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Georgia: Voters Will Fill Norwood Seat in Today’s Election

Voters in Georgia’s 10th district head to the polls today to decide who will succeed the late Rep. Charlie Norwood (R).

Former state Sen. Jim Whitehead (R) and physician Paul Broun (R) are squaring off in the runoff, after no candidate got more than 50 percent of the vote in last month’s crowded all-party special election.

Whitehead, who finished first with 44 percent of the vote in the June 19 special, is considered the heavy favorite to win the seat. He has the support of Norwood’s widow as well as much of the late Congressman’s campaign apparatus.

Broun is the son of a former Democratic state Senator. His base is in the heavily Democratic Athens area, while Whitehead hails from Norwood’s political base in Augusta.

Turnout today is projected to be less than 10 percent.
— Lauren W. Whittington

Former Incumbent Hart Wants Her Old Job Back

Former Rep. Melissa Hart (R) became the latest 2006 casualty to attempt a comeback, telling the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Saturday that she hopes to oust Rep. Jason Altmire (D) in 2008.

“Obviously, I still have a commitment to public service, despite the elections of last year,” Hart said.

National Football League Hall of Famer and 2006 gubernatorial candidate Lynn Swann (R), who was considering a 2008 bid for the 4th district, has decided against running, the Post-Gazette reported.

Altmire beat Hart by nearly 4 points last year in a race that broke late for the challenger and was considered an upset.

Before making it to a rematch, Hart will have to get by former Allegheny County Commissioner Ron Francis in the Republican primary.
— David M. Drucker

Businesswoman Eyes Lautenberg Challenge

Businesswoman Anne Estabrook (R) announced last week she had formed an exploratory committee in preparation for a possible 2008 Senate bid. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D) already has announced his intention to seek re-election.

“I am a businesswoman,” Estabrook said in a statement. “I know how hard it can be to do business, create good jobs and raise a family in New Jersey.”

Rep. Mike Ferguson (R) is a member of Estabrook’s exploratory committee.

Estabrook, 63, is likely to find the race against Lautenberg tough going if she ultimately jumps in. New Jersey leans Democratic, and Lautenberg has not done anything to engender the enmity of voters since returning to the Senate in 2002 after retiring in 2000 — though he will be 84 next year and his age could become a factor.

According to Estabrook’s biography as released by her exploratory committee, she is the CEO and principal of Elberon Development Co., a New Jersey real estate company, which with its affiliates owns more than 30 buildings and 2.2 million square feet of space. Estabrook also is president of David O. Evans Inc., a property management and construction company.

A few Republican state legislators also reportedly are considering running for Senate next year.
— D.M.D.

State Senator Fired Up to Challenge Burner

A state Senator who was a Republican until last year will run against Darcy Burner, the 2006 nominee, in the 8th district Democratic primary.

State Sen. Rodney Tom (D) plans to officially enter the race today, according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

Burner has the jump on Tom, and even Rep. Dave Reichert (R), when it comes to fundraising. She banked more than $185,000 by July 1, while Reichert, the popular former King County sheriff, had about $160,000.

Burner, who had never sought public office before last year, won plaudits for her impressive fundraising ability. That led national Democrats to fully embrace the former Microsoft manager, who ultimately lost to Reichert 51 percent to 49 percent.

State Rep. Christopher Hurst (D) also weighed a bid, but he and Tom agreed that only one of them should challenge Burner.

“One of our very big concerns was I didn’t want to run in a primary against Rodney and he didn’t want a primary with me in it,” Hurst told the paper.

“No disrespect to Darcy … but she had her run, in what was probably the best year in 40 years to run as a Democrat, and she came up short,” Hurst told The Seattle Times.

Burner responded with a statement last week.

“Our most recent fundraising quarter gives me confidence that nothing can stop us from defeating Congressman Reichert next November,” she said.

“Rodney Tom only recently figured out that the policies of [President] George Bush are wrong for our country,” Burner said, taking a shot at Tom for his late political conversion.
— Nicole Duran

Political Consultant Joins Primary for Wilson’s Seat

Democrats in Washington, D.C., are behaving as if Albuquerque City Councilor Martin Heinrich will carry the banner against oft- targeted Rep. Heather Wilson (R) next year. But a New Mexico-based Democratic consultant says: Not so fast.

Consultant Bryon Paez announced last week that he also will seek the Democratic nomination in the 1st district. A Marine Corps veteran who has served in Iraq and Somalia, Paez, 40, has worked for several New Mexico political candidates, including Gov. Bill Richardson (D).

Currently, Paez is working for the Santa Fe-based lobbying firm owned by Butch Maki, who is one of Richardson’s closest confidants. This suggests that Richardson, who previously expressed his support for Heinrich’s House bid — though he did not offer an iron-clad endorsement — may sit on the sidelines during the primary.

Paez said he expects to need at least $250,000 for the primary alone. Heinrich last week reported that he had raised about $180,000 through June 30.
— Josh Kurtz

Army Vet Hires Top GOP Consultant for Primary

There’s now a fourth Republican vying to challenge freshman Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand (D) in the upstate 20th district next year.

Retired Army Lt. Col. Michael Rocque told the Albany Times Union that he has joined the Republican field that includes former state GOP Chairman Sandy Treadwell, Richard Wager, an aide to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I), and political neophyte John Wallace.

Rocque has hired Brendan Quinn, a top-flight New York Republican operative and former executive director of the state GOP, as a consultant. This is interesting for New York insiders because Quinn ran the state party just before Treadwell became chairman, and the two are now firmly in different camps within the New York GOP.

Treadwell, who is personally wealthy and is the favorite of national Republicans, raised more than $330,000 in his first quarter of fundraising. Quinn told the Times Union that Rocque has raised about $50,000 so far.

Gillibrand, a top Republican target this cycle, surpassed $1 million in cash on hand as of June 30.
— J.K.

Graham Seat Gets Plenty of Attention From GOP

Add Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer to the list of Republicans who are considering taking on Sen. Lindsey Graham in a GOP primary next year.

A political consultant for Bauer told Palmetto State newspapers over the weekend that Bauer, 38, is being encouraged by some fellow Republicans to challenge Graham, who has angered conservatives for his positions on immigration and judicial nominations, among other issues.

Former Rep. Thomas Hartnett (R) recently told The Associated Press that he is contemplating a primary challenge, and state Rep. Jeff Duncan also is thinking about running.

“I’m keeping the track shoes unlaced so I can slip my feet into them quick if I need to,” Hartnett told the AP.

Hartnett spent six years in Congress and then lost bids for lieutenant governor and Senate.

Already two lesser-known Republicans say they are running against Graham in next year’s primary: computer specialist Tim Carnes and Air Force veteran John Cina.

Graham should be ready for whatever comes, with more than $4 million in his campaign account through June 30.
— J.K.

Bush Headlines NRSC Event at Private Home

President Bush on Monday night was scheduled to raise money for the National Republican Senatorial Committee at an event set for a private home in McLean, Va.

The NRSC declined to provide details on the fundraiser when contacted Monday afternoon, but presumably an event with the president could raise a significant amount of campaign cash and help the committee try to gain ground on its Democratic counterpart.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has significantly outraised the NRSC for the year, closing the second quarter with $20.4 million in the bank and $4.5 million in debt, compared with the NRSC’s $5.5 million on hand and zero debt.

The DSCC has outpaced the NRSC in fundraising nearly 2-to-1 for the cycle, bringing in $31.2 million to its counterpart’s $15.7 million.
— D.M.D.