As several former and current elected officials in Northern Virginia consider a primary bid against embattled Rep. Jim Moran (D) next year, someone with a less familiar name is also eyeing the race.
Washington attorney Jeremy Bash (D) told Roll Call last week that he is seriously thinking about challenging Moran, who has faced a barrage of criticism from both parties after making controversial remarks about the influence of the Jewish community on U.S. policy toward Iraq.
“I’d be flattered to represent this district where I was born and bred,” Bash said.
A knowledgeable source said Bash is likely to enter the race if conversations with community leaders and political activists continue to go well, and he will probably make a decision in about 10 days. Supporters claim that he already has fundraising pledges totaling more than $250,000.
Bash, 31, lives in the District of Columbia and would move back to Virginia in order to run. He grew up in Arlington and graduated from Georgetown University and Harvard Law School. His father is the Rabbi emeritus of the Arlington-Fairfax Jewish Congregation, where he served for 36 years.
Bash, an attorney with O’Melveny & Myers, was foreign and defense policy issues director for then-Vice President Al Gore’s (D) 2000 presidential campaign. He also served on the Florida recount legal team during the protracted election.
In 1994, Bash worked as the Arlington coordinator for Moran’s re-election campaign, but over time his support of the Congressman has waned.
“We need someone who’s going to represent us, not going to embarrass us,” he said.
Several other Democrats said last week they are considering challenging Moran next year. They include state Sen. Leslie Byrne, who served one term in Congress, former Lt. Gov. Don Beyer and Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Kate Hanley.
Both Byrne and Hanley face re-election contests this year; Byrne has been redrawn into a district with another incumbent Democratic Senator.
— Lauren W. Whittington
Keeping Options Open, Hollings Raises Money
Sen. Fritz Hollings (D) held a fundraiser Thursday night in Washington as he continues to keep party leaders and other interested parties guessing whether he will run for an eighth term in 2004.
“He is still in the decision-making process, but he wants to keep both options open,” said Hollings spokesman Andy Davis.
In recent days rumors have been flying that the 81-year-old Senator has decided against running, but Davis said that Hollings is “planning to run.”
The event was held at the Mott House and attended by Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Jon Corzine (N.J.).
Hollings ended 2002 with $933,000 in the bank after raising $191,000 in the last six months of the year — not an overly impressive figure but big enough to give Democrats hope that he might make the race.
Republicans are already lining up for the seat regardless of Hollings’ decision. Rep. Jim DeMint (R) is in the race and raising money, while former state Attorney General Charlie Condon (R) and former Rep. Tommy Hartnett (R) are considering bids.
If Hollings does not run, there is no obvious Democratic successor. Alex Sanders, who lost the 2002 Senate race to then-Rep. Lindsey Graham (R), is the name most often mentioned.
— Chris Cillizza NEW YORK
Possible Schumer Foe Apologizes for Remarks
A rising star in state Republican politics was forced to apologize last week after being accused of making racially insensitive remarks.
Erie County Executive Joel Giambra (R), who is occasionally mentioned as a possible challenger to Sen. Charles Schumer (D) in 2004, said his “clumsiness in communicating” his views about school choice led him to say things that some people found offensive.
According to The Associated Press, Giambra earlier in the week told an education conference that he pulled his children from public schools because one of his kids was being picked on by a minority student and he did not want his children to develop racist feelings. Giambra was using his personal story as an argument in favor of school choice programs, in which the government funds private schools so needy children can attend them.
But his remarks were quickly attacked by black leaders, and the chairman of the Erie County Democratic Party called them “Trent Lott-esque.” Giambra apologized later.
“I left the impression that I blamed African-American children and not incompetent bureaucrats for the failure of a public school,” said Giambra, who is touted as a future candidate for statewide office.
Right now, only civic activist Michael Benjamin (R) has declared his candidacy against Schumer. Rep. Peter King (R) is also considering the race.
— Josh Kurtz
Huckabee Uses Senate Run as Statehouse Stick
Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) said last week that further delay of his proposal to reorganize state government by the Democratic-controlled Legislature would make it more likely that he would run against Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D) in 2004.
Huckabee said he has “given little or no thought to running for Senate. If the Legislature is unwilling to work with me, not giving me much to do, perhaps I will rethink that decision.”
He backed off his comments later in the week, saying they were in response to a rumor that the Legislature was blocking his initiatives to keep him from building a solid record for a Senate race.
Huckabee, who was re-elected in 2002 with 53 percent, is seen as the strongest potential challenger to Lincoln, who won a 1998 open-seat race against ophthalmologist Fay Boozeman (R).
No public polling has been released in the race.
Neugebauer Airs First TV Ads in 19th District
Former Lubbock City Councilman Randy Neugebauer (R) hit the airwaves Thursday with the first television ad of his campaign for the soon-to-be-vacant 19th district seat.
The ad, which began running Thursday night in the Midland media market, touts Neugebauer as a “man of his word” with “faith and deep convictions.”
Neugebauer is considered one of a handful of Republican candidates with a chance to replace Rep. Larry Combest (R), who is resigning his West Texas seat effective May 31.
The special election is set for May 3; if no candidate receives 50 percent of the vote, which is likely, a runoff between the two top votegetters will be held a month later.
The commercial, which was produced by Scott Howell, is targeted at introducing Neugebauer in the southern portion of the district, where he is less well-known.
The other GOP candidates given the best chance of making the runoff are: state Rep. Carl Isett, Midland businessman Mike Conaway, and Bill Christian, a staffer of former Sen. Phil Gramm (R-Texas).
Seeking to capitalize on his Washington, D.C., connections, Christian held fundraisers here on March 4 and 5.
Neugebauer led the money chase at the end of the year, however, with $309,000 in the bank.
No competitive Democratic candidate is running.
GOP Makes a Federal Case of Redistricting
Georgia Republicans filed a federal lawsuit last week challenging the state’s legislative and Congressional lines, arguing that population differences are too great among the districts. The suit also contends that the current maps violate the one-person-one-vote doctrine set by the Constitution.
“The voting strength of [some] citizens … is severely diluted, as citizens in other purported districts have disproportionately greater voting strength,” the lawsuit states.
The suit was filed by 29 voters, including Atlanta-based Republican pollster Whit Ayres and five GOP state legislators. It names Gov. Sonny Perdue (R), state Senate President Pro Tempore Eric Johnson (R), state House Speaker Terry Coleman (D) and Georgia Secretary of State Cathy Cox (D) as defendants.
The current maps, drawn with Democratic gains in mind, were approved in 2001 after a highly partisan redistricting process presided over by the then-Democratic controlled Legislature and then-Gov. Roy Barnes (D).
Survey: Bowles Better Known Than Edwards
Erskine Bowles (D), the 2002 Senate nominee, is better known in the Tar Heel State than Sen. John Edwards (D), according to a recent survey.
Bowles was known by 87 percent of the 771 adults surveyed by Elon University; 81 percent recognized Edwards, who was first elected in 1998 and is currently running for both the Democratic presidential nomination and re-election to his Senate seat.
Both men had slightly higher favorable than unfavorable ratings; Edwards was seen favorably by 37 percent, Bowles by 29 percent. Edwards had a 26 percent unfavorable score to Bowles’ 21 percent.
Edwards is thought to be leaning against re-election in order to focus full time on the presidential race. In the event Edwards doesn’t run, the survey results confirm that Bowles would be the Democrat in the strongest position at the starting blocks.
Rep. Bob Etheridge and former state Rep. Dan Blue, two other Democrats mentioned for the open-seat contest, were known by 54 percent and 37 percent of those tested, respectively.
Rep. Richard Burr (R), who has already announced his Senate candidacy, was known by 36 percent of the sample with 28 percent feeling favorably toward him and only 7 percent unfavorably.