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Georgia: TV Reporter Switching Channels to Senate Bid

Former investigative TV journalist Dale Cardwell (D) launched a campaign to unseat Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R) on Monday, becoming the second Democrat to enter the Georgia Senate race.

DeKalb County CEO Vernon Jones (D) also has been raising money for a Senate campaign.

Until last week, Cardwell had been an investigative reporter for Atlanta’s WSB-TV for 11 years, during which time he won six Emmy Awards.

In launching his campaign, Cardwell railed against the special interests that he said have corrupted Washington, D.C. He said he will not take money from political action committees or registered Washington lobbyists during the campaign.

“This may be our last chance to elect an outsider who will stay an outsider, a Senator who will tell the truth and fight like hell to make a difference,” Cardwell said in a statement. “I’m no professional politician, and I know I’m in for a tough fight, but you know, that’s what I’ve been doing on behalf of honest citizens like all of you for the past 25 years.”

Democrats face a tough uphill climb in trying to unseat Chambliss, who is seeking a second term next year. Long dominated by Southern Democrats, the state has become fertile territory for the GOP since the beginning of this decade and Republicans now rule the state’s government.

Meanwhile, Rep. Sanford Bishop (D) is seeking to tamp down speculation that he might be interested in a Senate run, even though Rep. Jim Marshall is the Georgia House Democrat most often mentioned as a possible Chambliss challenger.

“It has come to my attention that rumors are circulating that I am considering a run for the U.S. Senate in 2008 against Saxby Chambliss,” Bishop said in a statement issued last week. “This suggestion is absolutely false.”

— Lauren W. Whittington

Goddard to Make His House Bid Official Today

Retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Rick Goddard (R) is set to officially launch his bid against Rep. Jim Marshall (D) today in Warner Robbins, just down the street from the Air Force base where he once worked.

Goddard will make the announcement at 10:30 a.m.

A Vietnam veteran, Goddard retired from the military in 2000, at which time he was commander of the Warner Robins Air Logistics Center at Robins Air Force Base. The base is located in the south central 8th district, and most of its employees live there as well.

National Republicans are elated by Goddard’s candidacy. Marshall was re-elected last year by fewer than 2,000 votes, and his district favors Republicans.

— L.W.W.

DCCC Recruiting Coup: Unger Taking on Capito

Democrats scored a major recruiting coup last week when state Sen. John Unger II (D) announced that he would challenge Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R) in 2008.

“I have a long record of standing up for the priorities of the people I serve and seeking innovative solutions to the challenges we face,” Unger, a nine-year veteran of the state Senate, said in a statement.

Democratic Reps. Nick Rahall and Alan Mollohan joined Unger for his announcement news conference in Charleston, and Unger has the enthusiastic support of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Capito’s first race in 2000 was a nail-biter, but she’s won by fairly comfortable margins since then. Still, even though her central West Virginia district trends conservative —President Bush took 57 percent of the vote there in 2004 — Democrats believe they have a serious shot, especially as the president’s poll ratings continue to sag.

Unger has worked as a missionary for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and also has been an international relief worker in Iraq, both in the 1991 Gulf War and in 2003.

“Based on the rave reviews he has received from the West Virginia Democratic community, and on the compelling life story he presents, John emerged as one of our strongest and most impressive national prospects in the 2008 cycle,” said Rep. Artur Davis (Ala.), the DCCC’s recruiting chairman. “He is the kind of moderate Democrat who can win in West Virginia.”

But Capito, the daughter of former Gov. Arch Moore (R), remains formidable. She had $135,000 in her campaign account as of March 31.

— Josh Kurtz

GOP Senators Hosting Schaffer Hill Fundraiser

Twenty-nine Republican Senators, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), will serve as hosts for a June 12 fundraiser for former Rep. Bob Schaffer, the likely GOP nominee for Senate in the Centennial State.

The luncheon — which will cost a minimum of $500 for individuals to attend and a minimum of $1,000 for political action committees — will be held at the National Republican Senatorial Committee headquarters on Capitol Hill.

Schaffer, who lost a GOP Senate primary in 2004, is the lone Republican so far in the race to replace retiring Sen. Wayne Allard (R), and he is swiftly lining up most of the establishment support. He is expected to square off against Rep. Mark Udall (D) in November 2008.

Schaffer also got good news last week when he was endorsed by the Club for Growth, the politically potent anti-tax group whose support will help fill the Republican’s campaign coffers.

— J.K.

Some GOPers Passing on Lampson Challenge

A top Republican prospect for the race to take on Rep. Nick Lampson (D) has decided not to run, and another leading GOP recruit also is close to taking a pass on the 22nd district race.

Sugar Land Mayor David Wallace (R) announced last week that he was dropping out of politics altogether — at least temporarily — to focus on his new real estate business.

“While [being a Member of Congress] is a position in which I am confident I could serve the constituency well, this is not the most favorable time for me to launch a campaign of this magnitude and to devote the ongoing time required in this important position,” Wallace said in a statement.

Wallace, a protégé of former 22nd district Rep. Tom DeLay (R), was seen by Republicans eager to oust Lampson in the GOP-leaning Houston-area district, as a potentially formidable contender. Another top GOP prospect, Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector Paul Bettencourt (R), also is likely to forgo the race for family reasons, according to the Houston Chronicle.

That leaves former Rep. Shelley Sekula-Gibbs (R), who served the final six weeks of DeLay’s term last year, as the only declared GOP candidate. Former Sugar Land Mayor Dean Hrbacek (R) has formed an exploratory committee. Several state legislators also are mentioned as possible candidates, though state Rep. Robert Talton (R) is seen as the likeliest to run, particularly if Bettencourt doesn’t.

— J.K.

Mikal Rows Boat Ashore to Cornyn Challenge

Wealthy trial attorney Mikal Watts (D) took a step closer to challenging Sen. John Cornyn (R) last week, announcing the formation of an exploratory committee.

“The purpose of this committee is to allow me to raise money and talk to Texans around the state to see if they are willing to invest in this campaign to achieve change for the state of Texas,” Watts told the Corpus Christi Caller-Times.

Watts, 39, is a well-known Democratic insider and son of a Texas judge, but he has a long way to go before making the well-entrenched Cornyn sweat. The first-term Senator ended March with more than $3.8 million in his campaign account.

But Watts does have some fundraising ability. Earlier this year he hosted a fundraiser at his home for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee that was supposed to yield about $150,000. The haul instead exceeded $1 million.

At least one other Democrat is actively considering the race. State Rep. Rick Noriega (D) told the Houston Chronicle last week that he will decide whether to run sometime after June 16, when his wife is competing in a special election for Houston City Council.

— J.K.

Study: GOP Had $1.4M Advantage Last Cycle

A new study on the state’s most expensive Congressional election in history — the hyper-competitive race in the fall in the 1st district — reveals that Republicans outspent Democrats by almost $1.4 million in their quest to protect Rep. Heather Wilson (R).

The study, reported in the inaugural edition of a new magazine, Capitol Report New Mexico, found that Wilson’s campaign and affiliated Republican interest groups spent a total of $6,577,180 in the previous cycle. Then-state Attorney General Patricia Madrid (D) and Democratic-leaning interest groups spent $5,199,940. Wilson wound up winning the race by just 861 votes.

The study also concluded that while Wilson unsurprisingly rang up big margins against Madrid in the district’s rural precincts, Madrid’s margin in the more urban counties was not as high as it might have been despite Democratic turnout efforts. The author of the study, a University of New Mexico political scientist, suggested that in the future, 1st district Democrats need to pay more attention to turning out their voters in Republican-performing precincts.

Wilson is expected to have another tough re-election on her hands this cycle. Albuquerque City Councilor Martin Heinrich (D) has created an exploratory committee and is raising money, and other Democrats could join the race.

— J.K.

Air Force Reservist May Drop Bomb on Doolittle

As nervous Republicans ponder the shaky political stature of Rep. John Doolittle (R), at least one is openly contemplating challenging the Congressman in the GOP primary next June.

Eric Egland (R), an Air Force reservist, told the Sacramento Bee last week that he is “seriously considering” a bid because he fears Doolittle — who has been linked to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff and has taken political heat for paying his wife with campaign funds — cannot hold the conservative Sacramento-area seat.

“The main concern of our district is that if Doolittle wins the primary, we will lose the seat to Cindy Sheehan Democrat Charlie Brown,” Egland told the Bee.

Brown, an Air Force veteran, finished just 3 points behind Doolittle in 2006 and is trying again this cycle.

Egland apparently has earned the support of Steve Schmidt, the powerful Republican consultant who has worked for President Bush, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the National Republican Congressional Committee, among others.

Several current and former Republican elected officials also are said to be contemplating a race against Doolittle next year.

— J.K.

Bartlett Files Papers to Run for a Ninth Term

In an attempt to lay retirement rumors to rest, 81-year-old Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R) filed papers last week to seek a ninth term.

A vacancy in the sprawling 6th district probably would set off a huge scramble, at least on the Republican side, with Bartlett’s son, state Del. Joseph Bartlett (R), among those in contention. But the elder Bartlett probably can hold the seat for as long as he wants it.

He will have at least one Republican primary challenger in former Cumberland Mayor Frank Nethken, who already has run unsuccessfully for Congress twice. 2006 Democratic nominee Andrew Duck, an Iraq War veteran, is expected to try again in 2008.

— J.K.

States Attorney Makes Case Against Gilchrest

Rep. Wayne Gilchrest (R) frequently gets conservative Republican primary challengers — and he’s likely to get one again in 2008 in the person of state Sen. Andrew Harris (R) — but now a rare Democratic elected official is lining up to run against him as well.

Queen Anne’s County State’s Attorney Frank Kratovil Jr. (D) announced Monday that he’ll seek the 1st district seat. Although he’d be the decided underdog against Gilchrest — or Harris — Kratovil’s candidacy is drawing enough enthusiasm from state Democratic leaders that Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) and the state comptroller and attorney general all were expected to join the two-term prosecutor at his announcement along the Chesapeake Bay.

“I am a law and order guy,” Kratovil told The Daily Times in Salisbury. “It isn’t that I have anything bad to say about the incumbent. I just think I can do a better job.”

Kratovil does not have the Democratic nomination locked up, however. Cambridge attorney Christopher Robinson (D), the runner-up in the 2006 Democratic primary, is planning to run again.

— J.K.

MAINE Candidate Gets Help From ‘Sopranos’ Player

State Sen. Ethan Strimling (D) hopes a little star power will help him outshine his opponents in the highly competitive race to replace Rep. Tom Allen (D).

According to The Associated Press, Strimling has scheduled a June 24 fundraiser for his Congressional exploratory committee that will be headlined by actor Matt Servitto, who plays FBI agent Dwight Harris on “The Sopranos.”

Strimling and Servitto were college classmates, and the fundraiser, at Anthony’s Italian Kitchen in Portland, will feature autographs of “The Sopranos” cast members and other memorabilia from the show as door prizes.

Strimling is one of several Democrats eyeing the seat that Allen is vacating to run for Senate. Other contenders include former state Senate Majority Leader Michael Brennan, attorney and Iraq War veteran Adam Cote, York County District Attorney Mark Lawrence and former Common Cause President Chellie Pingree.

Republicans also are expected to put up a strong candidate, though the district leans Democratic.

— J.K.

Democrats Not Waiting for Hastert’s Decision

While former Speaker Dennis Hastert (R) ponders whether to seek a 12th term next year, Democrats are not hesitating to line up for his seat. Millionaire physicist Bill Foster (D) announced last week that he would run, joining state Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia, 2006 nominee Jonathan Laesch and lawyer Jotham Stein in the Democratic field.

“A lot of the challenges that our country faces are economic and technical, and as a scientist and businessman, I can help solve them,” Foster told the Daily Herald.

Hastert’s suburban Chicago district is becoming more competitive, but it is too early in the cycle to say whether Democrats can truly compete there. A handful of Republicans would contemplate getting into the race if Hastert retired.

— J.K.

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