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COLORADO: Beauprez Accused of Campaign Law Breach

Democrats are accusing Rep. Bob Beauprez and the man he beat in the 2002 7th district Republican primary of improperly using state resources to promote a joint fundraiser they are holding on Aug. 7.

Documents obtained by state Senate Democrats show that the secretary for Gov. Bill Owens (R) used the governor’s fax machine to send letters to Republican Members of Congress thanking them for co-hosting the fundraiser for Beauprez and Rick O’Donnell.

O’Donnell, the runner-up to Beauprez in the GOP primary, is Owens’ counsel and the director of the state Office of Policy and Initiatives.

The notice that was faxed to Congressional offices — not to their campaign offices — includes O’Donnell’s state Capitol phone number and lists another state employee as the point of contact.

Dan Bartlett, the White House communications director, is scheduled to headline the $1,000-a-head fundraiser, which will be used to retire O’Donnell’s $57,000 debt and raise money for Beauprez’ 2004 re-election effort.

“It appears that this is a serious ethical breach by O’Donnell and Beauprez to further their own political ambitions,” said state Senate Minority Leader Joan Fitz-Gerald (D). “Congressional ethics are very clear that government Congressional offices and staff not be used for fundraising and that is exactly what happened.”

Republicans told the Rocky Mountain News Friday that Owens’ secretary faxed the thank you notices on her lunch hour using the governor’s personal fax machine rather than an official state machine. Sean Murphy, Beauprez’s chief of staff, called the flap a “non-issue.”

— Josh Kurtz

PENNSYLVANIA

DSCC Says Poll Shows Specter Vulnerable in ’04

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee released a poll last week that it said shows Sen. Arlen Specter (R) vulnerable to a challenge from Rep. Joe Hoeffel (D) in 2004. Hoeffel is expected to announce his intention to run for Senate in early to mid-July, possibly as soon as this week.

In a hypothetical head-to-head matchup, the poll found that Specter would beat Hoeffel, who does not have high statewide name recognition, 53 percent to 26 percent.

However, the poll found the percentage of voters who favored Specter’s re-election was just 41 percent, a number similar to that of other incumbents who were later defeated in recent cycles. The poll also found that Specter had an overall job performance rating of 49 percent and a favorability rating of 58 percent.

Still, according to the polling memo, the survey indicates that Specter has a weak image and that the fifth most common description of the Senator was “too much of a politician.”

The poll, conducted June 10-12 by The Mellman Group, surveyed 500 likely voters and had a 4 percent margin of error.

Specter is being challenged in a primary by Rep. Pat Toomey (R).

— Lauren W. Whittington

FLORIDA

Skeptical Hastings Forms Exploratory Committee

Rep. Alcee Hastings (D) announced the formation of a Senate exploratory committee last week, taking the first step toward a run in 2004.

Like all other Florida Democrats who have expressed interest in running, Hastings said he will not run for Senate if Sen. Bob Graham (D) opts to run for re-election. Graham is currently seeking the Democratic presidential nomination.

Hastings, a fifth-generation Floridian, has said previously his interest in the Senate race was piqued by the state’s elimination of runoff elections in 2004.

He believes he would have little trouble coming out on top in a crowded primary, but in an interview Thursday he expressed some doubts about his ability to win the general election.

“The weaker of the Republicans would have to be my opponent at that point,” the 66-year-old Hastings said.

Still, he said he has foreign policy credentials that are rivaled by none of the candidates in the current field. He added, “I’ve been around the track a couple of times and I know that that’s important.”

The first black person to seek statewide office in Florida, Hastings ran for Senate in 1970 and placed fourth in a Democratic primary. In 1979, he became the first black federal judge to serve in the state.

He was later charged in an FBI sting involving case-fixing bribery and acquitted by a federal jury in 1983. He went on to be impeached by the House in 1988 and then removed from the federal bench by the Senate in 1989.

Other Democrats currently seeking the nomination are Rep. Peter Deutsch, Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas and former state Education Commissioner Betty Castor.

— L.W.W.

NORTH CAROLINA

Senate Also-Ran Looks To Run for Watt Seat

Coming off a 1 percent showing in the 2002 Republican Senate primary, physician Ada Fisher is preparing to mount a challenge to Rep. Mel Watt (D).

“Batten down the hatches for this will prove a most interesting race for the constituents of the 12th district,” Fisher said in a statement.

Watt has faced serious competition since winning the seat in 1992.

His toughest race came in 1998 against dentist Scott Keadle (R). Keadle raised and spent better than $380,000 but lost 56 percent to 42 percent.

In that election Keadle benefited from the ongoing fight over the district’s lines, which had been litigated since their creation.

Watt, who is black, was forced to run in a district that was only one-third black, a 20 percent drop-off from the district he had run and won in from 1992 to 1996. In 2000, Watt won 65 percent against a lesser challenger in a district that was 45 percent black.

The district was redrawn in 2001 and remains solidly Democratic. President Bush would have taken less than 40 percent in the new 12th in 2000.

— Chris Cillizza

TEXAS

Speaker: Quorum Likely For Redistricting Session

On the eve of a special legislative session devoted to redistricting, Texas state House Speaker Tom Craddick (R) predicted there will be a quorum of legislators when they convene on Monday.

“I’ve had a lot of members tell me they fully intend to be here,” Craddick told The Associated Press.

When Republican legislators tried to bring up a bill that would radically alter the Congressional map last month, 51 state House Democrats fled to Oklahoma, making it impossible for the GOP to even call up the legislation.

Republicans hold a solid 88-62 majority in the state House; in the state Senate, that margin is tighter with Republicans in control by seven seats. Republicans also hold the governor’s office.

Given its partisan dominance, the GOP — led by House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (Texas) — remains keen on the prospect of redrawing the state’s Congressional lines in hope of making between two and six seats more winnable for Republicans in 2004. Democrats currently control the state’s delegation 17-15.

In order to pass the plan, Republicans need a simple majority in the House and a two-thirds majority in the Senate, meaning that at least two Democrats in the latter body must defect for the bill to pass.

At field hearings around the state last week, Democrats protested the special session vehemently. State legislators sported “Deny DeLay” T-shirts as protesters sought to disrupt the events.

— C.C.

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