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NEVADA: Treasurer Visits D.C., Consults on Reid Race

State Treasurer Brian Krolicki (R) was in Washington, D.C., this week, speaking to national Republican operatives about a possible challenge to Senate Minority Whip Harry Reid (D) in 2004.

Although Krolicki has not yet decided what he is going to do next year, Republicans still hold out hope that they can give Reid a tough race next year.

“Harry Reid remains vulnerable,” said Dan Allen, communications director for the National Republican Senatorial Committee. “He only won by 428 votes [in 1998]. We’re talking to all Republicans who remain interested in that race.”

But most Republicans agree that their chances of knocking Reid off diminished considerably when Rep. Jim Gibbons (R) announced earlier this year that he would not run. So far, only conservative activist Richard Ziser (R) plans to run for Senate.

In a related development, the Ralston Political Report reported Wednesday that three more prominent Nevada Republicans plan to endorse Reid’s re-election: Terry Lanni, who runs the MGM Mirage casino, Nevada Power Co. executive Pat Shalmy and businessman Jerry Herbst.

— Josh Kurtz

Darrow, Farrow Ally as Gillespie Reveals Targets

Car dealer Russ Darrow (R) this week received the endorsement of Lt. Gov. Margaret Farrow (R) in his bid to knock off Sen. Russ Feingold (D) in 2004. Farrow, the highest elected Republican in the state, will serve as Darrow’s campaign chairwoman.

“Russ Darrow is the only Republican in this race that can beat Russ Feingold,” Farrow said in a statement.

Darrow is one of three Republicans vying for the right to challenge Feingold next year. The others are businessman Tim Michels and state Sen. Bob Welch. None of the three has high name recognition in the state, and both Darrow and Michels are millionaires.

A poll released Tuesday by a conservative-leaning Wisconsin-based think tank found that Feingold, who was re-elected with 51 percent in 1998, had a 2-1 favorability rating in the state.

At a stop in Madison on Tuesday, the chairman of the Republican National Committee vowed to unseat Feingold and Rep. Ron Kind (D) in 2004.

RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie named the two Democrats as the GOP’s top targets in the Badger State, a key presidential battleground.

Kind was elected with only 52 percent in 1996 but has been re-elected by wide margins since.

His 3rd district voted 49 percent to 46 percent for Vice President Al Gore (D), who narrowly won the state in the 2000 presidential election.

State Rep. Dale Schultz (R) is expected to challenge Kind next year.

— Lauren W. Whittington

Mikulski Has Big Lead Over Likely Challenger

Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D) holds a healthy lead over her likely Republican challenger, state Sen. E.J. Pipkin, a new independent poll shows.

In a survey of 831 likely Free State voters conducted Oct. 20-26 by Gonzales Research & Marketing Strategies, Mikulski held a 57 percent to 26 percent lead over Pipkin in a head-to-head matchup. Seventeen percent of the voters were undecided in the poll, which had a 3.5 percent margin of error.

Mikulski led Pipkin in every region of the state; her smallest margin — 43 percent to 41 percent — was on the Eastern Shore, which Pipkin represents in Annapolis.

Mikulski also carried high favorable numbers. Fifty-six percent of those surveyed viewed the three-term Senator favorably, while 19 percent did not. For Pipkin, 13 percent viewed him favorably, while 3 percent did not.

But a stunning 64 percent of voters had never heard of the freshman state lawmaker — a number that provides both an opportunity and a challenge for Pipkin. Still, only 31 percent of those surveyed agreed that “it’s time for a change,” while 53 percent said Mikulski deserves re-election.

— J.K.

Liberal Group Targets Walcher With Weblog

Greg Walcher (R), director of the state Department of Natural Resources, is probably the only candidate in the race to replace retiring Rep. Scott McInnis (R) to have a weblog devoted to him.

“Walcher Watch” was launched earlier this month by the Rocky Mountain Progressive Network, a Denver-based grassroots group.

The blog is related to Walcher’s stewardship of the state agency and has not yet addressed his expected candidacy in the wide-open 3rd district race. But the sentiment has been withering so far; one blogger recently wrote: “Greg Walcher being director of Natural Resources is like asking the red fox to put my wife’s chickens away at night.”

Although he has yet to declare his candidacy, Walcher is widely expected to enter the Republican primary to replace McInnis. So far, Pueblo County Sheriff Dan Corsentino, state Sen. Ken Chlouber and state Reps. Gregg Rippy and Matt Smith are in the GOP contest, though several other candidates are expected to get in. Smith is McInnis’ brother-in-law.

— J.K.

Hall’s Republican Foe Holds 1st Fundraiser

Former Naval aviator Ray Ivie (R) kicked off his campaign against Rep. Ralph Hall (D) Wednesday night with a Washington, D.C., fundraiser featuring House Appropriations Chairman Bill Young (R-Fla.).

Ivie returned to Texas this summer after retiring from the military. He also served as a military legislative fellow in the office of Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas).

Ivie’s campaign announcement came just days after Texas GOP legislators redrew the state’s Congressional boundaries. Hall’s 4th district was one of the few Democratic-held seats to have its Republican performance weakened under the new redistricting plan.

In the old 4th, statewide Republican candidates in 2002 would have take 68 percent; in the new seat, they would have won 63 percent.

But, Hall, who at 80 is the oldest Member of the House, picked up substantial new territory in the new district, including Republicans who are not familiar with him. Many GOPers believe Hall will not seek re-election in 2004 as a result and that if he does they will defeat him.

Hall has held the north-central Texas seat since 1980. He ended September with $26,000 on hand.

— Chris Cillizza

Tuesday Vote Could Kill Party Primaries in NYC

Although there are no immediate implications for Congressional races, Election Day in New York City next Tuesday could have some interesting long-term effects, particularly as they relate to the Empire State’s tradition of powerful third parties and fusion tickets.

New York City voters will weigh in on a proposal by Mayor Michael Bloomberg (R) to eliminate party primaries in the city and make all municipal elections nonpartisan.

The proposal is being opposed by most political parties, though New York Gov. George Pataki (R) has just endorsed it. It could benefit someone like Bloomberg, who became a Republican to run for mayor in 2001 and has run afoul of GOP activists and other conservatives since taking office.

If voters approve the change in the city charter, it would affect all political parties but would probably hurt third parties the most, because it would kill their ability to cut deals and cross-endorse the nominees of the major parties.

“If nonpartisan passes, they’re worthless,” Democratic consultant Hank Sheinkopf told The New York Observer on Wednesday.

The vote on party primaries comes on the same day that one third party, the labor-backed Working Families Party, stands a good chance of electing its first member to the New York City Council, in a race in Brooklyn. There, Letitia James is given an even chance of defeating Democrat Geoffrey Davis — brother of recently slain Councilman James Davis (D) — in an open-seat race. James has been endorsed by Rep. Major Owens (D), among other Democratic officials.

The Working Families Party has played in New York Congressional elections before, most notably running a Harvard-educated lawyer against Rep. Edolphus Towns (D) in 2000. Towns won easily.
— J.K.

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