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Barrow Gets Sierra Club Blessing in Ga.’s 12th District

In the nationally targeted 12th district race against freshman Rep. Max Burns (R), Athens-Clarke County Commissioner John Barrow (D) this week received the endorsement of the Sierra Club.

“Everyone knows that John is in the best position to win this election,” Georgia Sierra Club Executive Director Bryan Hager said in a news release issued by Barrow’s campaign. “What we want everyone to know is that John’s record in public office, and his effectiveness are what really set him apart from other candidates.”

Barrow, who is widely perceived to be the national party establishment’s favored nominee, is battling former state Sen. Doug Haines and attorney Tony Center for the Democratic nomination.

Burns was elected in 2002 to the Democratic-leaning 12th district seat, which encompasses Savannah, Augusta and Athens. He is the number one target for Democrats this cycle.
— Lauren W. Whittington

Ex-Governor Endorses Walcher in 3rd District

Seeking to distinguish himself from a crowded Republican field in the 3rd district, former state Department of Natural Resources Secretary Greg Walcher (R) is touting the endorsement of former Colorado Gov. John Vanderhoof (R).

Vanderhoof sent a letter to Republican delegates Thursday, calling Walcher “someone who already knows what must be done and how to do it.”

Vanderhoof served for two years as Centennial State governor following the appointment of then-Gov. John Love (R) as the head of energy policy in the Nixon administration.

Vanderhoof lost the 1974 general election for a full term to Dick Lamm (D).

Walcher is competing for the GOP nomination to replace Rep. Scott McInnis (R) with Pueblo County Sheriff Dan Corsentino, state Reps. Gregg Rippy and Matt Smith, who is McInnis’ brother-in-law, attorney Doug Sitter, and real estate broker Delina DeSanto.

Prior to his DNR post, Walcher headed up “Club 20,” a combination regional chamber of commerce and council of governments on Colorado’s Western Slope. He spent 10 years as a top aide to former Colorado Sen. Bill Armstrong (R).

Democrats have largely coalesced behind state Rep. John Salazar; his brother, Attorney General Ken Salazar, is the odds-on Democratic nominee to replace retiring Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R).

The Western Slope district is considered competitive between the parties, although McInnis has held it easily since 1992.
— Chris Cillizza

Cheney Hits Big Easy for Vitter Fundraiser

Vice President Cheney appeared at a fundraiser for Rep. David Vitter (R) on Monday as an independent poll showed the GOP Congressman with a solid lead over his two main Democratic opponents in the open-seat Senate race.

The Cheney event, which was held in New Orleans Monday night, will further pad Vitter’s coffers. He is expected to show nearly $2.5 million on hand in his April quarterly report.

Rep. Chris John (D) raised more than $1 million from Jan. 1 to March 31, leaving him with $2 million in the bank. State Treasurer John Kennedy (D) brought in a solid $750,000 for the period.

The poll, which was conducted by Verne Kennedy, showed Vitter with 38 percent to Kennedy’s 25 percent and John’s 19 percent.

A third Democratic candidate, state Sen. Arthur Morrell, was not tested in the poll.

It sampled 600 voters from March 15 to March 18.

Under Louisiana election law, all of the candidates will run together in the Nov. 2 primary. If no one receives 50 percent of the vote, the top two votegetters regardless of party advance to a Dec. 4 runoff.
— C.C.

Poll: Independents Prefer Daschle by Wide Margin

Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D) held a 5-point lead over former Rep. John Thune (R) in an independent poll conducted in late March.

Daschle received 48 percent to Thune’s 43 percent, a total that included a wide 58 percent to 22 percent gap for the Democrat among self-identifying independent voters.

The poll was conducted by Zogby International for the Rapid City Journal. It tested 501 likely voters on March 27 and 28 with a 4.5 percent margin of error.

In the survey, both candidates were almost universally known, reaffirming the conventional wisdom that very few voters are up for grabs in November.

Daschle has been on the air since last July with commercials touting his accomplishments for the state. Through the end of last year, the South Dakota Senator had spent nearly $10 million on his re-election bid since Jan. 1, 1999.

Thune has yet to run any ads this election cycle after only formally announcing his candidacy on Jan. 5.
— C.C.

In June Special, Diedrich Closing Gap on Herseth

Attorney Stephanie Herseth (D) continues to lead state Sen. Larry Diedrich in the June 1 House special election, though the point spread has shrunk considerably in recent weeks, according to a new poll.

Herseth took 53 percent to 37 percent for Diedrich in the Zogby International survey.

It tested 501 likely voters on March 27 and 28 with a 4.5 percent margin of error.

Herseth, who was the party’s nominee against former Rep. Bill Janklow (R) in 2002, was known by 88 percent of those tested compared to 52 percent who recognized Diedrich.

A poll released in early February showed Herseth with a 29-point lead.

The National Republican Congressional Committee has been on the air with positive ads on Diedrich’s behalf since March 5. Herseth has been up with her own ads for roughly the same amount of time.

The special election was caused by Janklow’s resignation Jan. 20 following a second-degree manslaughter conviction for his involvement in a car accident that left a motorcyclist dead.
— C.C.

Democrats Optimistic After GOP Debate on TV

Sen. Arlen Specter and Rep. Pat Toomey traded barbs on ideology and jabs on each other’s legislative records in a statewide televised debate Saturday, in what is expected to be the only such meeting before the April 27 GOP primary.

Specter, invoking the support of President Bush, Vice President Cheney and conservative Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), maintained during the debate that he is “a better Republican” than his opponent, who continued to question the four-term incumbent’s overall party allegiance.

Specter referred to Toomey as a far-out “extremist ideologue” who had broken from the rest of state’s Republican delegation on 76 votes in the House.

“That’s why we say he’s not far right, he’s far out,” Specter said. “He makes Rick Santorum look like a liberal.”

Toomey, meanwhile, continued his attempts to paint Specter as a liberal wasteful spender, and he repeatedly referred to “the Specter Two-Step,” a move he characterized as voting with liberal Democrats for five years of each term and then cozying up to conservatives in the election year.

“Unlike Arlen Specter, I’m not embarrassed about being a Republican,” Toomey said.

He added: “I represent the Republican wing of the Republican Party. … It is very hard to dispute — whether you are talking about economic, business, social, cultural or legal issues — that Sen. Specter has a long history of voting with liberals.”

Both men accused one another of distorting their legislative records.

“If my opponent had a collision with the truth, it would be a tremendous impact,” Specter said during the hour-long debate.

Meanwhile, the campaign of the presumed Democratic nominee, Rep. Joe Hoeffel, wasted little time using the debate to illustrate how far Specter will go to embrace his conservative credentials.

“It’s more clear today than it has ever been before that Specter the moderate isn’t just missing. He’s gone,” Hoeffel campaign spokesman Tom Hickey said in a post-debate news release.

Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Jon Corzine (N.J.) held a conference call with reporters Monday to reinforce the party’s contention that the race will be “in play” in November regardless of who wins this month’s Republican primary.

“Our map to 51, I think, will be joined by Pennsylvania this fall regardless of whether Senator Specter or Congressman Toomey come out of the primary the victor,” Corzine said. “The debate this weekend I think really accentuates why.”

If Specter is the nominee, Corzine said, he will be “bruised pretty seriously” by his efforts to shore up conservative support in the primary.

“He’s trying to run very far to the right and he’s going to have to, I think, be held accountable to those kinds of issues,” Corzine said.
— L.W.W.

Driscoll Reports Raising $514K for Toomey Seat

Buoying Democratic hopes for a competitive race in the 15th district, Joe Driscoll (D) is expected to report raising $514,000 in the first quarter, the Easton Express-Times reported Monday.

Driscoll, who entered the race in February at the urging of the state and national party establishment, is the leading Democrat in the race to succeed Rep. Pat Toomey (R).

On the Republican side, the GOP establishment is backing state Sen. Charlie Dent (R), who is favored over Lehigh County Commissioner Joe Pascuzzo and attorney Brian O’Neill in the April 27 primary.

Dent had $385,000 in the bank at the end of last year.

Driscoll, who doesn’t reside in the district, will face attorney and perennial candidate Rick Orloski in the Democratic primary. Orloski lost a court challenge to Driscoll’s candidacy, based on the issue of residency, last month.
— L.W.W.

Romero Collected $180K in 1st Quarter of the Year

State Senate President Pro Tem Richard Romero (D), who is seeking a rematch with Rep. Heather Wilson (R) in the 1st district, announced Monday that he raised $180,000 in the first three months of 2004, bringing his total raised this cycle to $420,000.

A spokeswoman for Romero could not say Monday how much money the campaign had in the bank. Wilson has not yet released her first quarter fundraising figures, but they are expected to be substantial: Through Dec. 31, the Congresswoman had $744,000 in the bank.

“We will never be able to outraise the Republican money machine that supports Heather Wilson,” Romero said in a statement. “But she needs the money to overcome her miserable failures in Congress.”

Wilson spent $2.7 million to Romero’s $1.2 million en route to a 55 percent-45 percent victory in 2002. Prior to that win, she had never received more than 50 percent of the vote.

Romero is the preferred candidate of the Democratic establishment this year, but he must first get through a June primary with retired DEA Agent Eli Chavez and emergency room physician Miles Nelson.

In a related development that could affect the Democrats’ fortunes against Wilson, leaders of the New Mexico Green Party have told The Associated Press that they plan to sue the state to restore their candidates to the 1st district ballot. State election officials removed the Greens after party leaders missed the deadline for officially certifying their candidates.
— Josh Kurtz

Fishermen Cast Net for Murkowski Senate Bid

United Fishermen of Alaska backed Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R) last week in her bid for a full term.

The group’s president, which represents 60,000 fishermen, told Murkowski they chose her in recognition of her work on their behalf.

“We’re pleased with the work you’ve done so far … and supporting the overall commercial fishing industry in Alaska amongst all the other industries and we are going to work long and hard,” the Juneau Empire quoted Bob Thorstenson, the president, as saying.

Murkowski and her Democratic challenger, former Gov. Tony Knowles, have been courting fishermen for their votes.

Both candidates, for example, floated competing proposals to strengthen a federal fishing program worth millions of dollars to Alaskan villages last month.
— Nicole Duran

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