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FLORIDA: Castor Poll Shows Her Leading Senate Primary

One day after Sen. Bob Graham’s (D) retirement announcement created a wide open Senate race, former state Education Commissioner Betty Castor released a poll showing her as the Democratic candidate best positioned to win the primary.

The poll, conducted by the Florida-based Democratic polling firm Hamilton Beattie & Staff, found Castor with a double-digit lead over her two announced primary foes, Rep. Peter Deutsch and Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas.

The poll was conducted for Castor Oct. 3-9 and had a 4 percent margin of error.

Among the 700 likely primary voters surveyed, 26 percent said they supported Castor, 16 percent said they supported Deutsch and 10 percent sad they supported Penelas. The results show that in a three-way race, Castor leads in each region of the state except Miami, where Deutsch and Penelas are based.

The poll also tested a four-way primary, in the event that Rep. Alcee Hastings (D) decides to enter the race. He formed an exploratory committee earlier this year and has said he will make a decision about the election soon.

With Hastings in the race, Castor garnered 26 percent, Hastings 16 percent, Deutsch 14 percent and Penelas 8 percent.

At the time the poll was conducted, Rep. Allen Boyd (D) was still considering entering the contest, and the survey also tested him in the hypothetical primary matchup.

The poll also showed Castor with a 37 percent favorability rating, the highest of the candidates tested. According to the polling memo, this “is further evidence that Castor has the greatest statewide appeal of any candidate.”

Hastings had the next highest favorable rating (32 percent), although he had the highest unfavorable rating (20 percent).

— Lauren W. Whittington

State Senator Announces She’ll Challenge Terry

State Sen. Nancy Thompson (D) made her candidacy against Rep. Lee Terry (R) official Monday in the Omaha-based 2nd district.

Thompson accused Terry of being unwilling to legislate in a bipartisan manner.

“I’ve worked across party lines and I know how to do that,” she said at a news conference announcing her bid.

Thompson was appointed to the state Senate in 1997 by then-Gov. Ben Nelson (D) and won a full term one year later. She was re-elected to a second term in 2002.

Prior to her appointment, Thompson served in a variety of posts in the Nelson administration, including director of the Department of Aeronautics. She is also a former Sarpy County commissioner.

Terry has been targeted by Democrats before but has proved to be a formidable opponent.

In 2002, he ran against a wealthy Internet businessman. Democrats touted the race, but Terry won with 63 percent.

He has held the district since 1998 when he won an open-seat contest. The least Republican of the state’s three Congressional districts, registered GOPers nevertheless outnumber Democrats 43 percent to 39 percent in the 2nd. President Bush would have won 57 percent in the district in 2000.
— Chris Cillizza

EMILY’s List Rises to the Rescue for Hooley

EMILY’s List, the national organization that funds female Democratic candidates who support abortion rights, announced Tuesday that it was endorsing Rep. Darlene Hooley (D) for re-election and is urging its 73,000 members to make Hooley’s campaign a priority for 2004.

“EMILY’s List was right there with Hooley when she won her first race in 1996 and our members are anxious to support her in her re-election bid,” said Ellen Malcolm, the group’s president.

Hooley, who represents a competitive district south of Portland, is being targeted by national Republicans in a year when President Bush plans to make Oregon a target in his re-election campaign. The 5th district went 49 percent for Bush in 2000, 47 percent for Al Gore.

Despite the district’s political demographics, Hooley has never gotten less than 55 percent of the vote after knocking off freshman Rep. Jim Bunn (R) with 51 percent in 1996.

Three Republicans are running in the May 2004 primary to take on Hooley: Brian Boquist, the nominee in 2000 and 2002, state Sen. Jackie Winters, and lawyer Jim Zupancic.

Because Boquist commands a corps of conservative loyalists and Winters is an elected official who knows Bush, the race is hard to read. But Zupancic, who is trying to appeal to moderates and conservatives, appears to be the preferred candidate of most party leaders.
— Josh Kurtz

Miller: Boxer’s a ‘Drag,’ and Running Is ‘Boring’

On the same day that she was hailed by 164 Latino leaders who urged Golden State voters to re-elect her, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D) was lacerated on Tuesday by comedian Dennis Miller, who is occasionally mentioned as a future political candidate.

But Boxer can take heart: At least Miller will not challenge her in 2004, as some Republicans had hoped.

“I’m not interested,” Miller told the San Jose Mercury News.

Asked why not, Miller called himself “lazy” and said running would be “boring.”

“Listen man, I’m turning 50 … I’m looking to have fun. The big thing on my mind is I’m going to pick up my boys, and we’re going to play soccer on the lawn at night with this ball that glows in the dark. I’m not thinking about getting in a college theater somewhere and talking to Barbara Boxer, of all things. Barbara Boxer is not a person I would talk to at a party, much less a debate. Do you find Barbara Boxer inspiring? She’s a drag.”

That’s not what the California Latino leaders said. They said they find Boxer inspiring and praised her for working hard on issues that concern them. As a daughter of immigrants, the Latino leaders said that the two-term Senator is especially sensitive to the needs of immigrants in California.
— J.K.

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