Inside Report: Don Evans, the next chief of staff?

Posted: Dec 15, 2001 12:00 AM
WASHINGTON -- Republican circles are speculating that when Andrew Card leaves as White House chief of staff, his replacement may be Secretary of Commerce Donald Evans. Card has made clear he has no intention of serving out President Bush's full term. Texas oilman Evans is a Bush intimate who was his presidential campaign chairman. He is much closer than Card to the White House power sources: presidential advisers Karen Hughes and Karl Rove. A footnote: Old colleagues of former Rep. Norman Mineta, the Cabinet's only Democrat, say he is unhappy as secretary of transportation. He could be replaced by Mel Martinez, considered a rising star who is under-utilized as secretary of housing. However, White House sources say Mineta is content, and not planning to quit. TEAMSTERS FOR PATAKI? Republican political operatives are promoting a Teamsters union endorsement of New York's Republican Gov. George Pataki for re-election to a third term. The Teamsters, under James P. Hoffa's leadership, was one of the last AFL-CIO unions to endorse Democrat Al Gore for president in 2000. Hoffa is a lifelong Democrat, but the White House and Republicans are trying to capitalize on the Teamster chief's avowed intention to work with both parties. A footnote: Teamsters representatives returned from the recent AFL-CIO convention in Las Vegas rolling their eyes about the left-wing tilt there. The Rev. Jesse Jackson and Sen. Hillary Clinton were the main outside speakers. WARNING FOR LIDDY The poor performance by Cathy Keating, Oklahoma's first lady, in Tuesday's special congressional election is viewed inside Elizabeth Dole's Senate campaign in North Carolina as a warning. The wife of Gov. Frank Keating recorded only 31 percent in the Republican primary, and she is given little chance of winning the GOP nomination runoff in the heavily Republican Tulsa district. Republican campaign strategists complain that Mrs. Keating called for a woman in Oklahoma's congressional delegation but said little about issues. The no-content complaint also is made about Mrs. Dole. Although the polls give her overwhelming leads against any Senate opponent, GOP insiders worry about the next 11 months unless she starts talking issues. CHAIRMAN UNDER FIRE Rep. Bill Thomas of California, the House Ways and Means Committee chairman, is under fire from fellow Republicans and Democrats alike for his pugnacious style in pushing President Bush's tax and trade legislation. During the trade debate, Thomas was enraged when a concession was granted to the textile lobby. Republican Rep. Jim DeMint of South Carolina, normally a free trader, had voted against the trade bill but negotiated the textile concession and then pulled out his green card to vote yes. Thomas responded by brandishing his red card, but did not actually vote no. Members of both parties claim Thomas's personality cost Bush at least 10 votes for the bill. Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa, the Senate Finance Committee's top Republican, privately complains that Thomas does all the talking in negotiations for a stimulus package. During those sessions, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle and Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill barely talk to Thomas. SUNUNU'S SUPPORTERS Rep. John E. Sununu of New Hampshire, who is painted by opponents as too pro-Palestinian, held a fund-raiser Wednesday night in the Washington suburb of Potomac, Md., that was partly hosted by Arab-Americans. Ziad Asali of Taylorville, Ill., a native Palestinian who is president of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, was listed as a host of the $250-a-ticket Sununu reception. A more controversial host was George Salem, a Washington lawyer and longtime Republican activist. He has represented the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, whose assets were frozen by President Bush for funding the Palestinian terrorist organization Hamas. Salem continues to have strong White House ties and has not been accused of wrongdoing. Sununu has a big lead in polls for the Republican nomination to unseat Sen. Bob Smith in the primary election. Smith's campaign has tried to depict Sununu, a Lebanese-American, as soft on terrorism.