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Puerto Rico: Resident Commissioner’s Seating May Be Delayed

Puerto Rico’s incoming Senate president worries that the ongoing controversy in the Commonwealth’s gubernatorial race will adversely affect the island’s newly elected Resident Commissioner in Congress.

Kenneth McClintock (D), who will head up Puerto Rico’s Senate as head of the pro-statehood party, said Luis Fortuño (R), also of the pro-statehood party, could lose seniority in Congress before even beginning if the disputed governor’s race drags on.

The governor is supposed to be sworn in on Jan. 2 but as the island’s current Delegate to Congress, Aníbal Acevedo-Vilá (D), leads pro-statehood candidate Pedro Rossello just 48.38 percent to 48.18 percent, the matter is headed for federal court today and may not be resolved in time for the inauguration.

Meanwhile, Fortuño is set to join the House Jan. 4 with the rest of the 109th Congress but as the first ever Resident Commissioner who will caucus with the Republicans, he may find himself unable to join his colleagues, McClintock said during an interview last week. Puerto Rico’s Resident Commissioners are elected to four-year terms.

Officials in Puerto Rico have said they will not certify any election results from November until the dispute over who won the governorship is settled, McClintock said.

Fortuño cannot be seated in Congress until Puerto Rican election officials certify the results, despite the fact that his victory is not in question.

Ultimately, Fortuño could lose out on seniority and be denied prime committee assignments if he has to join Congress after the rest of the freshman class has started, McClintock said.
— Nicole Duran

Recount Over, Sodrel Is Officially the Victor

The Indiana Recount Commission ended the recount of ballots in the 9th district on Friday.

The move officially makes trucking company owner Mike Sodrel (R) the newest Member from the Hoosier State and brings to a close the only disputed House race of the 2004 cycle.

Initial results showed Sodrel leading three-term Rep. Baron Hill (D) by nearly 1,500 votes. A recount of ballots in six of the southeastern district’s 20 counties showed Hill picking up only about two dozen votes.

Hill had asked for the recount to be halted Wednesday, acknowledging that Sodrel was indeed the official winner. He has already signaled that he may seek a rematch with Sodrel in 2006.

The Indiana Democratic Party sought the recount after problems with some optical scan vote machines were discovered elsewhere in the state.

Before being called off, the estimated cost of the recount was between $80,000 to $90,000.
— Lauren W. Whittington

Kansas City Mayor Eyes Graves Challenge in ’06

Kansas City Mayor Kay Barnes (D) is mulling a bid against Rep. Sam Graves (R) in 2006, according to a local newspaper report.

Barnes has been in her current post since March 1999 and was re-elected to a second term in 2003. She replaced Emmanuel Cleaver (D) as mayor; Cleaver won the open 5th district seat, which is centered in Kansas City, in November.

Barnes’ interest in the race was first reported last week in the St. Joseph News-Press.

First elected to office in Jackson County in 1974, Barnes would present a formidable challenge to Graves.

The 6th district is ostensibly competitive between the two parties but since winning an open-seat contest in 2000, Graves has been easily re-elected.

This past cycle national Democrats touted the candidacy of former state Rep. Charlie Broomfield (D), but the race fizzled.

Graves won with 64 percent.
— Chris Cillizza

Pallone Begins Lobbying In Case of Senate Vacancy

Rep. Frank Pallone (D) jumped head first last week into the yet-to-materialize 2006 Senate race to succeed Sen. Jon Corzine (D).

Corzine has announced that he is running for governor in 2005, and if elected he would appoint his Senate successor.

At a news conference Thursday at the statehouse in Trenton, Pallone launched a very public lobbying effort for that appointment.

“I’m campaigning to be appointed, so to speak,” Pallone said. “It’s not like there is necessarily an opening, but I believe he [Corzine] is going to win.”

While Pallone’s move is a risky gamble, and Corzine may still face a primary with acting Gov. Richard Codey (D) and Rep. Robert Andrews (D), it gives the 8-term Congressman from Long Branch a leg up on several of his ambitious colleagues.

Rep. Bob Menendez (D), the House Democratic Caucus chairman, is widely viewed by insiders as the leading candidate for the Senate appointment. However, Andrews and other Democratic Members of the delegation are also salivating over the potential Senate vacancy.
— L.W.W.

Hutchison Enjoys Huge Lead Over Perry in Poll

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R) holds a large edge in a hypothetical 2006 gubernatorial primary matchup with Gov. Rick Perry (R), according to a new Democratic poll.

Hutchison took 60 percent to 32 percent for Perry in the Montgomery & Associates survey. It was in the field from Nov. 16 to Dec. 2, an unusually long time for a single survey. It tested 1,035 Texas residents with a 3.1 percent margin of error.

Perry held wide leads over other potential primary challengers, state Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn (56 percent to 30 percent) and former Commerce Secretary Don Evans (59 percent to 20 percent).

Hutchison, who was first elected to the Senate in a June 1993 special election, has remained coy about her future intentions.

A potential Hutchison gubernatorial bid got a recent boost when a provision was inserted into the omnibus bill that allows federal officials to transfer their campaign war chests to a state account. The practice was prohibited in a little-noticed provision of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act.

No decision by Hutchison is expected until the summer.
— C.C.

Nelson Gets a 2nd Break: Rep. Osborne Won’t Run

Rep. Tom Osborne (R) announced last week that he won’t challenge Sen. Ben Nelson (D) in 2006.

“I just don’t think Nancy and I can see ourselves involved in the Washington scene for another eight years,” said Osborne, who is 67.

He did not rule out a run for governor in 2006, however.

Attention turned to Osborne in the wake of President Bush’s recent selection of Nebraska Gov. Mike Johanns (R) to be secretary of Agriculture. Johanns was widely expected to challenge Nelson in 2006.

If Osborne chooses to run for governor, he would likely face Lt. Gov. Dave Heineman (R), who ascended to the state’s top post with the selection of Johanns.

Another option for Osborne is retirement. Most strategists do not expect him to seek a fourth House term in 2006.

Nelson begins the 2006 cycle as one of the most endangered Democratic incumbents. He won an open-seat race in 2000 with 51 percent but sits in a solidly Republican state.
— C.C.

Wamp Poised to Break His Term-Limits Pledge

Rep. Zach Wamp (R) took the first step toward breaking his four-term limit-pledge last week as he filed documents with the Federal Election Commission that will allow him to raise money for a 2006 race.

Wamp had been seen as an all-but-announced candidate for the seat of retiring Sen. Bill Frist (R) but took himself out of contention in October, saying instead he planned to focus his energies on moving into House leadership.

As of Nov. 22, Wamp had $863,000 in the bank — a sizeable war chest for a re-election race in the eastern Tennessee 3rd district that includes the city of Chattanooga.

Chattanooga Mayor Bob Corker is currently the leading GOP candidate to replace Frist. Other Republicans mentioned for the Senate are Rep. Marsha Blackburn as well as former Reps. Ed Bryant and Van Hilleary.

The likely Democratic nominee is 9th district Rep. Harold Ford Jr., who had nearly $1.1 million on hand as of Nov. 22.
— C.C.

Senate Speculation on Miller, Smith Is Renewed

Speculation that either Rep. Candice Miller (R) or retiring Rep. Nick Smith (R) will opt to challenge freshman Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D) in 2006 continues, as either staffers or the Members themselves fan the rumors.

President Bush apparently encouraged Miller, a former popular Michigan secretary of state, to get into the race via her chief of staff, The Detroit News reported last week.

Miller has yet to say if she will run and would not confirm if Bush nudged her.

Many Republicans see Miller, who was just elected to a second term, as their best chance of knocking off Stabenow. They often mention how she holds the record for the most votes received for a statewide office in Great Lakes State history.

Smith, embroiled in a controversy over whether House leaders tried to coerce him into voting for last year’s Medicare overhaul with bribes and threats, told a local newspaper that he has not ruled out a 2006 Senate bid.

“It’s a possibility,” Smith told the Lenawee Daily Telegram recently. He said he has begun researching Stabenow’s voting record.

Smith, who has never run statewide, would likely be an underdog candidate as he never accepted political action committee money during his career and does not have a reputation for being a prolific fundraiser.

Michigan Republican National Committeeman Chuck Yob recently predicted that a GOP challenger would need $20 million to take down Stabenow, according to the News.
— N.D.

An Independent Group Forces Senate Recount

An independent organization has forced a recount in Alaska’s Senate race.

The closely watched contest between appointed Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R) and former Gov. Tony Knowles (D) did not end closely enough to trigger an automatic recount under state law but a group called Alaskans for Fair Elections raised $10,000 to demand one anyway, the Juneau Empire reported last week.

Murkowski beat Knowles by almost 10,000 votes in what was expected to be one of the closest Senate races of the 2004 cycle.

The group claims that Knowles was leading 50 percent to 47 percent late on Election Day and questioned the accuracy of the optical scan machines used to tabulate votes, the paper reported.

The Knowles campaign was not involved in the request.

The recount must be completed 10 days after Wednesday’s request.
— N.D.

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