Readers Have Their Say On N.C. Senate, N.Y. LG, & TOTN Trivia

A good day, I thought, to address some of the points being raised in reader e-mails.

In my Tuesday post on this year's Senate race in North Carolina for the seat currently held by Republican Richard Burr, I wrote this of Cal Cunningham, one of the Democratic hopefuls: "Cunningham had long insisted that he wouldn't run, but when Rep. Bob Etheridge and others turned down Dem pleas to get into the race, he reconsidered."

Not so, writes Thomas Mills of Carrboro, N.C.:

Cunningham was not talked into getting in the race. He began making noises last May and then opted out in October after Etheridge wouldn't make a decision. He got back in when the DSCC gave him permission. He trails in the primary polls by double-digits and has failed to attract the support the DC folks promised.

Mills, who runs a N.C.-based communications firm, has signed up for Secretary of State Elaine Marshall, one of the Democratic candidates seeking to oppose Burr.

The last poll I saw on the primary was by Public Policy Polling, a Dem-leaning group, which had it at 20 percent for Marshall, 16 percent for Cunningham, and 11 for Ken Lewis. This week Lewis picked up the endorsement of Harvey Gantt, who lost to Sen. Jesse Helms (R) in two memorable battles in the '90s.

On Monday, I did a post on lieutenant governors, and how many run for that job solely in the hope that it would lead to a chance at becoming governor. In looking at four states — California, Illinois, Texas and New York — I listed those LGs of the past several decades and their record at achieving higher office.

In New York, I mentioned Stan Lundine, a congressman from Western New York who gave up his House seat in 1986 to become Gov. Mario Cuomo's (D) running mate; Cuomo's first LG, Alfred Del Bello, was unhappy in his job after one term and wanted out. I wrote that Lundine "had no desire to move up."

Not so, writes Philip Lentz of New York City, who was Lundine's press secretary:

Stan gave up a seat in Congress to be Mario Cuomo's lieutenant governor in part because he did very much want to be governor. He thought being Cuomo's No. 2 would give him an opportunity he would never have as an upstate congressman. In fact, he was very disappointed in 1993 when Mario turned down the opportunity to go on the Supreme Court.

Philip is correct. Perhaps part of Lundine's decision was based on the fact that he would move up were Cuomo elected president, a scenario that was widely discussed at the time. Plus, in 1994, when there was some uncertainty as to whether Cuomo would run for a fourth term, Lundine had announced he would seek the job if his boss bowed out.

Following the ticket's defeat in '94, Lundine never sought public office again.

Wednesday's trivia question during the Political Junkie segment on Talk of the Nation was thus: Name the last time an incumbent governor was defeated for re-election and then turned the tables of his conqueror in the next election. My answer was Bill Clements of Texas, who was unseated by Mark White (D) in '82 but who reversed the result four years later.

Barry Erwin of Baton Rouge, La., suggests a different answer, albeit with an asterisk:

Buddy Roemer in Louisiana defeated Edwin Edwards in 1987 and Edwards defeated Roemer in 1991. One could argue that Roemer didn't really defeat Edwards, technically. Roemer got more votes in the state's open primary and Edwards chose to drop out making Roemer the governor, but people in Louisiana still see it as a defeat as the outcome was inevitable. Edwards won re-election in 1991.

Barry should, at the least, get half of a Political Junkie t-shirt. The '87 election in which Buddy Roemer, then a Democratic congressman, finished ahead of Gov. Edwin Edwards was officially a primary, in which all candidates, regardless of party, run on the same ballot. Roemer finished about five percentage points ahead of Edwards. (Interesting aside: finishing third was GOP Rep. Bob Livingston and fourth was Dem Rep. Billy Tauzin.) But when it came to the runoff, Edwards — as Barry writes — withdrew from the race. In 1991, Gov. Roemer — by then a Republican — sought another term but finished third in the open primary, behind Edwards and David Duke.

And here's a nice piece of trivia from Andy Russo of Edwardsville, Ill.: On election day in 1984, Sharon Percy Rockefeller watched the election of her husband, Democrat Jay Rockefeller, to a Senate seat in West Virginia while at the same time her father, Republican Charles Percy, was losing his own Senate seat in Illinois to Paul Simon.

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