State Sen. Randy Kuhl (R), the frontrunner in the race to replace retiring Rep. Amo Houghton (R), angrily disclosed this week that a Steuben County clerk improperly released sealed records from his 2000 divorce.
According to Kuhl, an individual walked into the clerk’s office on Sept. 9 and asked for a copy of the records. Although by state law records of divorce proceedings are supposed to remain sealed for 100 years, the clerk gave the copies to the individual, who then turned them over to newspapers in the 29th district, Kuhl said.
“I don’t believe that what transpired at the Steuben County Clerk’s office happened by accident,” Kuhl said during a news conference Tuesday, with his ex-wife by his side. “I fully suspect that it is part of orchestrated political sabotage. This is politics at its worst, and I’m angry about it.”
Kuhl would not publicly speculate about who had taken the documents, but denounced “outside influences” seeking to exploit candidates’ personal lives, and asked the Steuben County district attorney to investigate.
Local media coverage of the news conference seemed to interpret Kuhl’s remarks as a reference to his Democratic opponent, Samara Barend, who moved into the district several months ago to run for the seat.
Jonah Siegellak, Barend’s campaign manager, told the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle that the Democrat had nothing to do with the documents.
Kuhl resumed campaigning on a happier note Wednesday, making a whistlestop train tour of the district. Barend, meanwhile, said this week that if she’s elected, she will provide free bus service to Canada for senior citizens to buy inexpensive prescription drugs.
— Josh Kurtz
Chamber Makes Peace With Leading Candidate
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has endorsed Joe Schwarz (R) in the Great Lake State’s open 7th district race.
The Michigan Chamber of Commerce had backed state Rep. Clark Bisbee in the six-way GOP primary. But Schwarz, a former state Senator, emerged from a crowded field.
Schwarz is the heavy favorite against Democrat Sharon Renier for the seat currently held by retiring Rep. Nick Smith (R).
— Nicole Duran
State’s Biggest Paper Endorses Rep. Hooley
The Oregonian newspaper of Portland has endorsed Rep. Darlene Hooley (D) in her re-election bid.
While praising Republican challenger Jim Zupancic for being a successful businessman and effective local school board chairman, the paper sided with Hooley.
“Zupancic has a problem, however,” the paper opined. “Incumbent Hooley, 65, is already working energetically on job-creation and economic growth. Hooley, in fact, has proved herself an independent, centrist voice in Congress.”
GOP Says Ross Should Not Have Stayed on Air
The Washington Republican Party has accused 8th district candidate Dave Ross (D) of violating election law in conjunction with his Seattle public affairs radio show, The Associated Press reported.
Echoing a charge leveled against Ross during the primary by his Democratic and Republican rivals, the GOP, in a complaint filed with the Federal Election Commission, says Ross should have immediately left the air when he decided to run for Congress.
Ross hosted a daily, three-hour radio program on KIRO-AM until July 23 — after he had decided to run in May but before he officially filed his campaign paperwork in advance of the July 30 deadline.
The state GOP also accused KIRO of acting improperly, saying the CBS station essentially gave Ross free air time.
Both Ross’ campaign and the radio station denied any wrongdoing.
Ross faces popular King County Sheriff Dave Reichert (R) in the race to succeed retiring Rep. Jennifer Dunn (R) in the swing suburban Seattle district.
Interior Secretary Touts McMorris’ Candidacy
Interior Secretary Gale Norton stumped for state Rep. Cathy McMorris (R) in the 5th district earlier this week.
Norton praised McMorris’ work in the state House on legislation similar to President Bush’s healthy forests initiative and attended a fundraiser for her in the sprawling Eastern Washington district.
McMorris is in a tight race with hotel magnate Don Barbieri (D) in the open 5th district race.
Rep. George Nethercutt (R) gave up the seat to challenge Sen. Patty Murray (D).
Baker’s Dozen of Tribes Bless Murray Re-election
Leaders of 13 American Indian tribes have endorsed Sen. Patty Murray (D) in the state’s competitive Senate race.
The tribes, including the Samish Nation and Upper Skagit, say they are supporting Murray because of her 12 years of advocacy work on their behalf.
Murray faces Rep. George Nethercutt (R) in this closely watched contest.
Unflattering LaTourette Article Circulated by Foe
Democratic candidate Capri Cafaro is circulating an unflattering Salon.com article this week about the personal foibles of her opponent, Rep. Steve LaTourette (R).
According to the article, which was written by Cliff Schecter, a Democratic strategist, LaTourette’s estranged wife, Susan, who accused the suburban Congressman of infidelity last year, has agreed to back Cafaro in her uphill battle to unseat him.
“The qualities I look for in a Congressperson are truthfulness, honesty and decency,” Susan LaTourette told a Cleveland television station.
She has adorned her Madison lawn with signs for the 26-year-old mall heiress who hopes to swing the 14th district away from the five-term Congressman.
The Salon.com article alleged that LaTourette became romantically linked with his chief of staff, Jennifer Laptook, who then became a lobbyist focused solely on business before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, on which LaTourette is a senior member.
The Internet-based publication also reported that Laptook has gained several prominent clients based either in Ohio or directly in LaTourette’s district who have benefited from Congressional earmarks.
“Capri has made clear that people get divorced all the time but the fact that there is lobbying going on before the committee … that this is his girlfriend … is unethical,” said Mike Cook, Cafaro’s spokesman. “She gets these clients and he benefits from that and he’s on the House ethics committee; he should know better.”
LaTourette and Laptook refused to comment when queried by Salon.com. LaTourette campaign spokesman Dino DiSanto would only say: “The story is written by a Democratic political consultant 26 days before the election and we think that speaks for itself and the Congressman will have no further comment.”
Schecter’s work as a Democratic consultant was not mentioned in the Salon.com piece. But he identifies himself that way in articles he has written for the American Prospect, among other publications.
Democrats Rip New NRSC Immigration Ad
The ad wars reached a fever pitch in the Sooner State Senate race this week, as Democrats called on Republicans to pull an ad they say is racist.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee on Wednesday condemned a new ad being aired by its Republican counterpart, which attacks Rep. Brad Carson’s (D) record on immigration issues.
The NRSC is airing the ad on behalf of former Rep. Tom Coburn (R). The spot features pictures of Hispanic farm workers and black hands receiving welfare dollars.
The DSCC released a statement Wednesday in which Chairman Jon Corzine (N.J.) labeled the spot as the “black hands” ad, a reference to the infamous “white hands” ad run by then-Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) in his campaign against then-Charlotte Mayor Harvey Gantt (D). That ad showed a pair of white hands crumpling up a piece of paper as a narrator delivered a message opposing affirmative action.
Corzine called the NRSC ad “a clear example of race baiting” and Carson released a statement saying, “For Tom Coburn’s Washington, D.C., friends to place an ad on Oklahoma television that is both racist and inaccurate stoops to a level that is divisive on an issue that we instead need real conversation about and not stereotypical bigotry.”
Meanwhile, an organization tied to the conservative, anti-tax Club for Growth recently launched $250,000 worth of ads to boost Coburn’s campaign.
— Lauren W. Whittington