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California: Assemblyman Decides to Forgo McNerney Race

State Assemblyman Greg Aghazarian (R) has decided against running next year for the Central Valley-area 11th district seat held by freshman Rep. Jerry McNerney (D), citing his family and three young sons as the primary reason.

Aghazarian, who has twin 5-year-old boys and a third son who turns 1 in April, will instead seek an open state Senate seat. His decision winnows the number of Republicans openly considering challenging McNerney in the GOP-leaning seat to two: state Assemblyman Guy Houston and former state Assemblyman Dean Andal.

However, according to one California Republican operative familiar with the race, McNerney’s perceived vulnerability in the GOP-leaning district is likely to attract more Republican primary candidates. This operative said GOP activist Jill Buck could jump into the race, as could former San Francisco 49ers football star Brent Jones.

Last year, McNerney ousted then-Resources Chairman Richard Pombo (R), largely because many GOP voters decided to sit on the sidelines.
— David M. Drucker

Ex-Athens Mayor Won’t Run for Norwood Seat

Former Athens Mayor Doc Eldridge, who had been contemplating entering the special election to replace the late Rep. Charlie Norwood (R), has decided not to run, an Atlanta-based political news service reported Wednesday.

“I am sitting on the sidelines of this thing,” Eldridge told “It’s just not going to happen this go-round.”

Eldridge’s decision is a boon to the candidacy of state Sen. Jim Whitehead (R), who remains the heavy favorite in the June 19 special election. Already two state legislators have pulled out of the race, and Eldridge — who was a Democrat when he was mayor but was planning to run for the House seat as a Republican — is the latest big name to exit.

Although several other candidates remain in the field, the filing deadline for the race is just a few weeks away and there are no obvious top-tier contenders waiting in the wings.
— Josh Kurtz

NRCC Raps Frosh for Silence on Party Election

Freshman Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D) is trying to stay out of the limelight, but the National Republican Congressional Committee certainly sees opportunity in an ongoing controversy surrounding the candidate she endorsed to lead the New Hampshire Democratic Party.

Ray Buckley is the leading candidate to replace outgoing Chairwoman Kathleen Sullivan, but he has been besieged by false allegations and embarrassing revelations.

Buckley was cleared of the claim made by a former roommate and Republican state lawmaker that he possessed child pornography.

But then a clip of video footage taken as many as 12 years ago surfaced on In it Buckley is seen swearing and making vulgar comments. Spliced in are pictures of a social-network Web site Buckley belongs to called “Gays in New Hampshire.”

Buckley is not accused of any wrongdoing, but the Republican behind the video posting points out that some members of the network are younger than 18.

Rep. Paul Hodes, Shea-Porter’s fellow freshman Democrat from the Granite State, issued a statement last week saying he no longer backs Buckley for the party post.

That angered many New Hampshire Democrats — Gov. John Lynch (D) still supports Buckley — and put Shea-Porter in a bind.

She has refused to comment on the situation, and the state party election is Saturday, leaving her open to criticism from the NRCC.

“She did have a private conversation with Ray Buckley and she feels that she cannot make that private conversation public,” said Harry Gural, Shea-Porter’s chief of staff.

Shea-Porter, who was a dark-horse candidate both in the 1st district Democratic primary and in her matchup with then-Rep. Jeb Bradley (R) in 2006, is a top NRCC target.

The NRCC already is raising questions about her silence and no doubt will use it against her next year if anything more damning about Buckley surfaces.

As to whether Shea-Porter is concerned that the Buckley matter could hurt her re-election chances, Gural said: “We’re really not thinking about it yet.”
— Nicole Duran

NRCC Reminding Voters of Early Kagen Missteps

The National Republican Congressional Committee is trying to turn up the heat on freshman Rep. Steve Kagen (D).

The Appleton allergist who beat then-state Assembly Speaker John Gard (R) for the open 8th district seat in November got off to a rough start.

He had some embarrassing moments and recanted a tall tale he told some constituents about confronting Karl Rove and insulting first lady Laura Bush at the White House.

Just as his early gaffes were fading from the public view, the NRCC issued a news release reminding people.

“His outlandish actions are making it easy to keep a watchful eye on him,” said NRCC spokesman Ken Spain. “In effect, Steve Kagen is making himself a target.”

Ryan Rudominer, a spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said the latest NRCC push is a sign that Republicans are out of fresh ideas.

“Congressman Kagen is a voice for change and new ideas after years of Republican rubber-stamping and politics as usual,” he said.

Rumors circulate that Gard wants another go at Kagen, but so far no Republican has publicly emerged to run for the seat next year.
— N.D.

Local Democrats Create Anti-Ryan Committee

Local Democrats are trying to bring down Rep. Paul Ryan (R) in the Badger State’s 1st district.

The district’s Democratic chairman created a “Kick Out Ryan Committee” to entice a Democrat into the race, the Kenosha News reported this week.

Ray Rivera, the chairman, told the paper: “If there is a Congressional seat that is to be won in Wisconsin away from an incumbent, it’s going to be this seat.”

Democrats never seriously have challenged Ryan, who was just elected to a fifth term with 63 percent of the vote. In his first race in 1998 when he was only 28, he won with 57 percent.

The district gave President Bush 54 percent of the vote in 2004, but Democrats believe it will be up for grabs next year.

“Paul Ryan is out of touch with his district and a reliable rubber-stamp for President Bush — his seat is ripe for the picking,” said Ryan Rudominer, a spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

But the Democrats have no obvious challenger yet.
— N.D.

DCCC Ads Hope to Extend Wilson’s Pain

In a clear sign that Democrats hope to prolong the scandal for as long as they can, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee on Wednesday began airing a 60-second radio ad in the Albuquerque market criticizing Rep. Heather Wilson (R) for her role in the growing controversy over the firing of eight U.S. attorneys.

Wilson has admitted to phoning then-U.S. Attorney David Iglesias in October 2006 to inquire about the status of ongoing corruption investigations. Democrats have accused Wilson and Sen. Pete Domenici (R) — who made a similar call — of interfering in a federal investigation for partisan purposes.

The ad begins: “October 2006. A phone call is made. A scandal begins.”

The ad then replays testimony Iglesias recently gave to the Senate Judiciary Committee about his sacking.

“Serious questions remain about Heather Wilson and violation of Congressional ethics rules,” the ad continues, and concludes by urging the Congresswoman to “tell the full truth” about her role in the controversy.

The ad is expected to run for five days during drive times on an array of Albuquerque stations.

Wilson spokesman Enrique Carlos Knell told the Albuquerque Journal that Wilson’s call to Iglesias “was entirely appropriate and it’s a shame that national Democrats have launched a baseless partisan attack smearing her good name.”
— J.K.

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