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California: Democrats Going Public With Plans for Open Seat

State Sen. Jenny Oropeza is one of several Democrats considering a bid for the 37th district seat left open by the death of Rep. Juanita Millender-McDonald (D).

In an interview late last week, Oropeza declined to elaborate on her plans in advance of Millender-McDonald’s funeral, scheduled for Monday. But the state Senator, said to be a possible frontrunner for the overwhelmingly Democratic seat, said she would make an announcement on Wednesday.

“I am considering running for Congress,” Oropeza said during a brief telephone interview.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) has set the date for the special election to replace Millender-McDonald for June 26. If no candidate gets 50 percent of the vote in that contest, a runoff will be held on Aug. 21 featuring the top vote-getter of each political party entered in the primary.

Oropeza is scheduled to be in Washington, D.C., today on a previously scheduled trip with the California Senate’s Democratic delegation. No meeting with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee was scheduled, she said.

The race to replace Millender-McDonald is expected to be crowded, and the Democrats are heavily favored to retain the seat. The Long Beach Press-Telegram reported Monday that state Assemblywoman Laura Richardson (D) also was preparing to announce her candidacy.

— David M. Drucker

Sekula-Gibbs Raising Money for Return Bid

Former Rep. Shelley Sekula-Gibbs (R), who won a special election in November to fill out the remaining three weeks of ex-Rep. Tom DeLay’s (R) term and is running for a full Congressional term next year, held her inaugural fundraiser of the 2008 cycle over the weekend.

Sekula-Gibbs took in about $50,000 at the event, which was headlined by Rep. Steve Pearce (R-N.M.).

“With our fundraising operation just barely under way, I was delighted to see such a positive response from the Houston-area business and Republican community,” Sekula-Gibbs said in a statement. “This first event is so exciting because it proves that we’ll have the resources, the team and the proper organization to successfully win back Texas 22.”

Sekula-Gibbs, who raised $38,000 in the first quarter of this year to finish with nearly $90,000 on hand, is likely to have significant competition in the 22nd district Republican primary. She also ran as a write-in last November for a full term in this Congress, but fell short to now-Rep. Nick Lampson (D).

Potential 2008 GOP primary candidates include Sugar Land Mayor David Wallace and Harris County Tax Assessor and Collector Paul Bettencourt, either of whom is likely to be favored by GOP insiders over Sekula-Gibbs.

The Houston-area 22nd district is strongly Republican, and the GOP is expected to heavily target Lampson next year.

Lampson was aided in his 2006 victory by the fact that the Republicans were forced to run Sekula-Gibbs as a write-in candidate after DeLay withdrew his name from the ballot and the local GOP was barred by the courts from appointing a replacement candidate.

Lampson, who previously served four terms in a nearby district, has been mentioned as a possible Senate candidate in 2008, and if he ran, Republicans would be heavily favored to take back the vacant 22nd district House seat.

— D.M.D.

Clinton to Headline State Democratic Dinner

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) will headline the Ohio Democratic Party’s state dinner May 12.

The event, to which “other presidential candidates have been invited to speak,” according to a news release from the state party, will be held at the Celeste Center on the Ohio State Fairgrounds in Columbus.

Ohio is integral to the Democrats’ hopes of recapturing the White House in 2008.

— Nicole Duran

Hoyer to Aid Potentially Shaky House Hoosiers

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) will give the keynote address at the Indiana Democratic Party’s annual Jefferson-Jackson Day dinner in Indianapolis on Saturday night.

Hoyer’s appearance underscores how important the Hoosier State is to the Democratic majority in the House.

Last year, Democrats picked up three seats in the state, which has voted for every Republican presidential nominee since 1964.

All three Democratic freshman — Reps. Brad Ellsworth, Joe Donnelly and Baron Hill, who took back the 9th district seat he lost in 2004 — will be on hand, as will Sen. Evan Bayh (D) and Rep. Julia Carson (D), who frequently has tough re-election contests.

Hoyer has already appeared with Hill this election cycle, stumping with him in Indianapolis in April.

— N.D.

County Commissioner Will Take on Rehberg

Bill Kennedy (D), a Yellowstone County commissioner, wants to challenge Rep. Denny Rehberg (R) for the state’s lone House seat.

Kennedy told the Laurel Outlook that he filed his candidacy papers Friday.

Jim Foley, an administrator with the University of Montana and a former aide to Sen. Max Baucus (D), also is weighing a bid for the Democratic nomination.

Foley said he does not have a timetable for making a decision on the House race.

Many pundits expected Rehberg to challenge Baucus for his Senate seat next year but Rehberg has shown no inclination to give up the post he has held since 2001.

Rehberg began April with a little more than $300,000 in the bank.

— N.D.

Newsletter: Tinklenberg Won’t Run for Congress

Elwyn Tinklenberg (D), the former state transportation commissioner and former Blaine mayor, has decided against another run in the 6th district, according to the Politics in Minnesota newsletter.

Tinklenberg, a Blue Dog-type Democrat who opposes abortion rights, had the Democratic field for the open 6th district seat to himself last cycle until child safety advocate Patty Wetterling (D), who lost to then-Rep. Mark Kennedy (R) in 2004, decided to drop her Senate bid and jump back into the 6th district race.

Wetterling won her party’s endorsement and Tinklenberg opted not to force her into a September primary.

Wetterling lost the general election to now-Rep. Michele Bachmann (R), but many Democratic strategists in Minnesota and Washington, D.C., believe that Tinklenberg would have fared much better against Bachmann than Wetterling did.

A second run for Tinklenberg seemed all but certain earlier this year but he recently pulled the plug.

Tinklenberg’s absence leaves Democrats without any obvious strong candidate. Lawyer Bob Hill (D), a political neophyte, has declared his intention to run.

— N.D.

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