Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) will not challenge Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D) next year and instead will focus on reforming the state’s education system, he said last week.
“I need to be focused on what’s best for the children of Arkansas,” Huckabee said at a news conference. “This is not a time to abandon the job I have.”
Huckabee, who has served in the state’s top office since Gov. Jim Guy Tucker (D) resigned in 1996, was seen as national Republicans’ No. 1 recruit against Lincoln.
With Huckabee out, there is likely to be increased pressure on former Rep. Asa Hutchinson (R) to consider the race, although he has said he is not interested. Hutchinson is currently an undersecretary at the Homeland Security Department.
Other Republicans mentioned are former state Sen. Gunner DeLay, 1st district Rep. John Boozman and Lt. Gov. Win Rockefeller.
Lincoln won the seat in 1998 by defeating Faye Boozman 55 percent to 42 percent. She ended June with $1.9 million in the bank.
— Chris Cillizza
Democrats: Ya Gotta Have Hart — or Udall
Amid reports that Democratic leaders in Denver and Washington, D.C., are urging former Sen. Gary Hart (D) to consider challenging Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R) in 2004, another potential Senate contender — Rep. Mark Udall (D) — released a poll last week that showed Campbell may be vulnerable.
The poll, conducted in late July by Talmey-Drake Research & Strategy Inc., a Boulder-based Democratic firm, showed Campbell holding a 45 percent to 40 percent lead over Udall in a trial heat. The poll of 402 Coloradans had a 4.9 percent margin of error.
Democrats immediately seized upon the poll as further evidence that Campbell can be beaten next year.
“I think if we have an A-tier candidate, it’s absolutely winnable for Democrats,” Rep. Diana DeGette (D) told the Rocky Mountain News.
But that has been Democrats’ problem all along: They don’t have a top-tier candidate. Despite the poll results, Udall is considered unlikely to challenge Campbell, which is why party leaders are now turning to Hart, who represented Colorado in the Senate from 1975 to 1987.
“Gary Hart still has an incredible contribution to make to the state of Colorado and the entire nation,” Colorado Democratic Party Chairman Chris Gates told The Denver Post.
Hart, so far, has been mum about a possible Senate race.
— Josh Kurtz
Condon Makes It Official, Will Skip Sloganeering
Former state Attorney General and 2002 gubernatorial candidate Charlie Condon (R) officially entered the race to replace Sen. Fritz Hollings (D) last week.
Condon, known for his white-hot campaign rhetoric and strong following among social conservatives, promised that he would adopt a different style in this contest.
“For those that are looking for your traditional shallow sloganeering campaign, this won’t be for them,” Condon said.
After serving as the state’s top cop from 1994 to 2002, Condon placed third in last year’s GOP gubernatorial primary; he endorsed now-Gov. Mark Sanford (R) in the runoff.
Condon joins Rep. Jim DeMint and Charleston developer Thomas Ravenel in the Republican race. State Superintendent of Education Inez Tenenbaum and Columbia Mayor Bob Coble are running for the Democratic nomination.
Hollings announced his retirement in early August after serving nearly four decades in the Senate.
Bond Collects $1 Million Courtesy of the President
President Bush raised more than $1 million for the re-election campaign of Sen. Kit Bond (R) last week in his first fundraising foray for a 2004 candidate other than himself.
The take from the St. Louis event will be added to the $2.8 million that Bond had in the bank at the end of June.
Bond is set to square off against state Treasurer Nancy Farmer (D) next November. Farmer entered the race after state Auditor Claire McCaskill and Lt. Gov. Joe Maxwell passed on the contest. McCaskill is expected to run a primary challenge against Gov. Bob Holden (D) next year.
Despite Bond’s huge war chest, Democrats believe he is vulnerable, noting that in two recent Democratic polls, the Missouri Senator’s job approval ratings hovered in the low 40s.
Bond has served in the Senate since 1986 and never won a race with more than 53 percent of the vote. In 1998 he defeated state Attorney General Jay Nixon (D) 53 percent to 44 percent as Nixon struggled to unite the black vote behind his candidacy.
Brown’s Decision All But Guarantees Dorgan Win
In what is rapidly becoming an every-two-year ritual in the North Dakota, former Louisiana State University basketball coach Dale Brown (R) ruled out a candidacy after floating his name in recent weeks.
Brown cited family considerations as the primary reason for him to forgo a challenge to Sen. Byron Dorgan (D).
The former coach initially decided against a challenge to Dorgan in February but reconsidered when former Gov. Ed Schafer — Republicans’ top choice — chose not to run.
Brown also mentioned himself as a potential candidate against Rep. Earl Pomeroy (D) in 2002 but eventually backed out.
Brown lives in Baton Rouge, La., although he does also have a residence in the Roughrider State.
With both Schafer and Brown out of the running, Dorgan looks likely to cruise to a third term.
Davis Continues to Pick Up Endorsements in 4th
Former lieutenant governor candidate Hunter Bates (R) and former Rep. Gene Snyder (R) backed the 4th district candidacy of 2002 nominee Geoff Davis (R) last week.
Bates, a protégé of Senate Majority Whip Mitch McConnell (R), was the initial lieutenant governor pick for Rep. Ernie Fletcher’s (R) gubernatorial campaign this year but was thrown off the ballot over residency questions.
Bates had also been mentioned — by McConnell — as a strong candidate in the 4th district though he never entered that race.
Snyder held the northern Kentucky 4th district from 1966 until 1986, when he retired from elected office.
The endorsements provide further institutional momentum for Davis’ primary campaign against attorney Kevin Murphy.
Murphy has surprised most observers with his solid fundraising, but Davis has also raised a lot of money and is seen as the odds-on favorite for the nomination.
Last cycle, Davis received little attention from national Republicans but ran a strong campaign against Rep. Ken Lucas (D), taking 48 percent of the vote.
Republicans believe they have a better chance of defeating the three-term Member in 2004 as he has broken his term-limits pledge and because President Bush will be leading the ticket. Bush took 61 percent in the district in 2000, even as Lucas won with 54 percent.
Police Unions Backing Welch in Senate Election
State Sen. Bob Welch (R) was endorsed by two prominent police unions last week in his bid for the 2004 Republican Senate nomination.
“Bob Welch is a friend of the law enforcement family and will make a great U.S. Senator,” Jim Fuerst, president of the Milwaukee Deputy Sheriffs’ Association, said in announcing the endorsement.
Welch, who was the GOP Senate nominee in 1994, also received the nod from the Milwaukee Police Association.
Welch’s principal opponent in the Republican primary is Tim Michels, the wealthy owner of a pipeline company who is expected to put a substantial amount of his own money in the race. Lawyer and farmer Robert Gerald Lorge, who was the GOP nominee for secretary of state in 2002, is also running.
The primary winner will face Sen. Russ Feingold (D), who is bidding for a third term. As the number of competitive Senate races in the country declines this cycle, Republicans are taking a second look at the Dairy State and hoping to make a good run at Feingold.