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New NRSC Ad Attacks Daschle Stance on Taxes

The National Republican Senatorial Committee began an independent expenditure campaign Tuesday attacking Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle’s (D) record on taxes.

“National Democrats have pushed an agenda of higher energy taxes, higher gas taxes,” says the ad’s narrator. “It’s Tom Daschle’s responsibility to push that agenda.”

The commercial goes on to tie Daschle’s voting record to that of Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, the Democratic presidential nominee.

“Tom Daschle, he’s loyal to a national Democrat agenda, at South Dakota’s expense,” the narrator says at the ad’s conclusion.

The spot represents the leading edge of a $2.4 million television campaign sponsored by the NRSC to benefit the candidacy of former Rep. John Thune (R).

Daschle has pledged to keep all third-party groups out of the state. He has been on television for more than a year with his own ads touting his accomplishments for the state.

The two campaigns have released competing surveys in the past month.

A poll done for the Thune campaign showed the former Congressman with a 50 percent to 48 percent lead over Daschle; Daschle responded with a poll of his own that showed him leading Thune 53 percent to 45 percent.

— Chris Cillizza

Naples Well-Stocked for General Election

The Republican seeking to replace Rep. Jack Quinn (R) in the Buffalo-area 27th district will have an enormous financial advantage over the eventual Democratic nominee after the Sept. 14 primary, new campaign finance reports show.

In her preprimary report, Erie County Comptroller Nancy Naples (R) was sitting on $651,000 as of Aug. 25. She had raised $188,000 since July 1 and $752,000 total, including $200,000 from her own pocket.

The leading Democrat in the race, state Assemblyman Brian Higgins, had $169,000 on hand on Aug. 25. He had raised $106,000 since July 1 and $408,000 total, including a $40,000 loan he made to the campaign.

But unlike Naples, who has the Republican nomination sewn up, Higgins must first get through a five-way primary before he can focus on November. Of his two principal primary opponents, West Seneca Town Supervisor Paul Clark reported $260,000 on hand — a total fueled by $269,000 in personal loans — and Chautauqua County Executive Mark Thomas had just $6,800 in the bank.

Higgins did receive good news on Tuesday when he was endorsed in the primary by the Buffalo News, the largest newspaper in the district. The News called Higgins “an unusually productive member of a largely dysfunctional legislative body.”
— Josh Kurtz

AFL-CIO Decision a Big Blow to Hoeffel’s Bid

Sen. Arlen Specter (R) nabbed the backing of the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO last week, the most significant endorsement to date in his race against Rep. Joe Hoeffel (D).

The nod denies Hoeffel, who lags considerably in fundraising and public polls, support from a key Democratic constituency while boosting Specter’s efforts to woo moderates.

Although Hoeffel has compiled a near-perfect voting record on labor issues during his tenure in the House, ultimately the state council made a strategic decision based on electability — taking into account the widespread doubts that the Montgomery County Congressman can overtake the 24-year incumbent.

Throughout his career, Specter has broken ranks with the Republican Party on key votes to side with organized labor.

“I think a lot of people felt that Hoeffel’s polling numbers wasn’t at the level that it should be to beat Arlen Specter,” Pennsylvania AFL-CIO President Bill George told The Associated Press.

Hoeffel had worked hard to block the 58-member state council, which represents 900,000 union workers in Pennsylvania, from endorsing the incumbent. Hoeffel still has the backing of some individual unions.

The Philadelphia and Pittsburgh area AFL-CIO chapters had split their endorsement recommendations. Philadelphia had recommended endorsing Specter, while Allegheny County (which covers the Pittsburgh area) had recommended Hoeffel.
— Lauren W. Whittington

Report: Pearce Won’t Agree to TV Debates

Rep. Steve Pearce (R) appears to be reluctant to debate his challenger, former state Rep. Gary King (D), on television.

Joe Monahan, a plugged-in political blogger, reported on his Web site last week that Pearce’s refusal to debate King on television could heat up a potentially competitive race that has been eerily quiet so far.

Monahan quoted unnamed political analysts suggesting that Pearce’s decision could be a sign of overconfidence — and they said King could use the issue to his advantage if he frames the issue properly in TV advertisements.

Neither Pearce nor King has begun advertising on TV yet.

Pearce, who was elected to the southern New Mexico district two years ago, is following in the footsteps of his longtime predecessor, the late Rep. Joe Skeen (R), who also rarely debated his opponents.

Pearce won a surprisingly easy victory in 2002 in what was supposed to be a tossup race. National Democrats initially had high hopes for King, son of three-term former Gov. Bruce King (D), but he has yet to make much noise, and Pearce is favored for now. An independent poll released Sunday showed the incumbent with a commanding 51 percent to 34 percent lead.
— J.K.

Gallagher Goes Nuclear on Porter, Literally

Democratic challenger Tom Gallagher is trying to use the radioactive issue of nuclear waste against Rep. Jon Porter (R) in the contest for the Silver State’s 3rd district seat.

Continuing his efforts to tie Porter to the national GOP in a negative way, Gallagher chastised the freshman Congressman for the company he keeps.

Debate has raged in Washington ever since Congress cleared the way to create a nuclear waste disposal site at Yucca Mountain, 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas, in 1987.

President Bush has advanced the project, a position that is anathema in Nevada.

Now the Republican Party has adopted a platform that includes support for burying waste at Yucca Mountain.

“President Bush supports construction of new nuclear power plants through the Nuclear Power 2010 initiative and continues to move forward on creating an environmentally sound nuclear waste repository,” the platform states.

Most Nevadans have taken that to mean Yucca Mountain.

Gallagher also chastised Porter for canceling his trip to last week’s Republican National Convention in New York.

“Once again, when Jon Porter’s Republican leadership harms our state, he disappears,” Gallagher charged in a press release. “Where was he during committee meetings when his party debated the addition of Yucca to the platform?”

In a related development, the Gallagher campaign is once again pointing to the 3rd district’s latest registration figures to show how close the race is likely to become. As of Aug. 30, there were 139,311 enrolled Democrats in the suburban Las Vegas district, compared to 136,031 Republicans and 52,817 registered independents.
— Nicole Duran

GOP State Senators Revolt Over Endorsement

Every Louisiana Republican state Senator signed a letter last week expressing their “disappointment” with the decision by the state party executive committee to endorse BellSouth lobbyist Billy Tauzin III (R) in the 3rd district race to replace his father, Rep. Billy Tauzin (R).

The letter was sent at the behest of state Sen. Craig Romero (R), who also is running for the open seat. Romero told the Baton Rouge Advocate that he did not expect the letter to reverse the committee’s decision but wanted to make sure the voters of the district knew there was some disagreement about the endorsement.

The younger Tauzin received the official backing of the executive committee in mid-August, thanks in large part to the influence, both in the state and nationally, of his father.

Aside from Tauzin and Romero, three Democrats are also running for the seat. Former state Rep. Charlie Melancon (D) appears to be the strongest of that bunch, with Charmaine Caccioppi, a former aide to Sen. Bennett Johnston (D-La.), and state Rep. Damon Baldone also in the mix.

All of the candidates will appear together on the Nov. 2 open primary ballot. If no one receives 50 percent of the vote, the two top votegetters, irrespective of party affiliation, advance to a Dec. 4 runoff.

The seat is one of a handful of open seats that will be targeted by both national parties. In 2000, President Bush carried it with 52 percent, his second weakest showing in the state’s seven districts.
— C.C.

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