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Bonilla Cultivates K St. Allies for Senate Run

Rep. Henry Bonilla (R-Texas) will meet with more than 60 lobbyists today at the Capitol Hill Club as he continues to prepare for the possibility of a 2006 open-seat Senate race in the Lone Star State.

The gathering of Bonilla’s “Congressional Cabinet” will include Citibank’s Nick Calio; former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie; David Hobbs, who recently joined the private sector after serving as President Bush’s top lobbyist on Capitol Hill; and National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors President Dirk Van Dongen.

Bonilla will ask the assembled lobbyists to donate as quickly as possible to his campaign account and also to serve as hosts for industry-specific fundraising events.

Bonilla’s fundraising push is the latest sign that Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R) will challenge Gov. Rick Perry in a primary next year.

Hutchison has made no announcement, and one is not expected until early summer when the state’s legislative session comes to a close.

Bonilla is wasting no time, however, traveling the state to raise his profile and lining his campaign coffers. At the end of 2004, he had $1.2 million in the bank — all of which can be directly transferred to a Senate race.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and state Attorney General Greg Abbott are also mentioned as potential GOP contenders.

The Democratic field is largely unformed although former state Comptroller John Sharp and former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk are the most often cited possibilities.
— Chris Cillizza

Stabenow Challenger Ends Brief Campaign

After just one week on the campaign trail, Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard (R) is dropping out of the race to oust Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D), according to The Associated Press.

Citing health concerns, Bouchard said in a statement Tuesday that he felt he “cannot fairly discharge my important duties as sheriff of Oakland County” and at the same time “undertake the additional demands that are required for a successful Senate campaign.”

Bouchard said his health problems are not life-threatening and would not keep him from completing his duties as sheriff. Continuing to plug away on the campaign trail could have been harmful to his well-being, however.

With Bouchard out of the race, the only Republican to have formally entered the fray is business consultant Bart Baron, though the Rev. Keith Butler, a former Detroit city councilman, has set up an exploratory committee.
— Sonny Bunch

Hidden Motive Seen in Brown’s Staff Changes

Rhode Island Secretary of State Matt Brown, the only announced candidate seeking the Democratic nomination to challenge Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R) in 2006, has hired a new chief of staff and made some other key personnel changes in his state office.

Ocean State political observers wonder if the move was meant to free up key aides to work on his Senate bid, but Brown’s office vigorously denied the rumor, The Providence Journal reported Tuesday.

As news has focused on Brown, the rest of the would-be pack is waiting on Rep. Jim Langevin (D), who has said he will decide whether to run for the Senate by April 1.

Langevin is hosting two big fundraisers, one in Washington tonight and another in Providence at the end of the month. But a spokesman for Langevin said he does not expect those high-profile events to up the Congressman’s timetable for a decision.

Chafee has also ramped up his fundraising and is hosting a major event Friday in Providence as he anticipates being a top 2006 target in Democratic-leaning Rhode Island.
— Nicole Duran

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