- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 20, 2006

McKinney shocker

Hank Johnson was one of the few people who thought he could beat six-term Rep. Cynthia A. McKinney, his representative for 12 of the 25 years he has lived and worked in Georgia’s 4th Congressional District.

But not long after winning re-election to the DeKalb County Board of Commissioners, Mr. Johnson resigned his post to seek Mrs. McKinney’s seat. His gamble paid off Tuesday as he came within a hair of Mrs. McKinney’s 47 percent plurality in the Democratic primary, forcing her into an Aug. 8 runoff election.

“We knew going in that this race was winnable,” Mr. Johnson told the Associated Press yesterday. “Many political pundits and some members of the press were skeptics because they really didn’t know what was going on in the streets, but I think the biggest surprise was to Representative McKinney herself. She took the voters for granted.”

Meanwhile, McKinney backers saw a conspiracy in Tuesday’s outcome.

“As the votes were being tallied, the McKinney campaign put out a release claiming that the Diebold electronic voting machines were malfunctioning and that ‘lawyers for the campaign have been alerted,’ ” the Hill newspaper reported yesterday.

Reed roundup

The victory of state Sen. Casey Cagle over Ralph Reed in Tuesday’s Republican primary for lieutenant governor of Georgia puts Republicans in a good light, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich tells The Washington Times.

“Republican voters proved once again as they did in the [June 6] special election in San Diego with [Republican Rep. Brian P. Bilbray] that a reform candidate who is vowing to change things will have a lot of appeal,” said Mr. Gingrich, who represented Georgia in Congress for 20 years.

Maurice Atkins, a Georgia Republican activist who was once a Reed supporter, said the state’s Republican voters saw in Mr. Reed “a candidate with an ethical problem that needed to be dealt with, and the Georgia Republican Party took care of it in the primary.”

Another Georgia Republican activist said Mr. Cagle, a businessman and a state senator for 12 years, had strong conservative credentials.

“A lot of people don’t know this, but most of the Republicans in the [Georgia] Senate actively campaigned for Cagle,” said Robert Lamutt, himself a former state senator. “In fact, in the entire state, only one Republican senator, Ralph Hudgens, supported Reed.”

Mr. Gingrich attributed Mr. Reed’s defeat largely to liberal press coverage of the former Christian Coalition director’s involvement in the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal.

“Ralph Reed was hammered on by the Atlanta [Journal-]Constitution for nearly a year, and the constant attacks took their toll,” Mr. Gingrich said yesterday.

Brad Alexander, press secretary to the Cagle campaign, disagreed with that interpretation

“It’s difficult to sell the liberal conspiracy theory when some of the toughest coverage of our opponent came from The Washington Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Weekly Standard and World magazine,” Mr. Alexander said. “The race is over, but to argue that Casey’s victory was the result of anything other than hard work and a sound strategy doesn’t square with reality.”

Blogger gathering

A group of conservative Washington bloggers has started hosting weekly roundtable discussions with high-profile Republicans, such as former House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia and Republican Study Committee Chairman Mike Pence of Indiana.

The meetings, organized by Robert Bluey, editor of Human Events Online, and Tim Chapman of the Heritage Foundation, began in May. Mr. Bluey said about 15 bloggers attend in person or participate by telephone. Along with Mr. Gingrich and Mr. Pence, the group has also hosted Republican Reps. Jeff Flake of Arizona, Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin and Steve King of Iowa.

Mr. Bluey says his group is already having an impact on legislation such as the Legislative Line-Item Veto Act. “The fact that lawmakers are willing to spend an hour of their time talking to bloggers shows just how much weight we carry on Capitol Hill,” he said.

Next week, the group plans to host Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell, the Republican nominee for governor of that state.

Jefferson rebuffed

A federal judge said yesterday that investigators could examine documents seized in a search of Rep. William J. Jefferson’s office, denying a request to delay the bribery probe while the Louisiana Democrat appeals the judge’s earlier ruling that the search was legal.

Chief U.S. District Judge Thomas F. Hogan said granting the delay “would harm the public’s interest in a prompt and final outcome of the government’s investigation of serious crimes involving a sitting United States congressman running for re-election in November.”

Last week, the Associated Press reports, Judge Hogan rejected arguments by Mr. Jefferson and House leaders in both parties that the May 20-21 search of Mr. Jefferson’s congressional office violated the Constitution’s protections against intimidation of elected officials.

For 16 months, investigators have been looking into whether the congressman promoted the sale of telecommunications equipment and services in exchange for stock and cash.

At issue is whether a review of the seized documents can begin by an FBI “filter team” unconnected to the prosecution team looking into bribery charges.

Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales has directed that any review of documents by the filter team not begin until Aug. 27 to give judges time to consider Mr. Jefferson’s call for a delay.

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

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