The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has blasted Rep. George Nethercutt (R) for abandoning his Spokane base to move to western Washington, where the majority of the votes will be in his bid to unseat Sen. Patty Murray (D).
His decision was immediately met with cries that he is turning his back on his Congressional duties.
“George Nethercutt, like the typical politician he is, will do or say anything to get elected,” said DSCC spokesman Brad Woodhouse. “Since he has moved half a state away, perhaps his constituents might want to inquire about hiring someone else to do the job he has abandoned.”
Nethercutt told The Associated Press on Sunday that he and his wife were moving from sparsely populated Eastern Washington to the Seattle suburb of Bellevue for the duration of the campaign.
“I’m serious enough about this race that I have moved to the area that I want to know me better,” he said. “My commitment is absolute. I am planning to win this race, and that involved people getting to know me.”
Woodhouse called Nethercutt’s decision “one of the most desperate” moves he has ever seen in politics.
While Vice President Cheney has twice gone to Washington in recent weeks to help Nethercutt raise oodles of money, a local newspaper said Nethercutt isn’t doing much to help himself — at least before news of his change of address surfaced.
In its Buzz column, the Seattle Weekly last week asked of Nethercutt: “Where’s the fire in the belly?
“For a guy who is running for U.S. Senate … Nethercutt did not evidence much passion” at a recent CityClub of Seattle event. “He said he didn’t much like to go out at night to political or fund-raising events, preferring to spend time with his family.”
At least now his family will be closer, if he’s spending most of his time in the Seattle area.
— Nicole Duran
Schwarzenegger Stars At Rohrabacher Event
New Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) continues to be unafraid to get involved in Golden State Republican primaries.
Schwarzenegger, who recently endorsed former California Secretary of State Bill Jones (R) in the four-way March 2 Senate primary, has also cast his lot with Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R) in the 46th district. Schwarzenegger is the featured attraction at a Jan. 30 $1,000-a-ticket fundraiser for Rohrabacher, who is facing a primary challenge from former Rep. Bob Dornan (R).
The cocktail-hour event will take place at a hotel ballroom in Huntington Beach, Rohrabacher’s hometown. John Gavin, a former president of the Screen Actors Guild who was former President Ronald Reagan’s ambassador to Mexico, is also scheduled to attend.
By backing the Congressman, Schwarzenegger is returning a favor: During the 2003 recall election that propelled Schwarzenegger into the governorship, Rohrabacher was one of his chief Congressional supporters. The two campaigned together on the boardwalk in Huntington Beach.
— Josh Kurtz
Lungren Hunts for Cash In D.C. Swing This Week
Amid news that one of his chief primary opponents is approaching $1 million in money raised, 3rd district House candidate Dan Lungren (R) has two Washington, D.C., fundraisers on tap this week — weather permitting.
Lungren, a former Congressman and ex- California attorney general, is scheduled to appear at the Capitol Hill Club this afternoon for a fundraising luncheon with House Ways and Means Chairman Bill Thomas (R-Calif.). On Wednesday morning, the Livingston Group, headed by former Rep. Bob Livingston (R-La.), will play host to another Lungren fundraiser, headlined by House Financial Services Chairman Mike Oxley (R-Ohio).
Both events cost $1,000 a ticket.
Lungren is locked in a fierce three-way primary battle to replace retiring Rep. Doug Ose (R), who is honoring a three-term pledge in the Sacramento-area district. State Sen. Rico Oller (R), one of the candidates in the primary, has just reported raising a total of $900,000 for the campaign through Dec. 31. That was more than $600,000 better than Lungren’s take.
Businesswoman Mary Ose (R), the Congressman’s sister, is also running and is expected to spend her own money liberally in the race. She has not yet released her year-end fundraising report.
King Makes House Bid Official; Targets Pearce
Former state Rep. Gary King (D), son of former Gov. Bruce King (D), officially kicked off his campaign last week to unseat freshman Rep. Steve Pearce (R) in the 2nd district.
“We can’t create the good paying jobs we need and the health insurance benefits that come with them, if we have representatives in Washington who threaten our well-being with harrowing deficits,” King said in a statement announcing his candidacy.
King, who served 12 years in the New Mexico Legislature, recently established a residence and opened a law office in Carlsbad, which is in the 2nd district. The former Clinton administration official is also maintaining his 1st district family residence in the ranching community of Moriarity. King, 46, said his campaign has about $45,000 on hand.
In the June 1 primary, King will face off against Jeff Steinborn, a former aide to Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) and then-Rep. Bill Richardson (D-N.M.). The 33-year-old Steinborn, son of former Las Cruces Mayor David Steinborn, has about $100,000 on hand.
Pearce, who was elected with the strong backing of President Bush in a district where Democrats routinely hope to be competitive, is far ahead in the money chase. But Democratic leaders are hoping the King name boosts their chances. Bruce King served three terms as governor.
— Bree Hocking
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
Chef Geoff’s PR Man Seeking Norton’s Seat
Political novice Michael Monroe is preparing to jump into the race for the District’s sole House seat.
The 24-year-old Republican, who has never held an elected office, will make his official announcement in mid-March, according to a recent news release.
While there are no other candidates listed yet on the D.C. Board of Election and Ethics Web site — the filing deadline for the Sept. 14 primary is still several months away — six-term D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) is widely expected to seek re-election.
Monroe, who runs a communications firm and also serves as marketing director for Chef Geoff’s Restaurants, plans to focus his campaign on obtaining full Congressional representation for the District, as well as emphasizing affordable housing and education.
A D.C. native, Monroe attend Gonzaga College High School and graduated from James Madison University in 2001. He will be 25 by the time the 109th Congress begins — old enough to serve if he is elected.
— Jennifer Yachnin
Vitter, John Each Top $1 Million in Senate Race
Flexing his financial muscle, Rep. David Vitter (R) banked $1.8 million in his year-end Federal Election Commission report as he gears up for a Senate bid.
Vitter raised roughly $429,000 from Oct. 1 to Dec. 31, according to a report in the Baton Rouge Advocate.
Not to be outdone, Rep. Chris John, the only announced Democratic candidate, is expected to show in excess of $1.1 million on hand in his year-end report, according to a knowledgeable Democratic source.
Vitter appears to have the Republican field to himself in the contest to replace retiring Sen. John Breaux (D), while a number of Democrats continue to contemplate bids.
The most likely additional entrant on the Democratic side is Shaw Group President Jim Bernhard, who has significant personal funds to spend on the race. The Shaw Group, a Baton Rouge-based industrial piping manufacturer, is one of only two Fortune 500 companies based in Louisiana.
State Treasurer John Kennedy (D) and Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell (D) are also considering the race.
Louisiana election law mandates that all candidates run Nov. 2 in an open primary. If none receives 50 percent, the two top votegetters advance to a Dec. 4 runoff.
In the 2002 election, national Republicans encouraged a number of candidates to enter the race to force a runoff with Sen. Mary Landrieu (D).
That strategy kept Landrieu under 50 percent in November, but then-state Elections Commissioner Suzanne Haik Terrell (R) was unable to topple the incumbent in a runoff. Landrieu won 52 percent to 48 percent.
— Chris Cillizza
David Duke May Enter House Race After Jail
Former Congressional candidate and Ku Klux Klan grand dragon David Duke (R) is considering a run for Rep. David Vitter’s (R) now-vacant 1st district seat, according to The Associated Press.
Duke, who is currently in jail after being convicted on mail and tax fraud, is scheduled to be released in mid-April, at which point he will make a decision on the race.
“He was skeptical that he would be able to raise money to run an effective campaign in time, but said he would consider his options,” said Duke secretary Roy Armstrong.
State Sen. Steve Scalise (R) has already announced his candidacy, and 2003 gubernatorial nominee Bobby Jindal (R) is also expected to run.
If Duke enters the race, it would mark the second time in five years that he has run for the suburban New Orleans seat.
Following Rep. Bob Livingston’s (R) resignation in 1999, Duke placed third with 19 percent, narrowly missing the special election runoff between former Rep. Dave Treen (25 percent) and Vitter (22 percent).
Duke has run for various other offices in the state as well.
In 1990 he held then-Sen. Bennett Johnston (D) to a 54 percent to 44 percent victory; the next year he ran for governor, losing to ethically challenged Gov. Edwin Edwards (D) 61 percent to 39 percent in a runoff.
In that race, Edwards’ supporters adopted the slogan: “Vote for the crook. It’s important.”
Federal Panel Sides With Democrats on Remap
Republicans will have to go to the U.S. Supreme Court if they want to resurrect a Congressional redistricting plan that the GOP-led Legislature passed in spring 2003. A three-judge federal panel late Friday refused to get involved in the redistricting battle, letting stand a December 2003 ruling by the Colorado Supreme Court that overturned the Republican plan.
Republicans have until early March to decide whether they want to take the case to the nation’s highest court. Even if they do — and even if the court agrees to hear the case — it is doubtful that the map will be changed yet again before the 2004 elections. Caucuses in Colorado begin in April, with the primaries scheduled for Aug. 10.
After the Legislature deadlocked on a Congressional map in 2001 and 2002, the matter went to the same three-judge federal panel, which drew the boundaries for the state’s seven House districts for the 2002 elections. But last year, after Republicans took full control of the Legislature, they changed the district lines yet again, making two House districts significantly more hospitable to the GOP.
The Democrats sued, and the Colorado Supreme Court ruled in their favor, restoring the contours that were used for 2002.
In a related development, two Democratic state legislators have announced that they are introducing bills to take redistricting out of the hands of the Legislature and create a bipartisan redistricting commission instead. GOP legislative leaders have promised to kill the measure.
Democrat Emerges in 15, But Doesn’t Live There
After a long recruiting struggle, national and state Democrats have convinced businessman Joe Driscoll to run for the open 15th district seat.
Driscoll, who has never before sought political office, was recruited by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell (D). He will face Rick Orloski in the April 27 Democratic primary. Orloski has run unsuccessfully for political office eight times.
One potential snag for Driscoll is that he hails from Lower Merion — the boyhood home of Los Angeles Laker star Kobe Bryant — an area not included within the confines of the 15th district.
The seat is being vacated by three-term Rep. Pat Toomey (R), who is currently embroiled in a primary challenge to Sen. Arlen Specter.
Soon after Toomey’s announcement, Republicans settled on state Sen. Charlie Dent as their preferred candidate. Dent has already raised more than $400,000 for the contest.
He is being challenged by attorney Brian O’Neill and former Lehigh County Commissioner Joe Pascuzzo for the GOP nod.
The 15th district, centered in the Lehigh Valley, is seen as competitive for both parties. In the 2000 presidential election, Al Gore won the district by roughly 2,500 votes.
GOPers Debate Debates in Race for Hooley Seat
A debate over, well, debates, is heating up in the 5th district Republican primary.
Lawyer Jim Zupancic has been challenging state Sen. Jackie Winters to a series of debates on taxes.
Oregon voters are set to vote on Measure 30, a nearly $1 billion tax increase passed last year by the Legislature to balance Oregon’s budget, and Zupancic wants to make Winters discuss her vote in favor of it.
The ballot measure to approve or reject the plan comes before voters on Feb. 3.
Zupancic asked Winters to join him this Wednesday at a forum hosted by the Oregon Federation of College Republicans, but if Winters stays her current course, Zupancic may find himself alone again.
So far she declined a Jan. 14 debate on the local Lars Larson radio show. Zupancic then asked her to debate him Monday on KTIL-FM and then today on KNPT-AM in Portland, but he said she “has indicated that she will skip out.”
“What is Jackie Winters hiding from?” he asked.
So far Winters isn’t talking, but she is raising money.
She recently boasted that her year-end report will show she has raised more than $106,000 in two months, while Zupancic has loaned his campaign $150,000.
Additionally, Winters has hired former Oregon Republican Party Executive Director Darryl Howard as her campaign manager. He immediately questioned Zupancic’s attacks on Winters’ Measure 30 vote.
“I believe that Zupancic is trying to have it both ways,” he said. “You can’t go around attacking Jackie on taxes when you filled out a questionnaire stating that you would increase taxes,” Howard stated.
As an unsuccessful candidate for the state House in 2002, Zupancic indicated that he would increase taxes, if necessary.
While Winters and Zupancic duke it out for the right to take on Rep. Darlene Hooley (D) from the right, she just drew a challenger from the left.
Businessman Andrew Kaza entered the race last week.
“Oregon needs an independent-minded leader who will work with the Democratic Party to take action and create an alternative future, instead of simply siding with President Bush and his policies,” Kaza said in a statement. “I am running in the primary to provide voters with a choice.”
Regardless, EMILY’s List, which supports female Democratic candidates who favor abortion rights, has already endorsed the four-term Member.
Millionaires Top $1M in GOP Senate Primary
Major auto dealer Russ Darrow, who hopes to topple two Republican opponents on his way to challenging Sen. Russ Feingold (D), has raised $1.38 million to that end.
His year-end report will show that he has loaned himself $468,348.
Opponent Tim Michels, also a millionaire, will show that he raised $1.05 million for the year, including a $500,000 donation from himself, The Associated Press reports.
Darrow has also named two finance committee chairmen, Craig Leipold and Les Muma.
Leipold, owner of the National Hockey League’s Nashville Predators, served as chairman for failed gubernatorial candidate Scott McCallum (R) in 2002.
Muma is the former CEO of Fiserv, a data-processing company.
Mary Stitt will serve as his fundraising consultant and Dawn Sugasa, former Republican Party of Wisconsin finance director, will serve as his campaign’s finance director.
While Darrow assembled his financial team, primary opponent state Sen. Bob Welch (R) recently blamed Feingold for President Bush’s recess appointment of Charles Pickering to the federal bench.
“It’s a shame that the persistent obstruction of the president’s judicial nominees by Russ Feingold and his left-wing allies has forced President Bush to take the step of using a recess appointment to appoint Charles Pickering to the U.S. Court of Appeals,” he said in a statement.
Will Knowles Be Syked Out by Green Party Foe?
Consumer advocate Jim Sykes has entered the Senate race as a Green Party candidate, The Associated Press reported last week.
The oil industry watchdog who has twice run for governor and once for Senator on the Green Party ticket says he plans to raise $500,000 to take on Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R) and former Gov. Tony Knowles (D).
He challenged them to turn away money raised outside of Alaska and denies he’s in the race to spoil it for Knowles.
Sykes told the AP that he’s in it to win this time, not just to make a statement. He took 7 percent of the vote in the 2002 Senate race, when Sen. Ted Stevens (R) won an easy victory. A 7 percent showing by Sykes this year would be a disaster for Knowles in what is expected to be a very close election.