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Nelson to Help Ex-Aide Thompson at D.C. Event

State Sen. Nancy Thompson (D) will be feted tonight by Sen. Ben Nelson (D) as she seeks to generate funds in Washington, D.C., for her challenge to third-term Rep. Lee Terry (R).

The event, which will be held at the Democratic National Committee headquarters, is a reunion of sorts for the two politicians.

Thompson held a variety of posts during Nelson’s eight years as Nebraska governor, including serving as his deputy chief of staff.

She was appointed to the state Senate by Nelson to fill a vacancy in 1997. The following year she won a full term to the seat and was re-elected in 2002.

Thompson will be term-limited out of her Sarpy County seat in 2006.

She faces an uphill race against Terry, who has held the Omaha-based 2nd district since 1998.

Terry led Thompson by 36 points in a poll conducted for his campaign in early April. He also led in fundraising with $648,000 in the bank at the end of March to Thompson’s $163,000.

— Chris Cillizza

Laura Bush to Visit Sioux Falls for Diedrich

First lady Laura Bush will travel to South Dakota on May 18 to campaign and fundraise with state Sen. Larry Diedrich (R), a sign of the import national Republicans are placing on the June 1 House special election.

The luncheon event will be held at the Sioux Falls Sheraton Hotel.

Danielle Holland, a spokeswoman for Diedrich, said the visit by Bush is a “tremendous show of support from the administration, the president and the Republican Party as a whole.”

Diedrich is set to square off against 2002 nominee Stephanie Herseth (D) in a race forced by the Jan. 20 resignation of former Rep. Bill Janklow (R). Janklow was convicted of second-degree manslaughter for his role in an August 2003 car accident that left a motorcyclist dead.

Herseth has led by double digits in the only two public polls released in the race, but even Democrats admit the contest is closing slightly as voters tune in.

Bush’s visit to the state is in stark contrast to the administration’s decision not to send the president, first lady or vice president into Kentucky for the Feb. 17 special election in the 6th district.

That race was won by now-Rep. Ben Chandler (D).
— C.C.

GOP Women WISH Brown Well in House Bid

Fresh off her 13th district GOP primary win, ophthalmologist Melissa Brown received the endorsement of the WISH List this week in the race to succeed Rep. Joe Hoeffel (D).

Brown faces state Sen. Allyson Schwartz (D), who has the backing of EMILY’s List, the Democratic counterpart of WISH List.

WISH List is the nation’s largest political fundraising network for moderate Republican women. Both Brown and Schwartz favor abortion rights.

“WISH is determined to expand the ranks of pro-choice Republican women in public office by retaining our incumbents and electing newcomers like Melissa Brown,” WISH President Pat Carpenter said in a statement.

This is Brown’s fourth Congressional run; in 2002 she took 47 percent of the vote against Hoeffel.

The 13th district race is expected to be one of the most competitive open-seat races this cycle.
— Lauren W. Whittington

Partial Recount Ordered, With Trial on Next Week

The judge overseeing Rep. Ciro Rodriguez’s (D) appeal of his primary defeat at the hands of former Texas Secretary of State Henry Cuellar (D) ruled Tuesday that votes in Webb and Zapata counties should be retabulated before the case goes to trial.

The judge rejected a bid by Rodriguez to examine the residency of a number of voters in these counties, however, striking a major blow to the Congressman’s case.

The recount is expected to take place Thursday and Friday with the trial beginning next Tuesday in Laredo.

At the center of the controversy are more than 400 ballots concentrated in Webb and Zapata counties that were found several weeks after the March 9 primary.

Cuellar lost the initial vote by 145 votes, but once the new ballots were tallied he led Rodriguez by 203 votes.

The Rodriguez camp brought suit alleging there was no reasonable explanation for the discovery of that many new votes.

The recount in Webb and Zapata will be conducted by election experts looking for any sign of tampering with votes.

The 28th district, which spans from San Antonio to Laredo, was created by Republican redistricters in 2003.

Cuellar decided to make the race after his Laredo base in Webb County was drawn out of Rep. Henry Bonilla’s (R) 23rd district and into the 28th.
— C.C.

State’s Open Primary Could Return Next Cycle

Golden State voters nostalgic for the state’s old open primary system will have a chance to bring it back in a modified form.

The California secretary of state’s office on Tuesday certified a ballot measure for the November election, asking voters whether they want an open-primary system restored. A somewhat different open-primary system that was used in 1998 and 2000 was declared unconstitutional.

The initiative would allow voters to choose candidates regardless of party during primary elections for every office except president, with the top two votegetters moving on to the general election.

A bipartisan coalition has pushed for the measure, led by former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan (R) and state Controller Steve Westly (D).
— Josh Kurtz

Naples Likely GOP Pick in Buffalo-Area District

Buffalo-area Republicans have settled on Erie County Comptroller Nancy Naples as their preferred candidate to succeed retiring Rep. Jack Quinn (R), the Buffalo News reported Wednesday.

“Nancy is our candidate,” said Erie County GOP Chairman Robert Davis.

Naples emerged as the favorite after three other potentially top-tier contenders — Erie County Sheriff Patrick Gallivan, former state Attorney General Dennis Vacco and prosecutor Jack Quinn III, the Congressman’s son — announced in the past few days that they would not run.

Naples, 55, is a former Wall Street trader who has pledged to spend $200,000 of her own money on the race.

Assemblyman Brian Higgins (D) has emerged as the leading Democratic contender, although West Seneca Town Supervisor Paul Clark and attorney Peter Crotty Jr. are already running, and other Democrats could follow.

If Naples and Higgins wind up as their respective parties’ nominees in what is likely to be a very competitive election, it would be a rerun of the 1993 county comptroller race, which Naples won handily.
— J.K.

Romero Brave Enough to Stand With Kerry

While some Democrats in swing states and districts seek to distance themselves from Sen. John Kerry, the presumptive White House nominee, 1st district candidate Richard Romero (D) wanted it known that he was right by Kerry’s side as the Massachusetts Senator stumped Tuesday at an Albuquerque elementary school.

“Sen. Kerry is going to be a great president,” Romero said.

Romero, the state senate President Pro Tem who is seeking a rematch with Rep. Heather Wilson (R), used the Kerry event to tout his own education bonafides.

Romero is a former Albuquerque public school teacher and administrator who helped Gov. Bill Richardson (D) push through his education reform package over the past year.

Richardson has returned the favor by endorsing Romero during his Democratic primary contest against emergency room physician Miles Nelson.

Nelson, a political neophyte, launched the first TV ads of the primary campaign this week. The ads, which will run on Albuquerque stations through May 28, emphasize Nelson’s history as a truck driver and his views on the issues of the day. In the ads, Nelson talks directly to the camera, with no music or other effects.

“This is about Miles being Miles,” Wayne Scheiner, who produced the ads, told the Albuquerque Tribune.

Last week, Eli Chavez, a retired Drug Enforcement Administration agent who had been competing in the 1st district primary but was knocked off the ballot when state election officials found he had not collected the requisite number of petition signatures, endorsed Nelson.
— J.K.

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