- The Washington Times - Friday, October 11, 2002

Montana state Sen. Mike Taylor yesterday quit his Senate race against incumbent Democratic Sen. Max Baucus, blaming damage done by Democrats' television ads he said insinuated he was homosexual.

Using footage of a Colorado TV beauty program Mr. Taylor hosted in the 1980s, the ad ostensibly questioned the Republican candidate's ethics in handling student loans at a beauty school he once owned. But Mr. Taylor said the ad's use of old video showing Mr. Taylor massaging another man's face was really meant to send another message.

Mr. Taylor, who has been married for 22 years and is the father of two children, said the Democrats' ads were "personal slanders of the vilest kind."

"I simply never thought my opponent would run television ads that lied, assassinated my character, and mislead the people of Montana," Mr. Taylor said.

"And not in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine that a sitting U.S. senator would sanction the use of 20-year-old pictures of me for the most despicable of insinuations about my character," Mr. Taylor said.

In the 1980s, Mr. Taylor owned a chain of hair salons that sold beauty products. The video used in the ad showed Mr. Taylor demonstrating skin-care techniques by applying lotions to a man's face. In the ad, Mr. Taylor is wearing a tight-fitting suit with the shirt collar open, exposing his chest hair and several gold chains.

Barrett Kaiser, Mr. Baucus' spokesman, said their campaign had nothing to do with the ad, which he said was produced by the Montana Democratic Party. Mr. Kaiser referred all questions to the state party, but its spokeswoman was not available for comment.

Montana Democratic Party Chairman Bob Ream issued a written statement that did not address the salon ad, but said Mr. Taylor stepped down because he was not getting financial support from the Republican Party.

Mr. Baucus released a one-sentence statement and did not address the campaign.

"I want to wish Mike Taylor and his family well. There are so many important issues facing Montana, and I will continue to work hard to address them in the coming weeks," Mr. Baucus said.

The Billings Gazette reported "unconfirmed rumors" that Marc Racicot, Republican National Committee chairman and former Montana governor would replace the candidate on the ballot.

However, Republicans say this is not likely, and Mr. Taylor would have had to pull out of the race 85 days before the election to allow a new candidate to replace him. One official close to Mr. Racicot said the RNC chairman planned to remain at the campaign committee.

The only way Mr. Racicot could run is by a write-in campaign "and no one can spell his name," said one Montana Republican official.

A recent poll by Lee Newspapers of Montana showed Mr. Baucus leading with 54 percent to Mr. Taylor who had 35 percent with a margin of error of 4 percent.

Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican, campaigned for Mr. Taylor as recently as three weeks ago, and said at the time he thought the candidate was a promising dark horse to upset the four-term Democrat.

The salon video ads began airing last Friday and Mr. Taylor's campaign manager told the Gazette Wednesday: "We have zero left to fight with.

"The ad has destroyed the campaign. We have no money left and we don't want to stoop to the same level," said Alan Mikkelsen, Taylor campaign manager.

Last week, Mr. Taylor blasted Mr. Baucus for airing ads claiming the Republican supported privatizing Social Security.

"You cannot trust Max Baucus. No lie is too big, no slander is too outrageous," Mr. Taylor said.

Dan Allen, spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said they understand the circumstances leading to Mr. Taylor's withdrawal from race.

"We respect the fact that Mike Taylor will not stoop to the level that Max Baucus has allowed this campaign to fall into," Mr. Allen said.

Sen. Conrad Burns, Montana Republican, called the ads "an outrageous assault on him and his family."

"Voting records and statements are all open game in a campaign, but it is wrong to exploit perception," Mr. Burns said. "The result of this ad was to chase off a newcomer to politics. Democrats chose to make this a race about innuendo instead of issues. Montana deserves better than this."

Ralph Z. Hallow contributed to this article, which is based in part on wire service reports.

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