State Sen. Charlie Wilson (D) said Tuesday that he will likely announce his candidacy for the open 6th district seat in the next two weeks.
In an interview, Wilson said he is in the process of putting together a campaign plan and he has been talking to local party and labor leaders about the race ever since Rep. Ted Strickland (D) announced Monday that he is running for governor in 2006.
“We have every intention of not dragging this out,” Wilson said.
Wilson touted his moderate voting record and the fact that he has represented a large portion of the swing district’s population already.
Although he lives just inside of Republican Rep. Bob Ney’s neighboring 18th district, Wilson has represented six of the 12 counties that make up the expansive 6th district.
“These are my people. These are my voters,” he said. “I have been very successful in these six counties that are in Strickland’s district.”
Wilson served four terms in the state House, where he was Assistant Minority Leader and also Whip, before being elected to the state Senate in 2004.
Wilson, a wealthy businessman, also indicated he would be willing to spend personal resources on his campaign if need be.
“I won’t let this race get away from me,” he said.
State Rep. John Boccieri (D) is also eyeing the 6th district race, but could opt to challenge Ney instead.
Among Republicans, state House Speaker Pro Tem Chuck Blasdel (R) is the most widely mentioned contender for Strickland’s seat.
Republican consultant Barry Bennett is also giving serious consideration to running and Noble County Commissioner Danny Harmon (R) has already filed to run.
— Lauren W. Whittington
Pankau in D.C. to Gauge Support for House Run
State Sen. Carole Pankau (R) will be in Washington, D.C., on Thursday meeting with GOP leaders as she contemplates a bid for the 6th district seat of retiring Rep. Henry Hyde (R).
Pankau plans to meet with Republicans in the state’s Congressional delegation as well as officials with the National Republican Congressional Committee to feel out support for a possible run.
Pankau said Tuesday that she hasn’t set a firm timetable for making her decision but indicated that in the end it could depend on the other candidates running.
“I’d kind of like to see who else gets in the race,” she said. “The more gentlemen that enter the race, that probably will be good for me.”
State Sen. Peter Roskam (R), viewed as the early favorite to succeed Hyde, is expected to formally announce Monday that he is running for the suburban Chicago seat.
Roskam is a trial lawyer who has garnered heavy support from social conservatives in his previous campaigns.
If Pankau enters the race, the primary could highlight some of the divisions within the Republican Party. She is a viewed as a moderate Republican, although she opposes abortion rights.
Sanders Swamps All Comers in Senate Poll
Rep. Bernie Sanders (I) trounced his would-be GOP opponents in a new Senate poll.
Sanders, who all but officially is seeking the seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Jim Jeffords (I) next year, led three Republicans by healthy margins in a Research 2000 poll conducted for WCAX-TV in Burlington and released Tuesday.
He was paired with three potential Republican challengers in the poll of 400 randomly-selected Vermonters conducted May 4-7. The margin of error was 5 percent.
Sanders’ smallest lead was against Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie. He led Dubie 59 percent to 23 percent with 18 percent undecided. In a matchup with business executive Richard Tarrant, he led 62 percent to 18 percent with 20 percent undecided. Against state National Guard Maj. Gen. Martha Rainville he led 61 percent to 18 percent with 21 percent undecided.
The only declared Republican in the race, pilot Greg Parke, whom Sanders handily defeated in last year’s contest for the state’s lone House seat, was not tested in the poll.
— Nicole Duran
Unknown Enters Fray for Senate Nomination
An unknown Democrat has entered the race against Sen. Conrad Burns (R), possibly complicating Democratic efforts to unseat the three-term Senator next year.
Clint Wilkes of Bozeman said Monday that he will seek the Democratic nomination. State Auditor John Morrison (D) already is in the race and state Senate President Jon Tester (D) is in Washington, D.C., this week testing the Senate waters.
Wilkes is not well-known in political circles, though he sought the Republican Senate nomination in Alabama more than 20 years ago, the Bozeman Daily Chronicle reported Tuesday. He told the paper he became a candidate back then only so he could gather material for a book that never came to be.
Wilkes moved to Billings in 1997 and is taking a hiatus from his Internet consulting business while he makes his Senate bid.