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Illinois: Hastert Continuing to Raise Campaign Cash

Former Speaker Dennis Hastert (R) continues to raise money for his 2008 re-election, despite the belief held by most pols, and many of his colleagues, that he will retire at the end of the 110th Congress.

Hastert’s “spring reception” is from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Capitol Hill Club.

The cost is $500 for individuals or $1,000 for political action committees.

The man who was second in line for the presidency just six months ago swears he wants a 12th term even though he is back to being just one of 435 Members.

Most political watchers assumed he would retire last year when Democrats won control of the House, thereby leaving Hastert without a leadership position. But he raised more than $280,000 in the first three months of 2007 and is continuing to fundraise.

— Nicole Duran

Feingold Headlines YearlyKos Fundraiser

Sen. Russ Feingold (D) was the star attraction at a fundraiser Tuesday night benefiting the YearlyKos convention, an offshoot of the influential liberal blog DailyKos.

Feingold was joined by Reps. Brad Miller (D-N.C.), John Hall (D-N.Y.), Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), and Jerry McNerney (D-Calif.) — all of whom may have been shown up by a “surprise” guest, Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.).

Feingold and Tester are two of the favorite politicians of the Democratic “net roots.” Many liberal online activists were disappointed when Feingold decided not to seek the presidency in 2008, but they were thrilled when underdog Tester unseated then-Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.) in November.

The “DKos” community used the Mott House, a building adjacent to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee headquarters and often used for DSCC functions, for its $35-a-person reception. The annual convention is scheduled for Aug. 2-5 in Chicago.

— N.D.

Attorney Ciresi Makes ’08 Senate Bid Official

Attorney Mike Ciresi held events in St. Paul and Duluth on Wednesday to make the anti-climactic announcement that he will run against comedian Al Franken for the Democratic Senate nomination next year.

Both men had telegraphed for months that they wanted the opportunity to unseat Sen. Norm Coleman (R).

As when Franken made his decision official, the Minnesota Republican Party greeted Ciresi with a four-page “fact sheet” deriding him for not running for Senate last year and for being a nationally ranked top-earning lawyer, among other things.

National Democrats see Coleman as a top target but have yet to make clear who they think has the best chance of beating the former St. Paul mayor.

— N.D.

Here Comes the Judge, Challenging LaTourette

Appeals Court Judge William O’Neill (D) said earlier this week that he wants to replace Rep. Steven LaTourette (R).

“I’m running because I’m impatient with waiting for Congress to change the course America is on,” the Vietnam War veteran told the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

O’Neill lost a bid for a seat on the state Supreme Court last year but won 1.3 million votes without raising a dime.

National Democrats thought LaTourette, who just won a seventh term, was vulnerable in 2004 when he had to admit an affair with a former staffer-turned-lobbyist. LaTourette’s wife even endorsed his challenger, Capri Cafaro (D), who recently was appointed to the Ohio Senate.

O’Neill plans to step down from the bench July 7 to pursue his campaign for the 14th district seat full time, the paper reported. He will not raise money until then.

— N.D.

Former Portland Mayor Doubts Smith Will Lose

Former Portland Mayor Vera Katz (D) said in a radio interview this week that she doesn’t see anyone in her party who is capable of ousting Sen. Gordon Smith (R) next year.

“I hate to say this, but I don’t think there is any Democrat right now that can beat Gordon Smith, even though he’s considered to be vulnerable,” Katz said Monday during an interview on KPAM radio in Portland.

Democrats are attempting to lure Rep. Peter DeFazio (D) into the race, and in recent weeks he has reversed himself, saying he is considering running after previously taking himself out of contention.

Smith is one of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee’s top 2008 targets, but thus far Democratic activist and first-time candidate Steve Novick is the only announced Democratic contender. DSCC spokesman Matthew Miller contended Wednesday that Smith’s free ride wouldn’t last forever.

“One potential challenger [DeFazio] is already beating Gordon Smith in the polls, he has a re-elect under 50 percent, and a record of supporting George Bush 90 percent of the time,” Miller said. “He must know he’s vulnerable because he’s the only Senator in the country currently running political ads.”

Meanwhile, Smith this week unveiled, where the Republican’s Democratic supporters are listed. On the site, Smith’s criticism of President Bush’s Iraq War policy is cited as a reason Democrats should support the Republican’s re-election.

“Principled Democrats should be proud of Gordon Smith’s stand on Iraq,” former Rep. Elizabeth Furse (D-Ore.) said in a statement on the group’s Web site.

— David M. Drucker

Walsh Sets Fundraiser for Capitol Hill Hotel

Although he already has opened up a $100,000 cash-on-hand advantage over his likely Democratic challenger, Rep. Jim Walsh (R) is continuing to take nothing for granted in his quest for an 11th term.

Walsh has scheduled a breakfast fundraiser for Tuesday morning at the Phoenix Park Hotel on Capitol Hill. Political action committees are being asked to pay a minimum of $1,000 to attend, and the minimum ticket price for individual donors is $500.

Walsh, who retained his Syracuse-area seat by just 2 points in 2006, is expected to face a rematch with former Capitol Hill staffer Dan Maffei (D). Walsh raised $105,000 in the first three months of 2007 and banked $132,000 by the end of March.

Maffei, who raised no funds in the first quarter of the year and just formally announced his candidacy earlier this month, had $28,000 on hand. Walsh spent more than $1.7 million on his re-election bid, while Maffei spent almost $900,000 on his first political campaign.

— Josh Kurtz

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