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California: Republican Ex-Legislator Preparing for House Bid

Former state Assemblyman Dean Andal (R) said in an interview Wednesday that he is leaning toward running for the Republican nomination to the 11th district and the right to challenge freshman Rep. Jerry McNerney (D) in November 2008.

Andal is in Washington, D.C., this week to discuss his potential candidacy with Republican Members, political action committees and National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Cole (Okla.), among others. Andal said he expects to make a formal announcement in May, and possibly will hold his first major fundraiser in June.

The 11th district is expected to be one of the top NRCC targets in the 2008 elections.

Andal described himself as a conservative, anti-tax Republican, and said he originally was inspired to enter public service by former President Ronald Reagan.

Andal most recently served in state office in 2002, when he wrapped up an eight-year stint on the state Board of Equalization, California’s elected tax oversight panel. But he has remained politically active in the Republican-leaning Central Valley district since then.

He currently serves on a local school board.

In addition to Andal, Republican state Assemblymen Greg Aghazarian, Guy Houston and Alan Nakanishi also are said to be considering a run for the 11th district seat.

— David M. Drucker

Massa Starts Committee for Rematch With Kuhl

Eric Massa (D), the retired Navy commander who fell just 6,000 votes short in his challenge to Rep. Randy Kuhl (R) last year, has established an exploratory committee in anticipation of a rematch in the sprawling 29th district.

“I was going to be very happy to stay in retirement, but the issues of today underline the need for an honest debate of the issues,” Massa told the Elmira Star-Gazette this week.

Although the district, which takes in New York’s Southern Tier and extends to the suburbs of Rochester, generally votes Republican in presidential elections, Kuhl, who previously spent two dozen years in the state Legislature, has won only 51 percent of the vote in each of his two House campaigns.

“I think the fact that we came so close shows what a viable race this is,” Massa said.

Local Democratic leaders told the newspaper that if the national party does more for Massa in 2008 than it did in the previous cycle, he can win.

Kuhl spokesman Bob Van Wicklin dismissed the Democrat as “a career Congressional candidate” and said voters have no stomach for a campaign that begins this early.

— Josh Kurtz

Boustany Takes Himself Out of Senate Race Pool

Rep. Charles Boustany (R) will not challenge Sen. Mary Landrieu (D) next year, leaving Rep. Richard Baker as the only GOP House Member who has not ruled out the race.

Despite encouragement from the National Republican Senatorial Committee and others, however, Baker does not seem overly eager and has been very obtuse about his interest.

He reportedly said he did not want to consider running at this time but did not completely close the door, The Town Talk of Alexandria reported Wednesday.

In January — the last time Baker spokesman Michael DiResto responded to Roll Call inquiries about a Senate race — he said Baker is “grateful and encouraged that there are those who would support such an effort, but at this point he hasn’t yet had a chance to devote a lot of thought to the opportunity.”

Rep. Jim McCrery (R) told Roll Call in January that he preferred to run for re-election to the House.

Rep. Bobby Jindal (R) is running for governor this year, though if he loses he could switch gears and try for the Senate.

Louisiana Secretary of State Jay Dardenne’s name continues to circulate as a possible GOP Senate candidate, especially after the release of a poll earlier this week showing Landrieu leading him 53 percent to 38 percent in a hypothetical contest.

NRSC Chairman John Ensign (Nev.) has named Landrieu as a top target this cycle.

— Nicole Duran

Yogurt Mogul Won’t Stir Democratic Senate Race

The founder of Stonyfield Farm, which makes the eponymous yogurt, decided Tuesday to forgo running for Senate.

Gary Hirshberg (D) has been a big Democratic donor over the years but has never sought public office himself.

He toyed with the idea of challenging Sen. John Sununu (R) but declared it would interfere too much with his business.

He left the door open a crack, however, by saying that if he can get his business affairs squared to his liking he “may re-evaluate” his decision.

Portsmouth Mayor Steve Marchand (D) and Katrina Swett (D), who has lost a House race in the Granite State before, already are vying for their party’s nomination.

Sununu is a top Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee target.

— N.D.

Businessman Stumps to Oust Harkin Next Year

Cedar Rapids businessman Steve Rathje (R) kicked off his long-shot quest to oust four-term Sen. Tom Harkin (D) with a six-city swing on Tuesday.

On his campaign Web site, Rathje, who runs a procurement services company, described himself as a conservative Republican committed to fighting the war on terrorism and wasteful government spending.

“The Republican Party is the elected party of choice by Iowans and America,” he said. “As your United States Senator, I will not waver. I will vote that choice consistently. I will vote that choice with honesty, and I will vote that choice with integrity. I am a proven leader and I intend to lead.”

Republicans are hoping to woo a better-known candidate into the race against Harkin, who never has won more than 55 percent of the vote in any of his statewide campaigns. Rep. Steve King (R) told the Sioux City Journal in Wednesday’s editions that he is still considering the race.

“The evaluation process has gone on for several months and will continue for several months,” he said.

— J.K.

House Republicans Are Tagged by Liberal Group

Americans United for Change, the liberal 527 group, served notice Wednesday that it would target 18 House Republicans for their votes this year against bills to increase the minimum wage and make it easier for workers to unionize.

Dubbing the Republicans the “Public Enemies of the Middle Class in Congress,” Americans United acknowledged that while more than 18 House GOPers voted against the two measures, these Members were called out because they come from districts that have been hard hit economically and because they were seen as persuadable when the votes took place.

“Americans United for Change is prepared to make ‘poster children’ out of these 18 Members,” said Jeremy Funk, a spokesman for the group. “If it takes television ads, online protests and public events with angry constituents to get these folks to do the right thing by middle-class Americans, so be it.”

The 18 targeted Republicans are: Reps. Michele Bachmann (Minn.); Roscoe Bartlett (Md.); Brian Bilbray (Calif.); Roy Blunt (Mo.); Steve Chabot (Ohio); Tom Davis (Va.); John Doolittle (Calif.); Thelma Drake (Va.); Vernon Ehlers (Mich.); Jeff Fortenberry (Neb.); Scott Garrett (N.J.); Dean Heller (Nev.); Steve King (Iowa); Marilyn Musgrave (Colo.); Jon Porter (Nev.); Mike Rogers (Mich.); Peter Roskam (Ill.); and Bill Sali (Idaho).

— J.K.

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