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Rhode Island: Sources Say Laffey to Begin Airing TV Ads Today

Cranston Mayor Stephen Laffey (R), who is challenging Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R) in next year’s GOP primary, is expected to begin airing the first television ad of the race today, sources said.

No details were available as of press time but Laffey’s spokeswoman said the campaign — which he just launched Thursday — will issue a news release on the subject this morning.

Rhode Island’s primary is not until next September but Laffey appears ready to draw first blood in what is expected to be a bruising primary.

Sources said the ad is titled “Mess” but no information about its content was available.

— Nicole Duran

Member of Regents to Run for Gibbons’ Seat

The first Democrat to enter the race for the Silver State’s open House seat is announcing her candidacy today in Gardnerville.

Jill Derby, a member of the Nevada Board of Regents, is the Democrats’ hope for capturing the 2nd district seat being vacated by Rep. Jim Gibbons (R).

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has high hopes for Derby, who was first elected to the board in 1988, representing one of 13 districts.

“She’s an excellent candidate,” said DCCC spokeswoman Sarah Feinberg.

Derby served three terms as chairwoman of the board and two as vice chairwoman.

Democrats haven’t put up much of a fight in the sprawling district, which has been in Republican hands for decades. The district gave President Bush 57 percent of the vote in each of the past two presidential elections.

Three Republicans are vying for their party’s nomination: Nevada Secretary of State Dean Heller; state Assemblywoman Sharron Angle and former Assemblywoman Dawn Gibbons, whose husband currently holds the seat.

Jim Gibbons is running for governor in 2006.

— N.D.

Calling Eliot Spitzer: Morrison Settles Claim

State Auditor John Morrison (D) announced Monday that his office reached a settlement with brokerage firm Waddell & Reed over allegations that the firm bilked Montana residents.

The settlement could boost Morrison’s 2006 Senate campaign.

Morrison estimates that 155 investors in Montana were cheated in an annuity contract scheme and will receive some restitution as a result of the settlement.

Morrison, who is seeking the Democratic nomination to challenge Sen. Conrad Burns (R) next year, noted that Montana led the way in getting the company to agree to a national settlement worth $11 million.

“Montana was the first state in the country in which both the Securities Department and Insurance Department filed an enforcement against Waddell & Reed,” a news release from Morrison’s office noted.

The national agreement stemmed from an NASD investigation.

— N.D.

Undecided Polls High in Hoeven-Conrad Race

A new poll shows Gov. John Hoeven (R) leading Sen. Kent Conrad (D) in a hypothetical 2006 Senate matchup; Hoeven has yet to announce that he is running.

According to The Associated Press, PMR Inc. found Hoeven leading Conrad 35 percent to 27 percent, with 27 percent undecided.

A Conrad spokesman dismissed the poll. “This poll done by this marketing firm doesn’t track with anything else that we’ve seen that is independent and scientific,” Chris Thorne told the AP.

The poll of 605 North Dakota residents was conducted via telephone Aug. 26-Sept. 3 and it had a margin of error of 3.9 percent.

— David M. Drucker

Byrd Extends Lead Over Capito in Newest Poll

A newly released poll showed Sen. Robert Byrd (D) widening his lead over Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R) in a hypothetical 2006 matchup.

Byrd led Capito 55 percent to 39 percent among registered voters, according to the poll done by Charleston-based RMS Strategies for The State Journal.

The survey was conducted the second week of August and had a 5 percent error margin.

An RMS Strategies poll taken in mid-May showed Byrd leading 46 percent to 43 percent.

Capito is the top choice of Republicans to challenge Byrd next year, and she is expected to decide about a Senate bid this fall.

Byrd, 87, was scheduled to announce last week that he will seek a ninth term in 2006, but the event was postponed due to the Hurricane Katrina disaster and the death of Chief Justice William Rehnquist. — Lauren W. Whittington

Government Attorney Eyes Congressional Bid

A longtime aide to Gov. Bill Richardson (D) is establishing an exploratory committee in advance of a possible Congressional run in the swing 1st district.

Chris Berkheimer (D), a Richardson-appointed mediator in the state Workers’ Compensation Administration, said he would likely run for the seat if state Attorney General Patricia Madrid (D) or New Mexico Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron (D) do not.

Berkheimer, a 37-year-old combat veteran of the 1991 Gulf War, was in Washington, D.C., on Friday meeting with Congressional strategists and Democratic operatives.

National Democrats, who have been frustrated by their inability to knock off four-term Rep. Heather Wilson (R), are trying to persuade Madrid, who is term-limited in 2006, to seek the Albuquerque-based seat, arguing that a Hispanic woman who has won two statewide elections would be a formidable challenger. But both Madrid and Vigil-Giron, who was elected secretary of state three times, have been reluctant to get into the race.

Berkheimer, who started in politics as a national security adviser to Richardson when the governor still served in Congress, ran unsuccessfully for the state Senate in 2004, taking 48 percent of the vote against a Republican incumbent in a GOP-performing district.

Berkheimer is the second Democrat to express an interest in seeking the seat if better-known candidates do not. State Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino (D) told Roll Call last week that he would consider running if Madrid does not — though he said he hopes the attorney general does make the race.

Wilson, meanwhile, continues her aggressive fundraising regime with a breakfast Thursday sponsored by the powerhouse lobbying firm Barbour, Griffith & Rogers.

— Josh Kurtz

Ryan, Hritz Both Pass on Challenging DeWine

Rep. Tim Ryan (D) announced last week that he will not run against Sen. Mike DeWine (R) in 2006.

Ryan had been on the short list of House Members being wooed by Senate Democrats to take on DeWine, who party strategists believe is vulnerable next year.

Rep. Sherrod Brown (D) previously announced he would not run for Senate, and Rep. Ted Strickland (D) opted to run for governor instead.

Ryan’s decision leaves attorney Paul Hackett, a Marine reservist and Iraq war veteran who narrowly lost a special House election in early August, as the most prominent Democrat mulling a run against DeWine. Hackett was in Washington, D.C., last week to discuss the race with Democratic leaders.

Meanwhile, businessman John Hritz (R) announced last week that he is dropping his primary challenge to DeWine, who angered conservative activists earlier this year with his participation in the “Gang of 14” who brokered the judicial compromise.

— L.W.W.

Fitzgerald Takes Sides in GOP Race for Bean’s Seat

Wealthy businessman David McSweeney (R) recently secured the endorsement of former Sen. Peter Fitzgerald (R-Ill.) in his bid to win the 8th district GOP nomination next year.

McSweeney is one of a handful of Republicans seeking to take on freshman Rep. Melissa Bean (D) next year. Bean ousted veteran Rep. Phil Crane (R) last year and is viewed as Republicans’ top target for defeat in 2006.

Before his election to the Senate in 1998, Fitzgerald was a state Senator and represented territory in the 8th district. Fitzgerald did not seek re-election in 2004.

Businesswoman Teresa Bartels (R) is also running to challenge Bean. Kathy Salvi (R), wife of wealthy former Senate and Congressional candidate Al Salvi (R), is also looking at the race. — L.W.W.

Shimkus Changes Mind, Breaks His Term Pledge

Rep. John Shimkus (R) made it known last week that he will break his term-limits pledge and run for re-election in 2008.

Shimkus announced in late February that he would honor the pledge he made to serve for 12 years when he was first elected in 1996, although he conceded then that he was torn about the decision.

Shimkus, a member of the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch last week that both President Bush and House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) had encouraged him to continue serving.

“I’ve learned making promises 12 years in advance is probably not the smartest thing to do,” he told the newspaper.

Two other Land of Lincoln lawmakers, Reps. Tim Johnson (R) and Judy Biggert (R), have already decided to forgo term-limits pledges.

— L.W.W.

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