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San Diego Latino Group Backs Filner Over Vargas

The San Diego County Mexican American Political Association has endorsed Rep. Bob Filner (D) over Latino Juan Vargas (D), a state assemblyman preparing to mount a primary challenge to the incumbent Congressman.

“I am grateful and honored for this recognition,” Filner said in a written statement.

MAPA based its decision on interviews with each candidate, complimenting Filner on his ability to work with Republican and Democratic Members of Congress from San Diego County and neighboring Imperial County.

“Congressman Filner not only shares the ideals and values of the Latino community, but he has a proven track record of fighting for the causes we care about,” said MAPA spokesman Ed Cervantes.

— David M. Drucker

Cheese Steak, Crab Cake on Menu for Murphy

Attorney Lois Murphy (D), who is seeking a rematch with Rep. Jim Gerlach (R) in Montgomery County next year, is coming to Montgomery County, Md., tonight to raise money for her campaign.

Crab cakes and cheese steaks will be on the menu at Murphy’s “From Montgomery County to Montgomery County” fundraiser. It is being held at the Takoma Park home of American University Law School professor Jamin Raskin, a friend of Murphy’s from their law school days who was preparing to run for Congress himself next year had Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) decided to run for Senate.

Van Hollen will headline the $50-and-up fundraiser for Murphy, and several state and local elected officials from Maryland are expected to attend.

Murphy, who took 49 percent of the vote last year in a district that preferred Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) by 3 points over President Bush in the presidential election, is considered one of Democrats’ top challengers this cycle.

— Josh Kurtz

Mrs. Guinn Fires Away at Potential Successor

The wife of Nevada Gov. Kenny Guinn (R) has questioned 2nd district Congressional candidate Dawn Gibbons’ (R) desire to be both a Member of Congress and Nevada’s first lady.

Gibbons is hoping to succeed her husband, Rep. Jim Gibbons (R), in Congress. Jim Gibbons is hoping to succeed Kenny Guinn when he leaves the governor’s mansion next year.

“I strongly believe that the people of Nevada deserve to have a full-time Congressperson representing them back in Washington, D.C., not a jet-lag Congressperson,” Dema Guinn told the Reno Gazette-Journal Monday. “And [the] people of Nevada also need a full-time first lady.”

Dema Guinn says that like her husband, she will back Nevada Secretary of State Dean Heller (R) for Jim Gibbons’ seat.

State Rep. Sharron Angle also is seeking the GOP nod in the heavily Republican district.

The governor and Jim Gibbons have been feuding for some time. Guinn has made clear that Gibbons is not his first choice as successor. Perhaps that stems from Gibbons’ 1994 support of Democrat Bob Miller for governor over Guinn, the paper noted.

“I’m not surprised by Dema’s comments about the job of first lady being more important than the job of Congresswoman,” Dawn Gibbons said in reply Monday. “It has been obvious for some time that both Dema and Kenny are not supportive of me or Jim … so it is no surprise to me that Dema is working to defeat me.”

Gibbons also noted that many Members of Congress, including those from Nevada, choose to return to their home states on the weekends and that Heller’s pledge to move his family to Washington, D.C., does not make him more qualified to serve in Congress than Gibbons, who has said she will split her time between Washington and Carson City if her husband becomes governor.

— Nicole Duran

Favored McMorris Picks Up Fundraising Pace

Freshman Rep. Cathy McMorris (R) is ramping up her fundraising with a little help from her senior colleagues, despite representing a safe Eastern Washington district and facing no opponent thus far.

On Saturday, accompanied by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), she will attend a $250 per person or $1,000 per political action committee afternoon reception at a private home in Othello, Wash. Then on Oct. 8, it’s an event at a Spokane watering hole with House Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.).

McMorris battled through a competitive GOP primary last fall and then soundly beat a very credible Democratic candidate, local businessman Don Barbieri, to win the open 5th district race.

— N.D.

Cantwell Has 10-Point Edge Over McGavick

The latest poll in the Evergreen State shows freshman Sen. Maria Cantwell (D) leading her likely GOP challenger by 10 points but it also puts her job approval rating under 50 percent.

In a poll of 800 voters conducted Sept. 19-21 by Strategic Vision, a Republican firm, 48 percent of Washington voters approved of Cantwell’s job performance while 37 percent disapproved and 15 percent had no opinion.

The poll had a 3 percent margin of error.

In a matchup with Safeco CEO Mike McGavick (R), Cantwell got 49 percent of the vote to McGavick’s 39 percent while 12 percent were undecided.

— N.D.

You Can Only Hope to Hear Them on the Radio

A Providence radio station has offered free airtime to all four of the announced 2006 Senate candidates to comply with federal election law.

Cranston Mayor Stephen Laffey, who hopes to unseat Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R) in next September’s Republican primary, has a monthly program that the station, WPRO-AM, airs. Now that he is a Senate candidate, the station had to decide whether to boot him from the airwaves or offer his competitors equal time.

Already Chafee has rejected the offer, while Democratic candidates Sheldon Whitehouse and Matt Brown responded more favorably, the Providence Journal reported.

Whitehouse, the former state attorney general, said he will join Laffey on the air. Brown, the secretary of state, told the paper that he is “strongly considering it.”

Laffey takes to the air for almost three hours one Friday a month. His opponents have been offered the same time slot.

Laffey, who announced his candidacy on Sept. 8, is hosting a fundraiser Wednesday at the Quidnessett Country Club in North Kingstown, according to the Journal. The cost is $1,000 per person for dinner and $2,000 for dinner and a reception.

— N.D.

Salazar Campaign Pays $45K to Man in Accident

A motorist injured when campaign aides for now-Sen. Ken Salazar (D) collided with his vehicle has received $45,000 from Salazar’s campaign committee as compensation for his injuries, the Rocky Mountain News reported last week.

Salazar campaign aide Thomas Olsen was driving to a campaign event on Nov. 1 of last year when his vehicle accidentally crossed the median of a Colorado highway and collided with an oncoming car driven by Jesus Lopez. Lopez suffered multiple leg fractures.

The financial settlement was prompted by the threat of a lawsuit, Salazar’s state director Jim Carpenter told the News.

“The campaign did what any business or organization does,” he said. “You enter into some conversations and negotiations. We settled for an amount we thought was fair to compensate for Mr. Lopez’s injuries.”

— D.M.D.

Busy Day Coming Up for Senate Candidates

Calendar Wednesday is a significant day in the developing race to replace Sen. Paul Sarbanes (D), who is retiring after five terms.

In the early afternoon, Allan Lichtman, a history professor at American University and well-known political commentator, will formally join the Democratic race. Lichtman, who hopes to model his campaign after the late Sen. Paul Wellstone’s (D-Minn.), will speak first at his son’s elementary school in North Bethesda, and will then greet voters in Prince George’s County and Baltimore.

And in the evening, former Rep. Kweisi Mfume (D) is throwing his first major high-dollar fundraiser since he launched his candidacy six months ago.

Mfume, a former president of the NAACP who has had a host of small fundraisers across the state in recent weeks, is holding his event at the Visionary Arts Museum in Baltimore.

For pure political pop, however, both Lichtman’s and Mfume’s events could be overshadowed by the fact that Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley (D) is formally announcing his candidacy for governor on the very same day.

— J.K.

GOPers Seek Schumer Assurances on Credit

In a move that appears designed to prolong a potentially embarrassing story, five Republican Senators who are up for re-election in 2006 wrote to Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Charles Schumer (N.Y.) Monday, seeking assurances that DSCC researchers have not pored through their financial records.

Schumer promptly replied that they did not.

Sens. Lincoln Chafee (R-R.I.), John Ensign (R-Nev.), Trent Lott (R-Miss.), Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) penned the letter in response to news reports last week that DSCC researchers had improperly obtained financial records of Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele, the likely GOP Senate nominee in the Free State next year.

The DSCC research director and a researcher resigned before the revelations became public, and Democratic officials said they alerted federal authorities as soon as they learned that the committee had mistakenly obtained Steele’s credit records.

But in their letter, the five Republican Senators appealed to Schumer “as a colleague” to further allay their sense of unease.

“While the DSCC press secretary and counsel have publicly denied that the DSCC accessed the personal credit reports of any other Republican Senators or candidates, the security of our families’ finances is too important to rely on the assurances of professional political staff and consultants whose primary focus is defeating us next November,” they wrote.

In his terse reply, Schumer wrote: “This was a single incident and no other Senator or candidate’s credit report was accessed. This has been stated repeatedly by the DSCC.”

— J.K.