For the past few weeks, Maryland Democrats have been buzzing over a rumor that Rep. Albert Wynn was contemplating challenging Sen. Barbara Mikulski in the March 2004 Democratic primary.
Wynn had heard the rumor, too. So he decided to do something about it. He met with Mikulski recently to tell her it wasn’t true.
“We don’t know where it’s coming from,” said Wynn spokeswoman Amaya Smith.
Maybe it’s coming from Wynn’s own ambition and impatience. He is not alone.
Mikulski is expected to seek a fourth term next year. And the state’s senior Senator, Paul Sarbanes (D), is midway through his fifth term, which runs to 2006. Sarbanes will be 73 then and may choose to run again — a decision that would probably dismay Maryland politicians looking to move up.
“If a [Senate] slot comes open it is something we’d consider running for,” Smith said, evidently referring to her boss.
— Josh Kurtz
Debt Retirement Party Draws Old Opponents
Talk about letting bygones be bygones.
Tonight, one of the unsuccessful candidates in last year’s highly competitive and very expensive 8th district House race, Ira Shapiro (D), is holding a fundraiser to retire his $100,000 debt. And two of the people he ran against in the primary — former state Del. Mark Shriver (D) and the man who won the primary and the general election, new Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D) — are serving on the host committee.
“It’s going to be an interesting event,” Shapiro said.
But Shriver and Van Hollen won’t be the featured attractions. That distinction goes to former Vice President Al Gore and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who is hosting the event at her Washington, D.C., consulting firm. Shapiro knows both from his stint as a trade negotiator in the Clinton White House.
Speaking of the 8th district, the woman who held the seat for eight terms until Van Hollen defeated her, former Rep. Connie Morella (R), will be saluted at a dinner-dance Wednesday night at the Indian Spring Country Club in Silver Spring, Md. — ironically, the same place Van Hollen held his victory party on election night.
Speakers include Maryland Gov. Bob Ehrlich (R), a former Congressional colleague, and fellow Republican moderate Reps. Wayne Gilchrest (Md.) and Amo Houghton (N.Y.).
Wonder if Van Hollen will show up there, too.
Two New Candidates Join Field for Lucas Slot
Attorney Kevin Murphy last week became the second Republican candidate to announce for Rep. Ken Lucas’ (D) 4th district seat, and Campbell County Judge-Executive Steve Pendery is expected to join the race Feb. 6.
Murphy, a former head of the Kenton County Republican Party, has never before run for federal office.
“I’m a supporter of President Bush and I think the country needs to support the president on the war on terrorism and on his economic stimulus package,” Murphy told The Cincinnati Enquirer.
In 1993, Murphy lost a bid for Kenton County attorney.
Pendery, who won his current post in 1998, has close ties to Sen. Jim Bunning (R), who held the seat from 1986 to 1998.
Geoff Davis, the 2002 GOP nominee, is already in the contest for the Republican nomination.
An unheralded businessman making his first bid for office, Davis held Lucas to 51 percent of the vote, his lowest total since winning the northern Kentucky open seat in 1998.
When elected, Lucas pledged to limit himself to three terms, a promise that comes due in 2004. Lucas is openly pondering a Senate race against Sen. Jim Bunning (R); he also may run for a fourth House term.
Because of the Republican nature of his district — Bush would have won by 24 percent of the vote there in 2000 — Lucas will be a perennial GOP target.
— Chris Cillizza
Neugebauer Take Hits $425K, Pays for Pros
Attempting to distinguish himself from the crowded special election field in the 19th district, former Lubbock City Councilman Randy Neugebauer (R) announced last week that he has raised $425,000 and hired a high-powered consulting team.
His impressive early fundraising — $275,000 from individuals — is seeded with $150,000 in personal funds.
Neugebauer’s financial success is coupled with the additions of Todd Olsen, who took over Karl Rove’s direct-mail firm, and media consultant Scott Howell to his campaign team.
Neugebauer is one of four Republican candidates given a serious chance of winning the May 3 special election, which was prompted by Rep. Larry Combest’s (R) decision to resign his seat effective May 31.
If no candidate receives 50 percent of the vote in the primary, the top two votegetters advance to a June 3 runoff.
Neugebauer is currently chairman of the Ports to Plains Coalition, a group dedicated to creating a trade corridor between Texas and Mexico.
The coalition has long been a priority of Combest, who is a confidant of Neugebauer.
The other first-tier Republican candidates include state Rep. Carl Isett, Midland businessman Mike Conaway and former Midland Mayor Carroll Thomas.
The West Texas district heavily favors Republicans and although three Democratic candidates are in the race, they are given little chance of success.
Cox Departure Muddies Democratic Senate Field
Secretary of State Cathy Cox last week became the second prominent Democrat to officially say no to a Senate bid when she notified supporters that she would not seek the seat of retiring Sen. Zell Miller (D) in 2004.
Cox is considered a likely candidate for governor in 2006 and, in an e-mail to supporters, she said she remains devoted to state government issues.
“It is for that reason, more than any other, that I have decided not to be a candidate for the U.S. Senate,” she wrote.
Cox, 44, had been considered one of Democrats’ top potential contenders after former Gov. Roy Barnes (D) said immediately after Miller’s announcement that he would not run.
Former Sen. Max Cleland (D), another top-tier potential candidate, has not officially said whether he will seek the seat, but he is not expected to run.
Other possible Democratic candidates include Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor, state Attorney General Thurbert Baker, state Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond, former Georgia Secretary of State Lewis Massey, former Atlanta Mayor Maynard Jackson and trial lawyer Jim Butler.
Meanwhile, Republicans are gearing up for what is expected to be a crowded primary. Rep. Johnny Isakson (R) has already announced his candidacy, and former Rep. Bob Barr (R) has formed an exploratory committee and is contemplating a bid.
Other Republicans considering the race are Georgia Reps. Jack Kingston, Mac Collins and Charlie Norwood, as well as state Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine and retired Maj. Gen. Rick Goddard.
— Lauren W. Whittington
Lawmaker, Mayor Join Battle Against Fitzgerald
Two more candidates jumped into the race to challenge Sen. Peter Fitzgerald (R) last week, as Democrats prepare for a crowded March 2004 primary.
On the heels of former Sen. Carol Moseley-Braun’s (D) decision not to seek her old seat, state Sen. Barack Obama (D) announced his candidacy Tuesday. Obama had indicated previously that he would defer to Moseley-Braun if she decided to run. He now looks likely to be the only black candidate in the primary. Illinois Democratic Reps. Jesse Jackson Jr. and Danny Davis were among the leaders present at Obama’s announcement.
A surprise entrant in the race also emerged last week when Metamora Mayor Matt O’Shea, a lifelong Republican, announced Friday that he will seek the Democratic nomination for Senate.
O’Shea, 43, has served as mayor of the 2,500-person village near Peoria for one year and served two years as a village trustee and one year as village president before that.
Other Democrats expected to make the race are state Comptroller Dan Hynes, wealthy financier Blair Hull, former Chicago school board President Gery Chico and Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas.
Foley Stays on Trail Despite Graham Health
As Sen. Bob Graham (D) announced that he was delaying his presidential decision last week, Rep. Mark Foley (R) continued to push forward with his likely Senate campaign.
Foley, who has said he is weighing a run for the Senate regardless of Graham’s plans, has been traveling the state to garner support for his bid. The West Palm Beach Congressman had almost $1.8 million in the bank at the end of November.
Graham, 66, said last week that he was set to announce his presidential campaign the first week of February but he will instead undergo open-heart surgery to repair an aortic valve. He will announce a decision about his future plans a month following the procedure.
The three-term Senator is up for re-election in 2004 and is barred by law from running for both offices.
Upon word of Graham’s operation Thursday, Foley immediately issued a statement wishing the Senator well and encouraging his presidential bid.
“As I’ve been told, this is a routine procedure and I fully expect he will soon be back on his feet, whether in Miami or out stumping in Iowa and New Hampshire,” Foley said.
Other Republicans who are weighing a Senate bid if Graham does not run again include former Rep. Bill McCollum, state House Speaker Johnnie Byrd and Jacksonville Mayor John Delaney.
Potential Democratic contenders in an open-seat Senate race include Reps. Peter Deutsch and Alcee Hastings, Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Panelas and former state Attorney General Bob Butterworth.