Buckeye State Democrats are asking Rep. Bob Ney (R), who remains under a cloud of ethical questions because of his ties to indicted super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff, to relinquish his chairmanship of the House Administration Committee.
The Washington Post reported this week that Ney is under investigation by a federal grand jury in Florida for his connections to Abramoff. To date, the Congressman has paid more than $149,000 in legal fees related to the matter from his campaign account.
“Bob Ney wouldn’t have hired a lawyer and paid big money if he wasn’t worried about his role in the Abramoff scandal,” Ohio Democratic Party spokesman Brian Rothenberg said in a statement. “The best thing for him to do, is to temporarily step down as Chairman for the good of the nation until the legal system convicts or absolves him of this sordid scandal.”
Ney spokesman Brian Walsh said his boss has no plans to give up the committee gavel, which he will have to relinquish anyway at the end of this Congress because of term limits on chairmen. He called the request part of a “coordinated campaign of smear” being orchestrated by national Democrats.
“Ohio’s 18th district has benefited greatly on a range of issues because of Congressman Ney’s clout as chairman,” Walsh said. “The Congressman is not going to step down and hurt his rural constituency simply because a big city party boss like [Ohio Democratic Party Chairman] Dennis White is now taking his cues from [Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman] Rahm Emanuel (Ill.).”
Ney is expected to face his first competitive re-election race in years in 2006. Chillicothe Mayor Joe Sulzer (D) has announced he will challenge Ney.
Sulzer has raised $83,000 for his campaign since entering the race in August. Ney raised $205,000 in the third quarter and ended September with $422,000 in the bank.
— Lauren W. Whittington
Steele to Announce Bid At College Next Week
Lt. Gov. Michael Steele (R) is expected to formally enter the 2006 Senate race next Tuesday.
Steele, who formed an exploratory committee for a Senate run earlier this year, put out the word Wednesday that he will announce his intentions during an event at Prince George’s Community College in Largo, just a stone’s throw from his home. Party activists have been invited and have been promised food and music — a pretty good clue that he is running.
Steele, who was elected lieutenant governor in 2002, is one of the Republicans’ top Senate recruits of the election cycle, and his entry could create a tossup race, despite the state’s pronounced Democratic lean.
Steele’s exploratory committee raised $418,000 from July 1 to Sept. 30 and had $350,000 in the bank.
Rep. Benjamin Cardin (D) leads the growing field of Democratic contenders in the race to replace retiring Sen. Paul Sarbanes (D).
— Josh Kurtz
Tester Testy After Foe Distributes Nat’l Journal
State Sen. Jon Tester (D) was so incensed over an article he read recently in the National Journal about a fundraiser Pearl Jam held for his Senate campaign that he wrote a letter to his supporters to vent.
“Quite frankly I was a little ticked off,” Tester wrote, referring to National Journal as “Washington, D.C.’s most insider publication.”
But it wasn’t the less-than-enthusiastic article itself that really bothered the candidate — it was the fact that his Democratic primary opponent, state Auditor John Morrison, chose to distribute the article to Montana voters.
Tester noted that Jeff Ament of Pearl Jam was a childhood friend from their days growing up in Big Sandy.
“I don’t like Washington insiders telling me I can’t be seen with my old friends from Big Sandy,” Tester wrote. “Montanans stick together, and don’t forget friends just because some D.C. insider thinks that friends are disposable. That’s not the Montana way.”
Tester and Morrison are squaring off for the right to take on Sen. Conrad Burns (R) in November 2006.
Casey Still Thumping Santorum in Latest Poll
State Treasurer Bob Casey Jr. (D) slightly increased his double-digit lead over Sen. Rick Santorum (R) in the latest ballot test of the the Keystone State’s 2006 Senate race.
Casey led Santorum 52 percent to 36 percent in the poll conducted by Strategic Vision, a Republican firm.
The poll was taken Oct. 14-16. It surveyed 1,200 likely voters and had a margin of error 3 percent.
The survey also found that 40 percent approve of the job Santorum is doing, while 47 percent disapprove.
Prof. Will Return Money to Students After All
Brown University political scientist Jennifer Lawless (D), who is challenging Rep. James Langevin (D) in next year’s Democratic primary, announced this week that she would return the campaign contributions she had received from her students and their families.
The university’s student newspaper had reported that Lawless had collected $5,500 from her students and their parents. Her donors included the daughter of Illinois multimillionaire Blair Hull (D), who ran unsuccessfully for the Senate last year.
“I have the utmost respect and gratitude for all of my supporters, and though I do not believe that giving or accepting these contributions was at all improper, the mere perception of impropriety is enough to make me reconsider,” Lawless said in a statement.
Through Sept. 30, Lawless had $32,000 in her campaign account after raising $29,000 in the previous quarter. Langevin had $209,000 in the bank after raising $53,000 from July 1 to Sept. 30.
Assemblyman Joining Race in the 50th District
Although he hasn’t formally made an announcement, state Assemblyman Mark Wyland (R) is entering the race to replace Rep. Duke Cunningham (R) with a bold statement — a quarter-million-dollar check.
Wyland just deposited $250,000 in his newly opened campaign account, putting him at the top of the charts in campaign cash among the half-dozen candidates in the race.
Wyland joins former state Assemblyman Howard Kaloogian, state Sen. Bill Morrow, businessman George Schwartzman and San Diego Aircraft Carrier Museum founder Alan Uke in the Republican race, though several other people, including ex-Rep. Brian Bilbray (R), continue to contemplate running. College professor Francine Busby is the sole Democratic candidate so far.
Talk Show Host Seeking Rematch With Frank
Conservative radio talk show host Chuck Morse is seeking a rematch with Rep. Barney Frank (D) in the Bay State’s 4th district.
Morse, undeterred by his 78 percent to 22 percent defeat at the hands of Frank last year, has established an exploratory committee to make another go at the loquacious Congressman next year.
Morse ran as an Independent last year; this year he is seeking the Republican nomination.
Frank is seeking his 14th term.
— Nicole Duran