NEW YORK: Albany Mayor Douses Rumors of House Bid

Posted February 2, 2004 at 5:19pm

For years there have been rumors that Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings (D) would challenge Rep. Mike McNulty (D) — despite the mayor’s protestations to the contrary.

Jennings is a close friend of Rep. John Sweeney (R), who represents the neighboring district, and Gov. George Pataki (R), and the rumors have had Jennings either challenging McNulty in a primary or switching parties and trying his luck in a general election. Jennings did cross party lines to endorse Pataki for re-election in 2002.

But Jennings sought to put speculation about a McNulty challenge to rest last week, appearing on the platform with other Democratic leaders as McNulty announced his candidacy for a ninth term at an Albany hotel, according to the Times-Union newspaper.

McNulty, who has no opponent yet this year, has never taken less than 62 percent of the vote, and has topped 70 percent in the past three elections.
— Josh Kurtz

Fashion Co. Exec Hopes Tag of Senator Fits Him

Republicans may have finally found a serious challenger to Sen. Chris Dodd (D) in the form of a wealthy former fashion company executive named Jack Orchulli (R).

Orchulli, the former owner of Michael Kors, a clothing line, has never run for office before and has been a Republican only since last summer. Prior to that he was an unaffiliated voter.

The most appealing thing about Orchulli from Republicans’ perspective is his personal wealth and his willingness to spend it. He told a local newspaper that he will drop roughly $800,000 of his own money into the race, a not-inconsiderable sum in a small state like Connecticut.

Orchulli joins four other lesser lights in the running for the Republican nomination. The state GOP will pick its nominee at a party convention in May.

Regardless of who is selected, Dodd appears to have a stranglehold on his race for a fifth term. He is expected to show more than $3.5 million in the bank in his year-end report with the Federal Election Commission and enters the election year with strong job approval and personal favorability numbers.

In his last re-election bid, Dodd crushed former Rep. Gary Franks (R) 65 percent to 32 percent, outspending him $4.4 million to $1.5 million.

In 1992, Dodd faced a Republican who spent more than $1 million of his own money on the race but still lost by 21 points.
— Chris Cillizza

Wilson, Romero Pick Up Fundraising Pace in 1st

The alms race in the always closely fought 1st district is escalating.

Rep. Heather Wilson (R) has announced that she has already passed the $1 million mark in her rematch against state Senate President Pro Tem Richard Romero (D).

Wilson, who has never won the Albuquerque-based district with more than 55 percent, finished 2003 with almost $1.1 million raised for the cycle and had $744,000 on hand.

After a slow start, Romero’s fundraising has also picked up. After raising almost no money for most of the year, he took in $200,000 in the last quarter of 2003 and had $219,000 in the bank.

Wilson spent $2.7 million on her 2002 victory; Romero laid out $1.2 million.
— J.K.

Democrats Say Driscoll Gives Them a Chance

With two weeks to go before the state’s filing deadline, Democrats believe they have found a candidate who can make the open 15th district race competitive.

Consultant Joe Driscoll met last month with state Democratic leaders about the race and is expected to formally announce his candidacy in the next two weeks, prior to the state’s Feb. 17 filing deadline.

“Joe is an incredibly talented young guy,” state Rep. T.J. Rooney, the state Democratic Party chairman, recently told The Allentown Times. “On all counts, I think he will be a tremendous candidate.”

Driscoll, 39, is originally from Boston, was educated at Harvard and began his career on Wall Street. He has never run for public office before and was previously employed as a partner with O’Neill Properties, a real estate development company based in King of Prussia, Pa.

Rooney was among the high-profile Democrats who turned down the chance to run for the swing district seat, which is being vacated because of Rep. Pat Toomey’s (R) run for Senate. Lehigh County Judge Thomas Wallitsch and state Sen. Lisa Boscola (D) also declined bids.

The only other Democrat currently in the race is attorney and perennial candidate Rick Orloski, who filed papers with the Federal Election Commission on Jan. 9.

On the Republican side, state Sen. Charlie Dent is favored to win his party’s nomination, but he faces two opponents in the April 27 primary.
— Lauren W. Whittington

Specter Hits Colleagues Up for Campaign Cash

Sen. Arlen Specter (R) took advantage of the GOP retreat in Philadelphia last week to hit his colleagues up for some campaign cash.

More than two dozen Senators came together at the National Constitution Center to help raised $600,000 for Specter’s re-election bid, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported last week. The $1,000-a-plate dinner was the lead-off event for the three-day retreat.

Specter faces Rep. Pat Toomey (R) in the April 27 GOP primary. The winner will face Rep. Joe Hoeffel (D) in November.
— L.W.W.

Jindal Sees Opportunity in Race for Vitter Seat

Fresh off a narrow gubernatorial defeat, former Bush administration official Bobby Jindal (R) announced last week that he is running for the vacant 1st district seat.

“When God closes one door, he opens another,” Jindal said. “I understand there’s a job opening here.” Rep. David Vitter (R) is running for the state’s open Senate seat.

Jindal joins state Rep. Steve Scalise as the only announced Republicans in this suburban New Orleans district. No serious Democrats are expected to make the race. Jindal carried the district easily in his 2003 runoff race against now-Gov. Kathleen Blanco (D), although he lost the race by 4 points statewide. He begins the House race as the favorite, though not the most high-profile, candidate considering a bid.

That distinction goes to former state Rep. and Ku Klux Klan Grand Dragon David Duke (R), who is currently imprisoned for tax fraud.
— C.C.

Barr Backs Klayman; Two Are Old Cohorts

Judicial Watch founder and Senate candidate Larry Klayman (R) Monday announced that he had been endorsed by former Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.), a one-time client of the Washington-based conservative watchdog who has worked closely with Klayman in the past.

In a statement released by Klayman’s campaign, Barr called the conservative activist attorney a “fighter and reformer” in the tradition of former President Ronald Reagan.

Klayman’s campaign also made headlines last week when it was reported that a former campaign staffer has filed suit claiming he was slandered by the candidate’s accusation that he stole campaign documents.

The suit was brought by consultant Paul Rolf Jensen, who worked for Klayman’s campaign from August until October of last year, when he quit over a pay dispute.

The lawsuit alleges that Klayman later told other campaign consultants that Jensen “had committed a crime” and needed to “hire a criminal lawyer,” according to a report by The Associated Press.

Klayman, who denies Jensen’s allegations, is seeking to have the case sealed. He also said he believes the lawsuit is part of a “dirty tricks” campaign being orchestrated by the campaign of former New Hampshire Sen. Bob Smith (R). Smith, who lost a 2002 primary and moved to Florida in 2003, is also running for Senate this year. Smith and Jensen are friends, a Smith spokesman acknowledged.

Jensen is seeking almost $2.7 million in total damages in the case, which was filed in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va.
— L.W.W.

Poll: Bond Holds Big Lead Over Farmer

Sen. Kit Bond (R) held a 17-point lead over state Treasurer Nancy Farmer (D) in a independent poll released Monday.

Bond received 52 percent of the vote to 35 percent for Farmer in the Research 2000 poll. It was in the field Jan. 28-30, testing 804 likely voters with a 3.5 percent margin of error.

Forty-seven percent ranked Bond’s job approval as excellent or good, while 43 percent said it was fair or poor.

Bond is one of a handful of targeted Republican incumbents this year. He has served in the Senate since 1986 but has never won an election to the body with more than 53 percent of the vote.

Knowing he is a target, Bond’s fundraising has been off the charts. He ended 2003 with $4.3 million in the bank compared to Farmer’s $609,000.
— C.C.

Hart Finally Stops Rumors of Senate Run

After a year of flirting with a run, former Sen. Gary Hart (D) finally laid to rest speculation that he would seek to reclaim his old seat this year. Hart put out word late Friday that he would not run against Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R).

The 66-year-old former Senator’s decision leaves school administrator Michael Miles as the Democrats’ likeliest candidate against Campbell, although a few other Democrats are still eyeing the race.

Former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb (D) — who was recruited by party leaders to run in both 2002 and 2004 — told the Rocky Mountain News last week that he could still jump into the race. But he changed his tune Monday and said he would definitely not run.
— J.K.