The fledgling House campaign of former Flagstaff Mayor Paul Babbitt (D) will receive a major boost Sunday when Gov. Janet Napolitano (D) hosts a meet-and-greet reception for him.
The Phoenix event will feature Napolitano as well as Rep. Ed Pastor (D) and state Attorney General Terry Goddard (D). Former Arizona gubernatorial candidate Eddie Basha, who is the campaign chairman of Babbitt’s run, will also be in attendance. It is not, however, a fundraiser.
Babbitt is the preferred candidate of national Democrats to take on freshman Rep. Rick Renzi (R) next year in the 1st district. Babbitt is the brother of former Arizona governor, Interior secretary and 1988 presidential candidate Bruce Babbitt.
Both 2002 nominee George Cordova and 2002 candidate Diane Prescott are running again for the Democratic nomination. Prescott has impressed financially so far, ending September with $176,000 in the bank.
Cordova won a surprise primary victory last cycle but was unable to put together the resources to best Renzi, who won the race with only 49 percent of the vote.
Democrats see Renzi as one of their top targets in 2004 as the huge northeastern Arizona district is split relatively equally between the parties, and they argue, Renzi has done little to distinguish himself since coming to Washington, D.C.
— Chris Cillizza
Ads Decry Toomey’s ‘Wild Dash to the Right’
The Republican Main Street Partnership began airing radio ads this week, attacking what they characterize as Rep. Pat Toomey’s (R) “wild dash to the right” in his Senate primary race against Sen. Arlen Specter (R).
“Pat Toomey is running like crazy toward the conservative team, despite a record that would make any real conservative scream in pain,” an announcer says in the ad.
The spot began running Monday and will air for one week in the Allentown market, Toomey’s home base. The buy cost the Partnership, a group that backs moderate Republican candidates and issues, $9,000, according to the Harrisburg Patriot-News.
Both Specter and Toomey have already aired negative ads in the race.
Specter’s campaign is also distributing memos within the Republican establishment, attacking Toomey’s former nightclub businesses and his alleged flip-flop on abortion rights.
The memo dealing with abortion cites the fact that Toomey won a crowded 1998 open-seat House primary by labeling himself as the only pro-abortion rights candidate. At the time, Toomey said he believed the procedure should be legal in the first trimester of a pregnancy. Now, Toomey says he believes the procedure is wrong and is attacking Specter’s more lenient stance on the issue.
— Lauren W. Whittington
Insiders Backing Brown; Dist. 17 Field May Grow
In Pennsylvania House race news, the Philadelphia Republican City Committee voted unanimously to back ophthalmologist Melissa Brown (R) in her 13th district bid to replace Rep. Joe Hoeffel (D), who is running for Senate. At the same time, state House Speaker John Perzel (R) announced that he is also backing Brown.
“Melissa is clearly the strongest candidate and the one with the best chance to win the 13th District,” Philadelphia Republican City Committee General Counsel Michael Meehan said in a statement.
Although the 13th district favors Democrats, Brown won 49 percent of the vote last cycle in her bid against Hoeffel. Other candidates in the primary include state Rep. Ellen Bard and Greater Northeast Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce President Al Taubenberger, although Brown is heavily favored to win the nomination.
Meanwhile, the GOP primary field in the neighboring 17th district may grow by one more if Maj. Gen. William Lynch decides to enter the race against Rep. Tim Holden (D).
PoliticsPA.com, a Web site devoted to Keystone State politics, reported Tuesday that Lynch, who is retiring soon from the National Guard and the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, is considering a run.
The 60-year-old decorated veteran was appointed adjutant general and commander of the Pennsylvania National Guard by then-Gov. Tom Ridge (R), who is now Homeland Security secretary, and he was reappointed by now-Gov. Ed Rendell (D).
Republicans currently in the race are teacher and ex-Penn State football player Ron Hostetler, accounting consultant Frank Ryan, Dauphin County sheriff Jack Lotwick and real estate agent Sue Helm. Scott Paterno, the son of legendary Penn State football coach Joe Paterno, is also expected to run.
Treasurer Sets Up Senate Exploratory Committee
State Treasurer Brian Krolicki (R) has set up an exploratory committee for a possible 2004 challenge to Senate Minority Whip Harry Reid (D), and made his third trip to Washington, D.C., this week to confer with GOP leaders about the race, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported on Wednesday.
Republicans have lowered their expectations in the Silver State since Rep. Jim Gibbons (R) announced earlier this year that he would not take Reid on. But since Reid won by only 428 votes in 1998, they still believe the right candidate could have a chance.
People who have spoken to Krolicki believe he is weighing whether he can help himself politically by running — even if he winds up losing. He told the Las Vegas paper that he will take the next few months deciding whether the words of encouragement he has received will translate into real support.
“I need to know what these pledges of help mean,” he said.
So far, only conservative activist Richard Ziser has entered the Republican race. Reid was sitting on $3.7 million as of Sept. 30.
— Josh Kurtz
Owens’ Son Sparks Talk of Father’s Retirement
There is renewed speculation in Brooklyn political circles that Rep. Major Owens (D) may choose to retire in 2004 rather than seek a 12th term.
The Courier Life Newspapers in Brooklyn last week reported that Chris Owens, a former local Board of Education member and son of the 67-year-old Congressman, has been showing up at various political events, telling people that he plans to run for Congress when his dad retires.
Major Owens’ office did not respond to requests for comment this week. The Congressman raised $32,000 in the previous quarter and had just $8,700 in his campaign account as of Sept. 30.
But other than a vigorous primary challenge from then-City Councilwoman Una Clarke in 2000, Owens has never had to sweat re-election, and there is no indication that anyone of prominence is seeking to take him on in 2004.
An open-seat race, however, could attract several candidates besides Chris Owens, including state Sen. Carl Andrews (D), Councilwoman Tracy Boyland (D), Councilwoman Yvette Clarke (D) — Una Clarke’s daughter — and Assemblyman Nick Perry (D). According to the Courier Life, Boyland has said that if Chris Owens sets up a fundraising committee, she will too.
Whistle-Blower Won’t Rule Out House Race
FBI whistle-blower Coleen Rowley (D) said this week that she hasn’t ruled out a bid for Congress in 2004, but she also sounded less than enthusiastic about the obstacles a campaign would present. Specifically, she noted her inability to pour personal resources into a Congressional bid.
“The whole process of running for elective office is fraught with a lot of problems and a need for reform, I think, in terms of campaign finance, even in terms of being a nonpartisan on issues, which I kind of think of myself as,” she said while speaking to the University of Minnesota Women’s Club, The Associated Press reported Wednesday.
Rowley is being encouraged by local Democratic activists to challenge freshman Rep. John Kline (R) next year in the 2nd district.
Kline ousted then-Rep. Bill Luther (D) in 2002, after the district was dramatically altered in favor of the GOP during the redrawing of Congressional boundaries.
State Department Official Eyes Van Hollen’s Seat
A State Department official is preparing to take on freshman Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D) in 2004, The Gazette newspaper reported.
Charles Floyd, 53, of Kensington, is apparently the consensus choice of state Republican leaders to make the long-shot bid in the heavily Democratic district, the newspaper said.
Floyd, a retired Army commander, is a special assistant for legislative affairs in the State Department’s Bureau of Overseas Building Operations. He would have to leave his post to run for Congress to comply with terms of the Hatch Act.
Van Hollen wrested control of the dramatically redrawn 8th district seat last year, defeating eight-term Rep. Connie Morella (R).
Taff Makes Second Bid for Moore Seat Official
Former Navy pilot and 2002 Congressional nominee Adam Taff (R) formally announced his plan to make a rematch against Rep. Dennis Moore (D) on Monday.
At his announcement, Taff produced letters of support from House Speaker Dennis Hastert (Ill.), Sen. Pat Roberts (Kan.) and former Sen. Bob Dole (Kan.).
Taff, a moderate, won a highly contested and ideological primary last cycle in his first bid for elective office. He came up short against Moore, however, taking 47 percent of the vote.
Former Justice Department official Kris Kobach and state Rep. Patricia Barbieri-Lightner are also in the race on the Republican side. Both are considered conservatives. Kobach will testify today in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee on immigration law.
Moore has held the Kansas City-based district since defeating one-term Rep. Vince Snowbarger (R) in 1998. Despite the Republican lean of the seat, Republicans have been unable to avoid divisive primaries, a scenario they seem headed for again next year.
All in the Family: Ose’s Sister May Run for Seat
Add the sister of Rep. Doug Ose (R) to the list of people who may try to succeed the Congressman when he steps down — either at the end of this term or sooner.
With rumors running rampant that Ose could step down as soon as next week to become resources secretary in the administration of incoming Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R), Mary Ose (R) has emerged as a possible candidate in 2004 or in a special election to replace him.
One Washington, D.C.-based Republican official said Wednesday that Mary Ose, a landlord in the Sacramento area, “is going to run.” Mary Ose could not be reached for comment.
Two candidates are already competing in the March 2, 2004, GOP primary to succeed Doug Ose in Congress: former state Attorney General Dan Lungren and state Sen. Rico Oller. Both are conservatives, leaving moderate Republicans to try to recruit one of their own into the race. Mary Ose is likely to fit that bill if she runs.
If Ose resigns next week, a special election would occur 112 to 199 days after official vacancy, with candidates from all parties appearing on one ballot. State Sen. Deborah Ortiz and state Assemblyman Darrell Steinberg are considered possible Democratic candidates, though the district leans Republican.