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Nation: Democratic Committees Retain Huge Cash Edge

The House and Senate campaign committees filed April fundraising reports with the Federal Election Commission this week, the latest indicator of both parties’ finances 18 months before the 2008 elections.

On the Senate side, Democrats continued to dominate their GOP counterparts in fundraising and cash on hand.

House Republicans, however, outraised Democrats in April, although the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee still dwarfed the National Republican Congressional Committee in available cash.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee raised $4.6 million in April, compared with the $2.1 million raised by the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

Both committees spent around $2 million last month, and the DSCC ended April with $12.1 million in the bank while the NRSC showed $3.4 million as of April 30.

The DSCC still carried $5.5 million in debts left over from the previous cycle, while the NRSC is debt-free.

On the House side, the NRCC raised $3 million last month while the DCCC took in $2.3 million.

Both House committees doled out more than they took in during April: The NRCC spent $4 million and the DCCC spent almost $2.9.

The greatest disparity between the two committees remained the cash-on-hand figure. The DCCC showed $9.4 million in reserve — slightly less than it had at the end of March — while the NRCC had just $1.6 million in the bank.

Both committees are still shouldering debt from the 2006 elections. The DCCC had almost $5.2 million and the NRCC showed close to $7.3 million in debt as of April 30.
— Lauren W. Whittington

English’s Possible Foe Opens Exploratory Fund

Erie County Councilman Kyle Foust (D) is one step closer to challenging Rep. Phil English (R) in 2008, as he is set today to announce he is forming an exploratory committee that will allow him to raise money for a potential run at the Democratic nomination in the 3rd district.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has signaled that Foust is one of its top choices to take on English, who won re-election in the previous cycle with 54 percent of the vote against a little-known, underfunded challenger. Democrats believe English is vulnerable against a well-funded officeholder, but Republicans disagree.

In addition to his part-time position as a county councilman, Foust is a career services director at Mercyhurst College in Erie.
— David M. Drucker

Liberal Group Targeting Sununu on Stem Cells

Americans United for Change, a liberal advocacy group, is readying to pin the success of Congress’ effort to expand stem-cell research squarely on the shoulders of Sen. John Sununu (R).

Congress approved a measure to allow more federal funding for the research, but President Bush has promised to veto the bill. Democratic leaders are counting heads to see if they have enough votes — two-thirds of each chamber — to override Bush’s anticipated veto.

By Americans United’s count, the Senate has 66 “yes” votes, assuming that Sen. Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) is back on the job. They want Granite State voters to know that Sununu, who is expected to have a tough re-election battle on his hands next year, may be lucky number 67.

In a radio ad that could air as soon as the day after Memorial Day, Americans United will equate Sununu’s opposition to the bill with preventing researchers from finding a cure for cancer and other diseases.

“He’s voted with President Bush time and again against stem-cell research — even supporting Bush’s veto of legislation last year that would have funded new research,” an announcer says, according to an advanced copy of the ad.

“Now the Senate is one vote away from overriding the president’s latest veto threat. One vote away from finding a cure for millions of Americans.”

Sununu is the lone member of New Hampshire’s Congressional delegation to oppose the bill.

“We’re going to go guns blazing into New Hampshire on this issue,” said Brad Woodhouse, spokesman for Americans United for Change. “After what happened electorally in New Hampshire last year, it’s a bad time to be an island.”

Woodhouse was referring to Democrats’ surprising feat of flipping both of the Granite State’s House seats in last year’s midterm elections and taking over both chambers of the state Legislature.

Woodhouse said his group plans a telephone and e-mail campaign to accompany the radio spots and possibly a television ad, too. The group is in the process of hiring staff in New Hampshire as well.

“We hope he’ll get word of what we’re doing and hold a press conference and announce that he will vote for a veto override,” Woodhouse said, adding that Americans United would halt its campaign in such an event.
— Nicole Duran

Harkin Predicts Good Year for Democrats in ’08

Sen. Tom Harkin (D) has bad news for any Republicans holding out hope that he might call it quits after his fourth term expires in 2009.

The chairman of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee still maintains that modern campaigns begin too early, but he said all anyone has to do is watch him to get an answer about his re-election plans.

“Everything tends to look like it’s going to be a good year for Democrats,” Harkin said in an interview last week. “But I’m working hard. I’ve got my organization together; I’m raising money, so I feel pretty good about where I am.”

It doesn’t hurt Harkin that Republicans have yet to entice a top-tier challenger into the race or that he began April with almost $2 million in the bank.
— N.D.

Campaign Will Proceed With Candidate Away

As Marine Reservist Duncan D. Hunter (R) readies for another tour of duty in combat — this time in Afghanistan — his campaign for the 52nd district House seat is busy raising money and working to build political support while simultaneously preparing to function absent its candidate.

Hunter, running to replace his father, presidential candidate Rep. Duncan Hunter (R), is scheduled to return from Afghanistan in early January 2008, leaving what his advisers say is plenty of time to campaign in advance of the June primary.

Until then, Hunter will rely on surrogates and campaign professionals, including Sacramento, Calif.-based Republican consultant David Gilliard and Sheila Hardison, who will handle fundraising in San Diego.

Rep. Ed Royce (R) and state Sen. Dennis Hollingsworth (R) have endorsed Hunter, who completed a tour of combat duty in Iraq in 2005 and now serves as a captain in the Marine Corps Individual Ready Reserve. More elected officials and local party activists are expected to follow Royce and Hollingsworth in backing Hunter, due in large part to the network of supporters his father has developed during almost 14 terms in Congress.

However, Hunter is expected to have a campaign on his hands in the primary, as at least a few Republicans are contemplating a run, with wealthy businessman Ken King among them.
— D.M.D.

Paterson Would ‘Relish’ a Senate Appointment

Lt. Gov. David Paterson (D) told a television interviewer on Sunday he would welcome an appointment to the Senate if Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D) is elected president in 2008 — but isn’t speculating about the possibility or campaigning for the job.

If Clinton becomes president, Gov. Eliot Spitzer (D) would appoint someone to serve in the Senate for two years. The appointee would then be eligible to run in 2010 to serve the remaining two years of Clinton’s term and would be up for a full six-year term in 2012.

Many Empire State political insiders believe Paterson is the leading candidate for the appointment if Clinton moves on to the White House. Reps. Nita Lowey (D) and Gregory Meeks (D) and environmental attorney Robert F. Kennedy Jr. — whose father once held Clinton’s Senate seat — also are mentioned.

Paterson gave up his position as state Senate Minority Leader to become Spitzer’s running mate last year at a time when New York Democrats are close to taking back the Senate for the first time in more than 40 years. This fueled speculation that he was willing to trade the power of the leadership post for the added statewide visibility that being lieutenant governor would bring him.

Paterson’s chief political patrons are a quartet of veteran Harlem powerbrokers, including Rep. Charlie Rangel (D), former New York Mayor David Dinkins (D), broadcasting mogul Percy Sutton, and Paterson’s own father, Basil Paterson, who has held a variety of high-profile jobs, including vice chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

Asked by veteran newsman Gabe Pressman on WNBC-TV’s “News Forum” show whether he’d “aspire” to have Spitzer appoint him to replace Clinton, Paterson replied, “Anyone that comes on this show, Gabe, in public service that tells you that they wouldn’t relish that opportunity is not telling the truth.”

But Paterson was quick to add that he isn’t thinking about a possible Senate vacancy.

“Rather than being speculative, I think the best thing that helps people move to a new goal is to work very hard on what they’re doing now and not worry about the future,” he said.
— Josh Kurtz

Giuliani Helping Walsh Raise Campaign Funds

Former New York mayor and GOP presidential frontrunner Rudy Giuliani (R) is scheduled to headline a fundraiser this afternoon for an early supporter, Rep. Jim Walsh (R).

Giuliani, who is touring the Empire State this week to collect endorsements from prominent local GOP officials, will appear at a noon luncheon at the Oncenter Convention Center in Syracuse, according to the Syracuse Post Standard. Tickets cost $250, but for $2,300 donors can attend a VIP reception and have their photo taken with Giuliani.

After winning his 10th term with just 51 percent of the vote in November — his narrowest victory ever — Walsh appears headed to a rematch with Dan Maffei (D), the former Capitol Hill aide and TV reporter who almost beat him last time.
— J.K.

Alan Bates (Not the Actor) Ponders Smith Challenge

State Sen. Alan Bates (D) announced late last week he is seriously considering entering the Democratic Senate primary for the right to challenge Sen. Gordon Smith (R) in 2008, the Mail Tribune newspaper reported.

After Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D) and Peter DeFazio (D) declined to throw their hats into the ring, Democrats are still looking for a high-profile candidate to take on Smith. But neither Bates nor attorney and party activist Steve Novick (D) — who already has declared his candidacy — are described as fitting the bill.

Bates is a physician and Vietnam veteran from the Southern Oregon community of Ashland.

“I would be a dark-horse candidate,” Bates acknowledged.
— D.M.D.

Businessman Likes Ike, Covets Johnson’s Seat

Spearfish businessman Sam Kephart, a pro-abortion-rights Republican who bills himself as an “Eisenhower Republican,” has announced his candidacy for Senate, according to the Sioux City Journal.

Kephart describes himself as conservative on fiscal and military issues and progressive on social issues. The self-employed businessman questioned the ability of incumbent Sen. Tim Johnson (D) to serve in the aftermath of a Dec. 13 stroke.

“I have some substantial questions about the propriety of him continuing given the serious nature of his health problems,” Kephart said.

Kephart is not seen as a preferred candidate of state or national GOP leaders.

Johnson’s staff has said the Senator’s recovery is going well and the Democrat intends to run for re-election next year.
— D.M.D.

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