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FLORIDA: Martinez Defies Bosses, Won’t Run for Senate

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Mel Martinez (R) has completely shut the door on the possibility of a 2004 Senate run, the Miami Herald reported Wednesday.

Martinez, former chief executive of Orange County, was being pushed by top Republican leaders and the White House to run for the seat of Sen. Bob Graham (D). Graham is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination but has not said definitively that he will not run for re-election.

“I’m not running for the U.S. Senate,” Martinez said. “I can close that door and close it shut.”

The HUD secretary also told the newspaper that he will remain in his post at least through the 2004 elections. Martinez is viewed by many Republicans as a likely gubernatorial candidate in 2006, when Gov. Jeb Bush (R) will leave office due to term limits.

Meanwhile, one of two Republicans already seeking the GOP Senate nomination released new polling this week.

The one-day poll, conducted by McLaughlin & Associates for former Rep. Bill McCollum (R-Fla.), showed him beating Rep. Mark Foley (R) 30 percent to 18 percent. However, Foley, the only other Republican actively campaigning for the Senate seat, notes that McCollum is now running 7 points behind his showing in a similar Senate poll conducted in March 1999.

The poll tested only one Democrat in general election matchups with McCollum and Foley. McCollum, the only candidate tested who has run statewide before, took 32 percent to Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas’ (D) 27 percent in a hypothetical matchup. McCollum was beaten by now-Sen. Bill Nelson (D) in an open-seat race in 2000.

Besides Penelas, Rep. Peter Deutsch and former state Election Commissioner Betty Castor are also seeking the Democratic nomination, and Rep. Alan Boyd (D) appears likely to announce next month that he is also running.

The June 11 survey sample included 500 likely general election voters and 400 likely GOP primary voters. It had a margin of error of 5 percent.

— Lauren W. Whittington


Real World Wausau: Contestant Eyes Obey

A former reality TV show participant is considering a challenge to Rep. David Obey (D) in 2004, the Wausau (Wis.) Daily Herald reported last week.

Sean Duffy (R), who appeared on MTV’s “The Real World: Boston” in 1997 and is now a district attorney, told the paper he has not made up his mind about running.

The 31-year-old Duffy is married to Rachel Campos, another Real World cast member from the San Francisco season. He also competes as a professional lumberjack.

Obey, the ranking member on the House Appropriations Committee, has been re-elected by wide margins in the 7th district since first winning a special election in 1969 and is expected to seek an 18th term in 2004. Last year he defeated Joe Rothbauer (R), who is running again in 2004, 64 percent to 36 percent.

— L.W.W.


GOP Delegation Wants Davis to Take on Lucas

Businessman Geoff Davis (R) received the endorsements Tuesday of Kentucky’s three House Republicans in his second challenge to Rep. Ken Lucas (D) in the 4th district.

Reps. Anne Northup, Ron Lewis and Ed Whitfield all backed Davis in his primary race against attorney Kevin Murphy and former Campbell County Judge-Executive Lloyd Rogers.

“I look forward to serving in Congress with Geoff Davis,” Lewis said in a statement. “I know he’ll do a good job for Kentucky.”

Davis’ Congressional endorsements coupled with the unexpected departure of Campbell County Judge-Executive Steve Pendery (R) from the race last month makes Davis an overwhelming favorite in next year’s primary.

Davis also had a strong financial showing in the first three months of 2003, banking $191,000.

Lucas, who has held the northern Kentucky seat since 1998, will again be at the top of Republicans’ target list.

He beat Davis 51 percent to 48 percent in 2002, but announced shortly after the election that he would break his term-limits pledge and seek re-election in 2004.

The district also tilts heavily to Republicans and would have given George W. Bush 61 percent of the vote in the 2000 presidential election.

— Chris Cillizza


Sooners Want to be Up to Date in W.H. Primary

Continuing their push to make Oklahoma a major player in the presidential primary process, Sooner State Democrats have floated the idea of sponsoring a televised debate for all nine presidential candidates later this summer.

“It is very, very preliminary,” Oklahoma Democratic Party Chairman Jay Parmley told The Associated Press. “We don’t have anything nailed down yet.”

Discussion of a potential August debate coincides with the state Legislature’s recent decision to move the primary from its traditional date on the second Tuesday of March to Feb. 3.

The rescheduling places Oklahoma after the Iowa caucuses on Jan. 19 and the New Hampshire primary on Jan. 27. Arizona, South Carolina, Delaware, Missouri and New Mexico are also scheduled to hold Feb. 3 primaries or caucuses.

— C.C.


Thune Blames Law for Departure From His 527

Former Rep. John Thune (R) explained in a letter to supporters this week that he stepped down from his nascent 527 organization because “federal law often make[s] it difficult to voice our opinions.”

Thune, who is contemplating a bid against Sen. Tom Daschle (D) in 2004, formed South Dakotans for Responsible Government earlier this year to do issue-advocacy work. He recently came under fire for maintaining activity in his federal campaign account while also raising money for the 527.

Under the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, a potential candidate for office who spends better than $5,000 in a federal campaign account cannot also have a soft-money organization.

“We cannot allow uncertainty in federal campaign finance law to continue to silence our advocacy of issues important to South Dakota,” Thune wrote.

Sources familiar with Thune’s thinking insist his decision to distance himself from the 527 was not due to the outcry from Democrats. They argue that Thune will take a role in South Dakota for the re-election campaign of President Bush and could not do so as long as he was affiliated with the group.

— C.C.

Herseth Awaits Daschle, Janklow 2004 Decisions

Coming off a stronger-than-expected showing against Rep. Bill Janklow (R) in the at-large House race last year, Stephanie Herseth (D) remains interested in running for federal office in 2004.

“I haven’t ruled out anything in 2004,” Herseth told a local TV station. “We have to see how the political landscape develops in the next six months.”

Herseth, an attorney who had never run for political office before, won a crowded primary to win the right to face Janklow, a four-term governor who cruised to his party’s nomination.

Janklow struggled to put Herseth away as she raised considerable funds ($1.4 million) and ran an aggressive campaign with the support of national Democrats.

Janklow’s long experience and the state’s Republican lean won out on Election Day, however, as the former governor took a 54 percent to 46 percent victory.

Although Sen. Tom Daschle (D) appears to be running hard for re-election, both he and Janklow have been mentioned as retirement possibilities, and Herseth could wind up running for either of their seats if the incumbents depart. She is considered far less likely to seek a rematch with Janklow if the former governor decides to run again.

— C.C.


Survey Has Campbell With Middling Ratings

A new survey on Colorado voters’ attitudes shows middling approval ratings for Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (D), who is up for a third term in 2004.

The ninth annual “Mind of Colorado” Survey of Public Opinion, sponsored by — here’s a mouthful — the Wells Fargo Public Opinion Program at the Institute for Public Policy at the Graduate School of Public Affairs at the University of Colorado at Denver, found that 37 percent of voters approve of Campbell’s job performance.

That’s based on a system in which the pollsters asked 743 Coloradans to rate their public officials on a scale of one to five. The poll, conducted March 31-May 2, had a margin of error of 3.7 percent.

Campbell’s approval rating is up from 35 percent a year ago. And it’s ahead of where Sen. Wayne Allard (R) was last year, months before he won re-election. Allard’s approval rating now stands at 39 percent after being 32 percent a year ago. Allard beat former U.S. Attorney Tom Strickland 51 percent to 46 percent last year in what was rated a tossup election.

President Bush had a 56 percent approval rating in the poll, down from 62 percent in 2002. Gov. Bill Owens (R) had a 49 percent approval rating, up from 47 percent a year ago.

In the Colorado House delegation, Rep. Mark Udall (D) — touted as a possible Senate contender in 2004 or beyond — had a 45 percent approval rating. Rep. Scott McInnis (R) was right behind with a 44 percent rating.

The rest of the list included Rep. Tom Tancredo (R), 38 percent; Rep. Joel Hefley (R), 37 percent; Rep. Diana DeGette (D), 36 percent; Rep. Bob Beauprez (R), 33 percent; and Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R), 31 percent.

While the Democrats continue to search for a top-tier challenger for Campbell, the Rocky Mountain News reported Wednesday that Colorado University Regent James Martin is considering entering the race.

Martin, a Boulder businessman, won two statewide regents elections as a Republican but switched parties earlier this spring. A Campbell-Martin election would feature two party-switchers; Campbell became a Republican in 1995.

— Josh Kurtz

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