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State Senate Prepared to Approve New Lines

The state Senate is expected to take up the newly proposed Congressional map today, moving Georgia Republicans another step closer to completing a rare mid-decade re-redistricting.

If the bill passes, as expected, the new boundaries would require the signature of Gov. Sonny Perdue (R) and clearance by the Justice Department, and it would have to survive a likely Democratic court challenge before going into effect for 2006.

The state House passed the new map Thursday, by a largely party-line vote of 104-72. Nine Democrats voted in favor of changing the lines, while three Republicans broke with their party and voted against the new map.

Georgia Democrats have vowed to fight the redistricting effort, charging that the new map dilutes the overall strength of minority voters and violates the spirit of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

State Republicans, who have sought to undo the current lines they argue were unfairly drawn by Democrats in 2001, have expressed confidence that the proposed changes will stand up to a court challenge.

Both Republicans and Democrats privately agree that the current makeup of the state’s Congressional delegation is unlikely to change much, if at all, even if the new lines are put in place.

The boundaries of the proposed map help to shore up for Republicans the marginal 11th district currently represented by Republican Rep. Phil Gingrey. The new map also could complicate the re-election efforts of the state’s two white Democrats, Reps. Jim Marshall and John Barrow.

The map also swaps the numbers of four districts, in an effort to return to the old numbering in effect before the last redistricting effort. Under the new proposal, Marshall (currently 3rd district) and Republican Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (currently 8th district) would swap district numbers. Also, Rep. Charlie Norwood (R) would return to representing the 10th district, while Rep. Nathan Deal (R) would represent the 9th district again.

— Lauren W. Whittington

Pallone Prepares for Possible Senate Vacancy

Rep. Frank Pallone (D) will officially kick off his campaign to win a hypothetical Senate appointment this Friday by hosting a fundraiser at the East Brunswick Hilton hotel.

Tickets to the dinner event are $1,000 per person, and all of the proceeds raised will be deposited in his Senate account. Pallone also currently has more than $1 million in his House account, which he could also use for a Senate bid.

The fundraiser is part of Pallone’s very public campaign for an appointment to the Senate in the event Sen. Jon Corzine (D) wins his gubernatorial bid in November. If Corzine is elected he will appoint his successor, who will then run for a full Senate term in November 2006.

While several of the state’s Democratic Congressmen have indicated some level of interest in the Senate seat, Pallone and Reps. Bob Menendez and Robert Andrews have been most active in the behind-the-scenes jockeying so far.

Meanwhile, Democrats got a reminder last week that whoever is appointed to the seat, if there is an opening, isn’t likely to get a pass in the 2006 general election as state Sen. Tom Kean Jr. (R) took concrete steps toward running.

Kean is opening a federal campaign account and has told Republicans that he is ready to begin raising money. He also registered a Web site for the campaign.

“I’m starting the process of moving the ball forward,” Kean said, according to a UPI report.

Kean is the son of former Gov. Tom Kean, a respected GOP moderate who most recently served as chairman of the 9/11 commission.
— L.W.W.

Napolitano Strong With Hayworth Out of Race

In a surprise move, Rep. J.D. Hayworth (R) took himself out of consideration for the 2006 governor’s race last week.

Hayworth said his decision was influenced by his seat on the powerful Ways and Means Committee and its Social Security subcommittee.

“This is not the time to turn away from the difficult challenges fueling our retirement and Medicare systems,” Hayworth said.

He is expected to run for re-election in his suburban Phoenix district.

Hayworth’s departure leaves Republicans without a strong first-tier candidate to challenge Gov. Janet Napolitano (D).

Napolitano narrowly defeated former Rep. Matt Salmon (R) in 2000 but has solidified her standing considerably since then.

Salmon, who is now the state party chairman, will not run; former Gov. Fife Symington and former Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley are mentioned.
— Chris Cillizza

Petition Drive Launched On Redistricting Reform

A former unsuccessful Republican candidate for the House and Senate who recently formed an organization dedicated to political reform has now turned his attention to the issue of redistricting.

Save New York, the organization run by Michael Benjamin, a former Wall Street financier who was denied the 2004 GOP Senate nod by party bosses, has launched a petition drive urging the state Legislature to change the way Congressional and legislative boundaries are drawn in the state.

The group’s petition calls for the creation of a bipartisan redistricting commission, taking the task away from the legislators themselves.

Although there is no ballot initiative or referendum in New York, Benjamin is hoping to collect enough signatures to pressure someone in the Legislature into producing a redistricting reform bill. A Democratic state Assemblyman, Michael Gianaris, has said he plans to introduce such a bill in the next several days, and Benjamin said his group would consider endorsing that measure.

Benjamin said while he hopes to collect tens of thousands of signatures, his goal for March alone is 5,000. If an inordinate number of petitions come from a particular legislative district, then Save New York is likely to reach out to the Assembly member or Senator in that district.

“We have to put as much pressure as we can on the legislators,” Benjamin said.
— Josh Kurtz

Web Site Launched for Beauprez Governor Bid

A former staffer to Rep. Bob Beauprez (R) registered last week, further stoking speculation that the second-term Congressman would run statewide in 2006.

Jordan Stoick, a spokesman for Beauprez, dismissed the importance of the Web site.

“I really wouldn’t read a lot into it,” he said.

Even so, Beauprez is clearly mulling the governor’s race and being heavily courted to make the contest by a number of Republican party big wigs, including Gov. Bill Owens.

Owens will be term-limited out of office in 2006 and his preferred heir, Lt. Gov. Jane Norton, backed away from the race last month.

Both Beauprez and former Rep. Scott McInnis have been approached by Owens and former state party Chairman Bruce Benson about bids.

McInnis, who held the Western Slope 3rd district from 1992 until 2004, met with supporters last week to discuss a run. McInnis backers have already begun making calls seeking support for the former Member.

State Treasurer Mike Coffman is in the race on the Republican side, while University of Denver President Marc Holtzmann is also expected to run.

Among Democrats, the most sought-after candidate is Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, though it is not clear he is interested. Philanthropist Rutt Bridges and former Denver District Attorney Bill Ritter are also mentioned.
— C.C.

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