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Two Democrats have told party leaders of their interest in challenging Rep. Vito Fossella (R) this year, the Staten Island Advance reported Tuesday.

Former state Assemblyman Frank Barbaro and lawyer Stephen Harrison, the former chairman of Community Board 10 in Brooklyn, have asked to be interviewed by the candidate screening committee of the Staten Island Democratic Party, the newspaper said.

The 13th district, which Fossella has held since a special election in 1997, covers Staten Island and parts of Brooklyn, though the majority of the territory is on Staten Island.

Although the district gave Al Gore 52 percent of the vote in the 2000 presidential election, it is far and away the most conservative House district in New York City and has been held by Republicans since 1980.

And while Barbaro, at age 76, has plenty of stature — he challenged incumbent Ed Koch in the 1981 Democratic primary for mayor — he is probably way too liberal for the 13th district. Barbaro is currently running to be a delegate for Rep. Dennis Kucinich (Ohio) at the Democratic National Convention.

Fossella’s biggest problem could come in the Republican primary, where former Rep. Guy Molinari, who held the seat in the 1980s, has threatened to challenge the incumbent. Molinari is angry with Fossella for exploring the possibility of challenging New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg (R) in 2005.
— Josh Kurtz

Kouri News Deflates Democratic Hopes in 8th

Democratic hopes of providing a serious challenge to Rep. Robin Hayes (R) were considerably dashed this week when Charlotte attorney and 2002 nominee Chris Kouri (D) said he will not seek a rematch this year.

Kouri defeated a wealthy former state lawmaker, who had the party establishment’s backing, and another candidate in the 2002 Democratic primary. He then went on to lose to Hayes 54 percent to 45 percent in the general election.

“I have just decided that this is not the best time for me to put together the strongest campaign to beat him this year,” Kouri told the Fayettville Observer. He also did not rule out running for Congress again in the future.

With Kouri out of the picture, Democrats appear to be left without a top challenger in the 8th district, a marginally GOP-leaning seat, with just more than three weeks to go before the Feb. 27 filing deadline. Hayes, who won his first term with only 51 percent in 1998, has been a national target for Democrats the past two cycles.
— Lauren W. Whittington

Collins, Isakson Fight Over Abortion Issue

The gloves officially came off in Georgia’s GOP Senate primary last week, as Rep. Mac Collins circulated an ad via e-mail that seeks to paint Rep. Johnny Isakson as the “pro-abortion” candidate in the race.

The two-minute video, circulated to 20,000 conservative voters in Georgia, was released just prior to last weekend’s Families & Freedom Kickoff, an event sponsored by the Christian Coalition of Georgia.

The ad portrays Collins as the only candidate who is completely opposed to abortion rights, and accuses Isakson of voting for “pro-abortion legislation” 13 times while in Congress, including a vote to allow distribution of RU-486, the so-called abortion pill.

It also implies that Isakson ran as a pro-abortion-rights candidate in his failed 1990 gubernatorial and 1996 Senate bids, and the ad uses footage from a 1996 campaign ad in which Isakson appeared with his wife and daughter to discuss the issue.

In response to the ad, Isakson maintained that he has a proven conservative voting record on abortion. Chris Carr, Isakson’s campaign manager, explained that Isakson opposes federal funding for abortions, but did support legislation to allow women at overseas military bases to get a nongovernment-funded abortion. He said Isakson voted to fund the Food and Drug Administration so the agency could regulate the abortion pill.

Isakson, Collins and wealthy Godfather’s Pizza executive Herman Cain, who is also running for the GOP Senate nomination, appeared at the Christian Coalition event Saturday.

In other campaign news, Collins received the endorsement of Free Congress PAC on Monday, and Cain became the first Senate candidate to hit the television airwaves this week.

In an effort to boost his name identification, Cain is running a series of positive TV ads introducing himself to voters. He also uses the spots to attack “liberal judges” and the effort to remove “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance. None of the ads mention abortion.
— L.W.W.

Solicitation Seeks Cash for Reformer Feingold

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee wants to make sure Sen. Russ Feingold (D) has plenty of money to fend off his Republican challenger in November.

“Two of his likely opponents are millionaires who have already given or loaned nearly $500,000 each to their own campaigns, and the other is a prominent, conservative state Senator,” a recent DSCC donation solicitation reads. It goes on to say that “Karl Rove is targeting the state as one of four key states the White House is looking to pick up.”

Feingold’s last election was too close for the DSCC’s comfort — he won by only a little more than 2 percent of the vote — but Feingold refused the committee’s help in 1998.

In 2004’s all-hard-money world, things have changed.

The three Republicans vying to challenge him all ended 2003 with less money than Feingold. Auto dealer Russ Darrow reported having $1.2 million in the bank while construction executive Tim Michels reported $768,000 and state Sen. Bob Welch ended with $465,000 on hand. Feingold ended the year with $2.85 million.

That prompted Welch’s treasurer, John Hiller, to lash out at his rivals and Feingold.

“Feingold’s bragging about his fundraising prowess in the wake of campaign finance ‘reform’ proves that he is a hypocrite,” Hiller said.
— Nicole Duran

First Anti-Kerry Barb Hurled at Rep. Kildee

Rep. Dale Kildee’s (D) Republican challenger is trying to make presidential hopeful Sen. John Kerry’s (D-Mass.) record on Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards an issue in the 5th district.

Myrah Kirkwood (R) asked Kildee if he, like Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D), backs Kerry.

“Where does Congressman Dale Kildee stand?” she asked in a release. “Does he stand with John Kerry and those who would gut jobs or does he stand with the auto workers whose jobs depend on a level playing field?”

The only problem with the strategy —Kildee backs Gen. Wesley Clark in the presidential race.
— N.D.

Health Consultant to Challenge Rep. Rehberg

It looks like two-term Rep. Denny Rehberg (R) will have a challenger after all.

Bozeman public health consultant Tracy Velazquez (D) told the Billings Gazette that she intends to enter the race for the at-large seat. She said she was entering the uphill battle to give voters options.

“Democracy depends on people showing up,” she told the paper.

Velazquez is the vice chairwoman of the Gallatin County Democratic Party and lost a 2000 bid for the state House. Rehberg was re-elected in 2002 with 65 percent of the vote.
— N.D.

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