- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Waiting on Frist

Former Tennessee Rep. Ed Bryant says he may try a political comeback in 2006 if Republican Sen. Bill Frist retires, United Press International reports, citing a Memphis newspaper.

Mr. Bryant has been out of office since losing the 2002 Republican Senate primary to Lamar Alexander, the former Tennessee governor and U.S. secretary of education who went on to win the general election.

Mr. Frist pledged to serve no more than two terms when first elected in 1994.

Mr. Bryant, the Memphis Flyer newspaper reports, says if pressed to “make a decision today,” he “would definitely” run if Mr. Frist keeps to his pledge and leaves the Senate.

If Mr. Frist retires, the Democrats most likely to make the race are current Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen, who was elected in 2002, and Rep. Harold E. Ford Jr., who unsuccessfully ran for leader of the Democrats in the House after the 2002 election, UPI said.

Dean’s milestone

When Democrat Howard Dean walks into Cresco High School in Iowa’s rural Howard County tonight, he will have reached a political milestone — campaign stops in each of the state’s 99 counties.

That type of on-the-road politicking is crucial in the first caucus state, in which the White House hopefuls have to persuade thousands of voters to come out on a winter’s night Jan. 19, attend a two-hour neighborhood meeting and then publicly declare their preference for a candidate.

Rep. Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri visited all 99 counties in 1988 and won Iowa’s caucuses, the highlight of the Missouri congressman’s unsuccessful presidential bid that year. This election, Mr. Dean set about to visit every county, and his appearance in Howard County will mark that achievement, the Associated Press reported.

Mr. Dean and Mr. Gephardt stand atop the polls in Iowa. In recent weeks, Mr. Gephardt has directed much of his criticism at the front-runner, linking him to Republicans in the 1990s who tried to limit spending on Medicare.

The Dean campaign is touting tonight’s event as “Howard and Howard,” the candidate in the county located in the northeast corner of the state, about 10 miles south of the Minnesota state line. The county has 1,542 registered Republicans and 1,983 registered Democrats. Cresco, with a population just under 4,000, is the largest town.

Hagel’s criticism

Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel is strongly criticizing Congress, saying it gave President Bush too much latitude in conducting foreign policy after the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Mr. Hagel, of Nebraska, voiced his disapproval Monday in a speech at the Gallup Organization World Conference in Omaha, the Associated Press reported.

“When the security of this nation is threatened, Congress and the American people give the president great latitude,” he said. “We probably have given this president more flexibility, more latitude, more range, unquestioned, than any president since Franklin Roosevelt — probably too much. The Congress, in my opinion, really abrogated much of its responsibility.”

Mr. Hagel, a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, voted last year to give the president the authority to attack Iraq, but has frequently criticized Mr. Bush’s execution of the war. He has been especially critical of the lack of allies and U.N. support.

Backing Fletcher

Louisville businessman Bruce Lunsford, who dropped out of the Democratic gubernatorial primary in Kentucky, has endorsed Republican Rep. Ernie Fletcher for governor.

Mr. Lunsford made the announcement Monday at a news conference with Mr. Fletcher and Kentucky Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell in Frankfort, the Associated Press reported.

“I will support the congressman any way he wants me to,” Mr. Lunsford said. “One thing I’m really not looking for is a job. And the only job I really wanted was the one he’s running for.”

Mr. Fletcher is considered the GOP’s best hope in years to capture an office it hasn’t won since 1967 in the Nov. 4 election. Democratic Gov. Paul E. Patton is barred from seeking a third term. Mr. Lunsford said recent comments that Ben Chandler, his main Democratic opponent, made about their race led to his decision.

Mr. Lunsford withdrew from the Democratic gubernatorial primary in May after spending more than $8 million on his campaign. He then endorsed House Speaker Jody Richards, but Mr. Chandler won the nomination.

Mr. Chandler, the state’s attorney general, said the endorsement “doesn’t make any difference.”

“I think it’s amusing,” he said. “I think it was to be expected.”

Missouri challenge

The Missouri state auditor will challenge fellow Democrat Gov. Bob Holden in the gubernatorial primary, marking an unusually bold move in state politics.

Claire McCaskill had been widely expected to announce her candidacy to unseat Mr. Holden, a first-term governor, in the August 2004 primary.

“People in this state are sick and tired of the blame game,” Mrs. McCaskill said at a news conference Monday. “They’re sick and tired of excuses.”

No incumbent governor has faced a serious primary challenge since 1980, when Democratic Gov. Joseph Teasdale survived a primary but lost the general election to Republican Christopher S. Bond, whom he ousted four years earlier. Mr. Bond is now the state’s senior senator.

Many state Democratic officials, worried a primary would hurt their chances of retaining the governor’s mansion, have rallied behind Mr. Holden, the Associated Press reported. Secretary of State Matt Blunt is expected to be the leading Republican in the race.

One less candidate

The mayor of Columbia, S.C., has dropped out of the Democratic race for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Democrat Ernest F. Hollings.

Mayor Bob Coble threw his support to state Education Superintendent Inez Tenenbaum in her bid to become the first female U.S. senator for South Carolina. Mrs. Tenenbaum now faces only political newcomer Marcus Belk in the Democratic primary in June, the Associated Press reported.

Mr. Hollings is set to retire after his sixth Senate term ends in January 2005.

Republican candidates are U.S. Rep. Jim DeMint, former state Attorney General Charlie Condon, Charleston developer Thomas Ravenel and Myrtle Beach Mayor Mark McBride.

Another debate

The nine Democratic presidential candidates are invited to debate in Des Moines, Iowa, on Nov. 24.

The Democratic National Committee announced yesterday that it had scheduled the fifth sanctioned debate, set to begin at 4 p.m. EST. It will be sponsored by MSNBC, which will telecast the event live, the Associated Press reported.

NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw will moderate the debate, which also will be broadcast live by the local NBC affiliate in the state where precinct caucuses launch the nominating process Jan. 19.

The debate will be rebroadcast by MSNBC in prime time that night.

A sixth debate is planned in New Hampshire, but that debate has not yet been scheduled.

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or gpierce@washingtontimes.com

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