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Four Senators to Attend Bryant Fundraiser Today

Former Rep. Ed Bryant (R-Tenn.) will be feted by four GOP Senators when he comes to Capitol Hill today, a major step forward in his nascent 2006 Senate campaign.

Sens. Sam Brownback (Kan.), Tom Coburn (Okla.), Jim DeMint (S.C.) and John Ensign (Nev.) will host a luncheon fundraiser at La Colline today to benefit Bryant, who is one of four announced Republican candidates in the race to replace retiring Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R).

Bryant served with all four in the House.

Former Rep. Van Hilleary, Chattanooga Mayor Bob Corker and state Rep. Beth Harwell make up the remainder of the Republican field. State Sen. Rosalind Kurita is the only announced Democrat but Rep. Harold Ford Jr. is also expected to make the race.

To this point, Corker has dominated the money chase among Republicans. He raised more than $2 million in the final three months of 2004 — an unheard of sum so early in the election cycle.

Bryant and Hilleary argue that Corker’s money is of less importance than their considerable name identification edge over the mayor. Both men ran unsuccessfully statewide during the 2002 cycle. Bryant vacated his suburban Memphis 7th district to challenge former Gov. Lamar Alexander (R) in a Senate primary; Hilleary was the Republican nominee against Gov. Phil Bredesen (D).

Corker, too, has a statewide loss under his belt, having unsuccessfully challenged Frist in a 1994 primary.

— Chris Cillizza

Kennedy Ramping Up His Senate Fundraising

Sens. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) and Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) were scheduled to host a pre-St. Patrick’s Day fundraiser for the Senate campaign of Rep. Mark Kennedy (R) Wednesday night at Top of the Hill.

In his first Washington, D.C., fundraiser since throwing his hat into the ring for the open Senate seat in the Gopher State, Kennedy sought up to $2,000 per individual at the reception featuring National Republican Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie.

Kennedy is getting a big fundraising leg up on his eventual Democratic competitor, as none has formally entered the race since Sen. Mark Dayton (D) announced last month that he would not seek a second term.Coleman, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) and Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.) are also hosting a fundraiser for Kennedy on Friday night in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

Former Sen. Rod Grams (R) is also seeking the GOP nomination though he has yet to get his campaign apparatus together.
— Nicole Duran

Proposed Regional Vote May Impact Other Races

A Democratic strategist’s efforts to make eight Western states more influential in the presidential nominating process may also prompt some states to move up their Congressional primaries.

Michael Stratton has revived an idea first floated by Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt when he was Utah’s governor that would have moved up the presidential primaries or caucuses in Utah, Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Nevada, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico during the 2000 cycle.

That effort failed but Stratton, whose clients include New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson (D), a possible presidential contender, wants leaders in those states to rethink the proposal before 2008, when both parties will have active primaries.

“I’m just trying to get the West into the national discussion,” Stratton explained. “I think Western issues are important.”

Stratton, who is based in Colorado, points out that Democrats would do well to focus more on the West, noting that if Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) had won just two of the four aforementioned states in which he was competitive, “he’d be in the White House today.”

President Bush won New Mexico and Nevada by very small margins.

Stratton acknowledges that he cannot get eight different states to agree to do the exact same thing so he is focusing on an umbrella strategy. In 2004, Arizona and New Mexico had the earliest primaries or caucuses, on Feb. 3, while Montana was last, on June 8. Idaho, Utah and Nevada all held theirs in February with Wyoming following in March and Colorado in April.

Stratton hopes that state lawmakers and party officials will agree to a window, meaning he wants the eight states to shoot for somewhere between Feb. 3-14 so that voters there can truly help select the eventual White House nominees. His plan could have ramifications for downballot races.

“If a legislature would adopt a primary that would be state-sanctioned and controlled by, most likely, the secretary of state then that would affect all people on the ballot, at least federally and possibly statewide,” he said.

Stratton added that the more offices that are combined onto one ballot, the more efficient and less costly the process would be. He stressed that he does not know how downballot candidates would feel about moving up the timetable.

“I haven’t really focused on the Congressional or state side,” he said. “It will be a nuance of what state lawmakers want to do.”
— N.D.

Beauprez Takes a Step Toward Statewide Bid

Rep. Bob Beauprez (R) took the first formal step toward becoming a gubernatorial candidate in 2006, opening an exploratory committee this week that allows him to raise money for such an effort.

“I want to talk to people all over the state … see if I’m the kind of governor they want to have,” Beauprez told the Rocky Mountain News. “If my hunch is right and they find me acceptable, we’ll be moving forward.”

If Beauprez enters the gubernatorial race, he would immediately become the frontrunner in both the primary and general election and would enjoy the support of a number of Republican power players including outgoing Gov. Bill Owens.

State Treasurer Mike Coffman is already in the race on the Republican side, and University of Denver President Marc Holtzman has said he will make a decision on the contest by February 2006.

The Democratic field is less defined with Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, philanthropist Rutt Bridges and former Denver District Attorney Bill Ritter all mulling bids.

An open 7th district seat would be hotly contested by both parties. Drawn as a tossup district, Beauprez claimed the seat in 2002 by just 121 votes. Already, former 6th district nominee Joanna Conti has announced on the Democratic side, and former state Rep. Peggy Lamm (D) told Roll Call this week that she will run regardless of what Beauprez does.
— C.C.

GOP Still Searching for Stabenow Challenger

Republicans are still searching for a formidable candidate to challenge freshman Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D), while four possible contenders are testing the waters.

Perhaps one of the best positioned, should he choose to run, is real estate developer Peter Cummings, the Detroit Free Press reported this week.

Cummings does not have statewide name recognition, but his family connections would immediately open wallets and endear him to the GOP faithful, the paper stated. He is the son-in-law of the late Max Fisher, a philanthropist and confidant to GOP presidents.

Other potential heavy-hitters mulling the race are: Jane Abraham, wife of former Sen. Spence Abraham (R), whom Stabenow defeated in 2000; Michigan Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land; and David Brandon, chief executive officer of Domino’s Pizza and a member of the University of Michigan’s board of regents.

The Rev. Keith Butler, a former Detroit city councilman, and Bart Baron, a Troy businessman, are running.
— N.D.

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