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Election briefs

By Compiled from Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published October 14, 2000

Mideast remains top topic on trail

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- George W. Bush questioned Al Gore's role in the sale of Russian arms to Iran and denounced "American reliance on Saddam Hussein's oil" Friday, challenging the vice president's record in the Middle East as the region roiled with violence.

For the second straight day, Gore cut short a campaign trip to attend emergency White House meetings about the apparent terrorist bombing of a U.S. Navy warship in Yemen and two weeks of escalating violence between Israelis and Palestinians.

"This is a time of great tension," the vice president told 2,000 supporters in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. "It is a time when our country's leadership is needed. And, as a nation, we're going to stand together and do everything we can to promote peace and security and the right outcome."

On this, both candidates agreed. "It is important for our administration to continue to seek calm and peace in the Middle East," Bush said outside Detroit.

Polls show the race tied, and analysts expect little to change while voters remain transfixed by the twin crises.

Gore canceled a meeting with Arab-Americans in Michigan to attend White House meetings. Democrats are concerned that troubles in the Middle East, Gore's vocal support of Israel and even Lieberman's Jewish faith have hurt him with Michigan's growing Arab-American community.

Bush knew the best way to get attention was to talk about foreign affairs. Thus, he criticized Gore over a U.S.-Russian agreement allowing the delivery of Russian arms to Iran through 1999. "I am troubled that any agreement was made that would allow arms to be sold to Iran," he said.

Jeb wants Gore to pull ad

Gov. Jeb Bush called on Vice President Al Gore Friday to stop airing a Florida campaign commercial that promotes Gore's efforts to preserve the Everglades and criticizes George W. Bush's environmental record.

Bush, the younger brother of the presidential candidate, wrote that Republicans and Democrats have worked together on the Everglades project. The U.S. House is expected to take up the restoration legislation shortly, and the Florida governor argued that the Gore ad could jeopardize approval of the bill.

"You have chosen not to play the role of statesman when the Everglades need you most," Bush wrote.

The Democratic National Committee ad began airing this week in most Florida markets, including Tampa Bay.

NADER ON OHIO BALLOT: A federal judge has ruled that Ralph Nader's name must appear on the Nov. 7 Ohio ballot as the Green Party candidate and ordered the secretary of state to put the Green Party label on all ballots. Voters are entitled to see Nader's party affiliation, according to the ruling by U.S. District Judge John Holschuh.

NO VOTE IN PUERTO RICO: A federal appeals court ruled that residents of Puerto Rico cannot vote in presidential elections unless the island territory becomes a state or the Constitution is amended. The ruling overturns a lower court decision that said Puerto Rico's 2.4-million voters had the right to cast presidential ballots.

N.D. governor candidate battles breast cancer

BISMARCK, N.D. -- Heidi Heitkamp is waging a battle on two fronts in her effort to become the first woman governor of North Dakota. She is fighting her Republican rival and breast cancer.

The illness has generated a wave of sympathetic publicity, but it also has raised questions of whether the 44-year-old Democrat is up to the job.

Heitkamp dismisses the concern and says chemotherapy will probably cause the temporary loss of the red hair that helped make her one of the state's more recognizable politicians.

"All those people who wanted me to get a new hairdo are going to get their way," she said.

The cancer diagnosis may have changed the dynamics of the campaign in favor of Heitkamp, who has served eight years as state attorney general after six years as tax commissioner.

Before she disclosed her illness Sept. 20, Heitkamp believed she was slightly behind her Republican rival, John Hoeven. But in a poll last week, Heitkamp was favored by 48 percent of likely voters surveyed, with 42 percent for Hoeven.

CLINTON ADMITS MISTAKE: Senate candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton said Friday that she made a mistake in using a government list of White House party guests to solicit political contributions.

"This was my error, absolutely my error," and not that of a campaign staffer, she said at a Manhattan campaign event.

Her rival, Republican Rep. Rick Lazio, suggested Friday that either the first lady or her campaign aides had broken the law and should answer for it.

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