UPI's Capital Comment for Nov. 4, 2002

By United Press International  |  Nov. 4, 2002 at 7:49 PM
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WASHINGTON, Nov. 4 (UPI) -- Capital Comment -- Daily news notes, political rumors, and important events that shape politics and public policy in Washington and the world from United Press International.

Is Barkley square? -- Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura, one of only two independent state chief executives currently in office, has kept his promise and stuck his thumb in the eye of the Democrats. On Monday, Ventura announced that he was appointing Dean Barkley, the director of Minnesota Planning, to the seat made vacant by the death of Sen. Paul Wellstone, a Democrat.

Barkley was appointed to his current position by Ventura in January 1999. He is considered to be one of the key developers of the Minnesota Reform Party, now called the Independence Party, which was once affiliated with the political organization of Texas billionaire H. Ross Perot.

An attorney by training, Barkley ran for U.S. House in 1992 and the U.S. Senate in 1994 and 1996 as an independent. He is a director of the Minnesota Compact, which advocates clean campaigns, and has been a director of Common Cause. Before Ventura's election, Barkley was considered the public face of the party in Minnesota and he was briefly considered a potential gubernatorial candidate for November 2002.

Ventura first hinted that he would appoint an independent to the Wellstone seat after last week's Minneapolis memorial service for Wellstone that took on the character of a political convention. The fact that organizers of the only debate between former St. Paul, Minn., Mayor Norm Coleman and former Vice President Walter "Fritz" Mondale, a Democrat, excluded Independence Party nominee Jim Moore was, apparently, the straw the broke the camel's back.

Write out -- The U.S. Senate race in New Hampshire between Gov. Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat, and GOP U.S. Rep. John Sununu is shaping up to be a real nail biter. An American Research Group poll of 600 likely voters taken over the weekend has Sununu at 48 percent, Shaheen at 44 percent and 8 percent not sure or undecided with a margin of error of percent.

The biggest worry Republicans have right now is that supporters of current Republican U.S. Sen. Bob Smith, whom Sununu defeated in the primary, may stay home or, still worse, go to the polls and write in Smith's name instead of voting for Sununu.

It comes as little surprise, therefore, that former U.S. Sen. Gordon Humphrey, who is revered by Granite State conservatives even though he ran poorly in the 2002 GOP gubernatorial primary, has sent an e-mail message to his supporters urging them to vote for Sununu. "As one who has supported Bob Smith in every election, I write with the following urgent plea: Please do not help Jeanne Shaheen by writing in the name of Bob Smith or the name of any candidate or by voting for the Libertarian candidate for U.S. Senate. Please vote for John Sununu. A vote for anyone except John Sununu is a vote for Shaheen," Humphrey wrote in the message, which hit computers over the weekend. "Control of the U.S. Senate is in the balance," he said. Republican strategists hope that an appeal from Humphrey, who was regarded as one of the most conservative members of the U.S. Senate during the two terms he served, will cause Smith supporters who are still angry to come home and vote for Sununu.

Home security check -- The American Civil Liberties Union, a liberal civil rights organization, is beating the bushes over the issue of personal security as voters prepare to go to the polls. In a pre-election message to supporters, the group is urging an examination of their National Freedom Scorecard, which rates members of the House and Senate based on their votes on several issues of importance to them.

Included in the ratings of the 106th Congress are votes on civil asset forfeiture, campaign finance reform and the posting of the Ten Commandments in government buildings. Also included are votes on whether gays should be allowed to adopt children, whether the D.C. government should be allowed to use federal funds to give clean needles to drug addicts in exchange for used ones, and whether it should be a crime for someone other than the parent of a minor to take them across a state line to get an abortion. The ratings can be found at scorecard.aclu.org.

Youth vote -- The College Republican National Committee, the collegiate arm of the Republican National Committee, is boasting that the 2002 cycle has been a banner year for their efforts. According to an internal report, the group says they have brought in more than 20,000 new recruits and started 178 new chapters on campuses across the country. They also say they have registered more than 15,000 new voters and helped more than 14,000 register to vote by absentee ballot. Their proudest moment however, according to CRNC Chairman Scott Stewart, came on the campus of the University of Maryland at College Park earlier this year. Seems they managed to turn out almost three times as many people for a rally featuring Democratic National Chairman Terry McAuliffe then the College Democrats who organized it could bring out.

Personnel notes -- Kirk Blaylock, currently toiling away as a connection to the business community inside the White House Office of Public Liaison, is departing after the election for a new post. He becomes senior vice president at the lobbying firm of Fierce and Isakowitz ... Benjamin Taylor, former publisher of The Boston Globe, has been named executive editor of The American Prospect, a staunchly liberal journal of politics and culture.

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