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NEBRASKA: AG Follows Others Out of the 2006 Senate Race

State Attorney General Jon Bruning (R) became the latest big-name Republican to take himself out of consideration for the 2006 Senate race, choosing instead to run for a second term as the state’s top cop.

“While my first term as attorney general has been blessed with many successes, there’s more work to be done,” Bruning said at a news conference Tuesday at the state Capitol.

Bruning joins Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns and Rep. Tom Osborne (R) on the 2006 Senate sidelines.

Outgoing state party Chairman David Kramer and former state Attorney General and 2000 Senate nominee Don Stenberg are the two most well-known Republicans still thinking about the race.

Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson is already gearing up for a serious contest, a necessity given the Cornhusker State’s decided Republican tilt. President Bush carried Nebraska by 33 points last November — his largest margin in a state where a Democratic Senator is standing for re-election in 2006.

— Chris Cillizza


Lawyer Launches Senate Exploratory Committee

Another Democrat has taken a step toward entering the open 2006 Senate race, though no one has formally declared their candidacy.

Mark Rotenberg, the University of Minnesota’s general counsel, has formed an exploratory committee, which enables him to begin raising money.

Rotenberg, who has held his position since 1992, told the school’s newspaper, the Minnesota Daily, that he would focus on education and terrorism issues if he runs.

He lost a cousin in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist strikes and witnessed a terrorist attack while visiting Jerusalem, he told the paper.

Rotenberg is likely to be a favorite of moderates if he winds up running.

Meanwhile, Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation President Ford Bell (D) told The Associated Press this week that he too is weighing a bid.

He joins fellow Democrats Mike Ciresi, a trial attorney, state Rep. Tom Rukavina and former state Sen. Jerry Janezich on the list of those who are openly considering the race.

Hennepin County Attorney Amy Klobuchar and child safety advocate Patty Wetterling, both Democrats, have taken more official steps toward running thus far.

On the Republican side, Rep. Mark Kennedy and former Sen. Rod Grams are competing for the Senate nomination.

— Nicole Duran


Top Potential Successor to Rep. Hyde Won’t Run

State Sen. Dan Cronin (R) said this week that he will not enter the 6th district race in the event Rep. Henry Hyde (R) decides to forgo running for a 17th term in 2006.

Cronin had been considered one of the frontrunners in an open-seat race and was seen as the candidate most likely to get the backing of the GOP establishment.

Cronin told Illinois’ Capitol Fax that while he “carefully and intensely considered the opportunity,” family concerns led him to the decision to forgo the race.

“My responsibilities to my wife and our four young children is real important to me,” he told the political newsletter. “I don’t think I could be the kind of dad and the kind of husband I want to be.”

Cronin’s pass leaves state Sen. Peter Roskam (R), a trial lawyer and favorite among social conservatives, as the likely GOP frontrunner. Roskam, who lost a 1998 primary to now-Rep. Judy Biggert (R), is already preparing for a run.

Other potential Republican candidates include state Sen. Carole Pankau, former state Rep. Tom Johnson, Elmhurst Mayor Tom Marcucci and Elk Grove Village Mayor Craig Johnson.

Democrats, meanwhile, are vowing to make an open-seat race competitive. So far, information technology consultant Christine Cegelis (D) is the only candidate preparing to run. Cegelis lost to Hyde by 11 points in 2004.

— Lauren W. Whittington


Dean Group to Oppose Redistricting Reform

A group affiliated with Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean is prepared to devote money and grass-roots muscle to defeat Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s political reform package, which includes a rare mid-decade redistricting before the 2006 elections.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported Tuesday that California for Democracy, the state arm of Dean’s grass-roots political network, Democracy for America, will work to keep Schwarzenegger’s proposed reforms off the statewide ballot in November.

Among other things, Schwarzenegger wants to take redistricting powers away from the Legislature and place them with a panel of retired judges, who would then draw new Congressional and legislative lines for the 2006 elections.

According to the newspaper, leaders of California for Democracy want to try to thwart Schwarzenegger’s efforts to collect enough petition signatures to force a special election — a strategy they devised after consulting with Fabian Nuñez, the Democratic Speaker of the state Assembly.

Any time the group’s members spot Schwarzenegger supporters collecting petition signatures, they will activate a phone tree and deploy a “rapid-response team” to the site to try to dissuade voters from signing the petitions.

The group is also committed to raising money to defeat the governor’s reform package — either by keeping it off the ballot or by defeating it at the polls in November.

— Josh Kurtz

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