- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 16, 2001

Rep. Gary A. Condit is beginning his re-election campaign despite the continuing investigation of Chandra Levy's disappearance 15 weeks ago and the barrage of negative press surrounding his affair with the 24-year-old intern.
California Republicans are plotting protests and recruiting challengers to run against the seven-term Democrat, who is scheduled to formally kick off his campaign with an Oct. 20 fund-raiser.
However, contrary to earlier reports, Republicans can expect no help from Miss Levy's parents.
Robert Levy had said early in the investigation that the family would get involved politically if Mr. Condit sought re-election. However the family spokesman said in an interview yesterday that Mr. Levy is "only focused on finding his daughter, and he has no interest in Congressman Condit's political career."
Appearing on CNN's "Larry King Live" last night, Mr. Levy said he did not care about calls for Mr. Condit's resignation because "it doesn't really affect our knowing what happened to our daughter and getting her back."
"If we could guarantee it would make a difference, we would care. But, you know, he's just doing what he's doing, and that's the way he is, " Mr. Levy said.
Out of respect for the family, the Stanislaus County Republican Central Committee has not discussed nor plans asking the family to become involved in campaign activities, said Nora Lynn Goold, committee member.
"I agree they need to stay out of the political realm, " Mrs. Goold said. "But if they choose to do something on their own, God bless them."
With or without involvement of the Levy family, state political activists and Republican strategists predict his career is over.
"He's through already. He's on political life-support at the very best right now, " said Jim DeMartini, chairman of the Stanislaus County Republican Central Committee.
The public's short attention span and political neutrality from the Levys are good news for Mr. Condit's campaign, said Chris Lapetina, Democratic strategist for the Global Strategy Group.
"The less the Levys say about Condit right now, the better off he is, " Mr. Lapetina said.
To heal his political black eye, Mr. Condit will have to take a "Clintonesque" approach to repair his reputation by pleading marital problems and promising resolution with his wife by his side, Mr. Lapetina said.
"A lot of times voters will forgive, and 1998 was a great lesson on that, " Mr. Lapetina said, referring to former President Clinton's public relations recovery after he was impeached by the House on charges of lying under oath over his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.
But until Mr. Condit makes a convincing case to the public, the scandal "sucks up all the oxygen, and it will be the campaign, " Mr. Lapetina said.
The Levys' becoming involved politically would have posed a significant threat to Mr. Condit's re-election bid, said Cheri Jacobus, Republican strategist for Capitol Strategies.
"The Levy parents are a constant reminder of where his priorities lie, " Miss Jacobus said.
"They are a perpetual reminder that Gary Condit is not the victim, and the media is not the villain, which is what he is obviously trying to do. The sob story on his behalf is going over like a lead balloon, " Miss Jacobus said.
A day after two newspapers in Mr. Condit's congressional district called on him to resign, spokesman Mike Lynch announced on CNN the beleaguered lawmaker's campaign is moving ahead as scheduled.
"I knew he would keep going; this is straight out of the Clinton playbook, " Mrs. Goold said.
Republicans plan to protest the fund-raiser, which Mr. Condit's staff is estimating will draw thousands of supporters.
"We are going to mobilize a very large demonstration if he continues with this and tries to run for re-election, " Mr. DeMartini said.
Mrs. Goold called the fund-raiser "unseemly" and said it is "disrespectful to the Levys and the pain they are going through."
Mr. Lapetina said the mere scheduling of the event signals that Mr. Condit's financial supporters are willing to back the campaign.
"I don't think they would have scheduled the function if it were going to flop, because that would then become the story, " Mr. Lapetina said.
Bill Conrad, a Modesto city councilman who got only 32 percent of the vote when he challenged Mr. Condit in 1996, has announced he will run against Mr. Condit. State Sen. Dick Montieth may also challenge Mr. Condit. Both are Republicans. No Democrat has yet announced any plan to challenge the incumbent in the primary.

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