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Rothenberg One of the nation's top political analysts, Stuart Rothenberg, dissects politics at the congressional and statewide levels.

Illinois' Fitzgerald Comes On Strong In Senate GOP Primary

Arizona Gov. Hull faces some strong opponents

By Stuart Rothenberg

As the hard-fought Illinois GOP Senate primary heads to its March 17 finale, conservative state Sen. Peter Fitzgerald appears to have pulled at least even -- and probably ahead -- of state Comptroller Loleta Didrickson, who has been endorsed by Gov. Jim Edgar (R) and the rest of the party establishment.

 House Incumbents At Risk

Polls conducted before Fitzgerald began his massive TV advertising campaign showed Didrickson holding a massive lead in the race. But Fitzgerald, who was largely unknown statewide even though he once mounted an unsuccessful primary challenge to Cong. Phil Crane, has put in more than $6 million of his own money into the race, and his ads have stressed his record of tax cuts and economic conservatism, as well as Didrickson's office spending, which he says reflects her lack of a commitment to fiscal responsibility. And he has apparently succeeded in defining the state comptroller as a liberal.

Didrickson has begun to attack Fitzgerald's support for concealed weapons legislation, trying to portray him as an extremist on gun issues, much as '96 GOP Senate nominee Al Salvi was portrayed. But Fitzgerald's support for the assault weapons ban and the Brady Bill makes that message more difficult to sell, and the comptroller's limited campaign war chest makes it hard for her to get her message out while Fitzgerald is out-buying her by 2-to-1 or 3-to-1 on the airwaves.

Didrickson hopes that her final efforts to portray Fitzgerald both as an extremist and as a rich kid who is trying to buy the election will abruptly stop the state senator's momentum. Again, however, the comptroller's problem is that she lacks Fitzgerald's money.

As with most primaries, turnout should be important. Didrickson, who is pro-choice on abortion, is running extremely well with women voters and in Cook County. Fitzgerald, who is pro-life, will win men voters and carry downstate Illinois. He apparently has drawn even in the all important "collar counties" around Cook County, where a huge number of GOP primary voters live.

If Didrickson can get her message out in the final week, and if the state party establishment -- and most importantly Gov. Edgar -- can show some political muscle, then the state comptroller can pull out a primary win. But Didrickson has changed from favorite to underdog, and Fitzgerald has the money and media to make the next week difficult for her.

Arizona Gov. Hull faces some strong opponents

Arizona Governor When Gov. Fife Symington (R) resigned last year after his conviction on felony charges, Sec. Of State Jane Hull became governor. Now, Hull faces a primary and a potentially strong Democratic opponent in the fall.

Former Maricopa County supervisor Tom Rawls and former television weatherman Jim Howl say they are running against Hull in the Sept. 8 primary, while former Phoenix mayor Paul Johnson is the apparent Democratic nominee.

Hull is favored to win the gubernatorial nomination, and Johnson is already attacking her on taxes and education. He portrays her as a prisoner of the conservative wing of her party, but Hull's reputation is generally that of a moderate.

Johnson ran for governor four years ago, losing in the Democratic primary to wealthy businessman Eddie Basha. Basha went on to lose the general election to Symington and was ready to run again this time. But he pulled out of the race in October, leaving Johnson as the probable Democratic standard bearer.

While Johnson's generally moderate views and "New Democrat" approach to politics should allow him to appeal to moderate Republicans, some Democrats are not enthusiastic about his candidacy, remembering his lukewarm support for Basha's '98 race against Symington.

Voters in the state will have to decide whether they have confidence in Hull as governor, whether she is a moderate or a conservative, and whether it is worth it to change governors for the second time in 16 months. Republicans hope that Arizona voters will want stability over anything else -- and that they will decide that Hull will give it to them.

House Incumbents At Risk

GOP Held Democratic Held
Redmond (NM 3)
Fox (PA 13)
Kim (CA 41)
Hayworth (AZ 6)
Chabot (OH 1)
Evans (IL 17)
Maloney (CT 5)
Stenholm (TX 17)
Johnson (WI 8)
Strickland (OH 6)
In Other News

Tuesday March 10, 1998

Willey Appears Before Grand Jury
Reno Gets 60-Day Extension For Herman Probe
Rep. McCollum Ripped For Ties To Banking Industry
White House Scandal At A Glance
Reporter Apologizes For Clinton Sex Article
McDougal Collapsed While In Detention

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