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DCCC Will Aid Costa in Now-Competitive Race in Calif.

With the race to replace retiring Rep. Cal Dooley (D) apparently tightening, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee will spend $415,000 on TV advertising in the Central Valley 20th district during the final days of the campaign.

Former state Sen. Jim Costa (D) has been the favorite in the district since Dooley announced his retirement last year.

But Republicans believe — and some Democrats privately concede — that state Sen. Roy Ashburn (R), fueled by more than $1.1 million in advertising paid for by the National Republican Congressional Committee, may be gaining on Costa. “This seat’s up for grabs,” said Carl Forti, the NRCC’s communications director. The DCCC “going up shows that they think they have a big problem.”

No public polls have been released in the race, but Greg Speed, Forti’s counterpart at the DCCC, dismissed the idea that Costa is in trouble. He said the committee decided to go on the air to counter some of the charges in the NRCC ad blitz that Democrats believe will hit $2 million by Election Day.

“In the end this will be $2 million down the drain for the NRCC,” Speed predicted.

While national Republicans have generously aided Ashburn, the GOP nominee also retains a financial advantage over Costa, who was forced to spend $850,000 in a contentious primary against Dooley’s former Chief of Staff Lisa Quigley. Through Sept. 30, Ashburn had $401,000 in the bank and Costa had $193,000.

The largely agricultural 20th district has been a Democratic stronghold, giving Al Gore a 12-point victory over George W. Bush in 2000. But Republicans believe the district is trending their way, and have sent several party leaders — including Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Speaker Dennis Hastert (Ill.) and Vice President Cheney — to the district on Ashburn’s behalf.

— Josh Kurtz

Governor: Terminate Closed Primary System

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) gave proponents of open primaries for state and Congressional races a big boost when he endorsed a ballot measure to restore the state’s open primary system, portions of which had been struck down by federal courts.

Schwarzenegger, according to Tuesday’s Los Angeles Times, called an open primary “an important reform” that would result in the election of more centrist candidates, in contrast to the ideologues who sometimes emerge from closed party primaries.

Schwarzenegger became the second high-profile Republican politician to endorse the open primary; former Gov. Pete Wilson (R) lent his support a few weeks earlier.

Noting that the state’s major parties have come out in opposition to the ballot measure, known as Proposition 62, Schwarzenegger said, “I didn’t come to Sacramento to make political parties happy.”

Under Proposition 62, candidates from all political parties would appear together on one primary ballot. The top two votegetters, regardless of party, would then move on to the general election.

In a Field Poll released last week, 44 percent of voters surveyed said they favored switching to the open primary; 31 percent said they opposed the measure.
— J.K.

Carson Sterilization Ad Still Generating Heat

Reactions to the harsh ad recently launched by Rep. Brad Carson (D) continued this week, as his GOP rival, former Rep. Tom Coburn, went up with a response ad while Democrats continued to hammer the physician-turned-lawmaker with the allegation that he committed Medicaid fraud.

The two men are squaring off in the race to succeed retiring Sen. Don Nickles (R), who called a news conference in Tulsa last week to denounce the Carson attack.

The spot alleges that Coburn sterilized a young woman without her consent and then committed Medicaid fraud by not billing for the procedure. Coburn has said he had the woman’s oral consent and he did nothing illegal.

As the two parties and their surrogates continued to debate whether or not fraud was committed, the members of the state’s GOP delegation held a news conference in Oklahoma City this week to reissue Nickles’ call for Carson to take down the ad.

At the same time, Coburn’s campaign began airing a response ad that features the former Congressman, with his wife, talking directly to the camera.

“Not only is Carson’s ad without one ounce of truth, it’s insulting and it’s hurtful,” Coburn says in the new 30-second spot. “And his purpose of waiting until now to run it is with the hope you won’t find out the truth until it’s too late. Clearly Brad Carson is counting on his ability to fool you. I’m counting on your good judgment. Let’s not let him get away with it.”

Meanwhile, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is up with a new ad touting state Attorney General Drew Edmondson’s (D) recent acknowledgement that Medicaid rules and procedures were violated by Coburn in the 14-year-old case, even though he said it is unlikely the physician would have been prosecuted. Edmondson is supporting Carson in the race.

“Now that we know the truth, how could we ever send Tom Coburn to the Senate?” an announcer says at the close of the DSCC’s spot.

Republicans have produced doctors and other experts who say that no fraud was committed.
— Lauren W. Whittington

Wilson Party Switch ‘Preposterous’: Pelosi

Democratic House leaders and the chairman of the New Mexico Democratic Party angrily denied Rep. Heather Wilson’s (R) recent assertion that she has been approached by colleagues about switching parties and becoming a Democrat.

During a televised debate Sunday with her challenger, state Senate President Pro Tem Richard Romero (D), Wilson said she had been approached “more than once” in the past half year about changing parties. She cited this as an example of her independence, to counter Romero’s complaints that she votes with conservative Republicans more than 90 percent of the time.

The argument could have political pop in the Albuquerque-based 1st district, where 47 percent of the voters are enrolled Democrats and 16 percent are independents.

“Some of my Democratic friends [have] said, ‘Hey, you’re working with us so much, why don’t you come join our party?” Wilson said, according to The Associated Press.

But House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Robert Matsui (Calif.) told the AP that Wilson’s statement was “absolutely preposterous.” John Wertheim, chairman of the state Democratic Party, said there is “no truth at all” to the suggestion that prominent Democrats have approached the Congresswoman about switching parties.

A Wilson spokesman insisted that the conversations had taken place but would provide no details.

“Congresswoman Wilson does not reveal private conversations with Members of Congress,” he said.
— J.K.

Wamp’s Out, But Senate Field Still Crowded in ’06

Rep. Zach Wamp (R) took himself out of the running for the expected open seat of Majority Leader Bill Frist (R), a surprise move that significantly widens the field of potential Republican Senate candidates in 2006.

“Running for the Senate and serving in the House would take much more time and both of my children are still at home,” Wamp said in a statement. Instead, he has set his sights on a House leadership position.

Wamp’s decision not to run came as Chattanooga Mayor Bob Corker (R) formed an exploratory committee to begin raising money for a Senate bid.

Corker ran in a 1994 Republican primary against Frist, losing an extremely nasty race 44 percent to 32 percent.

Corker was elected in 2001 as mayor but has already said he will not seek a second term.

Former Rep. Ed Bryant (R), who lost a primary to now-Sen. Lamar Alexander (R) in 2002, is also likely to run; Rep. Marsha Blackburn, former Rep. Van Hilleary and Tennessee Republican Party Chairwoman Beth Harwell are also mentioned.

The leading candidate on the Democratic side is Rep. Harold Ford Jr. Ford has been traveling the state for the better part of the past year as he gears up for the campaign. He has also been fundraising actively and had $1.1 million in the bank as of Oct. 13.

Nashville Mayor Bill Purcell is mentioned as a Democratic Senate candidate as well.
— Chris Cillizza

Mayor Wannabe Weiner Blasts Man Who Has Job

In another sign that Rep. Anthony Weiner (D) is seriously thinking about running for mayor of New York in 2005, the three-term Congressman has spent part of the Congressional recess blasting incumbent Mayor Michael Bloomberg (R).

According to the New York Daily News, Weiner delivered a speech last week to the Queens Chamber of Commerce accusing Bloomberg of increasing the fines for “quality of life” offenses like parking tickets by 33 percent in the past year.

Weiner called the fines “a backdoor tax.”

But Bloomberg’s press secretary, Ed Skyler, hit back hard.

“Anyone can pander by being against tickets,” he told the News. “It’s not leadership; it’s a cheap political stunt by a politician with no record to discuss.”

But Weiner did not stop there. This week, he began airing an ad attacking Bloomberg — who switched parties to run for mayor in 2001 — for cozying up to President Bush and conservative national Republicans. Skyler suggested that Weiner could be breaking campaign finance laws by paying for the ads with his Congressional campaign account.

Weiner, who does not have to sweat his re-election, has said he will decide on a City Hall race shortly after Election Day. A handful of other Democrats are also eyeing the race.
— J.K.

Weicker Says Shays Has Lost His Independence

Former Gov. Lowell Weicker (I) said that Rep. Chris Shays (R) has “absolutely folded into the Republican tent” in justifying his decision this week to endorse Westport First Selectwoman Diane Farrell (D) in the 4th district race.

Weicker, who held the 4th district seat for two years as a Republican in the late 1960s and also spent three terms in the Senate, said that Shays’ support for the war in Iraq and for ever-growing budget deficits are inexcusable.

“Chris Shays today is a very pale reflection of the man I supported 17 years ago,” Weicker said in his endorsement of Farrell.

Weicker represented the 4th district from 1968 to 1970, when he was elected to the Senate as a Republican. He left that body after being defeated by then-state Attorney General Joe Lieberman (D) in 1988 and was elected governor as an independent in 1990.

The Weicker endorsement is likely to provide a boost for the Farrell campaign, which has been picking up momentum in recent weeks.

Shays was first elected in a 1987 special election and despite the Democratic tilt of the southwestern Connecticut 4th district has won re-election easily since then.
— C.C.

Tauzin Bought Son’s Endorsement: Complaint

An ally of state Sen. Craig Romero (R) has filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission alleging that Rep. Billy Tauzin (R) made an illegal contribution to his son’s Congressional campaign.

Tauzin donated $40,000 to the Louisiana Republican Party in August, days before the organization officially endorsed Billy Tauzin III (R) in the 3rd district race to replace his father.

“It’s coordination,” said Roger Hamilton, the Romero supporter. “They are coordinating between the two Tauzins and the state Republican Party.”

The elder Tauzin’s office explained that the donation was aimed at helping to pay expenses for Louisiana delegates at the Republican National Convention in New York City.

Romero and Tauzin are two of five serious candidates seeking the open southeastern Louisiana seat.

Former state Rep. Charlie Melancon, former Sen. J. Bennett Johnston (D-La.) aide Charmaine Caccioppi and state Rep. Damon Baldone are in the contest on the Democratic side.

Under Louisiana law, all the candidates will run in a Nov. 2 open primary. If no one receives 50 percent of the vote, as expected, the two top votegetters, regardless of party, advance to a Dec. 4 runoff.
— C.C.

Granny D Cheerfully Recalls Last Sox Title

Rare is the politician who cheerfully admits to advancing age. But with New England gripped by Red Sox fever this week, Granny D, the long-shot 94-year-old Democratic challenger to Sen. Judd Gregg (R), fondly recalled the last time the Sox won the World Series — in 1918, when she was 8.

“Of course, we didn’t have radio or TV then,” said Granny D, who proudly called herself the only living candidate for public office who remembers that World Series. “We had to read about it in the paper.”

The Democrat took some comfort in the baseball team’s success.

“The Red Sox are the underdogs and so am I,” she said. “Let’s see who pulls off the upset.”
— J.K.

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