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Lamm Joins Increasingly Crowded House Race

Former state Rep. Peggy Lamm jumped into the 7th district race Tuesday, becoming the third Democrat to declare for what is increasingly likely to be an open seat.

Lamm currently serves as the executive director of the Bighorn Center for Public Policy — an organization founded by Rutt Bridges (D), who is weighing a gubernatorial bid.

She served a single term in the state House from 1994 to 1996 but has stayed extremely active in the state, including a stint as co-chairwoman of the committee that investigated recruiting wrongdoing on the University of Colorado football team. Lamm is also the former sister-in-law of former Colorado Gov. Dick Lamm (D).

Lamm moved into the 7th district from the 2nd in recent weeks.

She joins former state Sen. Ed Perlmutter and 2004 6th district nominee Joanna Conti on the Democratic side.

Should current 7th district Rep. Bob Beauprez (R) vacate the seat to run for governor in 2006 — as is expected — Colorado Commission on Higher Education Director Rick O’Donnell would be the leading Republican candidate. State Treasurer Mike Coffman (R) may also be interested.

— Chris Cillizza

Byrd Raises $1.2 Million for Next Year’s Election

Gearing up for a potentially grueling 2006 re-election fight, Sen. Robert Byrd (D) raised almost $1.2 million in the first quarter of the year, his campaign announced Wednesday.

The three-month total is more than the overall amount Byrd raised for his non-competitive 2000 re-election race.

The majority of Byrd’s funds were raised through an e-mail solicitation signed by Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and distributed nationally by the liberal group

Published reports have estimated that the group’s members pitched in almost $833,000 in less than three days to aid Byrd’s re-election.

While only a small fraction of Byrd’s total ($91,000) came from West Virginians, aides note that he is only beginning to ramp up his fundraising efforts back home.

They say the strength of Byrd’s first quarter total — which came from almost 20,000 individual contributors — is an indication of the Senator’s continued viability at the ballot box.

“This financial report shows just how strong Sen. Byrd will be in a re-election campaign,” said Ben Hardesty, Byrd’s state finance director. “It is a downpayment on victory in 2006.”

The 87-year-old Byrd is gearing up to run for a ninth term but has not yet officially announced he will run.

Republicans have already launched an aggressive campaign to paint Byrd as out of touch with voters back home by highlighting his opposition to President Bush’s policies and his association with liberal groups such as MoveOn.

He has never faced a competitive re-election race in his almost 50-year Senate career.

Republicans are trying to recruit Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R) to challenge Byrd. The National Republican Senatorial Committee released a poll last week that showed Byrd leading Capito by 10 points in a hypothetical matchup.

Capito raised $72,000 in the quarter and ended March with $104,000 in her campaign account.
— Lauren W. Whittington

State Official’s Battle With Foes Gets Personal

Congressional candidate Michele Bachmann, a Republican state Senator who has been leading the charge to ban gay marriage in the Gopher State, is being accused of crying wolf by some of her detractors in a legislative battle that has turned quite personal.

Bachmann, who is seeking the Republican nomination for the 6th district seat being vacated by Rep. Mark Kennedy (R), who is running for the Senate, is the subject of a “dump Bachmann” Web log and rumors of strange behavior.

She reportedly asked for a bodyguard after a confrontation over gay rights in a women’s bathroom during a town hall meeting on the subject.

According to a police report she filed after the incident, she was confronted in the bathroom and blocked from leaving, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported this week. According to an account on an anti-Bachmann Web site, she was heard crying for help and ran out of the bathroom declaring that she had been “held against her will.”

Another story said she was hiding in the bushes outside the state Capitol building during a gay-rights demonstration. But she and a witness deny that, saying that she was resting on a curb because her feet hurt.

“Anything to make me look odd is to their advantage,” Bachmann told the paper, referring to her detractors.

Bachmann does not have the 6th district field to herself. Four other Republicans are already in the race, with several others still mulling bids.

No Democrat has jumped in yet, despite a strong showing by last year’s nominee, Patty Wetterling, against Kennedy. Most may be waiting to see if Wetterling, who is exploring a Senate bid, will ultimately decide to take another crack at the 6th.
— Nicole Duran

Hagel Spurns Osborne, Backs Acting Governor

Just hours after acting Gov. Dave Heineman (R) filed this week to run for a full term and even with 3rd district Rep. Tom Osborne (R) still undecided on a candidacy, Sen. Chuck Hagel (R) threw his political weight behind the current governor.

“Dave Heineman has built a strong record of leadership and service on behalf of Nebraska,” Hagel wrote in a letter announcing the endorsement. “Our state will be well-served by his continued leadership and hard work.”

Heineman took over as the state’s chief executive in January when then Gov. Mike Johanns (R) was tapped by the Bush administration to serve as Agriculture secretary.

Osborne has said he is interested in returning to the state to serve as a governor but will not make a decision on the race until early summer. He would enter a primary against Heineman as a strong favorite given his immense popularity in the state, the result of his years of success coaching the University of Nebraska football team.
— C.C.

Professor Puts Money Where Her Mouth Is

A political science professor who chastised the Ocean State’s two Democratic Congressmen for their unwillingness to challenge Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R) next year will enter the political fray herself.

Jennifer Lawless (D), a Brown University assistant political science professor, says she will challenge Rep. James Langevin (D) in the 2nd district next year, the Brown Daily Herald reported.

Lawless lambasted Langevin and Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D) in a Providence Journal opinion piece last week, declaring that both should face primaries for their timidity.
— N.D.

Despite No Challenger, DSCC Lambastes Snowe

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee whacked Sen. Olympia Snowe (R) on Wednesday for a health care vote, despite the fact that only one fringe candidate has declared an intention to challenge her next year.

Snowe ignored pleas from Maine health care workers and hurt the state’s veterans by rejecting an amendment to an emergency spending bill that would have helped regional Veterans’ Affairs facilities deal with budget shortfalls, the DSCC charged.

Snowe’s office did not return a call for comment Wednesday.

Organic farmer and frequent candidate Jean Hay Bright is the only Democrat to officially enter the race so far. State Attorney General Steven Rowe, the former Maine House Speaker, is seriously weighing a bid, and Rep. Tom Allen is also considering a run.
— N.D.

Ruppersberger Won’t Run for Senate in 2006

Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D) announced Wednesday that he would not be a candidate for Senate in 2006.

Ruppersberger cited his work on the Intelligence Committee as the primary reason for deciding to seek a third term in the House next year. He had high praise for the three Democrats considered likeliest to run for the seat Sen. Paul Sarbanes (D) is giving up after five terms: Reps. Benjamin Cardin and Chris Van Hollen and former Rep. Kweisi Mfume.

“In Maryland, we are fortunate to have a deep bench of highly qualified, potential Democratic candidates for Senate,” he said.

Ruppersberger’s decision is the latest indication yet that Cardin is close to announcing a run. Mfume declared his candidacy three days after Sarbanes exited the race, and Van Hollen has formed an exploratory committee.
— Josh Kurtz

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