UPI Political Roundup

By AL SWANSON, United Press International  |  Oct. 29, 2002 at 5:19 PM
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Former Vice President Al Gore was in a joking mood Monday as he campaigned for Democratic candidate for governor Jennifer Granholm at Michigan State University.

Gore made his usual self-depreciating comments ("I used to be the next president of the United States") and Granholm joined in the levity calling Gore "the next president."

Granholm, Michigan's attorney general was all smiles with late polls showing her with a solid lead over Lt. Gov. Dick Posthumus, outgoing Republican Gov. John Engler's handpicked successor.

A Detroit News poll of 600 likely voters taken Oct. 20-22 gave Granholm 47 percent to 39 percent lead, with 14 percent undecided. The poll had a 5-point margin of error.

A recent headline in the Detroit Free Press likened the styles of the gubernatorial candidates to the difference between beer and chardonnay.

The law-and-order Posthumus has sought to portray Granholm as an extreme liberal willing to kowtow to predominately black Detroit. He proposes a get-tough-on-crime agenda to get illegal firearms off the streets and keep criminals in jail, blasting Wayne County's jail program as "catch and release."

Granholm was born in Vancouver, Canada, and raised in California while Posthumus is a Michigan native. His campaign theme is "Michigan values -- Ready to Lead."

"I've campaigned all across America," said Gore. "I don't believe there's any race where the other side has been more openly attempting to divide people into different groups."

The polished Granholm, a mother of three including a teenager, is one of 10 women running for governor on Nov. 5. The others are Democrat Jimmie Lou Fisher in Arkansas, Janet Napolitano in Arizona, Shannon O'Brien in Massachusetts, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend in Maryland, Fran Ulmer in Alaska, Kathleen Sebelius in Kansas and Myrth York in Rhode Island.

Hawaii is assured of getting a woman governor with Republican Lind Lingle in a seesaw battle with Democrat Mazie Hirono. Lingle, a former mayor of Maui County, is benefiting from corruption scandals that sent eight Democratic officials to jail in the last 18 months.

A Honolulu Star-Bulletin/KITV-TV poll of 600 likely voters Oct. 17-27 showed the candidates tied with 40 percent, with 20 percent still undecided. The survey had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent. A Honolulu Advertiser/News-8 poll of 750 likely voters Oct. 19-23 showed Lingle ahead by 4 percentage points with 16 percent undecided and an error rate of 4 percent.

Five states, Arizona, Montana, Delaware, New Hampshire and Massachusetts currently have female governors, three Republicans and two Democrats. Three are not running for governor again and two are in the middle of their terms.

O'Brien has slight edge in Mass.

Democrat Shannon O'Brien appeared to have a slight edge in the governor's race in Massachusetts going into the final debate Tuesday night with Republican Mitt Romney.

One poll had O'Brien widening her lead by just over the margin of error, while another gave the state treasurer a thin lead over the former head of the Winter Olympics, but still within the margin of error.

Both candidates were expected to face tough questioning in the debate moderated by Tim Russert of NBC's "Meet the Press."

A Boston Herald poll of 421 likely voters Oct. 25-27 gave O'Brien a 44 percent to 38 percent lead over Romney. The poll had a margin of error of 4.8 percent.

"This is the first time since the primary that Shannon O'Brien's lead is beyond the margin, and it suggests that her position has solidified in the past two weeks," said pollster R. Kelly Myers.

Three minor party candidates polled a total of 6 percent in the survey, while 12 percent were undecided.

In a Harvard's Institute of Politics and the New England Cable News network poll, 41 percent chose O'Brien while 39 percent favored Romney, with 8 percent undecided. O'Brien's lead was well within the poll's margin of error of 4.9 percent.

The poll of 400 likely voters Oct. 24-27 was the final poll in a series commissioned by the two parties.

"This gubernatorial race is one of the most exciting elections around the country," said former U.S. Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman, director of the Harvard's Institute of Politics.

Beating the Bushes

Former first lady Barbara Bush will be back on the stump for her son, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Wednesday and President George W. Bush is expected to make another campaign stop in Tampa by week's end.

The Bush clan is pulling out the stops to elect Jeb to a second term after the 2000 presidential election vote count fiasco.

Gov. Bush campaigned with Arizona Sen. John McCain Tuesday and will appear with former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani on Thursday.

Bush maintained a slight lead over Democratic attorney Bill McBride, 51 percent to 43 percent, with 6 percent undecided, in the latest Miami Herald/Schroth & Associates poll of 800 likely voters Oct. 23-25. Bush had a 49 percent to 43 percent edge in an Orlando Sentinel/Florida Voter poll of 600 likely voters conducted Oct. 22-25. Both polls had a 4-point margin of error.

Former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno was scheduled to appear at a fundraiser with McBride, a political newcomer who upset her in the primary.

California: Time for one more scandal

What might be Bill Simon's last and best shot at torpedoing California Gov. Gray Davis received tepid reviews in the state's newspapers Tuesday.

A federal judge Monday ordered the unsealing of two letters written by Mark Nathanson, a former member of the powerful California Coastal Commission convicted in a corruption scandal nearly 10 years ago. Nathanson alleged that Davis, at the time a state legislator and later state controller, urged him to push through seaside development projects so that Davis could later hit the Southern California developers up for campaign contributions.

Simon, who trails Davis by nine points in a Los Angeles Times poll released Tuesday, is trying to turn the letters into a political embarrassment for Davis and ammunition for his final assault on the Democratic incumbent.

"The cost of Davis' 'pay to play' administration is perhaps no more evident than here along California's beautiful coastline," Simon declared during a news conference Monday on the beach at Malibu. "Here, pay-to-play trumps environmental protection, and people like me who love our beaches and oceans know the real cost."

Nathanson's letters, however, received a cautious response in the California media, which generally concluded the allegations were too sketchy, were aimed primarily at reducing Nathanson's prison sentence and had been dismissed as unreliable by prosecutors.

"Simon probably won't hammer on the letters unless the California media, in effect, pronounce them to be smoking guns," Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Walters said in an article. "And initially, at least, the letters appear to fall short of having the atmosphere-altering impact Simon so desperately needs. The instances Nathanson cites are fairly vague and are based mostly on conversations he says he had with Davis, rather than independent evidence."

The Bee, which sought the release of the letters in federal court, noted scant evidence of any benefit Nathanson would receive for playing ball with Davis, and the fact that Davis had no direct authority over the commission.

The San Francisco Chronicle noted: "Federal authorities chose not to pursue the allegations, in part because of concerns about Nathanson's credibility, and Davis on Monday called them `totally concocted.' But at this late date in the campaign, their release is likely to inflame persistent allegations of 'pay-to-play' fundraising by Davis."

George Skelton, the head of the Times' Sacramento bureau, said Monday Davis' incessant quest for contributions was a symptom of the messy and increasingly expensive business of running for office.

"The annoying truth is, Davis works this system better than any politician ever has," Skelton wrote. Simon has been hammering Davis as a cynical professional politician for much of the campaign.

Record spending in the Texas governor's race

With a week left in the campaign, Republican Gov. Rick Perry and Democrat challenger Tony Sanchez have spent a total of $88 million, according to state campaign spending reports.

Perry spent $7.7 million in the past month and Sanchez $6.3 million, largely to continue a last-minute blitz of campaigning advertising on television.

Sanchez, a Laredo millionaire, has spent nearly $60 million of his own money, according to records. Total spending in his campaign is more than $64 million.

Perry has spent $24.1 million on his campaign. He has raised about $3.4 million in the last month. He received $610,000 from the political action committee of Republican Sen. Phil Gramm, who is retiring from politics.

Perry and Sanchez weeks ago broke the previous Texas record for spending in a political campaign, $53.4 million in the 1990 governor's race.

Perry said he would continue to air a controversial campaign ad saying one of Sanchez's banks laundered money for drug dealers who killed a DEA agent in 1985. Sanchez responded Monday with a new ad calling Perry's charges "completely untrue."

Perry led Sanchez 50 percent to 35 percent with 15 percent undecided in a Dallas Morning News poll of 953 likely voters Oct. 13-17. The poll has a 3-point margin of error.

Wisconsin's McCallum making comeback

Two weeks ago it looked like Wisconsin Gov. Scott McCallum's campaign was going to be DOA on Election Day but the Republican who became governor when Tommy Thompson went to Washington 20 months ago has made a comeback.

Thompson is secretary of health and human services. McCallum spent nearly 14 years as his lieutenant governor.

A new University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee poll of 418 likely votes taken Oct. 21-24 found McCallum trailing Democratic state Attorney General Jim Doyle by just 2 percentage points, 36 percent to 38 percent with 16 percent undecided. The poll had a 5-point margin of error.

Doyle led by 15 points in a similar poll in August.

The reason for McCallum's comeback is simple -- grassroots money. Campaign finance reports show McCallum raised $1.1 million since Aug. 27. He has spent more than $5.6 million. McCallum's campaign received 7,163 donations in eight weeks, 85 percent for $100 or less.

Only 1 percent of the contributions came from business, which has poured hundreds of thousands into other state races.

Handicapping other governors' races:

Democrats have a good chance of winning statehouses in Illinois, Michigan, New Mexico, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island.

The campaign in Minnesota was temporarily on hold until memorial services for Democratic Sen. Paul Wellstone, who was killed in a plane crash Friday. Independent Party candidate Tim Penny, Republican Tim Pawlenty and Democrat Roger Moe were locked in a tight race to succeed Gov. Jesse Ventura. The candidates were remaining civil, somber and respectful, at least publicly, in a kind of political truce to avoid turning off voters.

Republican Illinois Attorney General Jim Ryan was gaining on Democratic Rep. Rod Blagojevich, but was running out of time. The latest Chicago Tribune/WGN-TV poll had Ryan 10 points behind the Democrat, 37 percent to 47 percent, with 11 percent undecided. The poll of 701 likely voters Oct. 25-27 had a margin of error of 4 points.

Maryland Democratic gubernatorial candidate Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, on a campaign closing bus tour, was locked in statistical tie with Republican opponent Robert Ehrlich. Both candidates had 47 percent in a Washington Post poll of 1,500 likely voters Oct. 20-24. The poll's margin of error was 3 percent. Former Republican vice presidential candidate Jack Kemp campaigned with Ehrlich in Baltimore Monday.

In Pennsylvania, Democrat Ed Rendell led Republican state Attorney General Mike Fisher, 54 percent to 35 percent, in an independent Quinnipac University poll of 705 likely voters Oct. 15-21, with a margin or error of 3.6 percent.

Kansas insurance commissioner Kathleen Sebelius, a Democrat, led Republican State Treasurer Tim Shallenburger by 19 points. The MarketAide Services poll of 402 likely voters conducted Oct. 15-22 had an error rate of 4.9 percent.

Former Nashville Mayor Phil Bredesen had a slim lead over Republican Tennessee Rep. Van Hilleary, 45 percent to 42 percent with 13 percent undecided, in a Mason-Dixon poll with a margin or error of 4 percent. The poll of 625 active state voters was done Oct. 21-23.

Vermont Lt. Gov. Doug Racine had a 6-point lead over Republican State Treasurer Jim Douglas. The Research 2000 poll for WCAX-TV of 600 likely voters Oct. 23-24 had an error rate of 4 percent.

In Alabama, Republican Rep. Bob Riley was in a dead heat with incumbent Gov. Don Siegelman in a race that could go either way. Siegelman led Riley 44 percent to 42 percent with 11 percent undecided and an error rate of 4 percent. The Alabama Education Association poll of 593 voters was conducted Oct. 21-22.

Former Oklahoma Rep. Steve Largent had a double-digit lead over Democratic state Sen. Brad Henry in a race where Largent has always been the front-runner. The last polling was conducted in late September.

Ohio Republican Gov. Bob Taft took his custom bus on the road this week while Democratic candidate Tim Hagen traveled by car. Taft has outspent his under-financed rival by a huge margin and led 49 percent to 35 percent in a Toledo Blade/WTVG-TV poll of 602 likely voters queried Oct. 24-26 by Zogby International. The poll had a margin or error of 4.1 percent.

That lead is nothing compared to Republican Gov. Mike Johanns, who is seeking a second term in Nebraska. Johanns led Democrat Stormy Dean 70 percent to 20 percent in a poll of 604 registered voters Oct. 23-28 conducted by Midwest Survey and Research. The margin of error is not a factor.

(Hil Anderson in California, Dave Haskell in Boston, Phil Magers in Dallas and Marcy Kreiter in Chicago contributed to this report)

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