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MARYLAND: Gilchrest Likely to Face Challenge From Right

It looks as if Rep. Wayne Gilchrest (R) will face another Republican primary challenge in 2004.

State Sen. Richard Colburn (R), one of the most conservative members of the state Legislature, told Roll Call this week that he is “98 or 99 percent sure” that he will take on the seven-term Congressman in the March primary and plans to make a final decision in the next few weeks.

Last year, the politically moderate Gilchrest held off a vigorous primary challenge from 32-year-old lawyer David Fischer in a district that is centered on the Eastern Shore but takes in some Baltimore suburbs.

Fischer was aided by several national conservative groups, including the Club for Growth, which accused Gilchrest of being a “Republican in name only.” Colburn said he would use the same line of attack.

“It’s basically the liberal Republican versus the conservative Republican,” he said. “Nice guy — we just have totally different philosophies. The 1st Congressional district should be represented by a conservative.”

Colburn said he has not begun raising money yet and has not been in touch with the organizations that supported Fischer. Club for Growth President Stephen Moore said he would be interested in talking with Colburn.

“Without knowing anything about him, just the fact that he’s a state Senator means that he’s a proven votegetter,” Moore said.

Fischer spent $567,000 in 2002, winning 36 percent of the vote against Gilchrest; $291,000 of that came from his own pocket. Fischer has moved out of the 1st district and is not planning to run there again.

Tony Caligiuri, Gilchrest’s chief of staff, said that if Fischer could not beat his boss with all his resources in a post-redistricting year, he doubted Colburn would.

“If lightning was going to strike it was probably going to strike last time,” he said.

— Josh Kurtz


College President May Aim for Head of Class

Add Mercer University President Kirby Godsey to the list of Democrats considering running for the seat of retiring Sen. Zell Miller (D) next year.

Godsey, who has served as the university’s president since 1979, has no previous political experience but has been eyeing a run for public office for some time.

The Macon Telegraph reported Wednesday that a group of individuals has approached Godsey about running, although it is unclear who is asking him to consider a bid. State Democratic Party officials said they have not talked to Godsey.

“It’s my understanding that he is going to give this consideration over the next few days, but he certainly has not made up his mind at this point,” said Mercer spokesman Cecil Staton, who lost a bid for Congress in the 11th district GOP primary last year.

Rep. Johnny Isakson (R) is the only announced candidate of either party currently in the Senate race. Other Democrats mulling a bid include Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor, state Attorney General Thurbert Baker and former Georgia Secretary of State Lewis Massey.

— Lauren W. Whittington


Springer Hasn’t Sprung, Fingerhut Enters Fray

State Sen. Eric Fingerhut announced his Senate candidacy this week, becoming the first Democrat to enter the race to take on Sen. George Voinovich (R) next year.

Fingerhut, who served one term in Congress, was defeated by now-Rep. Steve LaTourette (R) in 1994. The 43-year-old attorney now works at the Cleveland-based Federation for Community Planning.

In announcing his candidacy, Fingerhut addressed the prospect of enduring a high-profile primary against tabloid TV talk-show host Jerry Springer, who has said he is considering a Senate bid.

“It’s inconceivable to me that this party would make the morally irredeemable decision to nominate this guy,” Fingerhut said, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Voinovich, a popular former governor and mayor of Cleveland, is favored to win a second term next year. He has not yet announced his re-election bid.

— L.W.W.


Forgoing White House, Dodd May Face Author

After deciding earlier in the week not to run for president, Sen. Chris Dodd (D) is already facing a potential challenge for a fifth term.

Author Paul Streitz (R) has said he is considering making the race, his first run for elective office.

Streitz signaled that he would focus on toughening immigration laws and work to keep more jobs in the United States to boost the economy.

“Certain things have to fundamentally change to stop our slide,” Streitz told the Connecticut Post. “Connecticut is an industrial wasteland; we’ve lost so many factories.”

Dodd looks extremely strong for re-election. He ended the year with $1.6 million on hand and has never dipped below 56 percent since winning the seat in 1980. In his last race, Dodd defeated former Rep. Gary Franks (R) 65 percent to 32 percent while outspending him by nearly $3 million.

— Chris Cillizza


Cordova to Try Again, But He Won’t Be Alone

After a near-miss in 2002, venture capitalist George Cordova (D) said Monday that he will make a second run against Rep. Rick Renzi (R) in 2004.

Cordova is the first Democratic candidate to announce his intentions, but several others who ran in 2002, including Apache County Attorney Steve Udall, former Clinton administration official Fred DuVal and state Sen. Diane Prescott, could follow.

Cordova was the surprise winner of the Sept. 10 primary, besting Udall by less than 1,000 votes. As a result, national Democrats were uncertain about his viability and did not fully fund the race.

Cordova did not raise much money on his own — $655,000 — and was grossly outspent by the wealthy Renzi. In the end, however, Renzi only won 49 percent to 46 percent. Renzi is seen as one of the top targets for national Democrats in this swing district.

— C.C.


Special Election Contest Loses, Gains Candidates

Former Midland Mayor Carroll Thomas (R) dropped out of the 19th district special election race, citing an inability to raise the funds necessary to run a winning campaign.

“My withdrawal is based on not generating sufficient funds for a successful campaign of this magnitude,” Thomas told the Odessa American.

The special election in the heavily Republican district to replace Rep. Larry Combest (R), who is resigning effective May 31, will be held May 3.

Former Lubbock City Councilman Randy Neugebauer (R) ended the year with $309,000 in the bank after loaning his campaign $150,000 in personal funds. He was set to begin a radio ads today.

Midland businessman Mike Conaway (R) showed $47,000 in his campaign coffers; state Rep. Carl Isett (R) had $15,000 in his war chest.

Although a number of other GOP candidates are in the race — including attorney Stace Williams, who joined last weekend — Isett, Conaway, Neugebauer and former Lubbock Mayor David Langston, a former Democrat, are considered the top tier.

If no one gets 50 percent on May 3, a run-off for the top two finishers will be held a month later.

— C.C.


Civil Rights Group Sues To Change 4th District

A year and a half after new Congressional lines were approved, a group of 4th district residents has filed a federal lawsuit claiming that the voting power of black citizens was diluted so considerably that it affected a Democratic candidate’s ability to run there.

Rep. Randy Forbes (R) won the seat in a June 2001 special election, beating state Sen. Louise Lucas (D) by 4 points. Lucas challenged Forbes again last year but dropped out of the race early, citing weak financial support.

About 38,000 black residents were pushed out of the southeastern district when new lines were drawn, and the suit charges that Lucas, who is black, was forced to pull out of the race because a “critical number of African-American voters” were removed.

The suit seeks to have the 2001 redistricting plan approved by the Virginia General Assembly nullified and new lines drawn to better reflect the racial makeup of the district.

The suit was filed in U.S. District Court last month on behalf of nine 4th district voters by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. A Democratic challenge to redrawn General Assembly districts failed last fall when the state Supreme Court rejected claims that Republicans had racially gerrymandered those districts.

— L.W.W.

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