Monday, May 10, 2004

Governor loses

Utah Republicans took Gov. Olene Walker, the state’s first female governor, out of the running to keep the job Saturday night, choosing a pair of businessmen to fight for the party’s nomination instead.

At the state GOP’s convention in Sandy, Mrs. Walker finished fourth in an eight-way contest for the gubernatorial nomination with 495 out of 3,480 votes.

Jon Huntsman Jr., a former ambassador and heir to his father’s chemical conglomerate, and Nolan Karras, a financial consultant and business owner who serves as chairman of the state Board of Regents, advance to a June primary that will determine the Republican candidate for governor. Former U.S. Rep. Jim Hansen finished third.

Each of the convention’s delegates ranked all eight candidates in order of preference. Because no single candidate captured 60 percent of the vote, the top two vote-getters advance to the primary, the Associated Press reports.

Mrs. Walker’s campaign spokeswoman, Tiffany Smith, said the results were “a surprise,” but added that the governor felt she ran a good race.

“She’s still the governor and she’s pressing forward with the programs and initiatives that she started and looks forward to accomplishing as much as she can during the rest of her term,” the spokeswoman said.

It was the first time a standing Utah governor failed to win a party nomination in 48 years. But Mrs. Walker has been governor only since November, when Gov. Michael O. Leavitt left to head the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The state’s Democrats Saturday nominated Scott Matheson Jr., dean of the University of Utah College of Law and son of Utah’s last Democratic governor, who served for two terms ending in 1985.

Nancy’s plea

Former first lady Nancy Reagan made an impassioned plea for more stem-cell research, saying it could help cure illnesses like Alzheimer’s, which so sorely afflicts her husband.

Mrs. Reagan’s remarks came at a celebrity-packed dinner in Beverly Hills, Calif., Saturday night, Reuters news agency reports.

Speaking to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Mrs. Reagan noted that Alzheimer’s had taken her husband, Ronald Reagan, “to a distant place where I can no longer reach him and share our 52 years.”

She added after accepting the group’s “Care Giver’s Award”: “Science has presented us with a hope called stem-cell research, which may provide our scientists with many answers that for so long have been beyond our grasp. I just don’t see how we can turn our backs on this.

“We have lost so much time already. I just really can’t bear to lose any more.”

Letters from former Presidents Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton supporting Mrs. Reagan’s efforts on embryonic stem-cell research were read to the dinner by actors Harrison Ford and Calista Flockhart. Absent was any comment from the Bush administration, which has restricted stem-cell research on human embryos.

Uncounted vote

Rep. Katherine Harris, the former Florida secretary of state who oversaw the disputed 2000 presidential election, says she is responsible for a vote going uncounted recently — her own.

Mrs. Harris forgot to sign her absentee ballot when she voted in the Longboat Key, Fla., local election on March 9, the Associated Press reports.

“I feel terrible,” the Republican said Friday. “It’s a mistake. I regret it.”

Mrs. Harris said she was in a rush to catch a flight to Washington when she handed the unsigned ballot to her husband to send in. She said she usually votes in person and has never had trouble before.

“I know how important voting is,” Mrs. Harris said.

The election decided the fate of a proposed community center, a Longboat Key Town Commission seat, and a term-limits proposal for town officials. Mrs. Harris later received a letter from the supervisor of elections informing her that her vote did not count.

Rove’s advice

President Bush’s chief political adviser told graduates of the Rev. Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University on Saturday to judge leaders on the basis of character.

America needs people who have “the moral clarity and courage to do what’s right, regardless of consequence, fashion or fad,” Karl Rove said.

“You either have values ingrained in your heart and soul that will not change with the wind or you don’t,” he said.

Mr. Rove also reminded the 2,041 graduates to pay off their credit cards. He advised them that when they go to job interviews, “don’t act like you’re smarter than the person you’re interviewing with.”

“Even if you are.”

Liberty University is a private school in Lynchburg, Va., affiliated with Mr. Falwell’s Baptist ministry.

Mr. Rove, who said he never earned a college degree, was presented an honorary doctorate of humanities by Mr. Falwell for his “commitment to conservative ideas,” the Associated Press reports.

Ban author dies

William J. “Pete” Knight, the California state senator who authored the state’s ban on homosexual “marriage,” has died. He was 74.

Mr. Knight died Friday night of leukemia at the City of Hope National Medical Center in Duarte, Calif., a spokesman for the California Senate said Saturday.

A conservative Republican, Mr. Knight had served in the state Legislature since 1992, but had been absent since April 12 because of his illness.

A retired Air Force colonel, Mr. Knight was also a test pilot who made a record-setting flight in 1967. More recently, he gained prominence for authoring the state’s Defense of Marriage Act, which said that only marriages between a man and a woman would be recognized in California.

California voters approved the measure in 2000. While some supporters recognized him as a defender of traditional family values, his position strained relations with his son, David Knight, who is openly homosexual and who “married” his partner at San Francisco’s City Hall in March, the Associated Press reports.

An older graduate

Montana Lt. Gov. Karl Ohs did double duty during graduation ceremonies at Montana State University: He accepted his diploma and delivered the commencement address.

“I promised myself I would be back, but I never thought it would be 40 years,” he told graduates and visitors at Saturday’s commencement.

Mr. Ohs, 57, attended MSU in the late 1960s but dropped out a few courses short of graduation to help his injured father on the family ranch. He enrolled in online courses about four decades later and earned his degree in agriculture production.

Mr. Ohs spoke of growing up and working on a ranch, and of his years in politics, the Associated Press reports.

He said life is about being ready for change, noting that research shows that today’s average person will switch careers three to five times during a lifetime.

“So the challenge to continue to learn, and to continue to prepare, will always be with you,” he said.

• Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or

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