UPI's Capital Comment for Jan. 10, 2002

By United Press International  |  Jan. 10, 2002 at 12:31 PM
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WASHINGTON, Jan. 10 (UPI) -- Capital Comment -- News notes, political rumors and important events that shape politics and public policy in Washington and the world from United Press International.

Out -- Pennsylvania State Treasurer Barbara Hafer has ended what most observers considered a long-shot bid for the Republican gubernatorial nomination. State party officials say that no pressure was put on Hafer, but her move clears the field for Attorney General Mike Fisher. Among Democrats, a bitter battle is shaping up between former Democratic National Committee Chairman and Philadelphia Mayor Ed Rendell and State Auditor Bob Casey, Jr., son of the state's last Democrat governor.

On second thought ... -- Former Housing Secretary Andrew Cuomo, running for the Democratic nomination for New York governor, has had second thoughts about accepting financial support from Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt. It was previously reported that Flynt was listed as a $10,000-vice-chairman of a $2,500-per-head event in Beverly Hills, Calif. Reversing an earlier position, Cuomo campaign manager Josh Isay said Tuesday, "The campaign has decided (Flynt) will not be a vice chairman (of the event) or give money to the campaign.'' New York State Republicans criticized Cuomo for taking Flynt's support with Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno saying, "I guess it's who you seek out when you're blinded by naked ambition."

Riding high -- Montana Democrat Max Baucus, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, holds a commanding lead in his bid for re-election over his two announced Republican challengers. A recent Mason-Dixon survey showed Baucus up over GOP State Sen. Mike Taylor by a margin of 53 percent to 34 percent and leading businessman Brad Johnson by 55 percent to 27 percent.

Change of venue -- Oklahoma Republican State Rep. John Sullivan won a commanding victory Tuesday in his bid for the congressional seat of retiring GOP Rep. Steve Largent. Sullivan carried the seat with 54 percent to 45 percent for Democrat Doug Dodd out of close to 112,000 votes cast. Largent is resigning from the House to begin his campaign for governor.

Dark horse rising? -- Georgia Democrat Gov. Roy Barnes is turning a lot of heads with reports that he has banked nearly $11 million towards his re-election in November. The amount is unheard-of among sitting Georgia governors, who usually are re-elected without too much trouble. According to some projections, Barnes should be able to rake in close to $20 million by Election Day, leading some to speculate that the politically moderate chief executive of the electoral-vote-rich state may have his sights on more than just another term in the governor's mansion.

Mapmaker, mapmaker make me a map -- The Louisville, Ky., Courier-Journal reports that state Democrats are moving forward with a congressional redistricting plan that could cost the GOP at least one of its U.S. House seats.

In one plan under discussion, the populous Daviess and Hancock counties would be moved from the 2nd to the 1st Congressional District, making it much tougher for Republican U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield to win re-election. The plan also splits the 1st district's eastern Republican counties between the 2nd and 5th district - both currently held by the GOP.

Next up: Lions and bears -- On Wednesday, President Bush signed into law what the White House called "two important conservation measures" -- the African Elephant Conservation Reauthorization Act and the Rhinoceros and Tiger Conservation Reauthorization Act. Presidential spokesman Ari Fleischer said "These new laws will further our national interest in promoting environmental stewardship around the world. They provide important grants to help conserve some of the world's most critically endangered species through public-private international partnerships that deliver on-the-ground conservation projects and build local conservation expertise and capability."

Not gonna do it -- Rep. David Bonior, D-Mich., is under fire for refusing to return contributions to his gubernatorial campaign from what the Lansing State Journal called "men accused of having ties to terrorists."

On Monday it became known that Bonior, the former Number Two Democrat in the U.S. House, received $4,200 from Sami Al-Arian and Abdurahman Alamoudi during the previous and current election cycles.

Al-Arian is a Palestinian-born former professor at the University of South Florida who was fired last month over his connections to the Islamic Jihad. Alamoudi is a vocal supporter of Hamas and Hezbollah.

"While neither has been arrested or detained, federal officials say the groups to which they have been linked are considered terrorist," the paper wrote. Both men deny the allegations. The Journal also reported that other politicians, including President Bush, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., and Rep. John Sununu, R-N.H., returned money from Alamoudi because of his controversial views.

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