- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 20, 2003

WASHINGTON, Feb. 19 (UPI) — Capital Comment — Daily news notes, political rumors, and important events that shape politics and public policy in Washington and the world from United Press International.

The prime directive …

The North Dakota House of Representatives has gone on record in support of President George W. Bush's economic growth package. By voice vote the chamber approved a resolution directing the state's congressional delegation to support the package and to vote to make it law.

This creates an interesting dynamic, since Sens. Kent Conrad and Byron Dorgan and U.S. Rep. Earl Pomeroy are all Democrats — and not just the run-of-the-mill kind.

Dorgan, up for re-election in 2004 in a state Bush won 61 to 33 percent, is a member of his party's Senate leadership. Conrad is the ranking Democrat on the Senate Budget Committee. Both have been vocal critics of the plan so it will be interesting to see if the directive changes their views.

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Katie, Barr the door …

Former Republican U.S. Rep. Bob Barr's bid for a political comeback in Georgia's newly open 6th district congressional seat has generated quite a bit of buzz. The district is, culturally and politically, a far cry from the old 11th that Barr represented before redistricting. Affluent Cobb County, where the politics are much more mainstream — as is often the case in districts where the voters are highly educated and high income — makes up about 60 percent of the 6th district. Veteran politicos say Barr's confrontational style may not fit in.

Several names have been mentioned as potential Republican opponents — including state Sen. Majority Leader Tom Price. But Price — the first-ever GOP majority leader — is a polished pol. It's highly unlikely he would surrender his ringside seat in the statehouse for a back bench in the U.S. Congress.

Another potential candidate is state Sen. Robert Lamutt, treasurer of Georgia's Senate Republican Caucus. Over the course of his political life Lamutt has represented close to 250,000 residents of Cobb County, giving him a formidable base on which to build should he throw his hat in the ring.

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Of primary interest …

Pennsylvania may be home to one of the more interesting political races of the 2004 cycle. Republican Sen. Arlen Specter, in office since 1980 and one of the party's more reliably liberal members, looks like he is going to have to win a primary if he wants to keep his seat. Clues increasingly point to U.S. Rep. Pat Toomey, who, in the last of the three terms to which he limited himself when first elected in 1998, may be gearing up to challenge to the former Philadelphia District Attorney.

The latest is a statement from the Pennsylvania chapters of the Associated Builders and Contractors, a trade group consisting of 1,700 companies, urging Toomey to make the race. "Our six chapters from every corner of the state have been meeting over the past three weeks to formally consider the question of who could best represent the taxpayers and the free enterprise philosophy in the United States Senate. Pat Toomey is the unanimous choice," ABC Regional Vice Chairman Lee Strickland said.

It will be a tough race for both men. Specter is a legend in Pennsylvania politics — and may have the quiet support of the White House — while Toomey is a favorite of the pro-economic growth wing of the national Republican Party with strong ties to the Wall Street types necessary to mounting a successful challenge.

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If a picture's worth a thousand words …

Former Clinton White House aide Bob Weiner is not very happy with Washington's Renaissance Hotel, part of the Marriott chain. It seems the new President's Sports Bar is not up to his political standards.

Weiner is running hot because the photos that make up the dcor venerate former Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush as well as the current president, presenting them in vital and adventurous settings. Former President Clinton, Weiner says, has one photo, "buried in a corner inside the actual bar" in which he is seen "playing pool."

"Clinton's sports love, as everyone knows, was running," he says in a release — something to which the many thousands of Washington-area residents who found themselves stuck in traffic while Clinton went for runs around the city can attest.

In a release Weiner, who worked for Clinton's drug czar, says he offered the bar a photograph of Clinton leading a pack of runners. The offer was refused for lack of space though Weiner says he fears that partisan motives are at work "because of Renaissance being a Marriott hotel and Marriott owners' history of strong Republic allegiance."

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One for the books …

Veteran conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly is at work on another book about the American political system. Tentatively entitled "100 Ways to Steal an Election," it will reportedly delve into the different aspects of election fraud — including the way in which federal and state laws governing the process are rigged to actually encourage, or at any rate stop the efforts of those who wish to prevent fraud at the polls. Schlafly, the author of a number of books, founded the Eagle Forum organization. She is probably best known as the leader of the successful effort to stop the ratification of the equal rights amendment in the 1970s.

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