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TEXAS: Redistricting Progressing Through State Senate

The state Senate committee charged with Congressional redistricting approved a plan Friday that is likely to be voted on by the full Senate today.

By a 4-3 vote, the Senate Jurisprudence Committee backed a map that is somewhat less ambitious than the plan approved by the state House last week.

The Senate proposal does not create a separate district centered in Midland, but does target Democratic Reps. Max Sandlin, Jim Turner and Nick Lampson for likely defeat, according to the Houston Chronicle.

The districts of Reps. Ralph Hall, Chet Edwards and Charlie Stenholm are also tough holds for the Democrats in the Senate map, but all three have run and won in strongly Republican districts in the past several cycles.

Under the Senate plan, both Stenholm and freshman Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R) would have their own districts in West Texas; the House-approved map would pair the two incumbents to create an open seat in Midland, the hometown of Texas House Speaker Tom Craddick (R).

Once the Senate plan is approved by the body, a conference committee will be called to hammer out the differences between the two bills.

After several months of parliamentary tactics and delaying — including getaways to Oklahoma and New Mexico — state Democrats seem resigned to the idea that some redistricting plan will pass. They hold out hope, however, that Republican infighting could hamstring the process.

— Chris Cillizza


Poll: Campbell Appears To Be as Strong as Ever

A National Republican Senatorial Committee poll released last week shows Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R) with substantial leads over three potential Democratic challengers. The poll of 502 likely voters, with a 4.5 percent margin of error, was conducted Sept. 15 and 16 by Dave Sackett of the Tarrance Group.

In the poll, Campbell held identical 55 percent to 36 percent leads over Rep. Mark Udall (D) and former Sen. Gary Hart (D). He had a 57 percent to 33 percent lead over former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb (D).

Campbell’s favorable to unfavorable ratios were also quite high — 62 percent to 24 percent. By contrast, Hart’s numbers were 38-38, Udall’s were 36-12, and Webb’s were 43-29.

“Ben Nighthorse Campbell continues to maintain a very solid image,” Sackett wrote. “Clearly he is well-positioned for re-election in a solid state for Republicans.”

Many Democrats, however, continue to believe that they can deny Campbell a third term in 2004 with the right candidate. But they have been unable to lure any high-profile names into the race.

Webb has not formally taken himself out of the running but is considered extremely unlikely to run. Two months removed from his three terms at City Hall, Webb announced Friday night that he would be returning to politics — as a vice chairman of the Democratic National Committee, with an undefined portfolio thus far.

Meanwhile, the only Democrat to have entered the race, middle school principal and retired Army Ranger Michael Miles, is scheduled to begin airing TV ads this week, the Rocky Mountain News reported.

— Josh Kurtz


Democrats Are High on New Dunn Challenger

Democrats have long felt that the suburban 8th district seat now occupied by Rep. Jennifer Dunn (R) has been trending in their direction, but they have been unable to recruit a top-tier challenger into the race.

That may change with the announcement Monday that high-tech businessman Alex Alben was entering the Democratic race for Dunn’s seat.

“I am not a career politician,” Alben said in a statement. “I am a concerned dad and business person who has the right answers to today’s problems and recognizes the need for a new leader who can act in a nonpartisan way.”

Alben, 45, has the strong support of state and local Democratic leaders. He has worked in the high-tech industry for the past decade and lives on Mercer Island with his wife and two children.

Dunn, a 62-year-old former chairwoman of the Washington Republican Party, has held the 8th district seat since 1992 and has never received less than 60 percent of the vote. But the district favored Al Gore over George W. Bush by 2 points in the 2000 presidential election and has also voted strongly for Democrats in other statewide races.

— J.K.


Could Next Mr. Smith Be Coming to Washington?

The son of retiring Rep. Nick Smith (R) is joining the crowded Republican field to replace his father in the 7th district.

Brad Smith, a patent attorney, will be making his first run for public office but said he always wanted to be a politician. He has worked on his father’s campaigns since the 1970s and was Steve Forbes’ district manager in the 2000 presidential election.

“I’m leaving a rewarding career and demonstrating that I really do believe in these commitments,” Brad Smith said, according to The Associated Press. “I believe in limited government and bringing a local and state voice to Congress.”

Brad Smith, who lives on his father’s farm in Addison with his wife and seven children, said his father encouraged him to enter the race. Nick Smith is retiring after a dozen years to honor a term-limit pledge.

Brad Smith joins five other candidates vying for the GOP nomination in the conservative, south-central Michigan district: state Reps. Clark Bisbee and Gene DeRossett, Calhoun County Clerk Anne Norlander and former state Reps. Paul DeWeese and Tim Walberg.

— J.K.


For Good of the GOP, Businessman Drops Bid

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R) dodged a second electoral bullet last week when Fairbanks businessman Johne Binkley announced that he would not challenge her in the 2004 GOP primary.

Binkley, owner of a Fairbanks tourism company and chairman of the Alaska Railroad Commission, said he did not want the party to drain valuable resources on a hard-fought primary when the winner must square off against former Gov. Tony Knowles (D) in the general election.

Binkley becomes the second high-profile Republican to forgo a primary challenge to Murkowski, who was appointed to the Senate last December by her father, Gov. Frank Murkowski (R). Teamsters official Jerry Hood said earlier this summer that he would not run.

Hood and Binkley were among two dozen prominent Republicans that Frank Murkowski, then the newly elected governor, passed over to fill the remaining two years of his Senate term.

Former Wasilla Mayor Sarah Palin, who narrowly lost the GOP primary for lieutenant governor in 2002, has not ruled out a Senate bid.

— J.K.


Assemblywoman Won’t Run for Dooley’s Seat

Another potential candidate for retiring Rep. Cal Dooley’s (D) seat has taken herself out of the running for 2004.

California Assemblywoman Sarah Reyes (D), who had been highly touted by state and national women’s groups, announced Friday that she would not run for Dooley’s Central Valley seat and suggested that she would step away from politics — at least temporarily — when her Assembly term ends next year.

“While Congress is intriguing, I have discovered that there are so many other areas, worlds and challenges that I would like to explore,” Reyes said in a statement.

Reyes’ announcement leaves former state Sen. Jim Costa and Dooley’s longtime chief of staff, Lisa Quigley, as the two candidates in the Democratic race, though others could follow.

Republicans, meanwhile, continue to strike out in what could be a competitive district, even though it leans Democratic. Former state Sen. Roy Ashburn (R) told the Bakersfield Californian last week that he would not run because he considered Costa all but unbeatable.

— J.K.

Club for Growth Gets Behind Oller Early in 3rd

It’s a race with two conservatives, but the Club for Growth, the Washington, D.C.-based anti-tax group, has endorsed state Sen. Rico Oller (R) over former state Attorney General Dan Lungren (R) in the race to succeed retiring Rep. Doug Ose (R).

“If every member of the California legislature voted like Rico Oller, the state would not have a $38 billion deficit,” Club for Growth President Stephen Moore said in a statement.

The battle for Ose’s Sacramento-area seat is sure to split national and state conservative groups. Moderate Republicans and Democrats are also hoping to play in the 3rd district, but no candidates have come forward so far.

— J.K.


Former AG Says He’ll Take on Senator Bennett

It looks as if Sen. Bob Bennett (R) will have an opponent in 2004 after all.

Former state Attorney General Paul Van Dam (D) announced over the weekend that he would be a candidate for Bennett’s Senate seat. Van Dam told the Deseret News on Saturday that he was driven into the race by his opposition to President Bush’s policies.

“I became more and more alarmed about the situation in our country,” he said.

Van Dam, one of the few Utah Democrats to be elected statewide in the past two decades, served as state attorney general from 1988 to 1992. Since then, he has become an avid bicyclist and is, at age 65, scheduled to compete in the mountain bike competition of the Senior Olympics next month.

Bennett is still heavily favored for a third term.

— J.K.

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