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OHIO: Senator Says He’ll Run Against Ney if Funded

Because Democrats need 12 seats in order to regain the majority, it’s a given that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has to expand the playing field of competitive House races if they have any hope of taking control of the chamber in 2004.

But could that mean they are looking to target entrenched incumbents and committee chairmen like Rep. Bob Ney (R)?

According to a story that ran this week in the Youngstown Vindicator, it would appear so. The newspaper reported Sunday that Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D), acting on behalf of the DCCC and the Democratic National Committee, recently approached state Sen. Robert Hagan (D) about running against Ney next year.

“They want to take him on because he’s vulnerable,” Hagan told the newspaper.

Ney, who serves as the unofficial mayor of Capitol Hill as head of the House Administration Committee, has represented the sprawling, heavily union 18th district since 1994. He currently serves as incumbent retention chairman for the National Republican Congressional Committee.

While the district has some Democratic registration leanings, George W. Bush took 55 percent of the vote there in the 2000 presidential election. The district had been more marginal, but during last cycle’s redistricting the GOP-controlled state Legislature boosted Bush’s performance in the 18th by more than 4 points. Ney was unopposed for re-election in 2002.

Hagan has run for Congress before, taking 34 percent of the vote against then-Rep. James Traficant (D) in a three-way 2000 primary. Traficant, who represented the neighboring 17th district, was expelled from Congress after a federal court convicted him of bribery and other crimes.

Hagan still lives in the Youngstown-based 17th district, but some portions of his state Senate district fall within the boundaries of Ney’s 18th district. His brother, former Cuyahoga County Commissioner Tim Hagan, was the Democratic gubernatorial nominee last year but was defeated by Gov. Bob Taft (R).

Hagan told the newspaper he plans to meet with DNC and DCCC officials soon to discuss the race and added that he would run against Ney if national Democrats guarantee they can raise at least $400,000 for him. Greg Speed, a spokesman for the DCCC, stopped short of a full-blown endorsement.

“Sen. Hagan is well known throughout eastern Ohio for his work on health care and other issues,” he said. “Obviously, we are pleased that he’s considering the race.”

Republicans do not appear to be sweating, however. “Sounds like the Democrats are recruiting all the right candidates to help them maintain the minority for years to come,” said Ney spokesman Brian Walsh. — Lauren W. Whittington


Gluba Hopes 3rd Time’s the Charm in District 1

Former state Sen. Bill Gluba (D) is preparing to challenge Rep. Jim Nussle (R) in the 1st district.

Gluba is a longtime party activist who served in the state Senate from Bettendorf. He first ran for Congress in 1982, losing to Rep. Jim Leach (R) 59 percent to 41 percent. In 1988, he took just 38 percent against Leach. His entrance into the race against Nussle may keep state Sen. Joe Seng (D), who was seriously considering the race, from joining the fray.

Nussle was heavily targeted in 2002 by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which endorsed Bettendorf Mayor Ann Hutchinson in a primary against former Rep. Dave Nagle and then spent heavily on her behalf in the general election.

Despite the DCCC’s efforts, Nussle pummeled Hutchinson 57 percent to 43 percent.

On its face the district is extremely competitive (Al Gore would have won a 7 point victory there in 2000), but Nussle has shown an ability to win crossover votes consistently.

He is mentioned as a gubernatorial candidate in 2006, however, and an open seat may be Democrats’ best chance of winning control of the district. — Chris Cillizza


State’s Blanket Primary Thrown Out by Court

Lost in all the hoopla over a federal appeals court decision Monday to delay the chaotic California recall election was the fact that the same court on the same day ruled that the Evergreen State’s blanket primary election is unconstitutional.

The court said the blanket primary, which allows voters to choose from among all candidates on the primary ballot regardless of their political affiliation, violates political parties’ First Amendment rights of free association. Washington’s system, the judges wrote, “denies party adherents the opportunity to nominate their party’s candidate free of the risk of being swamped by voters whose preference is for the other party.”

Since its inception in 1935, the blanket primary has allowed voters to choose from a menu of candidates from all political parties. The top votegetters from each party then move on to the general election. The primary results often — but not always — mirror the general election outcome.

The state’s Democratic, Republican and Libertarian parties had sued to abolish the blanket primary system. It is not clear whether the secretary of state’s office, which administers elections in Washington, will appeal. — Josh Kurtz


Prominent GOP Mayor Endorses 4th Reid Term

In another sign of the Republican difficulties in a Senate race for which they once had high hopes, the Republican mayor of Reno has endorsed Senate Minority Whip Harry Reid (D) for re-election in 2004.

“Basically, the mayor feels Senator Reid’s senior position is vital not only to Nevada but to Reno as well,” a spokesman for Reno Mayor Bob Cashell told the Daily Sparks Tribune last week.

Cashell, a former Democrat who was elected lieutenant governor as a Republican in 1982, is the latest high-profile GOPer to endorse Reid for a fourth term or signal support behind the scenes. Since Rep. Jim Gibbons (R) announced last month that he would not challenge Reid, the party has been struggling to find a top-tier candidate.

So far, only social conservative activist Richard Ziser has entered the GOP contest. Nevada Secretary of State Dean Heller, state Treasurer Brian Krolicki and Lt. Gov. Lorraine Hunt are also considering the race. — J.K.

Porter Raising Money Despite No Challenger

Sitting on $302,000 in his campaign treasury and with no firm opponent in sight, freshman Rep. Jon Porter (R) nevertheless has an aggressive schedule of fundraising set during the next few weeks.

According to the National Republican Congressional Committee, Porter has a $1,000-a-head lunch-hour fundraiser scheduled for today at Tortilla Coast on Capitol Hill; an event Thursday evening sponsored by the National Mining Association at its headquarters on Constitution Avenue Northwest; a $1,000-a-ticket golf fundraiser at the Bali Hai Golf Club in Las Vegas; and an Oct. 9 event sponsored by the National Auto Dealers Association and headlined by Rep. John Duncan (R-Tenn.).

Porter spent $1.9 million on his election in 2002, winning by 19 points against an ethically challenged Democrat in what was supposed to be a tossup district in the Las Vegas suburbs. Democrats continue to search for a viable challenger in the 2004 cycle, with Assemblyman John Oseguera considered the likeliest to run. — J.K.


Teck Tactic: Files Papers For Exploratory Effort

State Sen. Ron Teck (R) on Monday said he was filing papers to create an exploratory committee for a possible bid in the newly open 3rd district, the Rocky Mountain News reported.

Teck is one of a dozen Republicans eyeing the Western Slope seat that Rep. Scott McInnis (R) plans to vacate after six terms and is considered one of the most conservative. So far, only state Sen. Ken Chlouber (R) has said for sure that he will run, though several candidates in both parties are expected to follow.

McInnis’ retirement, which he leaked to his hometown newspaper 10 days ago, took most of Colorado’s political community by surprise. Accompanied by his wife, Lori, and Gov. Bill Owens (R), McInnis traveled through the massive district last weekend, thanking voters for their support.

He did not rule out the possibility of running for governor in 2006, when Owens’ term ends. — J.K.


VP Aids Capito, Who May Not Need the Help

Vice President Cheney helped rake in the dollars this week at a $500-a-plate fundraising luncheon for Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R).

Capito, elected to an open seat in 2000, was a top target for Democrats last year, but she beat millionaire trial attorney Jim Humphreys (D), her 2000 opponent, by a 20 point margin. Democrats have yet to find a challenger to run against Capito next year. Humphreys is not expected to run. —L.W.W.

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