CALIFORNIA'S MISSING GOP
How badly has the Republican Party slipped in California? You judge. With six months to go before a critical general election, in which its gubernatorial candidate Bill Simon is running a competitive race against incumbent Gray Davis with little assistance from the California Republican Party, the state party has budgeted less than $100,000 thus far for its absentee ballot program.
In states like California, absentee ballots tend to run in the Republicans' favor, sometimes 2:1 over Democrats. And in past elections, such as Pete Wilson's Senate races or George Deukmajian's runs against L.A. Mayor Tom Bradley for governor, absentee ballots helped push Republicans over the top. But for some reason, the state party, which used to spend more than $1 million on "get out the vote" programs for absentee voters, isn't interested in re-creating that kind of success. "They'd rather have the candidate do it, or try to suck it out of the national party," says a national Republican Committee staffer.
And even though Simon now appears to be a candidate who could make a real race against a weak, unpopular sitting governor, state party boss and Bush administration bagman Gerald Parsky has been less than cooperative with his lead candidate. Take Bush's big trip out West last week on behalf of Simon. According to a state Republican source, the Bush advance team planned two presidential events for the California swing, including a last minute commemoration of the Rodney King riots in Los Angeles. But according to a White House communications aide, the idea for the L.A. event came from the state party -- read Parsky -- in order to divert major media attention from the later Republican fundraiser for Simon. "The state party asked us for something in Los Angeles to help with minority outreach," says the aide. "It was California's idea to lock out Simon, not ours."
All along, Parsky and his Republican Party minions have been creating problems for Simon. The media chalk it up to the simple fact that Parsky, whose disdain for the state GOP's conservative wing has become legend, wanted Richard Riordan for the Republican ticket, not the more conservative Simon. So why won't the party release glowing internal polling figures that show Simon whipping Davis among Hispanic voters, regardless of party affiliation? Or the internal tracking poll that shows Simon up between four to six points over the past three weeks?
"We're under orders not to provide that material to the media," says a state party staffer in Sacramento. "The Simon campaign can release it if it wants to, but we're not in the business of helping him, at least that is what our bosses are telling us. It's a very uncomfortable situation here."
Things shouldn't be that uncomfortable. Bush and Simon pulled in more than $4.5 million for the campaign, some of which Simon will provide to other Republican candidates. But perhaps he should lend some of it to the state party to fund an absentee ballot drive.
"I don't know why we aren't spending more money on that," says the state party aide. "But it has to be a Bush thing, because we hardly spent any money on it in 2000 for the presidential elections. I don't know how else to explain it."
JOHN'S EXTENDED FAMILY
Remember how nationally influential Mississippi trial lawyer Dickie Scruggs threatened to derail Sen. John Edwards's presidential aspirations by cutting off trial lawyer money to his presidential campaign? At the time Scruggs, who also happens to be the brother in law of Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, had his underwear in a knot over Edwards's treatment of Mississippi judge Charles Pickering, whose nomination to the federal appeals court was blocked, in part, due to the North Carolina senator's patently dishonest questioning.
As first reported in The Prowler, Edwards was so concerned about Scruggs's threats that he planned a trip to Mississippi to kiss and make up with Scruggs. But Edwards never made the trip, in part because Scruggs through intermediaries told him not to bother. Sure enough, as reported by Roll Call, Mississippi trial lawyers aren't giving to Edwards.
But otherwise Edwards had no cause to worry, given that non-Mississippi trial lawyers are making many donations to his New American Optimists PAC. In fact, four of every $5 raised by Edwards' PAC is from a lawyer, a firm. or a firm's family member, according to an Edwards staffer on Capitol Hill.
"Senator Edwards is a trial lawyer, and the family, as it were, is keeping its money within the family," says the aide. And what is Edwards doing with the more than a $250,000 his PAC has raised? He's buying up mailing lists. Last month, he purchased the mailing lists of both the Iowa Democratic Party and the Florida Democratic Party. Iowa holds the nation's first caucus in the 2004 presidential primary season, and Florida will hold the first Democratic straw poll of the cycle in October 2003.