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WASHINGTON: Dunn Deal? Poll Shows Her Close to Murray

A recent Republican poll shows Rep. Jennifer Dunn (R) within easy striking distance of two-term Sen. Patty Murray (D) in a trial heat for 2004.

A poll conducted for the National Republican Senatorial Committee in late January showed Murray with 46 percent, Dunn with 42 percent and 12 percent of the voters undecided. The survey of 500 registered Washington voters had a margin of error of 4.4 percent.

Dunn is one of two House Members weighing a challenge to Murray next year, and is expected to announce her plans by the end of the month. Rep. George Nethercutt (R) has said he would like to run if Dunn doesn’t.

— Josh Kurtz

Florida

Graham Says He’s Out If He Runs for W. House

As Sen. Bob Graham (D) recovers from heart surgery and continues to press toward announcing a presidential bid before the end of the month, speculation about a likely open-seat race is on the verge of reaching a feverish pitch.

A Graham spokesman reiterated this week that the Senator will not seek re-election while running for president, which appears likely at this point.

“If he makes the commitment to run for president, he is running for president,” Paul Anderson said. “He has said he won’t hedge his bets by running for both offices.”

However, the door is still open to a scenario where Graham, having lost the presidential nomination, re-enters the Senate race. By law he is barred from running for both offices, but Florida’s filing deadline is not until May of next year.

“That’s a hypothetical at this point,” Anderson said. “He will get in the race fully expecting to win the nomination.”

Democrats moving closer to entering the race include Florida Reps. Peter Deutsch and Alcee Hastings. Hastings has said he will definitely run if Graham does not. Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas (D) is also working to line up support for a Senate run.

Two Republicans all but in the race are Rep. Mark Foley (Fla.) and former Rep. Bill McCollum (Fla.), who was defeated in a 2000 Senate bid. State House Speaker Johnnie Byrd (R) is also considering running.

— Lauren W. Whittington

California

Gray Who? Remember, A Senate Race Is on

While political insiders are obsessing over a nascent effort to recall Gov. Gray Davis (D), which could wind up on the statewide ballot this November if petitioners are successful, the 2004 Senate race is proceeding more quietly.

A recent poll showed Sen. Barbara Boxer (D) with a comfortable lead over four potential challengers.

The poll, conducted for the Correctional Peace Officers Association by the Republican firm Public Opinion Strategies and first published in the Long Beach Press-Telegram, showed Boxer with a 50 percent to 37 percent lead over businessman Bill Simon, the GOP gubernatorial nominee in 2002.

She led Rep. Mary Bono (R) 49 percent to 37 percent, Rep. Doug Ose (R) 53 percent to 34 percent, and Rep. Darrell Issa (R) 53 percent to 32 percent. These are all wider margins than Boxer held in polls at a comparable period during the 1998 election cycle, when she was seeking a second term. She wound up beating state Treasurer Matt Fong (R) by 10 points.

No “name” Republican has formally entered the race.

In related news, one of the celebrities touted as a potential challenger to Boxer has apparently taken himself out of the running. Conservative radio talk-show host Michael Reagan told CNN last week that he has no plans to follow his father, former President Ronald Reagan, into politics — for now.

“Right now I’m going to stick with the radio program and talking about Barbara Boxer,” he said.

— J.K.

Arizona

Presidential Primary Date Moved to Feb. 3

In an attempt to heighten the role the Grand Canyon State will play in choosing the Democratic nominee, Gov. Janet Napolitano (D) signed a proclamation Monday establishing Feb. 3 as the presidential primary date for 2004.

“Everybody knows that having an earlier primary gives us more influence, gives us more national attention and will be better for Arizona voters,” Napolitano told The Arizona Republic.

In 2000, the primary was held Feb. 24; native son Sen. John McCain beat George W. Bush 60 percent to 36 percent in the Republican race, while then-Vice President Al Gore defeated former Sen. Bill Bradley 78 percent to 19 percent on the Democratic side.

Arizona joins South Carolina and Missouri, which are also expected to hold their presidential primaries on the first Tuesday in February.

The Iowa caucuses, where the first blood of the 2004 nomination fight will be drawn, are set tentatively for Jan. 19. The New Hampshire primary is scheduled to follow on Jan. 27. District of Columbia officials are debating a measure that would leapfrog the District’s presidential primary ahead of New Hampshire’s, though it is unlikely that the Democratic National Committee will allow it to vote first.

— Chris Cillizza

Texas

Sutton Entry Makes an Even Dozen Candidates

After postponing her announcement following the Columbia space shuttle explosion last week, former White House staffer Vicki Sutton (R) made her candidacy for the 19th district race official Monday.

“My background and experience mean I can be effective on day one, and I’m the only candidate who will not need on-the-job training,” Sutton said.

She served as assistant director in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy from 1991 to 1993. She is currently a professor at Texas Tech University School of Law in Lubbock.

Sutton plans to emphasize her work on bioterrorism while in Washington, and she has written a book called “Law and Bioterrorism.” She joins 11 other candidates in the special election to replace Rep. Larry Combest (R), who is resigning effective May 31.

The election will be held May 3. If no candidate receives 50 percent of the vote, which is likely, a runoff will be held one month later.

The seat is heavily Republican, and only one Democrat, former newscaster Kay Gaddy, has decided to enter the race. The filing deadline is April 3.

— C.C.

Vermont

McMullen to Try for GOP Nod a 2nd Time

Wealthy businessman Jack McMullen (R) has tossed his hat into the race to challenge Sen. Patrick Leahy (D) in 2004. McMullen is the second Republican to enter the race, joining Peter Moss, a former Environmental Protection Agency employee who moved to the state two years ago.

McMullen sought to challenge Leahy in 1998, but ended up losing in a GOP primary to Fred Tuttle, a dairy farmer turned movie actor. In that race, he endured considerable criticism over his residency. Tuttle ran to protest McMullen’s candidacy and then endorsed Leahy after winning the nomination. Leahy, who won 72 percent in 1998, is heavily favored to win a sixth term next year.

— L.W.W.

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