- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 11, 2001

A recruiting coup

Rep. John Thune, South Dakota Republican, has decided to challenge Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson in 2002, Roll Call reports, citing anonymous Republican sources.

Mr. Thune is expected to announce his candidacy late this month or in early October, reporters John Bresnahan and Chris Cillizza write.

"Thune's move is a recruiting coup that once seemed unattainable for Senate Republicans. Thune had publicly insisted that he would run for governor next year after three terms as the state's at-large House member, but apparently relented under pressure from President Bush and other party leaders, who saw what they believed to be an opportunity to tip the balance of power in the Senate slipping away," the reporters said.

"Thune's likely Senate candidacy sets up what is not only expected to be one of the tightest races of the 2002 cycle, but also a battle between Majority Leader Thomas Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, and Bush, both of whom are expected to play major roles in the campaign."

As if to confirm Mr. Thune's Senate candidacy, Oklahoma Rep. J.C. Watts Jr., House Republican Conference chairman, announced yesterday that Christine Iverson, the conference's communications director, is taking an extended leave of absence to return to South Dakota to join Mr. Thune's campaign staff.

Dole in

Elizabeth Dole will announce today that she is entering the race for the seat being vacated by Sen. Jesse Helms, according to a Republican source.

Mrs. Dole, a Republican, is expected to make the announcement in her hometown of Salisbury, said the source, who spoke to the Associated Press yesterday on the condition of anonymity.

"She is running. She's going to let everyone know then," said a Republican officeholder who had spoken to the former transportation secretary and ex-Red Cross chief earlier in the day.

Mrs. Dole, 65, has not lived in North Carolina in decades and had long been registered to vote in Kansas, the home state of her husband, former Republican Sen. Bob Dole.

But after Mr. Helms announced last month that he would not seek re-election in 2002, she notified election officials that she was ending her voter registration there. She has since registered in North Carolina.

The source said Mrs. Dole planned to quickly embark on a tour of the state.

Former Charlotte Mayor Richard Vinroot, who lost the gubernatorial election to Gov. Michael F. Easley last fall, is the only Republican to have officially entered the race. Rep. Richard Burr of Winston-Salem also has been mentioned as a potential Republican contender.

Secretary of State Elaine Marshall is the lone Democrat in the race.

Faircloth out

Former Sen. Lauch Faircloth, North Carolina Republican, says he will not seek the seat that Sen. Jesse Helms will vacate at the end of next year.

"After giving it a lot of thought, it was not something I wanted to do. The more I looked at it, the less exciting it became," Mr. Faircloth said late last week.

Mr. Faircloth's decision is seen as boosting the prospects of Republican Elizabeth Dole, the former U.S. transportation secretary.

"It would appear that she is going to get in the campaign," Mr. Faircloth said when asked about Mrs. Dole. "I had a long talk with her [on Sept. 3]. She came down to Clinton, and we had a nice visit. She has the advantage in so many people's mind of being in the 'star' category. Her problem would probably be the primary and not the general election. I think she would be overwhelming in the general election — she has a star quality and she would appeal to women voters."

End of a friendship

Arizona Sen. John McCain supported Texas Sen. Phil Gramm's bid for the presidency in 1996, but Mr. Gramm did not return the favor when Mr. McCain sought the Republican presidential nomination in 2000. Mr. Gramm backed George W. Bush, and that apparently was enough to sunder the McCain-Gramm friendship.

"I love John McCain," Mr. Gramm told New York Times reporter Philip Shenon. "It may be that he supported me in 1996 because he loved me. But when you're talking about choosing the president of the United States, it's not about love."

At that point, Mr. Gramm's voice choked, and he added: "It's about America and America's interest, and I'm not sure that John could really accept the fact — and it's hard to accept the fact — that I believed he would not be a good president. I knew that when it happened it would probably be the end of my close friendship.

"It hurt. I knew it would hurt. But look, I know it sounds political, but when you're talking about America, I don't let personalities get involved."

Labor pains

"When Al Gore reminisced to the Teamsters about his mother singing him to sleep with 'Look for the Union Label' — a jingle that turned out not to have been written until he was 27 — the hoots and catcalls came quickly. Well, just about one year later, George W. Bush now appears to be having similar troubles carrying his own union tune," the Wall Street Journal says.

"And as much as we'd like to lay the blame at the feet of Big Labor or obstructionist Democrats, it really belongs to a White House shop that has yet to put its people where its mouth is," the newspaper said in an editorial.

"Specifically, we mean the National Labor Relations Board, a five-member board with responsibility for enforcing federal labor policy. When Mr. Bush took office in January, there were four appointments coming open. But he named no one, and the consequences were manifested this week, when in 3-0 decision the Clinton holdovers ruled that even non-union workers had to wear union logos on their uniforms or be fired."

Mr. Bush's slowness in filling NLRB vacancies has also neutered the president's executive order that workers be notified of their right, under the Supreme Court's Beck decision, to get back that portion of their union dues used for political purposes, the newspaper said.

"The reason is that while it may theoretically be possible for workers to sue in federal court, the process is long and arduous and requires them to hire a lawyer. Today, that leaves their only alternative a NLRB that has spent the last eight years taking the teeth out of 'Beck' in most every case before it."

Time to move on

"What does the American public think about campaign-finance reform? Actually, it doesn't think much about it at all," William G. Mayer writes in the Weekly Standard.

"Though it is rarely mentioned in the typical media story on the subject, campaign finance reform is the epitome of a 'Beltway issue': one that greatly concerns pundits, reporters, editors, and (at least some) interest-group leaders and elected officials, but simply doesn't strike the average American as all that important," said Mr. Mayer, an associate professor of political science at Northeastern University.

"No matter how often the nation's editorialists lecture them on the issue, the American public consistently says they'd prefer that Congress and the president move on to other matters."

Future foe

"Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, the Democrat who gave the state same-sex unions, will not be seeking re-election. There are some who say Dean is a likely presidential candidate, who would run well in the early New Hampshire primary," UPI reports in its "Capital Comment" column.

"The smart money says he is the Democrat candidate against Republican-turned-Independent Sen. Jim Jeffords, who, according to one rumor making the rounds on Capitol Hill, the Democrats have discovered really is as impossible to work with as the Republicans said he was."

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