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In Developing California Special, Brewer Writes Big Check

Former state Assemblywoman Marilyn Brewer (R) on Wednesday wrote a $150,000 check to her nascent campaign to replace Rep. Christopher Cox (R), who was nominated last week by President Bush to head the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Brewer’s move suggests that the special election to replace Cox — assuming he is confirmed by the Senate — will be far more competitive than it appeared to be in the days immediately following Cox’s nomination.

State Senate Minority Leader Dick Ackerman (R) had moved quickly to establish himself as the frontrunner in the race, lining up several key endorsements and securing $100,000 in contribution pledges just days after Cox’s nomination became official.

But Harvey Englander, a Los Angeles-based political consultant who is working for Brewer, argued that Brewer’s check trumps Ackerman’s pledges.

“This is real money,” he said. “Marilyn doesn’t do flash.”

Brewer is a political moderate who could appeal to Orange County independents and Democrats — and that is significant in the all-party primary, which won’t be scheduled until after Cox leaves office. In her first campaign for the Assembly in 1994, Brewer squeaked through a three-way Republican primary against two conservatives.

Englander, who managed that campaign, works for both Democrats and Republicans. His most recent client was Kennedy scion Bobby Shriver, who was elected to the Santa Monica City Council earlier this year.

Meanwhile, former state Sen. John Lewis (R) said that he is also exploring the Congressional race and will decide whether to enter sometime next week.

Lewis, who was term-limited from the Senate in 2000 and has been working as a political and corporate consultant in Southern California since then, could further complicate matters for Ackerman if he gets into the race.

Some of Lewis’ clients, including Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.), have already endorsed Ackerman, but Lewis said those are not firm commitments. Some of them could be persuaded to change their minds or offer dual endorsements in the all-party primary, he said, adding, “Things are not as they appear.”

But Adam Pablosky, a pollster working for Ackerman, said all the candidate activity is to be expected, and that Ackerman is still confident.

“Dick came out strong, and that didn’t change,” he said.
— Josh Kurtz

Surprise! DSCC Using Harris for Fundraising

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee wasted little time employing its newest fundraising tool — Rep. Katherine Harris (R), who announced on Tuesday that she will run for Senate in 2006.

An e-mail solicitation blasted to Democrats across the country on Wednesday reminded donors of the former Florida secretary of state’s starring role in the protracted 2000 presidential election.

The DSCC missive is the latest proof that should Harris wind up as the Republican nominee next year, her race with freshman Sen. Bill Nelson (D) will be one of the nastiest — and costliest — in the nation.

“This is the same Katherine Harris who went on TV every night to talk about the importance of counting every vote, but then allowed Republican Party hacks to interfere with the faithful execution of that process,” DSCC staffer Anne Lewis wrote in the e-mail. “Heck, if it weren’t for her mismanagement and overt partisanship, President Al Gore would be halfway through his second term by now.”
— Lauren W. Whittington

Casey Widens Lead in Latest Keystone Poll

The newest Keystone Poll released this week showed state Treasurer Bob Casey Jr. (D) had widened his lead over Sen. Rick Santorum (R) in a test of next year’s Senate race.

The poll found Casey ahead 44 percent to 37 percent among the 467 registered voters surveyed.

The Franklin and Marshall College poll was taken May 31 to June 5 and had a 5 percent margin of error.

The same poll conducted in March showed Casey leading Santorum 44 percent to 43 percent.

Meanwhile, former state Treasurer Barbara Hafer, a Republican-turned-Democrat, endorsed Casey’s bid this week. Hafer was all but in the Senate race but deferred to Casey earlier this year after it was clear that he had the support of national and state party leaders. That action angered many pro-abortion rights activists in the party. Hafer supports abortion rights, while Casey opposes them.

In an e-mail to some 35,000 Democratic activists, Hafer urged the various factions of the party to unite behind Casey’s effort to defeat the two-term Senator.

“If we are going to retire Rick Santorum, the Democratic Party must stand united in supporting a candidate that can score a win for Pennsylvania families,” Hafer wrote. “Bob Casey is an honorable and thoughtful public servant who has fought his entire career for those less fortunate. There could not be a greater contrast with Rick Santorum.”
— L.W.W.

Health Commissioner Set to Enter House Race

Baltimore Health Commissioner Peter Beilenson (D) will resign next week to run for the open 3rd district seat, according to several Baltimore media outlets.

Beilenson, the 45-year-old son of former California Rep. Tony Beilenson (D), would join state Del. Neil Quinter as the only Democrats formally in the race to replace Rep. Benjamin Cardin (D), who is running for Senate. Beilenson is an unabashed liberal, best known for controversial positions like starting a city-sponsored clean needle exchange programs for drug addicts in Baltimore.

The field is expected to grow in the weeks ahead. Del. Jon Cardin, the Congressman’s nephew, state Sen. Paula Hollinger, lawyer/lobbyist Kevin O’Keeffe and Anne Arundel County Executive Janet Owens are among those also considering the race.

On the Republican side, Edward Miller, a top aide to Gov. Bob Ehrlich (R), has decided against running, but a handful of others continue to eye the race.
— J.K.

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