The dearth of clear Republican frontrunners to challenge California Sen. Barbara Boxer (D) in 2004 has prompted several wild-card candidates to consider making the race.
In addition to previously reported possibilities — including Arnold Schwarzenegger, who seems to have his sights set on the 2006 gubernatorial contest — conservative radio talk-show host Dennis Prager is now pondering a bid.
P rager was traveling last week and could not be reached for comment, but Los Angeles-based Republican consultant Arnold Steinberg said he has discussed a potential Senate race with the radio host.
“He has not reached a decision, and I don’t know what he will do,” Steinberg said of Prager. “I believe he would be a formidable candidate, and, in the end, he could win a Republican primary and go on to defeat Boxer.”
Prager’s popular radio program has been a fixture on Southern California airwaves for 20 years, and has been nationally syndicated since 1999. His main focuses are Judaism and moral issues, and his official biography features a quote from Buzz magazine calling him “one of the 10 most powerful people in Los Angeles.”
Although he often opines about political issues, Prager is not known as a political activist. A search of FEC records at PoliticalMoneyLine.com showed that Prager’s only campaign contribution in the past three cycles was to the 2002 bid of new Rep. Denise Majette (D-Ga.).
Majette defeated then-Rep. Cynthia McKinney in the Democratic primary with the aid of many Jewish donors who were upset by McKinney’s statements and record on the Middle East.
Apparently Prager is not the only talk-show host pondering a Senate run. In an unsourced item, United Press International’s “Capital Comment” column reported last week that Michael Reagan, son of former President Ronald Reagan, “may be considering a bid.”
If they run, Prager and Reagan would be following in the footsteps of radio and television host Bruce Herschensohn (R), whom Boxer defeated in her first Senate race in 1992.
Another long-shot name currently being floated for a 2004 run is that of state Assemblyman Abel Maldonado (R), the 33-year-old former mayor of Santa Maria who currently represents the San Luis Obispo area on the central coast.
Maldonado is the president of his family’s farming business. His profile as a wealthy Latino moderate could make him viable despite his relative lack of statewide name recognition. He is already somewhat known on the national GOP stage, as he had a prime speaking slot at the 2000 Republican National Convention in Philadelphia.
A source said that Maldonado had already expressed his potential interest in the race to financier Gerald Parsky, President Bush’s point man in California.
Beyond the sleeper candidates, GOP Reps. Darrell Issa, Doug Ose and George Radanovich continue to ponder the race.
As was first reported last week by Scripps Howard News Service, Radanovich plans to start up an exploratory committee by this spring. Ose already has such a committee, while Issa has not yet made any plans for one.
Some California Republicans suggested that Issa was beginning to lean against making a bid, especially since he just received his desired spot on the Energy and Commerce Committee. But a source close to Issa said the Congressman is still considering a run and that a firm decision was still “months away.”
All three lawmakers are wealthy, and any Republican who decides to make the race will have to clear the financial hurdle of gathering $20 million to $30 million in order to be competitive.
As of Dec. 31, Radanovich had $236,000 on hand in his House campaign account. Ose had $488,000 in the bank on the same date, while Issa reported having $244,000 on hand.
Boxer, meanwhile, had $1.4 million on hand as of Dec. 31 after raising $878,000 in the last six months of the year.