- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 28, 2002

The National Republican Senatorial Committee, in a highly unusual move, has decided to commit nearly a half-million dollars to buy television advertising for Suzanne Haik Terrell, one of three Republican Senate primary candidates in Louisiana.
"Louisiana could well be the state that provides a Bush majority in the Senate," NRSC Executive Director Mitch Bainwol said in explaining why the Republican fund-raising committee decided to intervene in a Republican primary.
"I'm shocked," said state Sen. Tony Perkins, one of Mrs. Terrell's Republican primary rivals. Mr. Perkins says Mrs. Terrell is a centrist and that only a conservative like himself can win in the state.
"Having root-canal work done is no worse than having the NRSC lie to me and stab me in the back," Mr. Perkins said when reached at his dentist's office.
Mr. Perkins said NRSC Political Director Chris LaCivita informed him Monday night of the move.
"I told him the committee lied to me," Mr. Perkins said. "They said I had to meet three criteria to be the one to get NRSC-coordinated expenditures: raise more money, get more endorsements and do well in the polls.
"I didn't dispute what I said, but he told me, 'Well, our poll numbers show she is moving ahead, but I can't share those numbers with you,'" Mr. Perkins said.
But Sen. Bill Frist of Tennessee, the NRSC chairman, noted that Mrs. Terrell, the Louisiana elections commissioner, is the only Republican woman to be elected to a statewide office in Louisiana and stands the best chance of beating Democratic Sen. Mary L. Landrieu.
Rep. John C. Cooksey, a three-term conservative House member, is the third Republican competing.
While the NRSC is intervening on Mrs. Terrell's behalf, the Republican National Committee is following tradition by remaining neutral in the Louisiana primary.
All Louisiana voters will be able to cast ballots on Nov. 5 for Mrs. Landrieu or any one of the Republicans. If one candidate does not get a majority, then there will be a runoff between the top two vote-getters Dec. 7 to decide the Senate seat.
Mr. Frist said the decision to back Mrs. Terrell, even before Labor Day, was based on political expediency the need to make sure at least one Republican gets early financial support to keep Mrs. Landrieu from winning a clear majority in the open primary.
"We are left with a choice," Mr. Frist said. "Sit it out or take the unusual step of supporting one of the fine [Republican primary] candidates and thereby increase the probability of a runoff."
Mr. Cooksey, as a three-term House member, has more Washington experience than Mrs. Terrell or Mr. Perkins. Republican Gov. Mike Foster, a Democrat until he ran for governor, said last week he would not run for Mrs. Landrieu's seat and endorsed Mr. Cooksey instead. But the national party was embarrassed shortly after September 11 when Mr. Cooksey addressed the issue of terrorist profiling, saying if someone has "a diaper on his head and a fan belt wrapped around the diaper on his head, that guy needs to be pulled over." He later apologized.
With Republicans needing a net gain of only one seat to regain Senate control, they are taking the Louisiana contest seriously.
"Our job is to put as many races in play as we can, and in Louisiana the incumbent is very soft," Mr. Bainwol said. "And when votes peel away from Landrieu [in the Nov. 5 open primary], they are most likely to go to Terrell."
Mr. Bainwol said Mrs. Terrell is the most likely to make the runoff and to win in December.
Mr. Perkins doesn't buy that argument.
"This changes the dynamics of the race," Mr. Perkins said. "Until now, it has been a love fest on the Republican side. We've stayed focused on Landrieu as the enemy. Now my campaign is finding another aggressor the NRSC."
He said that now he is "going to have to run on two fronts against Landrieu and her liberal record and Terrell and her moderate record."
Director George Bonnett, executive director of the Louisiana Republican Party, said the state party had signed over to the NRSC authority to make coordinated expenditures long before there was a full slate of Republican candidates.
Mrs. Terrell was the last to formally enter the contest.
"This is an NRSC decision to throw support behind Suzie, but it has no effect on the way the state party is approaching this race," Mr. Bonnett said. "We'll be neutral till we get a Republican in the runoff."
Although Mrs. Terrell's opponents accused her of switching to a pro-life position on abortion only recently, she says, "I have been pro-life forever."

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