Support for Rep. John Doolittle (R) has gone into a tailspin in his suburban Sacramento 4th district, with a prominent conservative activist announcing he could no longer back the Congressman and a popular Republican state legislator announcing his intention to run for the seat next year.
State Assemblyman Ted Gaines (R) told The Sacramento Bee that Doolittle has lost the support of voters in the solidly Republican 4th district to the point where he is unelectable. Gaines, who launched an exploratory committee, is the first viable elected Republican to publicly express interest in ousting Doolittle.
“What I want the voters to know is that I’m putting the name forward. [I would be] a viable candidate. And I think change should occur,” Gaines told the Bee.
Meanwhile, conservative activist Ken Campbell also came out against Doolittle during the August recess. The former chairman of the Placer County Republican Party described Doolittle as a personal friend but said he could no longer ignore the fact that the Congressman is vulnerable to defeat by a Democrat in the majority Republican seat.
Much of Doolittle’s political troubles stem from a federal probe into he and his wife Julie’s connection to jailed GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff. However, Campbell attributed his decision to yank his support to a Club for Growth report that portrays Doolittle as a profligate spender of taxpayer dollars.
“I have been an avid John Doolittle supporter from the beginning, generously donating to his campaigns,” Campbell said in a written statement that was published late last month on Jon Fleischman’s Flash Report, a blog operated by the former executive director of the California Republican Party.
“Last election Congressman Doolittle barely squeaked [out] a victory over Democrat Charlie Brown,” Campbell continued. “When the Conservative 4th Congressional district sees and understands how Congressman Doolittle is spending their hard-earned tax dollars, Congressman Doolittle will certainly lose to Democrat Charlie Brown. In this 51 percent Republican, 29 percent Democrat district, there is no reason to be represented by a Democrat.”
Doolittle’s fundraising was anemic during the first two quarters of this year, with the Congressman banking $76,000 compared with Brown’s $269,000. Brown is scheduled to make his 2008 candidacy official during a Sept. 7 campaign swing through the district.
Meanwhile, Auburn City Councilman Mike Holmes (R) and counterterrorism consultant and Iraq War veteran Eric Egland (R) already have campaigns up and running, and they also hope to upend the nine-term incumbent Congressman should he choose to follow through with plans to seek another term.
Holmes challenged Doolittle in the 2006 GOP primary, taking just 33 percent of the vote. Egland, however, is a former Doolittle supporter and actually cut a television ad for the Congressman in the waning days of last year’s campaign.
— David M. Drucker
Ex-Cornyn, Gramm Aide Seeking Lampson’s Seat
Pete Olson, Sen. John Cornyn’s (R) recently departed chief of staff, quietly has launched his campaign to secure the GOP nomination for the 22nd district and the right to challenge Rep. Nick Lampson (D) in 2008.
Olson, who is being backed in his Congressional bid by Cornyn and former Sen. Phil Gramm (R) — whom he also has worked for — has been campaigning throughout the Houston-area district for about a month. Olson, considered a top-tier recruit, joins former Rep. Shelley Sekula Gibbs in the Republican primary.
“He’s been actively raising money and actively campaigning in the district for the past several weeks,” Chris Homan, who is serving as Olson’s general consultant, said late last week, adding: “Some of the Texas delegation will be supporting him.”
Lampson closed the second quarter with $441,000 on hand, and Democrats are optimistic he can withstand what is expected to be a concerted Republican effort to send him packing.
“Congressman Lampson is an independent voice for the people of Texas’ 22nd District and is a champion on the issues that matter most to his constituents,” said Kyra Jennings, a spokeswoman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “Lampson will win re-election because he has proven himself to be a strong leader in Congress.”
Several Republicans are interested in running in the heavily Republican 22nd district, and more are likely to follow Olson into the race. Republican insiders, both in the district and in Washington, D.C., would prefer that someone other than Sekula Gibbs win their party’s nomination.
The 22nd district fell to Lampson last year largely because the GOP was left without a candidate on the ballot after former Rep. Tom DeLay (R) — who won the March 2006 primary — withdrew his name from the ballot following his June resignation from Congress. Sekula Gibbs ran as a write-in and lost, although she did win a special election in which she was on the ballot to fill out the remainder of DeLay’s term.
Republicans say Sekula Gibbs conducted herself admirably in her write-in campaign. But they are concerned about her being their standard-bearer in 2008 because her short tenure in Congress toward the end of last year was marred by controversy.
Joe Wilson Joins House Leaders at Kissell Event
Former Ambassador Joe Wilson, husband of outed CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson, is headlining a Charlotte fundraiser Sept. 22 for Larry Kissell (D), who again is attempting to upset Rep. Robin Hayes (R) in the competitive 8th district.
The high school social studies teacher, who came within 329 votes of beating Hayes last year, also will be joined by House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Rep. John Spratt (D-S.C.), the chairman of the Budget Committee.
— Matthew Murray
Leading Conservative Blasts Top GOP Hopeful
A leading member of the New York Conservative Party is casting aspersions at Sandy Treadwell, the leading Republican candidate in the race to take on freshman Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand (D).
In a posting late last week on his blog, streetcornerconservative.com, George Marlin, the Conservative candidate for mayor of New York in 1993 and author of a history of the small but influential third party, called Treadwell “a classic Rockefeller liberal Republican” who will not be able to attract conservative voters to the polls and thus cannot defeat Gillibrand.
Treadwell, the wealthy former New York GOP chairman, is considered a prize recruit by national Republicans and has been wooing Conservative Party leaders for their ballot line in November 2008. Marlin said he doesn’t deserve it.
“To enhance his prospects Treadwell paid top dollar for a dais seat at the Conservative Party’s state dinner, and he has been spotted hanging out at the Lake Placid American Legion Hall playing the common man,” Marlin wrote. “These overtures are purely theatrical.”
The Republicans’ ability to oust Gillibrand in a GOP-leaning upstate district could be greatly compromised if the Conservatives nominate a candidate of their own instead of cross-endorsing the GOP nominee.
In a related development, Gillibrand announced late last week that she would donate to charity the $4,600 in campaign contributions she had received from Norman Hsu, a convicted felon who has contributed money to several New York Democrats.
“I was completely unaware of this very serious matter and certainly would not have accepted donations from him had I known about it,” Gillibrand told the Albany Times Union.
— Josh Kurtz
Main Street Partnership Backs Bradley Comeback
The Republican Main Street Partnership’s political action committee has endorsed former Rep. Jeb Bradley (R) in his quest to get his old job back.
“Jeb Bradley charted a centrist, independent way during his time in Congress,” Rep. Fred Upton (Mich.), head of the RMSP PAC, said in a statement.
Bradley, who represented the 1st district for two terms, was upset last year by now-Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D).
John Stephen, a former state health commissioner who lost to Bradley in the 2002 GOP primary, is preparing to run again next year, meaning the former Congressman could have a primary to deal with before he would be able to set his sights on Shea-Porter.
Bradley trailed Shea-Porter in cash on hand to close the second quarter of this year, though not by much, as he finished the period with $201,000 in the bank, compared with the Congresswoman’s $256,000.
Plan Bee: Senate Leader Opens Exploratory Effort
State Senate President Tim Bee (R) has taken the first step toward challenging Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D) in the 8th district, launching an exploratory committee that will allow him to raise money for a potential bid.
Giffords defeated former state Rep. Randy Graf (R) in the GOP-leaning Tucson-area district last year and is a favorite to win re-election in 2008. However, Republicans are excited at the prospect of recruiting Bee into the race, saying he probably is the only potential GOP candidate who has what it takes to dispatch Giffords.
“I’ve had people in my district and throughout Southern Arizona talking to me about the potential of doing this ever since the last election,” Bee told the Arizona Daily Star. “I think it’s time to look at it seriously and see if we have the support in the district and the financial support we need.”
Giffords closed the second quarter of this year with an extremely healthy $941,500 on hand.
Republicans Mobilizing for Mitchell’s House Seat
Lobbyist and former House Appropriations aide Jim Ogsbury is running for Congress in the 5th district, hoping to secure the GOP nomination and the right to challenge Rep. Harry Mitchell (D) in 2008.
Ogsbury, who lobbied Congress on behalf of the Arizona cities of Mesa, Chandler, Goodyear, Surprise and Sierra Vista, formerly served as staff director of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development following the Republican takeover of Congress in 1994.
In a telephone interview late last week, Ogsbury acknowledged Mitchell’s popularity but argued that he is wrong on several key issues for the Phoenix-area 5th district, which features a 15-point Republican edge in enrolled voters.
“I think he’s a fairly reliable vote for [Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)],” Ogsbury said. “He’s a big-government kind of Democrat.”
Ogsbury isn’t the only Republican eyeing the race: state Rep. Mark Anderson (R) last week announced that he was forming an exploratory committee, telling the Scottsdale Tribune that he was unlikely to make a final decision on the race until after the 2008 legislative session.
Democrats said Mitchell is delivering for his constituents and predicted Republicans would flounder in their attempts to unseat him next year.
“His deep commitment to the district and his impressive list of accomplishments continue to resonate well with the district,” said Fernando Cuevas, a spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
Ogsbury said he expects to have “a few hundred thousand dollars” on hand by the third-quarter filing deadline. He’ll need it if he hopes to catch Mitchell, as the Democratic incumbent closed the second quarter with $531,000 in the bank.