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Georgia: Candidates Emerge in Norwood District

With the news that ailing Rep. Charlie Norwood (R-Ga.) decided to forgo further cancer treatment in Washington, D.C., and has headed to his Augusta home to enter hospice care, state Sen. Ralph Hudgens (R) told a local newspaper last week that he is interested in running for the 10th district Congressional seat whenever there is a vacancy.

“My prayer for Charlie has been that he would get well and continue to serve and thereby keep me from having to make a decision” about running, Hudgens told The Times of Gainesville, Ga. “When there is a vacancy, my intention is to run. But right now there is not a vacancy and there’s nothing to talk about.”

Hudgens is among several state lawmakers and other politicians mentioned as possible Republican candidates to succeed Norwood, who has no plans to resign.

State Rep. Barry Fleming (R) is all but certain to run and is viewed as among the frontrunners if a race for the northeast 10th district seat does materialize.

Fleming, the House Majority Whip, introduced a resolution in the Georgia House on Monday honoring Norwood and his service.

State Rep. Ben Harbin, who also has been mentioned as a possible candidate, was among the co-sponsors of the resolution. Harbin is chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.

Former state Sen. Brian Kemp (R), who lost a primary bid for state Agriculture Commissioner in 2006, also is mentioned as a possible candidate to succeed Norwood.

Former Rep. Max Burns (R), who represented the neighboring 12th district for one term and was defeated in a rematch with Democratic Rep. John Barrow in 2006, also is mentioned as a possible contender. He previously represented portions of the 10th before a GOP-led redistricting effort in 2005.

Although the district strongly favors Republicans, several Democrats have been mentioned as interested if there is an open-seat race.

Among them are Athens Mayor Doc Eldridge, state Rep. Jeanette Jamieson, state Rep. Alan Powell and former state Sen. Carol Jackson.

— Lauren W. Whittington

Wallace Nears Verdict on Running in 22nd

Sugar Land Mayor David Wallace (R) has decided against running for re-election next year, fueling speculation that he instead will run for the Republican nomination in the 22nd district and the right to challenge Rep. Nick Lampson (D) in 2008.

In an interview late last week, Wallace said he expected to announce his 2008 intentions within the next 60 days, and sounded very much like he plans to throw his hat into the ring.

“I feel I could do a good job in representing the people of the 22nd district,” Wallace said.

In the category of potential candidates unlikely to run is longtime Channel 11 sports anchor Gifford Nielsen, a former Houston Oilers quarterback.

Nielsen admitted to thinking about running for Congress on occasion, but said he is happy in his job and giving virtually no consideration to a 2008 run in the 22nd district.

“I can’t say I haven’t thought about it, but I have never pursued it,” Nielsen said late last week when reached on his cell phone.

Nielsen has been a television sports reporter in Houston for 23 years, which could serve as a plus in the name identification department if he ever did run for office.

In addition to Wallace, the Republicans giving a run serious thought include Harris County Tax Assessor and Collector Paul Bettencourt. Former Houston City Councilwoman Shelley Sekula-Gibbs (R), who served out the remainder of former Rep. Tom DeLay’s term after winning a special election in November, already has announced she’ll run.

Sekula-Gibbs, a write-in candidate on the regular ballot in November, lost her bid for a full term in the current Congress to Lampson. The 22nd district leans Republican and is expected to be heavily contested by both parties next year.

— David M. Drucker

Venture Capitalist Eyes Hodes Race

A Hanover venture capitalist is laying the groundwork to challenge freshman Rep. Paul Hodes (D) in 2008.

Stephen Gray (R) has been making the rounds and reaching out to friends and associates to explore the feasibility of a 2nd district run.

He met with officials at the National Republican Congressional Committee last week.

Gray has not declared his candidacy, nor has he formed a campaign committee. He is expected to make a decision some time next month.

Gray — whose father was the late L. Patrick Gray, who served as interim director of the FBI during the height of the Watergate scandal — never before has sought public office.

In his second try, Hodes wrested his seat from then-Rep. Charles Bass (R) in November.

— Nicole Duran

General May Join Field to Replace Allard

Retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Bentley Rayburn (R) is considering running for Senate next year, but is likely to base his decision on whether former Rep. Bob Schaffer (R) jumps into the race, the Rocky Mountain News reported.

“We’re considering it. We’re talking to a lot of people,” Rayburn said, but added: “If [Schaffer] was to tell me tomorrow he was going to run, that would completely change around my decision process.”

Rayburn finished a surprising third last year in the 5th district Republican primary, and has been talked about of late as a possible candidate for the Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Wayne Allard (R), who is retiring.

Former Rep. Scott McInnis (R) has not formally announced, but he is in the process of putting together a campaign team and rounding up GOP donors.

Schaffer, who ran in the 2004 Senate primary and lost to beer mogul Pete Coors (R), said he’ll probably decide on his plans by late summer or early fall.

— D.M.D.

Fahey Encouraged to Eye Potential Vacancy

Omaha Mayor Mike Fahey (D) is considering running for Senate in 2008, telling the Omaha World-Herald he likely would launch a bid if Sen. Chuck Hagel (R) does not run for re-election.

In town last month for a mayors conference, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) and Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman and Democratic Caucus Vice Chairman Charles Schumer (N.Y.) pitched Fahey about running, Omaha’s chief executive said in an interview.

“They talked to me about the Senate race, and they were very complimentary,” Fahey said. “They said all the right things.”

Hagel is considering a presidential bid and has left open the possibility of pursuing that in lieu of seeking re-election to the Senate. However, he has the option of running for both simultaneously and could choose to seek the GOP presidential nomination without immediately forgoing his Senate seat.

— D.M.D.

Republican Hopes to Have His Day vs. Walz

State Sen. Dick Day (R) filed candidacy papers to challenge freshman Rep. Tim Walz (D) next year, he told Minnesota Public Radio.

Day became the second Republican to publicly discuss taking on Walz in the Rochester-based 1st district.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee wasted no time skewering Day, who told the radio station that he was running for Congress because he does not “have a lot of hobbies.”

The DCCC issued a press release Monday chastising Day for not joining the debate over serious issues, such as the Iraq War.

— N.D.

Boehner to Boost Cubin’s Cash Position

After getting a bit of a scare in 2006, Rep. Barbara Cubin (R) today is scheduled to hold a fundraiser at the Capitol Hill Club, with House Minority Leader John Boehner (Ohio) as the featured guest.

The evening event costs $2,000 for political action committees and $1,000 for individuals, as Cubin seeks to bolster her meager war chest. Cubin faced a tougher than expected race in November from Democrat Gary Trauner, and closed the year with just $21,463 in cash on hand and $35,855 in debt.

— D.M.D.

With Rematch Looming, Ferguson Targets Debt

Rep. Mike Ferguson (R) is asking for a little love from his supporters on Valentine’s Day, with a fundraiser. Ferguson has his heart set on getting $1,000 from political action committees and $500 from individuals.

The Capitol Hill Club event is set for noon, with the contributions expected to help retire a $240,000 debt and build his war chest for a possible rematch with Linda Stender (D), who has announced her intention to run again next year after losing in November by just more than 3,200 votes.

Ferguson’s campaign account reported $71,870 in cash on hand to close 2006.

— D.M.D.

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