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North Carolina: Shuler’s Big Score: Fan Club Crosses State Lines

With third-quarter fundraising reports delivered to the Federal Election Commission this week, one-time NFL quarterback-turned-candidate Heath Shuler (D) wasted little time touting his early ability to rake in cash as evidence of grass-roots support for his race against Rep. Charles Taylor (R) next year.

Shuler’s campaign cranked out a news release Monday with a headline that blared: “North Carolinians Show Shuler Their Support: Campaign Raises More than a Quarter Million.”

Shuler raised $264,000 in just 45 days and showed $250,000 in cash on hand, a figure that put him well ahead of Taylor, who has traditionally supplemented his campaign account as needed with personal loans.

“I am overwhelmed and encouraged by this show of support from the people of Western North Carolina,” Shuler said in the statement. “It validates what the voters here have been telling me — that they want someone they can trust representing them in Congress.”

But Republicans quickly threw Shuler for a loss after poring over the ZIP codes of the Democrat’s donors.

According to a National Republican Congressional Committee analysis of Shuler’s FEC report, the former University of Tennessee football standout received only about $50,000, or roughly 27 percent, of his $178,000 in itemized contributions from North Carolina addresses. The majority of his out-of-state donations came from the Volunteer State, leading an NRCC spokesman to label Shuler a “Tennessean who just so happens to want to run for Congress in western North Carolina.”

A Shuler aide retorted that the Democrat is a well-known commodity in the area and reiterated his belief that Shuler’s strong showing out of the box is proof that there is excitement surrounding his campaign.

“He’s young, he’s exciting and people have been rooting for Heath Shuler his whole life — it’s only natural for people to continue to do so,” said campaign manager Drew Lieberman. “It’s not really surprising that he would have a lot of support from a lot of places.”

Shuler’s early fundraising was also boosted heavily by the generosity of House Democrats, who gave the first-time candidate at least $59,000 from their campaign accounts or political action committees. In addition, Sens. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) both sent $5,000 checks from their leadership PACs.

Taylor raised $139,000 in the period but ended September with just less than $20,000 in the bank.

— Lauren W. Whittington

NRCC Hits Democrats for Ballance Donations

The National Republican Congressional Committee is calling on its Democratic counterpart to return almost $30,000 in campaign funds the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee received from former Rep. Frank Ballance (D-N.C.), who was sentenced last week to four years in prison for misusing taxpayer money.

Ballance donated the bulk of the money after he left Congress and before he plead guilty to funneling public money to himself and relatives through a foundation he controlled.

Federal Election Commission records show Ballance’s campaign committee transferred $25,000 to the DCCC on Sept. 6, 2004. He also gave $5,000 to the Democratic National Committee on Aug. 25, 2004.

Republicans charge Democrats with hypocrisy for calling on Republican Members to return “tainted” campaign funds they received from indicted, and currently exiled, Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas), while not returning the money they got from Ballance.

But just like the majority of GOP Members who got money from DeLay, Democrats are indicating they have no plans to return the funds.

“The DCCC has extensive research and vetting procedures in place to ensure that the committee does not take inappropriate contributions,” said DCCC spokeswoman Sarah Feinberg. “And we do not believe that under the current DCCC leadership we have taken contributions that are inappropriate.”

Ballance resigned from Congress in June 2004, citing health problems, although at the time he also was under federal investigation. In November 2004 he pleaded guilty in federal court to one count of conspiracy.

— L.W.W.

Salazar Moves to Quash Gubernatorial Rumors

Freshman Rep. John Salazar (D) on Tuesday sought to kill speculation that he is considering a run for governor in 2006 following a Denver Post article that suggested he had left the door open to abandoning his 3rd district seat to seek the state’s top post.

“Let me be clear — under no circumstance will I run for governor,” Salazar said unambiguously in a written statement released by his office.

In a Denver Post story published Tuesday, Salazar acknowledged that state Democrats have been encouraging him to run for governor, with state House Majority Leader Alice Madden (D) saying he hadn’t ruled out the possibility.

“It wasn’t a yes or no, but I think it would take some talking him into it,” Madden told the Post. “He didn’t slam the door on it at all.”

Salazar said in the same story that he remained committed to running for re-election to his 3rd district seat. But with the article appearing to indicate he could jump into the race, Salazar moved Tuesday morning to clarify his position.

“My duty is to the people of the Third Congressional District and I look forward to serving them for many years to come,” Salazar wrote. “As far as I’m concerned, leaving Congress has never been a real option.”

At present, the only Democrat in the race for governor is former Denver District Attorney Bill Ritter Jr. Battling each other in the Republican primary are Rep. Bob Beauprez and Marc Holtzman, most recently the president of the University of Denver who also served as Secretary of Technology for Gov. Bill Owens (R).

— David M. Drucker

Hill Outraises Sodrel in Latest Reporting Period

Add former Rep. Baron Hill (D) to the list of Democratic challengers who outraised a vulnerable incumbent in the third quarter of the year.

Hill, who has been stockpiling money for a rematch with freshman Rep. Mike Sodrel (R), raised $187,000 in the three-month period while Sodrel raised $163,000, according to newly filed fundraising reports with the Federal Election Commission.

The former three-term Member is also closing the gap on Sodrel when it comes to cash on hand. Hill ended September with $427,000 in his campaign account while Sodrel showed $500,000.

Sodrel defeated Hill in 2004 by less than 1,500 votes.

Hill is one of at least five Democratic challengers who outraised targeted GOP Members in the quarter, joining Westport First Selectwoman Diane Farrell (Connecticut’s 4th district), state Sen. Ron Klein (Florida’s 22nd district), Vandenburgh County Sheriff Brad Ellsworth (Indiana’s 8th district) and former NFL quarterback Heath Shuler (North Carolina’s 11th district) in earning that distinction.

Attorney and 2004 Democratic nominee Lois Murphy raised $330,000, the same amount as her opponent, Rep. Jim Gerlach (R), in Pennsylvania’s 6th district.

— L.W.W.

Conservative Group Expands Anti-Earle Ads

A television ad campaign accusing Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle (D) of indicting Rep. Tom DeLay (R) without merit has expanded from Austin to Houston and Washington, D.C.

Last week, the Free Enterprise Fund, a conservative think tank that supports free-market economic policies, unleashed a saturation ad buy on the airwaves in Texas’ state capital. The ad likens Earle to a salivating Rottweiler who is targeting DeLay to benefit the Democratic Party’s political agenda.

“Austin sat up and took notice after we saturated the market with this ad,” said FEF Chairman Mallory Factor in a written statement. “Now even more eyes in Texas will be upon it.”

The ad recites Earle’s history with Republican politicians, including a case he brought several years ago against Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R) that was eventually thrown out by a judge.

“Earle’s even exploited the DeLay case to raise money for liberal politicians,” the ad’s voiceover says, concluding: “Tell Earle he’s wrong. It’s not a crime to be a conservative.”

DeLay, forced to step down as Majority Leader following the indictment, has been charged by Earle with conspiracy to evade Texas election law. As district attorney of the county that encompasses Austin, Earle is empowered to bring such charges.

— D.M.D.

Report: Councilwoman Won’t Seek Owens’ Seat

Stung by her father’s inability to win the seat she is forced by term limits to give up, New York City Councilwoman Tracy Boyland (D) has begun telling associates that she will not run for the seat being vacated by Rep. Major Owens (D) in 2006, Crain’s New York Business reported this week.

Boyland, who comes from a powerful Brooklyn political family, had challenged Owens in last year’s Democratic primary and was considered likely to run for the seat again.

But Boyland’s father, former state Assemblyman Frank Boyland (D), was trounced in last month’s Democratic primary to succeed her in the Council, in part because many labor unions worked to defeat him. Boyland, according to Crain’s, fears that the unions’ antipathy toward her family could hurt her if she runs for Congress — and also jeopardize the political career of her brother, state Assemblyman William Boyland Jr. (D).

Three Democrats have already formally entered the race to succeed Owens: state Sen. Carl Andrews, City Councilman David Yassky, and HMO administrator Chris Owens, the Congressman’s son.

City Councilwoman Yvette Clarke, who also ran in the 2004 primary against the senior Owens, is contemplating the race. And state Assemblyman Nick Perry (D) has set up a committee to raise money for a Congressional campaign but has not decided whether he will run.

— Josh Kurtz

Legislator Joins Crowded GOP Race for Harris Seat

State Rep. Donna Clarke (R) announced this week that she will enter the already crowded field for the GOP nomination in the 13th district seat being vacated by Rep. Katherine Harris (R).

Clarke joins car dealer Vern Buchanan, businessman Tramm Hudson and state Rep. Nancy Detert in the race for the Republican nod. Both Buchanan and Hudson are multi-millionaires who are expected to spend heavily on the contest.

— L.W.W.

Pols’ Kin Wants to Go Bass Fishing Next Year

Rep. Charles Bass (R) now has two Democrats vying for his seat.

Bret Clemons, a New Hampshire native who runs a greeting card company, has returned to the state to seek the right to challenge Bass in the 2nd district, according to The Associated Press.

Clemons is the son of a state legislator, and his brother Nick is executive director of the New Hampshire Democratic Party.

He faces attorney Paul Hodes, who lost to Bass 58 percent to 38 percent last year, in the Democratic primary. State Rep. John DeJoie (D) is also mulling a bid.
— Nicole Duran