- The Washington Times - Friday, October 5, 2007

First things first

Democrat Bill Richardson said yesterday that he is not giving up his presidential bid to run for a Senate seat that has opened in his home state of New Mexico.

“I am not running for the Senate. I’m running for president,” Mr. Richardson said in a brief phone interview with the Associated Press.

The governor and his campaign advisers did not rule out a Senate race if he does not win the Democratic presidential nomination. “Right now,” said his spokesman Tom Reynolds, “we’re 100 percent committed to running for the White House.”

Republican Sen. Pete Domenici announced yesterday in Albuquerque that he will retire at the end of his term in January 2009. The 75-year-old, who has served six terms, said he has a progressive disease that can cause brain dysfunction and eventually make him incapable of serving.

Mr. Richardson has time to make a decision. The filing deadline for the Senate seat is Feb. 12, after nominating contests in more than half the states will determine whether he still has a shot at winning his party’s nod.

The question is how long he can delay a decision with other Democrats considering a run. And even if his presidential hopes don’t work out, running for a competitive Senate seat could rule out a vice-presidential nomination or a Cabinet position.

Criticizing Kerry

Elizabeth Edwards had some harsh words yesterday for her husband’s 2004 running mate.

Mrs. Edwards, married to former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, said she was “very disappointed” that Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, conceded the last presidential race so quickly.

She said the decision was made over her husband’s objections, Christina Bellantoni reported yesterday in her blog, On the Democrats, at WashingtonTimes.com.

“I was very disappointed, not just because we did not count the votes, but because we promised people that if they stood in line and fought for the right to vote, that we would fight with them,” Mrs. Edwards told Richard Green, the host of “Clout” on Air America Radio.

“And I was very disappointed that the decision was made by the campaign, over John’s objection, not to fight,” she added.

Ready to go

Republican Mike Johanns said he will enter the U.S. Senate race in Nebraska next week and will tour the state to announce his bid.

“There’s a lot of miles to travel out there, and I’m going to travel them,” Mr. Johanns told the Associated Press on Wednesday.

Mr. Johanns, 57, resigned as U.S. agriculture secretary last month and was widely expected to make a bid for the Senate seat being vacated by Republican Chuck Hagel at the end of next year.

A former Nebraska governor, Mr. Johanns faces Jon Bruning, the Nebraska attorney general, and businessman Pat Flynn in the Republican primary in May. Last week, Hal Daub, a former congressman and Omaha mayor, dropped out after 11 days in the race, citing the formidable challenge presented by Mr. Johanns.

The party’s national senatorial committee has indicated that Mr. Johanns is its choice, especially if Democrat Bob Kerrey joins the fray. Mr. Kerrey, a former U.S. senator and Nebraska governor, has said he will decide soon whether to leave his college post in New York and return to Nebraska politics.

Suing their party

Congressional Democrats from Florida sued their own party yesterday, hoping to restore the national convention delegates stripped from the state because it scheduled an early presidential primary, the Associated Press reports.

The party violated the Constitution and federal voting laws by taking away Florida Democrats’ ability to have a say in choosing the presidential nominee, says the lawsuit filed by Sen. Bill Nelson and Rep. Alcee L. Hastings against the Democratic National Committee and Chairman Howard Dean.

The national party’s rules committee voted to take away Florida’s 210 delegates after the state party chose to go along with a Jan. 29 primary. That date was set by Florida’s Republican-led Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Charlie Crist, a Republican.

Dropping his pin

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama has stopped wearing the American flag lapel pin that has become a common symbol of unity and determination since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Asked about the decision Wednesday in an interview with KCRG-TV in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, the senator from Illinois said he hoped to show his patriotism by explaining his ideas to citizens.

“The truth is that right after 9/11 I had a pin. Shortly after 9/11, particularly because as we’re talking about the Iraq war, that became a substitute for I think true patriotism, which is speaking out on issues that are of importance to our national security,” Mr. Obama said.

“I decided I won’t wear that pin on my chest. Instead, I’m going to try to tell the American people what I believe will make this country great, and hopefully that will be a testament to my patriotism.”

The television interview didn’t include an explanation for his decision or when he stopped wearing such a pin, the Associated Press reports.

Campaign spokesman Tommy Vietor said yesterday that Mr. Obama didn’t plan to say more about his decision: “I think he explained it pretty well.”

FBI probe

Three federal law-enforcement officials say the FBI is examining the ties between Housing and Urban Development Secretary Alphonso R. Jackson and a friend who was paid $392,000 by Mr. Jackson’s department as a construction manager in New Orleans, the Associated Press reports.

Mr. Jackson’s friend got the job after the HUD secretary asked a staff member to pass along his name to the Housing Authority of New Orleans, a spokesman for Mr. Jackson said. The housing authority desperately needed a construction manager because of a severe shortage of reputable local contractors after Hurricane Katrina, the spokesman said.

National Journal, which first reported the inquiry, identified the contractor and Jackson friend as William Hairston of Hilton Head Island, S.C. Three federal law-enforcement officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, confirmed that an investigation is under way.

Mr. Jackson issued a statement saying: “I intend to fully cooperate with any possible investigation and to clear my name.”

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

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