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Sinclair Likely Victor in Disputed GOP Primary in Washington State

It appears that Island County Auditor Suzanne Sinclair has won the Sept. 14 Republican primary in the 2nd district after all.

Initially the race was called for Larry Klepinger but after all absentee ballots were counted, Sinclair pulled ahead. As of Monday, she had 21,519 votes to his 19,568, making her the GOP nominee against Rep. Rick Larsen (D), who is usually a top Republican target because of his district’s demographics.

County officials certified their votes Friday, but the secretary of state has until Oct. 6 to verify those results; the county tabulations are likely to stand, however.

Sinclair was the party establishment favorite, but her job as auditor — which includes presiding over elections — prevented her from campaigning heavily.

Washington changed its primary system for the first time in almost 70 years, requiring election officials such as Sinclair to scramble to explain the new system to voters and ensure everything was in place in advance of the voting.

Although Larsen has never taken more than 50 percent of the vote in a district that gave Al Gore a 2-point victory over George W. Bush in 2000, it is unclear how heavily national Republicans plan to work the district this time around.

— Nicole Duran

Nethercutt’s Hoped-For Debate Crash Lands

Hoping to force Sen. Patty Murray (D) into an impromptu debate, Rep. George Nethercutt (R), who is challenging her for her Senate seat, left the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport frustrated Friday.

The two were on the same flight returning from Washington, D.C., and Nethercutt’s campaign staff had alerted reporters and supporters that the Congressman would corner Murray at the baggage claim and force a debate, The Seattle Times reported.

Instead, Murray left the airport through another exit.

Nethercutt is unhappy that Murray has agreed to only two debates and had hoped to prove a point by putting her on the spot at the airport. Murray’s campaign called the stunt “childish” but insisted she did not purposely avoid the Spokane-area Congressman.
— N.D.

Two New Senate Polls Within Margin of Error

Two new polls paint a different picture of the race between former Rep. John Thune (R) and Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D).

An independent poll by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research Inc. for the Sioux Falls Argus-Leader showed Daschle with a 50 percent to 45 percent lead; a survey done for Thune’s campaign showed him with a 50 percent to 47 percent edge.

The Mason-Dixon poll was in the field Sept. 20-22, sampling 800 likely voters with a 3.5 percent margin of error.

The Thune poll, which was conducted by Glen Bolger of Public Opinion Strategies, was in the field at almost the same time (Sept. 21-23), testing 600 likely voters with a 4 percent margin of error.

The leads for Thune and Daschle are both within the surveys’ margin of error, meaning that the race is a statistical dead heat.

Both candidates are now up on television as are several third-party groups — including the National Republican Senatorial Committee — on Thune’s behalf.
— Chris Cillizza

Vanquished Primary Foe Backs Kuhl in Tier Race

State Sen. Randy Kuhl (R) caught a break Monday in his bid to replace retiring Rep. Amo Houghton (R) in the Southern Tier 29th district.

The man Kuhl defeated in the Republican primary two weeks ago, Monroe County Legislator Mark Assini, announced that he would not actively campaign through November, despite being the nominee of the Conservative Party. Appearing at Monroe County GOP headquarters, Assini said he would support Kuhl — even though Assini by law will remain on the November ballot.

Assini said he did not “want to become the Ralph Nader of the Republican Party.”

Assini’s decision solidifies Kuhl’s position in his race against Samara Barend, a 27-year-old Democratic operative. The 29th district gave President Bush his best showing in New York four years ago.

Kuhl will be on Capitol Hill today and Wednesday for meetings with House leaders and for a fundraiser at the Monocle, which is sponsored by all of the Empire State’s Republican House Members.
— Josh Kurtz

State Rules That Stork Must Remain on Ballot

State election officials have determined that former Wilton Manors Mayor Jim Stork (D) will remain on the November ballot even though he has ended his campaign against Rep. Clay Shaw (R).

Stork must remain on the ballot because he informed the Division of Elections of his decision nine days after the Sept. 15 deadline for withdrawing from the race. Democrats had sought a last-minute replacement for Stork, who withdrew from the race because of health problems.

Shaw, a perennial target for Democrats, was already heavily favored to win a 13th term in this Fort Lauderdale-based swing district.
— Lauren W. Whittington

New DSCC Poll Gives Knowles Biggest Lead

A new Democratic poll showed former Gov. Tony Knowles (D) leading Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R) with his biggest lead to date.

The Global Strategy Group poll commissioned by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and conducted Sept. 19-21 showed Knowles leading 47 percent to 41 percent among 600 likely voters.

The survey’s error margin was 4 percent.

Independent polls have shown the race neck-and-neck for months, with Knowles often enjoying a slight lead but one usually within the poll’s margin of error.
— N.D.

Murtha Hosting Event for Driscoll This Week

Rep. John Murtha (D), the dean of the Keystone State delegation, will host a Washington, D.C., fundraiser Thursday for 15th district Democratic candidate Joe Driscoll.

The breakfast event is scheduled to be held at the Phoenix Park Hotel on Capitol Hill.

Driscoll is viewed as a considerable underdog in the race against state Sen. Charlie Dent (R). The two men are vying to succeed Rep. Pat Toomey (R) in the Lehigh Valley-based swing district.
— L.W.W.

Frist Headlines DeMint’s Deadline Day Fundraiser

Rep. Jim DeMint (R) will benefit from a Capitol Hill fundraiser hosted by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) on Thursday.

The lunch event, which will be held at the American Gas Association, requires a $2,000 contribution from political action committees and $1,000 from individuals.

The Frist event comes on the final day of the third quarter of campaign fundraising, which covers contributions and expenditures from July 1 to Sept. 30.

DeMint has spent the past three months refilling his coffers after a costly primary and runoff victory. At the end of June he had just $98,000 in the bank.

State Superintendent of Education Inez Tenenbaum (D) had $2 million in the bank at that time.

DeMint opened up a lead in the race to replace retiring Sen. Fritz Hollings (D) over the summer, but Tenenbaum has gained some traction recently by attacking the Congressman for supporting a 23 percent national sales tax.
— C.C.

Poll: Party Switcher Would Escape Runoff

A new poll conducted for Rep. Rodney Alexander’s (R) campaign shows him avoiding a runoff against his two announced opponents.

Alexander received 52 percent to 19 percent for Zelma “Tisa” Blakes (D) and 11 percent for former state Rep. Jock Scott (R).

The poll was done by Glen Bolger of Public Opinion Strategies. It was in the field Sept. 20-21, testing 400 likely voters. The survey carried a 4.9 percent margin of error.

Alexander has been the subject of much national attention since he switched parties in August. Democrats went to court to try to throw him off the ballot, but they were unsuccessful.

Since the switch, Alexander has been the toast of House Republicans.

He will be guest of honor at a fundraiser Wednesday featuring Speaker Dennis Hastert (Ill.), House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (Texas), House Majority Whip Roy Blunt (Mo.), Conference Chairwoman Deborah Pryce (Ohio) and National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Reynolds (N.Y.). All four other Louisiana Republican House Members will also be in attendance.

Under Louisiana election law, Alexander, Blakes and Scott will run in an all-party primary on Nov. 2. If no one receives 50 percent of the vote, the top two votegetters, regardless of party, advance to a Dec. 4 runoff.

The northern Louisiana district is strongly Republican.
— C.C.

Lampson Camp Buoyed Though He Lags in Poll

Rep. Nick Lampson (D) trails former Judge Ted Poe (R) by 4 points in a new poll done for the Democrat’s campaign.

Poe received 41 percent to Lampson’s 37 percent in the Harstad Strategic Research Inc. survey. The poll was in the field Sept. 19-21, sampling 602 likely voters with a 4 percent margin of error.

The polling memo claims that Lampson is “well positioned for re-election” but provides few details from the survey to back up that assertion. The new 2nd district tilts toward Republicans as more than half of its population lives in the GOP-friendly Houston suburbs of Harris County, an area that Poe served during more than two decades as a judge.

Lampson retains his base in the city of Beaumont in Jefferson County, however, giving him a foundation to make the race.

One clear edge Lampson has is in the fundraising department. At the end of June, Lampson had $807,000 in the bank compared to Poe’s $336,000.
— C.C.

Gohmert Ad Goes After Sandlin and Dan Rather

Former Judge Louie Gohmert (R) took to the airwaves last week with an ad bashing Rep. Max Sandlin (D) as well as embattled CBS News anchor Dan Rather.

“Seen Max Sandlin’s negative ads?” a narrator in the Gohmert ad asks. “They’ve got more holes than a CBS News story by Dan Rather.”

Rather has been forced to apologize for relying on possibly falsified documents for a story about President Bush’s National Guard service. Gohmert’s ad goes on to attack Sandlin for his stance on trade and other issues.

One of five Democrats endangered by a Republican-led remapping of the state’s Congressional lines in 2003, Sandlin is fighting for his political life in a district that strongly favors Republicans.
— C.C.

Challenger Questions Cubin’s Missed Votes

Democrat Ted Ladd is taking aim at the attendance record of Rep. Barbara Cubin (R) in the race for the Equality State’s lone House seat.

In a radio ad Ladd charges: “When Congress was asked to fund the defense of our country, Wyoming was not counted.”

It goes on to accuse Cubin of missing votes on the Defense budget, the Patriot Act and a bill to bestow Congressional medals of honor to emergency workers who responded to the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorists attacks.

Cubin’s missed votes were an issue in 2002 — a tactic that she said backfired against her previous Democratic challenger because of her husband’s prolonged illness.

Cubin won easily then, taking 61 percent of the vote.
— N.D.

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