Governor vs. Governor

Posted: Feb 22, 2003 12:00 AM
WASHINGTON -- Lobbying by the nation's governors for more federal funds at their annual Washington conference Sunday and Monday has been blunted by a Republican revolt against what they call liberal Democratic control of the National Governors Association (NGA). Texas Gov. Rick Perry has resigned from the NGA, and three other Republicans -- New York's George Pataki, South Carolina's Mark Sanford and Colorado's Bill Owens -- could soon follow suit. Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has not paid dues to the organization for two years. Anti-tax activists Grover Norquist and Stephen Moore are stirring up the GOP revolt, contending that "the NGA has over the years become one of the most left-wing lobbying groups in Washington." A proposed NGA resolution puts the governors on record as believing "the most powerful immediate economic stimulus for the nation's ailing economy is to provide fiscal assistance to the states." COUNTING ON HOFFA Planners of President Bush's re-election campaign are perturbed by House Majority Leader Tom DeLay because they still hope for a 2004 endorsement from Teamsters Union President James P. Hoffa. Hoffa issued a scathing attack when he learned that DeLay had signed an anti-union fund-raising letter, an act attributed by the Republican leader to "sloppy" staff work. The letter ran counter to more than two years of the Bush White House wooing Hoffa, who was one of the last major labor leaders in 2000 to endorse Democratic candidate Al Gore. Conservative skeptics consider Hoffa a confirmed Democrat who will never give Bush much help politically. However, the president's campaign team feels that, at worst, Hoffa in 2004 will be a passive Democratic supporter and, at best, will actually be for Bush. TROUBLE IN CAROLINA Not only has Sen. John Edwards sagged as a 2004 Democratic presidential candidate, but his national party operatives now worry about his chances for re-election to a second Senate term in North Carolina next year. Democratic insiders complain that Edwards, a 49-year-old political newcomer, has reached for too much, too soon instead of solidifying his North Carolina base following his election in 1998. Republican Rep. Richard Burr is rated as no worse than even in a 2004 Senate contest. A footnote: Sen. Bob Graham of Florida, who is recovering from heart surgery performed Jan. 31, is becoming the top presidential hope for Democrats who feel only a Southerner can defeat George W. Bush. MCCAIN'S LOBBYISTS Washington's K Street lobbyists, under attack for years by Sen. John McCain, are being solicited to buy tickets to the International Republican Institute's annual "freedom dinner" co-sponsored by McCain. The dinner, to be held Thursday at Washington's Capital Hilton Hotel, will honor an oddly matched pair: Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and Afghanistan's transitional President Hamid Karzai. Co-sponsoring the event with McCain is C. Michael Armstrong, chairman of Comcast Corp. A footnote: Establishment Republicans are delighted that McCain is seeking re-election to the Senate next year. The alternative, they feared, might be McCain as a possible third-party presidential candidate. HANDS OFF SPECTER The White House and the Senate Republican leadership have made clear they do not want moderate Sen. Arlen Specter challenged in next year's Pennsylvania Republican primary. Specter has already been endorsed by the state's other senator, conservative Rick Santorum (chairman of the Senate Republican Conference). That backing, however, may not be enough to dissuade conservative Rep. Patrick Toomey from running. Party leaders want Toomey to break his promise to serve only three terms in the House and seek a fourth term. He is scheduled to be replaced by State Sen. Charlie Dent, a much more liberal Republican. Dent's seat in the state legislature is expected to go Democratic. With the Republicans now controlling the Senate 51 to 49, the White House does not want any serious primary challenges to GOP incumbents. In addition, as his election campaign nears, Specter has become more supportive of President Bush.