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GOP Hopeful Gets Back in Montana Race

Senate candidate, upset over Democrats' TV ad, says he wants to root out slander in politics.

October 23, 2002|From Associated Press

HELENA, Mont. — Republican U.S. Senate candidate Mike Taylor, who dropped out of the race against Sen. Max Baucus two weeks ago, said Tuesday he is resuming a limited campaign aimed largely at "getting the slander out of Montana politics."

Taylor dropped out of the race Oct. 10, complaining that a Democratic Party ad was calculated to make him look like a gay hairdresser.

"I went home and I prayed -- for my family, my friends, and for all people of Montana who were hurt by the slander and suggestions about me," Taylor said. "The message, then, became clear .... If I must go down, it should be in a good cause."

He told a news conference he is launching a statewide bus tour, but does not plan to resume media advertising. Ken Miller, chairman of the state Republican Party, said the state GOP would pay for the bus tour.

"I am here for one reason and one reason alone: to send a message against mudslinging," Taylor said. "I want to save democracy from the smear campaigns."

Miller said the party also worried that the lack of a visible Republican campaign for the most prominent Montana race would hurt local GOP candidates.

Taylor was trailing Baucus badly in the polls and said the Democratic Party commercial amounted to character assassination. He said his campaign lacked the money to counter the damage done.

The TV ad accused the 61-year-old state senator of a scam involving student loan money when he ran a Colorado beauty school in the 1990s. It included videotape from the 1980s of Taylor wearing an open-front shirt and gold chains while massaging a man's face. The video was from Taylor's "Beauty Corner," a segment he used to host on a Colorado TV news program.

The state Democratic Party denied use of the old tape was intended to suggest Taylor is gay. Taylor, a father of two and a cattle rancher, has been married to his wife, Janna, for 22 years.

Democrats said Taylor's campaign suspension was a ploy to divert attention from Democratic accusations that Taylor pilfered money from the government's student loan program.

"When Mike Taylor quit, it was obvious it was a campaign stunt, and when he got back in, it was obvious it was a stunt," said Brad Martin, executive director for the Montana Democrats.

Polls had Baucus holding a 19-point lead over Taylor before the ad began running. Taylor said his polls showed Baucus' lead grew after the ad first ran.

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