[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/10/22/art.bloomberg.gi.jpg caption="Bloomberg won re-election last November."]
(CNN) - Charles Montgomery Burns, better known as Mr. Burns in the hit animated TV series "The Simpsons", got the most votes of any write-in candidate during last month's mayoral election in New York City. According to records released by the New York City Board of Elections, the cartoon billionaire received 27 write-in votes out of the 299 that were cast.
Burns wasn't the only fictional character to get votes in the race. Mad Magazine icon Alfred E. Newman, Fantastic Four arch-villain Victor Von Doom, Mickey Mouse, and Sleeping Beauty also received write-in votes.
Many New York City and state political figures also got votes, including former New York City mayors Ed Koch, Rudy Giuliani, and David Dinkins. Others include Bill and Hillary Clinton, former New York governor George Pataki, Rep. Anthony Weiner, and the candidates from this year's congressional race in New York's 23rd district Dede Scozzafava and Doug Hoffman.
Three historical figures also got votes: former presidents Abraham Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt, and Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler. Other noteworthy figures getting a nod were New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, radio shock jock Howard Stern, deceased comedian Rodney Dangerfield, and Robert Burke, better known to many New Yorkers as "the Naked Cowboy."
Burns and the rest of the write-in candidates ultimately lost to real-life billionaire and incumbent mayor Michael Bloomberg.
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/10/26/art.clyburn1026.cnn.jpg caption="Clyburn said the presidential nominating process needs to be 'improved'."]
Washington (CNN) – National Democrats are considering changing the presidential nominating process, by establishing a new primary calendar and deemphasizing the influence lawmakers and political insiders have on choosing the party nominee.
The battle for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination was marred by controversy as the Democratic National Committee argued with some state parties over when they could hold their primaries and caucuses and candidates were forced to take sides in this important internal party dispute.
House Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-South Carolina, said that the 2008 nomination contest "yielded a great candidate," but readily acknowledged the problems that arose.
"We need to improve a little bit in spite of the fact that we got a great candidate out of the process," Clyburn said Saturday at a meeting of a DNC working group tasked with drafting a new plan. "It was not very comfortable at various points along the way."
Democrats see an opening to change the system now, because this is "a rare cycle of no apparent Democratic presidential nomination challenge" in 2012 as President Obama is expected to seek a second term, according to the "Draft Report of the Democratic Change Commission," discussed at the meeting.
Commission members, who range from lawmakers and grassroots activists to President Obama's campaign manager, are charged with putting forth recommendations to help expand the Democratic base and increase more ethnic and regional diversity in choosing the party's presidential nominee in 2016 and beyond, assuming Obama seeks a second term.
A commission suggestion would be to allow the first four states that held nominating contests in the January 2008 maintain their early, privileged calendar positions. But these states - Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire and South Carolina - would be directed to delay holding their caucuses and primaries before February 1. All other states would be forbidden from holding their nominating contests until at least the first Tuesday in March.
Another recommendation in the report suggested grouping states by "region or sub-region."
Fairfax, Virginia (CNN)– "It feels like home!" That's what Sarah Palin remarked about the snow falling in Fairfax, Virginia - the latest stop on her book signing tour. Several hundred people waited patiently in line Saturday for a chance to meet the former Republican vice presidential candidate.
"It was absolutely worth it," said Billie Jo Melting of Hampton Roads, Virginia. "With Sarah Palin, it's all about family. She talks to the normal person," she said.
Palin's book "Going Rogue" is a best seller and supporters of the former Alaska governor said they did not want to miss the chance to meet her. "She's like Reagan in heels." That's how Chris Bradford of Manassas, Virginia views Palin. "We need somebody like her to get conservatism going again," he said.
Palin was accompanied by her husband Todd and her infant son Trig as she walked into BJ's Wholesale Club in Fairfax. Once inside, Palin signed copies of her book and posed for pictures with fans.
"She's got everything, said Ron Wolfe of Sterling, Virginia."She's just fantastic."
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/09/29/art.steelem.0929.gi.jpg caption="Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele called for an Ethics Committee hearing on Sen. Baucus Saturday."]
Washington (CNN)– Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele called for a Senate Ethics Committee hearing to evaluate any possible wrongdoing by Sen. Max Baucus Saturday.
In a statement released by the RNC Steele said:
"Today's report that Senator Max Baucus used his Senate office to advance a taxpayer funded appointment for his staff-member girlfriend raises a whole host of ethical questions. This issue demands the attention of the Senate Ethics Committee. They should hold a hearing to identify who was involved in this process, what they knew and when they knew it, and why Senator Baucus put his personal needs above those of the people of Montana."
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/09/22/art.maxbaucus.0922.gi.jpg caption="Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus nominated his girlfriend for U.S. Attorney."]
Washington (CNN)— Sen. Max Baucus’ office confirmed Saturday the Montana Democrat was in a relationship with a woman he also recommended for U.S. Attorney.
According to a statement released by the senator's office, both Baucus and Melodee Hanes decided to withdraw her name for personal reasons, adding that their relationship was not the cause of their respective divorces.
"When Senator Baucus and Melodee Hanes, his former state director, realized that their relationship was developing beyond a purely professional nature, Melodee began the process of resigning her Senate employment," Ty Matsdorf, a spokesman for Sen. Baucus said in a statement. "With an extensive background as a prosecutor and extensive legal experience, Ms. Hanes submitted her name for consideration for the U.S Attorney position from Montana."
The statement, which includes a copy of Hanes' resume, shows years of political and defense experience. Her name was one of six recommended for U.S. Attorney. After "extensive evaluation," by a third party, Hanes' name was submitted as one of three to be considered for the position, it said. After further interviews by Baucus and the junior senator from the state, Jon Tester, Hanes' name was submitted to the White House along with two other top candidates, it added.
"While her personal relationship with Senator Baucus should in no way be either a qualifier or a disqualifier for the position, during the nomination process and after much reflection, both Senator Baucus and Ms. Hanes agreed that she should withdraw her name from consideration because they wanted to live together in Washington, DC," Matsdorf said.
Baucus, the chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee, has been in the spotlight for his prominent role in the health care debate.
UPDATE: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid issued a statement about the development, saying "Max is a good friend an outstanding Senator and he has my full support."
A Democratic leadership aide defended Baucus saying, "she withdrew of her own accord and is not the nominee. There's no real issue here other than that the press likes a good story where they can use the word "girlfriend." It's doubtful that there's any ethical and certainly no legal issues."
–CNN's Dana Bash contributed to this report.
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/11/30/art.palin.928.jpg caption="Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin will speak at the Gridiron dinner Saturday."]
Washington (CNN)– For the first time in its 124-year history, the Gridiron Club is, on a trial basis, partially lifting its "off the record" rule for its annual dinners.
"Ladies are always present; reporters are never present," has been a club motto since the beginning – and its spring and winter dinners billed as an "off the record" night of humorous speeches and musical skits, most of them good naturedly lampooning politicians and the reporters who cover them.
But club leaders announced the experiment Saturday morning, describing it as a bow to the reality of the "Twitter" age.
It is a one-time trial for the winter dinner, which this year features Sarah Palin and Barney Frank as the Republican and Democratic speakers, respectively.
The winter dinner is a smaller affair than the spring event, which normally draws the president and a "who's who" of Washington.
At the winter event, attendance is limited to members and their spouses or one guest.
Club leaders said the policy will be re evaluated after this weekend's dinner.
The event remains closed to media coverage - meaning reporters who are not members or invited guests cannot attend to cover the proceedings - and no photographs are allowed.
At a morning Gridiron meeting, club leaders stressed they hoped reporting of the event would be minimal and urged members not to type notes or "tweet" during the speeches.
But they said it has become common practice for accounts of the dinners to appear in media accounts, and so they had reluctantly decided to experiment with a new policy.
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/11/16/obamajapan.jpg caption="President Barack Obama will go to Capitol Hill Sunday to meet with Senate Democrats."]
Washington (CNN)– President Obama will go to Capitol Hill on Sunday to meet with Senate Democrats, as the health debate rages, a White House official and a senior Democratic source told CNN on Saturday.
The meeting is set for 2 p.m.
The Senate is in session both days this weekend to debate health care and vote on amendments.
Democratic leadership sources admitted that a major motivation for keeping the senators at the Capitol is to keep negotiations going and reach a compromise on a proposed public health care option.
Some Democratic senators have been complaining that the president must get more involved in this intra-party fight.
"I want to see more from the White House," Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said Friday. Brown, a strong supporter of a public option, also said that "the president needs to weigh in. I think that will make it a lot easier."
Roswell, New Mexico (CNN) - Deborah Wright can't remember the exact moment, but her eyes sparkle when asked about her ambition: "I have always wanted to fly planes."
For Jon Huntsman - son of Jon Huntsman Jr., the U.S. ambassador to China and former Utah Republican governor - the spark came during family vacations to Coronado along the California coast near San Diego.
"Watching the Navy SEALs train all day and just wondering, 'What drives those guys out there?' You know? And it's just, serving your country."
To reach their goal, they spend what amounts to their freshman year of college in military uniforms, mixing a stringent class schedule with mandatory physical drills and other military-style training. And they do this far away from home and family, in a remote high desert town: Roswell, New Mexico, better known to most Americans for its UFO museum than as the home of the New Mexico Military Institute.
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/12/04/art.palin1203.gi.jpg caption="Sarah Palin says 'members of the electorate still want answers' about President Obama's citizenship."]Washington (CNN) - Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin defended the public's right to question the legitimacy of President Obama's birth certificate, but noted that she is not demanding for it to be released.
Appearing on conservative radio host Rusty Humphries program, Palin said that she supports people inquiring about it.
"I think the public rightfully is still making it an issue," Palin said in the interview with Humphries. "I don't have a problem with that. I don't know if I would have to bother to make it an issue, because I think that members of the electorate still want answers."
Humphries, whose radio show airs on about 300 stations across the country, went on to press Palin about whether it is "fair" game to ask such questions.
"I think it's a fair question, just like I think past association and past voting records - all of that is fair game," Palin responded.
She also criticized her own presidential campaign for not asking enough questions about Obama.
"The McCain-Palin campaign didn't do a good enough job in that area," the 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate said. "We didn't call out Obama and some of his associates on their records and what their beliefs were and perhaps what some of their future plans were and I don't think that was fair to voters to not have done our job as candidates.
The interview aired at 10:30 p.m. ET, and just a few hours later Palin made it clear in a posting on her Facebook page that she, personally, is not asking to see it.
"Voters have every right to ask candidates for information if they so choose," Palin said. "I've pointed out that it was seemingly fair game during the 2008 election for many on the left to badger my doctor and lawyer for proof that Trig is in fact my child. Conspiracy-minded reporters and voters had a right to ask... which they have repeatedly. But at no point – not during the campaign, and not during recent interviews – have I asked the president to produce his birth certificate or suggested that he was not born in the United States."