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MISSOURI: Gephardt Ally’s Foe Drops Out of ’04 Race

Less than a month after entering the race, state Rep. Rick Johnson (D) announced last week that he would not pursue the seat being vacated by Rep. Richard Gephardt (D).

Johnson said family considerations were his prime motivation for deciding against the race, although he also talked with state Sen. Steve Stoll (D), another candidate, prior to his decision.

Stoll, who is seen as the candidate favored by Gephardt’s Missouri political machine, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that he urged Johnson to drop out.

St. Louis Circuit Clerk Mariano Favazza (D) is still expected to run.

State Reps. Catherine Enz and Zane Yates are seen as the two most likely Republicans to enter the open-seat contest, although neither has made a final decision.

The seat favors Democrats, as George W. Bush would have taken only 43 percent of the 3rd district vote in the 2000 presidential election.

Gephardt is leaving the suburban St. Louis district he has held since 1976 to make a second bid for the presidency. He ran in 1988 but ran out of money after winning the Iowa caucus and dropped out of the race less than two months later.

— Chris Cillizza


First Candidate Enters Race for Rep. Smith Seat

State Rep. Clark Bisbee (R) filed papers late last month to become the first candidate to enter the race for retiring Rep. Nick Smith’s (R) seat.

Smith has said he will adhere to a self-imposed term-limits pledge and retire at the end of the 108th Congress after serving for six terms. He expects six to eight candidates to eventually get into the race to succeed him.

The southern 7th district voted 52 percent for George W. Bush in the 2000 presidential election.

“The district is seven times bigger, so we need to get going early,” Bisbee told The Jackson (Mich.) Citizen Patriot, referring to the size of his state House district.

Smith, meanwhile, said recently that he is weighing a challenge to first-term Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D) in 2006.

— Lauren W. Whittington


Former Mayor, a Party Switcher, Enters Special

Former Lubbock Mayor David Langston has switched parties to run as a Republican in the crowded 19th district special election.

“I feel the Republican Party best represents my views as well as the people of West Texas,” Langston told the Midland Reporter-Telegram. “I believe that I am the type of compassionate conservative that can make a difference.”

Langston served as mayor of Lubbock from 1992 to 1996. After being elected to a third two-year term, he resigned to run in a special election for a West Texas seat in the state Senate.

He lost that race to state Sen. Robert Duncan (R) in a December 1996 runoff, a victory that handed control of the state Senate to Republicans for the first time since 1872.

In that race, then-Gov. George W. Bush campaigned extensively for Duncan.

Langston joins state Rep. Carl Isett, former Midland Mayor Carroll Thomas and Midland businessman Mike Conaway in the top tier of candidates in the May 3 election to replace Rep. Larry Combest (R).

Combest has held the West Texas seat since 1984 but announced shortly after the 2002 election that he would resign effective May 31.

Former television newscaster Kaye Gaddy is the only announced Democratic candidate in this solidly Republican district. If no candidate gets 50 percent of the vote in the open primary, a runoff between the top two finishers will be held in June.

— C.C.


Equal Time? Broadcaster Will Try for Senate Seat

With Sen. Bob Graham (D) set to undergo open-heart surgery this week, the first challenger entered the Sunshine State Senate race Friday.

Nationally syndicated conservative radio broadcaster Andy Martin (R) announced his candidacy last week. The one-time assistant to the late Sen. Paul Douglas (D-Ill.) took 34 percent of the vote in a 1998 GOP Senate primary.

In a statement announcing his candidacy, Martin said he will criticize the Bush administration’s Middle East policies and “fight for racial and religious tolerance.”

According to his campaign Web site, he promises a campaign to “shake up the Republican Party.”

Graham, who was set to announce a presidential bid this month before he found out that he had to have the surgery, is expected to say next month whether he will run for president or re-election in 2004. He is heavily favored to win re-election if he runs.

Martin resides in West Palm Beach, also home to Rep. Mark Foley (R), who is ginning up support for a Senate bid. Several other candidates would likely get into the race if Graham does not seek re-election.

— L.W.W.

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