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DSCC Outraised NRSC in May, But Lags in Cash

House and Senate campaign committees filed their May fundraising reports with the Federal Election Commission this week, providing the latest snapshot of party finances five months out from the November elections.

Senate Democrats rushed to tout their fundraising performance, after they outraised their Republican counterparts for the month.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee raised $4.1 million in May, while the National Republican Senatorial Committee raised $3.4 million.

However, the DSCC still faces almost a $10 million disparity in cash on hand.

After spending $3.3 million last month, the DSCC had $8.2 million left in the bank on May 31. The committee also reported debts of $327,000.

The NRSC spent $2.4 million and had $17.6 million in the bank.

On the House side, Republicans also hold a money advantage, although it is not as wide.

The National Republican Congressional Campaign Committee continued to raise and spend money at a faster clip than all of the other Congressional campaign committees.

The NRCC raised $6.7 million in May but spent $5.8 million, leaving it with $18.8 million cash on hand. The committee banked a little more than $900,000 for the month, after paying a $280,000 fine to the FEC.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee raised $4.8 million in May and had $11.7 million left after dispersing $4.3 million for the month. The June 1 special election in South Dakota, won by Democrat Stephanie Herseth, cost the party an estimated $2.5 million last month. The committee also showed $120,000 in debts and obligations.

Meanwhile, Member giving among House Democrats shot up in May, as party leaders began turning up the heat on Members to get them to pony up funds from their campaign war chests. In May, 18 House Democrats donated a total of $272,000 to the DCCC, a vast improvement over the $130,000 that nine Members gave in April.

The NRCC received $207,000 from the GOP rank and file in May. Of the 12 Members who gave, Rep. Phil English (R-Pa.) led all donors with his $50,000 transfer.

In April, at least 40 GOP Members contributed more than $623,000 to the NRCC.
— Lauren W. Whittington

Knowles Uses GOP Split to Argue Case in TV Ad

Democratic Senate candidate Tony Knowles did not waste any time trying to capitalize on a Republican Senate candidate’s decision to scold the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

Knowles, a former governor, has complained that ads being run by the NRSC on behalf of Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R) are inaccurate and negative.

To combat the NRSC’s efforts to associate Knowles, who supports oil drilling within the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, with Democratic Senators who do not, Knowles began running a television spot that highlights his support of resource development during his eight-year tenure as governor.

Knowles’ latest 30-second message had been featuring former Republican legislator Margaret Branson, saying she’s offended by “these outside groups coming in to tell us how to vote,” and pledging her support to Knowles.

But starting Monday, that part of the commercial was replaced with images of an article discussing GOP Senate candidate Wev Shea’s letter to the NRSC.

Last week, Shea, a former U.S. attorney who is challenging Murkowski in the Aug. 24 GOP Senate primary, wrote to NRSC Chairman George Allen (Va.) asking him to pull the ads.

“Like many Alaskans — Republican, Democrat, Libertarian and independent — I am offended by the ‘silly, unprofessional and intentionally false’ political ads the National Republican Senatorial Committee has taken out attacking Democrat Tony Knowles,” Shea wrote. “Gov. Knowles has always supported ANWR development. I personally request on behalf of all Alaskans that you pull the ads.”

The NRSC and Murkowski, whose campaign is barred by law from coordinating with the committee, have said the ads do not make any false statements and are a fair assessment of the national Democratic Party’s stance on ANWR. The new Knowles ad will run statewide through next Monday.
— Nicole Duran

Leading in Poll, Schwarz Seeks Smaller Debates

In an effort to provide a direct contrast with the crowded field of Republicans vying for the GOP nomination in the 7th district, former state Sen. Joe Schwarz is trying to get any one of his five competitors to debate him one-on-one.

He has contacted every campaign and reserved three venues for such occasions, but so far only attorney Brad Smith, son of the district’s retiring Rep. Nick Smith (R), has formally accepted Schwarz’s offer to debate him and state Rep. Clark Bisbee (R) together.

“I have concluded that large candidate forums are not getting the job done,” Schwarz said in issuing the challenge. “Having six to nine candidates on a stage, with only one to two minutes to answer questions. … I think it’s fair to say that voters are tired of the three-minute stump speeches and the carefully rehearsed answers.”

Schwarz and Smith are set to square off July 9 in Jackson, according to both campaigns. Bisbee, who has the backing of Michigan Right to Life and the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, declined to make it a three-person forum.

Offended at not being asked to participate in the first round, state Rep. Gene DeRossett and former state Rep. Tim Walberg separately challenged Schwarz to individual debates. Schwarz’s campaign immediately booked Siena Heights University in Adrian for a July 16 debate with DeRossett and the Grand Ledge Opera House on July 20 to face off with Walberg.

Former state Rep. Paul DeWeese has yet to respond, Schwarz’s campaign said.

Five of the candidates have been fighting for the “conservative” mantle in the primary that is expected to produce the next Congressman. All five have been gunning for Schwarz, who is considered the moderate in the GOP field.

A recent poll confirms why the others need to team up against Schwarz. The family doctor leads all candidates with 23 percent of likely Republican voters backing him, according to a survey conducted by EPIC/MRA of Lansing, which is not working for any of the candidates.

Smith and Bisbee tied for second place with 12 percent followed by DeWeese, who garnered support from 10 percent of those surveyed, Walberg, who had 8 percent, and DeRossett, who had only 6 percent of voters backing him, despite having the deepest pockets. The survey of 400 voters was conducted June 14-18 and had a 5 percent error margin.
— N.D.

Court Throws Blanket Over Blanket Primary

The state Supreme Court late last week rejected an effort to overturn the state’s new primary system, paving the way for partisan voting in September.

The Grange, the group that established the state’s blanket primary — which allowed voters to split their tickets for different offices on the same ballot — 70 years ago, sought to overturn Gov. Gary Locke’s (D) veto of part of a bill to tweak the blanket system, which a federal court had ruled unconstitutional. Locke’s decision put the “Montana” primary, in which voters must choose one party’s ballot, into effect.

The state Legislature had passed a bill approving a “top two” system in which the top two votegetters, regardless of party, would move on to the November ballot.

While the Grange, an agricultural group, lost its fight with the state’s highest court, it is still pushing an initiative for the November ballot to create the top-two system for use in subsequent elections.
— N.D.

Deutsch, Gallagher, First to Air Senate TV Ads

Rep. Peter Deutsch (D) and businessman Doug Gallagher (R) became the first Senate candidates to launch television ads last week, as they vie to win their respective crowded primaries on Aug. 31.

Deutsch went on the air Thursday with a pair of testimonial ads featuring constituents he has helped over the past decade.

In one ad, titled “Jimmy,” a couple whose 9-year-old son was kidnapped explains that Deutsch was one of the first people to call during their ordeal.

“Peter Deutsch was there for us when Jimmy went missing,” Claudine Ryce says in the ad. “It was like his own child was missing.”

Another ad focuses on how Deutsch helped constituents following Hurricane George.

“Without Peter Deutsch, legislation and stuff, it would have been real hard for us to keep going,” commercial fisherman Tom Coppedge says in the ad.

Deutsch, who leads the Democrats in fundraising and is set to launch radio ads this week, faces former state Education Commissioner Betty Castor and Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas in the primary.

Meanwhile, Gallagher, the brother of state Insurance Commissioner Tom Gallagher (R), went up with a $1 million-plus buy featuring 30-second and 60-second spots.

The ads paint Gallagher as “fresh-thinking, self-made non-lawyer, non-politician” unafraid to take the Washington, D.C., political establishment to task.

“Name for me the problems Washington has really solved in the past two or three decades,” Gallagher says in the ad, without giving any examples.

In a statement responding to the Gallagher ads, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Mel Martinez, who is also seeking the GOP Senate nod, called for an apology on behalf of all Republicans.

“As a member of President Bush’s Cabinet and on behalf of Republicans who have been fighting alongside President Bush to enact a conservative agenda in Washington, I take offense to Doug Gallagher’s attacks.”

Gallagher’s personal spending also recently triggered the “millionaire’s provision” of the new campaign financing law. His total personal contribution to the race now stands at $2.6 million, allowing non-self-funding primary opponents to accept up to three times the individual contribution limit.

Although six Republicans are in the primary, the contest is generally viewed as a race between Martinez and former Rep. Bill McCollum. McCollum is set to receive the endorsement of the Fraternal Order of Police this week.

Breaux and Several Top Democrats Back John

To the surprise of almost no one, Democratic Sen. John Breaux endorsed Rep. Chris John (D) as his preferred replacement on Saturday. Breaux pledged to back John “with all the commitment I can possibly give, both financially and politically.”

Joining Breaux at the event were Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu, Agriculture Commissioner Bob Odom, Insurance Commissioner Robert Wooley, and 5th district Rep. Rodney Alexander — all Democrats — as well as a number of state legislators.

John, state Treasurer John Kennedy and state Sen. Arthur Morrell are running on the Democratic side; Rep. David Vitter is the lone Republican candidate in the race.

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

Breaux’s backing of John has long been expected in the political world.

Breaux and John both hail from Crowley (as does former Gov. Edwin Edwards), and both have held the 7th district seat.

The support of the Louisiana political establishment is likely to aid the efforts by John’s campaign to portray him as the strongest Democrat in the contest.

Polling done in the race has offered mixed results, with Vitter leading the way and either John or Kennedy in second place, trailing the Republican by a double-digit margin.
— Chris Cillizza

Cheney: Fortenberry Is in Tune With District

Vice President Cheney raised $150,000 at a breakfast last Friday to benefit former Lincoln City Councilman Jeff Fortenberry (R).

“He will be a Congressman perfectly in tune with his district,” Cheney said at the gathering.

Fortenberry emerged from a contentious three-candidate Republican primary in May to claim the GOP nomination. He will face state Sen. Matt Connealy (D) in the fall.

Rep. Doug Bereuter (R) is retiring from the eastern Nebraska seat after 13 terms. Democrats believe that Fortenberry’s victory in the primary gives them a real chance to pick the seat up. Fortenberry was widely seen as the most conservative candidate of the three Republicans. Any Republican candidate still has a clear edge, however. President Bush carried the seat by 23 points in 2000.
— C.C.