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Casey Ending Quarter With Torrid Fundraising in Pennsylvania

State Treasurer Bob Casey Jr. (D) is continuing his torrid fundraising schedule in the run-up to the Sept. 30 quarterly fundraising deadline, with major events for his Senate campaign scheduled in Washington, D.C., and Pittsburgh this week.

Casey traveled to Washington on Tuesday night for a fundraiser at the Georgetown home of Democratic financiers Smith and Elizabeth Bagley. Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and his wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, also are hosting a fundraiser for Casey on Saturday in Pittsburgh. [IMGCAP(1)]

In addition, Casey recently raised an estimated $500,000 at a private Philadelphia luncheon featuring Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.).

Meanwhile, Sen. Rick Santorum’s (R) campaign recently announced he had suspended some of his fundraising activities this month in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, a move that cost him an estimated $1 million in funds.

All of the discussion about campaign fundraising comes as two public polls released last week showed Casey with a widening lead over Santorum, who is considered Democrats’ top target for defeat next year.

A Strategic Vision poll conducted Sept. 10-12 showed Casey ahead of Santorum 52 percent to 38 percent. The poll also found the two-term Senator had a 45 percent job approval rating.

A Franklin and Marshall Keystone Poll, conducted Sept. 8-13, showed Casey with a 13 point lead, 50 percent to 37 percent.

Santorum recently told The Associated Press that he is not discouraged by the polling data and that he expects to remain behind Casey in polls until early next year.

“Until the campaign really starts [and] the people get to see both candidates, hear what they have to say … up until that time, my feeling is, I’m just going to keep doing my job, and we’re trying to build as strong of a campaign as we can so we’re ready for next year,” Santorum told the AP.

— Lauren W. Whittington

LaHood Takes Sides in Primary for Bean Seat

Rep. Ray LaHood (R-Ill.) waded into the 8th district GOP primary this week, throwing his support to banker David McSweeney (R) in the race against Rep. Melissa Bean (D) in 2006.

“We have an opportunity to take back the 8th Congressional district and place it in the Republican column but it will take the type of commitment that David McSweeney has made to get the job done,” LaHood said in a statement released by McSweeney’s campaign.

McSweeney, who has pledged to spend at least $1 million of his own money on the race, recently lent his campaign $250,000. Businesswoman Teresa Bartels and attorney Kathy Salvi, both of whom have personal resources to spend on the contest as well, also are seeking the GOP nomination in March’s primary.

Bean has been labeled Republicans’ No. 1 target for defeat next year. She ousted veteran Rep. Phil Crane (R) in 2004 in a district that favors the GOP.

— L.W.W.

Businessman Is First to Challenge Matheson

Rep. Jim Matheson (D) has attracted his first challenger in next year’s midterm election.

On Monday Joe Tucker, a Democrat-turned-Republican businessman from Lehi, officially entered the fray, the Salt Lake Tribune reported.

Tucker does not appear to be the first choice of Republican leaders.

State Rep. LaVar Christensen and local radio personality Doug Wright both have been talked about as potential Matheson foes.

As the only Democrat in the Utah delegation, Matheson is a perennial National Republican Congressional Committee target.

In the past two cycles, Republicans have been hampered by divisive primaries that sent a weakened nominee into the general election contest with Matheson. He won last year with a surprisingly robust 55 percent of the vote.

— Nicole Duran

GOP Establishment Giving Gibbons Heller

Numerous Republican powerbrokers have lined up behind Nevada Secretary of State Dean Heller (R) in his bid to replace outgoing Rep. Jim Gibbons (R) in the Silver State’s 2nd district.

The host committee for an Oct. 4 Heller fundraiser includes many of Northern Nevada’s GOP poohbahs, the Ralston Report, a Nevada political tip sheet, reported this week.

The list “reads like a Who’s Who of the powers that be, including Gov. Kenny Guinn and his wife, Dema; Reno Mayor Bob Cashell; Carson City Mayor Marv Teixeira; influential businessman T.J. Day; R&R Partners’ Pete Ernaut; lobbyists Greg Ferraro, Mike Alonso and John Sande; and even not-so-neutral GOP National Committeewoman Beverly Willard,” Jon Ralston, the report’s author, wrote.

Ralston said the list is noteworthy considering that Gibbons is running for governor and given that his wife, former state Assemblywoman Dawn Gibbons (R), hopes to replace him in Congress. Assemblywoman Sharron Angle (R) also is seeking the GOP nomination.

“And just for some Southern flavor, Rep. Jon Porter (R-Nev.), whose consultants are handling Heller, is also on the invitation, which may have an effect on his relationship with his fellow GOP Congressman,” Ralston added.

— N.D.