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IOWA: Aspirants Draw Straws

Sen. Tom Harkin (D) will hold a drawing Thursday to determine the order of appearance by the six Democratic presidential candidates at public forums he is sponsoring in the Hawkeye State.

The forums, which will be held monthly starting in April, will be moderated by Harkin and allow each candidate 90 minutes to make his case to the people of Iowa, who will cast the first votes of the 2004 presidential race in their party caucuses, tentatively scheduled for Jan. 19.

The gatherings are designed to “promote an open conversation between Iowa Democrats who are likely to attend their precinct caucuses and the candidates,” according to a memo sent to the would-be nominees by Harkin.

Sens. Joe Lieberman (Conn.), John Edwards (N.C.), John Kerry (Mass.) and Bob Graham (Fla.) as well as Rep. Richard Gephardt (Mo.), former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean and the Rev. Al Sharpton are all expected to appear, and others could follow.

Harkin, who ran an aborted presidential campaign of his own in 1992, is expected to pay for the forums — tentatively titled “Hear from the Heartland” — from TOMPAC, his leadership political action committee.

— Chris Cillizza


Burns Bashers Promise Truth on Their Web Site

After last year’s hotly contested election in the 12th district, it should come as no surprise that Democrats aren’t wasting any time targeting Rep. Max Burns (R).

Two college Democratic groups have banded together to launch a Web site attacking the freshman Congressman, who is expected to be one of the Democrats’ top targets this cycle.

The Young Democrats of Georgia and the Georgia Law Democrats have launched, in an effort to expose the Congressman’s “true agenda.”

“Max Burns is an extreme conservative,” the Web site states. “It’s no wonder he is trying to hide his extreme platform. BurnsWatch won’t let him get away with it.”

Burns was elected last year with 55 percent of the vote, after facing a heavily damaged Democratic opponent. The 12th district seat, one of two new seats the state gained during reapportionment, favors Democrats.

“We’re happy that they’ve chosen to exercise their First Amendment right to free speech,” said Burns’ chief of staff, Chris Ingram. “We certainly don’t agree with what they have to say.”

— Lauren W. Whittington


Next Redistricting May Lack the Partisan Brawls

Legislation moving through the state Senate would take the redistricting power out of the hands of lawmakers by establishing a bipartisan commission to redraw the state’s lines after the 2010 Census.

The bill follows a contentious fight in the Legislature following the 2000 Census.

Most of the ill will came on the legislative level, but there was also considerable consternation about Rep. Dennis Moore’s (D-Kan.) 3rd district, which some had hoped to make significantly more Republican. Moore’s district emerged largely intact, however, and he won a tight re-election race last November.

The new proposal, which is being co-sponsored by a Democrat and a Republican in the state Senate, would create a seven-member commission — no more than four of whom could be from the same party — that would spend the two years after the decennial Census crafting lines for state legislative, Congressional and Board of Education districts.

The commission would present its proposal to the state Legislature at the start of the 2012 session, and it would be subject to a straight up-or-down vote. If the map was rejected, the commission would go back to the drawing board. Only after three maps were rejected would the Legislature be called upon to draw lines of its own.

— C.C.


Lieutenant Governor Won’t Tackle Mikulski

Two weeks after telling Roll Call that it was highly unlikely he would challenge Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D) next year, new Lt. Gov. Michael Steele (R) appears to have slammed the door on the idea.

“I will not run for the United States Senate in 2004,” Steele is quoted as saying in Friday’s edition of The Gazette newspapers. “I have to help my governor.”

But Steele did not rule out running for Sen. Paul Sarbanes’ (D) seat in 2006, calling that idea “a whole new ball game.”

The article also seemed to put to rest speculation that former Prince George’s County Executive Wayne Curry, a Democrat, would switch parties and challenge Mikulski. Curry, a Mikulski adviser said, recently called the Senator and assured her that he would not run.

But The Gazette did identify two other Republicans thinking about running for Senate: Political neophyte Josh Rales, a businessman from Potomac, and state Senate Minority Whip Andrew Harris, a physician from Baltimore County. Rales is viewed as a moderate with the resources to run a competitive race; Harris is an anti-abortion conservative.

The Gazette quoted Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R) urging former Rep. Connie Morella (R) to run. She has joked about it, but at age 72 isn’t likely to do so.

In the article, state GOP Chairman John Kane identified Maryland First Lady Kendel Ehrlich, a former prosecutor and public defender, as his “dream candidate” against Mikulski. Conservative journalist Ken Timmerman is also contemplating a Senate run.

— Josh Kurtz


Two More Join Crowded 2004 Senate Primary

The already crowded field of Democratic Senate candidates grew by two last week as one expected candidate and one surprise entrant officially joined the race for Sen. Peter Fitzgerald’s (R) seat.

Joyce Washington, a former health care executive who placed second in a Democratic primary for lieutenant governor last year, announced her Senate candidacy Thursday and filed a statement of organization with the Federal Election Commission on Feb. 5. The 52-year-old Chicago Democrat becomes the second black candidate in the race.

Also last week, state Comptroller Dan Hynes (D) said that he is on the verge of filing paperwork to establish a Senate exploratory committee. A formal announcement will not come until later this spring. The 34-year-old is the only Democrat in the race who has been elected statewide before.

Cook County Commissioner John Daley (D), the brother of Chicago Mayor Richard Daley (D), and Illinois Senate Majority Leader Vince Demuzio (D) are expected to serve as co-chairmen of Hynes’ campaign.

The other Democrats running or expected to run are multimillionaire businessman Blair Hull, state Sen. Barack Obama, attorney Gery Chico, Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas and Metamora Mayor Matt O’Shea.

— L.W.W.

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