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Political Notebook

Some in GOP backing Kagan

HONOR FOR McCARTNEY — The former Beatle, shown yesterday in Washington, will receive the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song today and perform at the White House. He has “made an impact far beyond music through his humanitarianism and activism,’’ said James Billington, librarian of Congress. HONOR FOR McCARTNEY — The former Beatle, shown yesterday in Washington, will receive the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song today and perform at the White House. He has “made an impact far beyond music through his humanitarianism and activism,’’ said James Billington, librarian of Congress. (Jacquelyn Martin/Associated Press)
June 2, 2010

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WASHINGTON — Some Republican senators are extolling the record of Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan, suggesting she might win confirmation with support from many members of the minority party.

Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Susan Collins of Maine, and Richard Lugar of Indiana are among the Republicans praising her. They say Kagan’s background, including serving as dean of Harvard Law School, is impressive and her lack of judicial experience isn’t a barrier to serving on a high court.

Barring surprises, there may be more votes for Kagan than for President Obama’s first Supreme Court appointee, Sonia Sotomayor, said Manuel Miranda of the conservative judicial group Third Branch Conference in Washington. Sotomayor was approved 68 to 31 last year.

“Elena Kagan is going to get much more support from Republicans,’’ Miranda said, predicting the total would exceed 70.

Kagan, 50, who as solicitor general is the Obama administration’s chief courtroom lawyer, was nominated May 10 to replace retiring Justice John Paul Stevens. Republicans have all but ruled out a filibuster to block a Senate floor vote. Democrats control the Senate 59 to 41, one vote short of the 60 needed to overcome the delaying tactic.

Republicans said they will withhold judgment on the nomination until her confirmation hearings, noting that they are waiting for the release of documents from Kagan’s work more than a decade ago in President Bill Clinton’s White House. The hearings begin June 28.

Kagan’s critics have focused on her lack of judicial experience and her opposition, as Harvard’s law school dean, to military recruiting on the campus in protest over the policy of banning openly gay men and women from serving in the armed forces.

Neither issue has gained much traction with some Republicans.

Lugar said he has supported almost every high court nominee in his 34 years in the Senate.

“I generally take the position of feeling that the president, whoever that is at the time, should have the opportunity to make a nomination and to have serious consideration of that nomination,’’ Lugar said.

Some Republicans — including Collins, Olympia Snowe of Maine, and Scott Brown of Massachusetts — said Kagan has eased their concerns in private talks with her. “I saw no evidence that she is antimilitary,’’ Collins said in an interview.

— Bloomberg News

Congressman loses bid to be Ala.’s 1st black governor
MONTGOMERY, Ala. — A congressman seeking to become Alabama’s first black governor lost yesterday to a white Democratic primary opponent who had garnered support from the state’s four major black political groups.

Primaries were also held in Mississippi and New Mexico, where Susana Martinez, a prosecutor from southern New Mexico, won the GOP nomination for governor and will face Democrat Diane Denish in a general election race deciding who becomes New Mexico’s first woman governor.

With 58 percent of the precincts reporting, Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks won the Democratic primary for Alabama governor with 65 percent of the vote to Representative Artur Davis’s 35 percent.

The state’s traditional civil rights organizations backed Sparks after Davis voted against President Obama’s federal health care overhaul. But Davis, a Harvard lawyer who led Obama’s campaign here in 2008, had endorsements from Representative John Lewis, a civil rights pioneer from Alabama, and Mobile’s first black mayor, Sam Jones.

Seven GOP candidates for governor were competing in their party’s primary yesterday. A runoff will be July 13 if no one gets a majority of the vote.

The health care overhaul was also an issue in Alabama’s other big race, where GOP voters in the Fifth Congressional district were deciding the fate of Representative Parker Griffith, a former Democrat who switched to the Republican Party in December.

Griffith, a first-term congressman, lagged in early returns behind Madison County Commissioner Mo Brooks, who had the backing of GOP leaders bitter over losing to Griffith in 2008, when he was still a Democrat.

Meanwhile, four-term Alabama Republican Senator Richard Shelby easily beat his primary challenger, tea party activist N.C. “Clint’’ Moser.

Two Democrats were vying for their party’s nomination and Shelby, 76, is favored to win over either one.

In New Mexico, five Republicans were vying to take on Denish this fall. The state’s governor’s race will be the third woman-against-woman gubernatorial general election match-up in US history.

Martinez, the Dona Ana County district attorney, beat her four GOP opponents with 51 percent of the vote in unofficial returns and with nearly half of precincts reporting. Former state GOP chairman Allen Weh had 29 percent.

In Mississippi, Republican congressional primaries were held in the First, Second, and Fourth districts, and a Democratic primary in the Third. No incumbents faced primary challenges.

— Associated Press