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Rollins Hired by Black GOP Senate Hopeful

January 28, 1994|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Edward J. Rollins, who created a furor by claiming he schemed to suppress the turnout of black voters in the New Jersey gubernatorial election, has agreed to run a black businessman's Senate campaign in Pennsylvania.

Joseph Watkins said Thursday he wanted to hire Rollins despite the controversy because "Ed has a great political background and knows how to win races, and I wanted him on my team."

Watkins, 40, is a Philadelphia business consultant and a Baptist minister. He said he will announce his candidacy next week for the Republican nomination for the seat now held by Democratic Sen. Harris Wofford.

Watkins worked for then-Indiana Sen. Dan Quayle and later worked in the George Bush White House as associate director of public liaison. He said he approached Rollins about a month ago and asked him to run the campaign. He said Rollins agreed and insisted on not being paid.

"He said he made a mistake, he said he was sorry, he said he was wrong, he asked to be forgiven, and I forgave him," Watkins said of his decision to hire Rollins.

Rollins, a veteran GOP political consultant who ran Ronald Reagan's 1984 reelection campaign, was out of the country and unavailable for comment. But an associate confirmed that Rollins had agreed to advise Watkins.

Rollins was the lead consultant in New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman's campaign. A week after she defeated Democratic incumbent James J. Florio, Rollins told reporters that a major factor in her victory was the use of $500,000 in "walking around money" to pay campaign workers and ministers to suppress the black vote in Democratic areas.

Rollins quickly recanted and said he fabricated the story, but state and federal agencies launched investigations of potential voting law violations. On Jan. 12, a week before Whitman's inauguration, authorities said they had found no evidence that Republicans paid anyone to hold down the Democratic vote.

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