With less than three weeks to go before the Illinois Senate primaries, a slew of candidates in the crowded field launched new ads this week, the most controversial of which are two spots addressing illegal immigration.
The spots, being aired by dairy mogul Jim Oberweis (R), brought immediate criticism from immigrant rights advocates.
“Illegal aliens are coming here to take American workers’ jobs, drive down wages and take advantage of government benefits such as free health care, and you pay,” Oberweis says in one of the spots, as he rides in a helicopter over the city of Chicago. “How many? Ten thousand illegal aliens a day. Enough to fill Soldier Field every single week.”
Advocates for immigrant rights decried the message as racist and said the spots are based on misleading data.
“It is men like this gentleman who continue to project the old Archie Bunker mentality,” state Rep. William Delgado (D) told the Chicago Tribune on Tuesday. “Those stats are prostituted and fabricated.”
Businessman Andy McKenna, another Republican hopeful, also went on the air this week with new ads focusing on trade and jobs.
Meanwhile, in the Democratic race, both state Comptroller Dan Hynes and state Sen. Barack Obama are now up on the Chicago television airwaves and are expected to remain on the air for the duration of the primary.
In two new spots, Hynes focuses on the economy and promotes his plan to create jobs. Hynes, Obama and millionaire Blair Hull are the three leading candidates for the Democratic nomination.
— Lauren W. Whittington
Moderate Republicans Release Endorsements
The centrist Republican Main Street Partnership on Wednesday revealed the GOP Congressional primaries it will focus on this year.
To start, the list is relatively small, but Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), speaking on behalf of the group, said it might expand as more state primaries draw near.
A top priority for the moderates is to protect one of their own, Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), against the more conservative Rep. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), who Davis acknowledged will give Specter quite a run in the April 27 primary.
“If Arlen gets knocked off, our chances of holding that seat are [minimal] in this environment,” Davis said, noting that Democratic Rep. Joe Hoeffel would have an easier time defeating Toomey than Specter in November.
Also in Pennsylvania, ophthalmologist Melissa Brown, who narrowly lost to Hoeffel in 2002, will have Main Street backing in the 13th district in her contest with state Rep. Ellen Bard and Al Taubenberger come April 27.
Brown has better name recognition in the 13th district and did so well last time that she deserves another bite at the apple, Davis said.
Rep. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) gets the group’s nod in the July 20 primary for the open Senate seat in the Peach State. In California’s 3rd district, the group hopes businesswoman Mary Ose will replace her retiring brother, Rep. Doug Ose (R).
In Kansas’ 3rd district, former Navy pilot Adam Taff can tout his moderate credentials as he tries to topple former Justice Department official Kris Kobach and state Rep. Patricia Barbieri-Lightner in the state’s Aug. 3 GOP primary. After watching Taff win a highly contested and ideological primary last cycle only to lose narrowly to Rep. Dennis Moore (D), the group hopes its backing will propel him into Congress this year.
The partnership is also solidly behind Rep. George Nethercutt (R-Wash.) in his primary against former King County Republican Chairman Reed Davis. Moderates would like to see Nethercutt topple Sen. Patty Murray (D) in the general election.
The group has also chosen sides in Michigan’s open 7th district seat, where lawyer Brad Smith hopes to succeed his retiring father, Rep. Nick Smith (R). But the moderate partnership has designs on another candidate, former state Sen. Joe Schwarz, in the six-way Aug. 3 primary.
The group is also “monitoring,” though it has yet to decide whether to endorse, candidates in primaries in Texas’s 17th district, Oregon’s 1st and 5th districts and Florida’s 14th district, Davis said.
All of the candidates can expect financial help from the group’s political action committee.
A good barometer for the group’s intervention is whether the conservative Club for Growth gets into the game, Davis said.
“When the Club for Growth gets in, my antenna goes up and I wonder if there’s anyone better to get in,” Davis said, noting that he was speaking for himself and not the Main Street Partnership.
— Nicole Duran
Weiner a Distant Fifth in New 2005 City Hall Poll
Rep. Anthony Weiner (D) placed a distant fifth in a trial heat of possible Democratic candidates for mayor of New York City, according to a Marist Poll released earlier this week.
The poll of 314 registered Democrats conducted Feb. 17-19 listed the names of eight possible contenders in the 2005 mayoral primary. It had a 5.5 percent margin of error.
Weiner was the choice of 5 percent of the survey respondents, behind former Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer (26 percent), former Public Advocate Mark Green (23 percent), Manhattan Borough President C. Virginia Fields (12 percent) and City Council Speaker Gifford Miller (9 percent).
City Comptroller Bill Thompson got 4 percent, state Assemblyman Brian McLaughlin got 2 percent, and City Councilman Charles Barron got 2 percent. Seventeen percent were undecided.
Of the eight potential contenders, Ferrer, Miller and Barron are considered the most likely to run. Green, the Democratic nominee for mayor in 2001, is reportedly looking more seriously at running for state attorney general in 2006, assuming that position becomes vacant.
Weiner has said he would decide on whether to make the race shortly after the presidential election. He recently transferred more than $1 million from his Congressional campaign account into a new account that he could use for a citywide race.
But the City Council — led by Miller, who some political observers believe could be hurt if Weiner runs for mayor — is considering a bill that would prevent such transfers.
“It’s discriminatory in that it would only affect me,” Weiner told The Daily News last week.
Weiner has asked the New York City Campaign Finance Board for a ruling on whether he can create a city campaign account with money raised for a federal race. A ruling is considered imminent.
— Josh Kurtz
Isakson Starts Web Ad, Is Endorsed by Mattingly
Rep. Johnny Isakson (R) secured the endorsement of a prominent Georgia Republican and recently launched a new Web ad in his effort to win a seat in the Senate.
Former Sen. Mack Mattingly (R), who once held the same Senate seat, endorsed Isakson Friday at a meeting in Savannah, The Associated Press reported. Mattingly was defeated for re-election in 1986.
“Johnny brings with him the honesty, integrity and Georgia values Georgians expect and need in the Senate,” Mattingly said, according to the AP.
Last week Isakson also released his first Web ad, which was e-mailed to Republican voters in the state and will air on cable television. The ad touts Isakson’s values and experience as a family man, Sunday school teacher and small-business man.
“In the Senate, Isakson will support President Bush’s conservative judges, lead the fight to make tax cuts permanent, and continue to support the war on terror,” an announcer says in the ad.
Isakson is considered the frontrunner in the race to succeed retiring Sen. Zell Miller (D). He faces Rep. Mac Collins, pizza magnate Herman Cain and businessman Al Bartel in the July 20 primary. Democrats have yet to field a well-known candidate in the race.
In an effort to paint Isakson as the “liberal” in the race, Collins launched a Web ad in January attacking his colleague’s previous votes on abortion issues. Isakson’s campaign maintains that he has a proven conservative voting record on abortion, and claims that Collins is distorting what certain bills are about.
Collins’ campaign spokesman wrote Isakson’s office Wednesday, suggesting that Isakson’s chief of staff is purposefully misleading voters about his voting record.
Collins also received the backing of the American Conservative Union Political Action Committee this week.
While Isakson and Collins are primarily communicating with voters via the Web, Cain, a millionaire, launched his fourth television ad this week. The ex-Godfather’s Pizza executive and motivational speaker is also pushing for more candidate debates.
County Commissioner Is 1st McCollum GOP Foe
Patrice Bataglia, a GOP Dakota County Commissioner, has decided to throw her hat into the ring in the state’s 4th district.
She is the only announced Republican to enter the race in the heavily Democratic area that includes St. Paul, though the filing deadline is not until July 20.
Rep. Betty McCollum (D) won re-election in 2002 with 62 percent of the vote.
Knowles Wants Foe to Turn the Paige
Former Gov. Tony Knowles (D) continued to examine the company Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R) keeps — a campaign theme that she began using on him a few weeks ago.
After trading charges about accepting donations from opponents of drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Knowles took it further this week, attempting to link Murkowski to Education Secretary Rod Paige and his remarks to visiting governors in which he called the National Education Association a “terrorist organization.”
“Senator Murkowski should join me in demanding an apology, especially given reports that Secretary Paige visited Alaska in January to raise campaign funds for her,” he stated in a release.
Murkowski quickly distanced herself from Paige’s comments and commended him for his speedy apology but added that Paige had not been to Alaska for a fundraiser in January of this year, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported.
She did concede that Paige had visited the state and appeared at a reception for her last May. That event was a fundraiser as Roll Call previously reported.
House Challenger Woos Democratic Superstars
While Democratic presidential hopefuls trolled for votes in Wisconsin last week, political novice Bryan Kennedy cozied up to them and looked for help in his uphill battle to unseat 13-term Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R).
Kennedy’s camp boasted about the words of encouragement he received from Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) — no relation — and the offer of support he got from Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.).
But showing how quickly things change, the letter of support the campaign received from retired Gen. Wesley Clark seemed to lack luster after the general bowed out of the race.
His campaign tried to put the best spin on it, stating: “In a letter dated before Gen. Clark dropped out of the presidential race …”
While Kennedy kept the focus on Sensenbrenner as he talked to the Democratic luminaries, he faces a primary opponent who would seem to have the advantage.
Oconomowoc Mayor Gary Kohlenberg (D) holds public office and can brag that he knocked off an entrenched Republican to get there. Kohlenberg defeated long-time Mayor Tom Foti (R) as a write-in candidate in 2002.