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UPI Political Roundup

By AL SWANSON, United Press International

California gov. candidate fattens war chest

Republican Bill Simon is reaching for his bankbook to loan $2 million of his own money to his campaign for governor of California as he strives to overcome incumbent Democrat Gov. Gray Davis's lead in the polls.

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The loan will be used to finance Simon's television budget in the final days before the November election.

"I would not be surprised to find out that we are matching him pretty evenly," Sal Russo, Simon's senior campaign strategist, told reporters in Los Angeles Tuesday.

Davis's campaign secretary said the governor's campaign had spent $2.7 million on television ads this week and would spend another $3 million in the final week of the race.

"They can loan themselves all the money they want," Davis spokesman Roger Salazar told the Sacramento Bee. "At this point, it is not going to make whit of difference."

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Simon, a wealthy investment banker, loaned his campaign $5 million before the March primary and another $4 million in September. He trails in most polls by around 10 percentage points, and also is behind in fundraising.

Simon has said Davis' hefty war chest is the result of the governor's "pay to play" style of governing that allegedly panders to major contributors.


Taft takes lead into debate

Ohio Gov. Bob Taft maintained a double-digit lead going into Wednesday night's second debate against Democratic challenger Tim Hagan, according to a new poll Wednesday.

The candidates planned to field questions for an hour from a live audience at Ohio State University in Columbus.

A new poll by the University of Cincinnati's Institute for Policy Research gave Taft 54 percent to 38 percent for Hagan. That compares with the 53 percent to 35 percent lead for Taft in the same poll taken in September.

The statewide telephone survey of 471 likely voters was conducted Oct. 10-20 and had a margin or error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

Taft and Hagan are scheduled to debate a third and final time Nov. 1 at the City Club of Cleveland.


Surrogate debater a no-no

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The two major party candidates for U.S. Senate in New Hampshire debate Thursday night but sponsors say a proponent of a write-in effort on behalf of the outgoing incumbent won't be allowed to participate.

After Sen. Bob Smith lost the Republican primary nomination to Rep. John E. Sununu, Smith endorsed Sununu, but some of Smith's conservative backers are not giving up. They want a surrogate to speak in support of the Smith write-in candidacy when Sununu faces off with Democratic Gov. Jeanne Shaheen.

Former New Hampshire Republican State Chairman David Gosselin made the request in an open letter to the Union Leader of Manchester, which is co-sponsoring the event with WMUR-TV.

The Union Leader has rejected the request, saying the debate is open only to "actual candidates." That brought an immediate response from "actual candidate" Ken Blevens, the Libertarian Party candidate for governor. Blevens says he has been blocked from participating.

"I'm not quite sure why," he told the Portsmouth Herald. "I am an official candidate on the ballot, after all."

Shaheen has been endorsed by the Association of Trial Lawyers of America for her opposition to proposed limits on consumer legal actions, the Union Leader reported. The trial lawyers are opposed to tort reform, legislative efforts to limit the amount of money consumers and their lawyers can collect in lawsuits against business interests. Sununu is a strong advocate of tort reform.

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N.J. candidates to debate in unique format

Republican candidate for Senate Douglas Forrester didn't get the ambitious schedule of 21 debates he wanted with Democratic candidate Frank Lautenberg -- he may only get two.

The candidates Tuesday agreed to a televised debate Oct. 30 that will include all four minor-party candidates in the race.

Forrester and Lautenberg will face-off directly for 30 minutes and then all six candidates will field questions for another hour.

The Newark Star-Ledger said the format was suggested by News 12, a cable news channel that reaches more than half the state's residents. The debate also will be carried on C-SPAN.

Lautenberg and Forrester previously agreed to debate each other on WNBC-TV Nov. 2, three days before the election.

Lautenberg, who replaced Sen. Bob Torricelli on the ballot when the latter withdrew, widened his lead in the latest poll by Quinnipac University, 52 percent to 43 percent. The poll of 603 likely voters was conducted from Oct. 16-20 and had a margin of error of 4 percentage points.


Catholic church troubled by GOP signs

Blue and white signs reading: "Catholics for Coleman" have popped up on lawns in Minnesota and church officials said they are concerned about voters being misled.

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David Nau, a priest in Duluth, said the church was not consulted before the Republican Party began distributing the signs for GOP Senate candidate Norm Coleman. He said the Archdiocese of Duluth does not want voters to think the church is sanctioning political endorsements.

Coleman, President George W. Bush's hand-picked candidate in the race with incumbent Democrat Paul Wellstone, opposes abortion and supports education tax credits -- issues promoted by many Catholics.

"We certainly don't want to imply in any way the Catholic Church has endorsed Norm Coleman," Bill Walsh, executive director of the Minnesota Republican Party told Wednesday's Duluth News Tribune.

Walsh said the new strategy to win Catholic voters was part of a Republican National Committee program called United In Faith.

The GOP also was handing out "Catholics for Coleman" buttons and bumper stickers and "Democrats for Coleman" and "Sportsmen for Coleman" signs.

Wellstone campaign manager Jeff Blodgett said an Alexandria, Va.-based conservative group called Americans for Job Security had made an unprecedented $1 million radio and television ad buy on behalf of Coleman.

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune said the interest group had made similar ad buys for Republican candidates in South Dakota and Missouri, where Senate candidates are in high profile, tight races.

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The Washington Post said the group -- which "refuses to disclose (its) members or donors" -- is spending $6 million on TV ads nationwide.


Election more important than work

Rev. Jesse Jackson urged 1,000 Detroit residents to take Election Day off from work to help get out the vote.

The Chicago-based civil rights leader told a get-out-the-vote rally at Hartford Memorial Baptist Church Tuesday they had no right to be critics if they failed to vote. He said poor turnout in predominately African-American Detroit had handed the governorship to outgoing Republican Gov. John Engler.

Jackson said people should take off work and make sure their family members, friends and neighbors vote on Nov. 5.

"I need you to give just one day to dignity. Just one day," he said. "If you don't take off one day for four years of protection, you lose the right to criticize."


Dog ate ballot

South Dakota Public Utilities Commissioner Bob Sahr says one of his family dogs ate his wife's absentee ballot.

Shar told KDLT-TV, Sioux Falls, his pregnant wife requested an absentee ballot because she is due to deliver around Nov. 5. The ballot showed up in the mail but the dog got to it, chewing it to shreds.

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Sahr kept his sense of humor about the turn of events.

"The dog didn't vote for me, but he didn't vote for my opponent, either," he joked.


(Dave Haskell in Boston and Hil Anderson in Los Angeles contributed to this report)

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