- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 17, 2002

The national Republican Party's drive to capture the Louisiana Senate seat now held by Democrat Mary L. Landrieu has hit another snag as conservatives question the pro-life credentials of the GOP-backed candidate.

Louisiana Republicans claim candidate Susanne Haik Terrell, who has received financial backing from the National Republican Senatorial Committee over other Republican candidates, supported a pro-choice event in 1994 and switched her stance on abortion out of political expediency.

They doubt her commitment on the issue and say she is too liberal to defeat Mrs. Landrieu in a state like Louisiana.

Mrs. Terrell, the elected state commissioner of elections, says that she has been pro-life "forever," and that her listing as an honorary co-chairman on an invitation to a Planned Parenthood event in New Orleans was done without her knowledge or permission.

Copies of the invitation to the pro-choice organization's event were distributed by a supporter of one of Mrs. Terrell's nomination rivals, Republican Rep. John Cooksey, at a Republican forum in Louisiana last week.

The Rev. Bill Shanks of Metairie asked her to explain how, if she had always been pro-life, she got listed as an honorary co-chairman for Planned Parenthood.

"Until it was brought to my attention, I was unaware of that, because it was an honorary position put in place by all the members of the New Orleans City Council," Mrs. Terrell replied.

Earlier, Mrs. Terrell had told The Washington Times she did not remember her name being on any Planned Parenthood invitation, as an honorary co-chairman or in any other capacity.

"I think she has some serious explaining to do. Certainly, I welcome her to the pro-life side of the issue," said state Sen. Tony Perkins, another Republican candidate who opposes abortion without exceptions for rape, incest and to save the life of the mother

"The question is, will she stay on our side?" he said.

Terri Bartlett, who was the chief operating officer of Louisiana Planned Parent in 1994, said the group asked Mrs. Terrell, then a New Orleans City Council member, for permission and would not have included Mrs. Terrell's name had she not said yes.

"We would not have included her name without her permission," Mrs. Bartlett said, adding: "I though she was pro-family planning and pro-choice all along."

At least one pro-life member of the city council in 1994, Peggy Wilson, had refused permission to have her name printed on the invitation.

"I was there when Suzy said at City Council meeting that she was pro-choice despite being a Republican," Mrs. Wilson said yesterday. "After she got elected to the council, it was clear she did not hold any bedrock Republican positions."

Last month, to the consternation of Mr. Cooksey and his chief supporter, Gov. Mike Foster, as well as Mr. Perkins, Mrs. Terrell received the backing of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

In its highly unusual intervention into a Republican primary, the NRSC has committed to spend up to a half-million dollars in coordinated expenditures to buy television advertising on her behalf.

When Tennessee Sen. Bill Frist, the NRSC chairman, announced his committee had decided to support Mrs. Terrell, many Republicans in the state were outraged.

Mr. Foster, among other prominent Republicans, complained to the national party about its interference in a party primary.

But Mr. Frist had argued that polls showed Mrs. Terrell was the most likely Republican candidate to keep Mrs. Landrieu from getting a majority of votes in the Nov. 4 elections, which in Louisiana are a form of open primary open to all candidates from all parties and to all voters, regardless of party affiliation.

If no one receives a majority, then the top two vote getters compete in a Dec. 7 runoff to determine the next senator from Louisiana.

The White House and the Republican National Committee have separated themselves from the NRSC on the issue of endorsing Mrs. Terrell.

"The White House and [Deputy Republican National Chairman] Jack Oliver told me they were absolutely not involved in this race," Mr. Perkins said. "But the senatorial committee broke the rules by taking sides."

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