The Club for Growth released a new ad last week attacking Sen. Arlen Specter (R) for voting similarly with Democratic presidential frontrunner Sen. John Kerry (Mass.).
The ad charges that Kerry and Specter vote alike nearly 70 percent of the time, which in the end makes Specter “100 percent too liberal,” the narrator says.
“He supports greedy trial lawyers instead of doctors on legal reform. He’s blocked school choice education programs. And he’s rated one of the Senate’s most wasteful spenders,” the narrator says as still shots of Kerry roll. “John Kerry? No. Arlen Specter.”
The Club for Growth, which is supporting Specter’s primary challenger, Rep. Pat Toomey (R), has budgeted $150,000 for the ad buy. The 30-second spot, titled “Guess who’s raising your taxes?” began airing Feb. 12 on select broadcast stations and on cable news channels statewide. It was produced by Warfield & Co.
“One word sums it up — misleading,” said Specter spokesman Bill Reynolds, referring to the new ad.
To refute the ad’s liberal charge, Reynolds said that in 2002 Kerry voted with President Bush 72 percent of the time while Specter voted with the president 89 percent.
“So, much like the rest of Congressman Toomey’s campaign, this ad is just misleading,” Reynolds said. “We’re frankly very happy that we’re voting with the president 89 percent.”
The Republican Main Street Partnership, which is backing Specter, has run radio ads attacking Toomey, and both candidates have aired TV ads in the race.
— Lauren W. Whittington
Thune-Daschle Race: Very Few Undecideds
Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D) held a 7-point lead over former Rep. John Thune (R) in an independent poll conducted earlier this month.
Daschle took 50 percent to 43 percent for Thune; only 7 percent of those tested were undecided, an extremely low figure for this early in a contest.
Mason-Dixon Polling & Research handled the poll, which was in the field Feb. 5-7 testing 800 likely voters. The margin of error was 3.5 percent.
In the poll, Daschle received the votes of one-fifth of Republicans, an absolute necessity given the state’s strong GOP leanings. Thune took roughly 10 percent of Democratic voter support.
Daschle’s 7-point edge is the largest he has shown in any independent poll released so far in the race.
But Thune’s campaign points out that Daschle has spent $4.6 million since his last race in 1998 — including $1.1 million in the final three months of 2003 — and has not been able to open up any more than a single-digit lead.
Thune raised no money in 2003 and only announced his candidacy on Jan. 5.
After serving three terms as the state’s at-large House Member, Thune ran against Sen. Tim Johnson (D) in 2002. He lost that race by 524 votes, the narrowest margin of any of the 34 Senate races on the docket last cycle.
— Chris Cillizza
Herseth Has Wide Lead In June 1 House Special
Attorney Stephanie Herseth (D) holds a commanding lead over state Sen. Larry Diedrich (R) in the June 1 special election for the state’s at-large House seat, according to a new independent poll.
Herseth received 58 percent to 29 percent for Diedrich in the Mason-Dixon Polling & Research survey, which was in the field Feb. 5-7 testing 800 likely voters.
Herseth’s early lead is due in large part to positive name identification gained from her 2002 race against then-Rep. Bill Janklow (R).
Herseth lost that race 53 percent to 46 percent while outspending Janklow $1.5 million to $1.3 million.
Janklow, a former four-term governor, resigned the seat Jan. 20 following a second-degree manslaughter conviction after an August 2003 car accident.
Herseth announced her candidacy late last year, prior to Janklow’s resignation. As a result, she has a significant fundraising lead over Diedrich.
Herseth raised $352,000 from Oct. 1 to Dec. 31, 2003, ending the period with $354,000 in the bank.
Diedrich did not raise any money in the fourth quarter but had $34,000 in the bank left over from 2002, when he briefly campaigned for the seat but dropped out when Janklow entered the race.
Oller Sustains Lead in Dist. 3; Ose Moves Up
The campaign of state Sen. Rico Oller (R) released a poll late last week showing Oller leading the three-way primary to succeed retiring Rep. Doug Ose (R) in the Sacramento-area 3rd district.
The poll of 300 likely GOP primary voters showed Oller with 32 percent, real estate developer Mary Ose — the Congresswoman’s sister — with 22 percent, and former California Attorney General Dan Lungren with 19 percent. The rest of the voters were divided among minor candidates or undecided.
The poll, conducted for Oller by Public Opinion Strategies on Feb. 10 and 11, had a 5.66 percent margin of error.
“This campaign is going very well for Rico Oller,” pollster Gene Ulm wrote. “Voters are extremely favorable towards Rico, many of this district’s voters know Rico and have voted for him, his conservative message is resonating, and Dan Lungren and Mary Ose are fighting for a distant second place.”
But Ose used Oller’s poll to tout her strength. In a statement following the poll’s release, Ose pointed out that in Oller’s previous poll a month earlier, he had 33 percent, Lungren had 29 percent and Ose, who had just entered the race, had 13 percent.
“The only candidates moving in Oller’s survey are Ose and Lungren — Oller has not moved,” the Ose campaign said.
In a related development, Ose late last week triggered the so-called millionaire’s amendment that will enable her primary opponents to collect campaign contributions beyond the standard limits. Ose reported kicking in an additional $465,000 to her campaign since Jan. 1 — bringing the total to just short of $800,000 since she entered the race.
Oller last week said he had surpassed the $1 million mark in money raised for the March 2 primary.
The candidates are scheduled to disclose their official campaign spending reports on Thursday.
— Josh Kurtz
Ice Cream Is Politically Tainted, Democrat Says
A local Democratic party filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission last week, charging ice cream magnate Jim Oberweis (R) with using his dairy business to promote his Senate campaign.
“Oberweis is knowingly and willfully breaking the Federal Election Campaign Act by illegally using his company’s corporate treasury funds to influence his election,” Sangamon County Democratic Chairman Tim Timoney wrote in his complaint to the FEC.
Oberweis began appearing in Downstate television ads promoting his dairy shortly after entering the Senate race last year. Timoney’s complaint also charges that Oberweis is breaking the law by holding campaign events at his ice cream parlors, giving away free scoops of ice cream and running an “Ice Cream for Life Sweepstakes” in order to promote his Senate bid.
Oberweis is one of seven Republicans running in the March 16 primary.
Tampa Marketing Man Enters Senate Primary
Former Tampa marketing executive Bill Phillips became the fourth Democrat to enter the Sunshine State’s Senate primary last week, launching a long-shot bid to succeed Sen. Bob Graham (D).
Phillips, 35, described himself as “a Democrat who happens to be gay,” according to the Orlando Sentinel, although he said he doesn’t plan to campaign as the “gay candidate.” He left his job with Morgan Stanley in January in preparation for his Senate bid.
“People are hungry for a change and looking for leadership with a private-sector background,” Phillips told the newspaper.
Three other Democrats are vying in the Aug. 31 primary: former state Education Commissioner Betty Castor, Rep. Peter Deutsch and Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas.
Meanwhile, on the Republican side, former New Hampshire Sen. Bob Smith (R) opened a Sarasota campaign office last week and launched a new Web site: www.ussenatorbob smith.com. A release from Smith touted the two events as a way of “kicking into high gear his campaign to return to the U.S. Senate.”
Smith is one of six Republicans seeking the party’s Senate nomination.
Mfume Still Active With His Campaign Account
While the NAACP officially remains a nonpartisan organization, its president, Kweisi Mfume, has kept his old Congressional campaign fund alive since he left Congress in 1996 and is using it to support a host of national and local Democrats, The Baltimore Sun reported last week.
The report reopened rumors that Mfume could become a candidate for Senate in 2006 if Sen. Paul Sarbanes (D) chooses not to seek a sixth term.
“I’m not a candidate now but I can’t rule out future possibilities,” Mfume told the newspaper. He has headed the civil rights organization for eight years.
The former Democratic Congressman still had $112,000 in his campaign account at the end of 2003. One of the recipients of Mfume’s largess was the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which received $4,000.
Exit the Dragon? Duke May Sit Out House Race
Former state Rep. and Ku Klux Klan Grand Dragon David Duke (R) said late last week that he was not likely to run for Rep. David Vitter’s (R) open 1st district seat.
“I’m going to say that I’m probably not going to run,” Duke told The Associated Press from a Texas jail where he is currently imprisoned.
Duke is serving a 15-month jail term for mail and tax fraud. He is expected to be released in mid-April, which would leave plenty of time to run a campaign before the state’s Nov. 2 open primary.
A number of Republicans have already announced for the race, including 2003 gubernatorial nominee Bobby Jindal (R), who begins the race as the favorite. State Rep. Steve Scalise and state Sen. Tom Schedler are also seeking the Republican nomination.
Metairie construction worker Michael Armato is the only announced Democrat but is not given a chance of victory.
The suburban New Orleans district would have given President Bush 66 percent in 2000.
Vitter is leaving the seat after just two terms to run for the vacancy caused by Sen. John Breaux’s (D) retirement. Rep. Chris John and state Treasurer John Kennedy are running on the Democratic side.
Sugar Man Gets Sweet On Race for Tauzin Seat
American Sugar Cane League President Charlie Melancon (D) is stepping down from his post and forming an exploratory committee for the seat of retiring Rep. Billy Tauzin (R).
Melancon said he has already raised $50,000 for the race; he is seen as the preferred candidate of national Democrats.
Other Democrats considering the race include state Reps. Gary Smith and Jack Smith as well as Napoleonville attorney Jane Triche.
It remains unclear whether Tauzin will leave his 3rd district seat early to accept a position as president of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturing Association. He will definitely leave Congress at the end of this session, however.
Tauzin has already thrown his support to state Rep. Hunt Downer (R), who placed fifth in the gubernatorial open primary last year.
Downer has said he is likely to run but has not yet formed a committee to begin raising funds for the race.
St. John Parish President Nick Monica and state Sen. Craig Romero are also mentioned on the GOP side.
Under Louisiana election law, all candidates will run in a Nov. 2 open primary. If none receives 50 percent, the two top votegetters, regardless of party, will advance to a Dec. 4 runoff.
The southeastern Louisiana district is seen as competitive between the parties. President Bush would have won 52 percent there in the 2000 election, his second-worst showing in the state’s seven Congressional districts.
2 Republicans Seeking Matchup With McCarthy
Two Republicans will fight it out for the right to take on Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D) in Long Island’s 4th district this year.
Ophthalmologist Marilyn O’Grady, the 2002 GOP nominee against McCarthy, jumped into the race last week, joining Hempstead Mayor James Garner in the Republican contest.
O’Grady defeated former Rep. Dan Frisa (R) — who was knocked off by McCarthy in 1996 — and then took 43 percent of the vote in the general election after being outspent by McCarthy almost 6-to-1.
McCarthy once again has a huge head start in fundraising. She had $425,000 in the bank as of Dec. 31, 2003, while Garner had $10,000.
Environmentalist Hopes To Hook Bass in Dist. 2
The Democrats have their first candidate in Rep. Charles Bass’ (R) 2nd district.
Roy Morrison, a writer, consultant and veteran environmental activist, jumped into the race last week. He told The Associated Press that he would seek to abolish the income tax and replace it with a consumption tax on energy use, which, he said, would cover the $2 trillion cost of running the government.
Democrats have run competitive races against Bass during his five elections, but he is seen as increasingly strong in the district that covers the western half of the state.
Kevin Deguise, treasurer of the New Hampshire Young Democrats, has also been mentioned as a possible candidate against Bass this year.
Crowded GOP Senate Field Gets First Woman
The parade of Republican candidates seeking retiring Sen. Fritz Hollings’ (D) open seat continued late last week with the entry of businesswoman Orly Benny Davis (R) into the contest.
Davis joins former Gov. David Beasley, Rep. Jim DeMint, former state Attorney General Charlie Condon, developer Thomas Ravenel and Myrtle Beach Mayor Mark McBride in the Republican primary.
Votes will be cast June 8; if no candidate receives 50 percent, the two top GOP votegetters will face each other in a June 22 runoff.
The Democratic side is much less complicated, as state Superintendent of Education Inez Tenenbaum has only a nominal primary challenger.