Politics 2004: Week of November 15

The Other Races In the wake of President Bush’s dramatic re-election and the historic Republican gains in both the Senate and House, pundits and pols are noting other races and political developments November 2 that may have a long term impact on conservative politics in the 21st Century. In Georgia and Oklahoma, for example, Republicans took the state houses of representatives and thus will elect speakers for the first time in more than a century. Here are some other key developments around the nation: ALABAMA: Moore Political Clout Easily the state’s most hard-fought race was the one for an open seat on the Alabama Supreme Court. There was really only one issue in the contest between Republican Tom Parker and Democrat Robert Smith: HUMAN EVENTS 2003 Man of the Year: Roy Moore. Mobile attorney Smith last year supported the removal of Moore as chief justice of the supreme court for his much-publicized display at the courthouse of a monument bearing the Ten Commandments, while Parker, who headed the legal division of the Administrative Office of Courts under the former chief justice, was a strong Moore supporter. Parker’s win has sparked new speculation over Moore’s next political step. The man who is perhaps the nation’s best-known non-Supreme Court jurist has been mentioned as a primary opponent to Republican Gov. Bob Riley, who has become unpopular within the GOP for his support of tax increases, or Moore could run for his old job as chief justice. (Moore’s removal by his fellow justices is still the subject of an ongoing legal challenge.) For now, “he hasn’t made a decision” on his next political step, Moore spokeswoman Jessica Atteberry told me, adding that the former judge has an autobiography being published in March. COLORADO: Will one Ken Succeed Another as A.G.? On September 12, my wife and I were guests at the Army-Navy Club in Arlington, Va., at a party in honor of Ken Kramer, who was retiring as chief judge of the U.S. Court of Veterans Appeals. After a successful career as deputy district attorney, Republican state legislator in Colorado (1972-78), U.S. representative (1978-86), Pentagon official, and federal judge for the past 14 years, the 62-year-old Kramer and wife Louise were headed back to the Centennial State and retirement. But that may change soon. With Democrat Ken Salazar’s election to the Senate two weeks ago, speculation is now mounting that Republican Gov. Bill Owen will tap Harvard Law graduate Kramer to succeed Salazar as state attorney general. Although Kramer has been out of Centennial State politics since his losing bid for the Senate in 1986, fellow Republicans note that almost as soon as he retired from the bench, the former congressman (lifetime American Conservative Union rating 89%) contacted old political friends and volunteered to work on the campaign of Salazar’s GOP opponent, Pete Coors. HAWAII: Not a Single Gain for Lingle For all the speeches, fund-raising, and personal door-to-door canvassing she did all over Hawaii, Republican Gov. Linda Lingle did not make a dent in the Democrat-dominated legislature November 2. In the two years that Lingle has been governor, her veto has been overridden 24 times–or 13 times more often than in the previous 40 years, when the Aloha State had Democratic governors. The closest Republicans came to picking up a Democratic state House seat was in the 33rd District that includes Pearl Harbor. Out of the 8,500 votes cast, Retired U.S. Navy Capt. and onetime Vietnam POW Jerry Coffee came within 56 votes of defeating Blake Oshiro, the state house majority whip. MASSACHUSETTS: Mitt’s Off November 2 With one eye on re-election in ’06 and the other on a possible bid for President two years later, Republican Gov. Mitt Romney made a spirited effort this year to increase his party’s standing in the General Court (state legislature). Romney himself campaigned vigorously for GOP candidates, and the state party organization spent an estimated $3 million on legislative campaigns. But, as is so often the case in overwhelmingly Democratic Massachusetts, their efforts were in vain. Bay State Republicans actually lost two state house seats, and their ranks in the house fell to only 21 out of 160. The total of the 21 representatives and six (of 40) senators is the lowest GOP representation in the Massachusetts General Court since 1867. Heavily outgunned in the legislature, Romney has already had his troubles grappling with its Democratic leaders. Earlier this year, anticipating that favorite son John Kerry would be elected President and thus have to resign his Senate seat, the Democratic legislature passed, and then overrode Romney’s veto of, a measure to end the governor’s power to fill Senate vacancies and instead require a quick special election. MICHIGAN: Lucas’s Last Hurrah Conservatives throughout Michigan and the nation knew it was a very long shot, but they nonetheless hoped for the best in a comeback bid by Bill Lucas, the highest-ranking black Democrat ever to switch to the Republican Party. Nineteen years after then-Wayne County (Detroit) Executive Lucas made his celebrated party switch and ran unsuccessfully for governor the following year, the former FBI agent was carrying the GOP banner in a race for the office he held, as a Democrat, in the 1970s: Wayne County sheriff, which Lucas assumed in 1969 when then-Sheriff Roman Gribbs became mayor of Detroit. But at 77 and running in one of the most solidly Democratic counties in the Water Wonderland, Lucas lost to Acting Sheriff Warren Evans, 70% to 30%. Last year, Evans became sheriff when incumbent and fellow Democrat Robert Ficano was elected Wayne County executive. Conservatives nationwide may best recall Lucas as the elder George Bush’s nominee to be assistant attorney general for civil rights in 1989. Despite support from many fellow blacks in elected office, Lucas’s nomination was killed in the Senate Judiciary Committee following testimony from the Congressional Black Caucus, many of whose members had not forgiven the Michigan man for his change of parties and opposition to quotas and affirmative action. MISSOURI: Show Me Social Issues In one of the most dramatic Republican sweeps, Missouri elected GOPers to three out of five statewide offices, delivered its electoral votes to George W. Bush, gave a handsome third-term victory to Sen. Kit Bond (R.-Mo.), and maintained GOP majorities in the state house and senate. By far, the most gratifying wins for the Republicans were their captures of the top two statewide offices. Secretary of State Matt Blunt, son of House Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R.-Mo.), became the youngest (31) governor in the nation by defeating State Auditor Claire McKaskill with 51% of the vote. Similarly, in a particularly nasty race, State Senate President Peter Kinder was elected lieutenant governor over former Secretary of State Bekki Cook, a liberal Democrat. Rounding out the Republican sweep of Jefferson City was the election of Sarah Steelman, wife of former state legislator David Steelman and sister-in-law of health care expert Deborah Steelman, as state treasurer. One of the few bright spots for Democrats in the Show-Me State was the triumph of Robin Carnahan, daughter of the late Gov. (1992-2000) Mel Carnahan, as secretary of state. Carnahan, whose father died in a plane crash four years ago, defeated House Speaker Catherine Hanaway. Shortly before the elections, Kinder told me that social issues would be the key to a Republican win at the statehouse level, noting, “There was a referendum this year on defining marriage as between man and woman this year, a referendum last year supporting concealed weapons, and a vote in the legislature to ban state funding for partial-birth abortion,” He said, “The top four Democratic candidates [including U.S. Senate nominee and State Treasurer Nancy Farmer] are liberal women who were on the opposite side from most Missourians on the major social issues. Republicans are on the side of most voters.”