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New Vegas Enrollment Figures Favor Gallagher

Former gaming executive Tom Gallagher’s (D) challenge to freshman Rep. Jon Porter (R) may have just gotten a little easier.

The Silver State recently purged its voter rolls — resulting in a net gain of registered voters for the Democratic Party in the competitive 3rd district.

It erased the scant tilt in the 3rd that the GOP used to enjoy in favor of the Democrats. There are now 1,500 more Democratic voters than Republican in the suburban Las Vegas-based district.

But election officials dropped 16,000 voters statewide — 3,000 more Democrats than Republicans, the Ralston Report, a Nevada political tip sheet, reported late last week. That could make Sen. John Kerry’s (D-Mass.) quest to put Nevada in the Democratic column in the presidential race a little more difficult.

— Nicole Duran

Majette, Collins Get Key Primary Endorsements

Rep. Denise Majette (D) won the endorsement of the Georgia AFL-CIO last week in her bid to succeed retiring Sen. Zell Miller (D).

“With Denise Majette in the United States Senate, Georgians can be assured they will have a tireless advocate for increased job opportunities and economic growth right here in Georgia,” said Richard Ray, president of the Georgia AFL-CIO, in a statement released by Majette’s campaign.

Majette and self-made millionaire Cliff Oxford are the leading Democrats vying for the party’s nomination in the July 20 primary.

On the Republican side, Rep. Mac Collins scored the endorsement of the Georgia Right to Life PAC last week. In its endorsement letter to Collins, the National Right to Life PAC commended the six-term Congressman for his “strong and consistent support” of legislation that curbs abortion rights.

“Your exemplary pro-life record should earn you the support of all Republican primary voters who are concerned with the right to life and with the protection of the most vulnerable members of the human family, including unborn children,” the PAC wrote.

The group’s endorsement came on the heels of a controversial vote on abortion by Rep. Johnny Isakson, the Republican frontrunner in the Senate race. Isakson is being labeled as the moderate in the primary by Collins and pizza magnate Herman Cain.

Last week Isakson voted again to allow abortions to be performed in military hospitals overseas — provided the servicewomen or female military dependents use their own money to pay for the procedure. Isakson has previously voted in favor of the measure, which failed. The Collins campaign charges Isakson with voting 14 times in favor of pro-abortion-rights legislation. Isakson has campaigned as a pro-abortion-rights candidate in two previous statewide campaigns.

Meanwhile, Isakson launched his third television ad in the primary, featuring children in the church Sunday school class he teaches.
— Lauren W. Whittington

AFL-CIO Backs Barrow in Burns’ Seat Primary

The state AFL-CIO also endorsed Athens-Clarke County Commissioner John Barrow (D) in the 12th district last week. Barrow is the leading Democrat in the race against freshman Rep. Max Burns, one of the top targets among GOP incumbents this cycle.

“Earning the endorsement of the AFL-CIO has been a key portion of our plan to take back the 12th district,” said Barrow campaign manager Roman Levit. “The AFL-CIO is highly organized at the grassroots level, and their help with their members will be invaluable to the campaign.”

The 12th district, which encompasses Savannah, Athens and Augusta, heavily favors Democrats. Burns defeated a fatally flawed Democratic opponent by 10 points in 2002.
— L.W.W.

Highly Touted in 2002, Matsunaka Tries Again

Former Colorado state Sen. Stan Matsunaka (D) will challenge freshman Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R) in a rematch of their 2002 open-seat contest.

Matsunaka’s announcement surprised most observers, who thought his 55 percent to 42 percent loss to Musgrave in 2002 would keep him from running for federal office any time in the near future.

“We don’t have a voice in Congress today,” Matsunaka told The Associated Press, arguing that Musgrave’s push for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage shows that she has forgotten the priorities of the district.

In 2002, Matsunaka was highly touted by national Democrats, but Musgrave hammered on his votes in the state Legislature to raise taxes — labeling him “Stan Taxsunaka.”

Musgrave carried all 18 counties in her victory including Matsunaka’s political base in Larimer County.

The eastern Colorado 4th district has a decided Republican tilt. President Bush won a 21-point margin there in 2000.
— Chris Cillizza

Assini-Kuhl Battle Set in Rep. Houghton’s District

Monroe County Republicans have settled on County Legislator Mark Assini to carry their banner into the Sept. 14 GOP primary to succeed Rep. Amo Houghton (R) in the 29th district.

Assini, a hardline conservative who had been planning to challenge Houghton if the moderate Congressman had sought a 10th term, beat out three other Monroe-based candidates at the county GOP convention Thursday night to win the designation.

He will face state Sen. Randy Kuhl in the Republican primary. Kuhl represents the Southern Tier portion of the district, which was Houghton’s political base as well.

Assini already has the backing of the Conservative Party and is now almost certain to win the endorsement of the Club for Growth, which has already announced its intention to work to defeat Kuhl because of his support for some tax increases in Albany.

Another candidate considered a possibility for the Club for Growth endorsement, Assemblyman Brian Kolb (R), dropped out of the race on Wednesday.

“I received a personal call from Gov. George Pataki (R),” Kolb said in a statement. “He asked me to reconsider my run for Congress and remain in the Assembly, where every vote against tax increases and spending hikes is greatly needed. After much reflection I have decided to terminate my 2004 bid for the 29th district Congressional seat.”
— Josh Kurtz

Cooksey Leaves GOP Still Searching for Help

Former Rep. John Cooksey (R) decided against a challenge to Rep. Rodney Alexander (D), in the process excoriating Senate Republicans for their “failure of leadership.”

Cooksey said late last week that he chose not to run because of the success of his ophthalmology practice.

It appears his decision was also motivated by his unwillingness to jump back into the political game after his troubled 2002 bid for Senate.

After making some impolitic comments in the immediate aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, national Republicans — led by then-National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Bill Frist (Tenn.) — endorsed another Republican in the race.

Cooksey placed a distant third in the open primary — missing out on the December 2002 runoff, which Sen. Mary Landrieu (D) won.

His no-go decision is a huge boost for Alexander, who won the northeastern Louisiana seat by just 974 votes in 2002.

Republicans maintain they will still target the seat, but they have no obvious candidate.
— C.C.

The Company You Keep, Part Two: Senator, Rove

Democrats are howling over Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s (R) latest fundraising draw.

White House political adviser Karl Rove hosted a $2,000-a-person event on her behalf Friday in Washington, D.C. Immediately, the campaign of former Gov. Tony Knowles (D) released a history of what it labeled Rove’s political “dirty tricks,” citing escapades documented in news articles and books.

“Does Sen. Murkowski hold herself to the same standard?” the campaign asked.

Then Democrats noted that Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman stumped for Murkowski the same day — Friday — that Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) called for Veneman’s resignation, alleging a violation of the department’s Canadian beef import ban.

The charges are just the latest in a back and forth between the campaigns in a series of guilt-by-association accusations.

Murkowski’s campaign raised questions about Knowles’ choice of fundraising headliners a few months ago, noting that he was consorting with Democrats who oppose oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge — a position that is anthema in the Last Frontier.

Republicans went back to that argument in defending Murkowski’s association with Rove.

“Whereas Senator Murkowski is proud to be able to associate herself with President Bush’s leadership and key members of his administration, the question that is begged to be asked is whether Tony Knowles — when he’s raising money with other Senate Democrats who have voted time and time again against ANWR — if that is the true reflection of where Tony Knowles will be if he does get to the Senate,” said Dan Allen, National Republican Senatorial Committee spokesman.
— N.D.

With June Primary Near, Romero Airs First TV Ad

State Senate President Pro Tem Richard Romero (D), who is seeking a rematch with Rep. Heather Wilson (R) in the 1st Congressional district, went up with his first TV ad of the campaign on Friday.

Although he must first defeat emergency room physician Miles Nelson — who is also on the air — in the June 1 Democratic primary, Romero went directly after Wilson in the ad, in which he addresses the camera directly.

“I’m fed up,” the ad begins. “George Bush and Heather Wilson have made a mess of things. Too many New Mexicans are going without quality education, good jobs or even basic health care.”

The ad buy, which cost about $60,000, is expected to be on the air through the primary.
— J.K.

Poll: Bowles Leads Burr, Who Is Not Well Known

A new poll in the Tar Heel State Senate race showed Democrat Erskine Bowles leading Rep. Richard Burr (R) by 10 points.

Bowles led Burr 45 percent to 35 percent, the Mason-Dixon Polling & Research Inc. survey found. The poll of 625 likely voters had a 4 percent margin of error.

The survey found that Bowles appears to be performing better in the eastern part of the state, an area where he trailed now-Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R) in the 2002 Senate race. Bowles lost to Dole 54 percent to 45 percent.

Neither candidate has aired television ads in the race at this point, and Bowles continues to hold a wide lead in name recognition. Burr was known by only 55 percent of those surveyed.

Vice President Cheney visited the state to help raise money for Burr last week. Bowles held a fundraiser in Raleigh on Sunday headlined by Sen. John Edwards (D), whom he is running to succeed.
— L.W.W.

Cheney Is Sugar Daddy to 3 GOP Candidates

Vice President Cheney swept through Texas on Friday, raising money for three Republican challengers running in GOP-leaning seats.

Cheney began his day Friday at a Houston breakfast event for former judge Ted Poe (R), who is taking on Rep. Nick Lampson (D) in the redrawn 2nd district.

The vice president then traveled to Waco for a luncheon fundraiser for state Rep. Arlene Wohlgemuth (R). Wohlgemuth is challenging Rep. Chet Edwards (D) in the new 17th district, which stretches from the southern Dallas suburbs into Waco and southeast to College Station.

Cheney’s day was scheduled to end in Longview, where an event for former judge Louie Gohmert (R) was expected to bring in more than $200,000 for the challenger’s campaign. Gohmert is the Republican nominee against Rep. Max Sandlin (D) in the eastern Texas 1st district.

All three Republicans trail their Democratic opponents in fundraising after expending significant resources to win the party nod.
— C.C.