NEBRASKA: Lt. Gov Out, Bromm Favorite in Dist. 1
Former Lt. Gov. Dave Maurstad (R) will not run for retiring Rep. Doug Bereuter’s (R) 1st district seat but left open the possibility he will challenge Sen. Ben Nelson (D) in 2006.
Maurstad removes the last major Republican from the race, seemingly clearing the way for state House Speaker Curt Bromm (R), who has been endorsed by Bereuter.
Former Lincoln City Councilman Jeff Fortenberry, Nebraska Cattleman executive Greg Ruehle and three lesser-known candidates with Lincoln roots are in the race on the Republican side. Fortenberry is a favorite of the party’s most conservative wing.
The leading Democrat is state Sen. Matt Connealy, although attorney Janet Stewart and retired businessman Phil Chase are also in the race.
Democrats argue that they have a chance to win the seat, which Bereuter has held since 1978. President Bush won with 59 percent there in 2000. The district does contain the liberal bastion of Lincoln, where the University of Nebraska is located, and is home to several American Indian reservations, which are typically Democratic strongholds.
Maurstad, who was elected lieutenant governor in 1998 after one term in the state Senate, told the Lincoln Journal Star that he has been approached by a number of people asking him to challenge Nelson.
Most Republicans see Gov. Mike Johanns (R) as the strongest potential challenger to Nelson in 2006. He has not ruled out a run.
After serving as the state’s governor from 1990 to 1998 Nelson lost a Senate race in a shocking upset to then-little-known businessman Chuck Hagel (R) in 1998. Nelson bounced back in 2000, narrowly defeating state Attorney General Don Stenberg (R).
— Chris Cillizza
Republicans Struggle to Keep Up With Jones
While the positions of the runners-up vary greatly, two recent polls have shown former California Secretary of State Bill Jones (R) with a significant lead in the March 2 GOP Senate primary — though many voters remain undecided.
A poll by the Public Policy Institute of California showed Jones with 24 percent, former U.S. Treasurer Rosario Marin with 12 percent, former Assemblyman Howard Kaloogian with 5 percent and former Los Altos Hills Mayor Toni Casey with 2 percent.
The poll of 2,004 likely California voters, conducted Feb. 8-16, had a 2 percent margin of error. The biggest news in the poll: More than half of the voters were undecided. Also significant was Marin’s rise from the low single digits in the previous PPIC poll a month earlier.
A Survey USA poll of 476 certain Republican voters, conducted Feb. 14-16, showed Jones with 36 percent of the vote, Marin and Casey with 10 percent each, and Kaloogian with 9 percent. Another 36 percent of those questioned were undecided.
The results of Survey USA’s telephone polls are occasionally controversial because they are automated.
Jones credits his endorsement from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) as responsible for a 10-point bulge in his poll standing. Schwarzenegger held a fundraiser for Jones last week that yielded $200,000.
None of the candidates in the low-budget, low-profile primary has advertised on television yet.
As of Feb. 11, Jones had just $212,000 in the bank, Casey had $198,000, Marin $86,000 and Kaloogian $53,000. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D), whom they are trying to defeat, had $5.3 million in the bank.
— Josh Kurtz
2 Leading Papers Split on Costa-Quigley Race
The two leading newspapers in the 20th Congressional district have split in their endorsements in the open-seat Democratic primary.
On Feb. 18, The Fresno Bee came out for Lisa Quigley, the longtime chief of staff to retiring Rep. Cal Dooley (D).
“Quigley’s campaign is about the future,” the newspaper wrote of the 38-year-old first-time candidate. “She seems to have struck a chord in her quest by speaking to issues and problems of those living in this [Central] Valley district.”
A day later, however, The Bakersfield Californian came out for former state Sen. Jim Costa (D). The newspaper cited his 24 years in the state Legislature, and said “Costa has developed an expertise in water and transportation issues that has benefited all Californians, particularly those in the south valley.”
The Bee, in its editorial, praised Quigley’s Capitol Hill experience and said her familiarity with both national politics and local concerns was a plus. The Californian, however, expressed the belief that Quigley may have grown too comfortable in Washington, D.C., and too removed from the district.
In their final campaign finance reports before the March 2 primary, the two candidates reported comparable states of financial health. Costa had $127,000 in the bank as of Feb. 11, augmented in part by a $100,000 loan he made to the campaign. Quigley reported $171,000 on hand.
GOP Stars to Shine for Two House Incumbents
Big Republican guns are helping out the two GOP Congressmen facing challenges in the March 2 primary.
Vice President Cheney will be the headliner for a Feb. 27 fundraiser in Hagerstown for Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R), who is trying to beat back a challenge from Frederick County States Attorney Scott Rolle (R).
That race was once thought to be very competitive, but there is increasing evidence that Bartlett, who has a huge lead in money on hand, is pulling away. An early January poll conducted for Bartlett by the Tarrance Group, which the campaign released last week, showed Bartlett leading Rolle by a whopping 74 percent to 15 percent in the initial matchup. The survey also found that 58 percent of the GOP electorate in the 6th district had never heard of Rolle.
Meanwhile, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) will share a stage on behalf of Rep. Wayne Gilchrest (R). This is notable, as McCain and Hastert have squabbled publicly over the issue of campaign finance reform.
They will appear together at a cocktail reception on Wednesday at the Capitol Hill Club. Gilchrest, who is facing state Sen. Richard Colburn (R) in the Republican primary, was Maryland co-chairman of McCain’s White House campaign in 2000.
Contractor Tries to Build a Case Against Walden
A building contractor who lost a bid for the Democratic nomination in the 2nd district in 2002 will try again to unseat Rep. Greg Walden (R) this fall.
John McColgan of Talent told the Jackson County Mail Tribune that he wants to represent the sprawling 2nd district to oppose the Iraq war, the national deficit and the shift in funds from domestic to military spending.
“I hope to attract independents and moderate Republicans who question the war and who look at the federal deficit as a ticking time bomb that will blow away the hopes of baby boomers to have Social Security and Medicare waiting for them when they retire starting in seven years,” McColgan told the paper.
The local chairman of Michael Dukakis’ 1988 presidential campaign lost the Democratic primary in 2002 to Peter Buckley, who opted to run for the state Legislature this year.
Walden defeated Buckley for his third term with 72 percent of the vote.
Walden starts with the race with a huge financial advantage over McColgan, who raised only $1,600 in 2002. As of Feb. 17, Walden had $534,000 in the bank.
— Nicole Duran
Nethercutt Hires Former Speechwriter for Evans
A speechwriter for Commerce Secretary Don Evans has joined Rep. George Nethercutt’s (R) Senate campaign.
Andrew Conant left the Commerce Department to become Nethercutt’s communications director just ahead of Evans’ scheduled visit to Washington state last week.
“Conant’s work at the U.S. Department of Commerce will help us communicate Nethercutt’s job creation agenda,” Tom Mason, Nethercutt’s campaign manager, said.
Prior to working for Commerce, Conant worked with Mason on Sen. Norm Coleman’s (R-Minn.) 2002 campaign.
4th Republican Enters Senate Fray, Blasts Foes
The Republican Senate primary got another cast member last week, while Sen. Russ Feingold (D) continues to have a clear path to November.
Robert Gerald Lorge, a Bear Creek attorney, is the fourth Republican to enter the fray.
Lorge was the GOP nominee for secretary of state in 2002 but lost to incumbent Doug LaFollette (D).
Lorge touted his underdog status against auto dealer Russ Darrow, businessman Tim Michels and state Sen. Robert Welch in the primary and Feingold in the general election, referring to them as “two millionaires and two career politicians” during his announcement speech, according to The Green Bay News-Chronicle.
Meanwhile, Welch announced that he hired the pollster who worked with then-Rep. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) in his successful bid to unseat former Sen. Max Cleland (D-Ga.). Gene Ulm of Public Opinion Strategies will serve as Welch’s pollster in the primary and beyond, should he win.
“Public Opinion Strategies has a proven track record of providing in-depth survey research to candidates in Wisconsin and across the nation,” Welch said in a statement.
Assemblyman Is Party’s Choice Against Schumer
State Republican leaders appear to have settled on a state Assemblyman as the party choice to take on Sen. Charles Schumer (D) this year.
Assemblyman Howard Mills III (R) has the blessing of the state party chairman and key allies of Gov. George Pataki (R). Kieran Mahoney, a top Empire State GOP consultant with close ties to Pataki and his political patron, former Sen. Al D’Amato (R-N.Y.), is expected to work for Mills.
Mills, 39, is in his third term in the Legislature representing Orange and Rockland counties, which are northern New York City exurbs. A former fundraiser for a private college — a fact that has some GOP leaders hoping he’ll be able to raise money easily — Mills is a major in the New York Guard and was briefly called to active duty following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist strikes in New York City.
Mills will face former financial consultant Michael Benjamin in the September Republican primary. Schumer, who had $20 million in his campaign account as of Dec. 31, 2003, must be considered the heavy favorite.
In a related development, conservative columnist Armstrong Williams last week wrote that he expects Schumer to run for governor in 2006. According to Williams, Schumer has agreed to appoint former state Comptroller Carl McCall (D) — who is black — to fill his Senate vacancy in the event Schumer is elected governor.
If that scenario is correct, it would enable Schumer to maximize support from black voters and political leaders in the event he is in a tough gubernatorial primary with Attorney General Eliot Spitzer. McCall was the Democratic nominee against Pataki in 2002.