Sen. Byron Dorgan (D) raised $345,000 in the first three months of the year and has $853,000 left on hand, a financial report filed with the Federal Election Commission showed.
Despite the Republican tendencies of the state, Dorgan has held elected office continuously since 1969. In his past two re-election races, he won 59 percent and 63 percent, respectively.
Republicans remain optimistic, however, that if they can convince former Gov. Ed Schafer (R) to challenge Dorgan, this seat could develop into one of their best takeover opportunities of the 2004 cycle.
Schafer, who served two terms as governor of the state from 1992 to 2000, has said publicly he is not interested in the race. He has filed no paperwork with the FEC that would allow him to raise money for such a contest.
— Chris Cillizza
Running or Not, Issa Stumps for Something
Rep. Darrell Issa (R), one of a half-dozen Republicans mentioned as possible challengers to Sen. Barbara Boxer (D) in 2004, gave his strongest hints yet last week that he’d like to become a candidate for governor if the attempt to recall Gov. Gray Davis (D) succeeds.
But a day later, Issa appeared to pull back somewhat.
In Thursday’s edition of The Fresno Bee, Issa, who spent part of the Congressional recess stumping throughout the state, said he would be a candidate for governor in a March 2004 recall election if organizers succeed in getting it on the ballot.
He suggested that his presence as a candidate would aid the effort because, he said, “You can’t beat someone with no one. We need a candidate. I am that candidate.”
But in Friday’s San Diego Union Tribune, Issa, a wealthy owner of an electronics firm, hedged somewhat about becoming a candidate, and said he did not want to subsidize the recall effort.
“I don’t want this to be about Issa writing a check,” he said.
Organizers of the recall must present about 900,000 valid signatures of registered voters to the California secretary of state’s office by Sept. 2 to put it on the March 2004 primary ballot. If there is a ballot question, voters will be asked simultaneously whether they want to recall Davis and, if so, with whom of a list of declared candidates would they want to replace him.
In the wake of Thursday’s Bee article, the California Democratic Party issued a major attack on Issa’s ethics, questioning his military service, his indictment as a teen-ager for stealing a car (charges were later dismissed) and his business practices.
— Josh Kurtz
Watt Not: Congressman Won’t Seek Senate Seat
Rep. Mel Watt (D) took himself out of the running for the seat of Sen. John Edwards (D), who is running for president and has not yet decided whether he will seek re-election in 2004.
“I basically closed that door two years ago,” Watt told the Raleigh News and Observer, referring to his flirtation in 2002 with the open-seat race to replace Sen. Jesse Helms (R).
Watt, who is black, has held the 12th district since it was created in 1992. Although the district’s bizarre shape has been changed repeatedly at the behest of a federal court, Watt has held it relatively easily, never dipping below 56 percent.
The most likely Democratic replacement for Edwards in the event he chooses not to run again is 2002 Senate nominee Erskine Bowles. He took 45 percent of the vote against Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R).
Also mentioned as a possible candidate is former state Rep. Dan Blue, who placed second to Bowles in the Senate primary. A number of Democrats have mentioned Rep. Bob Etheridge (D) as a potentially strong candidate but the four-term Member seems uninterested at this point.
Republicans seem to have settled on Rep. Richard Burr as their chosen nominee regardless of whether Edwards seeks re-election.
Burr has already piled up more than $2 million in a campaign account for the race, and he hosted White House political adviser Karl Rove for a fundraiser that netted $650,000 for his campaign last Thursday.
GOP Field Growing in Burr’s House District
The GOP field continues to grow in the race to replace Rep. Richard Burr (R) in the Winston-Salem-based 5th district.
State Sen. Virginia Foxx became the latest candidate to officially announce her candidacy, while businessman Jay Helvey is expected to run as well, according to RothenbergPoliticalReport.com.
They would join Winston-Salem City Councilmen Vernon Robinson and Robert Clark in the GOP primary.
Attorney Jim Snyder, who placed a distant second in a 2002 primary race against Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R), is also mentioned.
Foxx is in her fifth term in the state Senate; she defeated a fellow Republican incumbent in a 2002 primary and easily won the general election.
Already Foxx’s candidacy has stirred controversy. A 5th district resident has been e-mailing a document called the “Foxx Report” around the district, accusing Foxx of being a “political crossdresser” for her moderate credentials.
Foxx has alleged that Robinson is behind the e-mails but he has denied responsibility.
Helvey is a former managing director of J.P. Morgan who now operates his own investment firm in Winston-Salem. Forsyth County Commissioner Peter Brunstetter (R), who was considered a leading candidate for the seat, has signed on to serve as campaign co-chairman.
The fight for Burr’s seat is likely to be decided in the primary as the district would have given George W. Bush 68 percent in the 2000 presidential election.
GOP Waits on Edgar While Poshard Ponders
As Republicans continue to wait for a decision by former Gov. Jim Edgar, another prominent Democrat has thrown his name into the open-seat mix.
Glenn Poshard (D), the party’s 1998 gubernatorial nominee and a former down-state Congressman, is interested in the race, according to a report in the Chicago Sun-Times.
Poshard held the 19th district from 1988 to 1998 when he ran for governor. After winning a crowded primary with 38 percent, he lost the general election to former Gov. George Ryan (R) 51 percent to 47 percent.
The Democratic field is already crowded with candidates who had expected to be running for the right to face vulnerable freshman Sen. Peter Fitzgerald (R). He bowed out of the race on April 15. The candidates are state Comptroller Dan Hynes, wealthy businessman Blair Hull, state Sen. Barack Obama, former Chicago School Board Chairman Gery Chico, Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas and health care advocate Joyce Washington.
Meanwhile, Republicans are waiting on Edgar. The former governor met with his closest advisers Friday to discuss the race and said a decision would come sooner rather than later.
A number of national Republicans, including President Bush, have urged Edgar to run.
In the event he chooses against the race, state Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka, the state party chairwoman, is seen as the next best option, though she is thought to be more interested in running for governor in 2006.
Jake Flake May Take on Renzi in GOP Primary
State House Speaker Jake Flake (R), the uncle of 6th district Rep. Jeff Flake (R), is considering a primary challenge to freshman Rep. Rick Renzi (R), according to The Arizona Republic.
Flake, who is a Mormon, could pose a significant threat to Renzi in this sprawling northeastern Arizona district created in the 2001 redistricting process.
Mormons make up a significant portion of the GOP primary electorate — estimated at 40 percent by one Arizona source — and the 2002 open-seat primary featured two Mormon candidates. Renzi spent freely out of his own pocket to win with 25 percent, beating out Navajo County Supervisor Lewis Tenney, a Mormon.
Democrats see Renzi as one of the most vulnerable Republicans up in 2004. A number of names are mentioned as possible challengers, including 2002 nominee George Cordova, former Clinton administration aide Fred DuVal and Apache County Attorney Steve Udall.