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Attorney Self-Funding a Bid for Bonilla’s Seat

In, Texas, attorney and 2004 28th district candidate Quico Canseco (R) has seeded a campaign account with $1 million of his own money as he prepares for a potential open-seat race in the 23rd district.

The incumbent in the 23rd district, Rep. Henry Bonilla (R), has said publicly that if — as expected — Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R) chooses to leave her seat to pursue a primary challenge to Gov. Rick Perry (R) next year, he will run for the vacancy.

“Should Congressman Bonilla choose to run for the United States Senate, the funds available to my campaign will allow me to focus my energies,” Canseco said in a news release.

Canseco ran and lost in the Republican primary in the 28th district against attorney Jim Hopson. Hopson took 64 percent to Canseco’s 35 percent in a runoff. Hopson then went on to lose handily to now-Rep. Henry Cuellar (D).

Bonilla’s seat, which takes in much of West Texas, has been seriously contested in the past, but a Republican-led redistricting in 2003 removed a large number of Hispanics from the seat, making it much more friendly to GOPers. President Bush carried 64 percent there in 2004.

Aside from Canseco, state Rep. Harvey Hilderbran, Bexar County Probate Judge Tom Rickhoff and retired San Antonio business executive Jim McGrody are mulling bids on the Republican side.

— Chris Cillizza

Jennings Considering Rematch With Hostettler
Boston Celtics scout Jon Jennings (D) is giving serious consideration to another run against Rep. John Hostettler (R), the Evansville Courier & Press reported last week.

But Jennings, who was soundly defeated by Hostettler last year, may face a primary challenge if he does decide to run again, as Vanderburgh County Sheriff Brad Ellsworth (D) is also eyeing a Congressional bid in 2006.

Hostettler has been a perennial target for Democrats, but he has proven to be tough to defeat.

Since first winning in 1994, Hostettler has consistently underperformed the strongly Republican 8th district, never winning more than 53 percent of the vote.

In 2004, he defeated Jennings by a 53 percent to 45 percent margin, even as President Bush won 62 percent of the district vote.

— Lauren W. Whittington

State Senator Eyes a Challenge to Rep. Kirk
State Sen. Susan Garrett (D) is considering a challenge to Rep. Mark Kirk (R) next year, a political newsletter in Illinois reported last week.

Kirk won a fiercely contested open-seat race in 2000 but has not faced an aggressive challenge in his Democratic-leaning suburban Chicago district.

But with Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Rahm Emanuel (Ill.) in the nearby 5th district charged with overseeing candidate recruitment, Kirk could face his first real re-election test in 2006.

According to the Illinois Capitol Fax, Garrett plans to announce a decision by next month.

— L.W.W.

Hoeffel Backs Casey and Vows Return to the Fray

Former Rep. Joe Hoeffel (D), who lost a 2004 Senate bid, recently made it clear that he has no intention of disappearing from the political scene just yet.

In a letter to supporters last week, the former Congressman from suburban Philadelphia said he plans to remain active in politics and will launch a political committee and Web site soon.

“I hope that JoeHoeffel& will provide a sounding board and rallying point for progressive Pennsylvanians,” he wrote in a two-page e-mail.

He also used the message to rally support for state Treasurer Bob Casey Jr.’s (D) bid against Sen. Rick Santorum (R). After losing to Sen. Arlen Specter (R) last year, Hoeffel was among those considering challenging Santorum in 2006 before state and national Democrats coalesced behind Casey.

Hoeffel urged his supporters to unite behind Casey for the sake of defeating Santorum.

“I’ve known Bob Casey for more than a decade,” Hoeffel wrote. “I know him to be a person of great compassion and decency, and while he and I don’t agree on every issue, I ask you to look at his record of standing up and making a difference for people in need.”

— L.W.W.

Pearce Picks Up Pace on D.C. Fundraising
Rep. Steve Pearce (R), who appears to be increasingly safe in his sprawling southern New Mexico district, is nevertheless picking up the fundraising pace this week.

The second-term Congressman has two high-dollar fundraisers scheduled for Washington, D.C., this week: A $1,000-a-ticket dinner for banking industry representatives at Signatures restaurant on Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest tonight, and a $1,000-a-plate lunch for the oil and gas industry at Tortilla Coast on Capitol Hill the following afternoon.

Both events should help Pearce supplement the $59,000 he had on hand at the end of March.

Pearce won a hard-fought open-seat victory over state Sen. John Arthur Smith (D) in 2002, then cruised to victory over a highly touted challenger, former state Rep. Gary King (D), last cycle. Pearce outperformed President Bush by 3 points in the conservative district, taking 61 percent to King’s 39 percent.

No Democrat has come forward yet to challenge Pearce in 2006.

— Josh Kurtz

Ehrlich Deputy May Get GOP Nod for Cardin Seat
Optimistic Republicans believe they have a chance of stealing the 3rd district seat next year now that veteran Rep. Benjamin Cardin (D) is running for Senate. But while several Democrats mobilize to run for Cardin’s seat, there hasn’t been much activity on the GOP side.

That may be changing: The Gazette newspaper reported last week that Edward Miller, the 33-year-old deputy chief of staff to Gov. Bob Ehrlich (R), is considering entering the race.

Ehrlich himself said his aide “has an unlimited political future.” All Miller would say, however, is that he is “flattered to be mentioned.”

Last summer, Roll Call reported that Miller had been subpoenaed by a federal grand jury investigating the business practices of Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

On the Democratic side, add Kevin O’Keeffe to the list of possible contenders, the Gazette said. O’Keeffe, the statehouse lobbyist for Anne Arundel County government and a former top aide to then Baltimore Mayor Kurt Schmoke, said he would think about running for the seat if his boss, Anne Arundel County Executive Janet Owens, does not.

In O’Keeffe’s one run for public office in 1991, he lost an open seat Baltimore City Council primary to a young lawyer named Martin O’Malley.

Other potential Democratic candidates include Baltimore Health Commissioner Peter Beilenson, state Del. Jon Cardin (the Congressman’s nephew), state Sen. Paula Hollinger, and state Del. Neil Quinter.

— J.K.

Two Democrats, GOPer Exit 7th District Race
Banker Jim Polsfut and Joanna Conti recently ended their campaigns in the 7th district, boosting the prospects of the two Democrats remaining in the open-seat race.

Polsfut, who lost a 1998 bid for state treasurer, threw his support behind former state Sen. Ed Perlmutter. Former state Rep. Peggy Lamm is also running on the Democratic side.

Conti, who lost a 2004 bid against 6th district Rep. Tom Tancredo, said the size of the Democratic field and family considerations led her to end her campaign.

The only announced Republican candidate is Rick O’Donnell, who lost to current Rep. Bob Beauprez in a 2002 Republican primary. Jefferson County Treasurer Mark Paschall (R) is also considering a candidacy. State Treasurer Mike Coffman (R) took himself out of contention recently and will instead run for secretary of state.

Beauprez is expected to vacate the seat in 2006 to run for governor. The suburban Denver district is one of the most closely divided along partisan lines in the country.

— C.C.

General Reveals That She May Run as Republican
The head of the Vermont National Guard said she is mulling a bid for the state’s lone House seat, The Associated Press recently reported.

Maj. Gen. Martha Rainville, whom Republicans have been touting as a possible GOP candidate, declared her allegiance to the party of Lincoln.

“I am a mainstream Republican,” Rainville told the wire service. “I know I’m independent minded. I speak out whenever I feel the need.”

She added that she likely will not make a decision on the House race until sometime this summer.

Two weeks ago the military officer, who has been leading the Green Mountain State’s National Guard since 1997, said she had no party affiliation.

“I can’t say that I’ve decided in my own mind,” she said then. But Republicans were already pushing her as one of their own.

The House race is expected to be competitive as Rep. Bernie Sanders (I) is giving up his seat to run for the Senate.

— Nicole Duran

Dole Taps Old Family Hand as NRSC Adviser
National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairwoman Elizabeth Dole (N.C.) announced last week that Dennis Shea has been hired as a senior adviser to the committee for the 2006 cycle.

Most recently Shea was assistant secretary for the Office of Policy Development and Research at the Housing and Urban Development Department.

Shea has long-held ties to Dole’s husband, former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole (R-Kan.). Before joining HUD, he was counsel and deputy chief of staff to Bob Dole and also served as policy director on the Senator’s failed 1996 presidential bid.

— L.W.W.

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