January 7, 2006
Inside Report

By Robert Novak


TEXAS TANGLE

WASHINGTON -- The decision by State Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn to run for governor of Texas as an independent requires President Bush to oppose her and support Gov. Rick Perry. Strayhorn is the mother of two trusted Bush aides, while Perry's relationship with the president has been cool.

The White House had signaled it would not take sides in a Republican primary between Strayhorn and Perry. White House press secretary Scott McClellan and Bush administration Medicare and Medicaid administrator Mark McClellan are sons of Strayhorn.

Strayhorn decided to go independent when it became clear she could not win a Republican primary, according to Texas sources. Her opposition to Perry in the general election evoked outrage from state Republican leaders who claimed betrayal by Strayhorn, who in 1985 moved from the Democratic to the Republican Party.

ALITO CAMPAIGN MIX-UP

A new fund-raising appeal by the Committee for Justice (CFJ) on behalf of Judge Samuel Alito's confirmation for the Supreme Court mistakenly contained the name of former White House counsel C. Boyden Gray, President Bush's nominee for U.S. ambassador to the European Union (EU).

Gray's nomination is in trouble in the Senate, partly because of Democratic protest over his activities as founder of the CFJ. He had resigned from the group, and consequently his name on the fund-raising letter raised eyebrows.

When this column pointed out to CFJ executive director Sean Rushton that Gray's name was still on the money appeal, Rushton replied he was unaware of that and it must have been a case of the fund-raising contractor using old stationery. He later said the letter has been withdrawn and any money raised with Gray's name on the appeal was being returned.

REPUBLICAN LOYALTY

The White House is dispatching Vice President Dick Cheney to raise money for embattled Republican Sen. Mike DeWine of Ohio, who has voted against President Bush on key legislative issues.

Cheney will address a $1,000-a-ticket Capitol Hill Club reception on Jan. 26 that is intended to raise $100,000 for DeWine's campaign for a third term. DeWine most recently opposed Bush and Senate Republican leaders on the budget bill and on drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Invitations to the fund-raiser have been mailed to major Bush contributors.

With Republican control of the Senate at stake, DeWine faces potential difficulty for re-election. Democratic candidates include Rep. Sherrod Brown and Iraq War veteran Paul Hackett, who last year ran a close race in a heavily Republican congressional district.

SURGEON GENERAL POLITICIAN

National Republican leaders are recruiting Vice Adm. Richard Carmona, surgeon general of the United States, to cut off a congressional bid in a closely contested Arizona district by a foe of President Bush's immigration policies.

The Tucson district was put up for grabs when moderate Republican Rep. Jim Kolbe announced recently he would not seek a 12th term. The leading Republican candidate has been former State Rep. Randy Graf, who in 2004 took 43 percent of the primary vote while spending only $90,000 by advocating a hard-line immigration policy.

Kolbe is not expected to support Graf if he is nominated in an evenly balanced district that Bush carried with 53 percent. Dr. Wayne Peate, a fellow physician and friend of Carmona, filed his candidacy Monday and raised speculation that Carmona will not run.

IMMIGRATION SPLIT

A bipartisan guest worker proposal being worked on in the Western Governors' Association (WGA) promises to expose further the split over immigration in both political parties, but particularly among Republicans.

Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, a Democrat, and Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, a Republican, are working on the WGA proposal. In addition to the guest worker initiative, the proposal is expected to include increased border enforcement and reimbursements to states of expenses resulting from illegal immigration.

This Napolitano-Huntsman plan, if finished in time, will be presented at the WGA's annual Washington breakfast late in February. It would immediately be attacked by Republican immigration hard-liners in Congress.

Copyright 2005 Creators Syndicate

Robert Novak

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