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Women think Dole is pro-choice. She's not.

Republican Elizabeth Dole is NOT pro-choice on abortions. Democrat Erskine Bowles IS pro-choice. This is the urgent message that Planned Parenthood of Central North Carolina is trying to convey to women voters, because: (1) Dole's lead in the U.S. Senate race can be chalked up to her edge among independent-minded female voters, and (2) A majority of the women who support Dole think she's pro-choice.

The Planned Parenthood Action Fund, its political arm, has 50 volunteers on the phones calling voters who've said previously that they'll support only pro-choice candidates. The fund is just a couple of years old, according to Paige Johnson, the organization's public affairs director. This is the first year it's endorsed candidates, including Bowles and four other Democrats running for Congress: Frank Ballance, Brad Miller and incumbents David Price and Mel Watt.

"As many as 60 percent of the women supporting Elizabeth Dole think that she is pro-choice simply because she is a woman," Johnson says. "I have people tell me, oh, Bowles-Dole is a win-win for you, isn't it. I always say, just because somebody looks like us doesn't mean they think like us."

At stake, Johnson predicts, are Senate votes on at least one and perhaps as many as three Supreme Court justices during the next senator's term, putting the Court's pro-choice decision in Roe v. Wade in play.

Bowles, so far, has attacked Dole's gender edge mainly by emphasizing his support for the popular Family and Medical Leave Act, which requires most employers to give time off for family emergencies, and Dole's long-standing opposition to it. (Dole now says it's a proven program.)

Abortion rights, though, has been a non-issue. In two debates, Bowles never mentioned it (too tricky, perhaps, for him to lecture a woman opponent on pregnancy options). A Democratic Party spot includes choice as an issue on which Dole has flip-flopped. Running for president, Dole did appear to be moving away from her rigid pro-life stance; this year--as she courted the Helms vote--she endorsed a pro-life constitutional amendment.

Bowles' spokesman Brad Woodhouse says his candidate isn't avoiding the abortion question, just emphasizing other issues--like jobs. But Bowles is looking to third-party groups--like Planned Parenthood--to help "disabuse" pro-choice voters of the idea that Dole is with them, Woodhouse said.

So You Want to Elect Judges, Part 1. Quick. Who's the progressive choice for N.C. Supreme Court in the Orr-Hunter race? Folks who look to the N.C. Academy of Trial Lawyers for help in these matter will just have to look elsewhere: Academy members fought, fumed and agonized for days, we're told, then issued--no endorsement. Republican Justice Bob Orr's supporters pointed to his record on the bench. So did Democrat Bobby Hunter's backers, who hated Orr's concurring decision in this year's legislative redistricting case so much they threatened to quit if Orr got the nod.

So You Want to Elect Judges, Part 2. What about the Butterfield-Brady race for the other N.C. Supreme Court seat? Before you laugh, consider this warning from someone inside the G.K. Butterfield campaign: Brady will win, unless. ... Unless people do start laughing. Justice Butterfield, the Democratic incumbent, is widely regarded as a solid judge. Republican Edward Thomas Brady, a Fayetteville lawyer, is his opponent courtesy of clueless Republican primary voters who "chose" him over Ralph Walker, a sitting Court of Appeals judge. Brady's claim to fame: He's a gay-basher, a pro-lifer, and a licensed gun dealer. Oh, and his Brady-bunch name.

And as our source reminds us, in a "generic" court race--one in which almost none of the voters have the slightest idea who the candidates are--Republicans lately do "just a little better" than Democrats ... and a Brady-bunch name always wins over a Butterfield.

So You Want to Elect Judges, Part 3. Information on judicial candidates is available at, courtesy of the N.C. Center for Voter Education. The Center is co-sponsoring the UNC Law School's forum for Supreme Court candidates Wednesday, Oct. 23 at 7 p.m. Orr, Hunter and Butterfield have accepted. Brady couldn't be bothered. He sent back his invitation--delivered by certified mail--unopened.

Disappointing: To hear Democratic congressional candidate Brad Miller's enthusiasm for going to war in Iraq. Miller, running in the new 13th district, supports the pro-war resolution passed by Congress, as does his Republican opponent, Carolyn Grant. By contrast, Rep. David Price, the Democrat in the 2nd district, voted against the resolution. EndBlock

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