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Levetan Poll Shows Her Winning Ga. House Runoff

A new poll released this week showed state Sen. Liane Levetan and former Rep. Cynthia McKinney virtually tied in the open-seat 4th district Democratic primary.

Levetan and McKinney led the five-way field with 28 percent and 27 percent, respectively. The poll of 504 likely primary voters had a 4 percent margin of error.

The survey was conducted in mid-April by the Alexandria, Va.-based Democratic polling firm Cooper & Secrest Associates for Levetan, who at the time was considering running to replace Rep. Denise Majette (D). Majette, who defeated McKinney in a 2002 primary, is running for Senate.

The state’s filing period closed Friday. Other Democrats running in the 4th district are Atlanta City Council President Cathy Woolard and state Sens. Nadine Thomas and Connie Stokes.

If no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote in the July 20 primary, the top two votegetters will proceed to an Aug. 10 runoff.

According to the polling memo, Levetan is the candidate best positioned to compete with McKinney in a runoff. In a two-way runoff matchup, Levetan received 54 percent to 36 percent for McKinney.

The poll also found that McKinney, who became a lightening rod for controversy during her 10 years in Congress, had 51 percent negative appeal among voters, compared with 39 percent positive appeal.

In addition to signing Cooper & Secrest Associates, which polled for Majette’s 2002 primary campaign, Levetan has also brought on Washington, D.C.-based Democratic consultant Bob Doyle. Doyle worked for Majette in 2002.

— Lauren W. Whittington

Murkowski’s Allies Change Succession Tune

It seems state Rep. Lesil McGuire (R), a close friend of Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R), cannot make her up mind about how Congressional vacancies should be filled.

McGuire hit the radar outside of the Last Frontier by proposing to fill vacancies to the U.S. Senate via election instead of gubernatorial appointment.

This seemingly innocent move raised eyebrows because the timing of the proposal corresponded with efforts by some Alaskans — led by Democratic state lawmakers — to put a similar measure on the November ballot.

Democrats charge that McGuire is trying to save her friend Murkowski from embarrassment by ensuring that she does not have to appear on the ballot against former Gov. Tony Knowles (D) at the same time as the initiative, which would remind voters of how she came to her position.

Murkowski was appointed Senator by her father, Gov. Frank Murkowski (R), to finish his Senate term after some deft political maneuvering by their GOP friends in the state Legislature.

If the Alaska Legislature acts, the ballot measure to put the issue of who should fill Senate vacancies before the voters this year dies.

McGuire and a majority of Alaskan Republican lawmakers voted against similar measures in Juneau before this year.

Now McGuire’s Judiciary Committee — she is the chairwoman — passed a resolution in the state House asking Congress to propose an amendment to the Constitution stipulating that U.S. House vacancies “may be filled by appointment until an election can be held.”

Democrats in Juneau think they smell hypocrisy in the coming summer air.
— Nicole Duran

Kemp Joins List of Conservative Smith Fans

Former Republican vice presidential candidate Jack Kemp has added his name to a growing list of prominent conservatives backing the candidacy of retiring Rep. Nick Smith’s son, Brad Smith, in his bid to replace his father in the south-central 7th Congressional district.

Kemp, a former New York Representative and the current co-director of Empower America, last week praised the younger Smith in a statement as a “true conservative who will fight for families and free markets.”

Other conservative heavyweights supporting Smith include former House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Texas), former Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.) and one-time GOP presidential candidate Steve Forbes.

Smith’s campaign attracted national attention after his father alleged that some GOP leaders promised the Michigan Representative $100,000 for his son’s campaign war chest, if he voted in favor of last year’s Medicare legislation. Those allegations are currently the subject of a House ethics committee investigation.

Smith is one of six Republicans vying for the 7th district nomination.
— Bree Hocking

Rice Burned by Rogers’ Would-Be Challenger

Democrat Matt Ferguson, who hopes to challenge Rep. Mike Rogers (R), probably will not attend Michigan State University’s May 7 commencement.

The 27-year-old first-time candidate had harsh words for the keynote speaker, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice.

“It isn’t every day that we are visited by someone so divisive, let alone a person who has a Chevron oil tanker named in her honor,” Ferguson said.

“I hope that Dr. Rice will explain to MSU’s graduating seniors how … bringing about a state of turmoil in Iraq helps America fight terrorism,” he said in “welcoming” Rice to East Lansing.
— N.D.

DSCC: Bowles Leads Burr by 9 Points in Poll

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee released a month-old poll last week that showed Democrat Erskine Bowles leading Rep. Richard Burr (R) 47 percent to 38 percent in the open-seat Senate race.

The Bennett, Petts & Blumenthal survey of 600 likely general election voters was conducted from March 30 to April 1. It had a 4 percent margin of error.

The poll also found President Bush leading the presumptive Democratic nominee, Sen. John Kerry (Mass.), 51 percent to 44 percent in the presidential contest. North Carolina is not considered a battleground in the White House race.
— L.W.W.

Hoeffel Wants Frequent Debates With Specter

Let the debate over debates begin.

With the Keystone State’s bloody GOP primary now recent history, Rep. Joe Hoeffel (D) wasted little time issuing the first of what is likely to be many debate challenges to four-term Sen. Arlen Specter (R).

Hoeffel accepted the first independent debate offer on Monday and called for frequent debates across the state before November, citing the 11-debate series Specter proposed during the 1980 open-seat election.

Since winning that election, Specter has kept debate appearances with his opponents to a minimum. Before facing Rep. Pat Toomey in last Tuesday’s GOP primary, Specter refused to debate the three-term Congressman more than once. The debate took place in Altoona, on the night of the NCAA Final Four playoff.

“Nearly a quarter century later, I hope Senator Specter remembers the wisdom in that idea, even though he’s tried to create a ‘tradition’ of debating only once in the primary and sometimes twice in the general election — and only in Altoona whenever possible,” Hoeffel said in a statement. “That’s not fair to voters, especially given the big issues we face at home and abroad.”

Hoeffel wraps up his 18-county “A Future that Works” tour today, with stops in Chester, West Chester, Reading and York.
— L.W.W.

Darrow Launches Ad Blitz, Says He’s Ahead

Wisconsin GOP Senate candidate Russ Darrow recently rolled out a massive month-long advertising blitz, which coincided with the release of a poll showing him far ahead in the four-man field competing for the chance to take on two-term Sen. Russ Feingold (D) in November.

The TV spots, which began airing daily in Wisconsin’s three largest markets — Green Bay, Milwaukee and Madison — contrast Feingold’s “proud tax and spend Madison liberal” voting record with Darrow’s reputation as a “conservative, pro-life, low tax” Wisconsinite, according to a campaign news release. The spot includes an appearance by former Lt. Gov. Margaret Farrow (R), Darrow’s campaign chairwoman.

Radio ads airing statewide emphasize Feingold’s votes against the creation of the Department of Homeland Security and the Patriot Act.

According to a poll conducted April 14-21 by Wisconsin Public Radio & St. Norbert College Survey Center, Darrow led state Sen. Bob Welch 27 percent to 17 percent in the GOP primary, though 43 percent “[didn’t] know” whom they would vote for in the Sept. 14 contest.

Darrow, a wealthy auto dealer, also last week previewed a campaign film titled “The Right Russ: The Movie” to 700 guests at a Milwaukee movie theater. “Tens of thousands of copies” of the movie are being sent to Wisconsin households.

Darrow’s roll-out comes on the heels of earlier ad buys by businessman Tim Michels, a former Airborne Ranger, who ran limited, two-day TV spots in the media markets of the first two GOP candidate debates — Green Bay and Madison — in April. On Monday, Michels unveiled another two-day spot, this time in Milwaukee, which attacked Feingold’s stance on the Patriot Act and accused the Senator of putting “liberal ideology before our safety” — a common theme of the GOP contenders — just in time for the debate that night. He is expected to continue this strategy to coincide with upcoming debates in La Crosse and Eau Claire.

Meanwhile, Welch, the 1994 Republican Senate nominee, has yet to go up on the airwaves. Welch campaign manager Mike Prentiss said Darrow’s ad blitz was hardly cause for concern.

“It’s the strategy employed by most self-funding candidates,” Prentiss said.

A fourth contender, attorney Robert Gerald Lorge, is considered a long shot in the primary.
— B.H.

Winters’ Discontent With Her Primary Opponent

In the increasingly contentious 5th district House Republican primary, state Sen. Jackie Winters is blasting her opponent, lawyer Jim Zupancic, for failing to fill out a voters’ guide questionnaire sponsored by the Christian Coalition.

In an attempt to rile up conservative primary voters, Winters noted that Zupancic also failed to answer a questionnaire submitted by the National Rifle Association.

“I find it very telling that Jim Zupancic does not want to tell the Christian Coalition or the NRA where he stands on the issues,” Winters said in a statement. “My opponent has taken issue with my stands on the issues and yet when he is asked to provide his, he ducks the questions.”

Zupancic and Winters are competing for the right to face Rep. Darlene Hooley (D) in a swing Willamette Valley district. The NRA and Oregon Right to Life are among the conservative organizations that have endorsed Winters in the primary.
— Josh Kurtz

Dodd Makes Bid for a Fifth Term Official

Sen. Chris Dodd (D) formally kicked off his campaign for a fifth term Monday, entering the race as a heavy favorite.

Dodd announced his plans at his home in East Haddam less than one week before the state’s party convention where he officially became the nominee.

Only one other Connecticut Senator has been elected to five terms — Orville Platt.

Dodd’s likely general election opponent is former fashion executive Jack Orchulli (R), who had pledged to spend up to $800,000 of his own money to the campaign. Dodd ended March with a huge fundraising advantage.

He had $4 million in the bank to just $18,000 for Orchulli.

Given Gov. John Rowland’s (R) ongoing problems, some Nutmeg State political observers have speculated that Dodd would be a strong candidate for governor in 2006.

His attention appears more focused in Washington, D.C., however, as he continues to mull a potential bid for Senate leadership.

Dodd considered a presidential bid earlier in the year before deciding against the race.
— Chris Cillizza

Franken: Sense or Mirth About ’08 Senate Bid?

Media personality/political activist Al Franken (D), who has publicly contemplated challenging Sen. Norm Coleman (R) in 2008, put the possibility of a Senate run at better than 50-50 in a recent interview with the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

Franken said he would decide on making the race by late 2005, after further consultation with his family. He said he also spoke to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) about the possibility.

“I asked Hillary, ‘Can you give me some suggestions about running for Senate in a state you haven’t lived in for a while, or in your case, ever?’” he told the newspaper. “And she said, ‘this will be a long conversation.’”

Franken grew up in the suburbs of Minneapolis and maintains ties to political leaders there. He was close to the late Sen. Paul Wellstone (D-Minn.), whose seat Coleman won after Wellstone died in a plane crash 10 days before the 2002 election.
— J.K.

Speaker Helps GOPer on Boswell Rematch

Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) headlined a fundraiser Friday in Des Moines for 2002 nominee Stan Thompson (R), who is seeking a rematch against 3rd district Rep. Leonard Boswell (D).

Thompson is running a quiet campaign to this point after being one of the top national targets in 2002.

At the end of March he had raised $281,000 for the race with $173,000 on hand.

There was no immediate estimate available for the take from the Hastert event.

Boswell is raising money at a strong clip this cycle, having raked in $763,000 with $579,000 on hand.

The 3rd district is based in Des Moines and is almost equally divided between the parties.

Following a nonpartisan redistricting in 2001, Boswell moved from southern Iowa into the more urban district.

He carried Polk County, where Des Moines is located, by 11 points while winning district-wide by 8 points.
— C.C.

Sheriff Gets His Man: Aide Who Bought Sites

State Sen. Luke Esser is already upset with one of his three GOP rivals for the Republican nomination in the Evergreen State’s 8th district.

“This is not the kind of thing I would expect in a Republican primary,” he said Thursday. “That rubbed me the wrong way,” he added.

What has him so bent out of shape?

A revelation that an aide for King County Sheriff Dave Reichert, who is also seeking the GOP nod, pre-emptively registered several Web site addresses that included Esser’s name.

That move upset Reichert as well, who announced over the weekend that Kent Patton, who had worked in the sheriff’s office as well as for the campaign, had been fired.

Patton, who registered and .org as well as told The Seattle Times it was just a friendly gesture and that Esser can have the domains, but Esser was not laughing.

“It sets a bad tone” for the primary, Esser harrumphed.
— N.D.

He Can Beat Norah Jones but Not Inouye

Brian Evans may not have a good shot at toppling seven-term Sen. Daniel Inouye in the Aloha State’s Democratic primary, but at least he has a hit record.

The 33-year-old Las Vegas lounge singer and actor recently had the second bes- selling jazz album on’s list.

The release, fittingly titled “Brian Evans” and available for $23 new, was sandwiched between two Norah Jones CDs.
— N.D.

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