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GEORGIA: McKinney Ally Wants to Challenge Majette

State Sen. Nadine Thomas (D) said this week that she has formed an exploratory committee to look at challenging freshman Rep. Denise Majette (D) in a primary next year.

In an interview Tuesday, Thomas, who has represented DeKalb County in the state Legislature for 12 years, said she will make a final decision about the race after conducting a poll in the next few weeks.

“If the numbers are good, then I am going to challenge her,” Thomas said.

Thomas described herself as a one-time supporter of former Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D), who was defeated by Majette in a high-profile primary last year. She said that she has long thought about running for Congress but didn’t want to challenge McKinney.

The former Congresswoman has also indicated that she may look for a rematch against Majette next year, but at this point there appears to be little evidence that she will actually run.

Assuming the poll numbers are favorable, Thomas said she will run regardless of whether McKinney enters the race.

Still, after hearing that Majette has been discussing the possibility of entering the Georgia Senate race, Thomas said that she too might toss her hat in the Senate ring.

“If the Congresswoman is bold enough to get in it, I may have to get in that Senate race too,” Thomas said, arguing that there are more-seasoned potential Senate candidates in the state who have “paid their dues” like she has.

Little-known state Sen. Mary Squires is the only Democrat currently running to replace retiring Sen. Zell Miller (D).

The 4th district, which encompasses metro-Atlanta’s DeKalb County, is heavily Democratic, and Majette’s landslide victory in last year’s primary was credited in part to crossover Republican voting and a large turnout against McKinney. But at this point Majette is not considered vulnerable next year.
— Lauren W. Whittington

Conservative Thinker Weyrich Backs Toomey

Paul Weyrich, chairman and CEO of the Free Congress Foundation, on Wednesday announced his endorsement of Rep. Pat Toomey’s (R) Senate bid.

Toomey is challenging Sen. Arlen Specter in next year’s GOP primary. Rep. Joe Hoeffel is expected to be the Democratic nominee in the Senate race.

The Free Congress Foundation is a Washington, D.C.-based politically and culturally conservative think tank.

Also this week, Montgomery County Commissioner Jim Matthews (R) announced his support of ophthalmologist Melissa Brown (R) in the open 13th district race to succeed Hoeffel.

Matthews, the brother of MSNBC’s “Hardball” host Chris Matthews, had been one of the early names mentioned among potential GOP candidates in the district. Now he will chair her campaign committee.

Last week, Brown received the backing of the Philadelphia Republican City Committee, and she is widely considered the frontrunner for the GOP nomination next year. Brown challenged Hoeffel last year and won 49 percent of the vote.

In other Keystone State House race news, Scott Paterno (R), son of legendary Penn State football coach Joe Paterno, filed papers with the Federal Election Commission this week that will allow him to begin raising money for a 17th district bid.

The 31-year-old Paterno is a legal aide to the state Senate Majority Leader, and this would be his first run for office if he decides to formally enter the race. There are four other Republicans already vying to take on Rep. Tim Holden (D) next year.
— L.W.W.

Two Ex-Senators to Help Farmer on Fundraising

State Treasurer Nancy Farmer (D) is getting a major fundraising assist from two former Show Me State State Senators in her bid to unseat Sen. Kit Bond (R).

Former Sen. Jean Carnahan (D) and Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D) will hold a Kansas City fundraiser for her on Dec. 4, and six days later, Carnahan and former Sen. Tom Eagleton (D) will host a St. Louis event for Farmer.

Farmer is hoping to crack the $1 million mark in total dollars raised by the end of the year after bringing in $425,000 in the third quarter.

She must make up a significant financial deficit to Bond, who raised $1.5 million from July 1 to Sept. 30 and ended the period with $4 million in the bank.

EMILY’s List recently sent out its first mailing on Farmer to its donors, which the organization hopes will yield her $100,000.
— Chris Cillizza

Former GOP Foe Sees Gephardt in House Race

Perennial candidate Bill Federer (R) has sent out a fundraising pitch arguing that he fully expects to be running against Rep. Richard Gephardt (D) in the 3rd district next November.

“We both know that [Gephardt] will one day realize that he has no chance to become president and when that day comes, he will most assuredly announce that he is again running for Congress,” writes Federer. “That’s why I know with Gephardt’s campaign for president taking all of his time — now is the time to act.”

Gephardt has said publicly he will retire from the St. Louis-area seat he has held since 1976 regardless of the results of his presidential bid.

Federer has twice before tried to oust Gephardt. In 1998 he ran an underfunded challenge but received 42 percent. In 2000, he raised and spent better than $2 million but took only 40 percent.

Federer believes that despite Gephardt’s assertion to the contrary, “once he starts to lose ground in the Democratic primaries, he will fall back to running for the House as the wounded, vulnerable, exposed liberal that he is.”

Federer and former state Rep. Zane Yates are seeking the Republican nomination.

Democrats have a more crowded field led by state Rep. Russ Carnahan, son of former Sen. Jean Carnahan (D) and the late Gov. Mel Carnahan (D), and state Sen. Steve Stoll.
— C.C.

Poll Shows Senate Race Within Margin of Error

A new poll shows former Gov. Tony Knowles (D) and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R) essentially even in a trial heat of their 2004 Senate matchup.

In a poll of 500 likely voters conducted for KTUU-TV in the past week by Democratic firm Ivan Moore Research, Knowles led Murkowski 44 percent to 43 percent, with the rest of the poll respondents favoring other candidates or undecided. The poll had a 4 percent margin of error.

Knowles was favored by voters in the southeast region of the state 46 percent to 38 percent, and by 46 percent to 41 percent in Fairbanks. The only region where Murkowski led was in Anchorage — an area she represented in the state Legislature before being elevated to the Senate by her father, Gov. Frank Murkowski (R). There her lead over Knowles, a former Anchorage mayor, was 45 percent to 43 percent.

Knowles was regarded favorably by 55 percent of Alaska voters and unfavorably by 35 percent. Lisa Murkowski had a 49 percent favorable rating and a 35 percent unfavorable rating.
— Josh Kurtz

GOP Governor’s Aide Backing Democrat Reid

While Republicans continue to scramble to find a top-tier candidate to take on Senate Minority Whip Harry Reid (D) in 2004, news pours forth almost daily about prominent Silver State Republicans lining up behind the three-term Senator.

Headlines about fundraisers for Reid hosted by casino executives who are Republicans are no longer that noteworthy. Three more are putting together a Reid fundraiser for Dec. 5 at the Park Towers hotel in Las Vegas, according to the Ralston Report.

What is noteworthy is the executives’ co-host: Mark Brown, a prominent GOP consultant and fundraiser in Nevada who is close to Gov. Kenny Guinn (R) and other prominent Republicans in the state.

So far, only conservative activist Richard Ziser is in the Republican Senate field, but a few statewide officials — most prominently, state Treasurer Brian Krolicki (R) — are still examining the race.
— J.K.

GOP Entrepreneur Has Sights on Rep. Davis

Entrepreneur Antonio Davis-Fairman (R) announced his challenge to Rep. Danny Davis (D) on Wednesday, charging that the four-term incumbent is “out of step” with his constituents.

“I’m running for Congress because the people in this district deserve effective representation,” Davis-Fairman said in a statement.

Davis-Fairman is a former managing partner of Kane Narrowcasting Companies Inc., a private investment holding firm.

If he was to win, Davis-Fairman would be the second black Republican elected to the West Side Chicago-based seat.

However, Davis has never won re-election with less than 83 percent of the vote in this heavily Democratic district, and he is considered a lock for re-election next year.
— L.W.W.

Walcher to Campaign Full-time After New Year

Department of Natural Resources Secretary Greg Walcher (R) was in Washington, D.C., this week — on official government business.

But in a lunch-hour interview with Roll Call on Wednesday, Walcher, one of a half-dozen Republican candidates stumping to succeed retiring Rep. Scott McInnis (R) in the sprawling 3rd district, said he would resign his state post by the end of the year.

“As a practical matter, the campaign is a full-time thing,” he said.

Walcher said he has already begun raising money (state rules do not prevent him from doing so) and hopes to devote $100,000 to the state Republican convention in May 2004. He figures he’ll need $1 million for the August primary.

Walcher is competing in the GOP primary with state Sen. Ken Chlouber, Pueblo County Sheriff Dan Corsentino, real estate agent Delina DiSanto, state Rep. Gregg Rippy and state Sen. Matt Smith, who is McInnis’ brother-in-law.

Colorado House Speaker Lola Spradley (R), who had considered running for the western Colorado seat, announced this week that she would not be a candidate.

“That doesn’t mean I’m precluding other things,” Spradley told the Canon City Daily Record — including, she said, a run for statewide office in 2006.

On the Democratic side, state Rep. John Salazar is the frontrunner, although frequent candidate Anthony Martinez is also running.

Despite McInnis’ easy victories, his district will host one of the most competitive open-seat elections this cycle. The district will be a true tossup if the Colorado Supreme Court rejects a new Congressional map approved by the state Legislature earlier this year.

“The district has a big red target on it [from Democrats],” Walcher said.

In addition to redistricting, there is another variable: McInnis could choose to retire early, setting up an unpredictable special election.

Prior to leading the state DNR, Walcher, 46, was president of Club 20, a combination regional chamber of commerce and council of governments on Colorado’s Western Slope. He spent 10 years as a top aide to former Sen. Bill Armstrong (R-Colo.). Walcher and his wife also operate a peach orchard.
— J.K.

Group Decries Beauprez Favor for Contributor

A taxpayer advocacy group is criticizing Rep. Bob Beauprez (R) for securing federal financing for a mall in his district being developed by Beauprez’s campaign contributors, The Denver Post reported Wednesday.

Beauprez sought federal “green bonds” — tax-free financing for energy efficient construction — for the Belmar Mall in Lakewood, Colo., and another project in Syracuse, N.Y. According to the Post, the developers of both projects have contributed at least $11,000 to Beauprez’s re-election campaign this year.

Beauprez and his staff told the newspaper that he fought for the special funding for the project at the suggestion of Lakewood city officials. But Keith Ashdown of a group called Taxpayers for Common Sense, said he sees a quid pro quo.

“They knew they needed to get money to Beauprez to ensure that they’d be among the select few to get these bonds,” he said.
— J.K.

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