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Cain Is First in Senate Race With Negative Ads

The first negative television ads in Georgia’s GOP Senate primary were unleashed this week, and to no one’s surprise, current frontrunner Rep. Johnny Isakson (R) was the target.

Former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain hit the airwaves to highlight what he sees as the major differences between himself and Isakson, who has led so far in polling and fundraising.

“There’s a big difference between me and Johnny Isakson,” Cain says in the ad. “And it’s not just the color of our eyes. I believe in life from conception. Johnny’s voted pro-abortion 14 times. I want to slam the brakes on trial lawyers. Johnny’s on their side. I believe we should shut down the [Internal Revenue Service] and replace it with something simple and fair. Johnny doesn’t. We need a conservative Republican who will vote that way.”

In response, Isakson’s campaign released a statement disputing the new spot’s “false” claims and noting an Associated Press report from September 2003 which indicated that Cain said he planned to keep negative campaigning out of the race.

“Herman Cain spent the first half of this campaign promising to run a positive race and building goodwill until desperation set in,” said Isakson campaign manager Chris Carr. “Now that the chips are down, he’s shifted to hiding behind false and negative attack ads.”

Cain had already been running radio spots attacking Isakson on abortion rights and taxes.

Rep. Mac Collins is also battling for the GOP nomination in the July 20 primary. If no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote, an Aug. 10 runoff will be held.
— Lauren W. Whittington

Group Still Wants Ballot Vote on Senate Vacancies

Trust the People, a group formed by three Democratic lawmakers, apparently does not trust Lt. Gov. Loren Leman’s (R) judgment and has filed suit to bring its initiative to the November ballot.

The group collected signatures from 50,000, or roughly one in 12, Alaskans to put a measure on the ballot changing the way U.S. Senate vacancies are filled in the state.

Then the state Legislature passed a bill, which Gov. Frank Murkowski (R) allowed to become law without his signature, calling for special elections in such cases.

The entire matter could affect Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R) in her bid for election to a full term, as the controversy began in 2002 when her father gave up his Senate seat to become governor.

The Republican-controlled state Legislature changed the procedure to deny then-Gov. Tony Knowles (D) the right to appoint Murkowski’s Senate successor. That prerogative was given to the newly elected governor, who chose his daughter to finish out his Senate term. Charges of nepotism have dogged both Murkowskis since and Republicans have said it would be unfair to make Lisa Murkowski seek election on a ballot that also contains an initiative that calls into question how she got her job in the first place.

The new law still allows the governor to appoint an interim Senator until the election can be held 60 to 90 days after the vacancy occurs.

Trust the People says that is not good enough because it still allows a gubernatorial appointment and would give the interim Senator a leg up in the special election.

Leman, whose position as lieutenant governor also makes him head of the state’s Elections Division, ruled last week that the new law was similar enough to the proposed initiative to knock the measure off the November ballot.

State law allows the Legislature to nullify ballot measures if lawmakers pass “substantially similar” legislation.

If Murkowski wins the GOP nomination in August, she will face Knowles in November.

Meanwhile, the Murkowski and Knowles campaigns have been trying to “out Alaska” one another.

Both have accused the other of being under the influence of “Outsiders” — Alaskans call the lower 48 states the Outside — and have derided their influence in campaign advertisements.

In the most recent Murkowski ad, she claims the bulk of Knowles’ canvassers are from Outside.

Knowles’ campaign denies the charge and says all but four of the 31 are Alaskans.

Murkowski’s campaign boasts that all 15 paid staffers are Alaskans but then, in a twist, it was revealed by the Anchorage Daily News that her spokeswoman, Kristin Pugh, has never qualified for a Permanent Fund check — a stipend distributed to all Alaskan residents from state revenues on natural resources.

Furthermore, there is no record of Pugh ever voting in Alaska, despite registering there in 1998.

No matter, Murkowski’s campaign says, the point still stands that Knowles is guilty of hypocrisy.

Knowles has derided ads run by Outside groups that benefit Murkowski while at the same time the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has funneled $600,000 to the state party, Pugh told the paper.
— Nicole Duran

Poll: Independents Buoy Bowles in Senate Race

A new poll out in the Tar Heel Senate race shows Democrat Erskine Bowles continues to lead Rep. Richard Burr (R) in the fight to replace retiring Sen. John Edwards (D).

Bowles led Burr 47 percent to 39 percent in a survey published Wednesday by the Raleigh News & Observer. The poll of 600 likely voters was conducted June 13-16 by Research 2000. It had a 4 percent margin of error.

The same survey showed Bowles leading 45 percent to 40 percent in January but other polls have given Bowles as much as a double-digit lead. Bowles ran and lost a 2002 Senate race to now-Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R-N.C.).

The new poll also showed voters in the state have lost confidence in the economy and in President Bush’s handling of the war in Iraq in recent months.

Bowles may be benefiting from these attitudes. He was preferred by 50 percent of the independents queried for the poll; Burr was the choice of 35 percent.

Bowles, a former Clinton White House chief of staff and investment banker, has been on the air with television ads since late May. Burr has yet to run ads but his campaign has benefited from spots aired by a third-party group that praise him.
— L.W.W.

Machinists Back Flynn in Race for Kleczka Seat

Milwaukee machinists have decided to back attorney Matt Flynn in the Sept. 14 Democratic primary for the open 4th district seat.

Flynn, former chairman of the Wisconsin Democratic Party, won the support of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers District 10 — a key endorsement in the still industrial city.

Flynn also picked up the endorsement of retiring Rep. Jerry Kleczka (D) earlier this week.

Three other Democrats, state Sens. Gwen Moore and Tim Carpenter and state Rep. Shirley Krug are also seeking the nomination.

On the Republican side, former Health and Human Services official Corey Hoze got the nod from the African American Association of Independent Schools, a Milwaukee-based group that supports school voucher programs. He faces attorney Gerald Boyle in the primary.
— N.D.

Parties Will Try to Defeat Open Primary Measure

Democratic and Republican leaders, along with officials from several minor parties, are teaming up to defeat a measure on the ballot this November that would create an open primary in Golden State political races, The Sacramento Bee reported this week. Some party leaders met recently in Los Angeles to discuss strategy, the newspaper said.

An open primary law would allow voters to select the candidates of their choice in different races regardless of their party registration. California had a variation of that law in place during the late 1990s, but it was thrown out in court last year.

According to the Bee, the parties have agreed to develop strategies for convincing their own rank and file to defeat the ballot measure. For example, the GOP leadership is being encouraged to reach out to gun rights advocates, business leaders and pro-family groups.

The Democrats have been tasked with convincing unions and minority groups to oppose the ballot initiative. The Greens will work the Sierra Club and Common Cause.
— Josh Kurtz