What Are the Chances?

Posted February 2, 2004 at 6:38pm

Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) was just settling into her seat for the long D.C.-Seattle flight Thursday when an unwelcome guest plopped down next to her.

It was none other than Rep. George Nethercutt

(R), the man who’s trying to knock Murray out of her seat in what is expected to be one of the tighter Senate battles this year.

“Senator Murray was seated much closer to the center than Rep. Nethercutt,” quipped Murray spokeswoman Alex Glass.

What in the world did they talk about?

“I heard there was not much conversation,” Nethercutt spokeswoman April Gentry told HOH. “I think they both got a lot of work done on that flight.”

And they were no doubt cupping their hands over their respective strategy memos.

Bush AWOL? Democratic attacks over President Bush’s record in the National Guard have only just begun.

Even before Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe launched his broadside Sunday on ABC’s “This Week,” party activists last week were handing out campaign buttons charging that both Bush and Vice President Cheney have less than stellar war records.

At the Democratic Club near party headquarters in Washington, D.C., strategist Mike Fraioli independently dropped off buttons that show Bush in a flight suit and Cheney in a business suit, bearing labels that read “AWOL George” and “Dick the Dodger.”

Then McAuliffe appeared on ABC and dared the GOP to focus on defense issues if Sen. John Kerry (Mass.) wins the Democratic presidential nomination. “I look forward to that debate, when John Kerry, a war hero with a chest full of medals, is standing next to George Bush, a man who was AWOL,” he declared.

“Try as I might, I can’t improve on the chairman’s quote,” Fraioli cracked.

McAuliffe was referring to a Boston Globe story in 2000 that suggested Bush “performed no military service as required” when he moved from Texas to Alabama in 1972 to work on a Senate campaign. Conservative columnist Robert Novak on Monday quoted one Bush supporter as privately fretting that Kerry was earning medals while “our guy was drinking beer in Alabama.”

Christine Iverson, spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee, fired back: “It is reckless, irresponsible and false. Terry McAuliffe is slandering both the president and denigrating the service of every man and woman who has served this country with honor in the National Guard.”

Rangel vs. Sharpton. Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) says he has “no idea” why the Rev. Al Sharpton is trying to gin up a primary challenge to the legendary lawmaker.

But Rangel told HOH that he’s not surprised Adam Clayton Powell IV is the man whom a vengeful Sharpton is pushing to challenge the 17-term lawmaker.

The New York Post reported Monday that Sharpton, the long-shot presidential candidate, is miffed that Rangel is supporting retired Gen. Wesley Clark’s campaign.

“I cannot say that threats in primaries are not serious,” said Rangel, who ousted Powell’s dad in 1970 and beat back a challenge from the son in a 1994 grudge match. “But I’m prepared for it.”

The Candi Woman Can. In a major coup on K Street, Washington Council Ernst & Young officially announced Monday that Candida “Candi” Wolff, a former top aide to Cheney, has joined the firm as a partner.

Wolf, a former Senate aide who served as Cheney’s eyes and ears on Capitol Hill in the early days of the Bush administration, is expected to expand Washington Council’s work in national security and energy issues.

She will also play a role in the firm’s practices in tax, financial services and health care.

“Candi’s experience in crafting public policy and her diverse background will be a significant asset to our current clients and a tremendous resource as we continue to grow into new practice areas,” said Bruce Gates, a partner at Washington Council Ernst & Young.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has landed Peter Lawson, a former aide to Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.), to serve as director of Congressional and public affairs at the powerful business organization.

Torched Again. Ever since he returned to the chamber after a two-year hiatus, Sen. Frank Lautenberg (N.J.) has emerged as the Democrats’ new pit bull on everything from Halliburton cronyism to the burgeoning budget deficit.

But the 80-year-old Lautenberg trained his fire on himself a bit when the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce came to Washington for its annual dinner last week.

“When I entered the Senate race in September 2002, a lot of my friends said, ‘Frank, you must have a hole in your head.’ Actually, since my skiing accident, I have two.”

Lautenberg also bemoaned the fact that Nutley, N.J., where he graduated from high school, has created a hall of fame with 10 initial inductees.

“I’m not one of them, but Martha Stewart is,” he cracked.

Still, Lautenberg couldn’t resist tweaking his old Democratic nemesis, ex-Sen. Robert Torricelli (N.J.), a bit.

“Remember when Republicans promised to be the party of ‘fiscal responsibility’?” he asked. “Yeah, right! They’re spending money faster than Bob Torricelli can drive away from a fender-bender.”

Grand Old (Opry) Party. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) will be showing off his piano skills when he hosts some of the nation’s top songwriters for a guitar pull Tuesday night.

Alexander will be playing “Rocky Top” and “Tennessee Waltz” among other tunes on the piano — with the songwriters on vocals — when the Congressional Songwriters Caucus convenes in the Russell Caucus Room at 5:30 tonight.

Some of the guests will include Tia Sillers (who wrote “I Hope You Dance”) and Chuck Jones (who penned “Your Love Amazes Me”).

Music tends to get the feet moving, so there’s a good chance of seeing some nifty dance moves. But since Alexander is a pretty sober guy, don’t expect anything choreographed by Janet Jackson.