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In Indiana, the GOP Strikes Back: Lugar Crushes Roemer in Poll

In response to Democratic polling circulated last week that seemed to indicate that Sen. Dick Lugar (R) would be vulnerable to a challenge from ex-Rep. Tim Roemer (D) in 2006, Lugar’s campaign on Monday released the findings of its own survey taken over the weekend.

The GOP poll, conducted June 11-12, found that if the election where held now, Lugar would roll over Roemer 58 percent to 24 percent.

Last week, Roemer allies had circulated the informed ballot test of a hypothetical matchup between Lugar and the ex-Congressman. Those numbers showed the race neck and neck, and Roemer subsequently said that he is contemplating his political future in light of the findings.

The new poll, done for Lugar’s campaign by the Alexandria, Va.-based GOP firm American Viewpoint Inc., found that the five-term Senator had a 71 percent approval rating among those surveyed.

Roemer had 44 percent name identification, while Lugar was essentially known to all voters.

“The Senator’s name recognition, coupled with his high job-approval rating easily equates to a $5 million to $6 million advantage in terms of media money Roemer would have to spend to even begin to entertain notions of being competitive,” pollsters Linda DiVall and Randall Gutermuth wrote in the memo accompanying the survey.
— Lauren W. Whittington

Former State DOT Chief to Enter 6th District Race

Former state Transportation Commissioner Elwyn Tinklenberg (D) will formally kickoff his bid for the open 6th district seat today.

Tinklenberg, a conservative Democrat who opposes abortion rights in all circumstances and who will seek the National Rifle Association’s endorsement, headed the Minnesota Department of Transportation under then-Gov. Jesse Ventura (I).

The former Methodist minister previously served on the Blaine City Council and then as mayor from 1987 to 1996, presiding over a time of large population growth in the suburb north of the Twin Cities.

He currently oversees the transportation consulting business The Tinklenberg Group.

By focusing on transportation and playing up his service in nonpartisan positions, Tinklenberg hopes to avoid the problem of seeming too liberal for the Republican-leaning district that the 2004 nominee, Patty Wetterling, faced.

Wetterling, a child safety advocate who ran a surprisingly tough race against Rep. Mark Kennedy (R) last year, is now seeking the state’s open Senate seat.

Kennedy is vacating his House post to run for the Senate as well.

Another Democrat, Scottie Mortensen, has said he will also seek the party’s endorsement in the 6th district, while five Republicans are vying for the GOP nomination.

Democrats are “cautiously optimistic” that they can capture the seat, said Brian Melendez, the new state Democratic Party chairman.

“Patty did a lot better than anybody expected her to do last year,” Melendez said. “The candidate this time around playing off of her experience will do even better.”

Regardless, Melendez acknowledged the seat is challenging for Democrats.

“It’s going to be a hard race, but by appealing to issues such as transportation, we can win it,” he said.
— Nicole Duran

Three Wealthy GOPers Prepare to Take On Bean

Three wealthy Republicans are ramping up their efforts to challenge Rep. Melissa Bean (D) next year, laying the groundwork for what is likely to be an free-spending, nasty GOP primary next March.

Investment banker David McSweeney (R) formally kicked off his campaign this weekend, while trial attorney Al Salvi and businesswoman Teresa Bartels are also preparing to run. All three have sizable resources to put into the contest and have indicated a willingness to spend what it takes to win the GOP nod.

A recent poll conducted for Salvi found that he would likely enter the race as the early frontrunner — although that status is largely a function of his high name ID since he is the only potential challenger who has run a large- scale campaign before.

Salvi, a former state lawmaker who has unsuccessfully sought statewide election twice before, received 33 percent of the vote in a test of the GOP primary field, according to a survey conducted by Public Opinion Strategies.

The poll sampled 300 likely primary voters and was taken May 25 through 26. It had a 6 percent margin of error.

State Rep. Bob Churchill (R), who is also considering a bid, got 16 percent. Bartels received 2 percent, and McSweeney got 1 percent.

According to the polling memo, the survey also showed that Salvi performed strongest against Bean — although it failed to give the head-to-head results of a test of 250 likely voters in the general election trial heat.

The GOP poll found that 46 percent of voters surveyed had a favorable impression of Bean, while 26 percent had an unfavorable view. Of those polled, 40 percent said they favored her re-election.

Salvi lost a 1996 Senate bid against now-Sen. Dick Durbin (D) and was the unsuccessful Republican nominee for secretary of state in 1998. McSweeney challenged then-Rep. Phil Crane (R) in a 1998 primary, taking 35 percent of the vote.

Bartels has never run for office before and is expected to make a formal announcement later this summer.

— L.W.W.

Race to Succeed Harris Is Becoming Crowded

The race to succeed Rep. Katherine Harris (R), who announced last week that she will run for Senate in 2006, is looking as though it might become a crowded affair.

At least five well-known Republicans are either already in the race or contemplating getting in.

Former Sarasota County Republican Party Chairman Tramm Hudson along with state Reps. Bill Galvana and Nancy Detert are already off and running, while wealthy auto dealer and GOP financier Vern Buchanan and Manatee County Republican Party Chairman Mark Flanagan are seriously considering bids. Flanagan is also a former state Representative.

However, Hudson quickly moved to position himself as the GOP frontrunner last week. He has the early endorsement of former Rep. Dan Miller (R), who held the seat before Harris, and is getting fundraising help from former New York Republican Reps. Bill Paxon and Susan Molinari.

While the district strongly favors Republicans, Democrats are hoping that former banking executive Christine Jennings (D) will be able to make the open-seat race competitive.

— L.W.W.

Stevens to Headline D.C. Fundraiser for Sen. Burns

Sen. Conrad Burns (R) will be fêted at a Washington, D.C., fundraiser to help his 2006 re-election efforts Thursday.

Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) will be the special guest at the $1,000-per-person or $2,000 for host committee members dinner that will be held at the offices of Navigators, a political consulting firm led by GOP strategist Mike Murphy.

Burns is bracing for a tough campaign, as Democrats have deemed him a top target and two top-notch state officeholders have entered the race against him.

— N.D.

Professor Begins Primary Race Against Langevin

A political science professor who dislikes the fact that Rep. James Langevin (D) opposes abortion rights has formally declared her candidacy for the 2nd district seat.

Jennifer Lawless (D), who teaches at Brown University, kicked off her uphill campaign Monday in Warwick.

Langevin flirted with a Senate bid earlier this year, prompting groups that support abortion rights to protest to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

— N.D.

Does Graham’s Exit Signal McCaskill Bid?

A state Senator has passed on the 2006 U.S. Senate race, leaving Democrats without a challenger to freshman Sen. Jim Talent (R).

Democratic state Sen. Chuck Graham announced over the weekend that he would head up efforts to recruit Democrats to run for the Missouri state Senate instead.

Democrats have been wooing state Auditor Claire McCaskill, who narrowly lost a gubernatorial bid last year, but so far she has not committed to the race.

In Graham’s announcement, according to the Columbia Daily Tribune, he called McCaskill a “very attractive candidate,” and his words seemed design to nudge McCaskill into the contest.

— N.D.

Obama Will Headline Fundraiser for Wynn

He never has any opposition to speak of. He has chosen not to run for the Senate in 2006.

But Rep. Albert Wynn (D) is nevertheless once again bringing in the biggest of big Democratic guns this week to help him raise money. Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) is scheduled to be the headline attraction at a fundraiser for Wynn in Greenbelt on Wednesday morning.

A year ago, Wynn had then-Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) headline his fundraiser in Greenbelt, just as speculation was at its highest that Edwards was about to be added to the national Democratic ticket. The event proved to be very successful for Wynn — and Edwards, of course, did find his way on to the national ticket.

Wynn decided not to seek the seat of retiring Sen. Paul Sarbanes (D) in 2006, but it’s a good bet that many of the candidates who are either officially in the race or contemplating it will be on hand at the Greenbelt fundraiser as well.

— Josh Kurtz

Two More Republicans Enter Race for Otter Seat

Two Republicans recently joined the race to succeed Rep. Butch Otter (R), who is running for governor next year.

Canyon County Commissioner Robert Vasquez announced last week that he would seek the GOP nomination for the 1st district seat, The Associated Press reported.

Vasquez, who is Mexican-American, has tried several inventive tactics to crack down on illegal immigration and to punish those who he thinks are complicit in violating immigration laws.

Meanwhile, state Sen. Skip Brandt (R) last month filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission.

State Sen. Sheila Sorensen and Idaho Water Users Association President Norm Semanko have previously announced their efforts to capture the Republican nomination for the seat.

No Democrat has filed yet in the district that spans western Idaho from the Canadian border to Nevada.

— N.D.

Young Lawyer Eyes Challenging Fossella

While national and local Democratic leaders try to convince one of three officeholders into challenging Rep. Vito Fossella (R) next year, a 30-year-old lawyer is also contemplating the race.

“I feel the Republican Party in general, and certainly Congressman Fossella, are out of step with the needs of the working people of Staten Island,” John Minardo (D) told the Staten Island Advance on Monday. “They’re more interested in protecting the rights of big business than the rights of labor.”

But according to the Advance, Minardo might also be exposed to charges that he is out of step with average voters in the 13th district: Although he grew up in Staten Island, is the son of a local Supreme Court judge and serves on the county Democratic committee, he lives in Manhattan.

Minardo said he lives there because it is easier for his job at a prominent law firm, and pledged to move back to Staten Island if he becomes a candidate. Under U.S. law, he is only required to live in New York state to run for the House seat.

While Minardo contemplates the race, Democratic leaders are trying to recruit state Sen. Diane Savino, state Assemblyman Michael Cusick and New York City Councilman Michael McMahon. Each has expressed varying degrees of interest in the race; none has completely ruled it out.

— J.K.

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