A Democratic poll conducted last week found Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R) to be extremely vulnerable in the 4th district as she gears up for re-election in 2008.
Musgrave held off a challenge from then-state Rep. Angie Paccione (D) this past cycle in one of the worst elections in years for Republicans. But Democrats are making another run at her, and although Paccione is running again their candidate of choice this time around appears to be state Sen. Brandon Shaffer (D), who just entered the race.
“In the survey conducted last week, we found intense voter [dissatisfaction] with Musgrave and President Bush and that voters are looking for a change,” read a memo detailing the Bennett Petts & Normington poll.
According the survey, only 30 percent of voters in the Republican-leaning 4th district supported Musgrave for re-election, with her job approval and favorability ratings both sitting at just 40 percent. Bush’s job approval in the district also was at 40 percent.
The poll, of 400 likely voters, was conducted May 6-8. The error margin was 4.9 points.
Musgrave spokesman Jason Thielman said the Democrats’ optimism over his boss’ supposed vulnerability sounds no different to him than their crowing early in the 2004 and 2006 cycles. Thielman called Paccione and Shaffer too liberal for the 4th district.
“This is the same song and dance that has been brought out before to try and tilt at this windmill,” he said.
—David M. Drucker
Blumenauer Is off Rose as DSCC Keeps Looking
In another blow to Democrats’ hopes of ousting Sen. Gordon Smith (R) next year, Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D) announced Wednesday he will not be a candidate for Senate.
Blumenauer’s announcement comes on the heels of Rep. Peter DeFazio’s (D) decision to stay put and serves as another boost for Smith, who is one of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee’s top targets this cycle.
“This was not an easy decision. There is no question that Gordon Smith is vulnerable to defeat,” Blumenauer said in a lengthy statement on his Web site. But “at this unique moment in history there is too much work to be done in the House of Representatives to take on a campaign for U.S. Senate.”
In the statement, Blumenauer cited several reasons for his decision, but chief among them appeared to be the Democrats’ newfound majority in the House and his desire not to give up a safe seat for the unknown.
Republicans were gleeful, calling Blumenauer’s announcement further proof that Democrats are wasting their time going after Smith.
“First DeFazio, and now Blumenauer,” National Republican Senatorial Committee spokeswoman Rebecca Fisher said. “The Democrats just can’t seem to get a break with recruiting lately — they can’t even get a second-tier candidate to run against a Senator that they termed vulnerable.”
Currently, the only announced Democratic Senate candidate in Oregon is lawyer and party activist Steve Novick. Meanwhile, Smith finished the first quarter of this year with a healthy $2.8 million in cash on hand.
However, Democrats did not sound discouraged by Blumenauer’s decision. The DSCC, which raised significantly more money in the first quarter than the NRSC, expects to have plenty of resources to play in Oregon, with the committee still insisting it will find a top-tier candidate to face Smith.
“No matter how hard he tries to cover it up in an election year, Gordon Smith won’t be able to escape his record of voting with George Bush 90 percent of the time,” said DSCC spokesman Matthew Miller.
Ex-Assemblyman Jumps Into 11th District Contest
Former state Assemblyman Dean Andal (R) on Wednesday announced his candidacy for the 11th district, with Republicans cooing that they found a heavy hitter to take on freshman Rep. Jerry McNerney (D) in the GOP-leaning district.
“Dean Andal is a political heavyweight and the kind of top-tier candidate we have been looking for,” said National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Ken Spain. “Jerry McNerney was swept into Congress on the coattails of a Democratic wave in ’06, but now he will have to answer for his liberal voting record.”
In an interview this week, Andal said his campaign would revolve around the difference between him and McNerney on fiscal and national security issues. He called McNerney a nice guy who is wrong on the issues — not to mention out of step with a majority of 11th district voters.
In 2006, McNerney defeated then-Resources Chairman Richard Pombo (R). But Republicans claim the Democrat was successful in large part because a handful of environmental activist groups spent millions of dollars targeting Pombo via independent expenditure campaigns.
Republicans argue that McNerney is unlikely to benefit from that sort of help in 2008, when he also will be forced to defend a House voting record GOP operatives say is already too far to the left for 11th district voters. But McNerney spokesman Andy Stone said his boss has been expecting these attacks and is prepared to deal with them.
“The very day he was sworn in, the NRCC sent an attack mailer to residents in the district,” Stone said. “Despite that, Congressman McNerney’s focus has been serving the people of the 11th district and listening to their needs.”
State Health Secretary Eyes Congressional Bid
State Health Secretary Michelle Lujan Grisham is resigning next month and is pondering a run for political office — including a race for the Democratic nomination in the 1st district.
Grisham, 47, told The Associated Press this week that a run for the Albuquerque-based seat held by Rep. Heather Wilson (R) is “at the top” of the list of options she is considering, though she did not rule out a run for statewide office in 2010.
“You can’t mix your appointed office with seeking elective office,” Grisham said, explaining her decision to resign after three years on the job.
Albuquerque City Councilor Martin Heinrich (D) has established an exploratory committee for a 2008 Congressional bid and was in Washington, D.C., last week to meet with Democratic leaders about the race. Other potential Democratic contenders include former University of New Mexico President Louis Caldera, state Auditor Hector Balderas and former Albuquerque Councilor Eric Griego.
Bloomberg, Mosbacher Host Fundraiser for King
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg (R) will headline a fundraiser next week for Rep. Peter King (R), one of just six Republicans remaining in the 29-Member Empire State Congressional delegation.
The reception for the Long Island Congressman will be held Monday evening at the Fifth Avenue home of Georgette Mosbacher, the cosmetics executive and socialite who is the ex-wife of former Treasury Secretary Robert Mosbacher.
Despite the Democratic wave in New York last year, King dispatched Nassau County Legislator David Mejias (D) fairly easily last fall. Mejias is pondering a rematch, and Nassau Legislator David Denenberg (D) also is considering the race.
In the 2008 presidential race, King has been an early and vocal supporter of Bloomberg’s predecessor, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R). Bloomberg himself is rumored to be exploring a presidential bid — as an Independent.
Potential Fossella Foe Ponders Other Options
State Assemblyman Michael Cusick (D) told the Staten Island Advance this week that he is continuing to consider challenging Rep. Vito Fossella (R) next year. But the former aide to Sen. Charles Schumer (D) conceded that he is also seriously eyeing another political gig: Staten Island Democratic chairman.
“As an elected official in the Democratic Party, it’s my responsibility to take a look at opportunities when they come up,” Cusick said.
The next election for county leader is in September, and the incumbent is serving on an interim basis.
Democrats have been desperate to find a strong candidate against Fossella, who took 57 percent of the vote in November despite the Democratic wave in New York. Other potential challengers include New York City Councilmen Dominic Recchia and Michael McMahon and 2006 nominee Stephen Harrison.
“Nothing has changed,” Cusick told the Advance when asked about the Congressional race. “I’m still taking a serious look at it.”
Unlike the council members, Cusick would have to sacrifice his seat to run for Congress.
Bad Night for Members as Nutter Wins Primary
The results in Tuesday’s Democratic primary for mayor of Philadelphia were equally dismal for the Members of Congress who ran, Reps. Chaka Fattah (D) and Robert Brady (D).
In fact, Brady and Fattah couldn’t have finished much closer. With 97 percent of the vote counted, the two were essentially tied for third place. Brady, the chairman of the Philadelphia Democratic Party, won 43,200 votes for 15 percent, and Fattah, the former frontrunner, garnered just 59 votes less.
The winner was former City Councilman Michael Nutter (D), who captured almost 37 percent of the vote in the five-way race, largely by appealing equally to black and white voters in the often racially divided city. Nutter is now the heavy favorite over businessman Al Taubenberger (R) — who twice sought the GOP nomination in the 13th district — in the November general election.
There will be some consolation for the two losing Members. Brady retains his party post and is the frontrunner to become the next House Administration chairman. (He is currently the acting chairman).
As for Fattah, he’s still got a seat on the Appropriations Committee — and now he can go back to appearing on “Hardball.”
Jones’ Iraq Stance Draws GOP Primary Challenge
Perhaps it was inevitable, but after months as a leading critic of the Iraq War, Rep. Walter Jones Jr. (R) has a Republican primary challenger.
Onslow County Commissioner Joe McLaughlin (R) announced last week that he has entered the race.
“I’ve campaigned for Walter before, but that all changed when I saw him on ABC with [liberal Rep.] Dennis Kucinich [D-Ohio] saying the war on terror wasn’t worth it,” McLaughlin told the Wilson Daily Times.
In a letter to the editor published in the same newspaper three months ago, McLaughlin wrote that “Jones is now a Democrat in everything but registration.”
Jones was in fact an enrolled Democrat — his father, the late Rep. Walter Jones Sr. was a Democrat — who switched parties in the early 1990s.
Rove Was Key Presenter at Candidate Training
White House adviser Karl Rove created some uncomfortable questions for the National Republican Congressional Committee when his 2008 “playbook” became public as part of an investigation into whether government bureaucrats were improperly engaged in political activities.
The Members he listed as potential retirees did not completely jibe with the NRCC’s retirement “watch” list, for one.
But that was last month.
Clearly NRCC Chairman Tom Cole (Okla.) does not hold a grudge, as Rove was one of the featured speakers at the NRCC’s candidate school last week.
Between 25 and 30 prospective House candidates came to Washington, D.C., to learn the nuts and bolts of campaigning. There were workshops about campaign law, dealing with the media, and other issues.
But that was only half the agenda. The other was about using GOP heavyweights to push undecided candidates off the fence and into races, acknowledged one Republican source who did not want to be named.
The NRCC said that Rove, like House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Cole, who also made speeches to the assembled troops, is someone who can energize a crowd.
“Karl Rove has engineered two very successful presidential elections,” NRCC spokesman Ken Spain explained. “He’s a political expert and we’re very thankful that he took the time out of his day to address the candidates. The candidates were very appreciative.”