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KENTUCKY: DSCC Releases Poll to Gin Up Bunning Race

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee conducted a poll in Kentucky in early June designed to entice candidates into the race against Sen. Jim Bunning (R).

Forty percent of the 612 registered voters tested June 6-8 would vote to re-elect Bunning, while 22 percent said they would consider another candidate and 19 percent indicated they were planning to vote to replace the Senator. The survey had a 4.2 percent margin of error.

The polling was done by by the Garin-Hart-Yang Research Group and an accompanying memo also notes that Bunning received only a 28 percent re-elect score from self-identifying independent and moderate voters, a constituency that was key to his narrow 1998 open-seat victory over then-Rep. Scotty Baesler (D).

In that race, Bunning took 57 percent of moderate and independent voters, according to exit polling, while winning the race by less than 7,000 votes.

Only former state Attorney General Fred Cowan has announced for the Democratic nomination, and state and national leaders continue to look for other candidates.

Among the names most often mentioned are Stan Curtis, a wealthy stockbroker, and state House Speaker Jody Richards, who narrowly lost May’s gubernatorial primary to state Attorney General Ben Chandler.

The DSCC is clearly pursuing a strategy of dangling favorable poll numbers in public with the hope of convincing wavering challengers to make races against potentially vulnerable incumbents.

The committee has already released similar polls in Alaska and Missouri, but has seen no tangible results yet.

— Chris Cillizza


Deutsch Seeks Ruling On Graham’s Status

Rep. Peter Deutsch (D) indicated last week that he may go to court in order to figure out whether Sen. Bob Graham (D), contrary to current belief, is able to simultaneously run for president or vice president and seek re-election to the Senate in 2004.

In a legal brief prepared for Deutsch, one of at least three Democrats likely to seek the seat if Graham does not run for re-election, Tallahassee attorney Mark Herron wrote that the issue is fuzzy because candidates for president and vice president do not “qualify as a candidate” as the term is used in Florida statutes.

“At the very least the law on this issue is unclear,” Herron wrote. “It may be necessary to seek an advisory opinion from the Division of Elections and/or a declaratory judgment from a court of competent jurisdiction in order to resolve this issue in advance of the 2004 qualifying period.”

Deutsch aide Robin Rorapaugh said the Fort Lauderdale-based Congressman wanted to make sure that he and others interested in running for the seat would not be wasting their time by establishing campaigns if Graham is able to seek two offices.

Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas and former state Education Commissioner Betty Castor are also running if Graham does not. Florida Democratic Reps. Allen Boyd and Alcee Hastings are also considering a bid.

— Lauren W. Whittington


Hostetler Kicks Off Bid With NFL Star Brother

Former Penn State football star Ron Hostetler (R) will officially kick off his campaign in the Harrisburg-based 17th district on Monday.

Hostetler and accounting consultant Frank Ryan are currently the only two Republicans vying for the chance to face Rep. Tim Holden (D) in November 2004. Holden narrowly defeated then-Rep. George Gekas (R) in a Member-versus-Member contest last year in a district that favors Republicans.

Hostetler is the brother of former NFL quarterback Jeff Hostetler, who will be the featured guest at his brother’s kickoff event.

In other Keystone State campaign news, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) is scheduled today to attend a campaign event for 9th district Rep. Bill Shuster (R) in Altoona. Shuster, who was elected to succeed his father in a May 2001 special election, is being challenged in a primary by 33-year-old political neophyte Michael DelGrosso (R). DelGrosso’s family owns and operates DelGrosso Foods Inc., which produces 1.5 million cases of tomato sauce each year.

— L.W.W.


Billionaire Joins GOP Field for Senate Race

Chicago-based businessman Chirinjeev Kathuria became the latest wealthy Republican to toss his hat into the open Illinois Senate race last week.

Kathuria, 38, was born in New Delhi, India, and moved to the United States as an infant. His companies are worth an estimated $1 billion.

Former Goldman, Sachs & Co. executive Jack Ryan and Chicago-area businessman Andy McKenna are also seeking the Republican nomination.

Millionaire dairy magnate Jim Oberweis and wealthy businessman John Cox, both of whom lost in a 2002 GOP Senate primary, are among the other Republicans also exploring a bid.

At least a half-dozen Democrats are also running for the seat of retiring Sen. Peter Fitzgerald (R).

— L.W.W.


Controversial Law Man Eyes Lincoln Challenge

Former Benton County Sheriff Andy Lee (R) is considering a challenge to Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D) in 2004.

Lee, who over his 14 years as top cop in Benton County developed something of a controversial reputation, told The Associated Press he was “leaning” toward the race.

Lee began his career as a police officer in Washington, D.C., working for the Metropolitan Police Department from 1969 to 1977. After suffering serious injuries in an accident, Lee moved back to his native Bentonville, where he managed a McDonald’s.

In 1988 he ran and won the sheriff’s post in Benton County.

Credited with revamping the office, Lee has also found his way into the public eye repeatedly over his tenure, earning him the nickname “TV Lee.”

Among his many escapades are banning television, smoking and exercise from the county prisons as well as serving the prisoners only cold meals.

Lee also ordered a copy of the Ten Commandments posted in the booking area of the county’s jails.

If he declares, Lee would bring considerable spice to the race and would also have the distinction of being the first GOPer to enter the contest.

Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) and former Rep. Asa Hutchinson (R) have been mentioned as possible candidates, but neither has given any clear indication of his intentions. Former state Sen. Gunner DeLay, who lost a 2001 runoff in the 3rd district House race, is also reportedly interested.

— C.C.


Young Carnahan Makes Run for House Official

State Rep. Russ Carnahan (D) officially announced his candidacy last week for the 3rd district seat being vacated by Rep. Richard Gephardt (D).

“I think I’m ready for this next chapter in my life,” Carnahan said at his announcement. “Together, let us turn the page of history and begin a new chapter.”

Carnahan has held a St. Louis-based district since 2000 but has one of the most impressive lineages in the history of Missouri politics.

His father, Mel, served as the state’s governor from 1992 to 2000 and was running for the Senate when he was killed in a plane crash on Oct. 16, 2000.

Mel Carnahan won the race posthumously and his wife — and Russ’ mother — Jean was appointed to the seat by the acting Democratic governor.

Jean Carnahan was defeated in 2002 by then-Rep. Jim Talent (R).

In addition, Russ Carnahan’s grandfather, A.S.J. Carnahan, held a Missouri House seat from 1944 to 1958.

State Sen. Steve Stoll and St. Louis Circuit Court Clerk Mariano Favazza are also seeking the Democratic nomination for the seat Gephardt has held since 1976.

— C.C.

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