State House Speaker Allan Bense (R) was in Washington, D.C., on Monday to meet with some of the top GOP officials who are publicly recruiting him to run for Senate next year.
Bense met with White House deputy of chief of staff Karl Rove and National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairwoman Elizabeth Dole (N.C.), among others, according to informed sources.
Bense is being wooed by White House and NRSC strategists who believe that Rep. Katherine Harris (R) would be a weak nominee against Sen. Bill Nelson (D) next year.
Harris, who gained notoriety for her role in the protracted 2000 presidential election, has already said she is running and recently indicated she won’t be dissuaded from the race. Polls have shown that Harris would be tough to beat in a Republican primary. But the same surveys also show her down double digits to Nelson and indicate that she has a long distance to go to overcome the lingering negative perceptions voters have of her.
In a published report this week, an NRSC spokesman would not rule out the possibility that the committee could take sides in the Florida primary down the road.
— Lauren W. Whittington
Former GOP Chief Set to Announce Senate Bid
Former state Republican Party Chairman David Kramer is expected to announce today that he will run for Senate in 2006.
Kramer has scheduled a news conference for this morning at a Holiday Inn in Omaha. He will then begin a four-day, 15-city tour across the state.
Kramer, 40, is a partner with the Baird Holm law firm in Omaha and has worked for a number of Republican candidates and causes through the years. He has also successfully passed ballot measures that provided more funding for Nebraska schools and helped build a major convention center project in downtown Omaha.
Kramer joins former Attorney General Don Stenberg, the 2000 Senate nominee, in the race to see who will challenge Sen. Ben Nelson (D) in 2006.
— Josh Kurtz
Engler Not Aiding GOP Senate Recruiting Effort
Former Gov. John Engler (R) said he does not dabble much in state politics now that he is president of the National Association of Manufacturers based in Washington, D.C.
In an interview last week, the three-term governor said he is not involved in GOP efforts to find a strong, well-known challenger to take on freshman Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D) next year.
“I have not spoken to the party chairman; and I’m certainly not running myself,” Engler said.
National Republicans are hoping to entice Domino’s Pizza chief Dave Brandon into the contest even though the lesser-known Rev. Keith Butler is busily working to unify state activists and party leaders behind his candidacy.
Engler said he doubted he could help the party’s recruiting efforts.
“I wouldn’t run if just me called me,” Engler said when asked if he would reach out to Brandon or anyone else to get them into the mix.
Meanwhile, Butler announced last week that 26 county chairmen are supporting him in his bid for the Republican Senate nomination.
Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox (R) came out early to support Butler, but so far no other statewide officeholder has followed suit.
Engineer Bart Baron, who was recently a Democrat; Arab-American activist Nasser Beydoun; and Jerry Zandstra, a minister and college professor, are also seeking the Republican nomination.
— Nicole Duran
MoveOn Aims to Boost Democrats by June 30
With the second-quarter fundraising deadline looming Thursday, MoveOn.org sent out an urgent plea for money on behalf of three Democrats involved in high-profile races next year.
The e-mail pitch implored donors to send early money to the challengers seeking to knock off Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) and House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) as well as to Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), who could face Rep. Katherine Harris (R) next year.
MoveOn.org, the liberal group that has helped funnel millions to Democratic candidates in recent years, is seeking donations on behalf of former Rep. Nick Lampson (D-Texas), Pennsylvania Treasurer Bob Casey Jr. (D) and Nelson.
“Polls show that Americans are losing patience with the Republican leadership’s radical agenda, making three of their top leaders vulnerable to defeat in 2006,” the MoveOn e-mail states. “This week’s critical fundraising deadline is a terrific opportunity to stand up to these extremists and support the courageous Democrats taking them on.”
According to the e-mail Casey’s race against Santorum, the third-ranking Senate Republican, will be given top billing.
“This race is our best chance to replace a key player in the far-right Republican leadership with a strong Democrat,” the message states.
Hutchison Officially Opens Re-election Bid
Acknowledging the obvious, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R) announced Monday that she would seek a third term.
News leaked last week that Hutchison had decided against challenging Gov. Rick Perry in a Republican primary — a race that would have been among the most high-profile in the country in 2006.
Though she passed on the governor’s race, Hutchison maintained that it was a contest she could have won.
“I disagreed with those who say that somehow a primary contest would be bad for the Republican Party,” Hutchison said.
The Texas Senator is expected to cruise to a third term against attorney Barbara Radnofksy (D), a first time candidate for elected office.
Hutchison is also running to chair the Republican Policy Committee, the fourth ranking leadership position in the Senate. She is currently unopposed in the race for that slot.
— Chris Cillizza
With New Job, House Bid by Sheriff Unlikely
Without making an announcement about next year’s House race, a second potential tough challenger to freshman Rep. Brian Higgins (D) appears to have taken himself out of consideration recently.
Patrick Galivan (R), who had spent the past several years as the highly regarded sheriff of Erie County, resigned that post earlier this month to become a commissioner on the State Parole Board. Galivan was appointed to the full-time position by Gov. George Pataki (R).
National and local Republicans tried to recruit Galivan into the open-seat 27th district race last year, but he declined to run. His name was on the GOP list of potential challengers to Higgins, but he hadn’t said anything about the race. His appointment to the state board suggests that a run for Congress in 2006 is not in the cards.
Earlier this year, Higgins’ 2004 opponent, Erie County Comptroller Nancy Naples (R), who lost to the Democrat by just 3,700 votes, announced that she was retiring from politics.
Buffalo-area Republicans could still produce a tough challenger, however.
Freshman state Assemblyman Jack Quinn III (R), the son of Higgins’ predecessor, is said to be eyeing the race. And in the Republican dream scenario, former Buffalo Bills quarterback Jim Kelly would be lured into the race.
Black Pols Urge White Candidate Out of Race
The news that white City Councilman David Yassky (D) is running for the seat held by retiring black Rep. Major Owens (D) has sparked an uproar among black leaders in Brooklyn.
Owens himself called Yassky a “colonizer,” according to the New York Daily News. And some black politicians are calling on Yassky to drop out of the race.
“I’m hoping he does the right thing and withdraws,” said Letitia James (D), Yassky’s colleague on the City Council. “The district was designed for someone of color and should remain as such.”
Another council colleague, Charles Barron (D), wondered why Yassky would want to “turn back the hands of time” by running.
The central Brooklyn 11th district was created in 1968 after the passage of the U.S. Voting Rights Act. With a 79 percent minority population, it has been held by black Members ever since — first Rep. Shirley Chisholm (D), then Owens.
Yassky defended his right to run, telling the News: “The main issue of this campaign is going to be who can deliver the most for the 11th Congressional district. I am eager to make my case to the voters.”
The only other candidates in the race, state Sen. Carl Andrews (D) and HMO administrator Chris Owens (D) — the Congressman’s son — are black. So are state Assemblyman Nick Perry (D) and City Councilwomen Tracy Boyland (D) and Yvette Clarke (D), who may also run.
Rossi Remains a Draw as Fundraiser for GOP
Though Dino Rossi (R) may have lost his lawsuit seeking to make him governor and is most likely not running for the Senate next year, his name is still bankable to the Evergreen State Republican Party.
Rossi, who lost the closest governor’s race in U.S. history, is a hot commodity in Republican circles. His efforts to overturn the results of last year’s governor’s contest garnered national attention and money, and it looks like he has begun trying to pay back at least the state party.
He is headlining two upcoming party fundraisers.
On July 3 he is one of the special guests for a $20-per-person picnic at Normandy Park Cove in Normandy Park that will feature Hummer rides, “bodacious BBQ” and a “Dunk the Democrat” tank.
On July 7 he will be a special guest golfer at the Washington State Republican Party Invitational Golf Tournament in Auburn.
Golfers get a tournament shirt and barbecue lunch for their $150.
Ex-Legislative Leader Seeking Sanders’ Seat
Peter Shumlin (D), former President Pro Tem of the state Senate, said he will seek the Green Mountain state’s lone House seat in 2006, The Associated Press reported last week.
State Sen. Matt Dunne has already announced his intention to seek the Democratic nomination, though he has said he would step aside if current state Senate President Pro Tem Peter Welch (D) decides to run.
Rep. Bernie Sanders (I) is running for the Senate. His vacancy has left Democrats and leaders of the Progressive Party in Vermont with the conundrum of whether to work together and coalesce behind one candidate to keep the House seat in left-leaning hands or to field their own candidates.
In past state elections, Republicans have won the governorship and other offices after Democratic and Progressive candidates have split the majority of votes, allowing the Republican to win with a plurality.
Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie and Maj. Gen. Martha Rainville of the Vermont National Guard are both contemplating seeking the Republican nod for the House seat.
State Lawmaker Passes on Challenging Pombo
Democrats lost their toughest potential challenger against House Resources Chairman Richard Pombo (R) last week when state Sen. Michael Machado (D) said he would not run.
Machado told the Stockton Record that he wanted to honor his pledge to serve in the Legislature until his term expires in 2008.
“People elect you to an office to serve them,” he said. “Call me old-fashioned in that respect.”
Machado did not rule out the possibility of seeking the 11th district seat next cycle. Despite Republicans’ 7-point edge in voter enrollment in the district, Democrats believe the right candidate can give Pombo a tough race.
Machado’s decision leaves the 2004 nominee, Jerry McNerney, as the only Democrat in the race. The underfunded challenger took just 39 percent of the vote.
Strongest Potential Foe Opts Out of Kirk Race
State Sen. Susan Garrett (D) announced last week that she would not run against Rep. Mark Kirk (R) next year.
Garrett had been considered Democrats’ top prospect for a competitive challenge to Kirk, who narrowly won his Democratic-leaning seat in 2000 but has coasted to re-election since.
The district gave Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) a 5-point victory over President Bush last year.