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Flake, Breaking Pledge, Will Seek Fourth Term

Rep. Jeff Flake (R) announced Friday he will seek a fourth term in the House — and is breaking his three-term-limit pledge in the process.

“As much as I hate to admit making a mistake, I made a big one here,” Flake said in a statement. “Some will say that this will be a legitimate campaign issue. In truth, it ought to be.”

Flake’s decision comes just days after former 1st district Rep. Matt Salmon (R) entered the open race for Arizona Republican Party chairman, seemingly setting aside his ambitions to reclaim his old seat in 2006.

In July 2003, Flake decided against a primary challenge to Sen. John McCain (R) in 2004 with the admission that “after a lot of soul searching on this, I decided I’d probably get whipped.” With Salmon seemingly backing away from a primary challenge, Flake is likely a shoo-in for re-election in the solidly Republican suburban Phoenix 6th district.

— Chris Cillizza

Redistricting Case May Be Resolved in Early ’05

A three-judge federal panel charged with re-examining the 2003 Congressional redistricting plan passed by the state Legislature has set up a preliminary timeline to hear the case.

Briefs for the opposing sides are due on Dec. 6 with replies due on Dec. 28. The initial hearing is expected in early January with a ruling by the end of that month.

At issue is whether the lines, which were crafted in 2003 following the 2002 Republican takeover of the state House, reflect a solely political intent. Thanks to the redraw, Republicans gained five seats on Election Day, defeating Democratic Reps. Martin Frost, Charlie Stenholm, Nick Lampson and Max Sandlin.

The U.S. Supreme Court remanded the case, an appeal brought by Democrats, back to the lower court in mid-October.
— C.C.

Corker Hires Frist Aide, Starts Fundraising Tour

Chattanooga Mayor Bob Corker (R) will begin a major fundraising push next month as he attempts to encourage other GOPers to stay out of the contest to replace retiring Sen. Bill Frist (R) in 2006.

Corker is set to hold fundraising events in Chattanooga, Knoxville and Cleveland in December, according to the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

In another move aimed at establishing himself as the early frontrunner, Corker has hired several individuals with ties to Frist, most importantly Alex Vogel, who served as the Senate Majority Leader’s chief counsel and is now in that role for the Tennessee Senator’s leadership political action committee. Vogel will have similar status on the Corker campaign.

Others GOPers looking at the race include former Rep. Ed Bryant, who lost a primary to now-Sen. Lamar Alexander in 2002, former Rep. Van Hilleary, Rep. Marsha Blackburn and state party Chairwoman Beth Harwell.

Of that group, only Bryant has formed a committee to allow him to raise money for a potential Senate bid. Blackburn can continue to raise funds for her House account and transfer the money into a Senate committee if she decides to make a bid.

On the Democratic side, Rep. Harold Ford Jr. is the odds-on nominee. Nashville Mayor Bill Purcell is also mentioned.
— C.C.

Bitter Cravins Says He Won’t Endorse Mount

State Sen. Don Cravins (D) refused last week to endorse fellow state Sen. Willie Mount (D) in the 7th district runoff race, striking a major blow to her efforts to defeat heart surgeon Charles Boustany Jr. (R) on Dec. 4.

Cravins, who missed the runoff by less than 2,000 votes, complained that a “Democratic Unity Ballot” mailer sent to black households before the Nov. 2 primary improperly insinuated that Mount was the official choice of the party.

“I have decided in this race that I couldn’t support a party who will stoop to this level to deceive people to get votes,” said Cravins, who is black.

The Cravins endorsement was considered crucial for Mount to win the runoff. Blacks make up one-quarter of the population in the southwestern Louisiana district and are a much larger portion of the Democratic base.

Both parties acknowledge that Boustany has a lead though they disagree over its size. Republicans insist the race is all but over, while Democrats argue a Mount win is not out of the question. The district has long been represented by Democrats but has shown a penchant for supporting Republicans in statewide races. The GOP Senate candidates carried the 7th in 1996 and 2002.
— C.C.

Higgins’ Win Official After Naples Concedes

State Assemblyman Brian Higgins (D) is now the official successor to retiring Rep. Jack Quinn (R) in the Buffalo area 27th district.

His Republican opponent, Erie County Comptroller Nancy Naples, finally conceded the close race late Thursday, even as about 5,700 paper ballots were left to be counted. Higgins was clinging to a 2,800-vote lead at that point — roughly 1 percent — and Naples concluded that she could not make up the difference.

Higgins was not waiting for Naples’ concession to prepare to take office: He spent last week in Washington, D.C., attending freshman orientation.
— Josh Kurtz

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