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With Rep. Benjamin Cardin (D) now officially running for Senate, add Baltimore City Health Commissioner Peter Beilenson (D) to the list of possible candidates for Cardin’s 3rd district seat.

“I’m very serious about it,” said Beilenson, who has set up an exploratory committee for a possible campaign.

Beilenson, the son of former Rep. Anthony Beilenson (D-Calif.), has been health commissioner for more than 12 years, serving both former Mayor Kurt Schmoke (D) and the current mayor, Martin O’Malley (D).

He said his résumé sets him apart from his potential Democratic primary opponents — most of whom are state legislators.

“I’ve had a different level of experience in that for the last 12 1/2 years, I’ve been held accountable to the taxpayers,” he said.

Other Democrats considering the race include state Del. Jon Cardin, the Congressman’s nephew; state Sen. Paula Hollinger; Del. Maggie McIntosh; Anne Arundel County Executive Janet Owens; Del. Neil Quinter; and Del. Bobby Zirkin.

Beilenson, who has been associated with several liberal causes in Maryland through the years, said he would decide on whether to make the House race within the next two months.

And he said his father — who spent 20 years in Congress before retiring in 1996, and today splits his time between Chevy Chase and Los Angeles — has been quite supportive.

“He’s very interested,” Beilenson said. “He’s very excited. I’ve been quite surprised. He thinks it’s a good time to try.”
— Josh Kurtz

Tester Still Testing the Senate Primary Waters

State Senate President Jon Tester said this week that he would decide next month whether to pursue the Democratic nomination to take on Sen. Conrad Burns (R) in 2006.

Tester told local news organizations that he would make a decision by mid-May.

State Auditor John Morrison (D) filed his paperwork to join the race Monday.

Democrats have been trying to get would-be candidates to agree to rally behind one person. If Tester decides to join the race, it could complicate Democrats’ efforts to take down Burns, who they think is vulnerable.

— Nicole Duran

Poll Finds Voters Want Redistricting Reform

A new poll shows substantial support for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s (R) push for redistricting reform.

Schwarzenegger is hoping to take redistricting powers away from the Legislature and place them in the hands of a panel of retired judges. He wants new Congressional and legislative boundaries drawn before the 2006 elections and is hoping to put the question to the voters in a special election later this year.

If a special election takes place, it appears as if the redistricting measure has a good chance of passing.

The poll of 800 likely voters, conducted April 12-16 by the Rose Institute of Claremont McKenna College, found that 73 percent of those surveyed agreed that it is a conflict of interest for legislators to draw their own district boundaries. Asked whether they’d rather have district lines drawn by the Legislature or retired judges, 64 percent said judges and only 23 percent said the Legislature.

And asked whether they’d rather have the new lines drawn next year or in 2011, after the next Census, 59 percent said 2006 and 31 percent said 2011. The poll had a 3.5 percent error margin.

“The Rose Institute has studied redistricting for more than 30 years,” said Ralph Rossum, the institute’s director. “These results are the most convincing we have ever seen that a large majority of the electorate is now prepared to back reform.”
— J.K.

MoveOn Wants Sanders to Move Up to Senate

As expected, a full 96 percent of members believe the liberal organization should support Rep. Bernie Sanders (I) if he decides to seek the Green Mountain State’s open Senate seat next year.

“You’re willing to put your time and money where your mouth is, too — thousands of you volunteered to help with the campaign, and together you said you’d contribute over $135,000,” Political Action Committee Executive Director Eli Pariser said in an e-mail to the organization’s supporters. He noted that the show of support was just from Vermont members.

“Since we’re in the middle of our emergency campaign on judicial nominations, it may be a few weeks before we’re able to raise money for Sanders from our whole base,” Pariser said. “Together, we’ll make sure that Vermont sends a real progressive to the Senate in 2006.”

Sanders has not formally entered the race to succeed retiring Sen. Jim Jeffords (I) but has made no secret of his desire to ascend to the Senate.

Jeffords decided to retire just last week so no one has entered the race yet, save Republican Greg Parke, who was already planning to challenge Jeffords next year.

Parke was the GOP candidate against Sanders last year in the state’s lone House race, and he lost badly.

— N.D.


House Conservatives Raise $100,000 Tuesday

The political arm of the conservative Republican Study Committee brought in roughly $100,000 at a fundraiser attended by Speaker Dennis Hastert (Ill.) and House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (Texas) among other party leaders on Tuesday night.

The event, which was organized by Oklahoma Rep. Ernest Istook (R), was aimed at unveiling the House Conservatives Fund — previously known as the Conservative Action Team PAC. The name was formally changed with the Federal Election Commission on March 17.

“We want to help elect more conservative Republicans,” Istook said in an interview Tuesday.

“There has been a group out there helping moderate Republicans for some time,” he added. “We haven’t had a conservative counterpart, and that’s what this is intended to be.”

The House Conservatives Fund will support conservatives in Republican primaries but will not back any candidate challenging a GOP incumbent, Istook added.

CAT PAC was not active during 2004 , doling out just $28,000 to candidates.
— Chris Cillizza

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