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OHIO: Hackett, in DCCC Appeal, Calls His Ohio Loss a Template

Fresh off of his narrow yet lionizing loss in an Aug. 2 special election, attorney and Iraq War veteran Paul Hackett (D) penned a fundraising pitch for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee last week urging donors to help the party’s efforts to take back the House in 2006.

“In a district that has seen 40-point Democratic losses for 15 years, we came within four points,” Hackett wrote in an e-mail distributed to Democratic donors. “I couldn’t be prouder of our campaign. The national Republicans promised to ‘bury’ me, but we stood tough and put them in their place.”

Hackett also praised the committee’s behind-the-scenes work in his race and reiterated that the special election results show that no Republican incumbent is safe in next year’s elections.

“I am proud that my race for Ohio’s 2nd can serve as a template for how we win seats across this country in 2006,” he wrote. “Our success, and the help of the grassroots community in my race, gives confidence that we will win in 2006.”

Hackett, who was boosted financially by Democratic activists from across the country, lost to former state Rep. Jean Schmidt (R) in the race to succeed Rep. Rob Portman (R), who resigned to become U.S. Trade Representative.

— Lauren W. Whittington

FEC Fines Foxx $17K for 2004 Report Error

The campaign committee of freshman Rep. Virginia Foxx (R) has been fined $17,000 by the Federal Election Commission for failing to properly report an expenditure before last year’s GOP primary.

The civil penalty was reached as part of a conciliation agreement announced by the FEC last week.

According to the agreement, Foxx’s campaign omitted $135,000 in media expenses paid to an advertising agency when the treasurer filed the original 12 Day Pre-Election report before the July primary. Five days later the campaign amended the pre-primary report to show the $135,000 payment.

Foxx emerged from a contentious primary and runoff last year and won the November general election with 59 percent of the vote, succeeding now-Sen. Richard Burr (R) in the Winston-Salem-based 5th district.

— L.W.W.

Businessman Seeks to Challenge Rep. Drake

Businessman Troy Farlow (D) announced last week that he will seek to challenge freshman Rep. Thelma Drake (R) next year.

His prior business experience includes working in Washington, D.C., as a management consultant and on Wall Street as an investment banker.

Farlow, 33, said he plans to make pocketbook issues the centerpiece of his campaign.

“I can no longer stand by idly while our current Representatives in Washington continue to move this country along a path marked by fiscal recklessness and misplaced priorities,” Farlow said in a statement.

Still, the political novice faces an uphill battle, even when it comes to winning the Democratic nomination.

Attorney David Ashe (D), a veteran of the Iraq war, is seeking a rematch with Drake in 2006. Last year he garnered 45 percent of the vote against Drake despite being outspent by a 2-to-1 margin.

— L.W.W.

A Night at the Opera for Domenici Donors

Speculation over veteran Sen. Pete Domenici’s (R) political future almost reaches operatic proportions at times.

So perhaps it was appropriate that Domenici used a performance of the Santa Fe Opera on Friday night to raise money for his political campaign — even though he has not said whether he will seek a seventh term in 2008.

It cost donors a minimum of $1,000 each — and political action committees $2,000 — to attend the production of “Ainadamar” at the opera and other events over the weekend. Domenici contributors were invited to stay at the historic La Fonda Hotel on the Santa Fe Plaza.

Political-watchers in the Land of Enchantment are abuzz over Domenici’s political plans. With Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D) heavily favored for a fifth term in 2006, there hasn’t been an open Senate seat in New Mexico since 1972 (when Domenici won), and ambitious pols are getting antsy.

Is there any clue to Domenici’s intentions in the opera he selected for his fundraiser? The story centers on the late Spanish actress Margarita Xirgu and her passion for the work of revolutionary playwright Federico Garcia Lorca, who was assassinated in the 1930s. At the end of the opera, she dies onstage.

— Josh Kurtz

Fate of Redistricting Rests With State’s High Court

The fate of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s (R) redistricting reform proposal is now in the hands of the state’s highest court.

Reform advocates last week asked the California Supreme Court to overturn an appellate court’s ruling that kept the redistricting measure off the November ballot on a technicality. State Attorney General Bill Lockyer (D) ordered the measure off the ballot earlier this summer because there was a discrepancy between the language on the petitions that reform advocates circulated and the ballot question they submitted to state elections officials.

Schwarzenegger and a group of reformers want to take Congressional and legislative redistricting out of the hands of the state Legislature and place the responsibility with a panel of retired judges. If voters approved such an approach, reformers would push to have new lines drawn before the 2006 elections — a proposition that even Schwarzenegger’s own elections officials have questioned.

A group called Californians for Fair Redistricting filed the appeal last week asking the Supreme Court to overturn the appeals court decision.

“If the appeal court decision is allowed to stand, there will not be competitive races, millions of voters will remain disenfranchised, and the voices of reform will have been silenced in a precedent-setting way,” said entrepreneur Bill Mundell, the group’s chairman.

— J.K.

Senate Committees Fight Over Ads Blasting Burns

More than 14 months ahead of next year’s midterm elections, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and National Republican Senatorial Committee are sparring over television ads in a state not long ago few would have thought merited national attention.

The state Democratic Party and the DSCC bought ads criticizing Sen. Conrad Burns (R) for his ties to disgraced Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Specifically, the DSCC accused Burns of accepting $136,000 in contributions from Abramoff.

The NRSC swiftly objected to that claim, and others made in the ad, and asked local stations to pull the ad.

At the request of some stations, the Democrats agreed to tweak the ad to say the donations were made by Abramoff and his associates.

— Nicole Duran

Democrat Says Rehberg Plays Politics on BRAC

State Rep. Monica Lindeen (D), who is challenging Rep. Denny Rehberg (R) for the Treasure State’s lone House seat, accused Rehberg of not doing enough to insulate Montana from the Base Realignment and Closure Commission recommendations before Congress adjourned for the August recess.

Lindeen said Rehberg put politics above the state’s well-being because he did not promote a provision backed by Sen. Max Baucus (D) in conference that would have reopened a Malmstrom Air Force Base airstrip in the highway bill.

“Rep. Rehberg had an opportunity to stand up to his party leadership,” Lindeen charged in a news release. “Instead, he stood by silently while his party leadership stripped the provision from the bill. His simple objection … would have stopped this last minute agreement.”

Rehberg spokesman Brad Keena was not available to comment Friday, but he did tell the Great Falls Tribune earlier this month that the Congressman could do little to preserve the provision to save the airstrip — which was inserted by Baucus into the sweeping highway bill that passed Congress on July 29 — on the House floor.

Keena told the paper “procedurally, you couldn’t object to an objection.”

Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.) moved to strike the provision by objecting to it.

Keena said after the back and forth over the entire bill, if Rehberg had tried to push the issue further before adjournment his actions would have been “academic and only symbolic.”

Lindeen said Rehberg put politics ahead of Montana.

“Montanans needed someone to fight for them in Congress,” she charged. “Unfortunately … our current Representative chose not to stand up for Malmstrom.”

— N.D.

Club for Growth Backs O’Donnell in 7th District

The Club for Growth last week endorsed Rick O’Donnell (R), executive director of the state Higher Education Commission, in his bid to succeed Rep. Bob Beauprez (R) in the 7th district next year.

“Rick O’Donnell believes in limited government and lower taxes and we believe he is willing and able to stick to his principles as a legislator,” Club for Growth President Pat Toomey said in a statement.

O’Donnell is the favorite of the GOP establishment in the race to succeed Beauprez, but he may face Jefferson County Treasurer Mark Paschall, a social conservative, in the Republican primary.

Former state Sen. Ed Perlmutter and ex-state Rep. Peggy Lamm are competing for the Democratic nomination in the swing suburban district. After serving just two terms in Congress, Beauprez has decided to run for governor.

— J.K.

Cantwell Tops McGavick by 8 in New GOP Poll

A new Republican poll shows freshman Sen. Maria Cantwell (D) below 50 percent for re-election.

Strategic Vision, an Atlanta-based Republican public relations firm, polled 800 Evergreen State residents Aug. 5-7 and found that 47 percent approved of Cantwell’s job performance while 36 percent disapproved.

In a matchup with likely GOP opponent Mike McGavick, the outgoing CEO of insurance giant Safeco, Cantwell would receive 46 percent of the vote to the challenger’s 38 percent.

The poll had a 3 percent error margin.

— N.D.

Stabenow Has 2-1 Lead Over Butler in New Poll

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D) is in good shape for re-election, according to a new poll.

The survey of 600 Michiganders conducted Aug. 2-6 by EPIC/MRA of Lansing showed the freshman Senator leading her likely opponent, the Rev. Keith Butler (R), 62 percent to 31 percent.

The poll had a 4 percent error margin.

— N.D.

Kennedy Runs Afoul of McCollum and the AP

Rep. Mark Kennedy (R) has hit a few bumps recently in his quest to replace retiring Sen. Mark Dayton (D).

First he had to cancel a scheduled event in St. Paul after Rep. Betty McCollum (D) said the event would violate House rules.

He was to have held a public forum for the Hmong community Aug. 6.

McCollum, whose district includes St. Paul (Kennedy’s does not), said House rules forbid the use of Congressional funds for events outside of a Member’s own district.

“‘Participate’ would have been a much better word to use, rather than ‘hold,’” Kennedy spokeswoman Anne Mason told The Associated Press. “We didn’t mean to give any offense to Congresswoman McCollum. And, accordingly for this event, Kennedy isn’t going to participate.”

Then Kennedy got on the wrong side of the AP when it was revealed that his campaign had altered articles from the news service on his campaign Web site without noting the changes and without the AP’s permission.

His campaign explained that the articles were clearly marked as “excerpts” but the articles were subsequently removed altogether from the “news” section of his Web site,

— N.D.

Mayor Joins GOP Race to Succeed Rep. Osborne

Grand Island Mayor Jay Vavricek (R) last week joined the increasingly crowded race to replace Rep. Tom Osborne (R) in 2006. Vavricek, who owns a chain of radio stations, told The Associated Press that he would promote “policies and initiatives that honor and protect the traditional family.”

Vavricek becomes the fifth Republican vying for the western Nebraska seat being vacated by Osborne, the former University of Nebraska football coach who is running for governor next year. Joining Vavricek in the top tier of GOP contenders are state Sen. Adrian Smith and former Osborne aide John Hanson.

Hanson received a boost last week when former Gov. Kay Orr (R) endorsed his candidacy. Orr and her husband will serve as co-chairs of his campaign.

— J.K.

Hollinger Warns Cardin Nephew on House Bid

State Sen. Paula Hollinger (D), one of several candidates seeking to replace Rep. Ben Cardin (D) next year, issued a warning to the Congressman’s nephew, state Del. Jon Cardin (D), who is also contemplating the race.

According to the Owings Mills Times, Hollinger said that people who support her House bid and the elder Cardin’s Senate candidacy “would not be happy” if Jon Cardin gets in the Congressional race. She said a House bid by Jon Cardin “puts me in a funny position” and could damage Congressman Cardin’s statewide ambitions.

Jon Cardin shot back that he does not believe his uncle would be hurt if he attempts to replace him.

“I don’t think this has an effect on anybody,” he told the Times. “I just want to make sure the district has a choice for the best advocate they can have.”

Jon Cardin is not the only political legacy contemplating the 3rd district race. Peter Beilenson, the former Baltimore health commissioner who is the son of retired California Rep. Anthony Beilenson (D), is already running. And The Baltimore Sun reported recently that John Sarbanes (D), a lawyer who is the son of retiring Sen. Paul Sarbanes (D), is also considering the race.

Several other Democrats are also in the race or are thinking about getting in.

Del. Neil Quinter recently hired pollster Jef Pollock of Global Strategies and Jim Crounse to handle direct mail, according to The Gazette newspaper. Anne Arundel County Councilman Bill Burlison, a former Congressman from Missouri, has also entered the race.

Oz Bengur, an investment banker, has set up an exploratory team. And Anne Arundel County Executive Janet Owens — who recently took a statewide poll — is also weighing the race.

— J.K.

Petition Gatherers Win Round vs. Post Offices

The federal Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit last week ruled in favor of ballot-initiative supporters in a landmark case about signature-gatherers’ access to U.S. Postal Service facilities.

On Aug. 9, a three-judge panel from the appeals court overturned a lower court ruling that had upheld a Postal Service ban on the “solicitation of signatures on petitions, polls or surveys” anywhere on postal property, including sidewalks.

The five-year-old case, Initiative & Referendum Institute v. U.S. Postal Service, was remanded to the district court to determine whether a “substantial amount of protected speech” is prohibited by the existing ban. If so, the appeals court has ordered that the regulation be struck down in its entirety, said David Klein, the attorney at Swidler Berlin who represents the Initiative & Referendum Institute, in a statement.

“As a practical matter, the Court of Appeals has found the regulation unconstitutional on perimeter sidewalks — those that look like public sidewalks, running parallel to a public road and/or around the perimeter of postal property,” Klein wrote. “It has not decided the question as applied to ‘interior’ sidewalks…. That is a question we can choose to litigate going forward.”

The plaintiffs pursued their case on First Amendment grounds, saying the ban severely limits the ability of citizens to place issues before their fellow voters.

They argue that rural areas are especially hard hit, because few public spaces exist to collect signatures — and because signature-gathering on private commercial property has been increasingly squeezed by property owners.

“This decision represents a resounding victory for the principles of democracy,” IRI chairman and founder M. Dane Waters said in a statement.

The Postal Service has until Sept. 23 to seek a rehearing by the entire court of appeals.

— Louis Jacobson