Richard Riordan wants to be California's next governor, replacing Democrat Gray Davis. Riordan, the liberal former mayor of Los Angeles, is the front-runner in the March 5 GOP primary. But on Jan. 17 former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani endorsed conservative businessman Bill Simon, who used to work for Giuliani (WORLD, Nov. 17, 2001). Giuliani plans to cut TV and radio ads for Simon. Riordan may be vulnerable. Last week, he told a gay and lesbian group in West Hollywood that he might support the kind of gay-marriage unions recently legalized in Vermont. That's sure to infuriate the largely conservative GOP base, driving voters to Simon, a devout Catholic. Even former Gov. Pete Wilson's pollster, Dick Dresner, can't understand why Riordan is courting homosexual liberals a month and a half before the GOP primary. "It's astounding," Dresner told the Los Angeles Times. "How do you run on gay rights and things like that in a Republican primary?" The Riordan ($2.4 million cash on hand) and Simon ($2.6 million cash on hand) campaigns are equally well-funded. Moderate Secretary of State Bill Jones has only about $1 million cash on hand and has no ads running yet. Simon was scheduled to launch a wave of radio and TV ads just prior to the first three-way GOP debate at San Jose State University. In the battle between Fox and CNN, it might be easy to forget that there are other players in cable TV news. But MSNBC has just launched Alan Keyes's new prime-time talk show (weekdays at 10 p.m. eastern). The former UN ambassador and presidential candidate will be up against CNN's Aaron Brown and liberal legal analyst Greta Van Susteren, who just jumped to Fox from CNN. "It was not our goal to necessarily go out and find a commentator who was conservative," says MSNBC President Erik Sorenson. "We were looking to find somebody who would appeal to smart, young viewers." Sorenson adds, "Bill O'Reilly has been the guy to beat at 8 p.m. and Larry King owns 9 p.m., but nobody has ever owned the 10 p.m. hour in cable news. It's the next frontier." King just signed a new four-year contract with CNN for a salary of nearly $7 million a year. Overwhelmed with requests to tell their story, Heather Mercer and Dayna Curry are rapidly working on a book documenting their experience as Christian aid workers in Afghanistan, their subsequent arrest by the Taliban, and their rescue by U.S. special forces. The book will be co-written by Stacy Mattingly, a 31-year-old expert on Islam and former contributing editor to the Oxford American, a literary journal financed by novelist John Grisham. Mercer and Curry plan a 20-city book tour. Mercer and Curry are also setting up a nonprofit humanitarian foundation called Hope Afghanistan to send teams of Christian aid workers to the war-torn country and help finance the work of other organizations already doing effective work there. It will be financed with the advance they received for the book-which their agent, Wes Yoder, says is "in the high six figures." Former Virginia attorney general Mark Earley, who lost his gubernatorial race against Democrat Mark Warner last November, has joined Chuck Colson's Prison Fellowship Ministries as president, effective Feb. 1. While Colson will remain chairman of the organization, active in 50 states and 93 countries, Earley will provide day-to-day direction from the Reston, Va., headquarters, just outside of Washington, D.C. Before entering politics, Earley served on the staff of The Navigators ministry in the Philippines during the late 1970s and early 1980s.
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