- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 3, 2003

Owens cancels

Colorado Gov. Bill Owens, a conservative Republican who campaigned on a family-values platform, canceled a pair of speeches to religious groups two days after announcing that he and his wife of 28 years are separating.

Mr. Owens told his staff Tuesday that he will not serve as the keynote speaker for a Focus on the Family conference, nor will he address the Pennsylvania Family Institute. Both speeches were scheduled for next month.

“It was precisely because of his family that he made the decision,” said Owens spokesman Dan Hopkins. “He didn’t want to take the chance again of having his family again in the glare of the media spotlight.”

Mr. Owens, 52, announced a trial separation from Frances Owens, 49, on Sunday. His statement did not detail the reasons for the separation.

The Pennsylvania Family Institute was informed of Mr. Owens’ decision on Tuesday, said Michael Geer, the institute’s president. Mr. Geer said Mr. Owens had not been asked to cancel his speech.

Paul Hetrick, spokesman for Colorado Springs-based Focus on the Family, said only that “No Christian is perfect and no marriage is perfect.”

Some observers believe the separation could hurt Mr. Owens’ widely reported presidential aspirations for 2008, the Associated Press reports. Mr. Owens is now in his second term as Colorado governor.

Bitter in New Mexico

The Texas Democratic senators who fled to New Mexico to deny a quorum for congressional redistricting reacted bitterly to the news that one of their colleagues is ready to go back to work.

“He fled in the middle of the night. Call it what you want it to be, he did a good Houdini act,” Sen. Mario Gallegos, a Houston Democrat, said of Sen. John Whitmire.

Mr. Whitmire announced earlier this week that, although he still opposes a redistricting plan that could switch as many as a half-dozen U.S. House seats to the Republicans, he will no longer boycott state Senate proceedings. His presence would be all the Republicans would need to gain a quorum, which the 11 Democrats have prevented through two special sessions.

Mr. Whitmire said remaining in New Mexico was counterproductive. “Redistricting is very important, but there are also many other important issues, such as criminal justice, school finance and property-tax reform,” he said Tuesday in Houston.

Although the second special session ended Aug. 26, the Democrats have stayed in New Mexico for fear that they would be arrested and hauled back to the Capitol in case Gov. Rick Perry calls another session. Senate rules allow for the arrest of members who intentionally thwart a quorum.

Mr. Perry would not say Tuesday how he would respond to Mr. Whitmire’s return. “I will allow you all in the media and the public to know at the appropriate time when I decide, if I decide,” Mr. Perry said.

Meanwhile, Rep. Richard A. Gephardt’s presidential campaign announced that the Missouri Democrat will meet with seven of the exiled Texas state senators in Albuquerque, N.M., today.

Kerry’s denial

On Tuesday, his first day as an official Democratic presidential candidate, John Kerry did not get past his second campaign stop before having to deny a staff shake-up was in the works.

It was the last thing Mr. Kerry needed on a day his campaign was getting heavy media attention to his entry into the race, and he hoped to focus it on sharp differences he has with President Bush.

Talk of changes in Mr. Kerry’s campaign have surfaced as former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean surged past Mr. Kerry in fund raising and opinion polls in key early states like Iowa and New Hampshire. Mr. Dean’s charge has ended the perception of Mr. Kerry as the presumptive front-runner.

Mr. Kerry’s political free fall has prompted a fresh round of finger-pointing in his campaign and has the candidate considering changes, according to several campaign officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Initially, Mr. Kerry said he had not considered a shake-up, though he sounded as if changes could be made.

“You always hold the possibility open if something’s not working, you do something,” Mr. Kerry said. “I always reserve the right to do what I need to do to run a good campaign.”

Mr. Kerry huddled with top aides after the exchange, and quickly issued a terse statement, the Associated Press reports.

“I have confidence in my campaign,” the Massachusetts senator said. “I have assembled a great team that is going to beat George W. Bush, and any rumors to the contrary are completely erroneous and there will be no changes.”

Kerry’s ads

One day after the official debut of his presidential candidacy, Sen. John Kerry showed off ads for Iowa television that criticize President Bush’s economic record.

The commercials that will be broadcast in six major media markets in the state include excerpts from the rally the Massachusetts Democrat held in Iowa Tuesday night as part of his four-state, two-day swing announcing his bid. Iowa holds its precinct caucuses Jan. 19.

“Three million jobs lost, too many of them in the heartland,” Mr. Kerry says in one ad. “That is an astonishing failure.”

Recent polls in Iowa show Mr. Kerry trailing rivals former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean and Rep. Richard A. Gephardt. In one ad, Mr. Kerry focuses on his differences with Mr. Dean and Mr. Gephardt on repealing Mr. Bush’s tax cuts. The former Vermont governor and Missouri congressman favor eliminating the cuts; Mr. Kerry would preserve some of the reductions.

“If I am president, I will roll back the tax cuts for the wealthy so we can invest in education, health care and the skills of our workers,” the Massachusetts senator says in the ad. “We need to be on the side of America’s middle class and a tax cut for them is the right way to strengthen our economy.”

Mr. Kerry, one of nine candidates seeking the party’s nomination, formally announced his candidacy Tuesday in South Carolina and then traveled to Iowa for a series of campaign events. He planned appearances in New Hampshire and Massachusetts yesterday.

Man of decision

Retired Army Gen. Wesley Clark, who for months has flirted with a presidential run while declining to state a party preference, announced yesterday that — drum roll, please — he is a Democrat.

“I have to say that I’m [aligned with] the Democratic Party,” Gen. Clark said yesterday on CNN’s “Inside Politics.”

“I like the message the party has, I like what it stands for. … It’s a party that has had a great tradition in our country, and I’m very attracted to it, and that’s the party I belong to.”

However, the newly minted Democrat said he remains undecided about seeking the presidency, although he hinted at “closure.”

“Well, we are moving towards closure, and I did have that speaking engagement in Iowa on September 19th,” Gen. Clark told host Judy Woodruff. “So that is one of those benchmarks.”

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or [email protected]

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