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Nation: NRCC Exceeds Goal for Tonight’s Annual Dinner

The National Republican Congressional Committee will erase more than a third of its $15 million debt at its annual spring dinner tonight.

Chairman Tom Cole (Okla.) tapped House Minority Leader John Boehner (Ohio) to lead the fundraising effort — an unusual move but one that underscored Cole’s seriousness about getting the committee into the black and trying to regain the House majority.

“Congressman Boehner and Congressman [Devin] Nunes (Calif.) did a great job of leading the effort; a lot of Members were involved in raising money and contributing to the effort,” said Ken Spain, an NRCC spokesman.

Cole set a fundraising goal of $6 million for tonight’s dinner at the Washington Hilton. As of Wednesday afternoon, the NRCC had collected $6.1 million “and counting,” Spain said.

The NRCC outdid itself compared to its previous spring dinner during a presidential cycle.

The committee raised more than $5 million in March 2003.
— Nicole Duran

Club for Growth Issues Report Card on Congress

Club for Growth, the conservative, anti-tax organization, issued its annual Congressional report card on Wednesday.

Using a series of 2006 Congressional votes as a yardstick, the group has bestowed the annual Defender of Economic Freedom award on 22 Members. Three GOP Senators — Tom Coburn (Okla.), Jim DeMint (S.C.) and John Sununu (N.H.) — got a perfect 100 percent score. In the House, GOP Reps. Jeff Flake (Ariz.), John Shadegg (Ariz.) and Jeb Hensarling (Texas) scored 100 percent.

During its four election cycles’ worth of Congressional endorsements, the club’s political action committee has backed only one Democrat, Rep. Henry Cuellar (Texas). But Cuellar did not receive the club’s best score among House Democrats in 2006. That distinction went to Rep. Dan Boren (D-Okla.), who was rated 138th of 435 House Members.

Sen. Ben Nelson (Neb.) was the highest-ranking Senate Democrat, in the group’s view, finishing 46th of the 100 Senators.

The lowest-ranking Senate Republican was Sen. Olympia Snowe (Maine), who was rated 62nd out of 100.

The House Republican with the lowest club score, then-Rep. Jim Leach (Iowa), is now gone. Leach, who was defeated for re-election in 2006, was ranked 258th out of 435 Members.

— Josh Kurtz

Mark Warner Chats With Senators About ’08 Bid

Former Gov. Mark Warner (D) was spotted in the Capitol on Wednesday, after meeting with Democratic leaders who are wooing him to run for Senate in 2008.

Warner, who left office in early 2006 with the highest approval ratings of any governor, met with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and also was seen talking with Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman and Democratic Caucus Vice Chairman Charles Schumer (N.Y.).

Sen. John Warner (R) is up for re-election next year. He has not officially declared he will seek a sixth term but has indicated that he is likely to run again.

While Mark Warner is viewed as more likely to run in an open-seat scenario, a challenge to the iconic Senator is not out of the realm of possibility.

The two Warners faced off in 1996, with Mark Warner coming up 5 points short after spending more than $10 million of his own money on the race.

A DSCC spokesman declined to comment on the specifics of the committee’s recruiting efforts but praised Warner.

“Mark Warner is one of Virginia’s most respected public servants and would make an excellent candidate for the Senate,” Matt Miller said.
— Lauren W. Whittington

Kilroy Seeks Rematch but May Have Company

Franklin County Commissioner Mary Jo Kilroy (D) wants a rematch with Rep. Deborah Pryce (R), whom she almost beat in November. Pryce squeaked her way to an eighth term after beating Kilroy by just 1,055 votes in the Columbus-based 15th district.

But Kilroy may have company this cycle.

Fellow Franklin County Commissioner Paula Brooks (D) said she might seek the Democratic nomination to challenge Pryce next year and has formed an exploratory committee to consider the possibility.
— N.D.

Second State Lawmaker Joins Race Against Walz

Republicans keep lining up for the right to challenge freshman Rep. Tim Walz (D).

State Rep. Randy Demmer said he will contest state Sen. Dick Day and Mark Meyer, a local school board member, for the GOP nod in the Rochester-based 1st district.

National Guard veteran Walz, a teacher before coming to Congress, benefited from last year’s Democratic wave, and late money from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, to unseat former Rep. Gil Gutknecht (R) in November.
— N.D.

Reichert Challenger Fires Up the Burners Again

Darcy Burner (D) wants another shot at Rep. Dave Reichert (R) in the suburban Seattle 8th district.

The former Microsoft manager surprised pundits and party officials by evolving from political novice to top-tier challenger in the previous cycle.

Burner lost to Reichert, the former King County sheriff, 51 percent to 49 percent in the swing district, and she believes she can build on the momentum from her surprisingly strong showing. Although he remains popular thanks to his storied law enforcement career, Reichert is likely to be a regular Democratic target.
— N.D.

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