- The Washington Times - Monday, November 4, 2002

Arkansas Senate candidate Mark Pryor last night admitted hiring an immigrant housekeeper, and Republicans demanded he "tell the people of Arkansas" whether the woman was an illegal alien.
The Pryor campaign confirmed that Ortenzia Osorio, who lives in a mobile home by railroad tracks on the southwest side of Little Rock, had been employed by Mr. Pryor, the state's attorney general, but denied that she was in the United States illegally.
"When Ortenzia came to us, she provided documentation stating she was in the United States legally," Mr. Pryor, a Democrat, said in a statement. "She did light housework for us as needed for a few hours a week and only for a few months. We have never employed an illegal immigrant."
However, the Pryor campaign did not respond to questions from The Washington Times about whether Mr. Pryor paid Social Security or income taxes on Miss Osorio's wages. KARK-TV in Little Rock said it interviewed Miss Osorio, who refused to say whether she was illegally in the country.
"We don't know whether it's true or not, but he needs to tell the people of Arkansas whether he has an illegal immigrant working for him," Arkansas Republican Party Chairman Marty Ryall said. "He is the attorney general of this state."
The accusation that the state attorney general had employed an illegal immigrant surfacing less than 48 hours before Arkansas voters decide between Mr. Pryor and Republican Sen. Tim Hutchinson was a surprising development in the closely fought battle for control of the Senate.
With Democrats' one-vote Senate majority at stake in tomorrow's election, Mr. Pryor's campaign headquarters was bombarded by calls from political reporters after a tip about the Spanish-speaking housekeeper was posted online by the Drudge Report.
The tip, including claims that the woman was paid $7 an hour in cash by Mr. Pryor, apparently came first to the state Republican party. "All indications are that he didn't pay her any Social Security," a Republican official confided.
In Little Rock, at least one reporter visited the woman's trailer home on Hazel Circle, describing it as a low-income neighborhood with poorly paved streets.
The accusation against the Democratic challenger comes as the incumbent Republican is trailing badly in his bid for a second term. The latest poll by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette showed Mr. Pryor leading by a margin of 53 percent to 42 percent ahead of Mr. Hutchinson, whose re-election effort in a Bible Belt state was hurt by his divorce and remarriage to a former staff member.
Mr. Pryor accused his opponent of using a last-minute smear tactic.
"It has been said that desperate people will do desperate things, but I never expected such a shameless attack from Tim Hutchinson and his party," Mr. Pryor said. "With one day left and Tim trailing badly in polls, I think we have seen just how low some people are willing to sink in order to win an election."
The employment of immigrants as domestic servants became a political issue in 1993, when President Clinton's first two nominees for attorney general Zoe Baird and Kimba Wood were revealed to have employed illegal aliens as babysitters, a scandal that became known as "Nannygate." Both women withdrew their names from consideration for the appointment.
In the 1994 Senate race in California, both Democrat Dianne Feinstein and Republican Michael Huffington admitted hiring illegal aliens. In the Bush administration, similar charges dogged EPA Administrator Christie Whitman and derailed the nomination of Linda Chavez to be Labor secretary.
Last-minute revelations about candidates are a common feature of recent campaigns.
A week before the 2000 presidential elections, a Democrat activist leaked documents to the press disclosing that George W. Bush had been arrested on drunken-driving charges 24 years earlier in Kennebunkport, Maine.
In 1992, independent counsel Lawrence Walsh issued an indictment of former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger that said George Bush, vice president at the time in question, was not "out of the loop" in the Iran-Contra arms-for-hostages deal. The indictment was handed down four days before Mr. Bush faced Bill Clinton in the 1992 election.
One Arkansas Republican was doubtful the accusation about Mr. Pryor's housekeeper could swing the election to Mr. Hutchinson.
"If it was true, it would be devastating, given Mr. Pryor is the top law enforcement officer in Arkansas," said a Republican campaign operative who is a native of Little Rock, but said with just 48 hours before Election Day, "the Pryor campaign has the ability to run out the clock" on the last-minute accusation.


LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide