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SOUTH CAROLINA: Condon’s Poll Shows Him Ahead of DeMint

Former state Attorney General Charlie Condon (R) holds an early lead over three primary opponents, according to a poll conducted for his campaign.

Condon took 27 percent to Rep. Jim DeMint’s 19 percent, while Charleston attorney Thomas Ravenel and Myrtle Beach Mayor Mark McBride each received 4 percent.

The survey of 500 likely voters was done by Basswood Research on April 29 and had a 4.4 percent margin of error.

All four men are fighting for the right to take on Sen. Fritz Hollings (D) in 2004. Hollings has not yet decided whether he will seek an eighth term.

Condon’s early primary lead is likely attributable to his name identification advantage over his opponents. He spent eight years as attorney general and ran for governor in 2002, placing third in a GOP primary.

DeMint, who is seen as Condon’s most serious competitor, has held the Up Country 4th district seat since 1998.

His predecessor, former Rep. Bob Inglis (R), lost to Hollings 53 percent to 46 percent in 1998.

— Chris Cillizza


Knowles Visits Senators, Who Urge Him to Run

You’d think it was J-Lo for all the excitement he generated.

In fact, it was just former Alaska Gov. Tony Knowles (D) who was spotted walking the hallways of various Senate office buildings on Tuesday.

Not that that’s insignificant: Knowles and his wife, Susan, were in town at the invitation of Democratic Senate leaders, who are urging him to challenge first-year Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R) in 2004. The spies who saw Knowles tipped off Alaska newspapers, who wrote about his visit in Wednesday’s editions.

Knowles, whose second term as governor ended in December, is still noncommittal about getting back into politics and running for the Senate. But according to the Anchorage Daily News, former aides recently compiled a 52-book page that lists his accomplishments as governor — a possible prelude to a Senate run. The book was funded by certain oil companies, which wield plenty of political power in the state.

Democrats believe Murkowski — who was appointed to the Senate by her father, Alaska Gov. (and former Sen.) Frank Murkowski (R) — is vulnerable next year, and they believe Knowles is the Democrat who will give her the toughest race. Democrats seem content to let Knowles take all the time he needs to make a decision.

If Knowles does not run, other possible Democratic challengers include former Lt. Gov. Fran Ulmer and state House Minority Leader Ethan Berkowitz. Murkowski could also face opposition in a Republican primary.

— Josh Kurtz


Dixie Chicks Will Stump for Sen. Lincoln

Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D) will hold a Washington, D.C., fundraiser with the Dixie Chicks, the country music trio that has recently drawn the ire of conservatives for their comments about President Bush.

The June 25 fundraiser, which was first reported by the Arkansas News Bureau, will raise money for Lincoln’s 2004 Senate race.

Drew Goesl, a spokesman for Lincoln, said the fundraiser was scheduled prior to the anti-war comments by lead singer Natalie Maines that she was “ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas.”

“Senator Lincoln does not agree with what the Dixie Chicks said, but does support the right of free speech,” Goesl said.

First elected in 1998 to the seat vacated by Sen. Dale Bumpers (D), Lincoln is a top target of Senate Republicans this cycle.

She has done a solid job of positioning herself near the ideological center of the Senate and has also shown an ability to raise money.

At the end of March, Lincoln banked $1.2 million.

While much of the Republican recruiting attention early in the year was focused on Gov. Mike Huckabee (R), in the past few weeks former Rep. Asa Hutchinson (R) has stepped into the limelight.

Hutchinson insists he is not interested in a Senate bid, but he has spoken to Bush White House political operative Karl Rove and indicated to GOP officials that he would run if asked to do so by the president.

— C.C.


Schumer’s Campaign Pays $130,000 FEC Fine

Sen. Charles Schumer (D) last month quietly paid the Federal Election Commission a $130,000 fine for campaign finance violations in his 1998 challenge to then-Sen. Alfonse D’Amato (R).

The FEC found that dozens of Schumer donors had exceeded campaign contribution limits, and ordered the Schumer campaign to pay a $130,000 penalty to the agency plus refunds totaling $120,000 to 77 contributors.

It is unclear whether the campaign finance violations will hurt Schumer in his re-election bid next year. The Senator has $14.8 million in the bank, and so far only a little-known Republican, Michael Benjamin, has declared his intention to challenge Schumer.

— J.K.

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