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New York: Towns Says Rumors of Rift With Owens Not True

Rep. Edolphus Towns (D) says he does not know where the talk is coming from that he is opposing Rep. Major Owens (D) in Owens’ re-election bid. So to dispel the rumors, Towns is hosting a fundraiser for Owens on Thursday in Washington, D.C., and is urging all of his Capitol Hill colleagues to help. The two represent adjoining Congressional districts in Brooklyn.

“I’m supporting Owens,” Towns said in an interview late last week. “I’m encouraging everyone to do it. I’m raising money for the guy. He’s been my colleague for 22 years — on the same committee, even.”

A political columnist for the Courier Life Newspapers in Brooklyn quoted unnamed sources recently saying that Towns was quietly soliciting support for New York City Councilwoman Yvette Clarke (D), one of two Council members expected to challenge Owens in the Sept. 14 Democratic primary. That report was mentioned in a short Roll Call article on the race last week.

The Courier Life reported that at a recent meeting of a prominent Democratic political club in Brooklyn, Towns’ chief of staff urged club members to stay neutral in Owens’ re-election race. The club voted to endorse the 11-term Congressman — by a one-vote margin.

Towns said he does not know why his name would be associated with Clarke, because he is closer to the second councilwoman in the primary, Tracy Boyland.

“This is strange,” he said. “Tracy Boyland actually worked for me.”

But then, Boyland also worked for the Congressional Black Caucus — and for Owens.
— Josh Kurtz

Tancredo Foe Upbeat About 23-Point Deficit

Rep. Tom Tancredo (R) led his Democratic opponent by 23 points in a poll conducted late last month for her campaign.

Tancredo received 47 percent to 24 percent for businesswoman Joanna Conti (D) in a Momentum Analysis survey paid for by her campaign.

The poll was in the field May 22-25, testing 400 likely voters with a 4.9 percent margin of error.

The Conti campaign believes that Tancredo’s inability to break 50 percent of the vote speaks to the fact that he is vulnerable.

Other internals in the poll complicate that case, however, as 48 percent of the survey respondents said they would vote to re-elect Tancredo and only 18 percent would replace him. Seventeen percent would consider another candidate.

Conti’s task is made increasingly difficult by the Republican lean of the 6th district, which comprises much of the eastern and southern suburbs of Denver.

Forty-six percent of registered voters are Republicans compared to just 23 percent for Democrats; the remaining 31 percent are independents.

Since winning an open seat in 1998, Tancredo has emerged as an ardent opponent of illegal immigration, a position that has put him crosswise with the White House on a number of occasions.

Tancredo also broke his three-term-limit pledge in late 2002, which angered former Sen. Bill Armstrong (R-Colo.), an ardent advocate of term limits and a major power broker in state Republican politics.

Although there was talk that Tancredo would face a Republican primary, no serious challenge emerged.

He ended March with $561,000 in the bank; Conti had $106,000 on hand at that time.
— Chris Cillizza

Five-Way GOP Primary On Tap for McInnis Seat

State Rep. John Salazar is unopposed for the Democratic nomination in the open 3rd district seat after Anthony Martinez failed to garner the necessary signatures to qualify for the ballot.

Meanwhile, three more Republicans petitioned their way into the August primary, bringing the total number of GOPers on the ballot to five.

Martinez dropped from the Democratic primary late last week after failing to secure the 1,000 signatures necessary to qualify for the ballot.

Salazar easily won the party’s convention late last month with 69 percent, while his main rival, Grand Junction Mayor Jim Spehar, failed to get 30 percent of the delegates’ votes, which kept him off the primary ballot.

Salazar’s unimpeded path to the nomination stands in stark contrast to the crowded Republican field vying to replace Rep. Scott McInnis (R).

Former Department of Environmental Resources head Greg Walcher (R) won the state convention earlier this month with 54 percent. State Rep. Matt Smith (R), McInnis’ brother-in-law, got 41 percent to qualify for the primary ballot.

State Rep. Greg Rippy, Pueblo County Sheriff Dan Corsentino and Navy veteran Matt Aljanich will also be in the primary after securing the signatures necessary to petition their way onto the ballot.

The Western Slope 3rd district leans toward Republicans. It gave George W. Bush 54 percent of the vote in 2000.
— C.C.

Main Street Backs Dent in Race for Toomey Seat

The Republican Main Street Partnership PAC this week endorsed state Sen. Charlie Dent (R), the frontrunner in the open-seat 15th district race to succeed Rep. Pat Toomey (R), calling the state legislator an “excellent choice” to represent the swing district.

Dent defeated two primary opponents in April, taking 51 percent of the vote after being pegged as the moderate in the race.

He will face real estate developer Joe Driscoll (D) in November. Driscoll, who entered the race late, has been dogged by residency issues and a high number of out-of-state donations.

“Dent is the right kind of Republican to win this seat — a true fiscal conservative who takes a compassionate approach to social issues,” said RMSP PAC Advisory Board Member Rep. Tom Davis (Va.).

The Lehigh Valley-based district voted narrowly for then-Vice President Al Gore (D) in the 2000 presidential contest, and Pennsylvania is again expected to be a battleground in the White House race this fall.
— Lauren W. Whittington

Both Senate Primaries Becoming Soap Operas

Former Sen. Paula Hawkins (R-Fla.) is weighing in on the current state of the Sunshine State’s topsy-turvy Senate contest, and she doesn’t like what she’s seen so far in the GOP primary.

Hawkins, 77, is preparing to express her dissatisfaction in a letter expected to be mailed to GOP candidates and leaders in coming days, an Orlando Sentinel newspaper columnist reported this week. Hawkins is set to accuse them of breaking former President Ronald Reagan’s 11th commandment, which holds that Republicans should not speak ill of fellow GOPers.

“They’re acting like children,” Hawkins told the newspaper.

She added: “I think it’s my responsibility to tell them when they get out of line.”

Former U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Mel Martinez and former Rep. Bill McCollum are the leading Republicans seeking the seat being vacated by Sen. Bob Graham (D). McCollum leads the pack in early polling and negative attacks, as he has sought to highlight Martinez’s past ties to trial lawyers and Democrats.

Hawkins in 1980 became the first woman elected to the Senate from Florida. She lost her bid for re-election in 1986 to Graham.

At the same time, the antics continue to be ratcheted up on the Democratic side, where Rep. Peter Deutsch, former state Education Commissioner Betty Castor and Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas are campaigning for the party’s nomination.

The Miami Herald reported this week that a group tied to Deutsch is laying the groundwork to run television ads attacking Castor, who has largely stayed above the fray to this point.

The ads, expected to be financed by the American Democracy Project, will zero in on Castor’s reluctance to fire a University of South Florida professor accused of aiding terrorists when she served as the school’s president.

Castor has said she never received any information from the FBI that would have given her justification for firing a tenured professor.

Meanwhile, Castor’s campaign is suggesting that the independent group is unlawfully coordinating its efforts with Deutsch’s campaign. The treasurer of the group is Bernie Friedman, a close friend and contributor to Deutsch, and former Deutsch deputy campaign manager and finance director Ryan Hampton has helped the organization raise money.

Castor has called for the 527 group to release the names of its financial contributors, paid consultants and staff. As a 527 group, the American Democracy Project can raise and spend unlimited money.

“We are not surprised by a negative attack from Peter Deutsch’s front group. He has attacked Alex Penelas since the beginning of the campaign, and it was only a matter of time before he directed his negative attacks on Betty Castor,” said Castor campaign spokesman Matt Burgess.

Friedman and Deutsch have denied any coordination on the American Democracy Project, although a contributor to the group has been quoted as saying his donation was going to help Deutsch’s Senate campaign.
— L.W.W.

Daschle Proposes, Thune Rejects Third Party Ban

Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D) proposed a ban on all third-party advertising in his race against former Rep. John Thune, an offer that the Republican quickly dismissed.

Daschle signed the pledge put forward by Thune in 2002 in his race against Sen. Tim Johnson (D).

Johnson and Thune met in Washington to work out an agreement on third party ads but could not find common ground.

Daschle said that the race two years ago, which Johnson won by just 524 votes, re-emphasized to him the importance of keeping outside groups from advertising in the state.

“We saw how ugly the campaign got,” Daschle told The Associated Press. “I’d hope it won’t happen again.”

Thune’s campaign said it would not sign any such agreement because there is no pact that will keep third-party groups from coming into the state in the fall.

The race between Daschle and Thune is the most high profile of the 34 Senate contests that will be on the ballot this November.

Daschle is expected to raise and spend well in excess of $10 million; Thune brought in nearly $2.3 million in his first three months of active fundraising from January to March.
— C.C.

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