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Frost to Be Aided by Albright’s Diplomacy

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright will travel to Dallas June 14 to raise money for Rep. Martin Frost’s (D) race against Rep. Pete Sessions (R) in the new 32nd district.

The luncheon is expected to raise $150,000 for Frost’s campaign.

Frost chose to challenge Sessions in the Republican-leaning north Dallas district after GOP redistricters left the 13-term Democrat without a natural seat in which to run.

The matchup between the two incumbents is likely to be the most expensive House race in the country. Sessions had $1.9 million in the bank at the end of March; Frost had $1.1 million on hand at that time.

Both men have said they expect to spend upwards of $3 million.

On its face, the suburban Dallas district favors Republicans, although Frost allies note that it is 40 percent minority.
— Chris Cillizza

Paging Dr. Coburn: Club for Growth Calling

In a move that surprised few if any political observers, the conservative, anti-tax Club for Growth officially endorsed former Rep. Tom Coburn (R) last week in the open-seat Senate race.

In a statement, Club for Growth President Stephen Moore called Coburn “the epitome of what a citizen legislator should be” based on his six-year record in the House. Moore encouraged Coburn to enter the race earlier this year. The group will drop a direct-mail piece this week urging its members to donate to Coburn’s campaign.

As of late last month, Coburn estimated that he had raised about $400,000 since entering the race on March 1.

His most formidable GOP opponent, former Oklahoma City Mayor Kirk Humphreys, had $742,000 in the bank as of April 1. Humphreys’ campaign is already up with television ads.

The GOP primary is July 20. The winner will face Rep. Brad Carson (D) in November.
— Lauren W. Whittington

Latest Poll Has Daschle Leading by 13 Points

Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D) held a 13-point lead over former Rep. John Thune (R), according to a new independent poll conducted in the race.

Daschle received the support of 52 percent of those surveyed to 39 percent for Thune.

Zogby International conducted the poll on May 19 and 20, testing 503 likely voters with a 4.5 percent margin of error. In its last survey — in March — Daschle led 48 percent to 43 percent.

The Zogby poll is the third in recent days in this most high-profile of Senate contests.

Daschle’s campaign released a poll showing him with a 55 percent to 42 percent lead. That was quickly followed by a Mason-Dixon Polling & Media Research Inc. survey that had Daschle with a much more narrow 49 percent to 47 percent edge.

Most neutral observers believe that Daschle has an advantage at this point due to the roughly one year of paid media his campaign has run. Daschle went up with ads in July 2003 and has come down only sparingly since. Thune has yet to advertise in the race, but is expected to begin his media campaign shortly after the conclusion of the June 1 House special election in the state.
— C.C.

Mongiardo Says He Has Senate Race Momentum

Hoping to capitalize on a larger-than-expected primary victory, state Sen. Daniel Mongiardo (D) released polling last week showing him trailing Sen. Jim Bunning (R) by just 9 points.

Bunning led 48 percent to 39 percent in the Garin Hart Yang Research Group survey, which was conducted May 19 and 20, testing 504 likely voters with a 4.5 percent margin of error.

The polling memo also notes that the race is close despite Bunning’s large name identification lead — 83 percent recognition for Bunning, 49 percent for Mongiardo.

Mongiardo’s numbers are likely boosted by the two weeks of television commercials he ran in the runup to the state’s May 17 primary.

Bunning was also on the air during that period.

National Democrats are hoping that Mongiardo’s 30-point primary victory signals that his campaign has finally found solid ground. Mongiardo has already gone through two campaign managers; he recently hired a third and fired several of his finance staff.

The poll is likely aimed at restarting Mongiardo’s lackluster fundraising.

Mongiardo had $243,000 in the bank on April 28; Bunning had $3.8 million on hand.
— C.C.

Fossella and Bloomberg Bury the Hatchet in S.I.

In a development that bodes well for both politically, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg (R) nominated Rep. Vito Fossella (R) for re-election at the Staten Island Republican convention Thursday night.

“I’m honored that the mayor agreed to nominate me,” Fossella told the Staten Island Advance. “I think it speaks to the good personal and professional relationship we’ve developed.”

Fossella, the lone GOP Congressman from New York City, and Bloomberg appeared to be at odds earlier this year. Fossella even flirted with the idea of challenging Bloomberg in the 2005 Republican mayoral primary.

That possibility so angered former Rep. Guy Molinari — one of the most powerful Republicans on Staten Island, the city’s lone GOP stronghold — that Molinari threatened to challenge Fossella this year for the seat he once held.

According to the Advance, Fossella and Bloomberg had a three-hour dinner in February to settle their differences. Bloomberg called talk that the two had been feuding “a manufactured story.”

Fossella is the favorite in his general election race against former state Assemblyman Frank Barbaro (D). And Bloomberg, who still faces a 2005 Republican challenge from a former city councilman, will benefit from a unified Staten Island GOP next year.
— Josh Kurtz

Quinn Seat Contender to Be at D.C. Fundraiser

Although he does not appear to be the favorite of local party leaders, one of the Democrats seeking to replace retiring Rep. Jack Quinn (R) will be in Washington, D.C., Wednesday night for a meet-and-greet event and fundraiser.

Paul Clark, who has been West Seneca town supervisor for the past dozen years, will host the event at the Occidental Grill.

Clark is one of three Democrats to have formally entered the 27th district race so far, and a half dozen other Buffalo-area politicians are still contemplating getting in.

The party favorite appears to be state Assemblyman Brian Higgins (D). Lawyer Peter Crotty Jr., the 2002 nominee against Quinn, is also in the race.

Regardless of who winds up with the Democratic nomination, that candidate will be aided by an appearance Friday by Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.). The erstwhile presidential contender is scheduled to be the keynote speaker at a luncheon in Buffalo for the Erie County Democratic Party.
— J.K.

Challengers Emerge in Two House Districts

The likely Republican challengers to two entrenched Democratic House incumbents picked up key party endorsements last week in districts north of New York City.

In the Westchester County-based 18th district, Richard Hoffman (R), a 33-year-old banker, won the backing of the Westchester GOP in his bid to defeat eight-term Rep. Nita Lowey (D).

And in the 22nd district, which snakes from Orange County just north of New York City all the way to Ithaca, William Brenner, an attorney who has run unsuccessfully for the state Assembly three times, is emerging as the likely challenger to Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D). Brenner picked up the endorsements of two county GOP committees last week.

Brenner once created a fringe political party that paid tribute to former Rep. Ben Gilman (R-N.Y.) called the “We Love Ben” Party in an effort to pick up additional votes for one of his Assembly campaigns. But it did no good.

Brenner and Hoffman could still face Republican primary challenges, but that prospect is considered unlikely.
— J.K.

Filing Deadline Today, GOP Senate Field Grows

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R) must be relieved that the Last Frontier’s filing deadline is today, as Republicans seem to be coming out of the woodwork to challenge her bid for a full term.

The latest to say he wants to prevent Murkowski from winning the GOP nod is Wev Shea, who was U.S. attorney under then-President George H.W. Bush. The Anchorage lawyer told local reporters that he was disgusted with the Alaska Republican Party’s leadership.

Despite an official inquiry into state GOP Chairman Randy Ruedrich’s conduct while serving as state oil and gas commissioner — a position he was appointed to by Gov. Frank Murkowski (R) — Ruedrich won the confidence of party leaders at the GOP state convention last month and was reconfirmed as chairman.

Shea told the Alaska Daily News that was the last straw for him.

“I find the conduct of Ruedrich and the governor disgraceful, and I find that Mike Miller and Lisa Murkowski and others in a position of leadership … are being led around by the nose like a bunch of fools,” Shea said last week, adding that he was almost certainly going to join the Senate race today.

Miller, a former state Senate president, abandoned a gubernatorially appointed position in April to challenge Murkowski in the Aug. 24 primary.

Miller said his motivation was to see a conservative — he regards Murkowski as being too liberal — in the race and to eliminate the nepotism issue from the general election battle with former Alaska Gov. Tony Knowles (D).

Murkowski was appointed by her father to finish his Senate term when he became governor in 2002.

Lisa Murkowski, her father and Sen. Ted Stevens (R), among other party luminaries, are all standing by Ruedrich.

She told the Anchorage Daily News that Ruedrich is regarded as a masterful chairman who is adept at holding the party’s factions together and raising large sums of money.

Ruedrich was accused by former oil and gas commission Chairwoman Sarah Palin (R) of inappropriately conducting party business on state time.

The state investigation is pending.

Palin, who resigned from the commission largely because of the Ruedrich matter, has backed Miller in the primary.

The state’s Republican lieutenant governor has also endorsed Miller.
— Nicole Duran

Bowles’ New Ads Tout His Accomplishments

Democratic Senate candidate Erskine Bowles launched a series of television ads last week in an effort to reintroduce himself to Tar Heel State voters.

Bowles and Rep. Richard Burr (R) are facing off in the race to succeed retiring Sen. John Edwards (D).

The 30-second and 60-second spots are running in select markets around the state. In both, Bowles tells viewers he will be an independent voice in the Senate and will “stand up to the special interests, set aside partisan politics, and put the people of North Carolina first.”

“For three decades he’s built and run companies,” an announcer says in one ad. “He served as head of the Small Business Administration where he cut red tape. And as White House chief of staff, Bowles helped bring Republicans and Democrats together to pass the first balanced budget in a generation.”

Bowles, who leads in early polling, lost to now-Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R) in a 2002 open-seat race.
— L.W.W.

Byrd Flies to TV With First 2004 Senate Ads

State House Speaker Johnnie Byrd (R) became the first Senate candidate to go up with television ads last week, with three months to go before the Sunshine State’s primaries.

Byrd launched television and radio ads in an effort to improve his statewide name identification and introduce himself to GOP voters.

Byrd has consistently polled in single digits so far in the race. The leading GOP contenders are former Rep. Bill McCollum and former U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Mel Martinez. There is no runoff in Florida this year and therefore the highest votegetter in the crowded primary will be the party’s nominee.

Former state Education Commissioner Betty Castor, Rep. Peter Deutsch and Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas are the leading Democrats in the race.
— L.W.W.

Mixed News in Q Poll Of Specter-Hoeffel Race

A new poll released last week in the Keystone State Senate race appeared to reinforce Democratic cries of vulnerability as it showed Sen. Arlen Specter (R) with a low favorability rating and under the critical 50 percent mark.

Still, the survey also showed that his Democratic opponent, Rep. Joe Hoeffel, has a long way to go to introduce himself to voters statewide.

In a head-to-head matchup, Specter led Hoeffel 49 percent to 37 percent in the Quinnipiac University poll.

The survey showed Republican voters backed Specter 75 percent to 13 percent, while Democratic voters supported Hoeffel 58 percent to 29 percent. Independent voters backed Specter 46 percent to 39 percent.

Specter, who narrowly beat back a primary challenge from conservative Rep. Pat Toomey (R) in April, has enjoyed substantial support from moderate Democrats and Independent voters in the past.

The poll also showed Specter with a 32 percent favorability rating, a low mark for a 24-year incumbent. Meanwhile, 68 percent of those polled didn’t know enough about Hoeffel to form an opinion.

“At this point, the Senate race is a replay of the primary: Sen. Specter holds a comfortable lead over a largely unknown Congressman,” said Clay Richards, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. “Almost 70 percent of the voters don’t have an opinion of Representative Hoeffel, but they said the same thing about [Toomey] early on. It may be more difficult for Hoeffel to close the gap because many Democrats as well as most Republicans are behind Specter at this point.”

Hoeffel’s campaign got a financial boost from a May 23 event headlined by former Vermont governor and one-time Democratic presidential frontrunner Howard Dean. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) is scheduled to appear at a June 18 luncheon for Hoeffel in Philadelphia.
— L.W.W.

Favored in Primaries, Salazars Get So-So News

The Democratic state Assembly late last month provided mixed news for the two Salazar brothers seeking federal office.

State Attorney General Ken Salazar was handed a shocking defeat by educator Mike Miles at the assembly. Miles won 52 percent of the vote to Salazar’s 48 percent.

As a result, Miles will have the top line on the Aug. 10 primary ballot.

Meanwhile, state Rep. John Salazar — Ken’s older brother — avoided a primary from Grand Junction Mayor Jim Spehar for the open 3rd district seat.

Spehar received 27 percent — just 3 percent less than he needed to qualify for the primary ballot. Former Colorado Secretary of State candidate Anthony Martinez has said he will collect 1,000 petition signatures by today to get himself on the primary ballot, but it remains unclear whether he will be able to do so in such a short period of time.

Both Salazars are seen as top recruits by national Democrats.

Ken Salazar was Democrats’ first choice candidate when Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R) announced in early March that he would retire after two terms.

Miles had been running against Campbell and remained in the race when the Senator dropped out.

Republicans have a likely Senate primary of their own between beer mogul Pete Coors and former 4th district Rep. Bob Schaffer.

The two men will compete at the June 5 GOP convention for ballot position.

John Salazar is running for the Western Slope 3rd district that Rep. Scott McInnis (R) has held since 1992.

McInnis is retiring at the end of this session of Congress. Five Republicans are competing for the nomination.
— C.C.

Beasley Gets Blessing From Former Underling

Former Lt. Gov. Bob Peeler (R) endorsed former Gov. David Beasley in the crowded six-way Republican primary to replace retiring Sen. Fritz Hollings (D).

“I think David would be a great U.S. Senator and he’s a good friend of mine,” Peeler told The Associated Press.

Peeler served under Beasley during the latter’s term as governor from 1994 to 1998. Beasley lost his post to then-state Sen. Jim Hodges (D) in 1998. The former second-in-command pondered entering the Senate race himself following a gubernatorial runoff loss to Gov. Mark Sanford (R) in 2002.

Beasley is the clear favorite heading into the June 8 primary, though a runoff is expected given the number of candidates in the field. A June 22 runoff will be triggered if no candidate receives better than 50 percent.

Rep. Jim DeMint, real estate developer Thomas Ravenel and former state Attorney General Charlie Condon are all competing for the other runoff spot.

State Superintendent of Education Inez Tenenbaum is the overwhelming favorite for the Democratic nomination, though she faces a nuisance primary from former police officer Ben Frasier.

South Carolina is one of five Southern open Senate seats that Democrats must defend in November.
— C.C.

Casino Squabble Over, Foster Endorses Vitter

Former Gov. Mike Foster (R) threw his support to the Senate candidacy of Rep. David Vitter (R) last week, burying the hatchet in a long-running feud between the two.

Foster, the maverick two-term Republican governor who left office in 2003, appeared at a sporting goods store to tout the formation of “Sportsmen For Vitter,” a group that he will chair.

Vitter is the lone Republican running for the seat being vacated by Sen. John Breaux (D) after three terms.

Rep. Chris John, state Treasurer John Kennedy and state Sen. Arthur Morrell are running on the Democratic side.

Under Louisiana law, all of the candidates will appear together on the Nov. 2 open primary ballot. If no candidate receives 50 percent, the two top votegetters regardless of party advance to a Dec. 4 runoff.

Foster’s support was considered crucial for Vitter among rural voters who have not yet taken to the New Orleans-area politician.

And it comes after the two men had a falling out in 2002 when Vitter attacked Foster for supporting a proposed Indian casino in the state. Vitter was contemplating a gubernatorial bid at that point, a race he decided against, citing a need to address family issues.
— C.C.

Hastert Hits Sacramento for Lungren Fundraiser

House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) began his Memorial Day weekend in Sacramento, headlining a fundraiser Friday for former state Attorney General Dan Lungren, the Republican nominee in the open-seat 3rd district race.

“We are looking forward to having Dan Lungren back in Congress,” Hastert said.

The two served in Congress together for two years; Lungren spent a decade in the chamber from 1978 to 1988, while Hastert was elected in 1986.

Lungren is the overwhelming favorite in the general election against financial consultant Gabe Castillo (D). But he emerged in March from a bitter and expensive three-way Republican primary almost broke.
— J.K.

New Sacrificial Lamb on Spit for Gilchrest

Democratic leaders on the Eastern Shore last week chose businessman Kostas Alexakis for the unenviable task of taking on Rep. Wayne Gilchrest (R) in November.

Alexakis was a runner-up in the March Democratic primary, but was drafted to run because the primary victor, 2002 nominee Ann Tamlyn, withdrew from the race because her health was failing. Alexakis immigrated to the United States from Greece when he was 13.

Even though Alexakis may not have been the first choice of Democratic primary voters, he can’t do any worse than Tamlyn did in 2002: She took just 23 percent of the vote against the seven-term incumbent.
— J.K.

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