- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Several Senate Republican candidates, among other party politicos, have decided to stay home and campaign instead of attending next week’s Republican National Convention in New York.

The candidates — staunch supporters of the Bush-Cheney ticket — say they are in tight races that might decide which party controls the Senate next year.

At least three of the Republican Senate candidates will not be appearing in New York, although they were invited to speak at the convention. They are Rep. David Vitter, the front-runner in Louisiana; former Rep. Tom Coburn, who holds a slight lead over his Democratic rival in Oklahoma; and Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who is in a tie against former Alaska Gov. Tony Knowles.

“David Vitter is going to be having his own unconventional convention down here. He’s going to be traveling the state of Louisiana next week, trying to reflect what the president is saying in New York City,” said the three-term congressman’s campaign spokesman, Mac Abrams.

But throughout the Republicans’ four-day gathering, Mr. Vitter intends to integrate convention events into his campaign by watching all of the major televised speeches with voters of his state.

“We’ll be having a fish fry in Shreveport to watch the president’s speech,” Mr. Abrams said.

Mr. Vitter, who is running in an open election that could result in a runoff in December, is seeking to become the first Republican elected to the Senate in the state’s history.

Mr. Coburn was invited to address the convention, but “he decided not to go. He would rather spend the time here in Oklahoma campaigning,” said spokesman Aaron Cooper. “This is a close, down-to-the-wire race against a tough opponent.”

His opponent, Rep. Brad Carson, did not go to the Democratic convention in Boston, preferring to spend his time at the Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Convention in Oklahoma City.

Mrs. Murkowski, appointed by her father, Gov. Frank H. Murkowski, is in a political fight against a former governor who has won statewide office twice.

“We just won our primary, and we want to keep that momentum up,” said Elliott Bundy, her campaign spokesman. “It’s more important to have her in the state right now, meeting supporters and continuing our work toward the general election.”

Her opponent, a conservative Democrat who opposes gun control and backs expanded drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, did not go to his party’s convention, either.

Other Republicans similarly have announced intentions to stay home, including Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, the president’s brother, who said this week that he will be busy managing the Hurricane Charley recovery efforts.

House Republican leaders yesterday said they did not know how many of their members will be attending, but thought most of them would be there.

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