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Heart Trouble Sidelines Diedrich for a While

State Sen. Larry Diedrich (R) will undergo surgery to repair a leaky aortic valve today just 15 days after he lost a special election to now-Rep. Stephanie Herseth (D).

The defect was discovered during preparations for a scheduled hernia surgery last week.

Diedrich told The Associated Press that the procedure puts “a bit of a hiccup” in his campaign against Herseth for a full term.

It is not clear how long Diedrich will be sidelined after the surgery but he does still expect to make the November race, according to knowledgeable Republican sources.

Herseth wished Diedrich well Tuesday, saying that the “concerns of a campaign pale in comparison to one’s personal health.”

Diedrich lost by less than 3,000 votes to Herseth in a special election caused by the resignation of former Rep. Bill Janklow (R).

Although Republicans remain optimistic that he can topple Herseth in the fall, past history indicates it will be a tough chore.

Of the 23 special House election winners since 1997, only one has failed to win a full two-year term.
— Chris Cillizza

NEW JERSEY
One Week Later, House Primary Still Unresolved

One week after the state’s primary elections took place, ballots were still being reviewed in the 1st district GOP primary race Tuesday, and the contest appears headed to a recount.

The race between attorney Daniel Hutchison and fuel salesman John Cusack was a virtual dead heat heading into the weekend, as provisional and absentee ballots were still being counted.

On Monday, Hutchison claimed victory after a final vote tally from all three counties in the district showed Hutchison ahead of Cusack by 12 votes, The Associated Press reported.

Those results are official in Camden and Gloucester counties but the clerk’s office in Burlington County still had to tabulate absentee and provisional ballots. Those results were expected to be certified Tuesday.

Cusack has said he will seek a recheck of the votes as soon as the results are official — provided the 12-vote losing margin still stands — and he could eventually seek a recount in Superior Court.

The eventual winner of the contest will face an uphill battle against Rep. Rob Andrews (D) this fall in the solidly Democratic Camden-area district.
— Lauren W. Whittington

Senate Aspirant Raising Money for 2008 Cycle

An enterprising Garden State politician is getting a head start on fundraising for a possible open-seat Senate contest in 2008.

That’s right. Not one, but two election cycles down the road.

State Sen. John Adler (D) raised a reported $65,000 at a fundraiser for a possible Senate bid last week, according to PoliticsNJ.com, a Web-based political newsletter covering state politics.

The June 9 event in West Orange was hosted by several leading Democratic fundraisers in the state.

Adler, the chairman of the state Senate Judiciary Committee, set up a campaign committee last year to begin preparing for a statewide race if 80-year-old Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D) decides not to seek re-election in 2008.

Lautenberg, who served in the Senate from 1982 to 2001, came out of retirement in 2002 to replace then-Sen. Robert Torricelli (D) on the ballot. Torricelli, plagued by ethical problems throughout his one term in office, withdrew his re-election bid in late September 2002.

A Lautenberg spokesman called Adler’s effort “extremely premature” and noted the Senator has raised about $500,000 so far for his re-election effort.

“People can speculate all they want on my future, however if you’re watching me now you would hardly guess I am thinking of retiring again,” Lautenberg said through his spokesman.
— L.W.W.

LOUISIANA
John Begins Airing Spots on Black Radio Stations

Rep. Chris John (D) launched radio ads Monday promoting his candidacy on black stations in New Orleans, the first such effort of his Senate bid.

The spots feature New Orleans City Councilman At-Large Oliver Thomas, who is black, endorsing John.

“He’s a strong Democrat who hasn’t turned his back on us,” says Thomas in the ad. “Chris cares about the issues we face, and he’s proven himself by standing up for us when it matters most.”

The ads represent John’s initial introduction to the state’s largest city and the most influential voting bloc in the Democratic Senate primary.

John has represented the southwestern Louisiana 7th district since 1996 but has had little exposure in New Orleans itself.

He must also work to woo the black community, which makes up roughly one-third of the state’s population but a significantly larger chunk of the Democratic primary electorate.

John’s task is complicated by the presence of state Treasurer John Kennedy and state Sen. Arthur Morrell in the race, both of whom are seeking to consolidate the black vote.

Rep. David Vitter is the only Republican currently in the contest.

Sen. John Breaux (D) is retiring after three terms.

All of the candidates will run in a Nov. 2 open primary. If, as expected, no one breaks 50 percent, the top two votegetters, irrespective of party affiliation, advance to a Dec. 4 runoff.
— C.C.

TEXAS
House GOP Leadership Fundraising for Texans

Virtually every House Republican leader will gather Thursday at the Capitol Hill Club to raise money for six Texas GOPers.

House Speaker Dennis Hastert (Ill.), Majority Leader Tom DeLay (Texas), Majority Whip Roy Blunt (Mo.), National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Reynolds (N.Y.) and Chief Deputy Whip Eric Cantor (Va.) will all attend the event for Team Texas — a joint fundraising committee to benefit the Lone Star State Republicans.

Political action committees are asked to contribute $30,000, individuals $6,000.

The beneficiaries includes Reps. Pete Sessions and Randy Neugebauer, both of whom must run against Democratic incumbents in the fall, as well as former judges Louie Gohmert and Ted Poe, state Rep. Arlene Wohlgemuth and former Texas Public Utility Commission Chairwoman Becky Armendariz-Klein.

The latter four are taking on Democratic incumbents in districts drastically reshaped by a Republican-led redraw of the state’s Congressional lines in 2003.

Gohmert, Poe and Wohlgemuth are seen as three of Republicans’ best chances to defeat incumbents this cycle due to the GOP lean of the 1st, 2nd and 17th districts, respectively.

Klein is a long shot against Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D) in the south Texas 25th district, which tilts heavily toward Democrats.
— C.C.

ALASKA
Murkowski Has 2-Point Edge in New NRSC Poll

The National Republican Senatorial Committee on Tuesday was touting results of a poll it commissioned recently that showed Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R) with a 2-point advantage over former Gov. Tony Knowles (D).

The lead was within the poll’s 5 percent margin of error, however.

Moore Information contacted 400 registered Alaskan voters on June 2 and 3. It found Murkowski with 44 percent and Knowles with 42 percent. Jim Sykes, the Green Party nominee, took 2 percent.

Most recent independent polls have shown Murkowski and Knowles about even, or Knowles with the smallest of leads.

In the Moore poll, Murkowski was viewed favorably by 58 percent of those surveyed, and unfavorably by 31 percent. Knowles’ favorable and unfavorable ratings were both 3 percent higher.

“Senator Lisa Murkowski continues to forge ahead and is well positioned as we head into the summer months,” NRSC Executive Director Jay Timmons wrote in a memo to interested parties. “Her strong job approval ratings show that her early radio and TV ads have paid dividends as more and more Alaskans are becoming aware of her work and leadership on the important issues facing the state. Despite being a two-term former governor who has never won convincingly in any of his statewide races, Tony Knowles’ ballot position should be troubling to him and national Democrats.”
— Josh Kurtz

OKLAHOMA
Coburn Hits Airwaves, Humphreys Hits Carson

Former Rep. Tom Coburn (R) this week began airing his first television ads in the race for the GOP Senate nomination, with a month and a half to go before the July 27 primary.

Coburn is the last Republican in the race to hit the TV airwaves. Both former Oklahoma City Mayor Kirk Humphreys and state Corporation Commissioner Bob Anthony are already airing ads in the contest.

Never one to shy from criticizing Washington, D.C.’s political culture and the GOP leadership in Congress, Coburn’s first ad squares with the “outsider” campaign the obstetrician is currently waging. The 30-second commercial features Coburn’s four grandchildren.

“Clearly the politicians in Washington are more interested in the next election than they are in the next generation,” Coburn tells viewers in the ad. “Thanks to their wasteful spending, our children and grandchildren will be the first generation of Americans to have a standard of living lower than their parents. That’s just plain wrong. And I’m going to Washington to do something about it — for all of Oklahoma’s children.”

Meanwhile, Coburn’s leading opponent for the nomination focused his attention this week on the recent voting record, or lack thereof, of Rep. Brad Carson, the likely Democratic Senate nominee.

On Monday, Humphreys’ campaign released a statement hitting Carson for missing 22 consecutive votes in the House. Noting that Carson had not voted since May 20, Humphreys called on the Congressman to return his Congressional paycheck for the past month.

“Not showing up for work is a slap in the face to taxpayers,” Humphreys said. “Serving in Congress shouldn’t be a free ride.”

To be fair, the House was in recess from May 21 until June 1 and regularly-scheduled votes were postponed last week due to the death of former President Ronald Reagan. However, the House did vote on two measures honoring the late president.

Voting records also show Carson didn’t show up for votes Monday night and he had not voted as of 1 p.m. Tuesday. A spokesman for the Congressman’s campaign said he was on his way back to Washington Tuesday afternoon.

Carson’s campaign also released a statement noting that the Congressman has had one of the best attendance records among the Members of the Sooner State delegation since being elected in 2000, according to Project Vote Smart.

Last week Carson called for a ban on third-party advertising in the race, a proposal all three Republicans promptly rejected by labeling it a political stunt.
— L.W.W.

PENNSYLVANIA
Web Site Tries Shaking Up Heinz House Bid

The folks at PoliticsPa.com, the online newsletter for Keystone State political junkies, decided to have a little fun with all the recent speculation about a Congressional bid by Chris Heinz, the stepson of Democratic presidential hopeful and Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.).

The Web site runs a regular ballot box feature and the current poll question asks visitors whether current 4th district Democratic candidate Steven Drobac should drop out of the race in favor of another Democrat, like Chris Heinz.

As of mid-day Tuesday, the very unscientific results didn’t look favorable for a draft Heinz 2004 movement. The results showed that 56 percent of the respondents said Drobac should not drop out, while 44 percent indicated he should step aside for another candidate.

While the 31-year-old Heinz has insisted he isn’t going to run this cycle (and since the primary has already occurred in Pennsylvania it would be complicated to get his name on the ballot), talk has persisted that he might move back to the western part of the state and challenge Rep. Melissa Hart (R) in 2006.

Hart, first elected to the 4th district seat in 2000, defeated Drobac in 2002 by a 30-point margin.

Heinz is the son of the late Sen. John Heinz (R-Pa.) and Teresa Heinz Kerry, who married the Massachusetts Senator in 1995. He is on leave from a New York private equity firm and campaigning full time for his stepfather.
— L.W.W.