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PENNSYLVANIA: Name ID a Problem For Specter Challengers

A new Quinnipiac University poll released last week showed Sen. Arlen Specter (R) leading Rep. Joe Hoeffel (D) in a general election matchup, 53 percent to 29 percent.

Conducted from July 30 to Aug. 4, the poll surveyed 1,037 registered voters and had a 3 percent margin of error.

The survey also showed Specter with a 47 percent to 19 percent favorable/unfavorable rating and primary opponent Rep. Pat Toomey (R) with an 8 percent favorable to 3 percent unfavorable rating. Twelve percent of those surveyed had a favorable opinion of Hoeffel, while 4 percent viewed him unfavorably.

— Lauren W. Whittington

Wofford Won’t Seek Rematch With Gerlach

Attorney Dan Wofford (D) announced last week that he will not seek a rematch against freshman Rep. Jim Gerlach (R) in 2004.

In a letter to supporters and friends, Wofford wrote that the political competitor in him was enticed by the prospect of a rematch victory, but that family responsibilities and new professional challenges are his top priority at this time.

“Now is not the time to jump back into the fray as a candidate,” Wofford wrote. “I want you to know that I do not intend to stay on the sidelines. I will remain active politically and do everything I can to help recruit and support a strong candidate to take on Jim Gerlach in 2004.”

Wofford, the son of former Sen. Harris Wofford (D-Pa.), ran a strong campaign in the GOP-leaning 6th district in the previous cycle. He was narrowly defeated by Gerlach, 51 percent to 49 percent.

Democrats who might look at the race now that Wofford has taken a pass are Hess oil heiress and Main Line state Sen. Connie Williams and Montgomery County attorney Frank Thomas, who lost to Wofford in the 2002 primary.

— L.W.W.

New Mexico

Democratic Leader Pushes for Remap

State Senate President Richard Romero (D) recently penned a letter to his fellow Democratic legislators urging them to consider bringing up a redistricting bill in the October special session.

“Do we smile tolerantly and sit still and let them strong-arm a substantial margin of power in the House,” Romero wrote. “Or do we fight back, employing the same tactics they used in Colorado and Texas under the right defined by a New Mexico judge.”

Republicans in the Colorado Legislature redrew the state’s lines to firm up freshman Rep. Bob Beauprez’s district; the restructured map is currently under appeal.

In Texas, Republican Gov. Rick Perry has called two special sessions in an attempt to change the Congressional lines to favor the GOP. Eleven state Senate Democrats recently holed up in Albuquerque to prevent Republicans from gaining the quorum they need to bring up the bill. Perry has suggested he will call a third special session.

Republicans currently control New Mexico’s House delegation, two seats to one; in 2002 Democrats targeted both Rep. Heather Wilson’s (R) 1st district — where Romero was his party’s nominee — and the open 2nd district. Republicans won both handily.

Romero is interested in running again against Wilson, and Republicans have attacked his letter as little more than a self-serving attempt to change the playing field.

— Chris Cillizza


Nunn’s Daughter ‘Serious’ About Senate

Michelle Nunn, the daughter of former Sen. Sam Nunn (D-Ga.), said last week that she would consider running for Senate if former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young (D) passes on a bid.

“I’ve been giving it serious consideration,” Nunn told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Tuesday. “A message that needs to be heard is that Democrats need a new generation of leaders. People are looking for some new voices in the political sphere.”

The younger Nunn and Young were scheduled to meet Friday to discuss the race and the future of the Georgia Democratic Party, which suffered dramatic losses in last year’s elections.

Nunn, 36, is the founder and executive director of Hands-On Atlanta, a volunteer services organization. Her father served from 1973 to 1997.

Four Republicans are running for the seat of retiring Sen. Zell Miller (D). So far, state Sen. Mary Squires is the only Democrat who has announced her candidacy, while Young, 71, has said he is considering running.

— L.W.W.


Democrats Push Poll, But Still Lack Candidate

Hoping to lure a candidate into a race against Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R), the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee released a poll showing the Colorado Republican vulnerable to a serious challenge.

Only 45 percent of those tested in the Mellman Group survey said they would vote to re-elect Campbell, who has served in the Senate since 1992. After being elected as a Democrat, Campbell switched parties in 1995 and was easily re-elected three years later with 62 percent.

Fifty-six percent of those polled had a favorable opinion of Campbell, while 22 percent had an unfavorable opinion. Although at first glance these numbers appear healthy, the polling memo notes they are “below average” as the “typical” incumbent has a 61 percent favorable to 22 percent unfavorable score.

The survey was conducted June 19-22 of 600 likely voters with a 4 percent margin of error.

Democrats have not been able to convince one of their own to take on Campbell.

The big names — a group that includes Rep. Mark Udall and state Attorney General Ken Salazar — have not entirely ruled out the contest, but few people expect either to run.

With little likelihood that a candidate with significant name identification will enter the race, national Democrats have turned their attention to potential self-funders who could foot the multimillion-dollar price tag to run against Campbell.

Among the individuals mentioned are software designer Rutt Bridges, venture capitalist Tom Barron and Verio Inc. CEO Justin Jaschke.

Campbell ended June with $725,000 in the bank, the second lowest cash-on-hand total of the 14 Republican Senators seeking re-election.

— C.C.


Gibbons’ Aide Says Boss Still Mulling Reid Race

Campaign operatives for Rep. Jim Gibbons (R) vehemently denied rumors that the four-term Congressman had decided against a challenge to Sen. Harry Reid (D) in 2004.

“We don’t even have a set date for an announcement because we’re not sure what the decision will be,” said Gibbons’ chief of staff, Robert Uithoven.

CNN reported Tuesday that Republican strategists had indicated Gibbons would not run.

Gibbons is seen as the strongest potential candidate for Republicans and is being heavily recruited into the race by the National Republican Senatorial Committee among other state and national GOPers.

Republicans see Reid as one of the most vulnerable incumbents standing for re-election in 2004. Reid defeated then-Rep. John Ensign (R) by 428 votes in 1998, the closest race of the cycle. Ensign was elected to the Senate in 2000, winning the open seat held by Sen. Richard Bryan (D).

In recent weeks, however, Gibbons seemed to have soured somewhat on a bid. He was quoted by a state political columnist as saying that a run for the state Supreme Court might be more appealing because he would immediately begin accumulating a pension. He later said he was joking.

— C.C.


Makes Me Want to Oller: GOP Contender in 3rd

State Sen. Rico Oller (R) became the first candidate to enter the race to replace Rep. Doug Ose (R) in the 3rd district.

“We are not running to finish second,” an Oller spokesman told the Amador Ledger Dispatch. “We don’t know for sure if [Dan] Lungren is going to run or not. Regardless, we are going to win.”

Lungren, a former state attorney general and the party’s 1998 gubernatorial nominee, has expressed interest in the race but has not made a decision. Lungren took a disappointing 38 percent against Gov. Gray Davis (D).

Oller has served in the state Senate since 2000 after being elected to two terms in the General Assembly.

When Ose originally won the open-seat race to replace retiring Rep. Vic Fazio (D) in 1998, it was one of a handful of seats targeted by both parties.

But Ose was easily re-elected in 2000 and, after the 2001 redistricting process made the district significantly more Republican, he won with 62 percent in 2002. He is vacating the seat to uphold a three-term-limit pledge.

— C.C.


Third Democrat Set to Challenge Rep. Moran

Arlington County Board member Jay Fisette this week became the third Democrat to enter the primary against Rep. Jim Moran, announcing he will seek the 8th district seat in 2004.

Fisette became the state’s first openly gay elected official when he joined the board in 1998, and he is popular in Moran’s home base of Arlington and Alexandria.

Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Kate Hanley and attorney Andy Rosenberg are also running in the Democratic primary. State Sen. Leslie Byrne, a former Congresswoman, and attorney Jeremy Bash, both Democrats, have said they are considering running in the 8th as well.

Moran sparked criticism across the political spectrum in March when he suggested that Jewish influence was pushing the country toward war with Iraq. He later apologized and relinquished a minor leadership role. Several prominent Jewish Democrats in the House have said they will not support his re-election.

Moran has won re-election in the heavily Democratic suburban Washington district with relative ease since 1990. He announced this week that he has hired Dan Lucas to run his campaign. Lucas, a 20-year campaign veteran, worked to elect Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) in 2000.

— L.W.W.

South Dakota

Baucus Sics IRS On Anti-Daschle Group

Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), ranking member of the Finance Committee, has called on the Internal Revenue Service to review the tax-exempt status of a group that has run ads against Sen. Tom Daschle (D).

Baucus sent a letter to the IRS questioning whether the Rushmore Policy Council, a group that receives 501(c)(4) status — denoting a nonprofit entity — is allowed to run ads allegedly attacking a candidate for federal office.

“The organization’s primary activity appears to be overtly political rather than to promote social welfare,” Baucus wrote.

Rob Regier, the executive director of the Rushmore Policy Council, said his group has done nothing wrong.

“God have mercy on our nation the day it becomes illegal for American citizens to speak publicly about a politician’s voting record,” Regier said in a statement.

Earlier this year, the RPC budgeted nearly $900,000 for an ad campaign that would “destroy” Daschle’s career. After the Minority Leader’s campaign raised questions regarding the legality of such actions, Regier scaled back his plans, though he pledged to remain active in Daschle’s re-election race in 2004.

Daschle is currently being targeted by commercials sponsored by the Club for Growth, a conservative Washington, D.C.-based group.

Daschle ran a month of ads, which recently ended, promoting his support for ethanol, an alternative fuel produced from agricultural products.

Republicans have yet to field a candidate to challenge Daschle, although former Rep. John Thune and current at-large House Member — and former four-term governor — Bill Janklow are both mentioned.

— C.C.

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