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NORTH CAROLINA: Plans Unclear, Edwards Still Leads in Senate Poll

Sen. John Edwards (D) held a double-digit lead over Rep. Richard Burr (R) in an independent survey conducted late last month.

Edwards, who is pursuing the Democratic presidential nomination, took 49 percent to Burr’s 35 percent in the Research 2000 poll.

Testing 600 likely voters, the poll was in the field from April 21 to 24 with a 4 percent margin of error.

Edwards’ edge is similar to the 15-point bulge he held in a Research 2000 survey in mid-March.

Burr is considered the all-but-certain Republican nominee. The five-term Member from Winston-Salem has proved to be an able fundraiser, netting more than $2 million in his campaign coffers through March.

Edwards remains undecided on whether he will run for re-election in 2004. Under state law he is allowed to seek national office and his Senate seat simultaneously, but due to the conservative leanings of the Tar Heel State — and the general trend for Democratic presidential candidates to run to the ideological left to win primaries — it seems unlikely that Edwards will follow that route.

His $7.4 million raised in the first three months of 2003, the most of the nine Democratic candidates currently in the race for the White House, also brightened his presidential prospects while dimming the chances that he will make a Senate bid.

In the event Edwards decides against the race, 2002 nominee Erskine Bowles (D) has said he will run. Former state Rep. Dan Blue (D) is also mentioned.

— Chris Cillizza


Fourth Republican Joins Race in Lucas’ District

A fourth Republican candidate has joined the fight to face Rep. Ken Lucas (D) in 2004.

Former Campbell County Judge-Executive Lloyd Rogers (R) was set to file his statement of candidacy with the Federal Election Commission this week.

Current Campbell County Judge-Executive Steve Pendery (R), attorney Kevin Murphy (R) and 2002 4th district nominee Geoff Davis (R) are in the race and raising money.

Davis, a businessman, showed an impressive $216,000 raised and $191,000 on hand through the first three months of 2003.

Rogers, who will turn 70 on June 10, served as Campbell County judge-executive from 1982 to 1986, following 31 years in the employ of Cincinnati Bell Telephone.

The crowded Republican field reveals the party’s optimism about its chances against Lucas, who has held the GOP-leaning northern Kentucky district since 1998.

Lucas, who is one of the House’s most conservative Democrats, initially pledged to serve only three terms when he won the seat but announced earlier this year that he would run for a fourth term.

Davis held Lucas to 51 percent in 2002; the Democratic Congressman had won 53 percent and 54 percent in 1998 and 2000, respectively.

Lucas raised $84,000 with $101,000 left to spend, according to his April quarterly report.

— C.C.


Dent Will Begin Raising Money for Toomey Seat

State Sen. Charlie Dent (R) moved one step closer to officially becoming a candidate in the 15th district this week by filing a statement of candidacy with the FEC.

In a statement Tuesday, Dent stressed that the move is not a formal announcement but rather a necessary step that allows him to raise money for a bid.

Lehigh County Commissioner Joe Pascuzzo (R) is also considering running for the seat, although state and national Republican leaders appear to be firmly behind Dent’s candidacy.

A poll conducted for the Pennsylvania Republican State Committee and released last month showed Dent beating Pascuzzo in a hypothetical matchup, 64 percent to 8 percent. Also, Dent was the guest of honor at two events in Washington last month, one hosted by Rep. Tom Reynolds (N.Y.), chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, and the other by the Keystone State’s GOP House Members.

The swing seat is being vacated by Rep. Pat Toomey (R), who is running for Senate next year. No Democrats have filed to run for the seat so far, although state Sen. Lisa Boscola (D) is considered likely to seek the party’s nomination.

— Lauren W. Whittington


Price May Be Right in 6th District House Race

State Senate Majority Leader Tom Price this week became the second Republican to officially enter the 6th district race to replace Rep. Johnny Isakson (R), who is running for Senate.

Price said he will not resign his state Senate seat in order to run, although he is not expected to serve as Majority Leader during next year’s legislative session.

State Sen. Robert Lamutt (R) is the only other announced candidate currently in the race. State Rep. Robert Hines (R) is reportedly close to entering the contest, and a number of other Republicans are also eyeing a bid. The district, represented by former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R) before Isakson, is considered a GOP stronghold.

Former Rep. Bob Barr (R) was running for the suburban Atlanta seat, but he dropped his candidacy last week.

— L.W.W.


Poll Finds GOP Needs Challenger With Stature

Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D) held a 17-point lead over a leading potential Republican foe in a poll released Wednesday.

Mikulski, who is expected to seek a fourth term next year, led Lt. Gov. Michael Steele (R) — who has all but slammed the door on a Senate run in 2004 — in a head-to-head match up, 54 percent to 37 percent, with 9 percent undecided.

The poll of 804 registered voters was conducted between April 19 and 23 by Gonzales/Arscott Research & Communications, an independent Maryland firm.

“To give the GOP any chance in a contest against a candidate as formidable as … Mikulski, it seems to us, the party is going to have to put forth a nominee with some credibility and stature, such as the recently elected lieutenant governor,” the pollsters wrote in a memo.

But with Steele hesitant to leave the fledgling administration of Gov. Bob Ehrlich (R), it is unclear whom the party will turn to. Joshua Rales, a Potomac attorney and real estate developer who has never run for office before, has said he is considering making the race.

Meanwhile, it appears as if Mikulski will have opposition in the Democratic primary. Robert Fustero, a retired grocery store clerk from Silver Spring who finished second in the Democratic gubernatorial primary last year, has told The Baltimore Sun that he will run.

Fustero captured 20 percent of the vote against heavily favored then-Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend (D), despite being outspent 2,300-1. His surprising showing was a harbinger of things to come for Townsend, who wound up losing to Ehrlich in the heavily Democratic state.

— Josh Kurtz

Legislator Eyes Possible Challenge to Cardin

State Del. David Boschert (R) told The Gazette newspapers recently that he is contemplating challenging Rep. Benjamin Cardin (D) in 2004.

“We’re kind of kicking the tires right now,” Boschert said.

Cardin, who was first elected to Congress in 1986 and has held public office since 1966, has never before had to sweat re-election. But his Baltimore-based district was altered drastically last year in the state’s redistricting process, taking in more conservative Baltimore suburbs than it had before.

In Cardin’s old district, George W. Bush (R) won 34 percent of the vote in 2000; in the new district, Bush would have won 41 percent.

Republicans have never seriously considered challenging Cardin before, but they do believe they would be competitive in an open-seat race in his district. Boschert said he believes Bush’s presence at the top of the ticket could help a GOP candidate there in 2004.

Because he does not have to sacrifice his state House seat to seek the 3rd district seat next year, Boschert essentially has a free pass and has nothing to lose by running. The 55-year-old legislator may also be looking ahead to a time when Cardin does not run again.

Despite his seniority, Cardin is only 59 and shows no signs of retiring. But he is occasionally mentioned as a possible candidate for governor in 2006. Boschert said he would probably make a final decision in June.

— J.K.


Sooner Primary Will Be Sooner Not Later

Oklahoma will hold its presidential primary on Feb. 3, 2004, following a vote Monday by the state Senate.

The Sooner State joins South Carolina, Delaware, Missouri and Arizona, all of which will hold primaries on the first Tuesday in February next year. New Mexico Democrats are hoping to stage a presidential caucus that day.

In recent election cycles, Oklahoma’s primary has fallen in mid-March, long after the nominations for both parties have been sewn up. Pushing the primary forward will bring the candidates to the state more often and expand its role in the nominating process, said state Sen. Keith Leftwich (D), who sponsored the bill.

“I want to make Oklahoma as important to the presidential candidates as Oklahoma is to us,” he told The Associated Press.

Only Iowa’s caucuses on Jan. 19 and New Hampshire’s primary on Jan. 27 would precede Oklahoma’s voting.

Sens. John Kerry (Mass.), John Edwards (N.C.), Joe Lieberman (Conn.) and Bob Graham (Fla.) as well as Reps. Richard Gephardt (Mo.) and Dennis Kucinich (Ohio) are pursuing the Democratic nod. They are joined in the field by former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun (Ill.) and the Rev. Al Sharpton.

— C.C.


NRCC Erases $5 Million Of Its $6 Million Debt

National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Reynolds (N.Y.) told the GOP Conference Wednesday that the NRCC has reduced its debt by $5 million since the beginning of the year.

The committee is now only $1 million in the red after starting 2003 with a $6 million deficit left from the last cycle; it knocked $3.5 million off the total in the first quarter of the year and another $1.5 million in April.

“We’ve raised a lot of money and we’ve been able to pay down the debt in advance of the previous timeline,” said NRCC spokesman Carl Forti. “Chairman Reynolds is doing a great job.”

As of March 31, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee had a $6 million debt.

— Ben Pershing

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