuters news agency, after meeting with Republican Gov. Jeb Bush and Florida Republican Party Chairman Al Cardenas, who sought to avoid a bruising primary face-off between Mr. Gallagher and Mr. McCollum, Gallagher campaign manager Marty Ryall said.

"They were concerned that there's going to be a divisive primary … with our nominees coming out bloody and spending all their funds," Mr. Ryall said.

The move means Mr. McCollum, a House prosecutor in the Senate trial of President Clinton, and Democrat Bill Nelson, a former congressman and Florida's current insurance commissioner, will be their parties' only candidates for the seat that retiring Republican Sen. Connie Mack will leave in January.

Behind the scenes

Although House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt publicly opposed free trade with China, he worked behind the scenes to ensure approval, according to Wall Street Journal columnist Albert R. Hunt, who interviewed the Missouri Democrat, but did not quote him on that particular issue.

"The Gephardt acumen was most apparent during the fight last month over trade benefits for China an issue that threatened to decimate Democratic unity," Mr. Hunt said.

"He opposed the White House, but carefully worked to lower tensions and even helped advocates win the major victory. The upshot was that the Democrats incurred few lasting scars. Some surveys even suggest the party may have gained a little."

Half a loaf

"The Capitol crowd chortled when [California] Gov. Gray Davis proposed that teachers pay no state income tax. Pundits carped. Teachers cringed," writes Los Angeles Times columnist George Skelton.

"Legislators condemned. Dead on arrival, they declared.

"Not exactly. Look again. The governor's half-baked idea has become half a loaf," the columnist said.

"Teachers will get far more than crumbs this year. And they can thank Davis.

"When the governor unveiled his public school teachers' tax exemption plan on May 13, there was a loud cry of outrage. People teachers included objected to excusing just one profession from paying the state income tax. Undeterred, Davis vowed to 'stand up and fight for this puppy.'

"He did fight. And he changed the puppy's name from an exemption to a credit. As a result, roughly half rather than all the tax on teachers' pay will be excused."

Mr. Skelton said the tax credit for teachers is "a done deal" in the legislature.

Cashing in

A Progressive Party gubernatorial candidate has became the first candidate eligible for public funds under Vermont's tough new campaign-finance law.

Anthony Pollina announced Wednesday he had raised nearly $36,000 from almost 1,600 contributors, according to the Associated Press.

To qualify for public funding under the law, a candidate for governor must raise more than $35,000, with contributions from a minimum of 1,500 individuals, each giving no more than $50.

If the contributions are confirmed July 17 by the Secretary of State's Office, Mr. Pollina said, he will be eligible for $265,000 in public funds.

Mr. Pollina said the bulk of the money, once received, would be used to hire canvassers across the state, as well as more campaign staff and to pay for television and radio advertising.

Gay Republican loses

A prosecutor who was the first openly gay Republican to hold office in the South narrowly lost his re-election bid in the primary.

David Schwacke, who sought a third term as solicitor in Charleston, S.C., after acknowledging in 1997 that he was homosexual, lost to former federal prosecutor Ralph Hoisington by 255 votes out of 29,915 cast.

The margin of less than 1 percent led to an automatic recount, the Associated Press reported.

"Clearly, the gay issue came into play for some voters," Mr. Schwacke said.

Mr. Hoisington's campaign included signs with the slogan "For Our Families," which some viewed as a not-so-veiled shot at Mr. Schwacke's homosexuality.

Let's rumble

Concerned about violence between rumbling Reform Party factions and protesters, national convention organizers say they have increased the security budget by as much as 15 percent. Some activists are pushing for even more safeguards, the Associated Press reports.

"I'm concerned about security on the convention floor," national committee member Cedric Scofield said, citing a storm of tough-talking e-mails between supporters of Reform Party presidential contender Pat Buchanan and those of party founder Ross Perot. "I anticipate some emotional, physically aggressive people confronting other people. We need more security."

Mr. Scofield said that since the $2.5 million convention apparently cannot be canceled, organizers should forgo showy displays and spend the money on bouncers for the convention floor.

But National Chairman Gerry Moan says the real concern is maintaining safe conditions outside the Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center.

He said the party has received threatening messages from militant groups opposed to Mr. Buchanan that intend to protest. He said has increased the security budget by 10 percent to 15 percent in the past few weeks by nixing other expenditures including for a fancy stage design.

Rest of the story

Rep. Matt Salmon, Arizona Republican, says he had a good reason for missing a vote last week his father was having surgery after suffering a heart attack.

This column, in an item picked up from the Associated Press, listed Mr. Salmon as one of nine absent Republican legislators, which caused the Republicans to lose a vote on the creation of a conservation area in Utah.

Mr. Salmon, in a letter to this column, said he missed the vote "to be with my father who had to have emergency open-heart surgery after suffering a heart attack. As soon as I learned of his condition, I informed House leadership that I would be unavailable for votes on Wednesday, June 7th."

Mr. Salmon added: "Certainly, the media has a right, even a responsibility, to hold Members of Congress accountable for missed votes. However, a little context about the nature of the circumstances would have provided a much more accurate impression. Given the situation, I highly doubt that anyone else would have made a different decision."

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