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City of Financial Angels: NRCC Pulls in $200,000

House Republicans raised more than $200,000 at a fundraiser Friday in Los Angeles put on by a group of Republican entertainment executives.

The breakfast event, which benefited the National Republican Congressional Committee, was hosted by a loosely formed group of entertainment executives at the Regency Club on Wilshire Boulevard in West L.A. The group, dubbed Entertaining Republicans, is seeking to counteract the political and financial influence of Hollywood liberals.

Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) headlined the event. Joining him at the “power table,” in the words of one attendee, were Ways and Means Chairman Bill Thomas (R-Calif.), News Corp. head Rupert Murdoch, Disney CEO Michael Eisner, Viacom CEO Sumner Redstone, Warner Brothers CEO Barry Meyer and Taylor Hackford, who directed the 2004 film “Ray.”

Hastert spent part of last week’s recess with top GOP donors at a Hawaii resort raising money for his Keep Our Majority PAC. After Friday’s event in Los Angeles, he also attended a Fresno fundraiser that benefited Rep. George Radanovich (R).
— Lauren W. Whittington

Cubin Hoops Fundraiser Quiets Retirement Talk

Anyone hoping that Rep. Barbara Cubin (R) was considering retirement will likely be disappointed.

Cubin is hosting a $1,000-per-person fundraiser at the Washington Wizards game Wednesday night in preparation for her 2006 re-election bid.

Cubin ultimately bested four Republican challengers in last year’s primary; a fifth dropped out after a death in his family.

Wyoming is heavily Republican and with only one Congressional seat, which has been held by Cubin since 1995, there are not a lot of federal opportunities for up-and-coming politicians.

Cubin won her August primary with 55 percent of the Republican vote and took the same percentage against her underfunded Democratic challenger, Ted Ladd, in November.
— Nicole Duran

Polls Show Middling Approval for Nelson

A GOP poll released last week showed Sen. Bill Nelson (D), who is expected to be a top target for Republicans in 2006, under 50 percent in his bid to win a second term.

The survey also revealed that Rep. Katherine Harris (R), Nelson’s most frequently mentioned potential opponent, would not be his strongest possible challenger.

Nelson garnered 46 percent to Harris’ 39 percent in the Strategic Vision poll of 1,200 registered voters. The survey was done Feb. 16-20 and had a 3 percent margin of error.

Meanwhile, state Attorney General Charlie Crist (R) and state Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher (R) both took 42 percent in hypothetical matchups with Nelson.

The poll also showed Harris as the strongest candidate by far in a hypothetical GOP primary. Harris led the test primary field with 38 percent, followed by Crist with 19 percent, Gallagher with 13 percent and Lt. Gov. Toni Jennings with 8 percent.

To this point, neither Crist, Gallagher nor Jennings has expressed any public interest in the Senate race, and all three appear headed for a bruising gubernatorial primary instead next year.

The poll also showed GOP Reps. Mark Foley and Dave Weldon with 4 percent and 2 percent, respectively, in a primary.

Forty-five percent of the survey’s respondents said they approved of Nelson’s job as Senator.

A Quinnipiac University poll released last week showed Nelson’s job approval at 50 percent, although just 37 percent said they supported his re-election.

In a GOP primary, the independent survey showed Harris winning 26 percent, Gallagher 19 percent, Crist 16 percent and Jennings 10 percent.

The poll was done Feb. 18-22 and queried 1,007 Florida voters. The margin of error was 3 percent.
— L.W.W.

Torn Shimkus Will Honor Term Pledge

Rep. John Shimkus (R) said last week that he will honor his decade-old term-limits pledge, making his 2006 re-election bid his last.

Shimkus took a pledge to serve 12 years in Congress when he was first elected in 1996, during the height of the term-limits movement.

Shimkus, a member of the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee, told the Chicago Sun-Times he has mixed feelings about the decision — one that he indicated Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) is not overjoyed with.

“I’m torn,” Shimkus told the newspaper. “One of the things that frustrates the Speaker was that he was very helpful in getting me on this good committee as a freshman.”

Two of Shimkus’ home-state colleagues, Reps. Tim Johnson (R) and Judy Biggert (R), have already decided to forgo their term-limits pledges.
— L.W.W.

Web Sites Registered for Both DeVos Candidacies

Neither Dick DeVos nor Betsy DeVos has declared candidacy for any office, yet both have Web sites reserved for them, just in case.

Dick DeVos (R), son of Amway co-founder Rich DeVos, is mulling a 2006 gubernatorial bid against Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D), while wife and former state Republican Party Chairwoman Betsy is said to be a potential GOP challenger for Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D) next year.

Their son Richard DeVos III bought the Internet domains www.devosforgovernor and www.devosforsenate (both .com and .org) last October, the Detroit Free Press recently reported.
— N.D.

Republican Field Grows in Open 6th District Race

Five Republicans have now officially entered the race to succeed Rep. Mark Kennedy (R), while no Democrat has come forward yet to bid for the Gopher State’s 6th district seat.

Former state education Secretary Cheri Pierson Yecke is the latest to enter the fray. She joins fellow GOPers state Sen. Michele Bachmann, businessman and former Air Force pilot Jim Esmay, and state Reps. Phil Krinkie and Jim Knoblach, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported.

Minnesota Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer is still eyeing the race on the Republican side, while St. Cloud Mayor John Ellenbecker and Ted Thompson, a former chief of staff to ex-Rep. Bill Luther (D) who aborted his 2004 campaign in deference to Democratic nominee Patty Wetterling, are contemplating running on the Democratic ticket.

Would-be Democratic candidates had been holding back, waiting for Wetterling to decide what she would do.

On Friday, Wetterling followed Kennedy’s lead and said she would likely run for the Senate seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Mark Dayton (D) in 2006.

Wetterling lost to Kennedy 54 percent to 46 percent in her first-ever campaign last year, but pundits, now backed by a poll she commissioned, contend that the child safety advocate makes a stronger statewide candidate than she did in the Republican-leaning 6th district.

Without Wetterling, Democrats seem to have an uphill battle on their hands in their effort to win the suburban 6th.
— N.D.

Plurality Favors Reform But Not Costly Election

Roughly half of Californians support Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s push for redistricting reform, and half favor his intention to put the measure on a special statewide election ballot in November.

But when told that a special election could drain $50 million-$70 million from state coffers, two-thirds of voters pivoted and rejected the idea.

According to a Field Poll released last week, 48 percent of registered voters approved of Schwarzenegger’s proposal to take redistricting powers away from the Legislature and put them in the hands of a bipartisan panel of retired judges. Forty percent of those queried opposed the measure, which would require new Congressional and legislative lines to be drawn before the 2006 elections.

Asked — before they were told the cost of a special election — whether they favored putting redistricting and Schwarzenegger’s other proposed reforms on the November 2005 ballot, 51 percent of those surveyed said yes and 45 percent said no.

But when informed of the price tag of a special election, 67 percent of those questioned opposed a November vote on the reforms, with only 30 percent supportive.

The poll of 404 registered voters was conducted Feb. 8-17. It carried a 5 percent margin of error.

Schwarzenegger has said he will begin to collect signatures for a special election if the Legislature does not act on his reform proposals this week.
— Josh Kurtz

Democrats Plot Demise of Republican Fossella

Hoping to build on their strongest performance yet against Rep. Vito Fossella (R) last November, Staten Island Democrats have already begun meeting to plot strategy against the five-term incumbent, The Staten Island Advance reported last week.

The Democrats’ chief problem: They don’t appear to have a big-name challenger waiting in the wings.

Former state Assemblyman Frank Barbaro (D) held Fossella to 59 percent of the vote in November 2004. But Barbaro, who is 77, may be too old — and deemed too liberal — to run again.

The three strongest potential Democratic candidates, according to the Advance — New York City Councilman Mike McMahon, state Assemblyman Mike Cusick and state Sen. Diane Savino — must run for re-election in either 2005 or 2006, making Congressional bids unlikely.

But even if Democrats don’t have an obvious candidate, they have already launched a line of attack on Fossella that Democrats hope to use on Republicans everywhere. After watching Fossella on a TV interview in New York label opponents of President Bush’s Social Security reform plan as “irresponsible,” state Democratic Party Chairman Herman Farrell wrote the Congressman, urging him to pledge “to rule out cutting benefits for future retirees, as Bush’s plan would do.”
— J.K.

Professor Seeks Rematch With Rep. Sensenbrenner

Bryan Kennedy (D) wants a second crack at Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R) in the Badger State’s 5th district.

In his first political campaign last year, the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee professor of Portuguese won the Democratic primary but lost his bid to deny Sensenbrenner a 14th term 67 percent to 32 percent in November.

Undeterred, Kennedy compares his efforts to those of freshman Rep. Melissa Bean (D-Ill.) and says her win last year is the reason why he deserves a second crack.

Bean defeated the long-serving Rep. Phil Crane (R) in November on her second attempt.

“Like Crane, Sensenbrenner lives primarily in Washington, has been known to have a caustic temper with constituents who disagree with him, and Sensenbrenner receives most of his campaign money from corporate [political action committees],” Kennedy charged in a news release announcing his 2006 candidacy.

While the Congressman has rarely had to sweat re-election, the Sensenbrenner camp fired back.

“Last election my boss got more votes than any other Member of Congress in 2004,” said Sensenbrenner spokesman Raj Bharwani. “He makes it back to Wisconsin plenty … last year he spent 193 days in Wisconsin without missing a single vote; he was the only member of the Wisconsin delegation to not miss a vote last year.”
— N.D.

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