Democrats look for candidate to beat Sen. Grams
Rep. Sanford sticks to term-limit pledge, leaving South Carolina seat open
By Stuart Rothenberg
April 29, 1999
WASHINGTON (April 29) -- While GOP Senate incumbents in states like Missouri and Pennsylvania have drawn top-tier Democratic challengers, Minnesota Sen. Rod Grams (R) so far has escaped. That may well change.
Two Democrats are already in against Grams, but a new challenger is inching toward the contest and others are still looking.
University of Minnesota bioethics professor Steve Miles, a political neophyte, was the first Democrat to enter the race. But Miles's campaign skills are unknown, and it's unclear whether he can raise the funds needed to put together a credible effort.
Former U.S. attorney David Lillehaug has also become a candidate. A former aide to Walter Mondale and ally of Paul Wellstone, Lillehaug lost a bid for the Democratic nomination for attorney general in 1998. But he ran a good race, and he should have appeal among more liberal Democratic-Farmer-Labor party voters. Ambitious and with strong ties to traditional Democratic constituencies, including the environmental community, Lillehaug is a factor in the race.
Also a factor is 2nd district congressman David Minge, who has formed a Senate campaign committee. Minge represents southwestern Minnesota, and his generally moderate views -- he voted to ban partial birth abortions and in favor of a balanced budget constitutional amendment -- fit his swing district.
But while Minge could be a strong general election candidate, it's far from clear that he will have enough appeal among more liberal party activists to win a primary, let alone a party endorsing convention. Money is also a question.
Democrats are waiting for decisions by other potential candidates, as well. Former congressman Tim Penny, whose reputation for political independence has won him scores of admirers, would be a strong candidate. But insiders chuckle that he would rather be anointed as the Democratic nominee than run in a nasty primary. State Sen. Minority Leader Roger Moe is also mentioned, but he has yet to indicate his intentions.
Attorney Mike Ciresi is also getting mention, initially as a possible Reform Party candidate but more recently as a possible Democratic candidate. An attorney who helped put together Minnesota's lawsuit against the tobacco companies, his money could immediately make him a factor in the Senate race.
Grams is an inviting target for the Democrats. He barely won election against a weak opponent in 1994, and unlike some incumbents, he has not built up a huge war chest that might intimidate potential opponents.
But incumbency is a powerful advantage, and the Democrats need to find a candidate who can beat Grams. A crowded primary could leave them bitterly divided and weakened. At least, that's what Republicans are hoping.
South Carolina c.d. 1
While at least a handful of self-term limited members of Congress try to figure out ways to run for re-election without appearing hypocritical, Rep. Mark Sanford (R) has announced he'll stick by his commitment to retire in 2000, at the end of three terms.
Sanford's open seat has a number of Republicans (and even a couple of Democrats) eyeing the race. The district, which stretches north and northeast of the city of Charleston, leans solidly Republican.
On the GOP side, state House Ways and Means chairman Henry Brown is already in the race and begins as the front runner. Off to a quick fund raising start, Brown is a legislative insider who has good ties to the state's business community. But while the district's population centers are Charleston and Horry counties, Brown comes from Berkeley County.
State Sen. Larry Grooms is a likely candidate. He was elected in a special election and faces a very uphill fight for re-election to the legislature, making a race for Congress more attractive. He has personal financial resources.
Former state Transportation Commission chairman "Buck" Limehouse and his son, state Rep. "Chip" Limehouse are also mentioned, as are state Rep. "Chip" Campsen and lawyer/former state representative Wheeler Tillman.
On the Democratic side, Democratic activist Andy Brack is in the race. A former press spokesman for Sen. "Fritz" Hollings (D-South Carolina), Charleston County Democratic chairman and newspaper reporter, Brack announced his candidacy in February.
Also looking at the seat is attorney Rutledge Young, Jr., who was elected to one term on the Charleston city council in the mid-1970s. A former president of the South Carolina Bar Association and civic activist, he could jump start his campaign with personal resources. But Young has not yet made a final decision about the race, and probably won't do so for another month or two.
While recent statewide Democratic winners (e.g., Hollings and Gov. Jim Hodges) have carried the 1st c.d., the district is a hard sell for any Democrat. Bill Clinton drew just 37 percent in the 1st in 1992, and an even lower 33 percent four years later. The eventual GOP nominee should be aided by the fact that 2000 is a presidential year.
Thursday, April 29, 1999
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