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NORTH CAROLINA: Business Group Poll Shows Bowles Leading

Democrat Erskine Bowles has a double-digit lead over Rep. Richard Burr (R) in a hypothetical Senate matchup, according to an independent poll taken last month for a nonpartisan North Carolina business group.

The poll of 800 voters was conducted Sept. 16-24 by Market Research Insight for NCFREE, a nonprofit group that provides polling and political analysis for businesses in North Carolina.

Bowles led Burr 42 percent to 31 percent in a head-to-head matchup, while 28 percent were undecided. The survey had a 4 percent margin of error.

In a generic test of party preference, the survey also found that 41 percent of those surveyed would prefer a Democrat to win the Senate race, while 34 percent said they preferred a Republican.

Bowles, who lost a 2002 open-seat race to now-Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R) by a 9-point margin, is considered the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination, but he still faces a possible primary. Burr, meanwhile, has a clear shot at the GOP nomination after the White House and national party leaders helped clear the field.

Two other polls conducted in the race have found varying results.

In a survey done for Bowles in early September, he led Burr 43 percent to 35 percent. The Garin-Hart-Yang Research Group poll conducted Sept. 8-9 surveyed 605 likely voters and had a 4 percent margin of error.

However, a survey conducted by Research 2000 for the Raleigh News and Observer and released in mid-September showed Burr leading Bowles 43 percent to 37 percent.
— Lauren W. Whittington

Clinton Campaign Vet Looks Ahead to 2006

Clinton campaign veteran Greg Hale (D) told The Associated Press this week that he has his eye on the 4th district seat if and when Rep. Mike Ross (D) vacates it.

“If Mike Ross runs for governor, I’m running for Congress,” said Hale, who is working on the advance team for the presidential campaign of Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry (D). During the 1996 campaign, Hale, an Arkansas native, played a similar role for President Clinton.

Ross, who defeated then-Rep. Jay Dickey (R) in 2000, is mentioned as a potential gubernatorial candidate in 2006 when the seat will be open. Current Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) will be term-limited out of office then.

The southern Arkansas 4th district has been heavily contested in recent cycles by both parties but Ross appears to have secured it. He soundly defeated Dickey in 2002, and no serious Republican challenger is on the horizon for November 2004.
— Chris Cillizza

Senate Leaders Wonder About Dodd’s Plans

Senate Democratic leaders are watching veteran Sen. Chris Dodd (D), who has not yet announced whether he will seek a fifth term in 2004.

Dodd easily won re-election in 1998, defeating former Rep. Gary Franks (R) with 65 percent of the vote, and most political professionals have assumed that he will run for re-election and win easily. The Republican candidates are IBM researcher Miriam Masullo and Taco Bell manager William Bentley.

But some insiders think Dodd might follow the path blazed by retiring Sen. Don Nickles (R-Okla.), who announced last week that next year would be his last in the Senate. In recent years, Dodd has been largely overshadowed by the Nutmeg State’s junior Senator, Joe Lieberman, who was Vice President Al Gore’s running mate in 2000 and is currently seeking the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004.

Dodd himself considered running for president but decided against it and endorsed Lieberman. Dodd also looked into succeeding Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, had the South Dakota Democrat resigned his leadership post to run for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Dodd said this week that he “probably” won’t make a formal announcement until next year, but noted, “I’m doing all the steps, the things you would be doing if you were going to run for re-election.”
— Mark Preston

Sheriff Joins GOP Race Against Rep. Holden

Dauphin County Sheriff Jack Lotwick this week became the fourth Republican to enter the April 27, 2004, primary race to take on Rep. Tim Holden (D).

Lotwick has served two terms as sheriff of the county that includes the Keystone State capital of Harrisburg, and he is unopposed for re-election on this year’s Nov. 4 ballot.

Holden, a one-time sheriff of Schuykull County who was elected to the House in 1992, defeated fellow Rep. George Gekas (R) last cycle in a Member-versus-Member contest created by redistricting. He had a little more than $300,000 in the bank as of Sept. 30.

Although he is viewed as a potential top target by Republicans, a frontrunner has yet to emerge from the GOP primary field in a district that favors Republicans.

Also running in the primary are accounting consultant Frank Ryan, teacher Ron Hostetler and real estate agent Sue Helm. Scott Paterno, the 31-year-old son of legendary Penn State football coach Joe Paterno, is also mulling a run for the seat.
— L.W.W.

Senate Hopeful Files Suit Against Chicago Tribune

Republican Senate hopeful Chirinjeev Kathuria filed a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against the Chicago Tribune this week, after the paper published a story that he contends defamed him.

The Oct. 12 story, based on an analysis of his résumé, claimed that Kathuria’s campaign “is built on highly embellished claims of success as an international business tycoon.”

Kathuria, a practicing Sikh and a businessman reportedly worth hundreds of millions of dollars, is painting himself as an innovative entrepreneur who has made his fortune launching cutting-edge technology firms, according to the Tribune story. The newspaper also notes he holds an Ivy League medical degree but has never practiced.

At a Chicago news conference Tuesday, Kathuria said that at the very worst he is “guilty of not updating my résumé.”

“We stand by our story and our reporters,” Managing Editor James O’Shea said in a story published Wednesday by the Tribune.

The suit alleges that Kathuria could lose $100 million in business deals because of the story, and he is seeking a court order to force the newspaper to post retractions in print and on its Web site. He is seeking damages in the range of $1.5 million.

Kathuria is one of a half-dozen Republicans running in the March 16, 2004, primary to succeed retiring Sen. Peter Fitzgerald (R). Among the others running are investment banker turned teacher Jack Ryan, paper company executive Andy McKenna, dairy magnate Jim Oberweis and state Sen. Steve Rauschenberger.
— L.W.W.

Barrow Snags Early Nod From Carpenters Union

Athens-Clarke County Commissioner John Barrow (D) this week received the early endorsement of the Southeastern Carpenters Regional Council/United Brotherhood of Carpenters, Joiners and Millwrights in his bid against freshman Rep. Max Burns (R).

The 5,000-member union did not endorse any candidate in 2002, when Democrats nominated attorney Champ Walker, who was eventually beaten badly by Burns. Barrow has also been endorsed by former Sen. Max Cleland (D-Ga.).

Barrow is one of two candidates vying to challenge the freshman next year in the Democratic-leaning 12th district. Attorney and former state Sen. Doug Haines is also seeking the Democratic nod.

After a relatively quiet first nine months in office, Burns has suffered a week’s worth of bad press following the firing of his chief of staff and a widely publicized anti-Semitic comment made by a contributor at a Burns fundraiser. This week Burns apologized to a local Jewish group for not immediately repudiating the comment made by backer Jackie Sommers at the September event.
— L.W.W.

Weiner Bank Account Renews City Hall Talk

Rep. Anthony Weiner’s (D) eye-popping fundraising totals have rekindled speculation that he is planning to run for mayor of New York City in 2005.

The New York Daily News reported Wednesday that Weiner — who faces no credible challengers in his heavily Democratic Brooklyn district — can use about $1.2 million of the $1.5 million he has raised in his House account for a citywide run.

“Money is like yeast in politics — you kind of need it to rise,” Weiner told the newspaper. “I’m thinking about running for mayor. It hasn’t risen much past that.”

Weiner is one of a half-dozen Democratic names mentioned as possible challengers to first-term Mayor Michael Bloomberg (R). One of those considered likeliest to run, City Council Speaker Gifford Miller, has $1.6 million in his campaign war chest.

Bloomberg, a political moderate who switched to the GOP to run for mayor in 2001, is expected to face a serious challenge in the Republican primary as well.
— Josh Kurtz

Democrats Sue to Block New Redistricting Plan

Soon after Republican state legislators passed a redistricting bill Sunday that would radically alter the state’s Congressional district lines, Democrats filed suit to prevent the plan from being instituted for the 2004 elections.

At the center of the legal action is Democrats’ contention that the new map disenfranchises minority voters by moving them from districts where they are able to control the election of a Member to districts that are so overwhelmingly Republican that their vote is rendered meaningless.

Republicans retort that the map adds a new black-opportunity district and a new Hispanic-controlled seat and left eight other Hispanic seats and three black seats in place.

The passage of the new plan came after months of wrangling between the parties that featured three special sessions of the Legislature and two walkouts by Democrats, who fled to Oklahoma and New Mexico.

Allies of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas), a prime mover in the passage of the map, believe Republicans could reap up to seven seats in 2004.

The endangered Democrats include Reps. Martin Frost, Lloyd Doggett, Charlie Stenholm, Nick Lampson, Jim Turner, Chet Edwards and Max Sandlin.
— C.C.

Sand Starts Exploratory Committee for Senate

Former Navy officer Duane Sand (R) took a major step toward challenging Sen. Byron Dorgan (D) on Tuesday as he filed papers to create an exploratory committee.

“I’m an average guy who grew up in North Dakota, wanted to serve my country in uniform — I did it well for 14 years — and now I want to come home,” Sand said at a news conference announcing his political intentions.

Sand left the Navy this month after a stint at the Pentagon.

This marks his second Senate bid. In 2000, he challenged Sen. Kent Conrad (D) but received only 38 percent of the vote.

He plans to raise $200,000 by Christmas and set a $1.5 million budget for the campaign. In 2000, he raised and spent $400,000, but Conrad outspent him by $1.8 million.

Sand is considered a credible candidate, but there is no evidence Dorgan is vulnerable. He has served in elected office since 1969 and won re-election in 1998 with 63 percent.

— C.C.

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