- - Thursday, October 11, 2012

PENNSYLVANIA

PHILADELPHIA — Mitt Romney called the family of a 16-year-old Philadelphia girl who has said that she was mocked by her geometry teacher for wearing a Romney T-shirt in class.

Romney campaign spokesman Rick Gorka said Thursday that the Republican presidential candidate called Samantha Pawlucy’s home on Wednesday.

Mr. Gorka said that while Samantha wasn’t home, her mother was and that Mr. Romney told her that he appreciated her daughter’s courage.

The telephone call was first reported by the Pennsylvania website KeystoneReport.com.

The girl briefly returned to Charles Carroll High School on Tuesday. But her father said she never actually made it to class because she felt uncomfortable. He said Samantha and two other high-school age children in his home will now be transferring to another school.

The teacher has apologized, but hasn’t returned to school as she awaits the results of a school district investigation.

SENATE

Hopefuls wage air war for women, Latinos

An old feud and the race for women voters is intensifying the tight Arizona Senate race with the former boss of Democrat Richard Carmona starring in a new ad that questions his temperament to serve in the Senate.

Democrats fired back with their own ad that accuses Republican Jeff Flake of voting against bulletproof vests for local police and federal funding for child abuse prevention.

The Republican spot features Dr. Cristina Beato, the former acting assistant secretary at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, describing how Mr. Carmona pounded on her door in the middle of the night while he served as surgeon general because of disagreements about his travel.

Looking into the camera, she says she feared for her children and for herself.

The Carmona campaign denied the allegations.

CAMPAIGN

Graham, Romney meet privately, pray together

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney paid a visit to the Rev. Billy Graham on Thursday and the two men prayed together, his campaign said.

“I’ll do all I can to help you. And you can quote me on that,” Mr. Graham said, according to a readout of the private meeting provided by the campaign to reporters traveling with Mr. Romney.

A camera crew was allowed in for a brief portion of the 30-minute meeting, and saw the two men talking about their families, and Mr. Romney asking Mr. Graham for his prayers.

“Prayer is the most helpful thing you can do for me,” the candidate said. “And what you’re planning, what your son has shown me is going to be very, very helpful. And I appreciate that. It’s going to be terrific.”

It was unclear what those plans were.

WHITE HOUSE

Obama protects national security whistleblowers

President Obama is providing protection for whistleblowers in the national security arena so that they can report waste, fraud and abuse without fear of retaliation.

The president has signed a policy directive providing the protection because legislation in Congress has not done so. A rewrite of the whistleblower protection law is in the Senate. House Republicans removed the proposed protection for those involved in national security.

Under the president’s new policy, whistleblowers who handle classified information — meaning almost everyone in the intelligence community — can report wrongdoing or bureaucratic breakdowns as long as they do so within channels at their agencies.

CAMPAIGN

RNC chairman tangles with network anchor

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus defended GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney as pro-life in a lively exchange with CNN’s Soledad O’Brien on Thursday morning during a discussion about remarks Mr. Romney made to the Des Moines Register saying that there would be no specific abortion legislation that would be part of his presidential agenda.

“When you get into these discussions, you know, [they’re] not the type of thing that you can do in 30 seconds,” Mr. Priebus said on CNN’s “Starting Point.” “But the fact of the matter is that [Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan] are pro-life, there’s no doubt I see the flap over this Des Moines Register question, but I don’t see there’s nothing there there.”

MONTANA

American Indians suing state over voting access

HELENA — Fifteen Native Americans are suing state and county officials over a lack of election services on three Montana reservations, saying their inability to vote early or register late there is an unconstitutional denial of equal voting access.

The Indian plaintiffs on Wednesday asked a federal judge in Billings to issue an emergency order requiring the state and counties to open satellite election offices on the Crow, Northern Cheyenne and Fort Belknap reservations.

They say they now must drive between 27 and 113 miles round trip to reach their county offices, the only places that allow in-person absentee voting and late registration, both of which began Tuesday.

“Our position is the state has the duty to provide the same opportunities for absentee voting as non-Indians,” said plaintiffs’ attorney Terryl Matt. “We have a system designed right now where non-Indians can walk in and vote (absentee). So why can’t Indians?”

Traveling can pose an especially heavy financial burden for residents of reservation communities where unemployment rates can top 70 percent and the poverty rate is as high as 39 percent, the lawsuit said.

Montanans can vote early by mail or by delivering absentee ballots in person to county offices. Late registration begins at county offices a month before Election Day.

Voting access on Election Day is not an issue in the lawsuit.

• From wire dispatches and staff reports