While it remains unclear whether he will seek re-election in 2004, Sen. Fritz Hollings (D) said last week that he has no plans to endorse a candidate for his party’s presidential nomination.
Hollings, 81, still has not announced if he will run for an eighth term, but in a brief interview he insisted that he will remain neutral in the Democratic presidential primary sweepstakes.
“I am not taking sides,” said Hollings, South Carolina’s senior Senator and the highest ranking Democrat in the state. “I don’t want to because if I start taking sides I will mess up the primary.”
South Carolina is considered by many political observers to be a must-win state for Democrats running for the White House. The primary falls one week after the critical first-in-the-nation New Hampshire primary.
Hollings said he fears an early endorsement by him might lessen the importance of South Carolina’s role in choosing the Democratic presidential nominee. He also noted the influence Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) will have in the nominating process.
“The main thing is we put on a good primary,” Hollings said. “If Clyburn came out that would sort of end half of the primary, and if I came out that would end the other half and nobody would come.”
Hollings also said there is a chance the Democratic presidential candidates could help him with his own fundraisers when they are in the state, but said they are likely to be too busy with their own campaigns.
So far, it appears at least three Republicans will vie for their party’s Senatorial nomination, including former state Attorney General Charlie Condon, Rep. Jim DeMint and Charleston developer Thomas Ravenel.
— Mark Preston
Democrats Worry as Redistrict Panel Meets
In the first act of a drama that could play a key role in the 2004 elections, the state House Redistricting Committee met Thursday to discuss the possibility of redrawing the state’s Congressional lines.
State Rep. Joe Crabb (R), the chairman of the committee, introduced a bill that would leave the current lines intact. Democrats allege that this bill is nothing more than a placeholder to allow Republicans — led by House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (Texas) — to redraw the state’s lines with the hope of eliminating several Democratic incumbents.
The often-contentious hearing epitomized the nearly three-year battle over the shape of the Texas Congressional map.
After the Legislature was unable to produce a map in 2001, a three-judge federal panel released lines that largely maintained the status quo while awarding the two new districts the state gained in reapportionment to Republicans.
Every incumbent in the state was re-elected in 2002, giving Democrats a narrow 17-15 majority in the Congressional delegation.
Democratic Reps. Chet Edwards and Charlie Stenholm are considered prime GOP targets if the lines are reopened.
— Chris Cillizza
Janklow: Please Keep Me in the Senate Mix
Amid a heated back-and-forth between the camps of Sen. Tom Daschle (D) and former Rep. John Thune (R), Rep. Bill Janklow (R) is keeping his name in the mix for a possible 2004 Senate bid.
“I haven’t ruled out anything,” Janklow told the Rapid City Journal last week. “I got elected to be a Congressman and I can’t worry about all that intramural politics and speculation.”
Janklow won the at-large House seat in 2002 after serving four terms as governor of the Mount Rushmore State. He replaced Thune, who had served in the House for six years before leaving to run for Senate.
In that race, Thune was defeated by Sen. Tim Johnson (D) by just 524 votes.
Although Janklow is close to the Bush administration, both the White House and the National Republican Senatorial Committee have made it clear they would back Thune in a primary. Thune was personally recruited into the 2002 Senate race by President Bush; prior to Bush’s entreaties Thune had been an all-but-announced gubernatorial candidate.
Daschle, who earlier in the year decided against a presidential race, appears set to run for a fourth term in 2004. He will report better than $2 million on hand in his April quarterly fundraising report.
Hayes Helps GOP By Deciding to Stay Put
Rep. Robin Hayes (R) took his name out of contention for the 2004 governor’s race, providing a boost to House Republicans in his competitive 8th district seat.
Hayes’ office did not release a statement explaining his decision because of the war in Iraq.
Hayes had run for governor in 1996, when he won the Republican nomination but lost the general election to Democratic Gov. Jim Hunt, 56 percent to 43 percent.
After that race, Hayes won the open seat of retiring Rep. Bill Hefner (D) in 1998 with 51 percent; in a 2000 rematch he won a more decisive 55 percent.
Democrats went after Hayes again in 2002 but after their preferred candidate was soundly defeated in the primary by a young upstart, they seemed to lose interest in the contest. Hayes won with 54 percent.
Pick a Poll: Murkowski Ally Has Voters Happy
A new Republican poll shows that Alaska voters generally approve of the job Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R) has done in her first few months in office.
Conducted by Anchorage-based pollster David Dittman, the survey showed 47 percent approve of the job Murkowski is doing while 22 percent disapprove. Thirty-one percent of those tested were undecided. The poll queried 512 likely voters from March 14 to April 4.
Murkowski was appointed to the office last year by her father, Gov. Frank Murkowski (R). He had served in the Senate for 22 years before being elected governor in November, and under state law was able to name his own successor.
The Dittman numbers stand in stark contrast to a poll conducted by the Mellman Group on behalf of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
In the mid-March Mellman survey, only 33 percent of voters approved of the job Lisa Murkowski was doing in the Senate, while 34 percent disapproved.
Democrats see Alaska as one of their top targets in 2004 assuming they can convince former Gov. Tony Knowles (D) to enter the race.
Legislator Joins Race for Smith’s 7th District Seat
State Rep. Gene DeRossett (R) filed last week to run for the seat of retiring Rep. Nick Smith (R). DeRossett, the founder and president of DeRossett Construction Inc., was first elected to the state House in 1998 to represent portions of Lenawee, Monroe and Washtenaw counties. After the 2001 remapping process, he now represents northern and western Washtenaw County and the northeast portion of Ann Arbor. Term limits prevent him from running for re-election.
State Rep. Clark Bisbee (R) announced in January that he would run for the seat. Smith is adhering to a self-imposed term-limits pledge to serve six terms.
Other Republicans considering the race include Calhoun County Clerk-register Anne Norlander, former state Sen. John Schwarz and former state Sen. Phil Hoffman.
— Lauren W. Whittington
Atlanta Mayor Does Well in New Senate Poll
Democratic hopes of holding the seat of retiring Sen. Zell Miller (D) were bolstered last week by the release of an EMILY’s List poll that showed Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin (D) leading Rep. Johnny Isakson (R), the only candidate to have formally entered the Senate race, by 7 points in a hypothetical matchup.
The poll, conducted March 10-14 by the Feldman Group, showed Franklin with 45 percent to Isakson’s 38 percent in a head-to-head ballot test. It surveyed 800 likely voters and had a margin of error of 3.5 percent.
“Her popularity in the Atlanta suburbs, traditionally part of the Republican base, gives Franklin the potential to alter the partisan equation that might otherwise make a Democratic victory more difficult,” the polling memo states.