- The Washington Times - Friday, September 6, 2002

Tony Perkins, a prominent social conservative seeking to win the Louisiana Republican Senate primary, got personal assurances of neutrality this week from the White House and the Republican National Committee

He also received the support of Sen. Sam Brownback, Kansas Republican and a leading traditional conservative.

Mr. Perkins is one of three Republicans seeking to challenge Democratic Sen. Mary L. Landrieu. Along with former Republican Rep. Jim Talent, who is challenging Democratic Sen. Jean Carnahan in the race in Missouri, he is one of the few candidates in the country who have received the full support of social conservatives nationally in the current election cycle.

"Tony is really the only committed pro-life candidate in the Louisiana race," said Michael Bowman, executive director of the Concerned Women's Political Action Committee, which has endorsed Mr. Perkins' candidacy.

"Probably only Perkins and Talent are reliable from the viewpoint of national social conservative groups," said Mr. Bowman, whose PAC is headed by Beverly LaHaye, founder and chairman of Concerned Women for America. "They are the only two guys who have been firm on the conservative issues."

"Others aren't willing to commit to conservative principles," Mr. Bowman added.

Mr. Perkins met in the White House this week with White House Political Director Ken Mehlman and at the Republican National Committee with Deputy Republican National Committee Chairman Jack Oliver.

Both men assured the Louisiana state House member that the White House and the RNC would remain neutral in his contest with Rep. John Cooksey and Louisiana Elections Commissioner Suzanne Haik Terrell.

"The White House and Jack Oliver told me they were absolutely not involved in this race," Mr. Perkins said. "But the National Republican Senatorial Committee broke the rules" about not taking sides in a Republican primary, he said.

The NRSC recently announced that it would support Mrs. Terrell in the primary campaign.

Sen. Bill Frist, Tennessee Republican and the NRSC chairman, has said that his committee made the unusual commitment to support Mrs. Terrell and to buy nearly a half-million dollars in television advertising on her behalf because she is considered the best bet to force a runoff election with Mrs. Landrieu in Louisiana's unique Nov. 4 open primary. The general election will be held on Dec. 7.

"Both the White House and the national party have made it a point to distance themselves from the NRSC decision," said Perkins campaign manager John Bargas. "The conservative groups up here are annoyed that their candidate was snubbed and see it as par for the course as to how the NRSC treats conservatives."

Although both Mr. Cooksey and Mrs. Terrell claim to be pro-life, they are suspect in the eyes of social conservative leaders.

"Perkins is the only horse for us in that Louisiana race, but he also would be a national figure for us if elected," said Andrea Lafferty, executive director of the Traditional Values Coalition.

"I don't know of a major social conservative group not supporting Tony," said Mrs. Lafferty. "We recognize that Talent and Perkins are going to be there for the pro-family issues."

Mr. Perkins flew back home yesterday after three days in Washington making the rounds, visiting not only the White House and the RNC, but also meeting with leaders of conservative groups, such as the National Right to Work Committee, the National Right to Life Committee, the Madison Project and Americans for Tax Reform.

Mr. Perkins also has the endorsement of Focus on the Family which rarely makes political endorsements as well as Republicans for Life and the Eagle Forum.

"After the reception I got during my three days in Washington, it does look like the NRSC move has built a fire under social conservatives and has propelled this race into the center of the national conservative movement for this cycle," Mr. Perkins said.

Mr. Brownback introduced Mr. Perkins at a private luncheon meeting of leading conservative politicians and interest-group representatives on Wednesday and invited those attending to support him.

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