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CALIFORNIA: NRCC Reserves More TV Time for Ashburn

The National Republican Congressional Committee has reserved an additional $240,000 in TV time in the 20th district — a further sign that national GOP leaders hope to propel underdog state Sen. Roy Ashburn (R) to victory over the favorite, former state Sen. Jim Costa (D).

The NRCC already spent $206,000 for ads in the Central Valley district last month.

Ashburn and Costa are vying to replace retiring Rep. Cal Dooley (D), who is leaving after seven terms. The district gave Al Gore 55 percent of the vote during the 2000 presidential election, but it is socially conservative, and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) did extremely well there during last year’s recall election.

While Ashburn continues to be boosted by GOP leaders, Costa got a boost of his own on Saturday when Ashburn’s local newspaper, the Bakersfield Californian, endorsed Costa.

While the paper praised both candidates for “yeoman legislative service,” it said it chose Costa because he has displayed a willingness to buck his party’s leaders far more often than Ashburn has.

“Costa clearly has demonstrated the leadership, courage and independence needed in these dangerous and trying times,” the Californian wrote.

— Josh Kurtz

Hawaii

Ex-Manager Points the Finger at Candidate

Republican Congressional candidate Dalton Tanonaka’s former campaign manager has accused him of circumventing campaign laws during his unsuccessful 2002 lieutenant governor’s campaign.

The former manager, Ed Nishioka, filed a complaint with the state’s Campaign Spending Commission and asked it to investigate, The Associated Press reported.

Tanonaka, who is challenging Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D) in the state’s 1st district, is accused of hiding 2002 campaign loans to get around legal limits.

Tanonaka denied the allegation.

Nishioka has also sued Tanonaka for back pay from that failed campaign.

— Nicole Duran

Lounge Singer Warbles New Campaign Tune

Rather than be disheartened by his decisive defeat in the Aloha State’s Democratic Senatorial primary, Las Vegas lounge singer and former teen actor Brian Evans has decided to run for governor.

Evans challenged Sen. Daniel Inouye (D) in the Sept. 18 primary but won only 5 percent of the vote in his first campaign. Inouye won with 89 percent.

Evans was instead emboldened that he took 8,050 votes without running a single ad or placing one bumper sticker.

He now pledges to challenge Gov. Linda Lingle (R) in 2006.

— N.D.

Connecticut

Senator Clinton Helps Farrell Take in $100,000

New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D) held a fundraiser Sunday in Westport to benefit First Selectwoman Dianne Farrell’s (D) campaign against 4th district Rep. Christopher Shays (R).

The event brought in more than $100,000 for Farrell and is part of a “Women For Farrell” initiative that will bring former Texas Gov. Ann Richards (D) into the district on Oct. 15, according to The Associated Press.

Farrell has performed extremely well on the fundraising front, with $722,000 raised and $588,000 on hand at the end of June.

Shays, one of the leading advocates of campaign finance reform in Congress, had raised more than $1 million with $657,000 in the bank as of June 30.

Both sides will need every dime, as the district is almost completely covered by the extremely pricey New York City media market.

The 4th district is competitive between the parties, as then-Vice President Al Gore won the seat by 10 points in 2000.

Though this is the first time since 1996 that Shays has been seriously challenged, he appears to be weathering the storm nicely.

No polling has been released by either side, but the conventional wisdom is that Shays is comfortably ahead.

— Chris Cillizza

Kentucky

Mongiardo Strikes Back At Bunning Medicaid Ad

State Sen. Daniel Mongiardo (D) has launched a new ad responding to a commercial by Sen. Jim Bunning (R) that labels him a “Medicaid Millionaire.”

The Mongiardo ad excerpts editorials from the Louisville Courier-Journal and the Lexington Herald-Leader, which calls the Bunning spot “despicable” as well as “offensive and unfair.”

The Bunning ad alleges that Mongiardo “billed taxpayers more than $3 million” for Medicaid reimbursement and used taxpayer money to buy a mansion and a private plane.

“Jim Bunning wants to attack me,” Mongiardo said in his new ad. “I want to attack the problem of health care.”

He goes on to describe his health care plan that allows “doctors and patients to make medical decisions, not accountants.”

Mongiardo has struggled to find traction in the race against Bunning; he has been beset by fundraising and staff problems from the start of the campaign.

— C.C.

New York

O’Grady Ad: Schumer, Mills a Happy Couple

Sen. Charles Schumer (D) and his Republican opponent, state Assemblyman Howard Mills, are appearing together figuratively in a most unusual way — in a new TV ad for the third candidate in the Senate race, Conservative Party nominee Marilyn O’Grady.

According to the New York Post, an O’Grady ad is to begin airing on Empire State cable stations this week showing two men together on top of a wedding cake. The ad is meant to highlight Schumer’s and Mills’ opposition to a proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage — and O’Grady’s support for it.

“Schumer and Mills: the perfect liberal couple,” the ad’s narrator intones.

While Schumer has been a heavy favorite in the Senate contest all along, it is O’Grady’s presence on the ballot that makes Mills’ task all the more daunting.

The most recent poll on the race, conducted Sept. 13-14 for the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion, showed Schumer with 65 percent of the vote, Mills with 17 percent and O’Grady with 7 percent.

— J.K.

Washington

Ross to Have Services Of Pelosi Press Secretary

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) wants Democrat Dave Ross to win the open 8th district seat so badly that she is willing to part with her press secretary for four weeks.

Jennifer Crider has temporarily left Pelosi’s leadership office to help the former Seattle radio talk show host’s campaign with message and communications.

Pelosi “is putting her mouthpiece where her money is,” a Democratic leadership aide said, explaining the decision to send such a senior staffer out to the suburban Seattle district.

Crider has long-established ties to the Evergreen State, having previously worked for Sen. Maria Cantwell (D) and Rep. Jim McDermott (D).

Both parties think the 8th is winnable now that Rep. Jennifer Dunn (R) is retiring.

Ross is in a close contest with popular King County Sheriff Dave Reichert (R).

— N.D.

TV Station Reviewing NRCC Ad in 5th District

A Spokane television station Monday suspended airing the newest National Republican Congressional Committee ad criticizing 5th district Democratic candidate Don Barbieri, according to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

KAYU-TV, the Fox affiliate, is considering a Barbieri campaign request to pull the “false” ad. The Fox station did not respond to a request for comment late Monday.

“The central claim in the attack, that Barbieri made a $900,000 profit, has been proven false by both the Barbieri campaign and the [Spokane] Spokesman-Review,” the Barbieri campaign said in a news release. “Therefore the television stations running the ad have been asked to stop running it.”

The ad centers on a complicated business deal that Barbieri’s family business entered into with the Spokane Transit Authority to build a retail, hotel and condominium transit center in downtown Spokane in the 1990s.

Ultimately, the public-private partnership did not work out and the Barbieris canceled the project.

The ad, which invokes Barbieri’s deceased father, calls the aborted plan Barbieri’s “money pit.”

“This is a shameful display of everything wrong with politics today, and Cathy McMorris has a responsibility to demand that it stop,” Barbieri’s campaign stated.

McMorris, a state Representative, is Barbieri’s Republican opponent for the open 5th district seat, which national party leaders think is very competitive.

Rep. George Nethercutt (R) gave up the seat to challenge Sen. Patty Murray (D).

— N.D.

Ohio

Trailing Fingerhut Punches the Clock

State Sen. Eric Fingerhut (D) has undertaken a new effort to prove to Ohioans that he understands their problems.

First, in his uphill effort to unseat Sen. George Voinovich (R), who leads by 30 points in the latest Ohio poll, Fingerhut walked 335 miles across Ohio. Now he is punching the clock with average workers.

He has worked a shift at a manufacturing plant and gotten behind the counter at a local deli. The one-term Congressman also recently won the backing of the League of Conservation voters.

— N.D.

Florida

Report: Martinez Shakes Up His Campaign Staff

The headlines of the past few days were not kind to former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Mel Martinez (R) in his Senate race with former state Education Commissioner Betty Castor (D).

First, there was uncertainty about who was running the Republican’s campaign. Then, the St. Petersburg Times endorsed Castor.

The Palm Beach Post at first reported on Saturday that Martinez’s campaign manager, Scott Barnhard, had been fired and replaced by Tr Evans, a campaign adviser. The Post then ran a follow-up Monday saying that while Barnhard hadn’t been fired he had moved out of campaign headquarters and was concentrating on advertising.

The St. Petersburg paper, meanwhile, took Martinez to task in its endorsement of Castor, accusing the former HUD secretary and local official of suffering through “an identity crisis.”

“Mel Martinez is a successful lawyer who, by most accounts, was a progressive Orange County chairman,” the newspaper wrote. “He was appointed [HUD] secretary … by President Bush in 2001. Since returning to run for Senate, though, Martinez has spent most of his campaign persuading voters he is radical, partisan and mean-spirited.”

The Times went on to call Castor a “reassuring” public servant in the spirit of retiring Sen. Bob Graham (D).

— J.K.