Frederick County States Attorney Scott Rolle has decided to challenge six-term Rep. Roscoe Bartlett in the 2004 Republican primary.
While he has not yet made a formal announcement, Rolle, 42, filed papers last week with the Federal Election Commission to become a candidate. The three-term prosecutor held a fundraiser in Frederick on Thursday night, which organizers hoped would yield $30,000 to $50,000.
Bartlett also held a fundraiser in Frederick on Thursday, headlined by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). Staffers on Monday could not estimate the take from the event. Bartlett had $133,000 in the bank as of Sept. 30.
Rolle, a rising star in Maryland politics, is sure to present Bartlett with the toughest challenge he has faced since winning his Western Maryland seat in 1992. Although Republican leaders such as Gov. Bob Ehrlich have vowed to support Bartlett in the primary, many are close to Rolle and aren’t likely to work against him with much enthusiasm. Many have touted Rolle as a shoo-in for the GOP nomination for state attorney general in 2006 if he wants it.
But Rolle has calculated that he has a better shot at Congress in the conservative 6th district than running statewide in a Democratic stronghold, even if it sets up a potentially bloody primary against the 77-year-old incumbent.
Rolle has hired George Rasley, communications director to Rep. Adam Putnam (R-Fla.) and a one-time senior adviser to ex-Vice President Dan Quayle, to be his campaign manager. Carol Hirschburg, a top Republican strategist in Maryland who worked for the 1994 and 1998 campaigns of GOP gubernatorial nominee Ellen Sauerbrey, will serve as a key consultant.
— Josh Kurtz
Campbell Illness News Revives Retirement Talk
Word last week that Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R) is being treated for prostate cancer has led to inevitable speculation that the 70-year-old lawmaker will not seek re-election in 2004.
Campaign aides insist that Campbell is raring to go, pointing to the $965,000 in his campaign treasury, the fact that he is lining up county chairmen and the fact that Vice President Cheney is scheduled to appear at a fundraiser for the Senator on Nov. 6. Campbell is expected to end radiation treatment for the cancer within two weeks.
“This rumor that somehow it’s going to affect his campaign, I think, has been generated by some wishful-thinking Democrats,” Sen. Wayne Allard (R-Colo.) told the Rocky Mountain News on Saturday.
The News quoted some Democratic professionals speculating that Campbell could choose not to seek a third term in the end. Consultant Steve Welchert said Colorado Democrats contemplating running for the Senate need not rule out a race until they know for sure what Campbell is doing.
So far, only middle school principal Michael Miles (D) has formally declared his candidacy. But Democrats hold out hope that Rep. Mark Udall (D) or former Sen. Gary Hart (D) will get into the race.
“I’m not convinced he is going to run,” Welchert told the News. “I’m not convinced of anything until it’s said and done. I don’t think Democrats ought to be in a hurry to make their decisions until Ben Campbell makes a decision.”
Sheriff Takes Aim at Lawmakers in Dist. 3
Pueblo County Sheriff Dan Corsentino last week became the third Republican to formally enter the 3rd district race to replace retiring Rep. Scott McInnis (R).
“I think we’re the underdog and the dark horse right now, but we’re going to emerge the winner,” Corsentino said in an interview.
Corsentino joins two state legislators — Reps. Gregg Rippy and Matt Smith, McInnis’ brother-in-law — in a Republican primary that is likely to ultimately feature at least a half-dozen viable candidates.
Corsentino said he has a better chance of winning than the state lawmakers for a few reasons. He has already been endorsed by 15 of the 19 Republican sheriffs in the sprawling 3rd district, which gives him a built-in political network. If state House Speaker Lola Spradley (R) doesn’t run for the seat, Corsentino is likely to be the only GOP candidate from the eastern part of the district. Plus, he has been elected sheriff four times in the one Democratic stronghold in the district; Pueblo County is about 70 percent Democratic.
Corsentino, who predicted he would need to raise almost $500,000 for the primary and a total of $1.5 million in a district where Democrats also plan to compete, said he believes voters will find his life and political experience more appealing that his opponents’.
“Congress wasn’t made for special interests,” he said. “It was made for common people. You’ve got a sheriff who’s seen it all.”
Former Governor May Jump Into Senate Fray
Former Gov. David Beasley (R) is considering joining the open-seat Senate race, according to the Charleston Post and Courier.
Beasley’s interest was piqued by a poll conducted by South Carolina Republican consultant Richard Quinn that showed the former governor with a substantial lead over his potential GOP opponents.
Beasley took 24 percent in the survey; former Lt. Gov. Bob Peeler, who has said he will not run, was at 16 percent. Former state Attorney General Charlie Condon and Rep. Jim DeMint each took 8 percent.
Beasley led a general election matchup against state Superintendent of Education Inez Tenenbaum (D) by 10 points.
Much of Beasley’s strong poll performance is due to residual name identification from his four years as Palmetto State governor.
He lost his 1998 re-election race to then-state Sen. Jim Hodges (D) after fighting a public battle within his own party over whether to take down the Confederate flag in the statehouse.
Beasley has largely avoided the political spotlight since his loss.
— Chris Cillizza
Fletcher Tops New Poll; Special Election Likely
One week removed from the 2003 election for governor, Rep. Ernie Fletcher (R) has opened up a 10-point lead over state Attorney General Ben Chandler (D), according to the Bluegrass Poll.
Fletcher took 49 percent to Chandler’s 39 percent in the survey, commissioned by the Louisville Courier-Journal. It was in the field from Oct. 21 to 23, testing 689 likely voters. The poll’s margin of error was 3.7 percent.
If Fletcher wins, he would be the first Republican governor in the state in more than three decades. A Fletcher victory would also set off a special election for his 6th district seat, which is considered to be competitive between the two parties.
Fayette County Prosecutor Margaret Kannensohn (D) has filed an exploratory committee to raise money for the race, and state Treasurer Jonathan Miller, state Rep. Susan Westrom, and state Sens. Ernesto Scorsone and R.J. Palmer are also interested on the Democratic side.
Among Republicans, state party Chairwoman Ellen Williams, state Sens. Alice Forgy Kerr and Tom Buford, state Rep. Stan Lee, and former Fletcher chief of staff and current campaign manager Daniel Groves are all mentioned.
Doggett Readies Run in New House District
Seeking to add some solidity to his unstable political future, Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D) announced he would run in the new 25th district if the Republican-passed redistricting map is upheld for the 2004 elections.
Although he expressed disdain for the new map, which could cost Democrats as many as seven seats, Doggett said he was declaring for the open seat that stretches from Austin south to the border as a precaution if the courts move slowly in considering the Democrats’ appeals.
The new 25th district contains portions of Doggett’s current 10th district, which is centered on Austin and Travis County, which are heavily Democratic. It was drawn as a majority minority seat, with Hispanics accounting for 63 percent of the voting-age population.
Doggett is not likely to have the field to himself, however, as state Rep. Kino Flores (D) and state Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos are also contemplating bids. Both are Hispanic.
The five-term Democrat enters any primary contest as an early favorite because of his massive campaign war chest. Doggett ended September with $2.2 million in the bank.
Two Senate Candidates Join Those With TV Ads
Two more candidates in the crowded race to replace Sen. Peter Fitzgerald (R) hit the airwaves for the first time last week.
State Comptroller Dan Hynes (D) went on the air Monday with a 30-second TV spot titled “Promise.”
In the ad, Hynes chides Washington, D.C., for failing to keep “America’s promise.”
“If building schools, roads and hospitals is right for Iraq, then it’s right for America, too,” Hynes says in the ad.
A spokeswoman for the campaign described the downstate buy as “medium” in size.
Hynes, who also received the endorsement of the state’s two leading openly gay elected officials last week, is the third Democrat in the race to go on the air. Former Chicago School Board Chairman Gery Chico and millionaire businessman Blair Hull are already running ads.
Rounding out the top tier of Democrats in the race is state Sen. Barack Obama, who is not currently airing television ads. Obama received the endorsement of Citizen Action/Illinois, which bills itself as the state’s largest public interest organization, at the group’s annual conference last week.
Meanwhile, paper company executive Andy McKenna (R) also went up with two new ads last week.
One spot, titled “Family,” features McKenna and his wife, Mary, talking about their “very traditional family that believes in good, honest family values.”
The other, titled “Economy,” features McKenna listing what he’ll do to fight for jobs as Senator, including requiring the government to buy products made in the United States.
The open-ended buy is running on cable television stations statewide.
McKenna is one of five Republicans running for the Senate nomination. Investment banker-turned-teacher Jack Ryan was the first Republican to go on the air with ads earlier this month.
The other GOP candidates in the March 16 primary are state Sen. Steve Rauschenberger, dairy magnate Jim Oberweis, retired Air Force Gen. John Borling and wealthy businessman Chirinjeev Kathuria.
— Lauren W. Whittington