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Kennedy Won’t Run Against Chafee in 2006

Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D) has decided not to challenge Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R) in 2006, despite the belief of some Democrats that the liberal Republican is vulnerable.

Kennedy has eschewed higher office before, opting instead to focus on his Appropriations Committee work.

Some believed that after the 1996 election, when Kennedy stepped up criticism of then-Sen. John Chafee (R), that he intended to challenge the elder Chafee in 2000.

Instead, he won a seat on the Appropriations Committee and headed up the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee for a cycle.

He also declined to take on the younger Chafee in 2000, after Chafee was appointed to the seat when his father died in office in 1999.

Kennedy’s spokesman told The Associated Press that his 37-year-old boss was only passing for now, leaving the door open to a future Senate run.

Rep. Jim Langevin (D) is still considering the race, and Kennedy indicated that he would support the junior Congressman if he ran.

— Nicole Duran

Eyeing ’06, Issa May Back Ballot Measure

Rep. Darrell Issa (R), who is contemplating running for lieutenant governor in 2006, may attempt to boost his political profile by lending his weight — and his considerable personal wealth — to a proposed constitutional amendment to curtail benefits to illegal immigrants living in the state.

Issa, who helped fund the effort to recall then-Gov. Gray Davis (D) in 2003, is “very seriously” considering financing a petition drive to put the question on immigrants’ benefits on the statewide ballot, Issa consultant David Gilliard recently told The Sacramento Bee. Issa has sent letters to more than 200,000 Californians who carried recall petitions to gauge their interest in the immigration ballot question.

The proposed amendment to the state constitution would bar the Legislature from allowing illegal immigrants to obtain drivers’ licenses and would limit the immigrants’ access to professional licenses and state university subsidies.

A group seeking to place the question on the statewide ballot in 2005 or 2006 has until Feb. 21 to collect the more than 600,000 signatures it needs from registered voters.

Issa boosted the efforts of groups seeking to put the recall question on the ballot with a $1.7 million personal investment and has been looking to parlay that into some kind of political advancement ever since. He began running for governor in the recall election but deferred to now-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R).

In a poll of potential Republican candidates for lieutenant governor published a month ago, Issa badly trailed state Sen. Tom McClintock, a fellow conservative who placed third in the gubernatorial portion of the recall race.
— Josh Kurtz

State Senator to Seek Democratic Senate Nod

State Sen. Rosalind Kurita (D) made public her plans to run for the open seat of Sen. Bill Frist (R) in 2006.

“I’m definitely running,” she told Nashville’s Tennessean newspaper just prior to the new year.

Kurita won a third four-year term in November representing a district located between Clarksville and Nashville.

Kurita joins 9th district Rep. Harold Ford Jr. in the race on the Democratic side. Ford is the early Democratic frontrunner, as he has spent much of the past two years touring the state to raise his profile.

The four-term Member also accelerated his fundraising pace in the past cycle with $1.1 million in his House account, all of which can be transferred to a Senate bid.

Nashville Mayor Bill Purcell (D) has not ruled out the race.

Among Republicans, Chattanooga Mayor Bob Corker is the early favorite thanks to his whopping fundraising.

Corker, who ran and lost a 1994 primary to Frist, is expected to report in excess of $2 million raised in his 2004 year-end report, which is due at the Federal Election Commission later this month.

Former 7th district Rep. Ed Bryant, current 7th district Rep. Marsha Blackburn and former state party Chairwoman Beth Harwell are also considering the contest on the Republican side.

Frist is retiring from the Senate in keeping with a two-term-limit pledge.
— Chris Cillizza

Acevedo-Vilá Officially Declared New Governor

Former Resident Commissioner Aníbal Acevedo-Vilá has finally been declared the island’s new governor after an almost two-month recount and court rulings in both Puerto Rican and federal courts.

Acevedo-Vilá, who caucused with Democrats in Congress and supports the island retaining its Commonwealth status, was certified the winner on Dec. 28 by about 3,500 votes.

He initially led his pro-statehood opponent, former Gov. Pedro Rossello, by 3,800 votes.
— N.D.

Ex-Councilman Starts Senate Exploration Effort

A former Detroit City Councilman has formed an exploratory committee to possibly challenge Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D) in 2006.

The Rev. Keith Butler (R) told his congregation on New Year’s Eve that he might seek the GOP nomination, The Detroit News reported this week.

He has advised gubernatorial candidates and served as state chairman of the 1984 Blacks for Reagan-Bush committee, the paper noted. Other prominent Republicans, including Rep. Candice Miller, are reportedly still mulling a bid.
— N.D.

Lieberman: Uninterested in Cabinet Appointment

Sen. Joe Lieberman (D) said Sunday he was not interested in becoming the new national intelligence director or head of the Homeland Security Department.

“I’m not [interested],” Lieberman said on ABC’s “This Week” program. “I appreciate the floating. It’s a quadrennial game here in Washington when a new administration takes shape.”

Lieberman was heavily involved in the formation of the Homeland Security Department and was a major advocate for the creation of the position of national intelligence director.

The Connecticut Senator was re-elected to a third term in 2000, the same year that he was the Democratic vice presidential nominee. He is likely to seek a fourth term in 2006.

Lieberman has not faced a serious race since winning the seat in 1988 over then-Sen. Lowell Weicker (R) with 50 percent.

If Lieberman did leave the Senate, Gov. Jodi Rell (R) would name his replacement.
— C.C.

Jilted Republican Plots Revenge With PAC

Michael Benjamin, the 30-something Wall Street trader who sought the 2004 Republican Senate nomination before being muscled out of the race by state party leaders, has set up an organization bent on revenge.

The new group, called, is, according to its mailings, “dedicated to open, honest and effective government.”

“After years of terrible policy decisions by our current political leadership in Albany, our state is losing ground and facing a serious crisis,” Benjamin wrote.

The group will push for lower taxes and fewer regulations, but also for political reform.

In the mailing, Benjamin, who was the Republican nominee against Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D) in 1996, vows to lobby for the organization’s goals in Albany and set up state and federal political action committees to elect candidates who favor reform.
— J.K.

Study: Arizona, Florida, Texas, Utah Would Gain

Arizona, Florida, Texas and Utah would each gain one seat if Congressional districts were reapportioned right now, according to a recent analysis of new Census data.

Using the Census Bureau’s figures on population growth from 2000 to July 2004, the American City Business Journals calculated that the four fast-growing states would each qualify for one extra House seat — with each potentially in line for even more additions by the time the next reapportionment takes place following the 2010 Census.

Based on the recent figures, Iowa, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania would each lose a seat if reapportionment took place right now, the business magazines found.
— J.K.