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Ga. Candidates Acting Fast on Dist. 4 House Race

State Sen. Nadine Thomas, who had been seeking the Democratic Senate nomination, announced on Wednesday that she will instead run for the 4th district seat being vacated by Rep. Denise Majette (D).

Majette stunned colleagues and party insiders Monday by announcing that she is running for Senate. Both Thomas and Majette represent similar bases in DeKalb County.

“This district needs a leader who is a fresh face, has a progressive record, and is a real fighter,” Thomas said in announcing her decision to enter the House race. “I will be that type of leader in Congress. We can’t be stuck in the politics of the past. We can’t move backwards or sideways. We have leaders who move us forward.”

Thomas’ comments allude to the 4th district candidacy of former Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D), the controversial lawmaker Majette defeated in 2002 who is now seeking a comeback. Thomas has been a McKinney ally in the past.

Atlanta City Council President Cathy Woolard (D) also announced this week she is seeking Majette’s seat.

Meanwhile, DeKalb County CEO Vernon Jones (D) announced Wednesday that he will run for re-election to his current post and not run for the 4th district.

Among the high-profile Democrats still considering the race are state Rep. Teresa Greene-Johnson, state Sen. Liane Levetan and State Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond.
—Lauren W. Whittington

Martinez Says He Has Raised $1.7 Million in ’04

Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Mel Martinez (R) announced Wednesday that his campaign has raised $1.7 million in the first three months of the year.

The campaign also expects to report $1.4 million in cash on hand when first quarter fundraising reports are filed with the Federal Election Commission on April 15.

Martinez, who officially entered the race at the beginning of the year, did not begin actively fundraising until Feb. 5. A campaign news release touted the fundraising total as evidence of Martinez’s building momentum and broad statewide support.

However, the campaign’s fundraising total was no doubt bolstered by several high profile out of state fundraising events, including a Washington, D.C., kickoff reception hosted by the entire Senate GOP leadership and an event in Philadelphia with GOP Conference Chairman Rick Santorum (Pa.).

Martinez, who entered the race with the implicit backing of the White House, is one of at least a half dozen Republicans seeking the seat of retiring Sen. Bob Graham (D). Most polling in the race so far has shown former Rep. Bill McCollum (R), the only candidate who has run statewide before, leading the primary field, with Martinez in second place.

Also this week a nonprofit issue advocacy group began airing ads in six cities criticizing Martinez for his background as a trial lawyer and for contributing to Democrats in the past. McCollum has previously criticized Martinez on similar grounds.

The ads, being paid for by People for a Better Florida, will run for two weeks. Martinez is a former president of the Florida Academy of Trial Lawyers.

“Mel Martinez wants to be the GOP candidate for U.S. Senate but he opposes the president on medical lawsuit reform and he’s been writing checks to help elect the friends of the trial lawyers to Congress?” a woman asks in the ad.

The Martinez campaign said the ad falsely implies that Martinez is not a supporter of President Bush and that he is against tort reform. He favors class action lawsuit reform.
— L.W.W.

Cheney to Fuel Triplett’s Fundraising Machine

Vice President Cheney will head to southwestern Virginia later this month to boost former NASCAR executive Kevin Triplett’s (R) bid to oust 10-term Rep. Rick Boucher (D), the Bristol Herald Courier reported Wednesday.

Details of Cheney’s visit were unavailable but the chairman of the 9th district Republican Party said the national interest the race is receiving demonstrates Republicans’ commitment to retiring the popular incumbent.

“They’re serious about the race,” Jim Ferreira told the newspaper. White House political director Matt Schlapp visited the district on behalf of Triplett last month.

Boucher, first elected to represent the “Fighting Ninth” in 1982, has hardly faced a competitive race since. The culturally conservative district voted 55 percent for George W. Bush in the 2000 presidential election.

Highlighting his awareness that he’s a GOP target, last weekend Boucher served as the grand marshal for NASCAR’s Food City 500 at the Bristol Motor Speedway (Bristol is located on the Tennessee-Virginia state line) for the first time ever.

Triplett’s campaign released a statement welcoming Boucher to the racing sport.

“Every day, we worked to put on the best show possible to not only make current fans happy, but to bring new fans like Rick Boucher into the sport,” Triplett said.
— L.W.W.

Cattlemen Brand Welch the Grade A Candidate

The Wisconsin Cattlemen’s Association announced Tuesday that it would back state Sen. Bob Welch (R) in the Dairy State’s Senate race.

“We believe that Bob Welch’s combination of proven legislative leadership and real-world business experience makes him the best choice to represent Wisconsin in the United States Senate,” the group’s president was quoted as saying in Ag Weekly.

Welch faces auto dealer Russ Darrow and construction company executive Tim Michels in the Sept. 14 primary to determine who will take on Sen. Russ Feingold (D).

He held a Washington, D.C., fundraiser recently that featured Rep. Tom Petri (R-Wis.) drew at least 50 people and a surprise visit from Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson, the former Wisconsin governor. The campaign estimates that the event will ultimately yield $50,000.

Welch began the year significantly behind Michels and Darrow, both of whom are wealthy, in the money race. All three were far behind Feingold in cash-on-hand totals.
— Nicole Duran

Salazar’s Lofty Goal: To Raise $1 Million a Month

Democratic state Attorney General Ken Salazar is expected to report raising $425,000 since entering the Senate race three weeks ago, his campaign said Wednesday.

“We’ve done it on the fly and by the seat of our pants,” Salazar campaign chairman Mike Stratton told The Denver Post. Stratton noted that the campaign hopes to raise at least $1 million a month from today until election day.

Former Rep. Bob Schaffer is the only announced candidate on the Republican side. His fundraising for the first three months of the year was not available Wednesday.

Real estate magnate Dave Liniger (R) is considering the race as well.

Reports covering contributions and expenditures between Jan. 1 and March 31 must be filed with the Federal Election Commission by April 15.

The seat came open March 1 when Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R) stunned the political world by announcing he would not seek a third term.
— Chris Cillizza

Chlouber Drops Out of 3rd District House Race

State Sen. Ken Chlouber (R) said Tuesday he will not continue to seek the open 3rd district seat.

“I am not declaring an end to my political career, but this is not the right time nor the proper race for me to continue my public service,” Chlouber told The Associated Press.

He cited an inability to raise the necessary money in a field of six other Republicans as the prime reason for his departure.

Pueblo County Sheriff Dan Corsentino, former director of the Department of Natural Resources Greg Walcher, state Reps. Gregg Rippy and Matt Smith, realtor Delina DeSanto and attorney Doug Sitter are running for the Republican nomination.

The Democratic side is much less complicated with state Rep. John Salazar the odds-on nominee.

The Western Slope district is being vacated by Rep. Scott McInnis (R) after six terms. It has a clear Republican bent, as President Bush won a 15-point victory there in 2000, but Democrats believe a moderate candidate can compete.
— C.C.

Greens Plucked From Ballot by Secy. of State

New Mexico Democrats may have caught a break in their efforts to defeat Rep. Heather Wilson (R) this year.

New Mexico Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron (D) has ruled that Green Party officials missed the deadline for certifying their candidates who are competing in the 1st district Green Party primary in June. That means that Green candidates will not be competing in the primary — and won’t appear on the general election ballot. The Greens may wind up taking the case to court.

Democrats have complained that the Greens have cost them a few elections against Wilson. She was first elected with 45 percent of the vote in a 1998 special election; the Green Party candidate got 15 percent. But without a Green candidate in the race in 2002, Wilson got 55 percent to state Senate President Pro Tem Richard Romero’s (D) 45 percent. Romero is the favorite for the Democratic nomination again this year.
— Josh Kurtz

Doucet Reports Raising $200K Since Start of Year

Former state Appeals Court Judge Ned Doucet (D) announced that his campaign raised better than $200,000 between Jan. 1 and March 31 as he runs for the open 7th district seat.

“We have a tremendous amount of momentum,” said Doucet campaign manager John Marchant.

While Doucet is the only Democrat formally in the race, state Sens. Don Cravins and Willie Mount are also expected to run.

Surgeon Charles Boustany declared his candidacy for the Republican nomination late last week, joining Lafayette Parish School Board member David Thibodaux in the GOP race.

Rep. Chris John (D) is leaving the southwestern Louisiana seat after four terms to run for the Senate.
— C.C.

Democratic Members Adhere to Party Platform

A Democratic organization recently rated Bay State lawmakers in their adherence to the Democratic Party platform., a project of the Progressive Democrats of Somerville, ranked everyone but Rep. Steve Lynch (D), who the group said was too new to have his record analyzed. Rep. Barney Frank (D) was the only current Congressman to earn 100 percent.

Reps. Bill Delahunt, Jim McGovern, Marty Meehan, John Olver and John Tierney all received 93 percent. Rep. Richard Neal (D) ranked the lowest of House Members with a still high mark of 86 percent.

Sens. Edward Kennedy (D) and presumptive Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry each merited an 83 percent.
— N.D.

Voinovich Has 16-Point Lead on Fingerhut in Poll

State Sen. Eric Fingerhut (D) is closing in on Sen. George Voinovich (R) but still trails by a sizable 16 points, according to a newly-release Ohio Poll. Voinovich leads his Democratic challenger 54 to 38 percent among registered voters.

The poll, which is sponsored by the University of Cincinnati, has a 3.9 percent error margin and surveyed 647 voters between March 10-22.

A poll taken in Feburary of last year showed Voinovich with a 67 percent lead. Fingerhut must boost his name recognition if he hopes to close the gap further, the pollsters note. Only 52 percent of respondents have heard of Fingerhut while Voinovich, a former governor, enjoys 97 percent name identification.
— N.D.

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