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Lt. Gov. Joe Maxwell (D), who was considered one of the strongest potential Democratic challengers to Sen. Kit Bond (R) next year, is expected to announce today that he will not seek that office and will instead run for re-election.

Maxwell has scheduled a news conference for today, and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that he has been telling close associates that he will not challenge Bond.

This leaves Democrats continuing to search for a strong challenger in a state that they believe represents one of their best pick-up opportunities. In each of his three successful Senate races, Bond — who is also a former Missouri governor — has never won more than 53 percent of the vote.

The Post-Dispatch reported that state Sen. Ken Jacob (D), who was considered likely to run for lieutenant governor if Maxwell had run for Senate, is now thinking about making the Senate race. Jacob, 54, is in his second term representing the Columbia area in the Senate. He also spent 14 years in the state House.

— Josh Kurtz

GOP Talks to Attorney About Gephardt’s Seat

State Republicans are actively trying to recruit attorney and former state Rep. Zane Yates to run for retiring Rep. Richard Gephardt’s (D) 3rd district seat, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported last weekend.

Yates has already met with national Republican campaign operatives in Washington about the race.

A long list of Democrats are also eyeing the race to succeed Gephardt, who is running for president and will not seek re-election next year.

Democrats likely to seek the seat include state Sen. Steve Stoll, former state Rep. Joan Barry, St. Louis Circuit Clerk Mariano Favazza and state Rep. Russ Carnahan, the son of former Sen. Jean Carnahan (D-Mo.).

— Lauren W. Whittington


Clay Seeking Rematch After Close 2002 Result

Former Bibb County Commissioner Calder Clay (R), who narrowly lost an open-seat race to now-Rep. Jim Marshall (D) in 2002, officially announced this week that he will seek a rematch next year.

Marshall defeated Clay by just 1,528 votes in the 3rd district, which was altered heavily during redistricting in favor of Democrats.

“Last time we lost by one percent. Next time we go all the way,” Clay said at a fundraiser last weekend during the state GOP convention, according to The Macon Telegraph.

Clay, a real estate businessman and former Macon City Council member, raised about $2 million for the race in the previous cycle, and he raised an estimated $75,000 at the breakfast event last weekend.

Clay is hoping to capitalize on the fact that Marshall will have a voting record this time, and he has indicated that next year’s race will be more akin to last year’s Senate battle, when then Rep. Saxby Chambliss (R) ousted Sen. Max Cleland (D). Much of the territory Chambliss represented in the House is now contained in the 3rd district.

— L.W.W.


Teamsters Give Hynes An Early Endorsement

State Comptroller Dan Hynes, one of a half-dozen Democrats running in the open-seat Senate race next year, nabbed two key labor endorsements this week.

The Teamsters Joint Council 25 endorsed Hynes on Tuesday, and today the Teamsters Joint Council 65 is expected to announce its backing of the Illinois comptroller’s Senate bid.

Council 25 represents local unions in the Chicago area, while Council 65 represents Teamsters locals throughout the rest of the state; with a combined membership of 145,000.

Meanwhile, yet another Democrat expressed interest in the race to succeed retiring Sen. Peter Fitzgerald (R) this week.

Millionaire trial lawyer John Simmons has notified friends and supporters that he intends to run for the nomination. Simmons hails from Madison County, which includes the East St. Louis suburbs, making him one of only two candidates eyeing the Democratic race hailing from downstate.

Simmons’ entrance in the race would bring the current field of Democrats running or talking about running to eight. Hynes, millionaire financier Blair Hull, state Sen. Barack Obama, former Chicago school board Chairman Gery Chico and health care executive Joyce Washington are all currently in the primary.

— L.W.W.


Councilwoman Won’t Be Leaving Las Vegas

While Republicans wait to see whether Rep. Jim Gibbons (R) decides to take on Senate Minority Whip Harry Reid (D) next year, a potential GOP fallback Senate candidate this week took herself out of the race.

Las Vegas City Councilwoman Lynette Boggs McDonald (R) told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that she would not run.

“2004 is not going to be a Lynette year,” she said.

McDonald was the Republican nominee last year in the 1st House district. Although the GOP had high hopes about her prospects at first, she lost to Rep. Shelley Berkley (D) 54 percent to 43 percent. McDonald said she would consider running for Nevada secretary of state in 2006.

— J.K.

Democratic Rising Star Questioned by the Feds

Meanwhile, another 2002 Congressional loser from the Silver State may be facing major legal problems.

Former Clark County Commissioner Dario Herrera (D), the Democratic nominee in the new 3rd Congressional district last year, was one of several current and former officials in Las Vegas and San Diego named in a sweeping FBI corruption probe. An aspect of the investigation, according to several news sources, is whether the Clark County Commission impeded an earlier police investigation into the activities of a notorious strip club owner who had ties to the Gambino crime family.

Law-enforcement authorities would not say whether Herrera was a target of the new investigation or merely a witness, but Nevada newspapers report that he has hired a lawyer. He told The Associated Press last week that the investigation had taken him by “complete surprise.”

Herrera, 29, was considered a rising political star by state and national Democrats. But during the 2002 Congressional campaign it was revealed that he had received a loan from a convicted felon and had received a lucrative consulting contract from the county government. He wound up losing to now-Rep. Jon Porter (R) by 19 points.

— J.K.


Davis Lashes Out at Issa for Recall Moves

Gov. Gray Davis (D), who has tried to ignore the activists who are seeking to remove him from office through a recall vote, took his first swipe this week at Rep. Darrell Issa (R), who is funding the recall effort and has said he will run for governor if the recall is on the statewide ballot.

“A recall is supposed to be for some abuse of office — ‘Something outrageous has happened and we have to recall him,’” Davis is quoted as saying in Wednesday’s Sacramento Bee. “It shouldn’t just be, ‘Oh I want to be governor, here’s a cheap way for me to go in the back door rather than go in the front door like everyone else.’”

But Issa and other advocates of the recall have said that Davis’ mishandling of the state budget is reason enough to remove him from office. California is facing a budget deficit of roughly $35 billion, and to bring home their point, recall organizers were expected to picket in front of a Sacramento TV studio Wednesday night, where ABC News was taping a special report on the state’s budget crisis.

Recall advocates must produce 900,000 valid petition signatures from registered California voters to the secretary of state’s office by September to get the measure on the statewide ballot.

But Issa is hoping they get enough signatures by mid-July — that way, a recall question could be on the ballot in November instead of March 2004, when huge numbers of Democrats are expected to go to the polls in what could be a decisive presidential primary.

— J.K.


Nethercutt ‘Right Down The Middle’ on Race

Rep. George Nethercutt (R) told a Vancouver, Wash., newspaper this week that he is still a few months away from deciding whether to challenge two-term Sen. Patty Murray (D) next year.

“I’m right down the middle,” Nethercutt told The Columbian, adding that he would need $10 million or more to win.

As of March 31, Nethercutt had just $82,000 in the bank, compared to Murray’s $1.6 million.

Nethercutt did say that he was summoned to the White House earlier this month to discuss the race with White House Political Director Ken Mehlman. And he has just sent out the requisite fundraising letter, comparing Murray with Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) and Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.).

But Nethercutt also said he is closing in on becoming a Cardinal on the Appropriations Committee as he accumulates seniority in the House, and said that would be a consideration in his decision whether to challenge Murray.

— J.K.


Castor Candidacy Adds Geographic Diversity

Former University of South Florida President Betty Castor (D) announced this week she is actively laying the groundwork for a run for Senate, if Sen. Bob Graham (D) does not seek re-election.

Castor was in Washington on Monday to meet with Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee representatives and attend an EMILY’s List fundraiser.

Castor, 62, is a former state Education commissioner and served as USF president from 1993 to 1999. The school is located in Tampa, and Castor has a high profile in the surrounding central Florida region.

Her candidacy would bring further geographic diversity to the likely Democratic primary field. Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas (D) and Rep. Peter Deutsch (D), both of whom hail from the southern tip of the state, are currently the only other Democrats all but in the race, assuming Graham is not.

Florida Democratic Reps. Alan Boyd, who represents Tallahassee and parts of the Panhandle, and Alcee Hastings, whose district is in the southeast part of the state, are also considering bids.

— L.W.W.

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