Jones, Ryan Plead Their Case Before Conference
The newest Republican Senate nominees, Bill Jones of California and Jack Ryan of Illinois, made the rite of political passage Tuesday by making their two-minute pitches to the 51 Senators in the Republican Conference.
Jones, the former California secretary of state, and Ryan, a former partner in the Goldman Sachs Group, won their GOP primaries decisively on March 2 and March 16, respectively. Jones faces an uphill battle against Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), while Ryan is vying against state Sen. Barack Obama (D) for the seat of retiring Sen. Peter Fitzgerald (R-Ill.).
As is custom with all candidates on their first trip to Washington, D.C., after securing the nomination, Jones and Ryan were given the chance to address Senate Republicans and ask for their help in their respective races, both of which are in states that haven’t been hospitable to statewide Republican candidates in recent years.
According to GOP Senators, Jones spent his time laying out the case for a resurgent Republican Party in California based on the 2003 recall election and continued popularity of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R).
“He just thought that the Schwarzenegger dynamic has put the Republican Party back in the game,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).
Like all candidates, Ryan talked about his personal background, which brought a round of laughter from the Republicans given his time at Goldman was during the reign of now-Sen. Jon Corzine (N.J.), the former Goldman CEO who is now chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and tasked with defeating Ryan.
“He pointed out that Jon made him partner when he was at Goldman, and that got a few chuckles,” said Sen. John Sununu (R-N.H.).
As part of his swing through Washington, Ryan held a fundraiser at the National Republican Senatorial Committee on Monday night. Jones was scheduled to meet with California political reporters at the NRSC today.
— Paul Kane
Lungren Will Watch as Pledge Is Debated Today
Seeking to further burnish his conservative credentials, 3rd district Republican nominee Dan Lungren is planning to attend today’s Supreme Court hearing on whether the words “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance are constitutional.
California atheist Michael Newdow, who sued to have the words struck from the pledge, is a resident of the Sacramento-area 3rd district.
Lungren, a staunchly conservative former House Member and ex-California attorney general, narrowly defeated an even more conservative state Senator in the March 2 GOP primary to replace retiring Rep. Doug Ose (R).
In a news release, the Lungren campaign said the candidate “strongly supports” leaving the phrase “under God” in the pledge. He plans to make himself available to the media before and after this morning’s hour-long Supreme Court hearing.
Lungren is heavily favored in his general election race against financial adviser Gabe Castillo (D).
— Josh Kurtz
Local GOP Chairman Blasts Frist Solicitation
Responding to a fundraising letter issued by Sen. Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) on behalf of former state Rep. Connie Mack IV (R), Lee County GOP Chairman Bob Schrader fired off a letter accusing the Majority Leader of going overboard in promoting one candidate over others in the 14th district GOP primary.
Mack, the son of former Sen. Connie Mack (R-Fla.), is one of several Republicans seeking the seat of retiring Rep. Porter Goss (R). Last year he resigned his seat in the state Legislature and moved back to the district his father once represented in the House.
“You should be aware that this race includes two local candidates who have resided here for many years … who have well-established records and have made decisions that have become law, versus one who left the Florida House on the east coast of Florida just to enter this race. Also, one who has not lived in this Congressional district for 20 years,” Schrader wrote to Frist, according to the Ft. Myers News-Press. “I, for one do not appreciate that someone from the Beltway in Washington suggests to me who is the best candidate to serve after our beloved Congressman Porter Goss.”
Among the other Republicans in the race are state Rep. Carole Green and Lee County Commissioner Andy Coy.
— Lauren W. Whittington
First Lady Joins List of Celebrity Kilmer Backers
The A-list of headliners state Rep. Bev Kilmer (R) has been able to attract to the Sunshine State’s 2nd district keeps on growing. First Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), now first lady Laura Bush.
The draw? While Kilmer, who is running against Rep. Allen Boyd (D), is touted as one of the GOP’s top House challengers this cycle, it also doesn’t hurt that she’s running in a state considered ground zero for this year’s presidential election.
The first lady will attend a $250-per-person luncheon for Kilmer on Monday at the University Club Center in Tallahassee.
Stork Takes Off as Clay’s First Democratic Foe
Meanwhile, the first Democratic challenger of the cycle has emerged against 12-term incumbent Rep. Clay Shaw (R), a perennial target for Democrats.
Former Wilton Manors Mayor Jim Stork (D) declared his candidacy last week, the Palm Beach Post reported. Stork said he is running because Shaw must be held accountable for voting with President Bush more than 90 percent of the time.
Still, after Democrats have made defeating Shaw a top priority in the previous two cycles, the party’s hopes of retiring the lawmaker this year have been markedly deflated by the reluctance so far of a top-tier candidate to enter the race.
To this point, state Rep. Stacy Ritter (D) has been considered the party’s preferred candidate in the Democratic-leaning 22th district. But she has given no indication she is interested in challenging the battle-tested incumbent.
Shaw, who won one of the closest re-election battles of the 2000 cycle, garnered 61 percent of the vote in 2002 after his district was improved slightly during redistricting.
Nethercutt Wants to Debate on Health Care
Rep. George Nethercutt (R) says he wants a health care debate with Sen. Patty Murray (D).
He wrote Murray, whom he hopes to challenge in November, on Tuesday: “I appreciate your campaign’s invitation to debate. I agree with you that the voters of Washington deserve to hear our respective positions. I whole heartedly accept your offer.”
The Spokane Congressman took a comment from Murray’s campaign spokeswoman in an article Tuesday as an invitation to debate.
“If they want to have a debate on health care, we welcome that debate,” Carol Albert, Murray’s campaign manager, said in a Roll Call article about capping damages in medical malpractice lawsuits.
No word yet on when and where the debate will take place.
For her part, Murray is holding a news conference today in support of her legislation to ban the insulation filler asbestos in advance of Senate debate on a bill to curb asbestos litigation.
— Nicole Duran
Witch Doctor Hopes for Magic Against Dingell
An Independent candidate has jumped into the race for the Great Lakes State’s 15th district seat.
Hans Masing, a University of Michigan lecturer, is challenging entrenched Rep. John Dingell (D) in the Ann Arbor and outer Detroit suburban district.
“I am a dad, an information technology worker, a musician, a disc jockey, a football fan, and a guy who is genuinely concerned about the future of our country,” Masing wrote on his campaign Web site.
Masing plays in an Ann Arbor blues group known as The Witch Doctors.
It will probably take some magic to vault Masing into the House, as Dingell has served for 50 years — in a seat his father held before him.
Boehlert’s Primary Foe Opens Exploratory Effort
The local official who gave Rep. Sherwood Boehlert a scare in the 2002 Republican primary is gearing up to try again.
Former Cayuga County legislator David Walrath (R) this week established an exploratory committee for the race and is sounding very much like a candidate, according to Tuesday’s Utica Observer-Dispatch.
As he did two years ago, Walrath plans to challenge the moderate 11-term Congressman from the right.
“I believe my positions are more consistent with the platforms of the Republican Party and the wishes and desires of the people in the area,” Walrath, a surgeon, told the newspaper.
In an abbreviated primary challenge last cycle, Walrath took 47 percent of the vote against Boehlert. He was also the Congressman’s strongest general election opponent, taking 22 percent as the nominee of the Conservative Party.
In an interview with the Observer-Dispatch, Boehlert blamed his weak showing on the fact that the central New York 24th district picked up a significant amount of new territory in the late redistricting of 2002.
“Two years ago, people at the western end of the district didn’t know me,” he said. “Now they embrace me as one of their own.”
In a district that split almost evenly between George W. Bush and Al Gore in 2000, the Democrats fielded no challenger to Boehlert in 2002.
This year, two people are seeking the Democratic nomination so far: Utica College professor Jeffrey Miller and United Auto Workers Local 2300 President Brian Goodell.