WASHINGTON -- Political insiders in Arizona and in the nation's capital are speculating that maverick Republican Sen. John McCain will not run for re-election to a fourth term in 2004.
One congressman from Arizona, stipulating that neither he nor any of his colleagues are close to the senator, made this report from his state to a private breakfast group Thursday: if McCain runs for anything in '04, it is likely to be the presidency -- as an independent. Conservative freshman Rep. Jeff Flake may run for the Senate whether or not McCain does.
McCain's aides say the speculation was started by his enemies. The senator himself has said he will announce his intentions after the 2002 election.
BORKING A WOMAN
A Senate Judiciary Committee hearing beginning July 18 on President Bush's nomination of Texas Supreme Court Judge Priscilla Owen to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will trigger a Senate confirmation battle with abortion as the clear overriding issue.
The Democratic-controlled Judiciary Committee rejected District Judge Charles Pickering of Mississippi for the 5th Circuit without directly confronting abortion. Owen will be assailed on her scathing dissent of a 2000 state Supreme Court ruling against parental notification for abortions. Ironically, then Judge Alberto Gonzalez, now Bush's general counsel in charge of judicial selection, joined the majority opinion.
Owen is set to be the first woman to be "Borked" -- attacked for her opinions -- as Robert Bork was when the Senate rejected him for the U.S. Supreme Court.
The nearly certain successor to retiring Rep. J.C. Watts of Oklahoma as chairman of the House Republican Conference will be Rep. Deborah Pryce of Ohio. She is the unannounced but widely recognized choice of Majority Whip Tom DeLay, the House Republican strongman.
Pryce's election to the chairmanship, the fourth-ranking post in the House GOP hierarchy, would make her the first woman to climb that high in the Republican leadership. She is currently vice chairman of the conference.
Pryce is significantly less conservative than her two opponents for chairman: Reps. J.D. Hayworth of Arizona and Jim Ryun of Kansas. Her pro-choice position on abortion has won opposition from pro-lifers. While DeLay has declared neutrality, his colleagues see him as pro-Pryce. She has been part of the DeLay organization and is viewed as protection for DeLay from the left.
THE MISSING W
A fund-raising dinner Wednesday in behalf of the conservative James Madison Center for Free Speech, addressed and attended almost exclusively by Republicans, was notable in omitting any mention of one name during six hours: George W. Bush.
The popular Republican president is usually praised extravagantly at such gatherings. But this $250-a-ticket event was raising money to fight the McCain-Feingold campaign finance regulation bill in the courts, and President Bush signed that bill.
House Speaker Dennis Hastert gave the keynote address, House Majority Whip Tom DeLay and Sen. Mitch McConnell were honored, and former Attorney General Edwin Meese was master of ceremonies. Not once did anybody utter the president's name.
Gloria Tristani, Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate from New Mexico, says that if elected she also will be representing her native Puerto Rico. As a self-governing commonwealth, Puerto Rico has a non-voting member of the House in Washington but no senators.
Tristani is the 48-year-old daughter of Jorge Tristani, former administrator of the Puerto Rico Industrial Development Co. She lived on the island until moving 20 years ago to New Mexico -- the birthplace of her mother, the daughter of the late Democratic Sen. Dennis Chavez. She was elected to the New Mexico State Corporate Commission in 1994 and appointed to the Federal Communications Commission in 1997.
In a recent interview with the Puerto Rican online publication "WOW News," Tristani promised to help the island even if elected from New Mexico. "It won't be from Puerto Rico," she said, "but for me, I will also be a senator from Puerto Rico." She is running against five-term Republican Sen. Pete Domenici.