- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 31, 2003

Gephardt’s coup

The Teamsters union plans to endorse Democratic Rep. Richard A. Gephardt for president, its officials say, giving the Missouri congressman a crucial political boost at a time when his weak fund raising has prompted questions about the viability of his campaign.

The coveted endorsement by the 1.4 million-member union is expected to follow a conference-call vote of 22 Teamsters vice presidents today, sources in the union told the Associated Press.

It would be the most high-profile endorsement in the race among nine Democrats to challenge President Bush in 2004.

Teamsters spokesman Bret Caldwell said the union’s executive board was scheduled to talk by phone today “to discuss a potential Teamsters endorsement.” But he refused to confirm that a Gephardt endorsement was expected, and said the union would make no announcement afterward.

But the union has scheduled endorsement events in Detroit; Des Moines, Iowa; and Manchester, N.H., for Aug. 9 with Teamsters President James P. Hoffa and Mr. Gephardt, the AP said.

The Gephardt endorsement is a slap to the Bush White House, which has tried to chip away at organized labor’s solid support for the Democratic Party. Mr. Hoffa even secured a special seat at President Bush’s first State of the Union speech to Congress.

Gunning for Lott

Internet mischief-makers seem to be targeting economist John Lott, author of “More Guns, Less Crime” and “The Bias Against Guns.”

A Web site called “Ask John Lott” appears to offer Mr. Lott’s responses to questions about gun laws, but Mr. Lott said he has nothing to do with the site.

“People have e-mailed the site [asking questions] and you get an e-mail back, supposedly signed by me, making some fairly outrageous statements that I would disown,” said Mr. Lott, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research.

The Web site attributes bogus advice to Mr. Lott, such as a response to a woman concerned about a peeping Tom, urging her to buy a .50 caliber rifle that “can hit a target a mile and a half away.”

The site features the question, “Can I buy hundreds of semi-automatics without being reported to law enforcement?” And it attributes to Mr. Lott this answer: “Yes, you’re in luck. Licensed gun dealers have no requirements to report multiple sales of long guns, even though this is the kind of gun that terrorist organizations love.”

Mr. Lott says he believes gun-control activists are behind the bogus Web page, though the site’s Internet service provider has declined to divulge the names of the miscreants.

Happy face

California Gov. Gray Davis insisted he will enter the state’s recall election “with virtual unanimity in Democratic support,” despite recent defections from the party’s stated strategy of unifying behind the embattled executive.

Mr. Davis fielded pointed questions Wednesday about three California congressional Democrats who have called on Sen. Dianne Feinstein, considered the state’s most popular politician, to put her name on the Oct. 7 recall ballot.

“I’m very proud of all the Democrats that are standing by my side, and particularly Senator Feinstein,” Mr. Davis said. “I think it’s highly unlikely there will be any prominent Democratic candidates in the race. They understand it is a Republican cabal.”

Mr. Davis’ latest comments came as Reps. Cal Dooley, Loretta Sanchez and Brad Sherman said Democrats need an alternative on the ballot in case Mr. Davis loses.

Their comments contradicted the strategy of party leaders, which is to keep Democrats unified behind Mr. Davis and ensure that there is no credible Democratic candidate on the ballot, the Associated Press reports.

Daunting odds

California Gov. Gray Davis may confidently predict he will overcome an unprecedented effort to unseat him, but Internet bettors say the odds are that the Democrat will be out of a job by the end of the year.

The Ireland-based Internet betting site TradeSports.com put the odds that Mr. Davis will be in office by the end of September at about 35 percent as of yesterday, Reuters news agency reports.

The odds on the site are set through an online futures market based on bets being placed by both sides.

Those who believe Mr. Davis will still be in office at the end of the year stood to win $6 for every $4 wagered. Those betting against Mr. Davis — selling the contract short — would win $3.10 if he is out of office, or lose $6.90 if he bucks the odds and keeps his job.

Please come home

Texas Gov. Rick Perry yesterday called on Senate Democrats to end their quorum-busting walkout and return to the Capitol, his strongest plea to the absent lawmakers since they fled the state amid a heated redistricting dispute.

“Texans elected you to cast your vote in Austin, so come on back and go to work,” Mr. Perry said.

The 11 Democrats bolted for New Mexico on Monday to protest a Republican plan to redraw Texas’ congressional districts. The Democrats hold a 17-15 advantage, but Republicans say that does not reflect the state’s increasingly Republican voting patterns.

When asked why he didn’t drop redistricting from the agenda this session so that the Democrats would come back and address other issues such as spending and health care, Mr. Perry said, “That’s like negotiating for hostages.”

Wooing Cuban-Americans

Sen. Joe Lieberman, Connecticut Democrat, who hopes to woo traditionally Republican Cuban-American voters next year if he is his party’s nominee for president, assailed President Bush on Tuesday for an “abandonment of American values” in sending 12 Cuban boaters back to the island last week to serve prison time, the Miami Herald reports.

Mr. Lieberman’s attack, delivered during a news conference sandwiched between South Florida fund-raisers, marked the first push by a Democratic candidate for president to capitalize on a political rift within the Cuban exile community that has emerged in the days since the 12 boaters were sent back to Cuba, reporter Peter Wallsten writes.

A son in trouble

The son of Rep. Nick J. Rahall II, West Virginia Democrat, has been charged with driving under the influence and arraigned on felony fugitive-from-justice warrants from Fairfax County.

Nick Jo Rahall III, 26, of Beckley, W.Va., and McLean, was charged with second-degree DUI after crashing a 1996 Nissan Pathfinder at about 3 a.m. last Friday on the West Virginia Turnpike in Mercer County, the Bluefield Daily Telegraph reports.

After Mr. Rahall was treated and released from a hospital, police charged him with DUI and discovered that he was wanted in Fairfax County on charges of breaking and entering and robbery.

“Thank God nobody else was hurt,” the congressman said last week in a statement. “I love my son and will continue to do all I can to help him overcome this battle he has been fighting for years. My son needs his family, everyone’s prayers and God’s help during this difficult and private time.”

Eyes on the prize

Sen. John Kerry’s advisers are working on a contest to build support for his presidential campaign, and they are offering a day with the Massachusetts Democrat as the prize.

Details are still being worked out, but the contest has started being promoted at his Web site, www.johnkerry.com, the Associated Press reports.

The promotion includes a photo of the Massachusetts senator at a campaign stop, his arm around a blackened silhouette. Text over the photo reads, “This could be YOU!”

Kerry spokesman Robert Gibbs said the contest will be announced in the next few days. It will focus on grass-roots organizing and small-dollar fund raising, with the winner getting the chance to accompany Mr. Kerry on the campaign trail in Iowa or New Hampshire.

Jennifer Harper can be reached at 202/636-3085 or [email protected]

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