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SOUTH DAKOTA: Daschle Launches Second Ad Buy

Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D) began running the second ad of his re-election campaign last week, touting a legislative proposal that would offer military health insurance to reservists after they return from service.

“When I heard National Guardsmen, South Dakota guardsmen and women actually got benefits when they went to war and lost benefits when they came home to peace, I couldn’t believe it,” Daschle says in the ad.

The ad’s narrator says that as a Vietnam War veteran himself, Daschle “has a feeling of what soldiers and airmen go through.”

The 60-second commercial began airing Thursday in the Rapid City media market and will debut this week in Sioux Falls.

The ad’s theme — that Daschle delivers for the state — echoes the campaign’s first ad, which touched on his support for wider use of ethanol fuel, and the successful campaign strategy employed by Sen. Tim Johnson (D) in his 2002 re-election bid.

Given the state’s strong Republican leaning — President Bush won 60 percent of the vote there in 2000 — any Democrat must move the debate from a strictly partisan one to a more issues-oriented campaign.

A commercial funded by the conservative Club For Growth attacking Daschle for his recent purchase of a $2 million house in Washington is also currently on the air in the Mount Rushmore State.

— Chris Cillizza


PAC Halts Effort to Recruit Moran Foe

The Friends of the 8th District Committee, which has been seeking to draft Defense Department official André Hollis to run for Congress next year, announced Friday that it is suspending its fundraising efforts on behalf of the would-be Republican candidate.

Instead, the committee will focus on helping local candidates win General Assembly races this fall.

“Today the committee agreed that each local race is as valuable as the race for Congress and deserves just as much attention,” said Edward Gerety, the executive director of the committee. “If we as a committee are to succeed in bringing dignity back to the 8th district, we need to start at the basic of levels.”

The committee had registered as multicandidate political action committee with the Federal Election Commission, although its stated purpose until last week has been raising money for Hollis, should he decide to run in the 8th. As of June 30, the PAC reported raising almost $18,000.

Hollis is deputy assistant secretary of Defense for counternarcotics and is prohibited from running for partisan office under the Hatch Act.

Two little-known Republicans have already announced they are running in the 8th. Rep. Jim Moran (D) is also facing at least three primary challengers next year in the heavily Democratic district.

— Lauren W. Whittington

Ex-NASCAR Exec Takes Pole in the 9th

Former NASCAR official Kevin Triplett (R) is revving up his fundraising engines in preparation for a challenge to Rep. Rick Boucher (D) in 2004. Triplett announced last week that he has formed an exploratory campaign committee, moving him one step closer to a 9th district bid.

Triplett left his post as managing director of business operations for NASCAR in June and moved back home to Virginia to explore a race against the 11-term Congressman. The 38-year-old is originally from the southwestern district, commonly referred to as the “Fightin’ Ninth.”

The rural, socially conservative district voted for Republican George W. Bush in the 2000 presidential contest, but Boucher has had little trouble winning re-election and remains widely popular. Since ousting veteran Rep. William Wampler (R) in 1982, Boucher’s re-election percentage has dipped below the 60 percent mark only twice.

In other political news in the Old Dominion, U.S. District Judge Henry Morgan Jr. threw out a lawsuit stemming from the GOP-led redrawing of Congressional lines in 2001.

Morgan found that the suit, brought by nine voters, failed to show that the black voting strength in the 4th district was diminished so greatly that blacks went from being a majority to a minority in the district, the legal standard for determining that a redistricting was racially motivated.

The plaintiffs in the suit argued that state Sen. Louise Lucas (D), who is black, was forced to abandon her 2002 4th district bid because a “critical number of African-American voters” were removed from the district. Lucas lost a 2001 special election to now-Rep. Randy Forbes (R) and at the time blacks accounted for 39 percent of registered voters. The district now has a 34 percent black voting age population after redistricting.

— L.W.W.


Mack’s Son Eyes Move To Make House Bid

State Rep. Connie Mack IV (R) is considering moving to southwest Florida in order to run in the open 14th district seat. Mack has said he will decide within a few weeks whether to enter the race to succeed retiring Rep. Porter Goss (R).

“I owe it to my principles to weigh whether to move back to my original home and do what so many have been urging me to do,” Mack recently told the Ft. Myers News-Press.

Mack, the son of former Sen. Connie Mack (R-Fla.), currently represents a Fort Lauderdale-based seat in the state Legislature. The former Senator, who retired in 2000, held the Ft. Meyers-based Congressional seat (then the 13th) from 1983 to 1989.

Lee County Commissioner Andy Coy (R) confirmed last week that he is definitely running for the seat, while state Rep. Dudley Goodlette (R) said he will not run.

Other potential candidates in the heavily Republican district include state Rep. Carole Green and Lee County Commissioners John Albion, Doug St. Cerny and Ray Judah.

— L.W.W.


Edwards Again Declines to Set Date for Decision

Deflecting criticism from within his own party, Sen. John Edwards (D) said he is not close to making a decision on whether he will run for re-election.

“I’m completely focused on the presidential campaign,” Edwards told The Charlotte Observer last week.

In recent days, prominent party leaders including former Gov. Jim Hunt and state Senate leader Marc Basnight have called for Edwards to decide soon whether he will run for president, the Senate or both.

Previously, 2002 Senate nominee Erskine Bowles, who is interested in another Senate bid, said that Edwards should make a decision before Labor Day in order to give the party time to prepare for 2004.

Much of the Democrats’ apprehension about Edwards’ decision is a result of the aggressive campaign being run by Rep. Richard Burr (R), who is vacating his 5th district seat after five terms to run for Senate.

Through June 30, Burr had amassed nearly $3.5 million in his campaign war chest.

Aside from Bowles, former state Representative and 2002 Senate candidate Dan Blue is also reportedly interested in the race.

— C.C.


Cheney Works to Boost Rep. Wilson’s Prospects

Vice President Cheney traveled to Albuquerque last week to raise money for Rep. Heather Wilson (R), a perennial Democratic target in the 1st district.

Cheney raked in roughly $180,000 for Wilson’s war chest, which stood at $392,000 through the end of June. Wilson is one of the strongest fundraisers in her Caucus; in her 2002 re-election race she raised and spent nearly $3 million.

State Senate President Richard Romero (D), who lost to Wilson in 2002, is set to run again. Romero is also attempting to push a bill through the state Legislature that would allow the Democratic-controlled body to redraw the state’s Congressional lines to make them more hospitable for his party — and his own chances.

Wilson has proven a tough campaigner since winning the marginal Albuquerque-based district in a 1998 special election to replace deceased Rep. Steven Schiff (R). Wilson won that race with 45 percent and then won a full term six months later with 48 percent against the same opponent.

Democrats targeted Wilson heavily in 2000, but even though then-Vice President Al Gore carried the district in the presidential race, Wilson won by 7 points.

Redistricting changed the district little, but in 2002 Wilson defeated Romero by a wider 55 percent to 45 percent while outspending him better than 2-to-1.

— C.C.


Perdue Joins Effort to Oust Marshall

Even as some national and state Republicans are trying to coax another GOP candidate into the race, former Bibb County Commissioner Calder Clay (R), who is seeking a rematch against Rep. Jim Marshall (D) in 2004, is getting a boost from Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue (R).

Perdue recently sent out a fundraising letter on behalf of Clay, who narrowly lost to Marshall in an open-seat race last cycle. The letter notes that Clay has been endorsed by the eight Republicans in the state’s House delegation as well as Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R), who represented much of the 3rd district before being elected to the Senate last year.

“I am 100 percent behind Calder’s nomination and ask that you join me with your full support for his candidacy also,” Perdue wrote in the fundraising pitch.

The letter, dated July 28, flies in the face of efforts by some Republicans in the district, as well as some national party strategists, to try to get retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Rick Goddard (R) into the race. Goddard told the Macon Telegraph in early August that he does not intend to challenge Clay for the GOP nomination next year.

In other Georgia political news, a federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit brought by supporters of former 4th district Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D). The suit argued that the former Congresswoman’s 2002 primary loss to now-Rep. Denise Majette (D) was caused by “malicious crossover” voting by Republicans seeking to oust McKinney. They also charged that Majette, who beat McKinney by almost 20,000 votes, was a Republican disguised as a Democrat.

In dismissing the claims, U.S. District Judge Charles Pannell said the plaintiffs lacked standing to assert which primary voters were “real” Democrats. Georgia has an open primary system which does not require voters to register by party in order to vote in elections.

McKinney has filed paperwork that would allow her to seek a rematch against Majette in 2004, although it is unclear whether she plans to run.

— L.W.W.

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