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Hilleary Is Fourth GOPer to Enter ’06 Senate Race

Former Rep. Van Hilleary formally entered the open-seat contest to replace Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R) Monday, becoming the fourth Republican to make a bid.

“It is critical that our state send President Bush some help by electing an experienced conservative Congressman who has the courage of his convictions and whose words match his record,” Hilleary said in a statement.

Hilleary joins former Rep. Ed Bryant, Chattanooga Mayor Bob Corker and state Rep. Beth Harwell in the Republican field.

State Sen. Rosalind Kurita is the only Democrat currently running, though Rep. Harold Ford Jr. will make the race and would be the frontrunner for the nomination.

Hilleary enters the race as its nominal frontrunner due to name identification built up during his unsuccessful run for governor in 2002.

Previously, Hilleary represented the central Tennessee 4th district from 1994 to 2002.

At first glance Hilleary and Bryant seem to share an ideological and fundraising base as conservative former Members.

A Bryant adviser told The Associated Press on Monday that Hilleary’s gubernatorial loss mars him as a Senate candidate.

Bryant himself has been less aggressive, saying simply he would prefer Hilleary seek a rematch with Gov. Phil Bredesen (D) in 2006.

Corker has set the fundraising pace, bringing in more than $2 million by the end of 2004.
— Chris Cillizza

Gibbons’ Contract With Writer Raises Eyebrows

Rep. Jim Gibbons (R) seems to be finding nothing but trouble these days.

First, he called anyone who had a problem with corporations financing inaugural activities “communists” on NBC’s evening newscast. Then he made an impassioned speech at a local dinner in which he suggested that Hollywood liberals who dislike the Iraq war should offer themselves up as human shields for American soldiers.

If that wasn’t enough, it turns out he lifted parts of the speech from someone else.

This week, the Las Vegas Review-Journal revealed that Gibbons paid a freelance radio reporter $8,000 last year to do some post-election analysis work.

Gibbons, who is expected to run for governor next year, explained through a spokeswoman that he believed the reporter was not working for any news outlet at the time.

The story fingers Gibbons’ wife, former state Assemblywoman Dawn Gibbons, as the person responsible for hiring the reporter. Dawn Gibbons is exploring a bid for her husband’s 2nd district seat, assuming he runs for governor.
— Nicole Duran

NRCC Haul: $8 Million From Dinner With Bush

The National Republican Congressional Committee expected to rake in more than $8 million at its annual spring dinner Tuesday night.

The event, which was keynoted by President Bush, was overseen by Alabama Rep. Spencer Bachus, who is seen as a potential NRCC chairman in the 2008 cycle. Rep. Tom Reynolds (N.Y.) is serving his second term.

The fundraising total far eclipses the $5.1 million raised at last year’s NRCC spring event.

The committee’s take from Tuesday night is likely to further lengthen its financial lead over the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

In reports filed with the Federal Election Commission covering contributions and expenditures in January, the NRCC raised $4.6 million and ended the period with $1.96 million in the bank.

The DCCC raised $1.6 million in January with $1.5 million on hand. The organization carried a massive $11 million debt at that time.
— C.C.

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