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ILLINOIS: Hull on the Defensive After Records Released

Millionaire securities trader Blair Hull’s (D) standing among women’s organizations in the state took a nosedive this week, as he continued to be confronted with allegations that he verbally and physically abused his now ex-wife.

Hull, who has billed himself as a champion of women’s issues in his bid to win a Senate seat, set off a firestorm of controversy after the couple agreed to unseal their 1998 divorce records late last week.

Aside from a 1998 police report in which now ex-wife Brenda Sexton alleges that Hull punched her in the shin during a dispute in bed, the file also includes affidavits that reveal Sexton accused him of being a violent man who at one point threatened to kill her.

The papers are also riddled with expletives Sexton alleges Hull directed at her.

“I am in great fear that if this court does not enter a protective order in my favor and against Blair, as well as exclude him from my residence in which I am residing with my child … Blair will continue to inflict mental, emotional and physical abuse upon me as he has done in the past,” Sexton wrote to a judge in March 1998 asking for an order of protection to be issued against Hull. “At this point, I fear for my emotional and physical well-being, as well as that of my daughter.”

This week, an anti-violence group called on the Democratic frontrunner to exit the race.

“You can’t abuse women with one hand and ask for their vote with the other,” Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault Executive Director Polly Poskin told the Chicago Sun Times. “Throughout his campaign, Hull has painted a picture of himself as a friend to women, but his history of violence paints a decidedly different picture.”

Hull, meanwhile, reiterated that “this is not an issue of domestic violence” even as he continued to refuse to discuss Sexton’s allegations, saying he does not want to “re-litigate” his divorce.

While the president of the Illinois chapter of the National Organization of Women called the allegations “troubling” over the weekend, she still said there are good reasons for supporting Hull, a board member of NARAL Pro-Choice America.

On Monday, the president of Chicago NOW, who is reportedly supporting state Sen. Barack Obama (D) in the primary, said that Hull needed to state his position on the issue of domestic violence and explain how he will address the problem if he is elected to the Senate.

Although Hull’s divorce files have dominated news coverage of the race this week, it is also worth noting that the leading female Democratic Senate candidate hit the airwaves for the first time this week.

Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas is up with a new television ad that is running both downstate and in Chicago media markets.

According to her campaign, she has reserved $485,000 worth of advertising in Chicago over a two-week period.

“Politicians in Washington look and act the same and have the same priorities: Waste our money on pet projects of lobbyists and big campaign contributors and hope we don’t catch on,” Pappas says in the new spot. “No wonder our schools are under-funded, health care costs so much, and our jobs are shipped overseas. I’m Maria Pappas, and I approve this ad, because if we want change in Washington, we need to change the people we send there.”
— Lauren W. Whittington

McCrery Announcement Doesn’t Sway Democrat

Rep. Jim McCrery (R) announced he would stand for re-election Tuesday, ending speculation that the influential Bayou State lawmaker would step aside.

“After much thoughtful prayer and consultations with my family, I have decided to seek election to my ninth full term,” McCrery said at a Shreveport news conference.

His decision significantly strengthens Republican chances in the northwestern Louisiana 4th district, although Democrats continue to believe that with the right candidate they can make a serious race of it.

State Rep. Taylor Townsend (D) said Monday he would continue to look at a run against McCrery and took a shot at the Congressman’s decision to move his family to Washington, D.C.

“If people decide they want a Congressman in absentia then I’m not their person,” Townsend said.

The 4th district seat is seen as competitive between the parties. President Bush took 55 percent there in 2000, but Sen. Mary Landrieu (D) carried the district in the November open primary and December runoff last cycle as did then-Lt. Gov. Kathleen Blanco (D) in the 2003 gubernatorial race.

McCrery has not been seriously challenged since he won a 1988 special election to replace former Rep. Buddy Roemer (D), however.
— Chris Cillizza

Cable TV Host Launches Long-Shot Senate Bid

A Republican talk-show host has entered the Senate race.

Bruce Broussard, the personality of Portland-based Oregon Voter Digest, a cable TV public affairs show, said he will run in the GOP primary for the seat held by Sen. Ron Wyden (D), The Associated Press reported.

Broussard faces Pavel Goberman in the May 18 primary. Both men have run unsuccessfully for a variety of public offices in the past.

They face an uphill battle as Wyden, who was first elected in 1996, already has more than $3 million in his war chest.
— Nicole Duran

Thorman Drops Out, Says Cleaver Is Sharp

Public policy consultant Damian Thorman withdrew from the 5th district Democratic primary Monday, throwing his support behind former Kansas City Mayor Emmanuel Cleaver.

“He has the passion, integrity and experience to be a strong leader,” Thorman said of Cleaver.

Thorman’s departure leaves Cleaver and former Council on Foreign Relations fellow Jamie Metzl in the race on the Democratic side.

The Kansas City seat is being vacated by Rep. Karen McCarthy (D), who has served five terms.

Cleaver enters the race in the strongly Democratic district as the favorite, because of his two terms as mayor of the 5th’s largest city.

Metzl has proven an extremely strong fundraiser, however, raising $343,000 in 2003 with $324,000 in the bank.

Cleaver has not yet filed a financial report with the Federal Election Commission.
— C.C.

Independent’s Day: Walter Runs in 17th

Ohio primary voters took to the polls Tuesday, but they won’t have the option of casting a ballot for one Congressional candidate until November.

Randy Walter met the March 1 deadline for independent candidates by submitting 1,943 signatures to the elections board petitioning to put him on the November ballot, the Akron Beacon Journal reported. The board must verify at least 1,844 of those to keep him there.

Walter wants to challenge freshman Rep. Tim Ryan (D) in the 17th district, just as he did against former Rep. Jim Traficant (D) in 2000.

Traficant also represented the 17th, though it’s been reconfigured since then.

Walter won 21 percent of the vote in his quest to oust the scandal-plagued Traficant, now a jailed felon.

Republican Frank Cusimano is also seeking the seat.

Ryan defeated incumbent Rep. Tom Sawyer (D) in the primary to go on and win the general election with 51 percent of the vote in 2002.
— N.D.

Bush Raises $2.7 Million At Frist NRSC Event

President Bush raised $2.7 million for the National Republican Senatorial Committee at a high-dollar donor event on Monday night.

The fundraiser was held at the Washington, D.C., home of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), who chaired the NRSC during the 2002 cycle.

Dan Allen, NRSC communications director, said the event “far exceeded our original expectations.”

Bush has done only one fundraiser for a Republican Senate candidate this cycle, raising $1 million for Sen. Kit Bond (Mo.) last September.

The nearly $3 million take will further add to the fundraising edge the NRSC has over the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

At the end of January, the NRSC showed $9.7 million on hand with no debt. The DSCC had $2.6 million on hand and $2.6 million in debt at that time.
— C.C.

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