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Doris Matsui Unlikely to Face Much Opposition

With just hours before the filing deadline, it appeared highly unlikely at Roll Call press time Monday evening that Doris Matsui (D) was going to get significant opposition in her quest to replace her husband, the late Rep. Robert Matsui (D), in Congress.

All of the high-profile Democrats who had been mentioned as possible candidates for the vacant 5th district seat have disclosed their intention in recent days to defer to Mrs. Matsui.

The list of those taking a pass includes Sacramento County Supervisor Roger Dickinson, Sacramento Mayor Heather Fargo, former California Human Services Secretary Grantland Johnson, state Assemblyman Dave Jones, state Sen. Deborah Ortiz and former Assemblyman Darrell Steinberg.

That makes Doris Matsui, a Washington, D.C., lobbyist and former Clinton administration official, the odds-on favorite in the March 8 all-party primary to replace Congressman Matsui, who died on New Year’s Day of a rare blood disorder.

If no candidate receives 50 percent of the vote in that contest, the top finishers from each political party advance to a runoff in May.

But the Democratic nominee will be the overwhelming favorite, and unless something changed in the final few hours of the filing period Monday night, that person is almost certain to be the Congressman’s 60-year-old widow.
— Josh Kurtz

FLORIDA
Looking to Stay Active, Castor Forms New PAC

Former state Education Commissioner and 2004 Senate nominee Betty Castor (D) pledged to continue to push the ideals behind her campaign, she said in a letter sent to supporters last week.

To that end, Castor announced she is forming a political action committee to raise money to support issues, encourage grassroots political action and raise funds for those endeavors.

One of the issues the group plans to support is a Democratic-led effort to reform the state’s reapportionment process, taking it out of the hands of state Legislators and giving it to a bipartisan, independent commission.

“I believe the Campaign for Florida’s Future can harness the energy and enthusiasm we created this past year to build a lasting foundation for future political activity,” Castor wrote.

Castor was defeated by now-Sen. Mel Martinez (R) 49 percent to 48 percent last November. She is also mentioned as a potential candidate for governor in 2006, when the position will be open.
— Lauren W. Whittington

MICHIGAN
Poll Shows Stabenow With Wide Lead So Far

A new poll shows Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D) in fairly good shape for re-election in 2006.

The poll of 600 likely voters, conducted Jan. 13-18 by EPIC/MRA of Lansing, showed that 56 percent of respondents view the freshman Senator favorably, while 25 percent have an unfavorable impression of the former Congresswoman.

The poll had a 4-point margin of error and was first reported in The Detroit News.

In matchups with would-be challengers, Stabenow also fared well.

She led former Rep. Nick Smith (R) and Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard by more than 20 points each. Pitted against Rep. Candice Miller (R), who recently said she will not run for the Senate in 2006, Stabenow’s lead shrunk to 11 points.

The same poll showed that Michigan Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land (R), who is reportedly mulling a 2006 Senate or gubernatorial bid, could prove more problematic for Stabenow.

Though not tested in a head-to-head matchup, Land’s positive rating is as high as Stabenow’s. She is viewed favorably by 56 percent of would-be voters, while only 20 percent view her negatively.
— Nicole Duran

OHIO
Strickland Eyes Senate, Won’t Run for Governor

Rep. Ted Strickland (D), who had been giving serious consideration to running for governor in 2006, announced last week that he will forgo an executive bid and stay in Washington, D.C., instead.

Strickland, however, did not rule out a run for Senate in 2006, a scenario that would most likely only transpire if Sen. Mike DeWine (R) decides not to seek a third term.

Meanwhile, as Strickland took himself out of the race, Rep. Sherrod Brown (D) reiterated his interest in the gubernatorial contest. He said he will make a final decision in six to eight months. Strickland said he hopes Brown, a former Ohio secretary of state who has floated his name for statewide office before, will run.

Among Democrats, former Cincinnati mayor and TV talk show host Jerry Springer, Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman and Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic are also considering running.

Current Governor Bob Taft (R) is term limited and cannot run for re-election. Several Republicans have already lined up to run, and a bloody GOP primary fight is expected.
— L.W.W.

NEW JERSEY
Congressional Colleagues Getting Behind Corzine

Sen. Jon Corzine (D), who is still waiting to find out whether he will face a contested gubernatorial primary later this year, rolled out a number of key Congressional endorsements last week.

Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D) has signed on as Corzine’s campaign chairman, while Democratic Reps. Rush Holt and Robert Andrews also got behind the Senator’s bid this past week. Rep. Frank Pallone (D) had previously endorsed Corzine.

Andrews’ backing is especially significant because he had said he was considering entering the gubernatorial race, but his endorsement of Corzine all but eliminates the potential for a three-way Democratic primary.

Current acting Gov. Richard Codey (D) has not yet said whether he will run for a full term, a move that would pit him against Corzine in the June primary.

Corzine’s endorsements coincided with appearances across the state last week, widely viewed as a not-so-subtle push for Democratic leaders to declare their support in the race.

On Monday, Corzine received the endorsement of the Monmouth County Democratic organization, his first official endorsement from a county chairman. He also got the backing of a group of New Jersey widows whose spouses were killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Codey has resisted pressure to make his decision quickly and has reportedly been asking many of the Democratic county chairmen to stay neutral while he weighs a run.

But Codey will likely have to make up his mind in the next two weeks. Bergen County Democrats have said in order to be considered for their endorsement, gubernatorial candidates must declare their intention by Feb. 7.
— L.W.W.

NEW YORK
Chris Owens Formally Joins Race for Dad’s Seat

Health care administrator Chris Owens (D) last week formally entered the race to succeed his father, retiring Rep. Major Owens (D), in 2006.

The younger Owens, 45, timed his announcement to coincide with President Bush’s second inauguration, sending e-mails to hundreds of “progressive Democrats.”

“I will fight to uphold civil rights, equal rights and the freedom to choose (Yes, Mr. President, “oppression is always wrong …”), to save Social Security from privatization, to protect our environment, to strengthen public education, to generate affordable housing, to provide affordable and comprehensive health care for all, to support small businesses, and to bring jobs to our urban areas,” Chris Owens wrote. “And I will stand up for international cooperation and peace.”

Since his father announced in late 2003 that the 2004 campaign would be his last, Chris Owens, a former member of a local school board, has made no secret of his desire to run for Congress in 2006. His interest in the Congressional race aroused suspicions among several ambitious Brooklyn Democrats. Two city councilwomen, Yvette Clarke and Tracy Boyland, challenged Major Owens in the Democratic primary last year in part because they feared the Congressman would try to will his seat to his son.

In the three-way primary, Major Owens took 45 percent of the vote, Clarke took 29 percent, and Boyland had 25 percent. Owens then easily won a 12th term in the general election.

While Clarke and Boyland are mentioned as possible candidates for the seat again, state Sen. Carl Andrews (D) has already established a Congressional campaign committee with the Federal Election Commission and has begun raising money. State Assemblyman Nick Perry (D) is also eyeing the race.
— J.K.

MARYLAND
Van Hollen’s Last Foe Wants to Try Again

Unbowed by his 50-point drubbing at the hands of Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D) last November, Chuck Floyd (R), a retired Pentagon official, is planning to run for the 8th district seat again in 2006.

To initiate his campaign, Floyd is organizing a rally for Montgomery County Republicans this Saturday in Rockville, according to The Gazette newspaper. Several GOP candidates and would-be candidates for offices in the Democratic stronghold are expected to attend.
— J.K.