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ILLINOIS: Chico Is First on the Air In Crowded Senate Race

Former Chicago Board of Education President Gery Chico (D) became the first 2004 Senate candidate to hit the television airwaves in Chicago this week, as he launched a statewide ad campaign Monday.

Chico spokeswoman Samantha Anderson would not give the specific cost or length of the ad campaign but characterized the “substantial” buy as worth more than $500,000. The buy consists of four 30-second spots; two ads are running in the Chicago market and two other spots are on the air downstate.

Meanwhile, state Comptroller Dan Hynes (D) released a month-old poll last week that showed him leading the crowded primary field for the 2004 Senate nomination.

The survey, conducted Aug. 14-20, showed Hynes with the support of 26 percent of the likely primary voters polled.

Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas, who has not formally entered the race, garnered 15 percent, and state Sen. Barack Obama rounded out the Democratic contenders in double digits, receiving 12 percent.

Chico got 4 percent, and millionaire businessman Blair Hull took 3 percent. Health care executive Joyce Washington and talk-show host Nancy Skinner each got 1 percent in the poll. The primary is scheduled for March 16.

The survey of 1,000 likely Democratic voters was conducted by New York based-Global Strategy Group Inc.

A Fox News Chicago poll, conducted Sept. 22-24 by KRC/Communications Research and released last week, showed Hynes and former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. executive Jack Ryan (R) leading their respective primary fields with 10 percent each.

Among the top contenders on the Democratic side, Hull followed with 9 percent, Obama got 8 percent, Chico got 7 percent and Washington got 5 percent.

Among Republicans, dairy magnate Jim Oberweis followed Ryan with 9 percent, retired Air Force Gen. John Borling and businessman John Cox each took 8 percent, paper company executive Andy McKenna took 6 percent, and state Sen. Steve Rauschenberger took 5 percent.

Fifty-one percent of those polled were undecided. The poll was conducted to determine which candidates would be invited to a televised debate Saturday at the annual convention of the NAACP Illinois State Conference.
— Lauren W. Whittington

Businessman Barbieri Launches 5th District Bid

Spokane businessman Don Barbieri (D) is set to announce his candidacy today for the open 5th district House seat now held by retiring Rep. George Nethercutt (R).

Barbieri, a hotel developer and leader of local business organizations, is seen as the Democrats’ best chance of recapturing the eastern Washington seat that Nethercutt wrested from then-Speaker Tom Foley (D) in 1994. Nethercutt is moving on to challenge Sen. Patty Murray (D) in 2004.

While Barbieri may have the Democratic field to himself, three well-known Republicans are already vying for the 5th district nomination — state House Minority Leader Cathy McMorris, state Senate Majority Leader Larry Sheahan and Spokane Sheriff Mark Sterk. Others could follow.

The 5th district has been trending Republican — it would have given George W. Bush 57 percent of the vote in the 2000 presidential election — but Democrats believe they can win the seat with a moderate, pro-business candidate like Barbieri.
— Josh Kurtz

Two Vying to Challenge Rep. Baird in 3rd District

Two political neophytes are competing to challenge Rep. Brian Baird (D) in 2004, The Olympian newspaper reported last week.

Olympia home builder Tom Crowson (R) formally declared his candidacy last week, vowing to fight “overregulation and overtaxation” in Congress. Crowson, 51, is a retired San Diego firefighter who moved to Washington state in 1992.

Dawn Courtney (R), 37, a Castle Rock-based radio marketing representative, has already filed papers with the Federal Election Commission to run.

The prospect of a showdown to take on Baird appears to be conflicting with the GOP strategy to enter the 2004 cycle unified behind a single candidate, the newspaper reported.

In a district that gave 48 percent of its vote to George W. Bush in the 2000 presidential election (Al Gore got 46 percent and Ralph Nader got 5 percent), Baird is considered potentially vulnerable. He took 55 percent of the vote in his first race in 1998 and 56 percent in 2000.

Republicans started the 2002 cycle with high hopes in the 3rd. But their preferred candidate, 2000 nominee Trent Matson, dropped out, and the man who wound up with the GOP nomination, state Rep. Joseph Zarelli (R), was politically damaged when it was revealed that he received unemployment checks while being paid for his legislative service. Baird took 62 percent of the vote.

Despite the southwest Washington district’s competitive nature, Baird is considered ready for battle. He had $638,000 in his campaign account as of June 30 and has held more than 200 town hall meetings across the district.
— J.K.

Recent Developments Seen as Plus for Bowles

Former White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles (D) got several boosts late last week in his attempt to clear the primary field in next year’s open Senate seat contest.

First, Rep. Bob Etheridge (D) issued a statement that he would not pursue a Senate bid. Etheridge had conducted a poll testing his viability but said through a spokeswoman Thursday that he had “no plans to be a candidate for the U.S. Senate in 2004.”

Then, former Charlotte Mayor Harvey Gantt (D), who twice ran unsuccessfully for the Senate, endorsed Bowles — a major blow for former state Rep. Dan Blue (D), who is mulling a bid.

Gantt is the most powerful black politician in the Tar Heel State after twice running and losing races against then-Sen. Jesse Helms (R) in 1990 and 1996.

Blue, who is black, ran in the 2002 Senate primary against Bowles but placed a distant second. He waited more than a month to endorse Bowles in the general election and then offered only lukewarm support.

Blue is expected to make a decision next month about running in 2004.

Republicans have already done a commendable job of keeping the primary field clear.

Rep. Richard Burr (R) has been in the race for months and is expected to report more than $4 million on hand at the end of September after raising roughly $600,000 from July 1 to Sept. 30.

— Chris Cillizza

Contemplating Rematch, Khouri Chats Up Matsui

Attorney Chris Khouri (D) met with Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Robert Matsui (Calif.) in Washington, D.C., on Thursday as he continues to ponder a rematch against Rep. Robin Hayes (R).

Khouri was a little-known political neophyte when he ran last cycle but handily defeated former state Rep. Billy Richardson (D), the establishment favorite, in a September primary. But he had little money left for his general election challenge to Hayes and was outspent by a more than 3-1 margin.

Hayes won a relatively pedestrian 54 percent to 45 percent victory.

The end result was disappointing to Democrats who thought Hayes had severely endangered himself after casting the decisive vote to grant the president trade promotion authority, a troublesome issue in the textile-heavy 8th district.

Despite his setback, Khouri is seen as a rising star within the state party and is not likely to have serious opposition for the nomination should he run this time.

On paper, the district is closely split between the parties, although George W. Bush would have won 54 percent there in 2000.

But Hayes appears to have solidified his hold on the district somewhat after winning a narrow election in a 1998 open-seat contest. He took 55 percent in his first re-election effort in 2000.
— C.C.

Black GOP Minister Eyes Challenge to Rep. Ross

The Rev. Jesse Turner (R) canceled a news conference last week where he planned to announce his candidacy in the 4th district, due to lack of attendance.

“We’re going to reschedule this because we need to make sure we get the media coverage we need,” said an adviser to Turner, according to The Associated Press.

Turner, who is black, said Rep. Mike Ross (D) has largely ignored the issues of black farmers.

Ross first won the southern Arkansas seat in 2000 when he defeated then-Rep. Jay Dickey (R) in an upset.

Ross was the only challenger not from California to knock off an incumbent that cycle.

In 2002, Dickey ran again, and though he spent more than $2 million, he took only 39 percent of the vote.

Ross has done little to make himself vulnerable. Through June he had $141,000 in the bank after repaying $84,000 of a personal loan.
— C.C.

Perry Seeks Final Remap Agreement By Oct. 8

Republicans in the state Legislature are headed to a conference committee in hopes of ironing out disagreements between the House and Senate over Congressional redistricting plans passed by the two bodies in recent weeks.

The state Senate approved a plan Wednesday that would severely endanger three to six Democrats in the Congressional delegation.

The state House had previously passed a similar map, although in the House plan, a new Midland-centered district is created and Reps. Charlie Stenholm (D) and Randy Neugebauer (R) are forced into a race against each other.

It remains unclear whether the two sides will be able to agree on a compromise plan. Conferees were appointed Thursday, and Republicans are hoping to reach an agreement before the special legislative session ends Oct. 14.

Gov. Rick Perry (R) has said that in practical terms an agreement would need to be reached by Oct. 8.

Under either of the plans Democratic Reps. Max Sandlin, Jim Turner, Nick Lampson, Chet Edwards, Ralph Hall and Stenholm would face difficult re-election races in their redrawn districts.

Hall, who is the eldest Member of the House, has openly contemplated retirement, but the rest of the targeted Democrats are likely to run again.
— C.C.


Starstruck GOP Looks to Hollywood for Boxer Foe

This should come as no surprise.

With movie star Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) surging ahead in the latest poll leading up to the Oct. 7 recall election of Gov. Gray Davis (D), two other conservative Hollywood stars are being talked about as possible future candidates for the Senate.

The Los Angeles Times reported Sunday that some Golden State Republican operatives are urging comedian Dennis Miller to challenge Sen. Barbara Boxer (D) in 2004.

“There’s a lot of us who would like to see him campaign,” said Rob Stutzman, a GOP consultant who is now serving as a spokesman for Schwarzenegger.

Although Miller refused to be interviewed for the Times article, the newspaper noted that he is speaking out more on California politics and has appeared at rallies for Schwarzenegger and President Bush.

Meanwhile, Kelsey Grammer, star of the “Frasier” TV series, told the New York Post last week that he is interested in pursuing a political career when the show goes off the air and would contemplate running for the Senate from California some time.

Roy Behr, a campaign spokesman for Boxer, said the GOP’s dalliance with celebrities like Miller and Grammer shows how weak their conventional candidates for the Senate are: former Los Altos Hills Mayor Toni Casey, former U.S. Treasurer Rosario Marin and Assemblyman Tony Strickland.

“The Republican Party has gone through a desperate search to find someone who is remotely credible,” Behr said. “They’ve looked at everybody and everything and they couldn’t find anybody, so they’re looking at bringing in the circus.”
— J.K.

GOP Cease-fire on Ads Could Be Short-lived

A Virginia-based education group began a radio ad campaign blasting Sen. Arlen Specter (R) Thursday, prompting the four-term Senator to vow retaliation if the spots are not terminated — and threatening to dissolve the ad war cease-fire between Specter and Rep. Pat Toomey (R).

Earlier last week, the opponents in the 2004 Senate primary agreed to suspend campaign advertising until after the Nov. 4 elections, when the state’s voters go the polls to decide judicial and local contests. The Senate ad detente was brokered by the state GOP chairman and was meant to also cover advertising by third-party and outside groups.

The radio ad, sponsored by the Legislative Education Action Drive, seeks to paint Specter as a liberal, pointing specifically to his recent vote in the Appropriations Committee against creating a federally funded voucher program for Washington, D.C., public schools.

The approximately $50,000 ad buy is running on conservative talk radio stations. Last week, the director of the group told The Associated Press that the organization has no plans to discontinue the ads, which are scheduled to run through Friday.

A Toomey spokesman told The Associated Press his campaign had nothing to do with the ads or the group sponsoring them. William Wilson, director of LEAD, is the political director for U.S. Term Limits, an organization that has supported Toomey’s positions. He has also contributed to the conservative Club for Growth, which is backing Toomey in the primary.

Toomey and Specter are squaring off in an April 27, 2004, primary. Rep. Joe Hoeffel (D) is the frontrunner for the Democratic Senate nomination.
— L.W.W.

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