||One of the nation's top political analysts, Stuart Rothenberg, dissects politics at the congressional and statewide levels.|
'Carpetbagger' Label Could Hurt Maine Challenger
Trouble for Ferraro in N.Y.
By Stuart Rothenberg
Maine 1 Two years ago, voters in Maine's 1st congressional district, which includes Portland and the southern part of the state, gave their incumbent member of Congress, Republican Jim Longley, a pink slip and selected Democrat Tom Allen to replace him. Now, GOP businessman Ross Connelly is asking voters to do the same thing and send him to Congress. But he faces a much tougher task than did Allen.
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Connelly, 46, won the right to take on Allen by narrowly defeating state Rep. David Ott in the June Republican primary. Ott's views on the partial-birth abortion ban and gay rights were not nearly as conservative as are Connelly's.
The GOP challenger was born in New York and attended Duke and Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service. He then went to work for the Bechtel Group, an international engineering, construction and energy company, working in places like Texas, California and Russia. He left Bechtel a few years ago to set up his own consulting and investment company.
Connelly begins his race with two huge problems: his lack of a connection to the state of Maine and the status-quo political environment.
Connelly says his family moved to Maine in the early 1970s, and he bought a home in the state in 1981. But he didn't move to the state until 1996, and the first time he voted in Maine was in 1997. Clearly, he's vulnerable to "carpetbagging" charges, and his insistence that his family has lived in the state since 1972 says nothing about his own connection to the people of Maine or the district's concerns.
Second, while the challenger attacks Allen for being too liberal and too closely attached to the national Democratic party's agenda, Allen has made a name for himself championing campaign finance reform and will be able to use all the advantages of incumbency in his re-election bid. Moreover, there is no indication that voters are calling for dramatic change.
Connelly has personal wealth, and he has already put some money into the race. He has hired an experienced consulting team, and he doesn't lack anything in the area of self-confidence.
But Allen is an established political figure in the district. He is a former Portland city councilman and mayor, and he ran, unsuccessfully, for the Democratic nomination for governor in 1994. Last election, he defeated a better funded state legislator, who acknowledged that she was a lesbian and raised big money nationally, in the Democratic primary before thumping Longley 55-45 percent in November. (This year, Longley is running for governor, and Connelly hopes that will help his 1st C.D. congressional bid.)
Allen has a relatively low-key, thoughtful and unthreatening demeanor. He seems sincere. Given those qualities, as well as the district's generally moderate bent, it will be difficult for Connelly's to overcome Allen's advantages.
Trouble for Ferraro in N.Y.
New York Senate The collapse of the campaign of former congresswoman Geraldine Ferraro has the vultures circling in New York's Democratic Senate primary, and insiders are watching to see whether the one-time nominee for vice president can find a way to stop her political slide.
Ferraro, who argued last year that she didn't need to leave her CNN "Crossfire" gig or announce her candidacy until after the 1997 New York mayoral election, should by now realize that -- win or lose -- she made a major mistake. The former congresswoman has started to slide in the polls, is seriously underperforming when it comes to raising campaign cash and recently replaced her campaign manager.
Democrats who have been following the three Democratic Senate campaigns - Ferraro's, Cong. Charles Schumer's and Public Advocate Mark Green's - say that Ferraro's problems were apparent at the New York State convention, where her forces seemed disorganized.
Schumer continues to have a huge financial advantage over the other two Democrats. The Brooklyn congressman had $7.2 million in the bank to Ferraro's $1.1 million and Green's 1 million. Just as worrisome for Ferraro, she raised just $702,000 in the second quarter of the year, and was outraised by Schumer.
Schumer appears to be cutting into Ferraro's lead, and the former "Crossfire" host's poor fund-raising is also disastrous for Green, who had hoped to benefit when Schumer and Ferraro went toe-to-toe. Democratic insiders are now wondering whether Ferraro will have the money to attack Schumer, and whether the congressman will have to go as negative against Ferraro has he had assumed. And Republicans now wonder whether Schumer will be able to overtake Ferraro without depleting his bank account.
The latest polls still show Ferraro ahead, and the combination of her name ID, gender and long-time following keep her in the game. But regardless what happens in the mid-September primary, Ferraro made a big mistake by assuming she could raise cash easily, giving Schumer, who is as tenacious as Republican Sen. Al D'Amato, a bigger opening than he expected.