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Not to be outdone by the leading Republican in next year’s contest for the open Senate seat in the Gopher State, a potential Democratic candidate announced Tuesday that she raised almost $600,000 in six weeks.

Hennepin County Attorney Amy Klobuchar said she raked in $580,000 for her would-be bid — she has not officially entered the race but has filed a statement of candidacy with the Federal Election Commission.

One day earlier, Rep. Mark Kennedy (R), the only declared candidate in the race, revealed that he will show having banked $510,000 through March 31 in his April 15 FEC filing.

According to a news release, he raised more than $550,000 in the first quarter.

In a news release, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee called Klobuchar’s fundraising “a pretty significant achievement and a sign that Minnesota remains a strong state for Democrats.”

Klobuchar began raising money after freshman Sen. Mark Dayton (D) declared that he would not seek re-election Feb. 9.

Former Sen. Rod Grams (R), whom Dayton beat in 2000, has said he will run too.

Child safety advocate Patty Wetterling (D), who lost to Kennedy in last year’s 6th district contest, which was her first political race, is exploring a Senate bid and has raised $330,000 in the quarter.
— Nicole Duran

Touted GOPer Retiring, Stabilizing Rep. Bishop

In a development that brightens Rep. Tim Bishop’s (D) prospects for a third term, Brookhaven Town Supervisor John Jay LaValle (R) announced Monday that he would not seek re-election in November — and he appears to be through with politics, at least for now.

LaValle, 37, who has led the 1st district’s largest town for two terms, was the GOP’s leading choice to take on Bishop last cycle. But he declined to run, citing his impending marriage as the primary reason.

LaValle, whose wife is now expecting their first child, said much the same when explaining why he won’t run again.

“The demands of night, weekends and holidays that public service requires are not a viable choice for a full-time husband and father to be,” he told Newsday.

He said his decision had nothing to do with the Suffolk County district attorney’s ongoing investigation of corruption in town government that has already led to half a dozen indictments.

LaValle’s retirement scrambles local politics, to Bishop’s benefit. Instead of focusing on Bishop, who is not completely secure in the volatile 1st district despite beating banker Bill Manger (R) by 12 points last year, Republicans instead must work to hold on to the valuable town supervisor’s post.

If Democrats win the seat for the first time in a generation, they will be presented with a prime opportunity to choke off the Republican farm team — Bishop’s predecessor, ex-Rep. Felix Grucci (R), was Brookhaven supervisor before LaValle.

Meanwhile, Manger, who is seen as a potential Congressional candidate again — if not in 2006, then sometime in the future — recently became a regional director for the Small Business Administration. Suffolk County Legislator Michael Caracciolo (R) is also thought to be mulling the Congressional race.

— Josh Kurtz

Zell Miller, Roy Barnes Raise Money for Nelson

Former Georgia Sen. Zell Miller (D) and former Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes (D) held a fundraiser Monday in the Peach State that raised $30,000 for the re-election campaign of Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson (D).

Miller has drawn considerable ire from national Democrats for his willingness to flaunt the party — the most visible sign of which was his speech praising President Bush at the Republican National Convention last summer.

Barnes was widely seen as a potential presidential candidate prior to his stunning 2002 loss to now-Gov. Sonny Perdue (R).

Nelson, a former governor of the Cornhusker State, is a Republican target in 2006 after narrowly winning an open seat six years earlier. He has performed well on the fundraising front with $1 million in the bank at the end of 2004.

Republicans have so far been unable to find a top-tier challenger to Nelson as now- Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns, a former Nebraska governor, Rep. Tom Osborne and state Attorney General Jon Bruning have all taken a pass.

Former state party Chairman David Kramer has expressed an interest in the race, as has former state Attorney General Don Stenberg, who lost to Nelson in 2000. State Sen. Kermit Brashear (R) is also mentioned.
— Chris Cillizza

Santorum Sends Out an SOS to His Supporters

Seeking to boost his re-election coffers in the final hours before last week’s first-quarter fundraising deadline, Sen. Rick Santorum (R) sent out a red alert fundraising pitch asking for help in combating what is expected to be a well-funded Democratic effort to defeat him next year.

In the e-mailed pitch, Santorum told donors that Democrats have put a bull’s-eye on his back and therefore he estimates he’ll need to raise almost $20 million before Election Day 2006.

“I must have you working with me to stand against the Big Money leftists,” Santorum wrote.

Santorum, the Republican Conference chairman, also noted that he is way behind in fundraising for his own re-election because he’s spent the past two years raising money for other Republicans across the country. He had $1.4 million in his campaign account as of Dec. 31, 2004.

The e-mail was part of an e-campaign goal of raising $155,750 in 72 hours, before the first quarter Federal Election Commission deadline closed March 31.

The three-page message invokes the name of billionaire Democratic financier George Soros and implores donors to help because the “radical left” has vowed to do and spend whatever it takes to defeat him.

“Now that the Democratic National Committee has declared me its No. 1 target for the next election I expect Soros and others on the left, like insurance billionaire Peter Lewis, to pump millions and millions of dollars into Pennsylvania to support whoever runs against me,” Santorum wrote in the e-mail.

The message makes no mention of Santorum’s likely Democratic opponent, state Treasurer Bob Casey Jr., whom national party leaders recruited for the race.

According to the e-mail, for a donation of $50 or more contributors will receive a Santorum 2006 lapel pin, a Santorum 2006 decal and special invitations to campaign events across the state.
— Lauren W. Whittington

Kathy Castor Makes Bid for House Seat Official

As expected, Hillsborough County Commissioner Kathy Castor (D) entered the open 11th district race this week, instantly becoming the early favorite to succeed Rep. Jim Davis (D). Davis is vacating the seat to run for governor next year.

Castor, the daughter of 2004 Democratic Senate nominee Betty Castor, is expected to enjoy heavy support from EMILY’s List.

State Sen. Les Miller (D) has already announced he is running and is positioned to be Castor’s main rival for the Democratic nod. Miller, who is black, is a former member of the state House and Tampa City Councilman.

Also running for Davis’ seat is Tampa attorney Scott Farrell. Michael Steinberg, an attorney and failed 2002 state House candidate, Albert Fox, a Tampa native who currently lives in Washington, D.C., and Ralph Fernandez, a Tampa attorney aligned with the anti-Castro Cuban-American National Foundation, are also interested in running.

Republicans are not expected to vigorously contest the heavily Democratic seat. So far, 36-year-old investment banker Eric Carl is the only Republican to express interest in running.

— L.W.W.

Alexander Tapped to Chair NRSC Dinner

Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander will chair the National Republican Senatorial Committee’s President Dinner on June 14, the organization announced Tuesday.

Alexander “is a prolific fundraiser who has already gone to great lengths in working to retain and strengthen our Republican majority,” NRSC Chairwoman Elizabeth Dole (N.C.) said in a statement.

Last cycle, Alexander chaired the 2004 President’s Dinner and the 2003 Senate Majority Dinner; the two events raised roughly $15 million for the committee.

At the end of February, the NRSC had raised $7.6 million in 2005 with $1.6 million on hand.
— C.C.

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