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In Illinois, Roskam Officially Joins Race to Replace Hyde

In a long anticipated announcement, state Sen. Peter Roskam (R) formally tossed his hat into the race to succeed retiring Rep. Henry Hyde (R) at a rally in the suburban district Monday.

Roskam, a one-time Congressional aide to Hyde and now-Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas), also received the endorsement of state Sen. Kirk Dillard (R), chairman of the DuPage County Republican Party.

In a statement, Dillard called Roskam “a younger version of Henry Hyde” and praised his effort to unite the often divided Republican Party factions in the early days of his campaign.

“Peter represents our party’s best hope of keeping this seat in Republican hands,” Dillard said.

While Roskam hails from the conservative wing of the state GOP, Dillard’s endorsement is a sign that he has also lined up significant establishment support for his campaign.

Still, he is unlikely to have the GOP primary field to himself. State Sen. Carole Pankau (R) is still weighing a bid and would likely be Roskam’s most formidable primary opposition.

This is Roskam’s second attempt to win an open Congressional seat. In 1998 he placed second in the GOP primary to now-Rep. Judy Biggert (R) in the 13th district. He previously spent six years in the state House before being appointed to the Senate in 2000.

Democrats are optimistic about their ability to make the open 6th district race competitive next year. They argue that Roskam is too conservative for the district’s moderate suburban voters and therefore their chances are boosted if he wins the GOP nod.

Still, the Democratic bench is shallow at best in a district where Republicans hold most local offices. Businesswoman Christine Cegelis is the only Democrat in the race so far. Cegelis took 44 percent of the vote against Hyde in 2004.
— Lauren W. Whittington

State Lawmaker Ponders Challenge to Musgrave

A state legislator told a Denver Post columnist Sunday that she is considering challenging Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R) next year.

State Rep. Angie Paccione (D) of Fort Collins said she is weighing whether to stay in the state House, where she serves in the majority and is chairwoman of the Democratic Caucus, or attempt to knock off Musgrave, whose politics are diametrically opposed to her own.

Musgrave, who is in her second term, won a surprisingly close race against her 2004 challenger, ex-state Sen. Stan Matsunaka (D), whom she had beaten more handily the previous cycle — when he was considerably better funded.

Although the sprawling 4th district, mostly east of Denver, is Republican — it gave President Bush a 17-point victory over Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) in 2004 — some Democrats believe that Musgrave’s socially conservative agenda is too extreme for many of the district’s suburban voters.
— Josh Kurtz

Mfume: ‘Boneheaded’ Move, But Not Improper

Stung by recent charges of favoritism surrounding his tenure as president of the NAACP, former Rep. Kweisi Mfume (D) sought to boost his Senate campaign Monday, issuing strong denials that he had done anything wrong.

During a news conference in Baltimore, Mfume admitted that briefly dating a subordinate at the civil rights organization was “a boneheaded thing to do,” according to The Associated Press. But he denied that his personal relationships ever affected his decision-making at the NAACP.

The Washington Post last month reported that the NAACP conducted an internal investigation after a woman who once worked for the organization threatened to sue following Mfume’s relationship with his subordinate.

Mfume conceded that the allegations of favoritism could be hurting his campaign to replace retiring Sen. Paul Sarbanes (D).

“This whole issue of doubt in the minds of people is a natural reaction,” Mfume said, according to the AP. “You can’t run and you can’t hide, so I don’t try. … The more I talk about it, the better I feel.”

And Mfume insisted that he is in the race to stay, noting that he has just leased a campaign headquarters in Baltimore for 18 months — to run through the 2006 general election.

Mfume and Rep. Benjamin Cardin are the two leading Democrats who have entered the Senate election so far. Rep. Chris Van Hollen heads the list of those Democrats still considering the race.

Van Hollen, who had more money in his campaign account as of March 31 than either Cardin or Mfume, is hosting a major fundraiser on Sunday at the Woman’s Club of Chevy Chase.
— J.K.

Young Legislator Says He Wants Osborne Seat

State Sen. Adrian Smith entered the contest to replace Rep. Tom Osborne (R) in the 3rd district over the weekend, becoming the second Republican to do so.

“I hope to serve a good many years,” said Smith, who is 34.

Smith was first elected to the state’s unicameral Legislature in 1998 and re-elected in 2002. His Senate district sits in the far western portion of the state near Scottsbluff.

He joins David Harris, co-founder of the Biodefense Council, in the Republican primary. Harris, 28, hails from Kilgore, a tiny town in Cherry County in the district’s northern reaches. Several other Republicans are considering the race.

No Democrats have declared for this overwhelmingly Republican seat, which Osborne has held easily since 2000.

Osborne is vacating the 3rd to run for governor in 2006. He currently faces acting Gov. Dave Heineman in the GOP primary, but national Republicans are working to recruit Heineman into a race against Sen. Ben Nelson (D).
— Chris Cillizza

Paper Warns Rainville on Dual Responsibilities

Maj. Gen. Martha Rainville should not seek to simultaneously serve in Congress and run the Vermont National Guard, a local newspaper opined last week.

Rainville, who is mulling a GOP bid for the Green Mountain State’s lone House seat next year, said she legally could serve in both capacities.

The Rutland Herald did not necessarily dispute her legal reasoning but said such a situation would set a bad precedent.

“Civilian control of the military is a fundamental principle of democracy,” the paper offered in an editorial. “If the military were to occupy positions of power in the civilian government, a profound conflict of interest would be the result.”

The paper noted that Members have served in the reserves before but said: “It is hard to believe, however, that the job of adjutant general is so undemanding that one person could also carry out the duties of a Member of Congress.

“How free would she be to criticize the leadership of the military or U.S. foreign policy?” the paper’s editorial writers also asked.

— Nicole Duran

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