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Political buzz from Washington

Issue: "More than a warlord," July 21, 2001

His father was a Bible church pastor. He grew up singing in the church choir. Elected in 1989, he became a hero in his rural district known as "Condit Country." Now Democratic Rep. Gary Condit, 53, is under siege (see p. 23), and Republican strategists are developing a strategy to take him out. Behind the scenes, Republicans believe they have a tremendous opportunity to pick up the Condit seat and expand their thin majority. First elected in 1988, Condit was reelected last year with 67 percent of the vote. Clinton won the district in 1992 and 1996. But the district is trending Republican. Bush won the district by 9 points last year. "The Central Valley is the Bible Belt of California," says Mike Dermanouel, Jr., former California GOP treasurer. "It might forgive an affair or indiscretion. I don't think it will forgive an affair and lies to law enforcement.... This is the perfect district for Bush to campaign in and help someone win." Modesto City Councilman Bill Conrad, who ran against Condit in 1996 but got creamed, announced he is running. But GOP leaders privately say the strongest candidate is someone national political reporters have not yet identified: two-term State Sen. Dick Monteith, a conservative whose district overlaps Condit's. Monteith, well-liked locally, is the only Republican ever to have won all seven counties in the district. California GOP leaders refer to Monteith as "the candidate to beat," "the natural first choice," and "a very strong candidate with tremendous name recognition." Monteith is being quietly encouraged by GOP leaders in Washington and Sacramento to gear up and run. During the 1990s, the Center for Equal Opportunity was a tiny Washington think tank with tiny Washington offices, and no big, brand-name superstars. But the group's influence on civil rights, education, and immigration issues has grown remarkably. Linda Chavez, CEO's founder, was named President Bush's Labor Secretary in January but withdrew after a storm of media criticism; now she's a Fox News contributor, on the speaker circuit, and writing a book ... her husband, Chris Gersten, holds a key post at the Department of Health and Human Services. What's really intriguing is that Chavez's "disciples" now occupy strategic positions throughout Washington: Former CEO staffer Jerry Reynolds will soon be nominated director of the Office of Civil Rights at the Department of Education, the second most important civil-rights post in the government; former CEO fellow Daniel W. Sutherland, a senior Justice Department trial lawyer, now works at the White House on the U.S. Task Force Against Racism and will be part of the U.S. delegation to the World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa, from Aug. 31 through Sept. 7; former CEO staffer John Miller is a national political reporter for National Review; and CEO friend and ally Brian Jones-who as president of the Center for New Black Leadership shared offices with CEO-will soon become the General Counsel of the Department of Education. Commerce Secretary Don Evans has successfully blocked the appointment of a White House high-tech "czar" and kept the coveted IT and e-commerce issues in his own portfolio ... now he's appointed a new right-hand man to serve as a portal to strategic new industries, promote smart policy, and kill Neanderthal legislation that would undermine America's superiority in science and technology. High-tech's new 007? His name is Bond, Phil Bond ... the new undersecretary of Commerce for Technology has been director of federal public policy for Hewlett-Packard. Bond-a Republican well respected by Democrats on the Hill-previously served as senior vice president of the Information Technology Industry Council and was chief of staff to Rep. Jennifer Dunn (R-Wash.). He is an ally of Vice President (and former defense secretary) Cheney; he served two stints in the Pentagon's legislative affairs office between 1987 and 1993 ... An evangelical sensitive to conservative and liberal concerns over technology, family and freedom issues, and technology transfers overseas, Bond will specifically oversee federal technology policy development, the National Institutes for Standards and Technology, the Office of Space Commercialization, and the development of next-generation vehicles. Desperate to regain control of the Senate, Republicans have raised a record amount of campaign cash in the first six months of 2001. The National Republican Senatorial Committee has raised an estimated $24.6 million and now has an astounding $15.4 million in cash in the bank. Compare that with $3.5 million in the bank at this point in 1999, says NRSC spokesman Dan Allen.

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Joel C. Rosenberg
Joel C. Rosenberg

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