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Inside Politics
The Morning Grind / DayAhead

Rep. Herseth, Judge Parker ... Mayor Barry?

By John Mercurio
CNN Political Unit

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• The Candidates: Bush | Kerry
Morning Grind
George W. Bush
John F. Kerry

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush and John Kerry campaign today in battlegrounds Colorado and Florida, respectively. If not respectfully. But the political headlines this morning come out of South Dakota and Alabama, where tight elections with echoes of comebacks kept us guessing till early this morning.

Speaking of comebacks, there's word today that former Washington D.C. Mayor Marion Barry will seek his old seat on the D.C. council. This is the seat from which Barry launched his first comeback in 1994 to the mayor's office, which now is occupied by Anthony Williams. (Watch out, Tony. Or, is it watch out, Adrian?)

Democrat Stephanie Herseth, once the decisive front-runner to succeed South Dakota Rep. Bill Janklow, beat Republican Larry Diedrich by less than two points. In order to keep her seat, the interim congresswoman will have to face Diedrich again this fall, with Bush giving the candidate a bounce he lacked yesterday. But as Roll Call noted this week, all but one of the 23 House members who have won special elections since 1997 have gone on to win a full term. So Herseth has history on her side.

In post-victory remarks, the congresswoman-elect said she sees lots of mo' for Democrats, "given, historically, how they've had difficulty picking up special-election seats and we've done that now twice prior to November." (Democrat Ben Chandler won a special election in February to fill a Kentucky House seat vacated by Gov. Ernie Fletcher.)

But, she added, "I know that from the last election, and certainly this one, that a lot can change in the last ten days, three weeks, and we've got four or five months before November. So I think it's hard to gauge what the national implications are."

Alabama judges

In Alabama, Tom Parker -- a former aide to ousted state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, who lost his seat on the bench after he placed a Ten Commandments monument in his courthouse -- pulled off an upset in the high court's GOP primary, knocking off incumbent justice Jean Brown. Three other Moore supporters trying for other offices in Alabama were defeated -- including one, Moore attorney Phillip Jauregui, who tried to oust GOP Rep. Spencer Bachus.

Parker told his supporters, many of whom knelt in prayer near a Ten Commandments display as word of victory came, that their vote was their "civic duty in maintaining our way of life.

"Judges take an oath of office to support the Constitution," he added. "But we here in Alabama experienced a sad spectacle of state judges abandoning the Constitution in order to comply with an unlawful order of a federal court that did not even have jurisdiction over them."

He said Alabamians are "fed up" with judges who "give lip-service to principles but then cave in to cooperate with the ACLU and liberal activist federal judges. We don't need politicians who will run for something, we need politicians who will stand for something."

Kerry on national security

Back in the big race, Kerry continues his national security push today in Tampa by calling for "a national strategy to prevent bioterrorism."

In advance remarks released by Camp Kerry, the senator will promise to "lead a global effort to prevent bioterrorism." He'll pledge to work with allies to strengthen the bioweapons ban and improve security in labs that handle dangerous pathogens.

"I will make it a priority in our relations with Russia to safeguard any remaining biological agents, and put scientists who once built these weapons to use their knowledge in peaceful purposes developing vaccines and antidotes," he'll say today.

Kerry will also call for increased work on vaccines and changes in the health care system to better handle an emergency. Kerry will pledge to appoint one person to oversee all bioterrorism programs, budgets and strategic priorities. This person will work with state and local leaders to establish the benchmarks for state and local preparedness required by law.

Also while in Tampa, Kerry will receive the endorsement of the International Association of Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) and Paramedics, whose 7,000 members work in 14 states. He'll emphasize the need for the president to work closely with local governments on terror-prevention efforts.

Pre-butting Kerry's remarks, Bush/Cheney aides counter that the president's '05 budget plan puts $3.5 billion into state and local governments to fight terrorism -- a $3.1 billion increase (680 percent) in funding levels over the previous administration's last budget.

"President Bush realizes that state and local governments are at the forefront of the War on Terror and is doing everything possible to ensure their ability to meet the challenges they face," said Bush/Cheney spokesman Steve Schmidt.

Also today ...

  • Republicans continue to criticize Kerry for criticizing the Patriot Act. Bush-Cheney '04 Campaign Chairman Marc Racicot, former Attorney General Dick Thornburgh and former Attorney General William Barr will discuss the Patriot Act at a news conference in Washington.
  • Show-Me State Sens. Kit Bond and Jim Talent will host a news conference call at 11:40 a.m. ET to discuss Kerry's visit to Independence, Missouri, tomorrow.
  • And finally, last night in Colorado, a state where Kerry has been running TV ads of late, Bush attended a fund-raiser that brought in $2.2 million for the GOP. Today, he addresses graduates of the Air Force Academy. (The motto of the graduating class -- "Parati ad Bellum," or "Ready for war"). In his Denver remarks last night, criticizing Kerry for shifting positions, Bush said, "He's kind of like the Colorado weather. If you don't like it, just wait a few minutes and it will change."

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