Alaska Democrats have struck back at an attempt by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R) to raise money from former supporters of ex-Lt. Gov. Fran Ulmer (D).
Murkowski, who is seeking a full term in 2004, recently wrote to donors of Ulmer, who lost the 2002 gubernatorial election to Murkowski’s father, now-Gov. Frank Murkowski (R), urging them to join her “49er Club” of contributors. Ulmer served as lieutenant governor under former Gov. Tony Knowles (D), who is running to replace Lisa Murkowski in the Senate.
In the fundraising appeal, Lisa Murkowski said she was writing to former Ulmer supporters in a spirit of bipartisanship. But in a letter addressed to “Dear Fran Fan,” Alaska Democratic Party Chairman Scott Sterling shot back, “Lisa Murkowski should be embarrassed to solicit funds from you after she and her father so grossly distorted Fran Ulmer’s record in the last gubernatorial election.”
Sterling continued: “Of course, Lisa Murkowski owes her current job to the fact that her father won that election. All the more reason she should be embarrassed to now ask Fran Fans for their financial support, as many of you have told me. … Frankly, I haven’t seen a whole lot of bi-partisanship in her votes in the U.S. Senate. On issues of choice, education, health benefits, and more she’s mostly voted the Republican Party line.”
He ended the letter with an appeal to contribute money — to Knowles.
In a related development, a state court has given the go-ahead to a group seeking to put a referendum question on the November 2004 ballot that would force a special election in the state whenever there is a vacancy for U.S. Senate.
Organizers of the group on Monday began collecting petition signatures for the initiative. They need to turn in 23,000 valid signatures by the end of January to get the measure on the ballot.
The group was put together by Democratic state legislators in reaction to Lisa Murkowski’s selection — and to keep the appointment out of the governor’s hands the next time there is a Senate vacancy.
According to the Anchorage Daily News, the Democrats last week charged that the Washington, D.C., law firm that the state attorney general hired to review the initiative is a contributor to Lisa Murkowski’s re-election campaign. The attorney general, who was appointed by Frank Murkowski, had initially advised that signature gathering for the initiative could not proceed, but he was overruled in court.
“I think it at least gives the appearance of impropriety to give a sole-source contract to a Murkowski contributor back in D.C.,” said state Rep. Eric Croft (D), one of the sponsors of the initiative.
— Josh Kurtz
Mack Raising Money at La Colline for House Bid
Seeking to put his close ties to Washington to good use, former state Rep. Connie Mack (R) will be in D.C. tonight for a fundraiser.
Mack, the son and namesake of former Rep. and Sen. Connie Mack (R), resigned his state Senate seat and moved across the state last month to run for the 13th district seat his father once held.
Several other Republicans are also expected to seek the GOP nomination in the race to succeed retiring Rep. Porter Goss (R).
Admission to the event at La Colline on Capitol Hill is $1,000 for political action committees and $500 for individuals.
— Lauren W. Whittington
Surgeon Contemplates 2nd Boehlert Challenge
Cayuga County Legislator David Walrath (R) has not ruled out a rematch against Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R) in a GOP primary in 2004.
Running on a shoestring, Walrath came out of nowhere to finish just 2,700 votes behind Boehlert out of 41,000 cast in last year’s Republican primary. He ran in the general election as the nominee of the Conservative Party, taking 22 percent of the vote.
Walrath, a surgeon who likes to be called “Doc,” traveled to Washington, D.C., earlier this year to meet with an array of conservative groups, sparking speculation that he was about to jump into the 2004 race against Boehlert, a moderate 11-termer. But Walrath has been relatively quiet since.
In an interview last week, however, Walrath said he was still “leaning” toward running and was waiting to hear whether the conservative groups would be willing to bankroll his candidacy.
“It was a close contest, and I’d certainly like to try again,” he said.
Walrath said he did not think it was too late to enter the contest — noting that he did not declare his candidacy for the September 2002 primary until June, largely because the lines of the central New York district had not yet been finalized.
Boehlert is already sitting on $408,000, and National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Reynolds (N.Y.) has made it clear that he is supporting his colleague for re-election.
Pataki Wants Mayor to Take on Sen. Schumer
Gov. George Pataki (R) wants Yonkers Mayor John Spencer (R) to challenge Sen. Charles Schumer (D) in 2004, and is all but guaranteeing him the GOP nomination should he make the race, the New York Post reported on Monday.
“Spencer is giving serious thought to the offer, even though he knows the chances for success are really nonexistent,” the newspaper quoted a source as saying.
Nevertheless, the mayor of the state’s fourth-largest city could bolster his statewide profile with a credible run against the first-term Senator, who had $18 million in his campaign account as of Sept. 30. He would also benefit from an appearance with President Bush at the Republican National Convention in New York next summer, the Post said.
But the 56-year-old mayor carries some political baggage. For starters, he admitted to fathering two children out of wedlock with his chief of staff — whom he has since married — while he was still married to his first wife. And he is opposed to abortion rights in a state where a majority of voters support them.
Republicans have struck out in their attempts to find a high-profile or well-funded challenger to take on Schumer. So far, only Michael Benjamin (R), a former financial services industry worker, is running.
Herseth to Make 2nd Try for At-Large Seat
South Dakota Farmers Union Foundation Executive Director Stephanie Herseth (D) announced late last week that she will be a candidate for the state’s at-large House seat.
Herseth, who ran a strong challenge to now-Rep. Bill Janklow (R) in 2002, said she was not heavily influenced by the pending criminal charges against the Congressman stemming from an Aug. 16 car accident.
“I tried to make my decision independent of what others’ decisions will be,” she said.
Janklow was traveling more than 70 miles per hour when he ran a stop sign and collided with a motorcyclist, who died at the scene.
He will stand trial in December on one count of second-degree manslaughter — a felony — and several misdemeanors.
It remains unclear whether Janklow will resign his seat, retire at the end of his first term or seek re-election.
If Janklow resigns, which seems increasingly unlikely, Gov. Mike Rounds (R) would have 10 days to make the vacancy official. He would then call a special election no later than 90 days after the opening is confirmed.
Republicans who have been mentioned in either a special election or open-seat scenario include former Rep. John Thune, who is more interested in challenging Daschle, state Sen. Larry Diedrich and former Rep. Barb Everist.
— Chris Cillizza