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CALIFORNIA: Sharon Davis Rips Issa, Stands by Her Man

Sharon Davis, wife of embattled Gov. Gray Davis (D) was in Washington, D.C., Wednesday to defend her husband and blast the movement to recall him, which is being fueled by Rep. Darrell Issa (R), among many others.

She said her husband would not resign, despite rumors to the contrary, even though a recall vote looks all but certain to make it to the statewide ballot sometime between October of this year and March 2004.

Davis called Issa’s maneuvers a “hostile takeover” and predicted that the two-term Congressman, the only declared Republican candidate in the recall election, would not win.

Issa is “extraordinarily conservative, much more conservative” than California voters, she said.

Davis expressed doubt that the GOP would be able to limit the number of Republican candidates, and of potential celebrity contender Arnold Schwarzenegger, she said people are “not jumping for the chance for Arnold to come in and solve the big financial problems.”

Reflecting on Gray Davis’ perceived lack of charisma — Davis herself described her husband as “stoic”— she said that past California governors have not been particularly charismatic, either.

“Pete Wilson, I don’t think anybody accused him of being Mr. Excitement, and yet they elected him governor. George Deukmejian, no one said he set the world on fire,” she said.

Davis also squashed rumors that her name might appear as a candidate on the recall ballot.

— David Perera


New Poll Shows Daschle Leading Thune

With former Rep. John Thune’s (R) candidacy against Sen. Tom Daschle (D) looking more and more likely, a new GOP poll shows the Senate Minority Leader with a narrow edge over the Republican.

Daschle led Thune 46 percent to 40 percent in the Fabrizio, McLaughlin & Associates survey, which was conducted July 9 and 10, testing 400 likely voters. It had a 4.9 percent margin of error.

The firm did several polls in the 2002 race between Thune and Sen. Tim Johnson (D), although it was not involved directly with the Thune campaign. It does have strong connections, however, to McLaughlin and Associates, which handled Thune’s polling for the early part of the campaign.

The McLaughlin brothers — John and Jim — were formerly partners with Tony Fabrizio; John left in 1995 and Jim departed in 2001. Fabrizio decided to maintain the name of the firm.

Thune is not likely to make a decision on the race until the fall, although he is expected to run.

He may not have the primary field to himself, however, as former governor and current Rep. Bill Janklow (R) is also interested in the race. Janklow is expected to undergo heart surgery Friday, casting some doubt about his willingness to embark on a Senate campaign.

Daschle has never faced a serious re- election contest after winning his seat in 1986 by knocking off then-Sen. Jim Abdnor (R).

— Chris Cillizza


Pollster: Nepotism Rap Will Hurt Murkowski

A new Democratic poll shows former Gov. Tony Knowles (D) defeating rookie Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R) by 12 points in a hypothetical 2004 Senate race.

The survey of 350 Alaskans by Democratic pollster Ivan Moore showed Knowles favored by 52 percent of the voters and Murkowski by 40 percent of the voters. Conducted July 9-12, the poll had a 5 percent margin of error.

Knowles, a former two-term governor who just entered the Senate race last week, benefited from his experience and name recognition, Moore told the Web site. Murkowski, who was appointed to the Senate last December by her father and predecessor, Gov. Frank Murkowski (R), appeared to be hurt by the charges of nepotism.

Knowles had a favorable rating of 60 percent and an unfavorable rating of 34 percent, while Murkowski’s favorable to unfavorable marks were 44 percent to 35 percent.

“She’s going to have a tough time,” Moore said.

Murkowski could also face a challenge in the Republican primary next year from Teamsters leader Jerry Hood or Alaska Railroad Corp. Chairman Johne Binkley.

She does start with a fundraising advantage — she had $814,000 in the bank as of June 30 — but Knowles and the potential GOP challengers will be able to raise money quickly in what should become Alaska’s most expensive political race of all time.

— Josh Kurtz


Senate News: Byrd May Take Off; Castor Pleased

State House Speaker Johnnie Byrd (R) announced this week that he is forming an exploratory committee to assess running for Senate next year.

Byrd, who has raised $118,000 in June through a political committee he controls, was elected to the state Legislature in 1996 and has one more year left in his term as speaker.

Rep. Mark Foley and former Rep. Bill McCollum are already running in the GOP primary for the seat of Sen. Bob Graham (D). Graham is running for president but has not shut the door completely on running for re-election next year. GOP Reps. Katherine Harris and Dave Weldon, as well as state Sen. Daniel Webster (R) are also considering running.

Meanwhile, on the Democratic side, aides to former state Education Commissioner Betty Castor (D), who is running for Senate, are cooing over the release of GOP poll numbers that show Castor as the only Democrat beating both McCollum and Foley in early head-to-head matchups.

Portions of the poll, conducted by McLaughlin and Associates for McCollum’s campaign, were released last month by McCollum’s campaign although the matchups with Castor were not made public.

The full list of general election trial heats was printed in the June 30 edition of The Polling Report and they showed Castor and McCollum in a virtual dead heat, with each taking 33 percent and 31 percent, respectively, in a hypothetical matchup. The poll had a margin of error of 5 percent.

The poll showed Castor further ahead of Foley, 35 percent to 26 percent.

Other Democrats running are Rep. Peter Deutsch and Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas. Rep. Allen Boyd (D), who is weighing a bid, has a conference call with reporters scheduled for this morning to discuss his plans. Rep. Alcee Hastings (D) formed an exploratory committee last month to look at running.

— Lauren W. Whittington


Three Republicans Seek To Challenge Sen. Dodd

Sen. Chris Dodd (D) will not have a totally clear path to a fifth term in 2004, as three Republicans are mulling potential candidacies.

Miriam Masullo, who ran in the 1st district in 2002, author Paul Steitz and Taco Bell manager William Bentley have all filed the necessary papers with the Federal Election Commission to begin raising money for the race.

Masullo has the highest profile of the three, although none is given a serious chance of defeating Dodd. She lost to attorney Phil Steele (R) in the September 2002 House primary despite having secured the party endorsement.

Dodd is one of a handful of Senators that appear to be impregnable to a serious challenge next year.

In 1998, Dodd defeated former Rep. Gary Franks (R) 65 percent to 32 percent. In that race he outspent Franks at a better than two-to-one clip. Dodd showed almost $2.8 million in his bank account at the end of June.

— C.C.


Former Ashcroft Aide Preparing For House Bid

A former official at the Justice Department has moved back to the Sunflower State and is pondering a run against Rep. Dennis Moore (D) in 2004.

Kris Kobach, a former Overland Park City Councilman, served as counsel to Attorney General John Ashcroft before resigning his post last week.

Kobach was elected to the city council in 1999 and quickly ran for the state Senate in 2000. He placed third out of four candidates in a Republican primary although he received roughly one-quarter of the vote.

He resigned from the council in August 2001 to accept a White House fellowship.

Kobach joins 2002 nominee Adam Taff, state Rep. Patricia Barbieri-Lightner, and physician Jeff Colyer as potential Republican challengers to Moore.

Moore is considered one of the most vulnerable House Democrats, but has regularly beat back serious GOPers since winning the seat in 1998.

In 2002, Taff took 47 percent against Moore, the same percentage then-state Rep. Phill Kline (R) got against Moore in 2000.

— C.C.


Brown Makes 2nd Bid; Crowded Primary Seen

Wealthy ophthalmologist Melissa Brown (R) officially entered the open 13th district race on Monday, making a second run for the seat currently held by Rep. Joe Hoeffel (D).

Brown lost to Hoeffel, who is leaving the House to run for Senate, by just 3 percentage points last year.

Still, Brown will have to win a primary before making it onto the ballot again in November 2004. State Rep. Ellen Bard (R) announced on Tuesday that she is also running for the suburban Philadelphia seat. Al Taubenberger, who ran and lost to Brown in the 2002 GOP primary, and financial analyst Joe McColgan have also announced they will seek the GOP nod next year.

On the Democratic side, state Rep. Mark Cohen has said he plans to run. National Constitution Center President Joe Torsella, state Sen. Allyson Schwartz and Philadelphia Controller Jonathan Saidel are among those considering the race.

— L.W.W.


Democrats Hope Farmer Will Plow Senate Field

State Treasurer Nancy Farmer (D) is the latest flavor-of-the-month for Democrats hoping to give Sen. Kit Bond (R) a real race in 2004.

After saying that she was not interested in running, Farmer appears to be taking a second look.

“She’s talking to a lot of people,” a Farmer spokeswoman told The Kansas City Star.

Farmer was elected to her current post in 2000 with 52 percent of the vote despite being outspent by more than $600,000.

Previously she had served as assistant state treasurer under Bob Holden, who narrowly won the governor’s office himself in 2000. Farmer also served three terms in the state House.

Farmer is the third statewide elected official national Democrats have tried to convince to make the race.

State Auditor Claire McCaskill, considered the strongest potential challenger to Bond, has ruled out a Senate bid although she is still mulling a primary challenge to Holden. Lt. Gov. Joe Maxwell expressed interest in a run but decided against it, citing the amount of money he would need to raise.

At the end of June, Bond had $2.8 million stowed away.

In his last re-election race, Bond took 53 percent against state Attorney General Jay Nixon (D), whose campaign was plagued by his poor relationship with the black community.

— C.C.


Democrats’ Redistricting Challenge Set for Sept.

The state Supreme Court announced this week that it would not hear the Democrats’ challenge to the state’s new House district lines until Sept. 8. Lawyers’ briefs in the case are due on Friday.

For now, Democratic strategists will have to cope with a Congressional map that makes it far tougher to penetrate the GOP’s five-to-two edge in Colorado’s Congressional delegation. The 7th district in particular, which freshman Rep. Bob Beauprez (R) won by just 121 votes in November, is now far more heavily Republican, though the court could choose to revise the lines yet again.

The redistricting plan pushed through by Republicans in the final days of the legislative session also divided heavily-Democratic Pueblo into two districts, making it more difficult for the Democrats to pick up Rep. Scott McInnis’ (R) 3rd district seat whenever he retires. McInnis is considered likely to run for governor in 2006.

In related news, Beauprez reported debts of more than $450,000 dating back to his razor-thin victory over then state Sen. Mike Feeley (D). Beauprez reported raising $179,734 during the past three months, and $579,732 for the election cycle.

Feeley, who has been encouraged to run again, faces more than $77,000 in campaign debts. He — or any other credible Democrat — is considered far less likely to challenge Beauprez if the district boundaries remain as inhospitable as they are now. He has collected $34,000 since the election.

“I’m so grateful to those people who are willing to contribute after the loss,” Feeley told the Rocky Mountain News. “Those people are saints in my book.”

— J.K.


State Senator Says Bush Promotes House Run

State Sen. Jackie Winters (R) said she has been encouraged by President Bush to enter the 5th district House race.

“I’ve had conversations with the president on a couple of occasions,” Winters told the Salem Statesman Journal this week.

Republicans have targeted Rep. Darlene Hooley (D) in the swing 5th district, but she has beaten back several aggressive challengers.

Lawyer Jim Zupancic has already entered the race and reported raising $188,580 during the past three months — $150,000 from his own pocket. Two-time GOP nominee Brian Boquist is also running again, though he is on active military duty and may not be able to campaign in earnest until just before the May 2004 primary. He had raised just $1,485 this quarter and had $2,200 in the bank.

Hooley, meanwhile, has a robust $610,000 in the bank after raising $242,000 this quarter.

Winters, 66, is a black restaurateur who has served in the state Legislature since 1998 and was an aide to then-Gov. Vic Atiyeh (R). She said she would wait until the end of the legislative session before deciding whether to run.

— J.K.

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