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Pa. GOP notables backing Bush in 2000

Thursday, April 01, 1999

By Frank Reeves, Post-Gazette Harrisburg Correspondent

HARRISBURG - Texas Gov. George W. Bush yesterday picked up the endorsements of three top Pennsylvania Republican Party officials in his bid to become the GOP presidential nominee in 2000.

GOP State Committee Chairman Alan Novak, along with Pennsylvania's Republican National Committeeman Bob Asher and Republican National Comitteewoman Christine Toretti, endorsed Bush for the GOP nomination.

But the party officials emphasized that theirs was a personal endorsement and did not reflect the position of the state Republican Party.

The Republican State Committee won't meet until February to endorse a presidential candidate, Novak said.

Yesterday, Novak, Asher and Toretti were part of a larger Pennsylvania GOP delegation that met with Bush in a downtown Austin, Texas, restaurant.

The delegation included Elsie Hillman, Evans Rose, David Girard-diCarlo and Manny Stammatakis.

Also meeting with Bush at the same time was a delegation of California Republicans.

For the past few weeks, Bush, considered by many the GOP presidential front-runner, has been meeting with delegations from around the country, who've come to the Texas capital to pledge their support.

For his part, Bush has been running what GOP operatives like to call "a classic front-porch campaign."

Some of the Pennsylvania Republicans were gushing after their 90-minute meeting yesterday with Bush, and spared few superlatives to describe him.

Novak said Bush touched on familiar GOP themes in his talk to the delegation - lower taxes, smaller government, improving the business climate. But Novak offered few specifics of what the Texas governor had to say.

Hillman, a former Republican national committeewoman and longtime power-broker in GOP politics, met with Bush twice this week, first on Tuesday during a meeting of Republican women from across the country.

Hillman, who said she'd been tapped to be the honorary chairman of Bush's Pennsylvania campaign, said, "I've known the [Bush] family so long, it would have been difficult to turn him down."

Gov. Ridge, who last month endorsed Bush, has often been mentioned as a possible vice-presidential candidate.

But Novak said none of the Pennsylvanians raised the issue during the meeting with Bush, although a California Republican did.

Novak said Bush diplomatically brushed aside the question.



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