Republicans Line Up in Case McCrery Retires

Posted February 24, 2004 at 5:58pm

With Rep. Jim McCrery (R) set to decide on his political future in the next 10 days, several Republicans are being mentioned as possible candidates in the event he decides not to seek a 10th term.

Caddo Parish Sheriff Steve Prator and state Reps. Jane Smith of Bossier City and Wayne Waddell of Shreveport are all seen as potential candidates for the GOP.

Businessman Mike Woods, who has served as finance chairman of McCrery’s past Congressional races, could also enter the race, according to an informed Republican source.

State Rep. Taylor Townsend has formed an exploratory committee for the contest, and Shreveport Mayor Keith Hightower is also interested. Hightower could switch parties and run as a Republican.

All candidates regardless of party will run in a Nov. 2 open primary.

In a statement Friday, McCrery said he will choose whether to run for another term by the end of March, though knowledgeable Republicans believe that decision will come earlier in the month rather than later.

The district is competitive between the parties.

President Bush took 55 percent there in 2000, but Sen. Mary Landrieu (D) carried the district in the November 2002 open primary and December runoff last cycle, as did now-Gov. Kathleen Blanco (D) in the 2003 gubernatorial race.

The district is also roughly one-third black, according to the 2000 Census, making it ripe territory for Democrats.
— Chris Cillizza

Senate Foes Practice Guilt By Association

After taking it on the chin from the National Republican Senatorial Committee recently, former Gov. Tony Knowles (D) struck back, accusing Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R), whose job he wants, of hypocrisy.

“I think Lisa Murkowski is being two-faced when she criticizes us for getting support from people opposed to Arctic National Wildlife Refuge development while she does the same,” Bob King, Knowles’ spokesman, said.

The NRSC blasted Knowles recently for holding a fundraiser starring several Democratic Members opposed to ANWR drilling, saying he was consorting with the enemy by accepting contributions from them.

“Tony Knowles must be hoping that Alaskans don’t judge him by the company that he keeps,” Jay Timmons, the NRSC’s executive director, stated then.

The Knowles camp did its homework and countered that the same thing could be said for Murkowski.

She received $5,000 from Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.), who not only voted for a bill that would prevent ANWR drilling but also ran television ads in his 2002 re-election campaign bragging about it.

Smith was opposed only to the timing of opening a section of the massive preserve to drilling, said Murkowski campaign manager Justin Stiefel.

“It’s not a ‘never’ situation,” he said.

Stiefel accused Knowles of cozying up to people who are “opposed to Alaska’s agenda,” and said that Murkowski is collecting money from people who may disagree over the time or the process but not the principle of opening the refuge to oil drilling.

“They may have questions about how to get there, but they don’t oppose resource development,” Stiefel said of GOP Senators.

Knowles promotes opening the refuge to drilling so one wonders if this will end the debate. But Stiefel says no.

“This is the biggest issue in Alaska and [Knowles] has made it a cornerstone of his campaign, that he can change Democrats’ minds,” he said. “We don’t question his commitment to opening ANWR, we question if he can convince people to change their minds.”

King said Knowles can, citing examples of how Knowles brought the Clinton administration around to his way of thinking more than once while governor.

Knowles got the Democratic administration to drop the ban on oil exports to certain countries and convinced officials to lease land within the National Petroleum Reserve for drilling, King said.

But back to the hypocrisy charge, the Knowles camp went beyond ANWR and pointed out that Murkowski accepted donations from Senators who voted against the energy bill and voted for the USA Patriot Act — the former enjoys wide support in Alaska while the latter does not, King said.

Stiefel said “that’s comparing apples to oranges.”

Some Republicans who voted against the energy bill did so because they disliked a provision having nothing to do with Alaska. As to the Patriot Act, “if they’re now going to try and isolate and cross-reference every issue like that — you’re never going to have every Senator on the same page,” Stiefel said.

Ah, but fair is fair, King countered.

“They raised this as an issue against Knowles, that you are known by the company that you keep. Why can’t we?” King asked.
— Nicole Duran

Beleaguered Candidate Accused of Extortion

Things couldn’t get much worse for Pueblo County Sheriff Dan Corsentino, one of a half-dozen Republicans seeking to replace retiring Rep. Scott McInnis (R) in the massive 3rd district.

After being accused by four separate women of making unwanted sexual advances, Corsentino and his campaign are now being investigated by the Pueblo district attorney’s office for allegedly trying to extort one of his accusers.

According to Tuesday’s Denver Post, one of the four women filed an extortion complaint with the local police earlier this month. She alleges that partially nude photographs of her were provided to the Corsentino campaign by a photographer who threatened to make them public if she did not recant her earlier accusations about the sheriff’s conduct.

The photographs were shown to two staffers at the Pueblo Chieftain newspaper last month, the Post reported.

Daniel Diekmann, press secretary for the Corsentino campaign, said, “The claims that photos have been used for extortion are preposterous.” He conceded, however, that an unnamed supporter showed “poor judgment in obtaining the photos.”
— Josh Kurtz

Mayor of San Antonio Sides With Rodriguez

Rep. Ciro Rodriguez (D) received the endorsement of San Antonio Mayor Ed Garza (D) on Monday in his primary battle against former Texas Secretary of State Henry Cuellar (D).

Rodriguez now has the backing of Garza and Laredo Mayor Betty Flores (D). San Antonio in the north and Laredo in the south are the population centers of the new 28th district.

Rodriguez also won the support of three San Antonio city councilmen and a Bexar County commissioner on Monday.

Cuellar, who narrowly lost a challenge to Rep. Henry Bonilla (R) in 2002, has several high-profile endorsements of his own, including Bexar County Commissioner Robert Tejeda.

Rodriguez and Cuellar will face off March 9.
— C.C.

GOP’s Hope for Bishop Seat Declines to Run

Republicans were dealt a blow this week in their efforts to take back the Suffolk County seat that Rep. Tim Bishop (D) won from them in 2002.

Brookhaven Town Supervisor John Jay LaValle (R), a popular and photogenic local official, has announced that he will not seek the seat this year. LaValle is getting married later this year and said there are still many reforms he wants to bring to the town government.

“While I am both humbled and flattered at the opportunity to represent Long Islanders in Washington, D.C., personal and governmental factors have led to my declination at this time,” he said.

LaValle’s decision leaves Bill Manger, a former Southampton village councilman, as the lone Republican in the race. According to the North Shore Sun newspaper, LaValle recently said of Manger: “He’s nobody, really.”

Manger has done very well on the fundraising front, however. Through Dec. 31, 2003, he had $163,000 in the bank after raising $285,000 in the last three months of the year. Only $17,000 came from his own wallet.

Bishop, who upset then-Rep. Felix Grucci (R) last cycle, had $324,000 on hand.
— J.K.

Councilwoman Likely to Challenge Owens

Rep. Major Owens’ (D) early lame-duck status — he announced late last year that he would retire after the 109th Congress — has brought one or possibly two early-bird would-be successors out of the woodwork.

The Courier-Life Newspapers of Brooklyn is reporting that City Councilwoman Tracy Boyland has announced her intention to challenge Owens in the September Democratic primary, though she has yet to formally file her candidacy papers.

“It’s time to take it beyond the City Council,” Boyland said at a recent fundraiser, according to the newspaper. “It’s time to move to places other than New York City while still serving.”

Councilwoman Yvette Clarke (D) — whose mother and predecessor, Una Clarke, ran a tough primary race against Owens in 2000 — also wants to run, the newspaper said.

A multicandidate primary to succeed Owens has been anticipated for 2006, when the Congressman’s son, former local school board member Chris Owens, is also expected to run. But as members of the City Council, Boyland and Clarke do not have to sacrifice their seats to take a run at Owens this time.

The Courier-Life said state Sen. Carl Andrews (D), who is also expected to run in 2006, has told associates that he will collect petition signatures to place himself on the 2004 Democratic primary ballot — in the unlikely event that Owens decides not to run.
— J.K.

Professor Hopes to Teach Boehlert a Lesson at Polls

A Utica College communications professor has entered the Democratic primary in the 24th district, which has been held for 11 terms by Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R).

“When career politicians fail us, we citizens must take back the power we have given them,” Jeff Miller said during his announcement speech last week, according to Gannett News Service.

Miller is the second Democrat to enter the fray in the J-shaped 24th district of central New York. Brian Goodell, a Cornell University bus driver and president of a United Auto Workers union local, is also running.

Boehlert is expected to be challenged in the Republican primary by Cayuga County legislator David Walrath, who took a surprising 47 percent of the vote by challenging Boehlert from the right in the GOP primary last cycle. Boehlert is considered far more prepared for all comers this time around.
— J.K.

Gallagher’s Entry Adds Spice to Senate Primary

The brother of state Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher tossed his hat into the crowded Republican Senate primary last week, adding even more intrigue to the race to replace retiring Sen. Bob Graham (D).

Doug Gallagher, the 54-year-old founder of a Coral Gables-based software development company, said he was entering the race to give voters a candidate “who is not a career politician.” In his only other run for office, he lost a state Senate race in 1982.

“I think we need more successful businessmen and women, particularly those who know what it is to meet a payroll,” Gallagher said in announcing his candidacy. “I believe I understand the perspective of the average hardworking person who lives paycheck to paycheck.”

Gallagher said he intends to lend his campaign “significant dollars,” and he could also get a boost from his brother’s high name recognition. Tom Gallagher has appeared on a statewide ballot six times and is considered a top contender for the 2006 governor’s race.

Other Republicans in the Senate race include state House Speaker Johnnie Byrd, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Mel Martinez, former Rep. Bill McCollum, state Sen. Daniel Webster, Judicial Watch founder Larry Klayman and former New Hampshire Sen. Bob Smith.
— Lauren W. Whittington

2nd Democrat Enters Race in 5th District

Political novice John Russell (D) recently filed to challenge freshman Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite (R) in the state’s 5th district, the St. Petersburg Times reported.

Russell, a critical care nurse, is the second Democrat to file for the Aug. 31 primary, joining 2002 independent candidate Brian Moore (D).

Although the state has a May 7 filing deadline, Democratic hopes of recruiting a top-tier candidate to challenge Brown-Waite are fading. The freshman was one of two Republican challengers to defeat an incumbent in 2002.
— L.W.W.

Schwartz Has 2-1 Lead Over Torsella in Her Poll

A new poll released by state Sen. Allyson Schwartz’s campaign showed her leading former National Constitution Center President Joe Torsella by a 2-1 margin in the 13th district Democratic primary.

Schwartz led Torsella 36 percent to 17 percent among the 500 likely primary voters surveyed in the poll, conducted by Global Strategy Group. The poll was taken Jan. 26-Feb. 1 and had a 4 percent margin of error.

Schwartz and Torsella are the leading Democrats in the Philadelphia-area race to replace Rep. Joe Hoeffel (D), who is running for Senate. State Rep. Ellen Bard and ophthalmologist Melissa Brown are squaring off for the Republican nomination.

Meanwhile, the crowded GOP field in the neighboring 17th district shrunk by one last week as Dauphin County Sheriff Jack Lotwick dropped his bid to try to take on Rep. Tim Holden (D) in November.

Also last week, Scott Paterno picked up the Schuylkill County GOP endorsement, his second county endorsement. Paterno is the son of Penn State football coach Joe Paterno.

The Dauphin County GOP voted recently to endorse attorney Mark Stewart in the six-way primary.
— L.W.W.

DSCC Debt Grew in 1st Month of the Year

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee saw its debt grow by almost $700,000 from the end of 2003 to Jan. 31, according to reports filed this week with the Federal Election Commission.

The DSCC had $2.6 million in debt at the end of January, a total roughly equivalent to the amount of cash on hand that same report showed.

Spokeswoman Cara Morris said the increased debt came from direct-mail costs, more than half of which have been paid this month.

The committee raised $1.3 million last month and spent $1.2 million.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee is in much stronger financial shape, with $9.7 million in the bank after bringing in $2.8 million in January. The NRSC had no debt.

On the House side, the National Republican Congressional Committee raised $4.6 million in January while spending $5.8 million, a large chunk of which went to last week’s special election in Kentucky’s 6th district.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee raised a more modest $1.4 million and doled out $3.4 million in the month.

The NRCC closed January with a $9.6 million cash balance; the DCCC had $6.5 million in the bank.
— C.C.