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Seeking to recoup some of the personal loans he donated to his primary campaign last year, freshman Rep. Tom Price (R) is hosting a debt-retirement breakfast later this month.

The event is scheduled for Feb. 16 at Bullfeathers on Capitol Hill. Admission is $1,000 for political action committees and $250 for individuals.

Price emerged from a bruising primary and runoff last August after spending a total of $499,000 of his own money on the race. In the runoff, Price faced state Sen. Robert Lamutt (R), who loaned his campaign $1.6 million in personal funds.

Price was unopposed in the November general election.

Under new campaign financing guidelines in effect since November 2003, Price will only be able to pay himself back a maximum of $250,000. Previously, self-funding candidates could pay back personal loans in their entirety.

According to his year-end fundraising report, Price had $264,000 in the bank as of Dec. 31.

— Lauren W. Whittington

Ex-State Party Chairman Exploring Capito Race

Former state Democratic Party Chairman Mike Callaghan has announced he’s forming an exploratory committee to look at challenging Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R) in 2006.

Callaghan told the Charleston Daily Mail this week that he has had discussions with former Gov. Bob Wise (D) about running for the seat and that Wise had encouraged him to run. Wise held the Charleston-based 2nd district seat for 18 years before being elected governor in 2000.

Former TV news anchor Erik Wells, the Democratic nominee against Capito last year, is also expected to make another run. Capito defeated Wells 57 percent to 41 percent in a race that garnered scant attention from both national parties.

While Capito’s district is still considered a swing seat, West Virginia has trended Republican in federal elections — voting for George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004 — and she remains highly popular back home.

“I must make the job look like a lot of fun,” Capito, the daughter of a former governor, told the Charleston newspaper.
— L.W.W.

Kohl Confirms Plans by Hiring Operative

Putting to rest any speculation that he might not seek a fourth term in 2006, Sen. Herb Kohl (D) announced this week that he had hired veteran Democratic operative Michael Teter to organize his re-election campaign.

In a news release, Kohl said that Teter would conduct political outreach and assemble a team of volunteer activists to fuel his campaign.

Teter worked most recently as the field director for the Wisconsin Democratic Party’s 2004 campaign. A lawyer, he has also worked on campaigns in Iowa, California and Washington state.

Republicans had hoped that Kohl, who turned 70 this week, might choose to retire in 2006, increasing their chances of winning the seat. But Kohl’s personal wealth may very well keep leading Republicans out of the race, and no one has come forward to challenge him.

— Josh Kurtz

State Senator Prepares for Kennedy Vacancy

A conservative state Senator has set up an exploratory committee and looks likely to run in the 6th district if the incumbent, Rep. Mark Kennedy (R), runs for Senate in 2006 as expected.

State Sen. Michele Bachmann (R) sent a letter to conservative activists this week, disclosing her interest in the seat, The Associated Press reported. Bachmann is a leading proponent of a Constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.

Other Republicans who may run if Kennedy moves on are former state Education Commissioner Cheri Pierson Yecke and Minnesota Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer.

Democrats are encouraging their 2004 nominee, child safety activist Patty Wetterling, to run again. Wetterling ran a surprisingly strong race against Kennedy in the suburban Twin Cities district, holding the incumbent to 54 percent.
— J.K.

Crushed by Sanders, GOPer Aims for Jeffords

Just weeks after he announced his intention to seek a rematch with Rep. Bernie Sanders (I) in 2006, Republican Greg Parke pivoted this week and said he would run for the Senate instead.

In an online fundraising appeal, Parke announced that he would seek to unseat three-term Sen. Jim Jeffords (I). Parke received just 24 percent of the vote against Sanders in 2004.

Parke, a retired Air Force lieutenant, used Jeffords’ 2001 switch from Republican to Independent as a basis for the appeal.

“He ran for Senate as a Republican, accepted contributions from supporters as a Republican, then turned his back on them once in office,” Parke wrote.

Despite Parke’s early entry, Jeffords is not expected to face a competitive re-election battle if he goes ahead with his plans to run again. But he will be 72 in 2006, meaning there is at least a chance that he could decide to retire in the end. If that occurs, Sanders and Gov. Jim Douglas (R) are seen as likely contenders.
— J.K.

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