Mr. Schlesinger goes to Washington

The Republican candidate shunned by President Bush, the GOP establishment and many in his party is hoping conservative groups will get behind his longshot bid for the Connecticut Senate seat.

Alan Schlesinger, who has ignored calls from some Republicans to abandon his candidacy, planned a two-day trip to Washington to test his call for fiscal conservatism with outside organizations.

“I’ve been caught up in a tornado of other agendas that have nothing to do with me,” he said in an interview with The Associated Press on Monday. “I’ve been a good Republican. … I’m not going to let anyone stick a fork in me in this race.”

The Connecticut Senate race shapes up as a two-man contest between three-term Sen. Joe Lieberman, who is running as an independent after his party’s rebuff in the Aug. 8 primary, and anti-war candidate Ned Lamont, the Democratic nominee.

Polls show Schlesinger with single-digit support that has been dropping.

Lieberman has secured endorsements from Republicans and won praise from the Bush administration for his staunch support of the Iraq war. With the race cast as a referendum on Bush’s Iraq policies, some Republicans argue that a Lieberman win in a Democratic-leaning Northeastern state would be a boost for the administration.

Schlesinger got a blunt reminder on where the GOP stands on Monday.

During a news conference, Bush said he had no intention of backing Schlesinger, a former state representative who has been dogged by questions about his gambling.

“I’m staying out of Connecticut because, you know, that’s what the party suggested, the Republican Party of Connecticut,” Bush told reporters. “And, plus, there’s a better place to spend our money, time and resources.”

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., has endorsed Lieberman, saying Schlesinger has no chance of winning. The National Republican Senatorial Committee said last week it had no plans to help Schlesinger because it was not a competitive race.

Schlesinger complains that Washington interests on both sides are trying to hijack the race for their own ends. He also blames the news media for focusing attention on negative aspects of his campaign.

Schlesinger’s campaign ran into flak in July after it was learned that he used a fake name to gamble at a Connecticut casino and had been sued over gambling debts at New Jersey casinos. Connecticut Gov. M. Jodi Rell, a Republican, urged him to drop out of the race, but Schlesinger called the gambling a “non-issue” and remained.

While his two foes have already collected and spent millions, Schlesinger has raised just $113,581, including a $50,000 loan to his campaign, as of June 30, according to his latest campaign finance report.

Schlesinger, however, voiced confidence his fiscal conservatism would be a key selling point when he meets with political action committees and others to boost his candidacy.

“I am extremely different from Lieberman and Lamont,” he said. “I am not an ostrich. I do not put my head in the sand as to the massive unfunded liability in the entitlement programs.”

Schlesinger declined to say who he planned to meet with during his Washington visit.


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