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Gun Groups: McMorris on Target In Wash. House Race

State Rep. Cathy McMorris (R) burnished her firearms credentials this week by winning the backing of two pro-gun groups in her bid for the open 5th district House seat.

The Washington Firearms Rights Coalition and the Pacific Arms Society have both endorsed her candidacy in the three-way GOP primary.

McMorris touted her “A+” voting grade from the National Rifle Association and her successful efforts to repeal a state law prohibiting carrying guns in public in her announcement of the endorsements.

McMorris faces state Senate Majority Floor Leader Larry Sheahan and attorney Shaun Cross in the GOP primary in the expansive, rural 5th district. The seat is open as Rep. George Nethercutt (R) relinquished it to challenge Sen. Patty Murray (D).

On the Democratic side, Don Barbieri, a former hotel company executive, is battling former Republican Craig Sullivan for the Democratic nomination. National leaders in both parties think they have a good chance of winning the 5th as it leans Republican but was previously represented by former Speaker Tom Foley (D).

In the Senate race, Nethercutt will close his campaign office Friday in deference to President Reagan’s state funeral.

“I hope all Americans take time to honor President Reagan’s legacy on the national day of mourning,” he said in a statement.
— Nicole Duran

INDIANA
Hill Leading Sodrel by 28 Points in Recent Poll

A month-old poll recently released in the 9th district race showed Rep. Baron Hill (D) well-positioned in his bid for re-election, as he faces a competitive rematch with trucking company owner Mike Sodrel (R).

The survey, conducted for Hill’s campaign by the Democratic polling firm Garin-Hart-Yang Research Group, found the three-term incumbent leading Sodrel 58 percent to 30 percent. The poll of 606 likely voters was conducted April 28-May 1. It had a 4 percent margin of error.

Hill beat Sodrel 51 percent to 46 percent in 2002, as Sodrel outspent the incumbent by dumping more than $900,000 in personal funds into his campaign.

Sodrel has said he does not plan to heavily self-finance his campaign this year and he outraised Hill in the first quarter. Still, Hill had a 3-1 cash-on-hand advantage as of mid-April. Vice President Cheney has already appeared at a fundraiser on behalf of Sodrel in the district, and national Republicans have indicated they plan to make Hill a top target in November.
— Lauren W. Whittington

GEORGIA
Right to Life PAC Backs Two of Three in Primary

The Georgia Right to Life PAC announced this week that it is endorsing both Rep. Mac Collins and Godfather’s Pizza mogul Herman Cain in the Peach State’s GOP Senate primary.

Not surprisingly, the group did not extend its endorsement to Rep. Johnny Isakson (R), who has a mixed voting record on abortion-related issues. Isakson, who has run twice statewide before, holds substantial leads in early polling and fundraising in the race.

Most recently, Isakson’s opponents have sought to capitalize on his vote late last month in favor of an amendment to allow self-funded abortions at military hospitals overseas.

“I am honored to receive the endorsement of Georgia Right to Life,” Cain said in a statement. “I also want to congratulate Rep. Mac Collins for receiving the endorsement. I am sure Georgia Right to Life would have loved to endorse all three U.S. Senate candidates, but as we all know, Rep. Johnny Isakson is not pro-life and the voters will not be fooled.”

The group plans to mail a newsletter announcing the endorsements to 50,000 residents.

Isakson’s campaign counters that the three-term Congressman is in line with the National Right to Life Committee on 23 of 24 critical issues and that Isakson has a 92 percent rating with the Christian Coalition.

The director of the Georgia Right to Life PAC has said that exit polls have indicated about 6 percent of Georgians cast ballots based solely on a candidate’s stand on abortion.
— L.W.W.

LOUISIANA
Ex-State Legislator Eyes Run for Alexander Seat

Former state Rep. Jock Scott is the latest Republican to express an interest in challenging freshman Rep. Rodney Alexander (D) in the northeastern Louisiana 5th district.

Scott told a local paper Monday that he was interested in running with a “unified Republican Party” behind him.

It remains unclear whether that will happen as state Sen. Robert Barham and former Rep. Clyde Holloway have also expressed an interest in running in November.

Both ran for the open seat in 2002 with Holloway taking 23 percent and Barham 19 percent to finish third and fourth, respectively, in the primary. Alexander won a runoff over former Congressional aide Lee Fletcher (R).

Scott ran for Congress once before in a 1985 special election to replace 8th district Rep. Gillis Long (D), who had died earlier in the year.

As a Democrat, Scott placed second to Long’s widow in the special election, taking 25 percent of the vote. Holloway also ran in that contest, finishing with 16 percent.

Scott served in the Louisiana state House from 1981 to 1987, when he vacated his seat to run unsuccessfully for state Senate.

Regardless of the eventual Republican nominee, Alexander enters the Nov. 2 open primary with a major advantage.

After much hemming and hawing, former Rep. John Cooksey (R) decided against running for the seat, removing GOPers’ best chance to reclaim the Republican-leaning district.

Alexander ended March with $498,000 in the bank. None of the potential Republicans mentioned is actively raising money.
— Chris Cillizza

FLORIDA
Reagan and Gore Now Factors in Senate Race

State House Speaker Johnnie Byrd (R) announced Tuesday that he had pulled down his campaign’s radio ads in the Senate race and replaced them with a new ad memorializing President Ronald Reagan.

The new tribute ad began airing statewide Tuesday. Byrd will suspend both radio and television advertising on Friday.

“Ronald Reagan inspired millions of Americans, and I was one of them,” Byrd tells voters at the beginning of the ad.

Byrd goes on to talk about his admiration for the late president’s strong faith in conservative principles like individual freedom and smaller government.

“Even some Republicans thought he was too outspoken or too controversial, but for us conservatives, Ronald Reagan proved that when we hold fast to our principles, we win,” Byrd says in the ad. “America, and the entire world are better places because of that lesson from Ronald Reagan.”

Byrd is struggling to boost his name identification and break out of the pack of second-tier candidates in the crowded Aug. 31 primary. The two top GOP contenders in the race to succeed retiring Sen. Bob Graham (D) are former Rep. Bill McCollum and former U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Mel Martinez. Martinez was endorsed by National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman George Allen (Va.) on Monday.

Headlines have also been generated on the Democratic side of the race this week, after former Vice President Al Gore (D) took a very public swipe at Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas. Penelas is one of three Democrats in the Senate race. The others are Rep. Peter Deutsch and former state Education Commissioner Betty Castor, the favorite of party insiders.

In a statement to the Miami Herald, Gore implied that Penelas was the “single most treacherous and dishonest person” he dealt with during the 2000 presidential campaign and ensuing Florida ballot recount. Gore, who did not refer to Penelas by name, also praised Deutsch, who has repeatedly accused Penelas of failing to properly support Gore in 2000.

“Peter Deutsch is a good and dear friend who has been a stand-up leader for our party in difficult times such as the 2000 election recount in Florida,” Gore said.

Penelas has maintained that he supported Gore’s campaign, and this week Graham and Sen. Bill Nelson (D) defended Penelas, although neither plans to endorse in the primary.
— L.W.W.

KANSAS
Right to Life Committee Backs Kobach in Primary

Former Justice Department official Kris Kobach received the endorsement of the National Right to Life Committee PAC in the Republican primary for the 3rd district.

“The endorsement reflects our appreciation for the strong stand you have taken on behalf of those members of our human family who are least able to protect themselves,” said the group’s political director.

The organization’s backing is likely to aid Kobach in his efforts to unite the conservative wing of the Republican Party behind him.

Kobach is considered the underdog in the primary in which he faces 2002 nominee Adam Taff, who won a contested primary last cycle by touting his moderate credentials.

State Rep. Patricia Barbieri-Lightner is also in the race for Republicans but is not given a serious chance of winning. The three will face off Aug. 3.

Waiting in the wings for the eventual nominee is three-term Rep. Dennis Moore (D).

Moore is considered one of Democrats’ most endangered incumbents due to the strong Republican lean of this suburban Kansas City district.

But Moore seems likely to yet again benefit from an ideologically divisive Republican primary that drains the GOP nominee of resources. Moore is in a strong financial position with $829,000 on hand as of March 31.
— C.C.

TEXAS
Gonzalez’s Ex-Wife Fails to Get on Ballot This Fall

Rep. Charlie Gonzalez (D) dodged an uncomfortable, if not career-threatening, challenge Tuesday when his ex-wife failed to gather the necessary signatures to appear on the November ballot as an independent.

Becky Whetstone fell 47 signatures short of the necessary 500 that would have ensured her a place in the general election. She never posed a real threat to Gonzalez in this overwhelmingly Democratic South Texas district, but her presence in the race would likely have been a major nuisance for the next five months.

Whetstone and Gonzalez divorced in 2003 after five years of marriage. The dissolution of the marriage garnered a large amount of press amid Whetstone’s allegations that the Congressman physically assaulted her and was unfaithful. Gonzalez has denied any wrongdoing.

He is a virtual lock for a fourth term, as he faces nominal opposition from Roger Scott (R) and Michael Idrogo (I).
— C.C.

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