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Election notebook

Compiled from Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published December 14, 2000


20 states are missing at first Electoral College roll call

WASHINGTON -- Despite the Supreme Court's focus on Tuesday's deadline for certifying slates of electors in the presidential race, 20 states had not reported their lists as of Wednesday afternoon, federal officials said.

But it's no big problem, according to officials at the National Archives, as long as official lists of the state electors arrive at Archives headquarters in Washington by next Monday, the date members of the Electoral College vote for president.

"We consider the deadline to be Dec. 18 with no penalty," Archives spokeswoman Susan Cooper said. "The Dec. 12 date in federal law means that all controversies must be settled by then for Congress not to challenge the electors."

At least one election expert said he found that surprising. Daniel Hays Lowenstein, a UCLA law professor who has written a textbook on election law, remarked: "It may not be very significant, but you'd think it's less likely this year that states would let it slip with all the publicity we've had."

Tuesday night the Supreme Court effectively handed the presidency to George W. Bush by ruling that Florida would not be able to complete a constitutional recount of ballots by midnight Tuesday.

It's up to each governor to send so-called "certificates of ascertainment" containing names and addresses of their electors to the Office of Federal Register, a division of the National Archives.

Transition offices, cash held till candidates speak

WASHINGTON -- The government was waiting for Al Gore to concede before handing George W. Bush $5.3-million and office space set aside to help plan the next presidency.

"I want to respect both candidates' desire to speak to the country tonight before I make any decision about transition space and funds," General Services Administration chief David J. Barram said while awaiting televised speeches by Gore and Bush on Wednesday.

"We have been working with both campaigns so that we are prepared to move quickly," Barram said.

Barram has said he couldn't give the transition aid to either candidate -- or split it among both -- because the law required the GSA to release it only when the winner was "apparent."

Finding themselves locked out, Bush's transition planners raised private donations to pay for their own office in suburban McLean, Va. It opened Nov. 30.

It's too soon to say whether the Bush team would move to the Washington office once it gets the keys, said spokeswoman Juleanna Glover Weiss.

The Virginia office is just minutes from the home of Bush's running mate and transition chief, Dick Cheney, and also near several hotels for staff. A briefing room has been set up, and more desks and chairs arrived Tuesday.

The transition team already has accumulated almost 21,000 resumes from people seeking some 6,000 administration jobs, from Cabinet secretary to office secretary.

Cheney confers with GOP leaders in Congress

WASHINGTON -- A crush of photographers jostled into position Wednesday to photograph Dick Cheney lunching with Republican senators. One photographer called out, "Vice president-elect," to get Cheney's attention.

"It has a nice ring to it," remarked a senator. Cheney just smiled, but his staff could barely contain their glee.

With his title, and his boss' White House victory all but assured, Cheney lost no time conferring with Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill about George W. Bush's policy agenda and forging ahead with the business of building a Bush administration.

He met with several GOP leaders, including House Speaker Dennis Hastert. Cheney also attended back-to-back lunches, one with a group of moderate Republicans and another with conservative House members.

According to lawmakers who attended the meetings, conversations centered on the importance of crafting a legislative agenda that could attract the support of Democrats -- education could be a top priority. Moderates emphasized the need for balance in any tax cut packaged so that the needy, as well as the rich, benefit.

Cheney said little to reporters, seemingly careful not to take center stage on a day that was clearly Bush's.

"We're moving forward on the transition, things are going well," he told reporters as he stood with Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss. "I know you've got a lot of questions but I'm going to have to defer until later this evening."

Bush's lieutenant in Texas prepares to take power

AUSTIN, Texas -- Lt. Gov. Rick Perry woke up Wednesday morning with no power.

Perry is preparing to become Texas' next governor, but it was a wintry ice storm -- and not the job switch -- that killed the power in his Austin home on the morning he finally took his transition efforts public.

"My immediate goal was to make sure I could get my family warm. So we came to the Capitol," Perry said.

With that accomplished, Perry met over lunch with five business, political and academic leaders who are helping him plan for his ascension to governor -- a move that appears certain now that Vice President Al Gore has given up and Gov. George W. Bush is officially president-elect.

Bush has not said when he will resign as governor, though staffers have speculated he will wait until after the Electoral College votes on Monday or even until Congress certifies that vote in January.

In recent weeks, Perry quietly named his transition coordinator, accepted resumes and interviewed Bush aides who want to stay in their jobs.

Ryder truck that hauled ballots will be sold today

The yellow Chad Chariot, which traveled last month from Palm Beach County to Tallahassee, will be sold today to the highest bidder participating in an online auction. The Ryder truck was put on the auction block last week and bidding ends at 8:17 p.m.

The latest bid Wednesday night was $37,300. A $100,000 bid that showed up earlier was canceled.

Palm Beach County elections officials rented the truck for a penny. Normally, a one-way trip to Tallahassee would cost $230, said Allison Striegel, a spokeswoman for Budget Group Inc., which owns the Ford F350.

"They came to us asking if they could rent the truck. We decided to donate the cost of the rental. We knew that it was an unusual rental only because they told us, "It's going to be used to carry these ballots, it's going to have security with it,' " Striegel said.

The truck was used on Nov. 30 to deliver more than 450,000 ballots and was accompanied by 15 cars, two Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office vehicles and four helicopters.

Real-life politics bumps TV's 'West Wing'

LOS ANGELES -- President Josiah Bartlet may have a few strong words for Al Gore and George W. Bush.

NBC pulled a heavily promoted episode of The West Wing, which stars Martin Sheen as Bartlet, to make way for Wednesday's climax to the presidential election.

The episode, which showcases an emotional meltdown by White House aide Josh Lyman (Bradley Whitford), conflicted with Gore's 9 p.m. EST speech.

Primetime on the West Coast was unaffected by the timing, but NBC decided to move the Wednesday night lineup of new episodes of Ed, The West Wing and Law & Order to Dec. 20 nationwide.

The network planned to fill in around the Gore and Bush speeches with reruns, including one of The West Wing and the sitcom Will & Grace.

Before concession, Gores appear at party for 300

WASHINGTON -- In a quirk of scheduling, Vice President Al Gore and his wife, Tipper, found themselves holding a holiday party for 300 people at their home Wednesday night just before he delivered his concession speech.

The crowd included Hollywood stars like Whoopi Goldberg and Rob Reiner, as well as financial contributors, campaign staff and congressional Democrats.

The event was scheduled for 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., and threw the Gore staff into a bit of a swivet as they contemplated how to juggle a holiday bash that had been planned for months and what loomed as one of the most wrenching moments of Gore's political career.

The concession speech was set for 9 p.m. Though Gore had delivered most of his speeches in the past five weeks from his residence, his staff wanted this one to be as similar to an Oval Office address as possible. And so it was staged in his office at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, next to the White House, both to lend an aura of dignity but also to free him from the party atmosphere at his house.

The party was held in a large white tent at the front of the residence, and the Gores appeared for about half an hour, drawing a sustained five-minute applause as they entered.

"We always knew we were in this house temporarily," Tipper Gore said.

The New York Times reported that those who attended said Gore took several choked pauses between his remarks to the crowd and was believed to have tears in his eyes at the end as he vowed, "We will fight on."

At that point, his wife took his elbow and escorted him through the crowd.

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