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Published: Saturday, 7/13/2002

Fieger may again test the waters

Lurking around the edges of a campaign event last week for John “Joe” Schwarz, a Republican candidate for governor of Michigan, was Geoffrey Fieger, the former attorney for suicide doctor Jack Kevorkian who ran unsuccessfully as the Democratic gubernatorial candidate four years ago.

Hiding under the shade of a tree to escape a scorching sun, Mr. Fieger posed for pictures and said he was there mostly to greet Arizona Sen. John McCain, who would be Mr. Schwarz' featured guest.

Mr. Fieger said he admired Mr. McCain for his maverick stances against his own Republican Party.

But the conversation quickly turned to talk of his own candidacy. Asked whether he would run again for governor as an independent, turning a race in which Democrats hold a clear advantage into one in which they could lose the seat, Mr. Fieger admitted it is a serious possibility.

He said he has already obtained enough petition signatures to qualify him for the November ballot as an independent candidate. If he doesn't like who wins the Democratic primary, he said he could jump in. A confirmed liberal, Mr. Fieger would likely drain votes from the Democratic candidate, clearing the way for the Republican nominee - either Mr. Schwarz or Lieutenant Gov. Dick Posthumus.

The Democratic nominee could still win a three-way race including Mr. Fieger, but it would be much more difficult.

The wealthy, flamboyant lawyer has made it known in the past that he is not a big fan of Democratic front-runner Jennifer Granholm, and might be willing to jump in if she wins the Aug. 6 primary. Her two experienced opponents - former Gov. James Blanchard and Congressman David Bonior - have closed the huge lead she had held in the polls, and, by Election Day, this could be anyone's race.

It is unclear whether Mr. Fieger's threat to enter the general election fray - should Ms. Granholm win the primary - might influence primary election voters to steer away from her. After 12 years of banishment from the Michigan governor's office, Mr. Fieger may be testing to see how hungry Democrats are to retake power.

Former Michigan Gov. William Milliken, a Republican and the longest-serving governor in state history, announced during the Schwarz-McCain campaign swing last week that he is supporting Mr. Schwarz in the primary election.

Mr. Milliken said he believes Mr. Schwarz, a state senator and former president of the state Senate, would represent all Michigan residents well.

The former governor served 14 years, retiring 20 years ago - the last time that candidates for governor did not have to compete against an incumbent.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, those U.S. senators who favored legislation last week establishing a national nuclear waste repository in Yucca Mountain, Nevada, received a lot more money in campaign contributions from the nuclear industry than those who opposed the bill.

An important vote on the measure was cast Tuesday, as a motion to proceed to a final vote passed by a 60-39 edge. The Senate then approved Yucca Mountain as the repository on an unrecorded voice vote. The House passed a similar measure in May. President Bush has said he will sign the bill into law.

The Center for Responsive Politics, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, calculated the nuclear power industry's campaign contributions by including money from several different sources: companies that have significant revenue from nuclear power operations, industry trade associations, and a few companies that build nuclear power plants or develop nuclear technology. Most of the contributions in the industry come from power companies that have nuclear facilities, according to a report posted on its Web site.

Those Democrats voting for the Yucca Mountain plan received twice as much in campaign contributions from the nuclear industry over the past six years than those voting against the plan. Among Republicans, supporters of the Yucca Mountain legislation received five times as much as those GOPers who voted against it.

According to the report, 68 percent of industry contributions went to Republicans, who supplied the bulk of support for the measure.

The report, compiled using data from the Federal Elections Commission, states that Ohio Sen. George Voinovich was near the top of the list of recipients, receiving $93,705. Sen. Mike DeWine received $43,800 over the past six years. Both supported the measure.

John McCain, a leading supporter of campaign finance reform, accepted $72,600 in contributions from the nuclear industry, while his partner in campaign reform, Russell Feingold of Wisconsin, accepted only $2,900. Mr. McCain voted in favor of storing up to 77,000 metric tons of nuclear waste in nearby Nevada, while Mr. Feingold voted against it.



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