BLUEGRASS STATE BULLETIN
With the recent court decision that his lieutenant governor running mate Hunter Bates did not meet the state’s constitutional requirement of six-year residency, (see “Politics, ’03,” March 31, Page 14), Kentucky GOP gubernatorial hopeful Rep. Ernie Fletcher was forced to choose a new candidate to share his ticket in the May 20th Republican primary. His pick was a surprise: Stephen Pence, U.S. attorney for the Western District of Kentucky. Pence is known less for Republican political activity than for spearheading probes into corruption in state government, which has earned him the nickname “Kentucky’s Giuliani.” Like Bates, Pence is considered one of “McConnell’s boys” because Sen. Mitch McConnell (R.-Ky.) is close to him and helped Pence secure his first job out of the Army as an assistant state attorney general.
But Rep. Fletcher (lifetime American Conservative Union rating: 84%) is not out of the political woods yet. Joining in the suit that eventually forced out Bates-whose years of service to McConnell in Washington, D.C., spelled his undoing on the residency issue-was State Rep. Bob Heleringer, running mate of State Rep. Steve Nunn, a Fletcher rival in the GOP gubernatorial primary. The same Oldham County judge whose ruling brought down Bates now has to address Heleringer’s claim that Fletcher himself should be stricken from the ballot because of his disqualified ticketmate.
More often than not, attempting to win a nomination by getting an opponent disqualified from the ballot has proved self-destructive. In 1972, for example, then-State Rep. and Missouri gubernatorial hopeful R.J. (Bus) King launched a legal attack against the leading Republican candidate for governor, Kit Bond, which questioned his residency and fitness for the primary ballot. The courts dismissed the challenge, Bond was resoundingly nominated over King and went on to serve two non-consecutive terms as governor of the Show-Me State and has been a U.S. senator since 1986.
Two years later, in South Carolina, onetime Harvard football star and Wall Street investment banker Charles (Pug) Ravenel won the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in his maiden run for office. As pundits were predicting his easy election as governor and were buzzing about Ravenel as a future presidential candidate, supporters of his primary opponents filed suit against him charging that he had only returned to South Carolina from the Northeast only in 1972 and thus did not meet the state’s five-year residency requirement. Ravanel’s supporters argued in his defense that it was always his “intent” to return home-curiously, the same argument that Bates would make in vain this year-but the state South Carolina Supreme Court ruled Ravanel ineligible. Democrats thereupon replaced him on the fall ballot with the primary runner-up and angry Ravenel supporters helped to elect James B. Edwards as their state’s first Republican governor since Reconstruction.
In the week following the Bates decision, Fletcher still seemed to be the strong front-runner and unaffected by the controversy. According to a just-completed WHAS/WLEX-TV poll of Republican primary voters statewide, Fletcher holds a 42%-to-26% lead, with Nunn at 20% and State Sen. Virgil Moore 6%.
End of the Line: Three years ago, faithful subscriber George Wiland of Tulsa, Okla. wrote me a polite-but-firm letter regarding my claim that New York State Sen. John Marchi, who initially won his seat in 1956 and is best-known nationally as the Republican-Conservative candidate for mayor of New York City in 1969, was the longest-serving state legislator anywhere in America. Not so, wrote Wiland, as his state’s Democratic State Sen. Gene Stipe had first entered the state House of Representatives in 1950 and moved on to the senate without any interruption in his tenure as a legislator. Until now; last month, the 76-year-old Stipe announced he was resigning from the state legislature after 53 years amid a federal probe of illegal campaign donations to former Democratic U.S. House hopeful Darryl Roberts (who lost a race for an open seat last year to Republican Tom Cole). Stipe has been indicted three times while in office, but each time escaped imprisonment. Now, as investigators reportedly focus on Stipe as the conduit for a six-figure amount to Roberts’ campaign (far above the legal $2000-per-individual maximum donation to a federal candidate), the lawmaker was apparently not as certain of survival as in past years. Concludes Wiland: “I guess John Marchi is the nation’s senior legislator if he’s still in office.” (He is)???.
Cox’s Army: Taking over the chairmanship of the House Committee on Homeland Security, Rep. Christopher Cox (R.-Calif.) has picked two much-respected Capitol Hill veterans for the committee staff. The chief counsel for the newly created panel is Uttam Dhillon, policy director of the House Republican Policy Committee and past senior investigative counsel for the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee. In both capacities he worked closely with Cox, who was chairman of Policy and vice-chairman of Government Reform. Prior to his association with Cox, Dhillon was an assistant U.S. attorney in Los Angeles whose pursuit of street gangs and narcotics dealers won him high marks in the law enforcement community. Cox also brought back his former press secretary, Vince Sollitto, as the communications director for the Homeland Security Committee. Sollitto leaves his present job as a vice president of the high-tech PayPal, Inc. firm in Silicon Valley, California. Sollitto served as press secretary for Sen. Jon Kyl (R.Ariz.) and communications chief for the American Enterprise Institute. . .
Voice of McCain: The new press secretary to Sen. John McCain (R.-Ariz.) sports a familiar name among McCain enthusiasts: Andrea Jones, who headed the senator’s youth campaign in the 2000 presidential race. Andrea is also the daughter of former Secretary of State Bill Jones, who made headlines throughout the Golden State by switching from Bush to McCain in the presidential primary. . .
Eisenberg Out: One year after his past donations to Democrats and much-stated pro-abortion stance made him a controversial choice as finance chairman for the Republican National Committee, New Jersey industrialist Lewis Eisenberg is out as RNC moneyman. Friends of Eisenberg, who has maintained a low profile in his post, insisted his exit was simply a matter of wanting time for other activities. Replacing him as finance chairman is his predecessor, Florida businessman Al Hoffman, Jr. , a close friend and vigorous supporter of Gov. Jeb Bush. . .
Mitt’s Man: With the recent departure of Massachusetts Republican Chairman Jean Inman, Republican Gov. Mitt Romney, to no one’s surprise, has tapped a fellow moderate-to-liberal GOPer to succeed her. Coming to the party helm in the Bay State is Darrell Crate, finance chairman for the winning campaign of Lieutenant Gov. Kerry Healey (herself a past state chairman) and chief operating officer of a company owned by Healy’s multimillionaire husband. . .
Melissa Moves On: Following years as director of communications for Sen. Rick Santorum (R.-Pa.) and deputy director of the Senate Republican Conference, one of the best-liked Hill press secretaries is moving onto the private sector. Good-natured, media savvy Melissa Sabatine will now run the Washington D.C. office of Brabender-Cox, a political consulting firm that has handled the past campaigns of such conservative Republicans as Santorum and former Sen. (1990-2002) Bob Smith of New Hampshire. . . .
Ehrlich’s Terrible Swift Sword: That’s what Republicans and Democrats alike in Annapolis, Maryland are calling Chip DePaula of late. For weeks, speculation was rampant over what Republican Gov. Bob Ehrlich would do with DePaula, who was Karl Rove to Ehrlich’s George W. Bush last year and orchestrated the campaign that ended with five-term Rep. Ehrlich (lifetime ACU rating: 82%) as the first Republican governor of the Free State since 1966. Ehrlich recently tapped DePaula as his state budget director and now the politico par excellence must guide Ehrlich’s proposed budget through a legislature with both houses securely in Democratic hands. Prior to Ehrlich’s campaign, DePaula was chief of staff to then-Republican National Chairman Jim Nicholson from 1997-99 and then manager of the 2000 Republican National Convention in Philadelphia.