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Oregon: Merkley a Likely Challenger to Sen. Smith

State Speaker Jeff Merkley (D) is close to launching an exploratory committee for a prospective 2008 Senate bid, and Democrats believe he could pose a formidable challenge to Sen. Gordon Smith (R).

According to The Associated Press, Merkley has met with several Democratic Senators to discuss running, including Sens. Claire McCaskill (Mo.), Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.), Sherrod Brown (Ohio) and Amy Klobuchar (Minn.).

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has been searching for a high-profile challenger to Smith since the beginning of the year. Eleven-term veteran Rep. Peter DeFazio (D) told the committee “no” early on, as did state Treasurer Randall Edwards (D).

Merkley, who led a Democratic takeover of the Oregon House of Representatives last year, is said by sources to be the type of candidate the Democrats have been looking for.

Presently, attorney and longtime Democratic policy adviser Steve Novick remains the only Democrat to have launched a campaign against Smith, who is deemed potentially vulnerable because of Oregon’s Democratic tilt and the continuing unpopularity of the Iraq War.

Ousting Smith is among the DSCC’s top 2008 priorities.

— David M. Drucker

Goode to Challenge Ellsworth in 8th District

Indiana State University administrator Greg Goode (R) is expected to announce his candidacy in the 8th district Wednesday, where he will be taking on freshman Rep. Brad Ellsworth (D).

Republicans have been looking for a top-tier challenger for Ellsworth and are excited about the prospect of Goode running.

“Greg Goode would make an excellent candidate,” said Ken Spain, a National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman. “Clearly Brad Ellsworth thinks so, too, since he launched a malicious preemptive attack against Mr. Goode several weeks back when he first expressed interest in running.”

Spain was referring to an e-mail distributed last month by the Indiana Democratic Party.

In it, Ellsworth criticized Goode for meeting with Karl Rove, President Bush’s top political strategist, and other Republican leaders.

“Not even in the race yet and Greg Goode is already displaying all the lock-step characteristics that we spent two years fighting against in the 2006 election,” Ellsworth wrote.

Goode will be announcing his decision twice, first in Evansville and then again in Terre Haute.

Goode previously served then-Rep. Brian Kerns (R-Ind.) as his chief of staff.

— Nicole Duran

NRCC Files Complaint Against N.C.’s Kissell

The National Republican Congressional Committee was expected to file a complaint Monday with the Federal Election Commission, alleging that where there’s smoke, there must be fire, especially when it concerns North Carolina Democrat Larry Kissell’s campaign records.

“Kissell’s debt magically disappears then reappears with no rhyme or reason as to how debt was paid or created,” NRCC lawyers state.

Kissell, a top 2008 Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee recruit, is again mounting a challenge to Rep. Robin Hayes (R-N.C.). Hayes defeated Kissell by just a few hundred votes last year.

According to the NRCC complaint, the DCCC will host a fundraiser Wednesday to help Kissell pay down $35,000 in credit card debt he racked up in the previous cycle — one of many totals that the NRCC claims are inconsistent on Kissell’s disclosure statements.

“Loans that had supposed been repaid suddenly reappear with outstanding balances, loans with outstanding balances disappear and loans that never before existed show up,” the complaint alleges.

— Matthew Murray

Conservative House Fund Raises Some Cash

The House Conservatives Fund, a political action committee committed to electing conservative Republicans to Congress, announced last week that it raised $312,000 during the first six months of the year.

“This confirms what we’ve known all along — grass-roots Republicans are eager to support candidates and organizations that have held true to our party’s Ronald Reagan roots,” said Rep. Tom Feeney (R-Fla.), the PAC’s honorary chairman.

The House Conservatives Fund reported securing donations from 4,969 individuals. The PAC already has endorsed former Rep. Jim Ryun (R) in his bid to oust freshman Rep. Nancy Boyda (D) in Kansas’ 2nd district and get his old job back.

— D.M.D.

Democratic House Hopefuls Meet the Family

A handful of top Democratic House recruits will be on Capitol Hill today for a series of meetings with party leaders, Members and interested groups.

Among the Democratic challengers in town are nonprofit executive Jim Himes, Ohio state Sen. John Boccieri, Ohio state Rep. Steve Driehaus and former Kansas City Mayor Kay Barnes.

Himes is challenging Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.), Boccieri is running against Rep. Ralph Regula (R-Ohio), Driehaus is going up against Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio) and Barnes was recruited to run against Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.).

Also coming are three candidates seeking rematches from 2006: Franklin County Commissioner Mary Jo Kilroy, challenging Rep. Deborah Pryce (R-Ohio); New Jersey Assemblywoman Linda Stender, challenging Rep. Mike Ferguson (R-N.J.); and social studies teacher Larry Kissell, challenging Rep. Robin Hayes (R-N.C.).

Aside from meetings with Democratic leaders and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee staff, the candidates also will brief the Democratic Caucus on their efforts.

The group also will meet with organized-labor representatives during their stay.

— Lauren W. Whittington

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