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Friday, June 16, 2000 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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INSIDE POLITICS

Gore gets boat tour with a little help from `friends'

Al Gore's trip to Washington last week must have been a logistical nightmare, what with stops at Hanford, Seattle and Spokane within 12 hours.

It's good that he got a little help from a well-known local.

At the Tri-Cities boat launch, where Gore took off for his jaunt through a section of the Hanford Reach last Friday, a Gore press liaison said longtime Seattle P-I national correspondent Joel Connelly, during an earlier conversation with another campaign staffer, had suggested Gore float the river with activist Rich Steele. The press liaison said he was thrilled to learn someone in the media "seemed to understand what the campaign was trying to do."

Steele, a Richland resident, has spent three decades campaigning to protect the 51-mile stretch of river. In fact, so dedicated is he to his cause that stenciled onto the side of his boat is the phrase "Save the Reach."

Sure enough, Gore zipped across the waterway in Steele's 21-foot jet boat, his bald spot shining in the desert sun.

Asked about the situation, Connelly said, "I talked to (Gore's) advance man and said `Have you been talking with Rich Steele?' I did not in any sense suggest who they take down the river. It's not my duty and not my job and I certainly did not recommend. I just asked the advance guy, `Have you had any dealings with Rich Steele?' "

Connelly went on to explain that Steele has piloted dozens of politicians, filmmakers and bureaucrats through the Reach, in an attempt to help them see its beauty as Steele does.

The placebo campaign best taken by the GOP

Reining in the high cost of prescription drugs has become a potent political issue this campaign season, with lawmakers across the political spectrum, from our own Republican Sen. Slade Gorton to Vermont's lefty U.S. Rep. Bernie Sanders, offering legislation to address the problem.

An internal GOP strategy memo obtained by The Seattle Times sheds light on why the issue is gaining so much attention this election year.

An analysis prepared for the House Republican Conference found that "Democrats enjoy a huge generic advantage as the party best perceived as being able to handle this issue."

"Democrats will want to position Republicans as allied with the pharmaceutical companies and insurance companies against senior citizens," said the report prepared by Public Opinion Strategies, a polling firm. "That's a positioning you need to aggressively reject."

Councilwoman gets caught up in own rhetoric

Seattle City Councilwoman Judy Nicastro admits her anti-landlord sentiment got a little out of control in the weeks leading up to her Renters Summit on Saturday. Nicastro was quoted in a Seattle Weekly cover story (titled "Judy the Landlord Slayer") saying: "Everybody hates landlords. Tenants are pissed. The tide is turning." In the same piece, she referred to one rental-management company as "greedy pigs."

During her introductory speech at the summit, Nicastro apologized for the comments. "It was inappropriate, and it is not respected in my new job," said Nicastro, a first-term councilwoman who was elected last year after making a name as a renters-rights activist. "Things I could say in my living room I can't say in public."

Nicastro later added that she called to leave a personal apology on the voice-mail of one outraged landlord who had telephoned her office.

Inside Politics is written by Times politics and government reporters and compiled by chief political reporter David Postman. His phone number is 360-943-9882. His e-mail is dpostman@seattletimes.com

Copyright (c) 2000 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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