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NATION: Filing Deadline Near, Pelosi Goes on Attack

In a final push for crucial dollars before the March 31 deadline for campaign finance reports, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) sent out an e-mail appeal on behalf of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Tuesday.

“Are you outraged at [Majority Leader] Tom Delay [R-Texas] and the extremist Republicans who control the House of Representatives?” Pelosi writes. “If so, I need your help.”

She goes on to attack the “ultra-conservative agenda” being promoted by House Republicans and accuses them of “passing legislation that will damage our country and our citizens for years to come.” Interestingly, Pelosi makes no mention of the Iraq war.

Pelosi has been featured in a number of mailings by the House Democrats’ campaign arm, which claims that its first direct-mail piece with her signature broke all records for response rates. But financial reports covering the first two months of the year show that Democrats have significant ground to make up. The National Republican Congressional Committee raked in better than $15 million in January and February, roughly five times the $3.2 million raised by the DCCC.

House Democrats were significantly more frugal, however, and the NRCC ended February with just $200,000 more in the bank than the DCCC.

— Chris Cillizza


Recall Gets Green Light, Could Shake Up Politics

In a development that has implications for the 2004 Senate and House races, the California secretary of state’s office on Tuesday gave the green light to activists who are trying to recall Gov. Gray Davis (D).

Supporters of the recall drive now have until Sept. 2 to collect the 897,158 valid signatures of registered voters they need to get the recall on the statewide ballot. If they succeed — and attempts to recall the state’s previous five governors never even made it to the ballot — voters would either consider the measure in the March 2004 primary or in the November 2004 general election.

If the recall were on the ballot, voters would be asked if they supported removing Davis from office. They would also be asked to select a replacement in a nonpartisan ballot with a plurality winner likely.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R), one of a half-dozen Republicans considering challenging Sen. Barbara Boxer (D) next year, has said he might enter the gubernatorial recall contest. So did businessman Bill Simon, the 2002 GOP gubernatorial nominee who is also weighing a Senate race.

Other Republicans who have been mentioned as potential challengers to Boxer are Rep. Doug Ose, Rep. George Radanovich, and U.S. Treasurer Rosario Marin.

— Josh Kurtz


Dunn’s Top Aide Leaves, But What Does It Mean?

Political observers in both Washingtons are trying to divine the meaning of the impending departure of Rep. Jennifer Dunn’s (R) chief of staff, Doug Badger.

Badger is starting a job Monday at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative after working for Dunn for five years. The change comes as Dunn contemplates whether to take on two-term Sen. Patty Murray (D) next year.

“There’s not that much to be read into it,” said Jen Burita, Dunn’s press secretary.

“I have always felt that Doug was a policy person, not a political person,” agreed Chris Vance, chairman of the Washington state Republican Party.

Vance noted that Dunn has not shut down her leadership political action committee or her state PAC. She is expected to inform Republican leaders in April whether she plans to run for Senate. If she doesn’t, Rep. George Nethercutt is the likeliest big-name Republican to challenge Murray.

— J.K.


Club for Growth Backs Isett in Crowded Special

State Rep. Carl Isett (R) received the endorsement of the Club for Growth in the crowded special election to replace the retiring Rep. Larry Combest (R).

“Our members in Texas and around the country are convinced that Carl Isett is the real Reagan Republican in this race,” wrote Club President Stephen Moore. “Carl Isett is the candidate who best exemplifies conservative principles and commitment to economic growth.”

Isett is one of a handful of GOP candidates given a realistic chance of winning the election. Others in the top tier include former Lubbock City Councilman Randy Neugebauer, Midland businessman Mike Conaway and Bill Christian, an aide to former Sen. Phil Gramm (R-Texas.).

If no candidate receives 50 percent of the vote on May 3, the top two votegetters advance to a runoff one month later. Due to the size of the field, a runoff is all but certain.

No Democrat is given a chance in this strongly Republican district.

— C.C.


GOP Chair: Fitzgerald Shouldn’t Have Primary

In one of her strongest statements to date, state Republican Party Chairwoman Judy Baar Topinka this week publicly discouraged a primary challenge to Sen. Peter Fitzgerald (R), considered the most vulnerable Senate incumbent up for re-election next year.

According to a report in the Bloomington (Ill.) Pantagraph, Topinka, who is also the state treasurer, said she is working to unite the party to avoid a repeat of last year’s divisive gubernatorial primary.

“We were [so] busy tearing at our own candidates that we practically wrote the script for the Democrats,” Topinka said at the Livingston County Lincoln Day Dinner on Tuesday. “Peter Fitzgerald is our U.S. Senator and I will tell you that the two of us don’t always agree. But we are going to support him and we are going to get him re-elected.”

After being elected chairwoman in November 2002, Topinka said she would not encourage other Republicans to run against Fitzgerald, but acknowledged she couldn’t stop all of the interested candidates.

Late last year, during a radio interview, Topinka declined to endorse Fitzgerald in her role as state chairwoman or state treasurer, saying only that she would support him as an individual party activist.

Around the same time Topinka was elected, the GOP State Central Committee also rejected an attempt to have the party organization endorse Fitzgerald’s re-election.

Fitzgerald, first elected in 1998, has drawn criticism from many in the state party establishment and has sparred publicly with the state’s top Republican, Speaker Dennis Hastert. Rep. Ray LaHood (R-Ill.) has also publicly invited a Republican challenge to Fitzgerald, although no other candidates have surfaced at this point. Both Hastert and LaHood supported Topinka’s bid to lead the state party.

Fitzgerald has said previously that he has not asked for the support or endorsement of the state GOP leaders, and has instead touted the rift as a “price to pay” for his independence.

— Lauren W. Whittington


Clark to Battle Council Colleague for Burr Seat

Winston-Salem City Councilman Robert Clark (R) announced Monday that he will make the race for Rep. Richard Burr’s (R) 5th district seat following the departures of two high-profile candidates from the contest.

Clark, who was elected to his post in 2001, entered the race following the decisions of Forsyth County Commissioner Pete Brunstetter (R) and former state Rep. Lyons Gray (R) not to run. Both men were considered likely frontrunners if they had signed up.

Clark joins fellow City Councilman Vernon Robinson (R) as the only candidates officially in the race to replace Burr, who is running for the Senate.

State Sen. Virginia Foxx, lobbyist Ed Powell and unsuccessful 2002 Senate candidate Jim Snyder are among the other Republican candidates considering the race. No prominent Democrat has been mentioned as a potential candidate.

Burr is leaving the Winston-Salem-based seat after five terms. It remains unclear whether his opponent will be Sen. John Edwards (D) or whether he will find himself in an open-seat contest. Edwards is currently running for his party’s presidential nomination and although he is legally allowed to run for national office and re-election, he is considered unlikely to do so.

— C.C.


Sen. Campbell Disputes Rumors of Olympic Bid

Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R) appears to have doused water on a recent Washington Post report that he might be angling to be appointed CEO of the U.S. Olympic Committee and would not seek re-election in 2004.

The former Olympic judo competitor was quoted in Wednesday’s Rocky Mountain News saying that while “I have a burning interest in the well-being of the Olympic team … I don’t have any interest” in running the committee.

“There must be a thousand people more qualified than me,” he added.

In a Denver Post report the same day, Campbell said “everybody” knows he’s running for re-election.

Despite the fact that he is putting together a campaign, there are persistent rumors that Campbell may not run in the end. Potential Democratic Senate candidates in Colorado — all of whom are far more likely to run if Campbell doesn’t — include Rep. Mark Udall, Denver Mayor Wellington Webb, and Denver District Attorney Bill Ritter Jr.

— J.K.


What Does Ambitious Pataki Really Want?

An eye-catching New York Times article Monday on Gov. George Pataki’s (R) national ambitions was as notable for what it didn’t say as what it did.

The article described the three-term governor as angling for attention from national Republican officials in the hopes of landing a top-ranking post in the Bush administration (Pataki was said to be eager to be selected as President Bush’s running mate in 2000). It noted that after courting key liberal interest groups in his 2002 re-election campaign, Pataki has veered to the right, insisting that the cash-strapped state government resist all attempts to increase taxes.

The Times article does not even mention that some Republican leaders would love Pataki to challenge Sen. Charles Schumer (D) in 2004 — or better still, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D) in 2006. Surely defeating Clinton — or even coming close enough to damage her politically — would be a huge feather in the cap of any ambitious Republican.

And the article also makes no mention of another New York Republican star, former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, whose own national political ambitions could bump up against Pataki’s sometime in the future

— J.K.


Two Eye Boyd Seat as He Ponders Senate Run

As Rep. Allen Boyd (D) weighs jumping into the Senate race if Sen. Bob Graham (D) makes clear his intention not to seek re-election next year, at least one Republican is expressing interest in running for Boyd’s House seat regardless of what Boyd does.

The Tallahassee Democrat reported recently that state Rep. Bev Kilmer (R) is exploring a run for Boyd’s largely rural, Panhandle 2nd district seat.

“I’m only doing an exploratory look, but I’m exploring it quite seriously,” Kilmer told the newspaper. She also refused to rule out a run even if Boyd seeks re-election.

Although the predominantly rural district is heavily Democratic, Kilmer said her three terms of service in a state House district that is nearly two-thirds Democratic will help her appeal to the Panhandle district’s conservative voters.

“I think I’m past the Republican-Democrat thing,” Kilmer said. “I think voters look at me as someone who works hard for her district.”

Meanwhile, Leon County School Superintendent Bill Montford (D) recently became the first Democrat to publicly acknowledge his interest in the race should Boyd move on.

“It’s an obvious political race for me,” Montford told the Tallahassee newspaper, also noting that he has a good network throughout the education systems in Florida.

Montford is a former high school principal and Leon County commissioner and has been superintendent since 1996.

— L.W.W.

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