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GEORGIA: Chambliss Plays Informal Fundraiser for Isakson

Is Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R) already endorsing Rep. Johnny Isakson’s (R) 2004 bid for Senate?

It sounded as if that might be the case last week, after Isakson introduced Chambliss at a meeting of the Cobb County Chamber of Commerce.

“If you haven’t written him a check, write him a check before you leave here today,” Chambliss told the crowd, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The newspaper also reported that “Chambliss used Monday’s breakfast meeting to stump for Isakson.”

However, a spokeswoman for the Senator denied that he is throwing his support to the only announced GOP candidate in the race to succeed retiring Sen. Zell Miller (D).

“He has not endorsed anyone in the 2004 Senate race,” said Chambliss spokeswoman Michelle Hitt.

Isakson is not guaranteed the GOP nomination and will likely face some primary competition. State Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine and Rep. Jack Kingston are among the other Republicans considering bids.

— Lauren W. Whittington

Maryland

Conservative Journalist Ponders ’04 Senate Run

The author of a controversial 2002 biography of the Rev. Jesse Jackson is contemplating running for the Republican nomination for Senate.

Ken Timmerman, author of “Shakedown: Exposing the Real Jesse Jackson” and books and articles on international and domestic affairs, said he has formed “a study group” to explore whether to challenge three-term Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D) in 2004. He is not raising any money, however.

Timmerman ran an abbreviated race for the GOP Senate nomination in 2000, finishing fifth in an eight-way field with 10 percent of the vote. He has completed a book on anti-Semitism, which will be published this fall, and is also chairman of the Maryland Taxpayers Association, a statewide anti-tax group.

Timmerman said he believes Mikulski’s vote last year opposing granting additional war powers to President Bush makes her vulnerable.

“She’s fully out of step with the people of Maryland in an election where foreign policy will be at the fore,” he said.

Timmerman, a resident of Kensington in suburban Montgomery County, so far is the only potential Republican challenger to put his name forward for the 2004 Senate race.

State GOP leaders are encouraging former Prince George’s County Executive Wayne Curry, a Democrat, to switch parties and seek the nomination, but he has given no signals that he will.

Some Republicans have also touted Lt. Gov. Michael Steele as a Senate candidate, but Steele, who was sworn in a month ago, said recently that he is too new in his job to consider another office.

— Josh Kurtz

Kentucky

Seasoned Pol Joins Fray In Battle for Lucas Seat

Campbell County Judge-Executive Steve Pendery became the third Republican candidate in the race for Rep. Ken Lucas’ (D) 4th district Thursday.

“The longer you work at this thing, the more you realize that the federal government is the key to it all,” Pendery told The Kentucky Post.

Pendery is an experienced politician, appearing on northern Kentucky ballots seven times without a loss. He served three terms on the Fort Thomas City Council, two terms as Fort Thomas mayor, and then defeated a Democratic incumbent to win the post he now holds. He also has close ties to Sen. Jim Bunning (R).

Pendery was unopposed for a second term as judge-executive in 2002.

Pendery joins 2002 nominee Geoff Davis and attorney Kevin Murphy in the GOP race.

Davis, a businessman who did not face serious primary opposition last cycle, took 48 percent of the vote against Lucas in this GOP-tilting district.

Lucas recently announced he would break his three-term pledge and run for re-election in 2004.

— Chris Cillizza

North Carolina

Burr in ‘Final Stages’ of Senate Race Decision

Rep. Richard Burr (R) inched ever closer to an expected Senate run last week, saying he is in “the final stages” of a decision.

“There are still some loose ends I am trying to tie down,” Burr told the Raleigh News & Observer on Wednesday, adding that his announcement will come “in a matter of weeks not months.”

Burr is widely expected to join the race after taking a pass in 2002 out of deference to now-Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R). Dole handily defeated Clinton White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles (D) 54 percent to 45 percent.

A Burr candidacy could keep other interested Republicans like Rep. Walter Jones Jr. (R) from entering the race.

Burr has proved to be a prolific fundraiser — he banked $1.7 million at the end of 2002 — and also has the tacit backing of the White House.

Who Burr’s Democratic opponent will be remains up in the air.

Sen. John Edwards (D) is pursuing the presidency and has not yet made a decision on whether he will run for re-election. Under North Carolina law he can run for both offices simultaneously.

If Edwards chooses not to seek a second term, which seems the more likely scenario, the leading Democratic replacement would be Bowles. Rep. Bob Etheridge and former state representative and 2002 primary candidate Dan Blue are also mentioned in a possible open-seat scenario.

— C.C.

New York

Conservative Challenge To Rep. Boehlert Likely

Cayuga County Legislator David Walrath (R) is edging closer to challenging Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R) to a rematch in the GOP primary for the 24th district House seat next year.

Walrath, who finished 2,800 votes behind Boehlert in the primary last year despite being outspent 10-1, traveled to Washington, D.C., earlier this month and met with an array of interest groups — many of them conservative — that could boost his candidacy against the moderate incumbent. He picked up the endorsement of the American Conservative Union along the way.

The list of right-leaning organizations Walrath met with includes Americans for Tax Reform, the Club for Growth, the Campaign for Working Families, the Conservative Victory Fund, the National Rifle Association, Concerned Women for America and the National Right to Life Committee.

A practicing physician, Walrath also met with representatives of the American College of Surgeons and American Society of General Surgeons.

“This trip has only strengthened my resolve that the people of the 24th Congressional district need new leadership with someone who is more in touch with their values,” he said in a statement last week.

With no Democrat running last November, Boehlert trounced Walrath, who was running on the Conservative Party line, in the general election, taking 71 percent of the vote to Walrath’s 24 percent.

Boehlert, 66, has represented the Mohawk River Valley area of upstate New York since 1983.

— J.K.

Florida

McCollum Disregards Graham and Prepares

Former Rep. Bill McCollum (R) announced his intent to run for Senate last week, regardless of whether Sen. Bob Graham (D) runs for re-election.

McCollum announced his decision in a fundraising letter to supporters, although he wrote that a formal campaign announcement will not take place for a while. The letter, mailed to 15,000 former donors, is expected to arrive in mailboxes this week.

In 2000, McCollum lost a bid to now-Sen. Bill Nelson (D), 51 percent to 46 percent.

While the letter assumes that Graham will run for president and not seek re-election, McCollum made his intention to run clear in a recent interview.

“I plan to be Florida’s next United States Senator,” he told the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times. “I’m in this race regardless.”

The letter notes McCollum’s need to “hire a campaign staff, rent a campaign headquarters and plan an announcement tour.”

He also needs to catch up with the fundraising of another Republican who is likely to seek the party’s nomination.

Rep. Mark Foley (R) has been traveling the state to build support for a Senate run and reported $1.7 million in cash on hand at the end of 2002. He has said he is likely to run for the Senate regardless of Graham’s plans.

McCollum said last week that he already has $30,000 for the campaign.

State House Speaker Johnny Byrd is among the other Republicans considering a bid.

— L.W.W.

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