Even as voters in the Sunshine State brace for the third hurricane in a month, former State Education Commissioner Betty Castor has begun running her first TV ads since winning the Democratic Senate nod last month.
Castor’s new ad focuses on her plan to aid veterans and military families. The ad is running in English in the Tampa market and in Spanish in the Orlando market.
Both Castor and former U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Mel Martinez (R) have been forced to cancel campaign appearances since winning their respective primaries on Aug. 31, just before Hurricane Frances wreaked havoc across the state.
Castor has had to twice postpone a unity rally with her two primary opponents, Rep. Peter Deutsch and Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas.
Martinez is not currently airing ads and has not spoken publicly since he addressed the Republican National Convention on Sept. 2. Vice President Cheney is expected to campaign for Martinez in the state later this month, and Martinez was grudgingly endorsed Monday by his main primary rival, former Rep. Bill McCollum (R).
The race between Martinez and McCollum got nasty in its final days, and by the end McCollum threatened to withhold his endorsement if he did not receive an apology from Martinez.
In a statement, McCollum said that while the two men still had differences, his top priority at this point is party unity.
“I remain deeply disturbed by the last minute negative Martinez campaign tactics that grossly misrepresented my views on social issues and appealed to the worst in people,” McCollum said. “… Mel has apologized to me. I accept that and I hope this never happens again. It is now time to unite for the good of the President, Florida and our nation.”
Meanwhile, Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Jon Corzine (N.J.) sent out an e-mail fundraising pitch on Castor’s behalf Monday.
“Betty Castor needs your help,” Corzine wrote in the solicitation to donors. “Two major hurricanes in Florida and possibly a third one on the way have made running a political campaign difficult and have seriously hampered fundraising efforts at a critical time.”
— Lauren W. Whittington
Clymer Targets Right in New Senate Radio Spot
Constitution Party Senate candidate Jim Clymer began airing a statewide radio campaign this week urging conservatives to vote against longtime Sen. Arlen Specter (R).
“Arlen Specter has been too liberal for too long and it is time he was sent a message,” Clymer says in the ad. “There’s a moral crisis in America and we need conservative judges who will respect the Constitution, defend marriage and overturn Roe v. Wade.”
Clymer also reminds voters that “if you’re voting for President Bush for these reasons, I’d like your vote.”
Democrats are hopeful that Clymer, who has run for statewide office several times before, will get enough votes to be a spoiler in the race between Specter and Rep. Joe Hoeffel (D).
Specter faced a bloody, ideologically driven primary with Rep. Pat Toomey (R) in April, and Clymer is hoping to appeal to disaffected conservatives.
The ads are airing in every radio market in Pennsylvania, according to Clymer’s campaign.
Holden Has Lead Over Little-Known ScoPa
A recent poll in the 17th district contest showed Rep. Tim Holden (D) on solid ground in his race against challenger Scott Paterno (R).
Holden led Paterno 57 percent to 31 percent in the Keystone Poll, conducted for the Harrisburg Patriot-News.
The poll also showed that Holden is more popular in the district that any other politician, including President Bush. Bush, who had a 54 percent favorable rating, led the Democratic presidential nominee, Sen. John Kerry, by a 19-point margin in the GOP-favored district.
Fifty-seven percent of those surveyed had a favorable opinion of Holden, while only 9 percent had an unfavorable opinion. Meanwhile, more voters had more of a negative than positive opinion of Holden’s 31-year-old challenger.
The poll also showed Paterno, the son of legendary Penn State football coach Joe Paterno, is still relatively unknown to voters in the Harrisburg-based district.
The survey of 431 registered voters was taken Aug. 30-Sept. 7. The margin of error was 5 percent. The results of the poll were not weighted to voter registration in the district.
Jones: Down and Out In Beverly Hills?
Republican Senate nominee Bill Jones, who has wrapped himself tightly in Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s (R) golden coattails, will benefit from a fundraiser tonight in Beverly Hills featuring Schwarzenegger as the star attraction.
It is Schwarzenegger’s first formal foray into the race between Jones and two-term Sen. Barbara Boxer (D) since he endorsed Jones in the GOP primary — and his blessing should prove enormously helpful to the Republican underdog.
“Governor Schwarzenegger has said that he needs a partner in Washington — someone who will help reform government in Washington as he has done in Sacramento,” Jones said. “I intend to beat Barbara Boxer in November and be a Senator for all Californians, not just for special interest groups.”
Despite Schwarzenegger’s help, Boxer is still the favorite. The most recent independent polls have shown her with a double-digit lead, though Republicans insist that the gap is smaller. And in an apparent effort to rouse her base, Boxer said recently that she too believes the race is closer.
“I don’t believe the polls,” she told The Associated Press over the weekend.
— Josh Kurtz
Vitter Widens Lead in Latest Senate Race Poll
Rep. David Vitter (R) has widened his lead over his three Democratic opponents in the open-seat Senate race, according to an independent survey.
Vitter received 42 percent to 19 percent for state Treasurer John Kennedy (D), 16 percent for Rep. Chris John (D) and 3 percent for state Rep. Arthur Morrell (D).
The survey was conducted by the Marketing Research Institute from Aug. 31 to Sept. 2, testing 600 registered voters with a 4.1 percent margin of error.
A July MRI survey showed Vitter with a more narrow 36 percent to 19 percent lead over Kennedy. John had 18 percent and Morrell 6 percent in that poll.
Under Louisiana law, all of the candidates will run in an open primary on Nov. 2. If no one receives 50 percent, as is likely, the top two votegetters advance to a Dec. 4 runoff.
National Democrats have largely coalesced behind John as their strongest candidate despite a slew of polls that show the Congressman and Kennedy running neck and neck for second place.
John does have a substantial financial lead over Kennedy with roughly $1.5 million more in the bank as of July 17.
No Republican has been elected to the Senate from Louisiana since Reconstruction, the only state in the country with that distinction.
— Chris Cillizza
State GOP Refuses to Reverse Tauzin Backing
An attempt to reverse the state Republican Party’s endorsement of BellSouth lobbyist Billy Tauzin III in the 3rd district race failed Saturday on procedural grounds.
Allies of state Sen. Craig Romero (R), who is also running to replace Rep. Billy Tauzin (R) in the 3rd district, had hoped to nullify the endorsement by the party’s executive committee.
The attempts failed in subcommittee and never came up for a vote of the full 223-member state Central Committee.
The endorsement of the younger Tauzin has rankled Romero, who insists that the decision was made based on the desire of members of the state party to tap into the retiring Congressman’s war chest, which stood at $846,000 on July 17.
Under federal law, Tauzin can make an unlimited donation from his excess contributions to either the state or national party.
Aside from the two Republicans running, three Democrats are also in the contest.
The Democratic frontrunner appears to be former state Rep. Charlie Melancon.
Former Sen. J. Bennett Johnston (D-La.) aide Charmaine Caccioppi and state Rep. Damon Baldone are also in the race on the Democratic side.
Louisiana law dictates that if no one receives 50 percent of the vote in Nov. 2 — when all candidates run in an open primary — the two top finishers, regardless of party affiliation, advance to a Dec. 4 runoff.
The southwestern Louisiana district is considered competitive between the two parties as President Bush received 52 percent there, his second-worst showing in the state’s seven Congressional districts.
Democratic Poll Shows Carson, Coburn Close
A new Democratic poll in the Oklahoma Senate race showed Rep. Brad Carson (D) and former Rep. Tom Coburn (R) in a virtual dead heat as they enter the final two months of the campaign.
In the Westhill Partners poll conducted for Carson’s campaign he got 44 percent, Coburn got 42 percent and Independent Sheila Bilyeu got 1 percent.
The survey of 400 likely voters was conducted Sept. 1-2 and had a 5 percent margin of error.
President Bush led Democrat John Kerry by 30 points in the poll.
Meanwhile, Coburn began airing a pair of new TV ads this week touting his fiscal responsibility during his tenure in the House.
“There are hundreds of examples where the Congress is spending money that, first of all, they don’t have to spend,” Coburn says in one ad. “That’s why we have a $600 billion deficit.”
An announcer then tells viewers that Coburn received an ‘A’ rating five times from the National Taxpayers Union and touts legislation Coburn authored to “reduce wasteful government spending.”
Bayh Appears to Be Scott-Free in Senate Race
Sen. Evan Bayh (D) holds a commanding lead over sociology professor Marvin Scott (R) in his bid for a second term, according to a new poll.
Bayh led Scott 62 percent to 26 percent in a Research 2000 poll, conducted Sept. 7-9. The poll surveyed 600 likely voters and had a 4 percent margin of error.
Bayh is expected to cruise to re-election this fall.