Inside Report: Succeeding Helms

Posted: Aug 25, 2001 12:00 AM
WASHINGTON -- Close political associates of Sen. Jesse Helms are boosting Elizabeth Dole as his successor in North Carolina, and the senator himself is said to be fond of her though he is unlikely to make a formal endorsement for the Republican nomination. Former Sen. Lauch Faircloth has not helped himself with the state's GOP establishment by leaking to reporters his displeasure with Karl Rove, President Bush's political adviser, for boosting a Dole candidacy. Insiders doubt that Faircloth would end up opposing Dole if she runs, but insiders say former Charlotte Mayor Richard Vinroot might well contest her in the Republican primary. A footnote: Former Gov. Jim Hunt is under intense pressure to run for the Senate as the only Democrat who now looks capable of defeating Dole. Democratic National Chairman Terry McAuliffe is urging Hunt, and former President Bill Clinton may also be brought in to help. CONDIT'S DISTRICT California Democrats are finding it difficult to redraw the lines of Rep. Gary Condit's district in California's Central Valley to insure that either he or some other Democrat can retain the House seat. The geographical limitations of the largely conservative area make it hard to shape Condit's district to bring in more Democratic voters without depleting adjoining districts of Democrats. California Democratic strategists are now uncertain whether Condit can recover sufficiently to win his district or whether a new face is needed. Republicans are confident that they can pick up the district, long held by Democrats. The GOP establishment will soon start making a push for State Sen. Dick Monteith as its candidate. GEPHARDT'S GOOF Democratic activists were horrified by House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt on NBC's "Meet the Press" last Sunday when he suggested cuts in education and defense might be necessary considering the reduced government surplus. What he was trying to say was clarified in a Wednesday letter to President Bush signed by Gephardt and Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle. They gave the president this choice: "Fund your priorities and exceed the budget constraints we have established, or live within those constraints and fail to provide the funding you seek for defense and education." A footnote: In the same "Meet the Press" interview, Gephardt offended important Jewish supporters when he said "I would hope" Secretary of State Colin Powell goes to Durban, South Africa, to attend a United Nations conference that will consider "racist practices of Zionism." IMMIGRANT POLITICS President Bush's proposed amnesty for illegal immigrants is under fire from many conservatives, but not Rep. Tom Davis of Virginia, the national Republican congressional campaign chairman. Davis wants Republican House candidates to embrace the Bush proposal in the 2002 elections, arguing it would appeal not only to Hispanic-Americans but to women. Davis plans to work closely with the White House to try to change the GOP's anti-Hispanic image created by California's Proposition 187. A footnote: Davis is much less enthusiastic about Bush's Social Security reform. He contends that the Democratic candidate rapidly gained ground in Virginia's recent special congressional election by attacking the president's proposals and probably would have won if there had been enough money for more television commercials. Davis says Bush must either expend greater effort in selling his Social Security plan or abandon it. EDUCATION PROPAGANDA PBS will air "School," a documentary highly favorable to positions taken by teachers unions, on Sept. 3 and 4, just as a Senate-House conference begins to negotiate the final version of President Bush's education bill. The documentary, focusing on the history of public education, was produced and directed by Sarah Mondale (niece of former Democratic Vice President Walter Mondale) and narrated by liberal actress Meryl Streep. It is critical of private school choice, charter schools and other innovations opposed by the teachers unions. A special advance screening of "School" was shown at a recent Washington meeting of the American Federation of Teachers.