Sen. Arlen Specter (R) has always battled allegations that he is too liberal for his party. Now he’s having to defend his family’s political contributions from similar charges.
Shanin Specter, Specter’s son and a prominent Philadelphia personal injury attorney, has regularly given to Democratic presidential contender and North Carolina Sen. John Edwards in the past two years, Federal Election Commission records show.
In March 2003 Shanin Specter gave $2,000 to Edwards’ campaign for president while his wife, Tracey, gave an additional $2,000 on the same day. In September 2002, the couple gave a total of $4,000 to Edwards’ Senate campaign.
In a brief interview Wednesday, the Senator defended his son’s contributions, and their like-minded independence.
“He’s a highly independent young man, that’s an attribute we share,” Specter said.
Specter said he has never encouraged his son to avoid giving to prominent Democrats in order to avoid any negative publicity. Shanin Specter has been deeply involved in his father’s previous campaigns and serves as one of his top political advisers.
“I wouldn’t say a word to him about his contributions,” Specter said.
Shanin Specter has also given almost $10,000 to Republican candidates during the past two cycles, in addition to the $8,000 he and his wife have contributed to his father’s campaign.
The Associated Press reported Wednesday that attorneys at Shanin Specter’s law firm, Kline & Specter in Haverford, Pa., gave a total of $36,000 to Edwards in the past two years. The story was then circulated by both the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and Specter’s Republican primary opponent, Rep. Pat Toomey.
For Toomey’s campaign operatives, the report of the contributions further fueled to their efforts to paint Specter as too liberal for the party.
In defending his contributions, Shanin Specter cited his personal relationship with Edwards, a fellow trial lawyer.
“John Edwards is a friend of mine, and he’s a trial lawyer, as are members of my firm,” the younger Specter told the AP.
He added that his support for Edwards was “in the context of the Democratic primary,” not a judgment on the November general election. He also noted that he gave $1,000 to then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush’s 2000 presidential campaign.
In June 1999, the same month in which he donated to Bush, Shanin Specter also gave $500 to former Sen. Bill Bradley’s (D-N.J.) presidential primary bid. That same year he gave $1,000 to the Senate primary campaign of attorney Bob Rovner (D), who switched parties to run for the right to face Sen. Rick Santorum (Pa.) in 2000. Rovner came in fourth in the six-way race.
— Lauren W. Whittington and Paul Kane
Kennedy Taps Talent for His Senate Race
After formally entering the open-seat Senate race Tuesday, state Treasurer John Kennedy (D) on Wednesday named several high-profile Democratic politicos to his campaign team.
Kennedy brought on Roy Fletcher as his media consultant and former state Democratic Party Chairman Ben Jeffers as a general consultant.
Fletcher has worked on a number of high-profile Republican races in the past, including former Gov. Mike Foster’s 1995 victory and the 2002 Senate campaign of then-Rep. John Cooksey.
Fletcher left the Cooksey campaign in the summer of 2002, saying he had “had enough.”
Jeffers was chairman of the state party from 1997 to 2003.
Kennedy is not the only Democrat to cherry-pick talent for the Senate race from the ranks of the state party.
Rep. Chris John (D) has former state party Executive Director Scott Arceneaux chairing his Senate exploratory committee; Arceneaux will serve as campaign manager when John officially announces. John has not yet hired a pollster or media consultant but is interviewing a number of high-profile D.C. firms.
Rep. David Vitter is the lone Republican in the contest to replace retiring Sen. John Breaux (D).
Under Louisiana law, all Senate candidates will run in an open primary on Nov. 2. If no one receives 50 percent, the two top votegetters regardless of party will advance to a Dec. 4 runoff.
— Chris Cillizza
Poll: Knowles Leads, Even With Green in Race
A new poll conducted for an Anchorage television station showed former Gov. Tony Knowles (D) leading Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R) and conservationist Jim Sykes (Green) in the 2004 Senate race.
The sample of 500 likely voters had Knowles leading Murkowski 44.6 percent to 40.6 percent. Sykes, a Green Party candidate, polled at 3 percent.
The margin of error was 4.4 percent.
Ivan Moore Research, a Democratic firm, conducted the poll for KTUU-TV, the NBC affiliate in Anchorage.
In January, Knowles polled at 45.6 percent and Murkowski at 44 percent.
According to the polling firm, older voters tend to back more conservative candidates, but Murkowski’s lead with seniors was tenuous.
She had 4 points on Knowles with the all-important 50 and over group, but among those 65 and older the two were tied, and among those 70 and older, Knowles led by 7 points.
Moore attributed that figure to seniors’ displeasure with Murkowski’s father, Gov. Frank Murkowski (R), who ended their $250 monthly stipend recently as a cost-cutting measure.
Knowles also led Murkowski by 25 points with moderate voters — “a political blowout by modern standards,” according to the polling firm.
— Nicole Duran
Don’t Tell Sir Charles: Gadfly Is Airing Ads
Robin Ficker (R), the notorious Free State political gadfly and frequent candidate for public office, is on the air this month with radio ads for his latest campaign — in the 8th Congressional district.
Ficker’s ads, which have been airing on WTOP and WMAL in the Washington, D.C., market, largely address issues that Members of Congress have very little say over — especially traffic congestion.
In the ads, Ficker calls for construction of a new bridge over the Potomac River connecting Maryland and Virginia. He also takes the man he is trying to defeat, freshman Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D), to task for taking advantage of Congressional franking privileges.
Ficker is perhaps best known in the Washington area as a heckler extraordinaire at Washington Bullets and Wizards basketball games in the 1980s and ’90s. Former NBA star Charles Barkley once got so mad at Ficker that he recommended capital punishment for the attorney.
Ficker, who spent one term in the state Senate from 1979 to 1983, has sought several offices unsuccessfully since, including the U.S. Senate in 2000. He also has sponsored several ballot measures to cut taxes and impose term limits in Montgomery County, Md.
Ficker is not the top choice of state Republicans to take on Van Hollen in the heavily Democratic district, however. That distinction belongs to Chuck Floyd, a retired Pentagon official who is making his first run for office.
Through Dec. 31, Floyd had raised $99,000 — including a $90,000 loan he made to himself — and had $49,000 in the bank. Van Hollen had $364,000 on hand.
Ficker showed no money raised in 2003, but he has just a high enough profile that he could pull off an upset in the March 2 primary.
— Josh Kurtz
GOP Chairman Urged to Take On Schumer
While the lone Republican candidate in the race to take on well-stocked Sen. Charles Schumer (D) was in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday to meet with party leaders, interest groups and opinion-makers, the New York media carried reports of another Republican being encouraged to run for the Senate.
Several news accounts on Wednesday carried reports that Gov. George Pataki (R), who has searched for a “name” candidate to challenge Schumer, was now recommending that New York GOP Chairman Sandy Treadwell enter the race.
“He has served the people of this state well and he obviously knows the political process in this state as well as anyone,” Pataki told the Daily News.
While Treadwell, who has been chairman for three years and is personally wealthy, gave no indication whether he would run, 34-year-old former investment banker Michael Benjamin (R) was in Washington on Wednesday, seeking support.
Benjamin, who has largely been ignored by state and national party leaders, is telling those who will listen that he needs to raise $10 million to run a competitive race against Schumer.
Through Dec. 31, Benjamin had $123,000 in his campaign treasury. Schumer had $20 million.
Incumbents Expected to Breeze in House Races
While the Mountain State is again expected to be a key battleground in this year’s presidential election, there is little competition in sight on the Congressional level.
The filing deadline came and went last weekend for the state’s three Congressional districts, none of which is expected to see a competitive race this year.
In the swing 2nd district, currently represented by Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R), former TV news anchor Erik Wells (D) and Moorefield resident Christopher Turman (D) were last-minute filers in the race. Wells’ wife — and former TV news co-host — is running for secretary of state this year.
Charleston real estate agent Howard Swint is also running in the May 11 Democratic primary in the 2nd.
In the less competitive 1st and 3rd districts, Democratic Reps. Alan Mollohan and Nick Rahall appear to face similarly nominal opposition.
Republican Alan Lee Parks filed to challenge Mollohan in the 1st, and Gary Gearhart and Rick Snuffer will face off in a GOP primary for the right to take on Rahall in November.
Car Salesman Hailed — By Other Car Salesmen
Republican Senate hopeful Russ Darrow was probably a shoo-in for his latest accolade — from the American International Automobile Dealers Association.
As the only auto dealer in the country seeking high political office, he was recently given the group’s “impact” award at its 34th annual meeting in Las Vegas.
The award, formerly known as the “top gun” award, is granted to a dealer who exhibits excellence in political involvement.
“Through his decision to run for the United States Senate, Russ Darrow has really taken grassroots activism to a whole new level,” according to James Evans, the group’s vice chairman.
Darrow began building his successful chain of dealerships in 1965 when he became the youngest Chrysler dealer in the country at age 25, according to the group.
Darrow hopes to nose out fellow businessman Tim Michels and state Sen. Bob Welch for the Republican nod to take on Sen. Russ Feingold (D) in the Badger State.