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California: Bilbray Won’t Rule Out Political Comeback Try

Former Rep. Brian Bilbray (R) has not ruled out running for the open 50th district seat being vacated by Rep. Duke Cunningham (R) next year.

Bilbray told Roll Call last week that family considerations will largely determine whether he is able to run. He spends part of each week working as a lobbyist in Washington, D.C., but said he is also the primary caregiver for his 86-year-old mother, who lives in La Costa.

The trick to running, Bilbray said, would be getting other family members to adjust their schedules to meet her needs.

“Can an 86-year-old mother change [the day] of her hair appointments that she’s had for 40 years? That’s sort of what it’s come down to,” Bilbray mused. “I have to laugh. It’s a little funny.”

If he ran, Bilbray, who represented a district to the south of the current 50th for three terms, would join a growing Republican field that so far includes state Sen. Bill Morrow, former state Assemblyman Howard Kaloogian and businessman George Schwartzman. College professor Francine Busby is running on the Democratic side.

Last week, Busby urged the Republicans in the race to join her in calling on Cunningham, who is under federal investigation for his close ties to a defense contractor, to give up his committee assignments. Busby said the Congressman’s continued oversight of military and intelligence agencies represents a threat to national security.

— Josh Kurtz

Brown Raises Hackett’s Hackles With Decision

After initially taking himself out of consideration several months ago, Rep. Sherrod Brown (D) last week reversed course and said he would run for Senate next year.

“The culture of corruption plaguing state and federal government has led our state down the wrong path, and it is time for a change,” he said in a statement.

Brown began sending out signals last week that he would run, just as attorney and Iraq war veteran Paul Hackett (D) was preparing to announce that he would run. At press time Friday, it was not clear whether both men would remain in the Democratic race for the right to challenge two-term Sen. Mike DeWine (R) in November 2006.

While Hackett impressed Democrats with his surprising near-miss in the 2nd district special election earlier this year and is considered a rising star by national and state party leaders, Brown is a former two-term statewide elected official (secretary of state) who has served in Congress since 1993.

But Democrats are so high on their prospects of knocking off DeWine that the number of candidates could continue to grow. Joel Hyatt, who was the party’s Senate nominee in 1994, told the Columbus Dispatch on Friday that he is contemplating returning to Ohio from California, where he now lives, to seek the seat again.

“My roots and affection for Ohio have never changed,” said Hyatt, a wealthy lawyer who recently launched a cable TV and satellite network with former Vice President Al Gore (D).

— J.K.

New Poll: Casey Widens Lead Over Santoru

State Treasurer Bob Casey Jr. (D) widened his lead over Sen. Rick Santorum (R) in the latest installment of the Quinnipiac University poll, which was released last week.

Casey was favored by 52 percent of those surveyed on the 2006 Senate race, while Santorum took just 34 percent. That’s a 7-point jump from the 11-point lead he held in the last Quinnipiac poll, which was released in July.

The latest poll of 1,530 registered voters was conducted Sept. 27-Oct. 3. It had a 2.5 percent error margin. Santorum registered his lowest ratings yet in job approval, favorability and whether he deserves re-election.

“About the only good news for Sen. Santorum is that the election is still more than a year away,” said Clay Richards, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

Even though President Bush’s ratings also registered at an all-time low in the poll, Vice President Cheney is scheduled to travel to Shavertown on Santorum’s behalf on Oct. 21, for a $1,000-a-ticket fundraiser, the Wilkes-Barre Times-Leader reported last week.

— J.K.

Krinkie Tops 6th District Field in Fundraising

State Rep. Phil Krinkie (R) has jumped to the lead in fundraising in the open seat 6th district race, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported last week.

Krinkie reported raising about $90,000 from July 1 to Sept. 30, according to the paper, and had $225,000 in the bank.

State Sen. Michele Bachmann (R) raised $85,000 and had $165,000 on hand as of Sept. 30. State Rep. Jim Knoblauch (R) raised $80,000 for the period but did not report a cash on hand figure. Businessman Jay Esmay (R) raised $16,000 and had $34,000 in the bank.

The leading Democratic candidate in the race, former state Transportation Commissioner Elwyn Tinklenberg, had yet to report his fundraising totals.

Meanwhile, in the neighboring 2nd district, Rep. John Kline (R) had a wide financial advantage over former FBI whistleblower Coleen Rowley (D). Kline reported raising $230,000 in the three-month period and had $360,000 in the bank. Rowley, who has not attempted any nationwide fundraising appeals, took in $80,000 and had $61,000 on hand.

— J.K.

Business Groups, GOP Aid Nelson Re-election

Sen. Ben Nelson (D) is raising money from Republicans and the business community at a healthy clip, the Omaha World Herald newspaper reported last week.

Several Republican lobbyists recently held a fundraiser for Nelson at The Monocle restaurant on Capitol Hill. Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb.) even managed to stop by, something he did at the request of the event’s organizers.

“I told them I’ll stop by … but I’m not bringing a check,” Terry told the World Herald.

Also, BIPAC last week announced its endorsement of Nelson. A group of mostly Republican business leaders, BIPAC said in a letter to possible donors that Nelson’s help in engendering compromise is vital in a closely divided Senate.

— David M. Drucker

Maybe I’m Amazed: All You Need Is Cash

Congress went home on Friday, but at least four Republican House Members extended their stay in Washington, D.C., through Saturday night — to fix a hole in their campaign accounts. They stayed to raise money and see Paul McCartney in concert at the MCI Center.

The political action committee of Koch Industries was scheduled to host a fundraiser for Rep. Mark Kennedy (R-Minn.), who is running for Senate next year.

Reps. Melissa Hart (R-Pa.) and Mike Ferguson (R-N.J.) were also having fundraisers at the arena. And Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Calif.) was scheduled to be the warm-up act for McCartney at a fundraiser for the EUREKA PAC.

Wonder if all the Republicans recall that McCartney augmented his hit “Let it Be” by singing “Let it be Kerry” during concerts he gave just before the 2004 presidential election. Hope he didn’t say anything intemperate about the fools on the Hill.
— J.K.

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