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Rhode Island: Talk About Currying Favor With Your Prof!

The Brown University political science professor who is challenging Rep. James Langevin in next year’s Democratic primary has raised some eyebrows by accepting campaign donations from students.

The Brown Daily Herald noted this week that Jennifer Lawless (D) received $5,500 from two students and their families.

The possible conflict, according to the paper, is that Lawless is involved in grading the students’ theses.

Perhaps of more interest to political watchers is that one of the magnanimous students is Courtney Hull, daughter of multimillionaire Blair Hull, who ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic Senate nomination in Illinois last year.

Courtney Hull gave $1,000, while her father, Blair, and sister Megan Hull each maxed out to Lawless at $2,100.

Lawless told the Herald that she does not see a conflict of interest.

“I’m confident my students and I will keep academics separate from politics,” she told the paper. “I’ve never solicited a contribution from a student, and I never would.”

— Nicole Duran

Tebelius Out, Clearing the Way for McGavick

Republican National Committeewoman Diane Tebelius announced Friday that she will not seek the GOP Senate nomination in the Evergreen State next year.

Tebelius was one of the last obstacles preventing national party leaders from clearing the field for Safeco CEO Mike McGavick.

McGavick, who was supposed to leave the insurance giant in August, formed an exploratory committee in July and is considered the Republicans’ best bet to unseat Sen. Maria Cantwell (D) after Dino Rossi (R) — who came within a whisper of winning the governorship last year — opted out of the Senate contest.

Tebelius lost the 8th district Republican primary in 2004 to Dave Reichert, who went on to win the seat.

Local television newswoman Susan Hutchison (R) is also mulling a Senate bid but likely will defer to McGavick as well, according to The Associated Press.

Meanwhile, Cantwell has not been so lucky.

Businessman Mark Wilson, who has run for Congress and Senate before, has said he will challenge Cantwell from the left.

Wilson, a Marine veteran, ran as a Libertarian against Rep. Jay Inslee (D) in 2002 and as an independent against Sen. Patty Murray (D) last year.

While Wilson hopes to appeal to the liberal base, he acknowledged to the AP that his candidacy is a long shot.

— N.D.

DCCC Gets the Girl in Race Against Wilson

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee received good news late last week when state Attorney General Patricia Madrid (D) announced that she would challenge Rep. Heather Wilson (R) in 2006.

Madrid said she plans to link the four-term Congresswoman with the policies and political scandals engulfing the White House and Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas), the former House Majority Leader.

“I am running to restore accountability in Washington, D.C.,” Madrid said in a statement. “My record is a testament to the fact that I am not afraid to take on special interests, no matter how big or how entrenched, on behalf of the people. I have protected New Mexicans against predatory lenders and sexual predators on the internet. I will fight in Congress in the same way.”

National Democrats had been wooing Madrid, who is term-limited in 2006, since the end of the previous cycle. She is an established votegetter, but Wilson has proved impossible for Democrats to touch, despite the Democratic lean of the 1st district. Madrid would be Wilson’s first woman challenger, a significant factor in Democrats’ eyes.

Wilson is a tough campaigner, however, who already has a $700,000 head start on Madrid.

Madrid said she would file candidacy papers this week and make a public announcement later in the fall.

— Josh Kurtz

Pirro Gains Key Backing, Loses Primary Opponent

Westchester County District Attorney Jeanine Pirro’s path to the Republican Senate nomination became a little clearer last week when attorney Edward Cox, the son-in-law of the late President Richard Nixon, dropped out of the race.

Cox, who has served in appointed positions in state government thanks to Gov. George Pataki (R), announced his decision just minutes after the governor endorsed Pirro’s bid to defeat Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D).

“The governor is the leader of the Republican Party,” Cox said in a statement. “Out of respect for his position and his decision, I have decided to stop my campaign.”

Cox stopped short of endorsing Pirro, who must still defeat former Yonkers Mayor John Spencer to win the GOP nomination.

But Pataki expressed confidence that Pirro will not only be the nominee but also the next junior Senator from the Empire State.

“Jeanine is a New Yorker at heart, and we know we can count on her toughness and determination to get things done for us in Washington,” he said.

The news of Pataki’s endorsement and Cox’s withdrawal may salve the sting of Pirro’s less-than-stellar fundraising performance. From July 1 to Sept. 30, Pirro raised $430,000 — less than one-tenth of the more than $5 million that Clinton collected.

— J.K.

Rodriguez Formally Begins Bid for Old Seat

Former Rep. Ciro Rodriguez (D) plans to wage a primary challenge to incumbent Rep. Henry Cuellar (D) in an effort to win back his 28th district seat, the San Antonio Express-News reported over the weekend.

Rodriguez’s formal announcement Saturday means Cuellar is now facing two challengers in the March Democratic primary; state Rep. Richard Raymond (D) had already jumped into the race.

“I have a lifetime of experience, a proven record, and I’m the most qualified of those running,” Rodriguez told the Express-News.

Cuellar won last year in an election mired in dispute, as Rodriguez alleged fraud in a legal challenge to the results. The results of the contest were upheld by the courts.

Cuellar campaign manager Dan Wright brushed aside charges from Rodriguez that the Congressman votes like a Republican, saying: “Henry votes the 28th district.”

— David M. Drucker

RNC Quest for Latino Voters Extends to Web

The Republican National Committee capped off its celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month this month by launching a Spanish language Web site,

“We’re looking at ways, for folks who get information in English and in Spanish, we provide information in both ways,” RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman said in a recent interview.

In a bid to advance the GOP’s showing with Latino voters in advance of the 2006 midterms — President Bush secured 39 percent of the Latino vote last year — Mehlman hit the road between mid-September and mid-October to woo Latinos.

In a series of speeches to various Latino constituent groups, Mehlman touted standard Bush policies — No Child Left Behind, constitutionalist judges and the war on terrorism. He said his strategy is to explain to each segment of the American Latino population how Republican policies benefit their community.

“I’m someone who believes that you don’t change your message based on the audience,” Mehlman said.

— D.M.D.

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