|by Hastings Wyman|
Will Hollywood Trip Bill Bradley?
In presidential politics, California is the Big Enchilada, in the primaries as well as the general election. While Democratic contender Bill Bradley is still trailing frontrunner Al Gore in the Golden State, if Bradley wins New Hampshireand he's even-steven in the polls there nowhe could become competitive in California overnight.
But there are some flies in the ointment for the former NBA star and senator from New Jersey. Hollywood, which launched the political careers of Ronald Reagan, George Murphy, et al., is once again seething with save-the-world ambition. This time, the movie-star candidates are left-leaners, and if they enter the California primary, they could siphon off votes from Bradley, who is running as more liberal than the vice president on most issuesincluding gays-in-the-military, civil rights protections for gays, etc.
In particular, Warren Beatty, a longtime political junkie who's getting advice from former U.S. Sen. Alan Cranston and state Senate President Pro Tem John Burton, could run strong among the politically correct. A Beatty candidacy wouldn't hurt Gore, whose party-loyalist backers don't require charisma, but it could put the kibosh on Bradley in the crucial California primary. There's also talk that Cybill Shepherd will seek the presidency on a pro-choice platform. Such an embarrassment of riches could well impoverish the Democratic left.
Senate Updates for Gays
North Carolina: While Republican Sen. Jesse Helms, the Senate's leading homophobe, hasn't indicated whether he will seek reelection in 2002, the word on the street is he won't. "It
is an assumption based on his age," says a Tar Heel GOP insider, "and his recovery from knee surgery has been slow." Helms is 78.
Democrats considering a U.S. Senate bid are making plans as if Helms will be on the ballot, but their number suggests they believe otherwise. Potential challengers getting mentioned include Congressman Bob Etheridge, state Senate President Pro Tem Marc Basnight, and Dan Blue, the ex-state House leader. As an African-American moderate, Blue had a bright future until he led black Democrats in an unsuccessful coalition with Republicans against the legislature's Democratic leadership last year. In addition, those candidates for governor who don't make it through next year's primary are hot prospects for the 2002 Senate race. On the Republican side, U.S. Rep. Richard Burr, a quieter conservative than Helms, is the early heavy favorite.
California: The likely entry of Congressman Tom Campbell, a moderate Republican, into next year's U.S. Senate contest could cause a stir among gay voters in California. For starters, Campbell was the first member of Congress from either party to come out against the homophobic Knight Initiative, which would prohibit the state from recognizing any same-sex marriages. Moreover, Campbell has a history of pro-gay stancesthe Human Rights Campaign rated him 100 percent in 1998 and 60 percent in 1999. He'd have some competition from two conservative Republicans in the open primary next March unknown but wealthy San Diego County supervisor Bill Horn and state Senate Minority Whip Ray Haynesbut would probably beat them.
In the general election, however, Campbell would face a tough challenge trying to beat incumbent Dianne Feinstein, who has widespread support in the gay and lesbian community. While the formidable Feinstein had some rocky times with San Francisco's huge and vociferous gay community during her tenure as mayor, she has been staunchly pro-gay in her seven years in the Senate. She was vocal in support of gays in the military, voted for gay marriage and routinely rates an HRC 100 percent. On other issues, her middle-of-the-road politics create a smaller target for Republican foes.
On balance, gay and lesbian voters who lean Republican will find a comfortable berth with Campbell; the rest will probably stick with Feinstein. If, however, Feinstein drops out of the Senate race to run for vice president, Campbell would be in a strong position to win the open seat. If Feinstein ran for both offices simultaneously, it could be a marginal benefit to Campbell. Watch this one.
Pennsylvania: The likelihood that moderate Democrat Ron Klink will win his party's U.S. Senate nomination next year is increasing now that Lt. Gov. Mark Singel has endorsed him. Though his pro-gay record has improved, his past votes on gay issues have been mixed. Klink's nomination could increase the incentive for GOP incumbent Sen. Rick Santorum who has toed the conservative line on most gay issuesto clean up his act and try to win a significant minority of gay votes. Klink has campaigned for gay support in Philadelphia, but Santorum has yet to show signs of mellowing.
Partnerships Issue Helps Philadelphia GOP
In Philadelphia's mayor's race, Republican Sam Katz is looking good to gay voters. John White, Jr., who was the top choice of many lesbian and gay voters in last May's Democratic primary, has endorsed Katz over Democrat John Street, the City Council president with an anti-gay past who beat White in the primary. Street appeared at a forum sponsored by the Pennsylvania Gay and Lesbian Association and the Liberty City Lesbian and Gay Democratic Club, but his measured responses won him little backing. Katz's support for domestic partnerships for city employeesand Street's opposition to the policyis a major issue in the campaign.
Hastings Wyman has been a D.C. insider for more than three decades. He publishes Southern Political Report, a nonpartisan biweekly political newsletter. He can be reached in care of LETTERS from CAMP Rehoboth or at HwymanSPR@aol.com.
LETTERS From CAMP Rehoboth, Vol. 9, No. 14, Oct. 15, 1999