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CALIFORNIA: Newspaper Says Issa Accused a Third Time

As the push to recall Gov. Gray Davis (D) gains momentum and publicity, Rep. Darrell Issa (R), who is funding the effort and wants to run for governor in a recall election, is becoming an increasingly controversial figure.

The San Francisco Chronicle on Wednesday reported that Issa in 1980 was prosecuted with his brother in San Diego for allegedly faking the theft of his brother’s Mercedes and then selling the car to an auto dealer. Although a judge ordered them to stand trial on felony charges and said he had a “strong suspicion” they had committed the crime, a prosecutor later dismissed the case for lack of evidence.

That means that Issa has been accused on at least three occasions of stealing cars. In 1971, when he was enlisted in the Army, Issa was accused by a sergeant of stealing a car from an Army base near Pittsburgh. No charges were filed. A year later, Issa and his brother were charged with stealing a Maserati sports car from a dealership in Cleveland, but charges were subsequently dropped.

Issa became a multimillionaire manufacturer of electronic auto alarms, telling a newspaper he got into the car alarm business “because my brother was a car thief.”

Issa, who in 2002 was re-elected to a second term representing the San Diego area, is the founder and funder of Rescue California, an organization that is collecting signatures to put the recall question on the statewide ballot. State officials said this week that recall proponents have turned in 376,000 petition signatures to force the recall question; they need 897,000 by Sept. 2 to succeed.

In a related development, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) last weekend became the latest big-name California Democrat to say she would not run for governor in a recall election. But despite these declarations of solidarity with the embattled Davis, political observers are not convinced that a major Democrat won’t run for governor if the recall makes it to the ballot.

California Democratic Party leaders are not likely to cede the election to Republicans, even if they complain that the recall effort is illegitimate. Candidates in a recall must file their declarations of candidacy within 59 days of the election; they can get on the ballot by paying a $3,500 filing fee and collecting the signatures of 65 registered voters, or by collecting 10,000 signatures and paying no fee.

Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for the California secretary of state’s office told Roll Call this week that it is unclear whether a scheduled recall election would proceed if Davis resigns before it takes place. Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante (D) — who has also said he won’t run in a recall election — would become governor if Davis left office. Davis vowed this week that he would not resign.

— Josh Kurtz

Radanovich Officially Off Senate Prospect List

Rep. George Radanovich (R) on Wednesday took himself out of the running for the 2004 Senate race.

“I have decided that at this time I am not and will not be a candidate for the U.S. Senate seat temporarily being held by Barbara Boxer,” the five-term Member said in a statement. He will instead run for re-election in his Central Valley district.

Radanovich cited his family commitments and Congressional duties as the main reasons for forgoing the race. And he did not rule out the possibility of running for higher office in the future.

“As a well-known Republican actor said in one of his most famous movie roles: ‘I’ll be back,’” Radanovich said.

His decision leaves former Los Altos Hills Mayor Toni Casey as the only declared candidate in the race to take on Boxer, who some Republicans believe is vulnerable. U.S. Treasurer Rosario Marin, who is resigning on Monday, is also expected to run.

— J.K.


Ex-Governor’s Son Eyes Two Congressional Seats

Former state Rep. Gary King (D) is contemplating running for Congress in both the 1st and 2nd Congressional districts in 2004.

“It’s something that I’m kind of considering right now,” he told Roll Call.

King, the son of former Gov. Bruce King (D), lives in the 1st district but used to live in the 2nd and his family owns ranch land there. He finished second in the 1998 Democratic primary for governor and started running for governor in 2002 but dropped out when former Rep. Bill Richardson (D) entered the contest.

Democrats have targeted 1st district Rep. Heather Wilson (R) since she was first elected in 1998. While she has never won more than 55 percent of the vote, Democrats have never been able to beat her.

But King, who lives in the ranching community of Moriarity, said that Democrats have mistakenly gone after Wilson with Albuquerque liberals rather than with a moderate such as himself.

“I actually have a feeling that I would be a pretty good match-up with Heather Wilson,” he said.

State Senate President Richard Romero (D), who took 45 percent of the vote against Wilson in 2002, said he is likely to try again next year.

In the 2nd district, which covers the southern half of the state, King said Rep. Steve Pearce (R) presents a potentially enticing target because he is a freshman in a competitive district. Former state Sen. John Arthur Smith (D), the Democratic nominee against Pearce, has not ruled out running again.

King believes his father — the dominant Democratic political figure in New Mexico in the past 40 years — would be an asset in either House district.

“I’ve got a name in New Mexico that doesn’t hurt,” he said.

— J.K.


Soy Magnate Hopes To Plow Republican Field

Soy magnate Nathan Tabor (R) officially announced his campaign for Rep. Richard Burr’s (R) 5th district seat Wednesday, joining an already crowded field.

“I’m running for Congress to make sure we have another strong conservative, like Richard Burr supporting President Bush, Tabor said.

He entered the race at Revival Soy, his family’s successful soy processing business. Tabor has served as vice president for sales and marketing at the company since 1999.

Tabor had raised $55,000 in the first three months of 2003.

He has never served in elected office before but notes that Burr hadn’t either when he won the open seat in 1994. Burr had, however, run for Congress in 1992, losing to then-Rep. Steve Neal (D) 53 percent to 46 percent.

In other 5th district news, former state Rep. Ed Powell (R) named minister Coy Privette as the vice chairman of his campaign. Privette is the president of the Christian Action League, a 17-church activist organization, and served in the state Legislature from 1984 to 1992.

Along with Tabor and Powell, state Sen. Virginia Foxx, Winston-Salem City Councilman Vernon Robinson, 2002 Senate candidate Jim Snyder and businessman Jay Helvey are other Republican candidates given a real chance of advancing to a likely runoff, triggered if no candidate gets 40 percent.

No serious Democrats have signaled an interest in the race in the heavily Republican district, which Burr is abandoning to run for the Senate.

— Chris Cillizza


Senate Candidate Fails Hispanic History Test

Long-shot Senate candidate Michael Benjamin (R) is just 33 years old, so he might be forgiven for not knowing his history all that well. But in a news release touting his appearance this weekend at a meeting of the Westchester County Hispanic Republican Committee, Benjamin, whose mother was born in Honduras, spoke of his desire to become the first Hispanic elected to the Senate.

“Hispanics are the most populous minority in the United States, and the time has come for Hispanics to have representation in the U.S. Senate,” he said.

According to the Senate Historian’s Office there have already been three Hispanics in the Senate, all from New Mexico: Octavio Larrazolo (R), who served in 1928 and 1929; Dennis Chavez (D), who served from 1935 to 1962; and Joseph Montoya (D), who served from 1964 to 1977.

Benjamin, a former securities trader, is the only Republican who has declared his intention to challenge Sen. Charles Schumer (D) in 2004.

— J.K.


Hull Meeting Voters on Airwaves, 18-City Tour

Multimillionaire financier Blair Hull (D) officially kicked off his Senate candidacy on Tuesday, by beginning an 18-city announcement tour and airing television and radio ads introducing himself to downstate voters.

Hull, who has pledged to spend as much as $40 million to win a Senate seat, is laying out $750,000 on a two-week ad blitz comprised primarily of 60-second bio spots. The spots paint Hull as the son of New Deal Democrats who used the G.I. Bill to go to college and then later built an investment company from scratch.

Other Democrats seeking the nomination in 2004 include former Chicago School Board Chairman Gerry Chico, state Comptroller Dan Hynes and state Sen. Barack Obama.

On the Republican side, another expected candidate will officially enter the race today. Schwarz Paper Co. President Andy McKenna, 46, will announce he is running for the seat of retiring Sen. Peter Fitzgerald (R) at stops in Chicago and Springfield on Thursday. McKenna had been considering challenging Fitzgerald in a primary before the one-term Senator announced earlier this year he would not seek re-election.

Former Goldman, Sachs & Co. executive turned teacher Jack Ryan and billionaire Chicago-based businessman Chirinjeev Kathuria are the only other Republicans officially in the race, but a handful of other hopefuls are also considering running.

— Lauren W. Whittington


Toomey Tars Specter As Liberal in TV, Radio Ads

Rep. Pat Toomey (R) began running cable TV and radio ads this week attacking Sen. Arlen Specter’s (R) “liberal” record and offering himself as the conservative alternative. The three-term Congressman is challenging the four-term incumbent in a 2004 primary.

In the 30-second TV spot, an announcer boasts that Toomey “led the fight for the Bush tax cut” and that Citizens Against Government Waste “rated Toomey the number one Pennsylvania Congressman.” The TV spot and 60-second radio ad are running in central Pennsylvania markets.

In other Keystone State campaign news this week, Rep. James Greenwood (R) announced that he would break his term-limits pledge and seek a sixth term next year.

“What I didn’t know then … is that it takes a long time in the U.S. Congress to develop the expertise for incredibly complex issues. It takes a very long time to develop clout and influence in Washington,” Greenwood said at a press conference announcing his decision to run again.

Greenwood has easily won re-election in the 8th district since being first elected in 1992. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Bucks County Democratic Chairman John Cordisco is rumored to be looking at challenging Greenwood next year.

— L.W.W.


Ex-Olympian Campbell Flexing Financial Muscle

In an effort to dispel the rumor that he will ultimately decide against seeking a third term in 2004, Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R) told The Denver Post on Monday that he has raised close to $1 million for his campaign.

“The [June 30 financial] report may show only $850,000 or $900,000,” he said. “We’ve still got checks coming in. Our goal is $2 million this year, $2.5 million next.”

Democrats are scrambling to find a top-flight candidate to run for Senate in the Centennial State, and have been holding out hope that the 70-year-old incumbent will decide not to run again.

Michael Miles, a middle school principal from the Colorado Springs area, is the only Democratic candidate to have formally entered the race. Denver District Attorney Bill Ritter Jr. may be the strongest potential Democratic candidate willing to run.

— J.K.


Senator Seeks Bipartisan System for Redistricting

State Sen. Jeff Wentworth (R) is set to sponsor legislation that would create a bipartisan redistricting commission to redraw the state’s Congressional district boundaries when the Legislature meets in a special session that is designed to finally settle the two-year fight over the state’s lines.

Wentworth, who chaired the Senate redistricting committee that failed to pass a redistricting plan in 2001, has sponsored the bipartisan commission bill since 1993 and has met with no success. The commission would be comprised of nonpoliticians and would resemble similar organizations in states like Arizona and Iowa.

Wentworth’s proposal, which is the first piece of legislation offered for the special session that starts Monday, is likely to be overshadowed by the next — and perhaps final — chapter in the Congressional redistricting saga.

Republicans, led by Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas), are hoping to pass a new map that would add between two and six GOP seats to the state’s delegation. DeLay has argued that Democrats’ current two-seat advantage in the delegation does not reflect the Republican makeup of the state.

Democrats insist that the state is fairly divided along partisan lines and that Reps. Charlie Stenholm (D) and Ralph Hall (D), among others, consistently win in Republican-leaning districts.

— C.C.


Michaud’s District At Issue in Remap Fight

Maine Democrats are pushing the state Supreme Court to adopt a GOP-backed redistricting plan instead of a court-proposed plan that they argue is more politically driven and disruptive.

At issue is the boundaries of freshman Rep. Mike Michaud’s swing 2nd district, already the largest Congressional district east of the Mississippi River.

A plan put forth by the Maine Supreme Judicial Court proposes to move all of Knox County and two Lincoln County communities into the 2nd district. The court was forced to intervene in the remapping process because the state Legislature failed to reach an agreement.

Democrats charge that the court-drawn map would further aid Republican efforts to make Michaud’s district more competitive for the GOP. Michaud was elected with 53 percent in 2002.

— L.W.W.

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