FRED THOMPSON, D.A.
Sen. Fred Thompson didn’t waste time finding work. You’ll be seeing him a lot on NBC, as the new district attorney on the “Law and Order” shows produced by sometimes conservative-leaning Dick Wolf (he’s been a huge proponent of cleaning up the sex and violence on television). Thompson, who had been mulling several opportunities to become a high powered, rainmaking lawyer in Washington, will play a high powered, politically savvy DA. “He said he wasn’t that happy in Washington, so why would he stay?” asks one of Thompson’s staffers. “He’ll be happier working in New York.”
The “Law and Order” series (there are actually three of them, “L&O,” “L&O: Special Victims Unit”, “L&O Criminal Intent”) is shot in New York. Thompson is expected to appear in character in all three shows. No word on whether he will commute from Washington or his home in Tennessee or move to New York itself. Thompson has thus far cut back his political appearances, and has done little campaigning in Tennessee for his fellow Republicans.
At least that’s what leaders of the Tennessee Republican Party think. “He should have been doing more,” says one staffer from Memphis. “His retirement has really put us in an awkward position, scrambling for a candidate, fundraising. The least he could do is work hard to make sure his seat is held by the party.”
Former Tennessee governor, Lamar Alexander, is the Republican nominee seeking to fill Thompson’s Senate shoes. Rep. Bob Clement is the Democratic nominee. Alexander is being given a slight edge in the race.
BROKE ON ALL FRONTS
A week ago, senior aides to California gubernatorial candidate Bill Simon spoke with opposite numbers at the California Republican Party in Sacramento. According to a Simon fundraiser in Los Angeles, the conversation went something like this:
Simon campaign: “We’re running out of money, can the party help?”
“That’s about what happened,” says the fundraiser. “The state party just told them to make due with what they could.”
Simon earlier this week laid off 30 full-time, salaried staffers in an effort to save cash. It won’t help him in the short-term, since he still doesn’t have the cash to purchase any major media buys for the next month at least. Instead, he’s saving what he can for a big push in the fall.
You all know the enmity that exists between Simon and state party honcho Gerry Parsky. Simon isn’t Parsky’s boy, so state party minions have done what they can to make life on the campaign trail difficult for the Republican nominee. One senior party official is said to have even allowed a spouse to start up an anti-Simon website with the couple’s own money.
But compounding Simon’s problems with the state party are lingering stories that the state GOP is essentially flat broke. “They keep saying they don’t have any money to give,” says the Simon fundraiser. “How can that be?”
Leading into the final months of a campaign season, it’s not that common. In fact, Elizabeth Dole is no longer running TV ads in North Carolina a week after she sent out a fundraising letter saying her campaign is running critically low on cash.
Both the Simon and Dole campaigns say they do have the money to take on their opponents in the fall. They are simply conserving what they have in the hope that more cash pours in after the August doldrums.
One Republican National Committee fundraiser says that the cash flow problems are occurring mostly in races where there was either a heated primary race that required extra cash, or in a state which had an inordinately long campaign season. For example, in Massachusetts Mitt Romney, who is running for governor, is flush with cash for his fall campaign. He faced no challenge to his party nomination and has not had to purchase much media so far while Democrats fight it out to see which will win their party’s nomination in the September 17 primary. Simon, on the other hand, has had to compete since March against Gray Davis, who has been spending his $30 million campaign war chest on TV and radio ads almost nonstop.
“Simon just hasn’t been able to keep up,” says the RNC fundraiser. “But the state party should be ashamed of itself for leaving him in that kind of situation.”