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Louisiana: Consultant Tries to Set Record Straight on Memo

As both Republicans and Democrats continue to lob charges of political opportunism in the already heated race in the 3rd district, parts of which were ravaged by Hurricane Katrina, Brett Littlefield, consultant to state Sen. Craig Romero (R), is seeking to set the record straight about a memo he believes was taken out of context by overzealous Democrats.

Democrats were livid recently when they learned that Romero was distributing district voting history information, which included a pie chart titled “3rd District with Katrina Parishes Removed.” They charged that Romero was seeking to capitalize on the tragedy by showing that if residents didn’t move back to the area it would benefit his campaign, a charge that Littlefield says is flatly false.

Littlefield contends the document was given to reporters during Romero’s trip to Washington, D.C., last month as a means of illustrating that the migration from the hardest hit areas, two GOP-leaning parishes, would actually benefit Democrats.

“In fact, the document stated that Republicans would gain votes if everyone moved home from the recent tragic migration caused by the hurricanes,” Littlefield said in a statement. “In demographic planning for next year we found that overall vote totals shifted slightly to the Democrats by 1.9 percent to make it a 57.1 percent Republican district instead of a 59 percent Republican district.”

Littlefield charged that Democrats were “tragically using the issue of pain and suffering from the losses sustained in Katrina to throw baseless charge at” Romero.

Littlefield did say in an interview, however, that the chart also showed that if there is a “regular” GOP turnout in Romero’s home turf, Iberia Parish, Romero should do better than the 2004 GOP nominee, Billy Tauzin III, did in his race with now-Rep. Charlie Melancon (D). Tauzin, who lost by 569 votes, did not do as well in Iberia as Republicans usually do, Littlefield said.

— Lauren W. Whittington

Finance Report: Laffey Enriched by Oil Holdings

National Republican leaders got their first glimpse of how much personal money Cranston Mayor Stephen Laffey may have available to pump into his primary challenge of Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R) when he filed his financial disclosure report with the Federal Election Commission on Sept. 28.

Laffey reportedly is worth between $3.3 million and $7.8 million, the Providence Journal revealed Wednesday.

The former investment banker could spend enough money to trigger the millionaire’s amendment to federal campaign rules, but his personal fortune is eclipsed by Chafee’s.

Chafee is worth $39 million, making him the 10th wealthiest Member of the 109th Congress, according to Roll Call’s annual analysis of Members’ wealth.

Laffey has owned stock in oil industry giants ConocoPhillips and BP — a point the National Republican Senatorial Committee is driving home in ads running this week on local television stations.

The NRSC says Laffey is hypocritical for complaining about high gas prices while having profited from investments in the oil industry.

Laffey countered those charges with a news conference earlier this week, and called on Chafee to debate him.

“The Senator needs to stop hiding behind the attack campaign perpetrated by Senator Chafee’s cronies in Washington and come out now to meet the mayor,” Laffey campaign spokeswoman Robin Muksian-Schutt said in a news release. “If it’s soon enough for the Senator’s allies to sling mud, then it’s plenty soon for the people of Rhode Island to hear the views of these two candidates.”

Chafee campaign manager Ian Lang replied that Chafee would be happy to debate Laffey as the September primary draws nearer.

“With the election over a year away, however, Senator Chafee believes it is more important to focus on his job representing the people of Rhode Island in Washington,” he said.

— Nicole Duran

Braley Snags Key Union Endorsement in Primary

Bruce Braley has picked up a key union endorsement in his run for the Democratic nomination in the 1st district House seat being vacated by Rep. Jim Nussle (R).

Braley, a Waterloo trial lawyer, has been backed by the Association of Federal, State, County and Municipal Employees, his campaign announced late last month.

“This is the first major union endorsement in Iowa 01, paving the road for other major unions to follow in the near future,” Braley said in a campaign memo to supporters.

With Nussle giving up a seat seen as competitive to run for governor, multiple candidates on both sides of the aisle have entered their party’s respective primaries.

— David M. Drucker

GOP Paid for Poll Just As Finley Took New Job

Former Waukesha County Executive Dan Finley (R) was Republicans’ main hope for taking on Sen. Herb Kohl (D) next year, but Finley disappointed them when he left his county job to take the top position with the Milwaukee Public Museum on July 29.

But what people didn’t know is that Finley’s job change came just one day after the state GOP commissioned McLaughlin & Associates to survey residents about a hypothetical Finley-Kohl matchup, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported this week.

“It was surprising,” a Wisconsin Republican official told the paper. “We were less than pleased, given that the pollsters were going in the field on Wednesday night.”

Republicans are not lining up to take on the state’s senior Senator for several reasons, not the least of which is that the heir to the Kohl retail and grocery store fortune and Milwaukee Bucks owner is a “kazillionaire,” in the words of Journal Sentinel columnists Cary Spivak and Dan Bice.

— N.D.

A Little Plains Speaking on Tap in Silver State?

A son of former President Jimmy Carter is contemplating challenging freshman Sen. John Ensign (R) next year.

Jack Carter, who has lived in Las Vegas since 2003, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal this week that he is considering making his first bid for public office next year.

“I’m very seriously exploring it,” he told the paper, saying the thought occurred to him only after the federal government was slow to respond to Hurricane Katrina. “I have no infrastructure and this is new to me.”

Carter, who runs the investment consulting firm Carter Global, is set to meet with top staffers to Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) next week.

Reid and Ensign have had an informal detente ever since Reid narrowly edged out Ensign in his 1998 re-election bid.

Ensign’s father even endorsed Reid last year as he faced only nominal opposition in winning a fourth term. Reid has come under fire from some national Democrats who believe he has not worked hard enough to recruit a top-notch challenger to Ensign next year.

— N.D.

Sarbanes’ Son Poised to Seek Open House Seat

Investment banker Oz Bengur (D) formally entered the increasingly crowded race for the open 3rd district seat on Wednesday.

“I’m a Democrat running for Congress because it is time somebody stood up to fight the Republican agenda and get our country back on track,” Bengur told The Associated Press.

Bengur, who currently is treasurer of the Maryland Democratic Party, unsuccessfully sought the Democratic nomination in the neighboring 2nd district in 2002. He was defeated in that primary by now-Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D).

Bengur became the fifth Democrat to enter the race to succeed Cardin in the dragon-shaped, Baltimore-area district, and others continue contemplating getting in.

One of them, lawyer John Sarbanes (D), son of retiring Sen. Paul Sarbanes (D), has told supporters that he plans to announce his candidacy later this month.

Sarbanes, 43, is the head of the health care practice at the Baltimore office of the law firm Venable and has worked as a top aide to Nancy Grasmick, the state’s longtime superintendent of schools. A Harvard Law School graduate, Sarbanes also has volunteered at the Public Justice Center and served as a law clerk to a federal judge.

“My perspective is pretty diverse, in terms of the subject matter of things I’ve done,” Sarbanes wrote in a letter to potential supporters, The Baltimore Sun reported this week. “I’ve done private sector, public sector and nonprofit work pretty much all at the same time. … That’s something I’m not sure the other candidates can bring to the table.”

Sarbanes’ father held the 3rd district seat from 1970 to 1976, though the boundaries were significantly different than they are now.

— Josh Kurtz

Justice Dept. Pre-Clears New Congressional Map

The U.S. Justice Department pre-cleared the Peach State’s new Congressional map late last week, giving the green light for the GOP-drawn boundaries to go into effect for next year’s elections.

The new lines were drawn to shore up Rep. Phil Gingrey’s (R) marginally Republican 11th district and also are expected to complicate the re-election efforts of the state’s two white Democrats.

Rep. John Barrow (D) is likely to face a rematch with former Rep. Max Burns (R), whom he ousted last year in the 12th district. Meanwhile, Rep. Jim Marshall (D) is expected to face a challenge from former Rep. Mac Collins (R), who has represented some of the territory in the redrawn and renumbered 8th district.

Four districts will be renumbered under the new map. Marshall and Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R), who currently represent the 3rd and 8th districts respectively, will swap district numbers.

Republican Reps. Charlie Norwood and Nathan Deal also will swap district numbers, with Norwood seeking re-election in the 10th district and Deal running in the 9th district. Those changes reflect the district numbers in place before the last redraw.

State Democrats are not expected to mount a court challenge to the new lines.

— L.W.W.

Tinklenberg to Get Aid from Hoyer Reception

In a sign of how enthused national Democrats are about the candidacy of Elwyn Tinklenberg in the open 6th district race, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) is hosting a reception for him next week.

Hoyer will travel to Minneapolis to help the former state transportation commissioner raise money.

The afternoon reception Oct. 13 is being held at the Minneapolis United Labor Center.

The former mayor of Blaine hopes to capture the Republican-leaning district with his focus on transportation issues, opposition to abortion rights and support for the Second Amendment.

The Republican primary field to succeed Rep. Mark Kennedy (R), who is running for the Senate, is beginning to take shape.

State Rep. Phil Krinkie is enjoying a bounce now that former state Education Commissioner Cherie Pierson Yecke has abandoned her bid.

Also vying for the GOP nod are state Sen. Michele Bachmann, state Rep. Jim Knoblach and business executive Jay Esmay.

— N.D.

Sale of Company Should Boost Tarrant Senate Run

Now that millionaire CEO Richard Tarrant has sold his software company to General Electric Co., the Republican will apparently have more time and money to pour into his Senate campaign.

Tarrant, who founded IDX Systems Corp. in Burlington, has committed at least $550,000 to his bid for the Green Mountain State’s open Senate seat next year, the Rutland Herald reported.

He already has contributed that much to his exploratory committee and a campaign spokesman vowed: “We will spend what it requires to get our message out.”

While he reportedly will reap $108 million from the $1.2 billion deal announced with GE last week, Tarrant does not intend to buy the seat, added the spokesman, Tim Lennon.

“You don’t buy elections anywhere in the country, especially in a small state like Vermont,” Lennon said. “It takes hard work.”

Tarrant is expected to face Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie in the GOP primary, though neither has officially joined the race.

Greg Parke, who lost to Rep. Bernie Sanders (I) last year, and state Sen. Mark Shepard also are pursuing the Republican nomination.

Sanders will have the backing of national Democrats as he hopes to capture the seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Jim Jeffords (I).

— N.D.

Pearl Jam, Pat Schroeder Differ on Senate Primary

Pearl Jam rocked $85,000 into Montana state Senate President Jon Tester’s (D) Senate campaign coffers with an August benefit concert.

Fans paid $46 each to see the Aug. 29 show at the University of Montana in Missoula, the Helena Independent Record reported.

About 4,700 people attended and the concert grossed near $230,000 but it cost Tester $145,000 to put the show on.

Pearl Jam bassist Jeff Ament hails from the same Montana town as Tester — Big Sandy — and has endorsed Tester in the Democratic primary against state Auditor John Morrison.

They are competing for the right to challenge Sen. Conrad Burns (R), who is a top Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee target.

While the Seattle grunge band is firmly in Tester’s corner, former Rep. Pat Schroeder (D-Colo.) penned a letter to Morrison’s supporters on his behalf.

In a plea before the Sept. 30 closing of the latest Federal Election Commission filing period, Schroeder asked donors to open their wallets and join her and former Sens. Bill Bradley (D-N.J.) and Bob Kerrey (D-Neb.) in backing Morrison.

“Not only do we need John Morrison in the U.S. Senate to start turning things around — but in just a matter of days John will file his official campaign report,” Schroeder wrote. “The more contributions he shows from folks like you and me, the stronger John Morrison’s campaign will be as he prepares to take on long-time incumbent Senator Conrad Burns.”

— N.D.

Churchill Seeks Allies in GOP to Oust Bean

Yet another Republican has joined the ranks of those seeking to take on Rep. Melissa Bean (D) next year, as state Rep. Robert Churchill (R) formally tossed his hat into the 8th district ring this week.

Churchill brings the total number of Republicans seeking the nomination next year to five, joining banker David McSweeney, attorney Kathy Salvi and businesswoman Teresa Bartels among the most prominent candidates.

McSweeney, who currently is out front as far as endorsements, and Salvi both have said they are willing to spend considerable personal resources to win the primary. Bartels also has the ability to write a personal check to her campaign.

Bean is considered one of the most endangered Democrats next year. She defeated veteran Rep. Phil Crane (R) in the GOP-leaning suburban Chicago district.

— L.W.W.

Park-ing Up Wrong Tree in Republican Primary?

Political newcomer Park Gillespie (R) announced last week that he will seek to challenge veteran Rep. John Spratt (D) next year.

Gillespie, 39, won $200,000 and emerged the winner on Showtime’s “American Candidate” TV show last year, beating out other “candidates” such as Chrissy Gephardt, the daughter of former Rep. Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.).

Gillespie, who describes himself as a staunch conservative, gave up 16 years of teaching to try the show and now a political run.

“Life is short,” he told The Rock Hill Herald last week. “I can make a difference.”

However, Gillespie is likely to face an uphill battle in the GOP primary against state Rep. Ralph Norman (R), the hand-picked choice of state and national GOP leaders.

Norman is expected to make an announcement about his plans on Oct. 10.
— L.W.W.