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Democratic Heavies to Fete Illinois’ Obama in N.Y., D.C.

State Sen. Barack Obama (D), holding a healthy double-digit lead in his bid to become the next Senator from the Land of Lincoln, will be feted by two high-profile Democratic luminaries at fundraising events in New York and Washington, D.C., next week.

On Monday, he will attend a New York fundraiser hosted by billionaire financier George Soros, who has given millions to Democratic candidates and causes this cycle. Then Obama will travel to Washington on Wednesday for an event at the home of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.).

Obama, who has raised at least $5.6 million for his campaign so far, is currently favored to win the seat of retiring Sen. Peter Fitzgerald (R). If elected, he would be only the third black Senator to serve in the chamber since Reconstruction.

He faces investment banker-turned-inner city school teacher Jack Ryan in November.
— Lauren W. Whittington

Former Pilot Flies High in Poll He’s Circulating

Former airline pilot Adam Taff (R) is circulating a poll showing him with a commanding lead in the Aug. 3 Republican primary in the 3rd district.

Taff received 52 percent compared to 14 percent for former Justice Department official Kris Kobach and 4 percent for state Rep. Patricia Barbieri-Lightner in the Winston Group survey. The poll was in the field April 26 and 27, testing 400 registered voters with a 4.9 percent margin of error.

Taff’s lead is due in large part to name identification built up from his 2002 campaign when he pulled an upset in the Republican primary but went on to lose to Rep. Dennis Moore (D) 50 percent to 47 percent in the fall.

In his poll, Taff was known by 84 percent of those tested with 59 percent having a favorable opinion of him and 15 percent seeing him in an unfavorable light.

Kobach was known by 56 percent of the sample; Barbieri-Lightner by 35 percent.

Due to the Republican lean of this suburban Kansas City district, Moore remains a top target for national GOPers. He has shown an ability to win despite the district’s demographics, however, and is a strong fundraiser.

Moore ended March with $829,000 in the bank. Taff, the best fundraiser of the three Republicans, had half that much on hand.
— Chris Cillizza

Knowles Regains Lead in Latest Monthly Poll

Former Gov. Tony Knowles (D) is back in the lead in a head-to-head matchup with Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R), according to the latest installment of a monthly poll conducted on the Senate race.

In April’s poll Murkowski had moved to a statistical dead heat with Knowles but in May Knowles went back up by more than 4 percentage points, according to the poll conducted on behalf of KTUU-TV in Anchorage by Alaska-based pollster Ivan Moore. That is still within the 4.4 percent error margin, however.

Knowles clocked in at 45.7 percent while Murkowski dropped to 41.4 percent. Green Party candidate Jim Sykes had 1.3 percent support with 4.6 percent going for the “other” category. Almost 7 percent of voters remained undecided.

Knowles’ positive rating was 63 percent, while Murkowski’s was 57 percent.

Since April, Murkowski has picked up two GOP challengers in the Aug. 24 Republican primary — former state Senate president Mike Miller and former U.S. attorney Wev Shea. Furthermore, former Republican state Rep. Jerry Sanders is running under the Alaska Independence Party banner.

In a primary matchup, Murkowski led Miller 63 percent to 28 percent, despite Miller airing biographical spots recently on television. Shea just entered the race Tuesday so he was not tested.
— Nicole Duran

Castor Holds Lead in Senate Primary Survey

A poll released this week by former state Education Commissioner Betty Castor’s campaign reinforced her status as the Democratic frontrunner in the Senate primary.

The poll showed Castor leading her two opponents with 37 percent. Rep. Peter Deutsch (D) got 23 percent and Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas (D) got 14 percent.

The winner-take-all primary is scheduled for Aug. 31. Republicans face an even more crowded field in the race to replace retiring Sen. Bob Graham (D).

The Hamilton Beattie & Staff survey of 900 likely primary voters was conducted May 13-18. The margin of error was 4 percent.

Meanwhile, The Miami Herald and The Tampa Tribune reported this week that a longtime donor to Deutsch has formed a so-called 527 political committee. The group — the American Democracy Project — was started by Bernie Friedman and has collected $200,000 so far. The group has also worked with Ryan Hampton, Deutsch’s former deputy campaign manager and finance director, who left his job in April.

Friedman said the group will educate voters on issues such as health care, the environment, education and security, among others.

The tax-exempt committees, called 527s because of the section of Internal Revenue Service tax code governing them, are allowed to accept unlimited donations but are not permitted to coordinate activities with any political campaign.

Democratic contributor and philanthropist Dan Cantor gave $25,000 to the group.

“The money is to sponsor Peter Deutsch for the Senate,” Cantor told the Herald. “There’s only a certain amount you can offer (his campaign), but over here you can offer a broader amount.”
— L.W.W.

Radio Station, Briefly, Says ‘No Mas’ to Ads

A Winston-Salem radio station suspended airing all campaign ads in the open-seat 5th district contest briefly this week, amid confusion over Republican Vernon Robinson’s latest commercial.

The ad in question rails against illegal immigration, then uses a disclaimer spoken in Spanish and signs off with the derogatory salutation, “Yo, Gringo!”

The ad was returned to WSJS-AM airwaves on Tuesday, after the disclaimer was translated into English. Robinson said he is considering filing a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission.

Initially, the legally required disclaimer was read in Spanish at the end of the ad: “Yo, Gringo! This episode of The Twilight Zone was paid for by Robinson for Congress.”

Against background theme music from “The Twilight Zone,” the ad’s announcer alerts voters to the dangers associated with allowing illegal immigrants to come across the Mexican border “by the millions” to “sponge off the American taxpayer.”

“These aliens commit heinous crimes against us, like Maximiliano Esparza, who raped a nun and strangled her with her own rosary,” the announcer says.

Later in the ad, the announcer says that Robinson is the only candidate who will secure U.S. borders.

“Press ‘1’ for English?” the announcer says. “NO! Vote Vernon Robinson for English.”

Robinson, who embraces his billing as the black version of former Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.), is no stranger to controversy in the race.

Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.), the founder of the Congressional Immigration Reform Caucus, will visit the district on behalf of Robinson this weekend.

Robinson is one of five leading Republicans vying to succeed Rep. Richard Burr (R), who is running for Senate.
— L.W.W.

Conservative Party Split in Houghton’s District

The Empire State’s Conservative Party will hold its annual convention on Saturday, but don’t expect party leaders to agree on a candidate to endorse in the open-seat 29th House district race.

Conservative leaders in the eight-county district are split between the two candidates seeking the Republican nomination in the Sept. 14 primary, state Sen. Randy Kuhl and Monroe County Legislator Mark Assini.

Mike Long, Conservative state chairman, said in an interview this week that Kuhl and Assini could wind up facing off in a Conservative primary on the same day. But he said the state party’s executive committee would likely meet in July to decide whether to offer the ballot line to one of the two or to let the primary proceed.

“It’s clear that there’s a split [among local party leaders] and that it’s a little early [for an endorsement] right now,” Long said.

The Republican nominee will be the heavy favorite in the race to replace retiring Rep. Amo Houghton (R).
— Josh Kurtz

GOP Senate Hopefuls All Richer Than Feingold

Two GOP Senate hopefuls in the Dairy State are multimillionaires, according to financial disclosure forms they made available to The Associated Press.

Construction executive Tim Michels listed his net worth as being between $16.5 million and $76 million — Senate disclosure forms do not require a precise figure.

Auto dealer Russ Darrow listed assets worth somewhere between $16.4 and $73 million.

But even attorney Robert Gerald Lorge — who could be worth up to $1.2 million — and state Sen. Bob Welch, whose assets are somewhere between $300,000 and $715,000 are wealthier than the man they are trying to unseat — Sen. Russ Feingold (D).

Feingold told The Associated Press he is worth exactly $220,000.

Despite his relatively modest means, he has returned part of his salary to the Bureau of Public Debt ever since his Senate pay surpassed what it was when he was first elected in 1998.

While the question of which candidate is the richest has been settled, the four Republicans vying for their party’s nomination continue to try to gain the upper hand in the race, though no one seems to be succeeding.

The state party passed up the chance to endorse one of them at its convention last month.

A party endorsement would have gone a long way in helping one break away from the pack, especially in light of the state’s late primary, which is Sept. 14.

Welch came the closest to winning the confidence of a majority of delegates with 33 percent. Michels was second with 27 percent and Darrow was third with 24 percent. Lorge received less than 1 percent. A candidate needed two-thirds of delegates to become the party’s designated candidate.

Darrow continues to sound a patriotic theme in his campaign, despite attracting what could be considered a rebuke from Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman George Allen (Va.).

Allen, who was in Wisconsin last week to raise money for the eventual GOP Senate nominee, told Madison’s Capital Times that he would not have called Feingold “unpatriotic” for voting against the USA Patriot Act the way Darrow did in a Republican debate.

“It’s not the way I would characterize it,” the paper quoted Allen as saying. “I would question his judgment but not his patriotism.”

Nonetheless, Darrow kept with the patriotism theme over Memorial Day weekend, announcing that he would support legislation to ban flag burning if elected.
— N.D.

Democratic Challengers Beginning to Mobilize

Senate hopeful Burt Cohen (D) officially kicks off his campaign tonight at the New Hampshire Institute of Art in Manchester.

The state Senator is making a spirited run in his uphill battle against two-term Sen. Judd Gregg (R), though he trails badly in money and polls.

Cohen hopes to portray Gregg as being too closely aligned with President Bush but it is unclear if Granite State voters would consider that a bad thing.

Cohen might get more traction on bashing Gregg for being chairman of the committee that created the No Child Left Behind Act — legislation that is increasingly unpopular in some states where local lawmakers consider it an unfunded mandate.

In the state’s 2nd district, attorney Paul Hodes, will formally enter the Democratic primary for the right to challenge Rep. Charles Bass (R) Monday.

The former state prosecutor told the Nashua Telegraph that Bass broke the GOP “Contract with America” by eschewing a balanced budget in favor of tax cuts for the wealthy.

He is the second Democrat to enter the fray. Environmentalist Roy Morrison is also seeking the Democratic nomination on Sept. 14.
— N.D.

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