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Primary Outcome For Minnesota Lawmaker Tied To Bad Checks, Abortion

September 10, 1992

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) _ Nearly 700 bad checks at the House bank made Rep. Gerry Sikorski vulnerable, and his switch from an anti-abortion position to an abortion- rights stance doesn’t appear to be helping his prospects in next week’s primary.

The five-term Minnesota Democrat faces a strong challenge from Tad Jude, a county commissioner, former state senator and staunch abortion foe, in the state’s most heated congressional primary.

Political experts are hedging their bets on the race for the Democratic nomination in the 6th Congressional District, which arcs across the western, northern and eastern suburbs of Minneapolis and St. Paul.

Sikorski has the advantages of incumbency and a significant edge in campaign cash heading into the home stretch. But expected low voter turnout and strong anti-abortion sentiment in the district could spell trouble for the congressman on Tuesday.

″I sense it’s an uphill fight for Sikorski,″ said D.J. Leary, a political analyst and onetime aide to the late Democratic Sen. Hubert Humphrey. ″He’s waging a marvelous campaign, but the fact of the matter is, historically the pro-life forces in this state have an almost unbroken record of success in primary elections.″

Sikorski, 44, has tried to contrast his own record on the environment, health and family issues with what he calls Jude’s extreme anti-abortion stance.

In the past week, Sikorski drew his opponent’s wrath with television ads that suggest Jude would jail women who have abortions and pave roads with toxic incinerator ash.

Calling the commercials ″outrageous lies,″ Jude said Thursday he is seeking prosecution of the lawmaker’s campaign and demanded that Sikorski pull the ads.

″He’s trying to scare people into voting for him,″ Jude said. Sikorski’s campaign said the ads will continue.

Sikorski has bought $105,000 worth of air time between Labor Day and Election Day, from a campaign treasury that stood at more than $417,000 at the end of August. Jude, who has raised less than $100,000, said he can’t afford to buy television time to fight back.

Jude, 40, ticks off an alliterative list of political gripes against Sikorski, calling him a pursuer of perks, pay raises, privileges and political action committee contributions.

Sikorski wrote 697 bad checks totaling about $120,000 at the now-defunct House bank. Jude said Sikorski’s check-writing habits ″illuminated a pattern of abuse.″ He also criticized Sikorski for allowing his wife, Susan, to take some of the blame for the checks.

Jude also pointed to Sikorski’s past use of congressional aides to run personal errands, his reliance on PAC contributions and his acceptance of foreign trips paid for by taxpayers or special interests.

He cited these as evidence that Sikorski is part of the problem in a Congress desperately in need of reform.

In response, Sikorski pointed to praise he received from consumer advocate Ralph Nader for supporting congressional campaign finance reform efforts and other initiatives.

Abortion also is an issue in the Democratic primary in the 7th Congressional District of northwestern and central Minnesota, where freshman Rep. Collin Peterson, an abortion foe, is being challenged by Lorelei Kraft, who supports abortion rights.

In Minneapolis, 14-year veteran Rep. Martin Sabo is trying to avoid another surprise. Political newcomer Lisa Niebauer-Stall is challenging Sabo after pushing him to seven ballots at the state’s Democratic Party endorsing convention.

Meanwhile, former Minnesota Vikings football star Alan Page, now an assistant attorney general, is one of three candidates running for an open seat on the Minnesota Supreme Court. The top two vote-getters in the primary will face off in the general election.


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