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Harris Has Commanding Lead in Florida GOP Senate Poll

A recent GOP poll in the Sunshine State Senate race continued to show Rep. Katherine Harris (R) with a commanding lead over other possible GOP candidates, although it showed she trailed Sen. Bill Nelson (D) by 8 points in a general election matchup.

Harris was favored by 52 percent of possible Republican primary voters in the poll of 1,200 registered Florida voters. The survey was taken July 16-20 and had a 3 percent margin of error.

In a ballot test of the 2006 general election, Nelson led Harris 48 percent to 40 percent.

Harris is the only Republican to announce plans to challenge Nelson, who is seeking a second term next year.

National Republicans have been encouraging state House Speaker Allan Bense (R) to enter the race. The survey showed Bense garnering 7 percent in a hypothetical GOP primary. However, in a general election matchup, Bense held Nelson to 45 percent while garnering 38 percent.

— Lauren W. Whittington

Governor to Stay Neutral In GOP Senate Primary

Gov. Don Carcieri (R) recently told a local television station that he would stay out of the fray and remain neutral if Cranston Mayor Steve Laffey decides to challenge Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R) in next year’s Senate primary.

“We’ve got a sitting Senator, Republican Senator, and if he chooses to run against Linc Chafee I can’t take sides in that,” the governor told News Channel 10 in Providence.

Laffey recently issued a statement saying he would take the summer to contemplate a Senate bid.

Carcieri’s words, backed up by the state party chairwoman’s non-endorsement endorsement of Chafee, could actually embolden Laffey to run — something national Republicans are trying to prevent.

“He enjoys the strong support of the White House, the Republican Senatorial [Campaign] Committee at the national level and of our party,” Rhode Island Republican Party Chairwoman Patricia Morgan told the television station. “So right now, I think we’re supporting him. He’s the only declared candidate.”

She also said the state party would have to remain neutral in any Laffey-Chafee matchup.

— Nicole Duran

Cheney Boosts Murphy At Pittsburgh Event

Vice President Cheney attended a Pittsburgh fundraiser on Monday for Rep. Tim Murphy (R), who may face a stiff challenge in 2006 from former state Treasurer Barbara Hafer (D).

Hafer, a former Allegheny County commissioner and Republican statewide officeholder who switched parties and became a Democrat in 2003, is expected to announce shortly that she will run against Murphy next year.

Murphy has never faced a competitive challenge in his Pittsburgh-area 18th district seat, which he first won in 2002.

Hafer told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette this week that her next step probably will be to visit Washington, D.C., to assess what kind of fundraising help she can get from national party leaders and other groups.

— L.W.W.

Bell Chimes Into Primary To Replace Sen. Dayton

Ford Bell (D), president of the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation, formally kicked off his 2006 Senate campaign late last week.

He joins Hennepin County Attorney Amy Klobuchar, child safety advocate Patty Wetterling and real estate developer Kelly Doran in seeking the Democratic nomination.

Bell, “a veterinarian by training and great-grandson of one of the founders of General Mills … may be one of the last of an aging and less active group of successful families, like the Daytons and the Pillsburys, which once richly contributed to Minnesota’s civic life,” the Politics in Minnesota newsletter noted.

Rep. Mark Kennedy (R) is the only Republican seeking the seat being vacated by Sen. Mark Dayton (D), while Independent Jack Uldrich is also in the race.

— N.D.

Treasurer Says He Won’t Run in Open House Race

State Treasurer Richard Ross (R) announced last week that he would not enter the 3rd district race to replace Rep. Tom Osborne (R), who is running for governor.

Ross, who was appointed treasurer in early 2004, said he would seek a full term next year instead. The “timing’s not right” to go to Washington, D.C., he told the Omaha World-Herald.

Ross’ decision leaves state Sen. Adrian Smith and former Osborne aide John Hanson as the principal Republicans in the race so far, though several other candidates could enter the fray.

The western Nebraska 3rd district is a Republican stronghold that gave President Bush an eye-popping 75 percent of the vote in 2004.

— Josh Kurtz