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Federal File: Shut 'er down; Send 'em home

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One Virginia candidate for the U.S. Senate has discovered a sure-fire way to bring the Secretary of Education out on the campaign trail--for the opposition.

L. Douglas Wilder, an independent candidate who as a Democrat served as the state's Governor, said last month that there may be no need for the Education Department.

"I certainly favor more direct grants and less regulation and bureaucracy," Mr. Wilder was quoted as saying. "It does require a re-looking whether in fact there is a need for" the department.

Within weeks, Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley lined up campaign appearances with Mr. Wilder's Democratic opponent, Sen. Charles S. Robb. Last week the Secretary joined the senator for opening-day ceremonies at the New Horizons Education Center in Hampton, Va., and Varina High School in Roanoke, Va.

Mr. Riley also made education-related appearances with Sen. Jim Sasser, D-Tenn., who chairs the Senate Budget Committee, and Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., who chairs the Labor and Human Resources Committee.

All three incumbents are in tight races.

Mr. Robb, who has concentrated on foreign policy during his term, is considered particularly vulnerable in a year when the Democrats are in danger of losing control of the Senate. After admitting marital indiscretions and being hit with other personal charges, he is being pounded in a four-way race by the Republican candidate, Oliver L. North; Mr. Wilder, a long-time rival; and a second independent candidate, J. Marshall Coleman.

Lamar Alexander wound up a 2-1/2-month cross-country auto tour promoting his undeclared Presidential candidacy earlier this month, during which he scored big with an anti-Congress proposal that has even some Republicans worried.

The former Secretary of Education and Tennessee Governor struck a chord with this message: "Cut their pay and send them home." The idea is to cut Congressional salaries in half and limit Congressional action to two short sessions--from January to April, and from Labor Day to Thanksgiving.

As much as anything else, Mr. Alexander got politicians and columnists talking about the plan. That means a name in the paper, something he needs in the face of a potentially large field of better-recognized G.O.P. aspirants.

--Mark Pitsch

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