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SOUTH DAKOTA: Daschle’s Ad Blitz Fails

Republicans released a new poll Wednesday seeking to show that ads being run by Sen. Tom Daschle (D) have not significantly bolstered his standing in the state.

Daschle led former Rep. John Thune (R) 47 percent to 46 percent in the McLaughlin & Associates survey, which was paid for by the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

The poll, in the field July 16 and 17 and testing 400 registered voters, had a 4.9 percent margin of error.

Daschle’s favorable ratings had not improved markedly since the previous NRSC poll in March — just after Daschle had said he was disappointed with the Bush administration’s diplomatic approach to the war in Iraq.

In the latest survey, 60 percent of voters felt favorably toward the Senate Minority Leader, while 36 percent felt unfavorably. In March, Daschle had a 56 percent favorable to 38 percent unfavorable score.

Daschle has been on the air for the past two weeks with ads touting his work on ethanol, an alternative fuel produced from agricultural products.

Republicans expect Thune to enter the race in the fall. After serving three terms in the House, Thune challenged Sen. Tim Johnson (D) in 2002. He lost that race by 524 votes.

Rep. Bill Janklow (R), a former four-term governor, is also reportedly interested in running, but health concerns may keep him out.

— Chris Cillizza


Larsen Gets First GOP Foe in Competitive 2nd

Island County Auditor Suzanne Sinclair (R) is preparing to challenge two-term Rep. Rick Larsen (D), Roll Call has learned.

Sinclair was in Washington, D.C., several days ago to meet with the National Republican Congressional Committee and has informed Washington Republican Party Chairman Chris Vance that she plans to run. She is serving her second term in the countywide post and does not have to sacrifice her seat to run for Congress.

Larsen’s 2nd district north of Seattle is one of the most competitive in the state. He won his first election with 50 percent of the vote over state Rep. John Koster (R) in 2000, and took 50 percent of the vote against former Congressional staffer Norma Smith (R) in 2002. Smith was an aide to former Rep. Jack Metcalf (R), who served three terms in Congress.

Sinclair may not have the GOP field to herself, however. Former CIA agent Herb Meyer, the runner-up to Smith for the 2002 nomination, is considering running again. Skagit County Commissioner Ted Anderson (R) is also contemplating the race.

— Josh Kurtz


Democrats Come Home To Fight for Sen. Boxer

Sen. Barbara Boxer’s (D) re-election prospects are brighter than they were three months ago, a new independent poll showed.

According to the Field poll, 48 percent of the state’s registered voters are inclined to give Boxer a third term in 2004, while 41 percent are not. In April, only 38 percent of voters said they would definitely vote to re-elect the Senator, while 43 percent said they would not.

The poll of 1,040 registered voters, conducted July 1-13, had a 3.8 percent margin of error.

Mark DiCamillo, the poll’s director, told the San Francisco Chronicle on Wednesday that Boxer’s surge can be attributed to the increased partisan atmosphere in the Golden State in the past few months, fueled by the efforts to recall Gov. Gray Davis (D). But because Boxer’s re-elect numbers were below 50 percent, she cannot be considered safe, he said.

The only two Republicans who have entered the Senate race are virtual unknowns, however: former Los Altos Hills Mayor Toni Casey, who is officially a candidate, and former U.S. Treasurer Rosario Marin, who has formed an exploratory committee. Boxer held comfortable leads over both women in the Field matchup.

Meanwhile, state Assemblyman Tony Strickland (R) of Ventura County appears poised to enter the Senate contest as well. California Republican Party Chairman Duf Sundheim told the Ventura County Star this week “there’s a 90 percent chance” the 33-year-old lawmaker, who faces term limits in 2004, will join the Senate race.

Strickland’s interest in the contest is seen as an admission by some GOP leaders that Marin, the nominal frontrunner, may not be as strong a contender as party officials had originally hoped. He is working with Sacramento-based Republican consultant Dan Schnur, a one-time top aide to former Gov. Pete Wilson (R).

— J.K.

Stark Raving Mad: That’s The Way Voters Want It

With every high-profile outburst, there is speculation that Rep. Pete Stark’s (D) 16-term House career may be nearing an end, and Friday’s fracas in the House was no exception.

But a profile of Stark in Tuesday’s San Francisco Chronicle showed that the 71-year-old lawmaker remains popular in his East Bay district.

“I think people are very familiar with his passion on certain subjects,” Democratic consultant Gale Kaufman told the Chronicle.

Earlier this year, there were rumors that some state Democratic leaders were urging two prominent politicians to challenge Stark in a 2004 primary: Jonah Klehs, former chairman of the California Board of Equalization, and former state Superintendent of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin.

But Klehs told Roll Call this spring that he admires Stark too much and is preparing to run for the state Legislature in 2004; Eastin is setting up a national education foundation and is considered unlikely to re-enter politics.

For his part, Stark told the Chronicle that he isn’t ready to retire yet.

“I’ve got to keep running,” he said. “I’ve got 2-year-old twins and I’ve got to get them through college. Our retirement plan is good, but it ain’t that good.”

— J.K.


Rush Rushes to Back Kindred Spirit Hull

Rep. Bobby Rush (D) on Monday announced his endorsement of millionaire businessman Blair Hull in the crowded Democratic Senate primary. Rush will also serve as chairman of the campaign, which Hull has pledged to spend up to $40 million to win.

Rush said his decision to back Hull was based on their similar working-class backgrounds and denied that the endorsement was tied to residual feelings of ill will toward another Democrat in the race, state Sen. Barack Obama. Obama challenged Rush in a 2000 primary, getting 30 percent of the vote to Rush’s 61 percent.

Two other Chicago Democrats, Reps. Danny Davis and Jesse Jackson Jr., as well as Rep. Lane Evans (D), are supporting Obama in the race. Downstate Rep. Jerry Costello (D) recently endorsed state Comptroller Dan Hynes (D), one of several people vying for the party’s Senate nomination.

In other Democratic Senate news, radio talk-show host Nancy Skinner this week got in the open-seat Senate race and in the process found herself out of a job. Skinner announced her candidacy on her Sunday program “Ski and Skinner,” and on Monday she was informed by station management that she had been terminated.

— Lauren W. Whittington


Wofford Urged to Try Again in 6th District

Attorney Dan Wofford, the 6th district nominee in 2002, is being heavily recruited by national Democrats for a rematch against freshman Rep. Jim Gerlach (R) in 2004.

Wofford narrowly lost the race to Gerlach last year, 51 percent to 49 percent, and Democrats believe his vote total could be boosted further in a presidential election year.

“I am thinking about it and taking a long, hard look at running again, but as of right now, I haven’t made a decision yet,” Wofford told the West Chester Daily Local News.

Gerlach reported almost $400,000 in the bank at the end of June. Wofford, the son of former Sen. Harris Wofford (D-Pa.), had about $38,000 in a campaign account at the end of the second quarter.

— L.W.W.


Weed Plants a Seed for Good Goode Challenge

Local vineyard owner Al Weed (D) has set up a campaign office and begun putting together a political organization in preparation for a 2004 challenge to Rep. Virgil Goode (R), the Charlottesville Daily Progress reported Monday.

Goode, who was elected as a Democrat in 1996 and became a Republican in 2002, has had little trouble winning re-election. Last year he beat Charlottesville City Councilwoman Meredith Richards 64 percent to 36 percent. He showed more than $350,000 in the bank at the end of June.

— L.W.W.


State Lawmaker Joins Race for Foley’s Seat

State Rep. Joe Negron (R) announced this week that he will seek the 16th district seat of Rep. Mark Foley (R), who is running for Senate.

Negron, 41, said he is in the race to stay, although there is still some chance that Foley could seek re-election. It remains unclear whether Sen. Bob Graham (D), who is running for president, will seek re- election and, if so, whether Foley would challenge him.

State Rep. Gayle Harrell (R) has also announced she is running for Foley’s seat. Other Republicans mulling a bid are former state Rep. Tom Warner and attorney Rob Siedlecki.

In neighboring 14th district news, Rep. Porter Goss (R) has closed his campaign account and shut down his Fort Myers campaign office, signaling his plans to retire next year, the Naples Daily News reported this week.

Goss was slated to retire at the end of last Congress, but he decided to stay and chair the Intelligence Committee one more term because of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist strikes.

Potential GOP candidates in the staunchly Republican district include: state Sen. Burt Saunders, state Rep. Dudley Goodlette, state Rep. Carole Green and three Lee County Commissioners — John Albion, Andy Coy and Ray Judah.

— L.W.W.


Schafer Says No to Bush And Skips Senate Race

Slamming shut a door that had barely been opened a crack, former Gov. Ed Schafer (R) told White House political adviser Karl Rove that he would not challenge Sen. Byron Dorgan (D) in 2004.

“I didn’t tell the president that I wouldn’t be running for the Senate,” Schafer recounted to the Fargo Forum, “but I finally did give Karl Rove the word directly so we could all get on with finding another candidate.”

Schafer had been the dream choice of national Republicans for months, but showed little to no interest in an extended — and costly — campaign against Dorgan.

He served as governor of the Roughrider State from 1992 to 2000, when he decided against seeking a third term. He is currently president of Extend America, a telecommunications company.

Schafer’s decision makes Dorgan’s re-election to a third term increasingly likely.

The only Republican candidate who has expressed an interest in running is 2000 nominee Duane Sand, who lost to Sen. Kent Conrad (D) 62 percent to 38 percent.

Sand is in the Navy and currently serves at the Pentagon.

Other Republicans mentioned include Bismarck Mayor John Warford and Lt. Gov. Jack Dalrymple.

— C.C.


Democrats Like Polls, Can’t Entice Candidates

Encouraged by polls showing some vulnerability for Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R) in 2004, Democrats continue to be frustrated by their inability to find a top-tier challenger.

Last week, Denver District Attorney Bill Ritter Jr. (D) announced that he would not run, citing an inability to raise sufficient funds as the primary reason. That leaves former middle school principal Michael Miles as the lone Democratic candidate so far, though party leaders hold out a distant hope that Rep. Mark Udall, state Attorney General Ken Salazar or former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb will make the race.

The irony is, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee recently released month-old polling data suggesting that Campbell — and Republicans in general — are not as strong in the Centennial State as is widely assumed.

The poll of 600 likely voters, conducted June 19-21, found that 45 percent of voters would definitely vote to re-elect Campbell. Twenty-five percent said they would consider someone else, and 13 percent would definitely vote to replace the two-term Senator. The poll had a 4 percent margin of error.

President Bush’s numbers, meanwhile, were surprisingly soft, with only 47 percent of voters saying they would re-elect him and 44 percent saying they want to make a change. The poll also found that Campbell could be vulnerable on issues like the budget, taxes and Social Security.

“The playing field has the potential to be favorable for us in Colorado,” said DSCC spokesman Brad Woodhouse. But on the recruiting front, he said, “I’m not going to sit here and tell you that we don’t have some work to do on it.”

— J.K.


Wilson Hoping DCCC Drug Ads Will Backfire

Rep. Heather Wilson (R) is hoping to turn the tables on Congressional Democrats who began running ads in her Albuquerque-based district last week criticizing her vote in favor of a prescription drug bill.

Wilson, who has never taken more than 55 percent of the vote in her competitive district, gleefully released a transcript of two recent Albuquerque TV news reports, one of which quoted the deputy director of the New Mexico Democratic Party calling the ads “weird” and saying she was “annoyed” because people assume the state party had a hand in them.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee began running the ads in the districts of several potentially vulnerable Republicans, including Wilson and Rep. Steve Pearce (N.M.), accusing them of being “the deciding vote” on the bill, which passed by just one vote. The TV reports note that nine House Democrats also voted for the measure.

“The attack ad season has come a bit early to New Mexico, and even local Democrats think it’s odd,” crowed Jane Altweis, a spokeswoman for Wilson.

— J.K.


Primary Battle Likely to Take on Veteran Cardin

It appears as if there will be a Republican primary to determine who has the dubious honor of taking on Rep. Benjamin Cardin (D) in 2004.

Anne Arundel County Clerk of Courts Robert Duckworth told The Gazette newspapers last week that he is preparing to run in the GOP primary — and he expects to have the support of Gov. Bob Ehrlich (R). State Del. David Boschert (R) is considered likely to formally announce his candidacy around Labor Day, although he angered Ehrlich by opposing his measure to legalize slot machines during the past legislative session.

Duckworth is no stranger to Congressional politics: He was the GOP nominee in what was then the 4th district against then-Rep. Tom McMillen (D) in 1990. Redistricted into the 1st district, Duckworth lost the 1992 Republican primary to now-Rep. Wayne Gilchrest (R).

Though still solidly Democratic — Al Gore would have won 56 percent of the vote there in the 2000 presidential election — the contours of the 3rd district changed drastically after the latest round of redistricting. Many voters are unfamiliar with Cardin, despite his 37 years in elective office, and some of the state’s most conservative voters now reside in the 3rd.

Neither Boschert nor Duckworth has to sacrifice his position to run for Congress in 2004.

— J.K.

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