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Rep. Johnny Isakson (R), the only announced candidate for the seat of retiring Sen. Zell Miller (D), raised just less than $1 million in the first three months of the year, according to projected first quarter fundraising numbers due to be filed with the Federal Election Commission later this month.

The three-term lawmaker also ended March with a little more than $2 million in the bank, his campaign said.

Isakson’s aggressive first-quarter fundraising may help stave off some GOP opponents, although he is still seen as likely to face a primary challenge from the right. Several Democrats are also considering bids, including Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor, Attorney General Thurbert Baker and former Secretary of State Lewis Massey.

— Lauren W. Whittington


Will Committee History Repeat Itself in 2004?

While he has suspended all campaign activities now that the war with Iraq is under way and maintains that he is only “50-50” about challenging Senate Minority Whip Harry Reid (D) next year, Rep. Jim Gibbons (R) has received a plum assignment that could aid him in a Senate campaign.

Gibbons, a Persian Gulf war veteran, was recently appointed chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee’s subcommittee on intelligence and counterterrorism.

“The integration of our intelligence agencies remains one of the highest priorities for our nation,” Gibbons said in a statement. “To prevent terrorist attacks here at home we must ensure that our intelligence agencies are working together and sharing critical information.”

There is some political precedent for such an assignment. In 2001, then-Rep. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) was appointed chairman of the Armed Services Committee’s subcommittee on terrorism and homeland security, an assignment he used to great effect in his successful campaign against then-Sen. Max Cleland (D-Ga.) last year.

— Josh Kurtz


Foley Has Money Edge Over McCollum So Far

The two leading Republican candidates for Senate have raised a combined $1 million in the first quarter of the year, according to their campaigns.

Rep. Mark Foley (R) will report raising $706,000 in the first three months of 2003. He also ended March with a hefty $2.34 million in the bank.

Meanwhile, former Rep. Bill McCollum (R) will report raising $330,000 since announcing his Senate bid in early February.

Foley and McCollum are currently the only Republicans who have expressed their intent to run for the seat of Sen. Bob Graham (D), who is slated to officially announce his presidential run later this month. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Mel Martinez (R), who hails from the state, is also being encouraged to run for the seat.

On the Democratic side, Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas and Rep. Peter Deutsch are considered likely to make a bid if Graham does not seek re-election.

— L.W.W.


High Court Sides With GOP on Redistricting

Ending a lengthy legal battle, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled this week in favor of Republicans in a Mississippi redistricting case. It is the high court’s first decision to be rendered in a case tied to the 2001 redraw of Congressional boundaries.

In a unanimous decision, the court held that a panel of federal judges was right to block a state court plan and draw its own district lines for the 2002 elections. The state court plan had not been pre-cleared for racial bias by the Justice Department, which is required for certain states under the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Democrats had argued that the Republican-controlled Justice Department had deliberately delayed action on the state court plan so that the federal court map, which favored the GOP, would be implemented.

In deciding the case narrowly, however, the court refused to address broader jurisdictional issues, which would have impacted other redistricting disputes across the country. Justices had been asked to clarify whether state or federal courts were the proper venue for deciding Congressional redistricting disputes.

— L.W.W.


Cohen Moving Closer To Challenging Gregg

State Sen. Burt Cohen (D) took the first major step toward a 2004 Senate campaign this week, announcing the formation of an exploratory committee.

Cohen is seeking to challenge Sen. Judd Gregg (R), who is not considered vulnerable in his expected bid for a third term next year. Gregg was re-elected in 1998 with 68 percent of the vote, after facing a Democratic opponent who spent just $29,000.

But despite the fact that Gregg insists that he is happy in his job, some political observers continue to believe he would be receptive to an offer of a high-ranking post in the Bush administration. If that were to happen, there would likely be competitive primary fights in both parties.

Cohen plans to make a decision about the race by this summer.

He had already raised about $100,000 as of March 31, according to his campaign manager, Jesse Burchfield.

— L.W.W.


Marin Knows Deadline, Sounds Like Candidate

U.S. Treasurer Rosario Marin (R), who is being touted as a possible challenger to Sen. Barbara Boxer (D) next year, gave a decidedly partisan speech to a group of Californians in Washington, D.C., this week.

The monthly lunches of the California State Society are usually closed to the press. But Marin insisted that reporters be invited, then played coy when they asked her about her political plans.

She said merely that she’s “flattered” by all the attention, and said the fact that people from all walks of life are encouraging her to run “raises some serious reservations about the people in power.”

“I think it’s amazing, the speculation,” Marin said.

After beginning her speech with an April Fool’s Day joke about Rep. George Radanovich (R), who is also thinking about running for Senate and introduced her to the luncheon, Marin attacked California Gov. Gray Davis (D) for his handling of the state budget crisis.

That line would be a surefire winner before a Republican audience, though the California State Society is nonpartisan.

Marin also endorsed President Bush’s economic stimulus package, saying the proposed tax cuts would boost the sagging economy.

While Marin is noncommittal about the race, she made it abundantly clear that she is very aware of the filing deadline — Nov. 30. And she was accompanied by Mike Collins, a Washington-based Republican consultant, who said he was staffing Marin as a volunteer.

“If Rosario Marin were to run for the Senate against Barbara Boxer, it would be Barbara Boxer’s worst nightmare,” he said.

— J.K.


Legislator Raises Money For Gilchrest Challenge

State Sen. Richard Colburn (R) officially announced last week that he would challenge Rep. Wayne Gilchrest (R) in the 1st district primary next year.

Colburn, a three-term state Senator who has also served in the House of Delegates, called Gilchrest too liberal for the Eastern Shore-based district, and said he has dreamed of serving in Congress since he was in the fourth grade.

Gilchrest, who was first elected in 1990, beat back a well-funded primary challenge from conservative lawyer David Fischer last year, holding Fischer to 36 percent of the vote. Colburn finished a distant fourth to Gilchrest in the 1990 GOP primary.

Colburn, who is also the town manager in Federalsburg (population 1,900), does not have to sacrifice his Senate seat to run for Congress next year. He had a low-dollar fundraiser for the House race last Friday night. State officials are prohibited from raising money while the state Legislature is in session, as it is now, but that law does not apply to Congressional races.

— J.K

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