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The timing was curious, to say the least. But on the day that Rep. Jennifer Dunn (R) got her first — and potentially strongest — opponent in the 2004 cycle, a Washington-based environmental group released a 2-month-old poll showing that 71 percent of her constituents favor a bill to protect national forest land in her district.

The group, Wild Washington Campaign, said the timing of the poll had nothing to do with the fact that high-tech businessman Alex Alben (D) had just entered the 8th district race on Monday. In fact, Dunn is a co-sponsor of the legislation.

But Wild Washington Campaign believes Dunn’s ability to pass the Wild Sky Wilderness Act through the Republican Congress will be a test of her leadership abilities.

“Voters in the 8th district, one of Washington’s key swing districts, want to see Congresswoman Dunn and other Republicans in the Congressional delegation get the job done,” said John Leary, director of the environmental group.

Wild Washington further notes that Dunn’s district, just east of Seattle, is a bellwether for statewide and presidential elections, and says that the overwhelming support there for the wilderness bill should be a wake-up call to Washington state Republicans, especially Rep. George Nethercutt, who is running for Senate next year. Nethercutt’s opponent, Sen. Patty Murray (D), is the chief sponsor of the legislation on the Senate side.

The poll was conducted in July by American Viewpoint, the Washington, D.C., firm headed by Republican pollster Linda DiVall.
— Josh Kurtz

Gov. Heads Nebraska Fundraiser for Cain

Pizza magnate Herman Cain (R) traveled to Nebraska on Wednesday night to raise money for his fledgling Senate campaign at a fundraiser with Cornhusker State Gov. Mike Johanns (R).

The Omaha event, which carried a $250- per plate price tag, was a homecoming of sorts for Cain, who spent nearly a decade in Nebraska as CEO of the Godfather’s Pizza chain.

It is also likely to provide a major financial boost to Cain, who is expected to donate heavily out of his own pocket for his Republican primary challenge to Reps. Johnny Isakson and Mac Collins.

Cain, who is black, is seen as an underdog in that race, as he is something of an unknown political commodity.

While Republicans have an active three-way primary, Democrats have yet to field a top-tier candidate.

Former U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young is all but announced, and national Democrats believe his impressive resume and national fundraising connections will make up for a late start.

The seat is being vacated by Sen. Zell Miller, perhaps the most conservative Democrat in the Senate.
— Chris Cillizza

He’s Free as a Freedberg to Run for the Senate

Democrats still haven’t lured any of their top-tier challengers into the race against Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R) next year, but the field of candidates is growing. On Tuesday, Denver lawyer Brad Freedberg (D) entered the fray.

“The world has become too complicated for run-of-the-mill politicians to be governing our great nation,” Freedberg told a crowd of 30 supporters in a Denver park, The Denver Post reported.

Freedberg, 39, becomes the second candidate to formally enter the race. Colorado Springs educator Michael Miles (D) has been campaigning for several months.

Campbell, 70, is still the favorite for a third term.
— J.K.

Moderate Businessman Eyes GOP Senate Run

The 2004 Republican Senate race could get a moderate candidate after all.

Jeffrey Saull, a millionaire businessman from Vero Beach, told the St. Petersburg Times on Wednesday that he is considering joining the GOP race for Sen. Bob Graham’s (D) seat.

Saull, a frequent donor to Republican candidates and causes, had been backing the Senate campaign of moderate GOP Rep. Mark Foley. But Foley withdrew from the race a few weeks ago to care for his aging parents, leaving the Republican field to conservatives.

Saull told the newspaper, “I’m not just considering it, I’m starting to make arrangements.”

Saull made his fortune selling office chairs and candles to chain stores such as Wal-Mart. The Times estimated that he could wind up spending $20 million on a Senate race.

“Nobody in the state wants to go against me,” Saull said. “I don’t lose.”

— J.K.

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