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ALASKA: Knowles Leads in New Democratic Poll

Former Gov. Tony Knowles (D) held a 9-point lead over Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R) in a trial heat for the 2004 Senate race.

In a poll of 459 registered voters conducted in late September and early October by Alaska Democratic pollster Ivan Moore for a corporate client, Knowles was preferred by 52 percent of the respondents, while Murkowski was the choice of 43 percent. The rest of those polled were undecided.

The poll, conducted Sept. 27-Oct. 3, had a 4.6 percent margin of error.

Knowles, who served as governor from 1994 to 2002, was viewed very positively by 14.6 percent of the respondents and somewhat positively by 37.7 percent. While 12.9 percent of voters surveyed had a neutral opinion of their former governor, 17.3 percent were somewhat negative and 17 percent were very negative. Virtually everyone surveyed knew who Knowles was.

Murkowski’s ratings were somewhat lower: 9.3 percent had a very positive impression, 31.2 percent were somewhat positive, 18.3 percent were somewhat negative, and 13.8 percent were very negative. Equally significant, 24.9 percent of the voters had a neutral opinion of Murkowski, and 2.4 percent of those surveyed did not know who she was.

Murkowski was plucked from the state House of Representatives and appointed to the Senate last December by her father, Gov. Frank Murkowski (R), who had previously held the Senate seat.

In related news, Knowles has added two big consulting names to his campaign team as he prepares for his 2004 matchup with Murkowski. Knowles has hired Squier Knapp Dunn to do his media work, with Anita Dunn expected to take the lead. And he has hired Kiley & Co., the Boston-based consulting firm headed by Tom Kiley, for polling.

Knowles has used Kiley for polling in Alaska since 1995, but in hiring Squier Knapp Dunn he is apparently parting company with Joe Slade White, who handled the media during his two successful campaigns for governor.
— Josh Kurtz

Poll Has Noncandidate Tied With Sen. Feingold

A new poll conducted for a conservative think tank shows Sen. Russ Feingold (D) and Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson (R) in a dead heat in a hypothetical Senate matchup.

The problem for Republicans, however, is that Thompson has said repeatedly that he isn’t running for Senate in 2004.

In the Harris Interactive poll, conducted Oct. 6-12 for the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, Thompson got 45 percent and Feingold got 44 percent. The survey of 1,000 Wisconsin residents, and not likely voters, had a 3 percent margin of error. The poll also found that Feingold, who won re-election with only 51 percent in 1998, had a 49 percent/24 percent favorable/unfavorable rating.

Three lesser-known Republicans are vying for the right to challenge Feingold next year: car dealer Russ Darrow, businessman Tim Michels and state Sen. Bob Welch. While Darrow and Michels are both wealthy, none of the three is well-known in the state and pale in comparison to Thompson’s stature as a former four-term governor.

In addition to Thompson, Republicans also tried to recruit Rep. Paul Ryan (R) to run for Senate, but he resisted their overtures.
— Lauren W. Whittington

Nethercutt Attacks Seattle Newspaper

In his 2004 Senate contest against Sen. Patty Murray (D), Rep. George Nethercutt (R) has chosen to do battle with … the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

Nethercutt on Tuesday took out advertisements in newspapers in both Washingtons, including Roll Call, blasting the Post-Intelligencer for its coverage of remarks he made on Iraq at a town hall meeting earlier this month. In the ads, the Spokane Congressman accused the P-I of “deliberately” distorting his remarks about the progress the United States is making in restoring order to Iraq being drowned out by media coverage of the casualties there. Nethercutt has withstood several days of negative headlines since the P-I first published the story.

The ads include excerpts of Nethercutt’s remarks, which he claims were taken out of context by the newspaper, invites readers to listen to the full speech on his campaign Web site, and solicits campaign contributions. The Congressman asserts, “What the Post-Intelligencer did was the equivalent of a negative political commercial against me.”

In an article in Tuesday’s P-I, the paper’s managing editor, David McCumber, said Nethercutt “was quoted accurately and within context by the P-I, and that’s sort of the beginning and the end of it.”

To further escalate matters, on Tuesday the P-I ran an editorial cartoon of Nethercutt standing at a funeral in a church demanding, “Hey! Why don’t you tell us the good news from Iraq?!” To which the minister, standing in front of a flag-draped casket, replies, “Sorry, Mr. Nethercutt, maybe after the funeral.”
— J.K.

Bennett Rapped by Consumer Federation

Sen. Bob Bennett (R) is under fire from a consumer group after raising money at the offices of an Atlanta credit agency that benefited from legislation he championed.

According to The Associated Press, employees of Equifax Inc. received notices urging them to contribute to the Sept. 26 Equifax political action committee fundraiser for Bennett, who was described as being “extremely helpful in our … efforts to mitigate the impact of providing credit reports nationwide.” The fundraiser, just three days after the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee approved legislation to revise the Fair Credit Reporting Act, yielded $25,000 to $30,000 for Bennett’s re-election committee, the AP reported.

Travis Plunkett, legislative affairs director for the Consumer Federation of America, called the fundraiser “an example of everyday, run-of-the-mill influence peddling by the financial services industry.”

But a spokeswoman for Bennett, Mary Jane Collipriest, said the fundraiser had been planned for months and was originally scheduled for last spring.

Bennett is up for a third term in 2004. He is likely to square off against former state Attorney General Paul Van Dam (D).

— J.K.

Carson, Humphreys Are Close in New DSCC Poll

A Democratic poll released last week in the open-seat Oklahoma Senate race found Rep. Brad Carson, the likely Democratic nominee, in a virtual dead heat with likely Republican nominee Kirk Humphreys, who is stepping down as Oklahoma City mayor on Nov. 1.

According to the poll, 45 percent of those surveyed favored Carson, while 42 percent said they would vote for Humphreys.

The poll of 500 likely voters was conducted Sept. 4-8 by Hamilton Beattie & Staff, Carson’s polling firm, on behalf of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. It had a 4 percent margin of error.

Sen. Don Nickles (R) announced Oct. 7 that he would not seek re-election to the Senate. While there is still the possibility that Carson and Humphreys will face some primary opposition, they are widely expected to be their respective parties’ nominees.
— L.W.W.

Re-Redistricting Won’t Happen in Legislature

Congressional redistricting is unlikely to be included on the agenda of the special legislative session that began Monday, the Albuquerque Tribune reported.

Gov. Bill Richardson (D), who controls the special session agenda, did not include redistricting on the formal “call” he is legally required to turn over to the New Mexico Secretary of State’s office at the beginning of the session.

Richardson could still change his mind and issue a special message in the middle of the session adding redistricting to the workload. Special sessions in New Mexico can last up to 30 days.

Some Democrats had hoped that the New Mexico Legislature would redraw the Congressional maps in retaliation for Republican-driven redistricting that took place earlier this year in Colorado and Texas — moves that could net the GOP up to seven seats in Texas and keep two competitive Colorado districts in Republican hands.

With only three House districts statewide, however, any re-redistricting in the Land of Enchantment would largely be symbolic, and Democrats would be able to pick up only one seat at best.
— J.K.

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