Less than a week before Philadelphia Democrats pick the man who will almost certainly be the City of Brotherly Love’s next mayor, polls are looking grim for the two Members of Congress who are in the five-way Democratic race, Reps. Chaka Fattah and Robert Brady.
An independent poll released Wednesday on the Democratic primary showed Fattah, the former frontrunner, running third with 13 percent of the vote, and Brady in fourth place with 11 percent. The leader was former City Councilman Michael Nutter with 31 percent, followed by businessman Tom Knox with 21 percent. State Rep. Dwight Evans had 3 percent.
The Keystone Poll, taken by Franklin & Marshall College, surveyed 385 registered Democrats May 2-7. It had a 5-point error margin.
Significantly, 21 percent of those surveyed were still undecided, and in a memo the pollsters noted, “there are three features of the race that make it possible for voters’ preferences to differ [Tuesday] from those expressed in the survey.”
One was the voter indecision, a second was the fact that 41 percent of those surveyed conceded that they had not yet locked in their choice, and a third was the uncertainty of voter turnout. A high turnout level, the pollsters concluded, would aid Knox, who was a political unknown until earlier this year when he began pouring millions of dollars of his own money into TV ads.
Unless he has a late rally, the primary results could be a particular disappointment to Fattah, who led the field with 26 percent of the vote in the January Keystone Poll and was second with 17 percent in April. Nutter — who was third with 12 percent in the January poll — has surged ahead largely at the expense of the other two black candidates, Fattah and Evans.
At a candidate debate Monday, Fattah said Nutter “has to remind himself that he’s an African-American.” Nutter was endorsed recently by both major daily newspapers in the city and is a favorite candidate of white liberals.
Meanwhile, as chairman of Philadelphia’s Democratic Committee, Brady’s inability to crank out a huge showing for himself on primary day also will be somewhat surprising, if the polls are to be believed. But if he loses, he may get a decent consolation prize, because he is the frontrunner to be named the new chairman of the House Administration Committee.
Several Members of Congress have contributed to Fattah’s and Brady’s campaigns. According to city campaign finance reports, Fattah took in $15,000 from colleagues, most of them members of the Congressional Black Caucus. Brady got a $2,000 contribution from Rep. Tim Holden (D-Pa.) and $1,000 from Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.).
The winner of Tuesday’s primary will be the overwhelming favorite in the November general election.
— Josh Kurtz
Kennedy House Bid Seen as Unlikely Next Year
Edward Kennedy Jr. (D) may desire to run for Congress someday, but probably not next year.
The elder brother of Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.) and son of Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) reportedly is eyeing a House seat in Connecticut.
Kennedy leads a small investment bank in New York City but resides in New Haven.
The New York Post reported rumors Tuesday that Kennedy was interested in a seat in the Constitution State, but national Democrats said this week that no one has approached the civil rights advocate about running and he has not reached out to party leaders.
One source, who did not want to be named, said a future Congressional bid eventually may be in the cards for the 45-year-old attorney, but probably not this year.
Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D) serves the 3rd district, where Kennedy lives, but Rep. Christopher Shays, the delegation’s lone Republican, sits in the neighboring 4th district.
When Kennedy was 12 he lost a leg to bone cancer. He has spent much of his adult life advocating for people with disabilities.
Neither his brother’s office nor his father’s offered any insight into Kennedy’s political plans. Kennedy did not respond to Roll Call’s phone inquiry as of press time Wednesday.
— Nicole Duran
Dreier Refutes Report He Isn’t Fundraising
Contrary to a report this week in one of the newspapers in Rep. David Dreier’s (R) district, the Congressman was active on the fundraising front during the first quarter of this year — he just wasn’t raising much money for himself.
The Los Angeles Daily News correctly reported that Dreier raised a paltry $20,275 for his 26th district campaign account during the first three months of the year. Though Dreier finished with a hefty $2 million in cash on hand, the Daily News story emphasized that the Congressman raised less money in the first quarter than several of his colleagues.
But Dreier, the Rules Committee’s ranking member, said Wednesday that he was far from politically inactive during the period, noting that he raised $150,000 to help retire the National Republican Congressional Committee’s debt — now down to $7.9 million — and contributed another $150,000 from his campaign coffers for the same purpose.
Additionally, Dreier co-hosted and helped organize a Los Angeles fundraiser for the presidential campaign of former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R) at the home of Rock Schnabel, a former ambassador to the European Union. The March 5 event brought in more than $400,000.
“Between helping on debt retirement for my colleagues and Rudy Giuliani, we’ve been really focused on fundraising,” Dreier said in a telephone interview.
Dreier is now in the process of ramping up his own fundraising efforts.
The first fundraiser for his 26th district campaign account since the November elections is scheduled for today, with a similar event for his American Success political action committee set to occur later this month. The American Success PAC had $141,427 in the bank at the beginning of this year, according to the most recent Federal Election Commission report available.
Dreier’s move to address his own fundraising needs has not stopped him from continuing to aid his colleagues.
He recently appeared at a fundraiser in Chicago for Rep. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), the former Speaker, and is scheduled to travel to Pennsylvania to raise money for Rep. Jim Gerlach (R). Dreier also recently contributed more than $10,000 to the Retain Our Majority Program.
ROMP is controlled by House Minority Leader John Boehner (Ohio), with its funds reserved for Republican incumbents deemed the most vulnerable.
Dreier won re-election to a 14th term in November with 57 percent of the vote, and at this point in the cycle is considered in good shape politically. Still, he could have a viable opponent on his hands in businessman Russ Warner (D), a longtime resident of the district whose son is an Iraq War veteran.
However, if Warner is going to give Dreier a serious challenge in the Republican-leaning seat, he is going to have to improve significantly on his first-quarter fundraising performance. From Jan. 1 to March 31, Warner raised just $3,385 to finish with $51,961 in the bank.
— David M. Drucker
Republican in Special Says He’ll Defy the Odds
At least five Democrats are vying for the nomination in the Sept. 4 primary for the special election to replace Rep. Marty Meehan (D), who is resigning in July to become chancellor at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell.
Yet Air Force Lt. Col. Jim Ogonowski appears to have the Republican field to himself — which is not really a shock in a district that has given the past two Democratic presidential nominees 57 percent of the vote.
But Ogonowski said it did not start that way.
Ogonowski, who is retiring May 31 after spending 28 years in the military, said two other Republicans stepped aside when he declared his candidacy April 24. The candidate was making the rounds in Washington, D.C., this week.
“My sense of duty is now calling me to serve in Washington,” the first-time candidate said.
Ogonowski said he will focus on three issues: national security — his brother was piloting American Airlines Flight 11 when terrorists seized control of the plane and slammed it into the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001; energy — he wants a national policy that invests in alternative sources; and taxes — he wants Congress to simplify the system.
Ogonowski also is a hay farmer and helps his brother’s widow till her fields as well. The family has been farming in the Lowell-based district for 100 years.
Ogonowski said his effort is no fool’s errand.
Democrats outnumber Republicans in the 5th but at 54 percent, independents make up the bulk of the electorate. Ogonowski also points out that the 5th district favored former GOP Govs. Mitt Romney and William Weld in recent elections.
Gov. Deval Patrick (D), who was elected in 2006, won less than 51 percent there, despite November’s Democratic wave.
“It’s a great opportunity for a Republican,” Ogonowski insisted.
Patrick has not set a date for the general election yet.
Niki Tsongas, widow of the late-Sen. Paul Tsongas (D), and former Lowell Mayor Eileen Donoghue seem to be leading the Democratic pack at this early stage.
’06 Runner-up to Towns Won’t Try Again in ’08
New York City Councilman Charles Barron (D), who came within 8 points of ousting Rep. Edolphus Towns (D) in a three-way Democratic primary last year, announced this week that he would not seek a rematch with the Congressman and instead would try to become Brooklyn’s first black borough president in 2009.
The often bombastic Barron told The New York Times that he wanted to make history.
“After doing an assessment, I determined that if I ran for Congress, I would be a rookie and they would give me an office in the basement, next to the toilet,” Barron said. “I would have to run every two years and it would be years before I would have an impact on legislation.”
Barron’s decision doesn’t guarantee that Towns won’t have a primary challenger in 2008, but no one has stepped forward to take him on. The 72-year-old incumbent, who was first elected in 1982, had a high-dollar fundraiser last week at a Brooklyn banquet hall, suggesting that he wants to stick around Congress a while longer.
Herseth’s Path to Another Term a Little Less Dusty
Public Utilities Commission Chairman Dusty Johnson (R) has decided against challenging Rep. Stephanie Herseth (D) next year, and also ruled out a run for the at-large seat if it opens up for any reason.
According to local news reports, Johnson, 30, and with a young son, said the timing was not right for his family. He had been considering a run for Senate, and then shifted his sights to the House.
Although Sen. Tim Johnson (D) is preparing to run for re-election, his recovery from a stroke continues to fuel speculation that he might retire next year. If that were to occur, political observers of South Dakota politics believe Herseth would run for Senate, leaving her House seat vulnerable to a Republican takeover.
In part because of the political uncertainty in the state caused by Johnson’s illness, Republicans do not have candidates lined up for the House or the Senate next year.
Boccieri Wants Member to Become a Regula Guy
State Sen. John Boccieri (D) on Tuesday answered the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s call to challenge Rep. Ralph Regula (R) in 2008.
“We’re ecstatic,” said Ryan Rudominer, a DCCC spokesman. “As far as our recruitment goes, this is a terrific sign; for us, it’s a home run.”
DCCC leaders have made the Buckeye State a priority and look at the 16th district as a bit of a bonus. The district leans Republican, but DCCC officials believe that Boccieri, an Iraq War veteran, can give the 82-year-old Congressman serious competition.
Regula, who has yet to announce his re-election, is on the retirement watch lists of both the DCCC and the National Republican Congressional Committee.