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Foes Gang Up on Matsui

Lobbyist Doris Matsui (D), the odds-on favorite in the special election to replace her husband, the late Rep. Robert Matsui (D), will begin airing TV ads today. The 30-second spot, produced by Jeff Loeb and Jim Bonham — the latter is a former executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and longtime aide to Congressman Matsui — focuses on the candidate’s commitment to fighting for federal flood control funding.

“I understand what it takes,” Doris Matsui says in the ad. “I’ve been a public advocate all my life.”

Text at the end of the ad urges 5th district voters to choose Matsui “for the past. The present. The future. For Sacramento.”

While Matsui reaches out to voters through positive TV ads, several of her opponents in the 12-candidate March 8 special election have been attacking Matsui from the left and the right, and for her apparent unwillingness to debate.

Six of Matsui’s opponents held a joint news conference Monday, seizing on a report that Matsui made a tidy profit by selling off two land partnerships after she became a candidate. According to an account in Tuesday’s Sacramento Bee, some of the candidates suggested that if Matsui felt the need to divest the properties, then it was a conflict of interest for her to have those holdings when she was a Congressman’s wife.

A Matsui spokesman called the joint appearance “a desperate attempt to attract attention.”

If none of the candidates in the all-party primary gets 50 percent of the vote March 8, the top finishers from each political party advance to a May 3 general election.

— Josh Kurtz

Democrats Schedule Redistricting Hearings

After vowing to defeat Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s (R) proposal to reform the Golden State’s redistricting process, Democratic legislative leaders scheduled public hearings on the governor’s full reform package — just one day before he wants the Legislature to act on the proposals.

State Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez (D) told the Los Angeles Daily News in Tuesday’s edition that hearings would begin Feb. 28, one day before Schwarzenegger said he would move to put the reform package on a special election ballot if the Legislature does not act. Without providing details, Nuñez said that the Legislature would come up with reform proposals of its own to counter Schwarzenegger’s.

“We think it’s great that they’re going to start holding hearings,” Schwarzenegger spokeswoman Margita Thompson told the Daily News. “We’re really eager to hear what their alternative proposals are and to see them in writing. But at the same time, the people demand action right away.”

Among his many proposals, Schwarzenegger wants to change the way Congressional and legislative boundaries are drawn in California. He wants to strip the power from the Legislature and place it in the hands of a panel of three retired judges. And he wants a new round of redistricting done before the 2006 elections — a proposal that many Congressional Republicans are rejecting.

In a related development, the Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday that Dave Gilliard, a Sacramento-based Republican consultant, has begun circulating a proposed ballot measure that would change the redistricting process as Schwarzenegger envisions it but would exempt Congress from any mid-decade re-redistricting.
— J.K.

Abortion Foe Abraham May Take on Stabenow

Jane Abraham (R), wife of former Sen. Spencer Abraham (R), is contemplating challenging the woman who temporarily forced her husband into the unemployment line.

Abraham told the Lansing State Journal in Tuesday’s edition that she is seriously considering running for Senate in 2006 and has let party leaders in the Great Lakes State know of her interest.

“I feel I could be a very strong contender,” she told the paper.

Republicans have been searching for a top-tier candidate to take on freshman Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D), who they think is vulnerable.

Then a House Member, Stabenow unseated Spencer Abraham, who later became Energy secretary in 2000.

So far the only announced Republican candidates are Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard and industrial engineer Bart Baron.

The Rev. Keith Butler, Oakland County Prosecutor David Gorcyca and real estate developer Peter Cummings are also mulling bids for the GOP nomination.

Abraham is a former state party official who is president of the Susan B. Anthony List, a bipartisan group that raises money for candidates who oppose abortion rights, lobbies to restrict abortion, and trains anti-abortion rights activists to work on political campaigns.
— Nicole Duran

Clinton Leads Pataki, Giuliani in New Poll

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D) holds a commanding lead over New York Gov. George Pataki (R) in a hypothetical 2006 Senate matchup.

Clinton led Pataki 58 percent to 32 percent in the survey, which was conducted by the Siena Research Institute from Jan. 31 to Feb. 3. The poll tested 621 registered voters with a 4 percent margin of error.

Clinton also led former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R) by a more narrow 52 percent to 43 percent margin in the poll.

Pataki, who will complete a third term as governor of the Empire State in 2006, has not decided the next step in his political future.

He has floated the possibility of running for re-election, challenging Clinton or retiring. He is also seen as a potential 2008 presidential candidate, although his declining poll numbers seem to indicate the bloom is off the rose.

Unless Pataki or Giuliani make the race against Clinton, it seems unlikely she will face a serious challenge in her first re-election race.

That could provide her with significant momentum as she mulls whether to run for president in 2008.

Seeking to halt that process, Arthur Finkelstein, a longtime consultant to Pataki, has created a Web site called “Stop Her Now” aimed at raising money to beat Clinton in 2006.
— Chris Cillizza

Hutchison in No Hurry to Reveal 2006 Plans

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R) said Monday that she continues to ponder a primary challenge to Gov. Rick Perry in 2006 despite a clear signal that the race would be a brutal one.

“I have heard that some people will put in whatever it takes to defeat me,” she told a luncheon audience in Fort Worth. “But that is of no consequence to me.”

Hutchison also said that she has received no pressure from the White House to pass on a challenge to Perry and instead seek re-election to the Senate in 2006.

She expects to make a decision this summer.

If Hutchison does return to the Lone Star State to take on Perry, there would likely be a crowded field to replace her in the Senate.

Rep. Henry Bonilla (R) has already said he would run if the seat is open, and state Attorney General Greg Abbott as well as Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst would likely consider the contest on the Republican side.

Among Democrats, former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk, former Rep. Jim Turner and former state Comptroller John Sharp are mentioned as potential nominees.
— C.C.

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