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MONTANA: State Lawmaker Eyes Challenging Rehberg

State Rep. Dave Gallik (D) said last week that he may challenge Rep. Denny Rehberg (R) in 2004.

Gallik, a 49-year-old lawmaker from Helena, told The Associated Press that he would travel across the state during October to gauge the incumbent’s popularity.

“I just want to go take the temperature and see if people are satisfied,” Gallik said, adding that he would make a final decision on the race in November.

Rehberg, who is in the middle of his second term, won 65 percent of the vote last year and is considered fairly safe in the statewide, at-large district. But Gallik’s move could be tactical: Rehberg could run for Senate in 2006 if Sen. Conrad Burns (R) decides to retire, and there would be spirited races in both parties to replace him.

— Josh Kurtz


Strickland Will Head Group on Licenses

State Assemblyman Tony Strickland (R), one of three Republicans vying to take on Sen. Barbara Boxer (D) in 2004, has been named co-chairman of the organization seeking to overturn the new state law granting driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants.

Strickland’s consultant, Dan Schnur, said the appointment will give the candidate welcome publicity in his primary battle with former U.S. Treasurer Rosario Marin and former Los Altos Hills Mayor Toni Casey. Opponents of the new law are trying to get a referendum question on the statewide ballot next year to overturn it.

“Tony’s visibility on such an important issue gives him an excellent opportunity to talk to voters,” Schnur said.

Strickland’s participation in the campaign will, if nothing else, reinforce his stature as the leading conservative in the GOP Senate field, which should help in a multicandidate primary. But last week’s election of actor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) as governor has scrambled the political conventional wisdom in California, suggesting that moderate Republicans may begin to prosper.

As he campaigned, Schwarzenegger said he was opposed to the driver’s license law that the Democratic-controlled Legislature approved and now-recalled Gov. Gray Davis (D) signed into law. But it is unclear whether the governor-elect will lend his political muscle to the effort to put a referendum question on the ballot.

— J.K.


Redistrict Re-evaluation Pushed in Two Big States

The Congressional redistricting process could be up for re-examination in two key states.

The Associated Press reported last week that Democrats in Florida will try to get an initiative on the ballot next year giving the power of redrawing political districts to a bipartisan commission rather than the Republican-controlled Legislature.

State Rep. Tim Ryan (D) has proposed that a 17-member panel draw the lines for the next reapportionment before the 2012 elections. Republicans and Democrats would each appoint eight members, and those 16 members would choose the 17th. Although there are more registered Democrats in the state than Republicans, the GOP holds two-thirds of Florida’s seats in Congress and the state Legislature.

Supporters of the initiative need to gather about 500,000 signatures to put the proposal before voters.

Meanwhile, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s election as governor in California has given aid and comfort to Republican supporters of a proposal to put Congressional redistricting in the hands of a panel of judges. Rep. Devin Nunes (R), working with Republican grassroots activists, is trying to get a redistricting measure on the statewide ballot next year, and Schwarzenegger endorsed the concept during the just-completed recall campaign.

— J.K.


Knowles, Murkowski Fundraising is Even

Former Gov. Tony Knowles (D) raised $475,000 in the last three months for his 2004 challenge to Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R).

Three-quarters of the contributions were in increments of $100 or less, according to Bob King, a Knowles campaign spokesman, and 1,300 of these came from Alaskans.

“I think it indicates the depth and breadth of Knowles’ grassroots support,” King said.

The campaign has spent about $164,000 so far and reported having $310,000 on hand.

According to an account Sunday in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Murkowski raised about $500,000 for the third quarter, bringing the year-to-date total to $1.5 million. There was no report of her cash on hand, however.

— J.K.

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