- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 8, 2001

Democratic leaders in California are recruiting candidates to run for Rep. Gary A. Condit's congressional seat amid plummeting poll numbers and growing expectations he will not seek re-election.
Sandra Lucas, chairman of the Stanislaus County Democratic Central Committee, said she expects Mr. Condit to announce within weeks that he will not run for an eighth term.
"The positioning has already begun," she said. "I don't think he will run. I think we will know within the next few weeks."
California Democrats said their polling over the past week showed support for Mr. Condit, 53, is "in total collapse" over his refusal to publicly acknowledge an extramarital affair with Chandra Levy, 24, the former federal intern missing since May 1.
Mr. Condit's approval rating a year ago stood at over 50 percent, with 14 percent expressing disapproval. Now more than half of voters polled are unhappy with the Democratic incumbent's performance, party sources said.
Fox and NBC both reported yesterday that Mr. Condit already has decided not to run, but his office released a statement saying the reports were "incorrect" and "no decision has been made."
"I know his family is very much against him running again," Miss Lucas said. "If he had come out and admitted everything at the beginning, this would not have happened."
Meanwhile, a California grand jury has decided behind closed doors whether to investigate charges that Mr. Condit and staff members obstructed justice by asking flight attendant Ann Marie Smith to deny in an affidavit that she and the congressman had an affair.
Results of the secret proceedings were not made public but were sent to Miss Smith's attorney, James Robinson. He could not be reached for comment.
Mr. Condit has said he did not ask Miss Smith to lie.
Mr. Condit acknowledged a sexual relationship with Miss Levy to investigators in late July, D.C. police sources have said. The missing former intern came to Washington from Modesto, which is in his district.
Mike Lenahan, California regional director for the Democratic Party, said he would not be "terribly surprised" if Mr. Condit retired.
"It would be best for him not to run again for the sake of the party and for the sake of his family," Mr. Lenahan said.
Miss Lucas said Mr. Condit would have to make up his mind by the beginning of October, when the local party starts to invite nominations for next year's primary. His term expires in January 2003.
Democrats say turnout at a "Condit Country" fund-raiser Oct. 20 will influence Mr. Condit's decision.
"If it's a disaster it will point him in one direction, but if it's an overwhelming success it will point him in another direction," Democratic strategist Chris Lapetina said. "From his perspective, what does he have to lose? He can't get himself into any more political trouble than he's already in."
Two Condit friends are touted as possible successors: state Assemblyman Dennis Cardoza and state Agriculture Secretary Bill Lyons. Mr. Cardoza is favored by local Democrats to win the nomination if Mr. Condit steps down.
House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt said he will respect Mr. Condit's decision, whether it be to run again or retire.
"Look, he got elected by over a half a million people, just like I did. His political future is between him and them; it's not my business," the Missouri Democrat said.
The mystery of Miss Levy's disappearance and Mr. Condit's affair with the young woman have not hurt the Democratic Party, Mr. Gephardt said.
"I think people out in the country are extremely interested in the economy," he said. "They're extremely worried about where we're headed with economic growth and their job; they're worried about Social Security and Medicare, health care and education, and the environment and energy."


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