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SOUTH CAROLINA: Exploratory Committee For Former AG Condon

Former state Attorney General Charlie Condon (R) opened an exploratory committee late last week to raise money for a potential race against Sen. Fritz Hollings (D) in 2004.

“I am heartened that leading South Carolinians believe that I have much to contribute to our country,” Condon told The State newspaper.

Carroll Campbell III, the son of former Gov. Carroll Campbell (R), will chair Condon’s exploratory effort.

Rep. Jim DeMint (R) has been raising money for his likely Senate bid for several months. He brought in $380,000 in the first three months of 2003 and banked $350,000, according to figures released by his campaign Friday. DeMint hopes to raise $1 million by June 30.

Charleston developer Thomas Ravenel (R), the son of former 1st district Rep. Arthur Ravenel (R), is also expected to enter the race shortly. He met with Bush administration officials Thursday to discuss his bid.

State Rep. Bobby Harrell (R) dropped out of the contest last week, citing family considerations.

Condon is coming off an unsuccessful gubernatorial primary campaign in 2002, when he placed third behind then-Lt. Gov. Bob Peeler and then-Rep. Mark Sanford.

Sanford went on to win the runoff — with Condon’s endorsement — and defeat Gov. Jim Hodges (D) in November.

Hollings remains undecided on whether he will seek an eighth term.

Democrats privately acknowledge that if Hollings decides against a bid for re-election, the party will be hard-pressed to hold the seat.

In 2002, then-Rep. Lindsey Graham (R) won a surprisingly easy 54 percent to 44 percent victory over former College of Charleston president Alex Sanders (D) for the open seat of retiring Sen. Strom Thurmond (R), and there are no obvious successors to Hollings on the Democratic side.

— Chris Cillizza

NORTH CAROLINA

Burr Banks $2M For Likely Senate Run

Rep. Richard Burr (R) continued his torrid fundraising pace in the first three months of the year, swelling his campaign account to better than $2 million as he prepares for an all-but-announced Senate bid.

Burr, a five-term lawmaker from Winston-Salem, brought in $438,000 from Jan. 1 to March 31 and had $2.05 million on hand.

“I am encouraged by the early support my campaign for U.S. Senate is receiving,” Burr said in a statement.

The Burr campaign is set for its biggest financial windfall yet on April 24, when White House senior adviser Karl Rove will speak at a fundraiser in Winston-Salem.

Burr is widely seen as one of Senate Republicans’ best hopes in the 2004 cycle. It remains unclear whether Burr will face freshman Sen. John Edwards (D) or whether he will be competing for an open seat.

Edwards is pursuing the Democratic presidential nomination and has not yet made a decision on whether he will also seek re-election to the Senate.

Edwards raised $7.4 million in the first quarter of 2003 for his presidential account and still has $1.4 million on hand in his Senate campaign coffers.

— C.C.

KENTUCKY

Bunning Won’t Have Playing Field to Himself

While the ongoing governor’s race continues to dominate Bluegrass State politics, former state Attorney General Fred Cowan (D) made his candidacy against Sen. Jim Bunning (R) official last week.

Cowan, who is now an attorney in Louisville, was light on the specifics of his bid, telling the Louisville Courier-Journal, “We will have an announcement later and discuss all those kinds of things.”

He served six years in the state House before being elected as Kentucky’s top crime fighter in 1987. After four years in that post, he lost a primary for lieutenant governor to Paul Patton, who went on to serve eight years as governor.

Patton was widely expected to challenge Bunning when his gubernatorial term ran out this November, but revelations of an extramarital affair have effectively ended his political career.

The leading potential challenger to Bunning is Charlie Owen (D), a Louisville businessman who is currently running for lieutenant governor on a ticket with state Attorney General Ben Chandler (D).

Owen is clearly interested in federal office, having run unsuccessfully for the House and Senate in 1994 and 1998, respectively.

His vast personal wealth makes him an attractive candidate to national Democrats. In his losing effort in the 1994 3rd district primary, Owen spent $800,000 of his own money; he dropped $6.6 million in his challenge to then-Rep. Scotty Baesler (D) in the 1998 Senate primary.

State Treasurer Jonathan Miller is also floated as a potential candidate for Democrats, although he is currently running for a second term in 2003, which could make a Senate run one year later problematic. Jefferson County attorney Irv Maze (D) is another possible candidate.

Bunning won the seat of retiring Sen. Wendell Ford (D) in 1998 by slightly more than 6,000 votes.

— C.C.

ALASKA

Daschle Denies Trying To Sabotage Murkowski

Senate Minority Leader Thomas Daschle (D-S.D.) told an Alaska newspaper last week that he was “astounded” to hear Republicans are accusing Senate Democrats of attempting to sabotage freshman Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R).

According to the Anchorage Daily News, Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) told home-state reporters last week that unnamed “people in Washington” were trying to get Democrats to oppose a Murkowski tax package for an Alaska gas pipeline.

Murkowski, who is likely to face a tough re-election campaign next year, called attempts to kill her proposal for political purposes “criminal.”

Murkowski met with Daschle last week to discuss the rumors, and he assured Alaska reporters that he supports the pipeline proposal.

“Well, I was astounded to hear that anybody thought there were politics there,” he was quoted as saying. “Democrats have been extremely supportive of the pipeline from the very beginning.”

But Daschle did say that he would like to replace Murkowski with a Democrat next year and hopes former Gov. Tony Knowles (D) runs for the seat.

Murkowski is considered potentially vulnerable, in part because she was just appointed to the post in late December and in part because it was her father, Gov. Frank Murkowski (R), a former Senator, who literally gave her the job. Cries of nepotism inevitably followed.

If Knowles decides not to run against her, former Lt. Gov. Fran Ulmer (D) and state House Minority Leader Ethan Berkowitz (D) are possible Senate candidates.

Murkowski could also face a major challenge in the GOP primary, probably from someone who is more conservative than she is. State Railroad Commissioner Johne Binkley is frequently mentioned as a possible primary opponent.

— Josh Kurtz

GEORGIA

State Sen. Lamutt Joins Barr in House Primary

State Sen. Robert Lamutt last week became the second Republican to announce his candidacy for the open 6th district seat, a GOP stronghold.

The district is currently represented by Rep. Johnny Isakson (R), who is running for Senate.

Former Rep. Bob Barr (R) has already announced he is running in the 6th, which encompasses the influential northeastern suburbs of Atlanta.

Lamutt said he is willing to spend up to $1 million of his own money on the race, which is expected to draw a crowded primary field.

— Lauren W. Whittington