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Idaho: Otter Compiles List of Possible Craig Successors

Gov. Butch Otter (R) is expected to select Sen. Larry Craig’s (R) replacement from among six individuals, his spokesman Jon Hanian said Monday.

The list of names, compiled by Otter, includes Lt. Gov. Jim Risch (R); state Attorney General Lawrence Wasden (R); former state Attorney General David Leroy (R); state Sen. Michael Jorgensen; state Sen. John McGee (R); and former state Sen. Dane Watkins (R). Rep. Mike Simpson (R) recently removed himself from consideration.

“The governor is considering each of those folks as a possible replacement,” Hanian said.

Otter is planning to interview all of those under consideration after he returns from a vacation that was postponed first by fires that were raging in Idaho and then by the Craig affair. The governor is expected to be back at work next week.

Craig is expected to resign on Sept. 30 as part of the fallout from his arrest in a Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport bathroom and subsequent guilty plea on a misdemeanor disorderly conduct charge. Craig contends he did nothing wrong, and on Monday his lawyers submitted a motion to have his guilty plea withdrawn.

— David M. Drucker

Democrats: Bee Violates State Resign-to-Run Law

In charges Republicans are calling baseless, Arizona Democrats say state Senate President Tim Bee (R) might be in violation of the Grand Canyon State’s resign-to-run law.

Bee, who is considering challenging Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D) in the Republican-leaning 8th district, has launched an exploratory committee. Since doing so, he has come under attack from Democrats, who accuse Bee of conducting more campaign activities than Arizona’s resign-to-run law allows.

Attorneys for the Arizona Democratic Party are investigating.

“Clearly we’re concerned there could be violation of law there, and we’re having our attorney look into it,” Arizona Democratic Party spokeswoman Emily Bittner said. “ We’re worried Tim Bee is trying to have it both ways.”

Republicans countered that Democrats are worried that Giffords would not be able to withstand a challenge from Bee and are therefore doing anything they can to derail his potential candidacy.

“The Democrats are full of it,” said Sean McCaffrey, a spokesman for the Arizona GOP. “They’ve got a prospective opponent in Senate President Bee — if he announces — who is very popular among Republicans, very popular among Independents and is even popular among Democrats because he has a record of getting the job done with little controversy, little fanfare and lots of results.”

Arizona requires any individual who holds office in the Legislature to resign before officially launching a Congressional bid. Opening up an exploratory committee is allowed under the current law.

— D.M.D.

Top GOP Recruit Passes On Race for Renzi’s Seat

Former state Senate President Ken Bennett (R), who had been considered a potential frontrunner in the race to replace retiring Rep. Rick Renzi (R) in the 1st district, has decided not to run for Congress in 2008.

Bennett has not ruled out running for Congress in the future but has decided that 2008 was not the right time for him to re-enter public life, The Associated Press reported.

With Bennett out, Republicans are left with 2002 1st district candidate Sydney Hay, who has officially launched her candidacy, as well as state Rep. Bill Konopnicki, state Sen. Tom O’Halleran and GOP activist Steve Pierce — all three of whom are considering a run.

On the Democratic side, former state Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick recently retired from the Legislature to run for the 1st district and is considered her party’s frontrunner. Attorney Howard Shanker (D) and former television reporter Mary Kim Titla (D) also are running.

— D.M.D

GOP Touts Poll Showing Small Udall Advantage

Former Rep. Bob Schaffer (R), running for Senate against Rep. Mark Udall (D), has released a poll that shows him within striking distance of his Democratic opposition.

A statewide Hill Research Consultants poll conducted Aug. 26-28, of 603 likely voters, showed Schaffer trailing Udall by 2 points, 40 percent to 38 percent, with 7 percent of respondents saying they’d vote for Green Party candidate Bob Kinsey. Without Kinsey in the race, Udall led Schaffer 45 percent to 40 percent.

The poll had a margin of error of 3.9 points.

“The overriding theme of this poll is that the race is wide open at this time,” said the polling memo released by Hill Research Consultants, a Republican firm based in The Woodlands, Texas.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee rejected that notion, suggesting that Schaffer is too weak to give Udall a tough race.

“Bob Schaffer’s entire record is out of touch with Colorado, from cozying up to a school that bans interracial dating, to supporting Social Security privatization to being a strong supporter of George Bush’s Iraq policy,” DSCC spokesman Matthew Miller said. “He was the Republican Party’s last choice to run for a reason.”

The survey found Democrats ahead of Republicans on the generic ballot, 37 percent to 30 percent, although the poll also showed that Colorado voters prefer a “conservative” candidate over a “liberal” candidate, 44 percent to 38 percent.

The poll’s other findings:

• Schaffer did best in the south and west Denver suburbs and outside of the Denver metro area. Udall did best in inner-city Denver and Boulder. Schaffer had a 7-1 advantage among conservatives, Udall had a comparable advantage among liberals.

• Schaffer’s “favorable name identification” in Greeley and Fort Collins areas, his geographical base, was 61 percent. Udall’s favorable name identification in his geographical base — Boulder, Adams County and the metro Denver area, was 47 percent.

• Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), the frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination, had a 52 percent “unfavorable” rating in Colorado, with 40 percent of likely voters viewing her favorably.

“This is reminiscent of [former President] Bill Clinton’s name ID in Colorado in 2001 — 54 percent unfavorable versus 43 percent favorable — before [Sen.] Wayne Allard (R) won re-election against a challenge from Democrat Tom Strickland in November 2002,” the polling memo said.

Schaffer is scheduled to be in Washington, D.C., during the week of Sept. 16. His schedule includes a fundraiser at the National Republican Senatorial Committee. Seven GOP Senators are scheduled to attend, including retiring Sen. Wayne Allard (Colo.), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) and NRSC Chairman John Ensign (Nev.).

— D.M.D.

EMILY’s List Re-ups for Jennings in Her Rematch

EMILY’s List announced late last week that it is endorsing Christine Jennings (D), the former banking executive who lost to now-Rep. Vern Buchanan (R) by 369 votes in November.

Jennings, who announced earlier this summer that she will challenge Buchanan, has steadily kept her name in contention since her loss by becoming a poster child for voting issues — particularly the risks of malfunctioning electronic voting machines. Jennings and other Democrats allege that 18,000 electronic “undervotes” cost her the seat, a claim the Government Accountability Office continues to investigate.

Jennings also sued in Florida courts to overturn her defeat.

— Matthew Murray

After Back and Forth, Anti-McConnell Ad Airs

A television ad that criticizes Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R) ties to a lobbyist who previously served as his chief of staff was expected to finally air during the NFL’s Monday Night Football game on ESPN even though Kentucky’s largest cable television operator originally had decided to pull the commercial last week.

After the National Republican Senatorial Committee complained that the ad distorted the facts, Insight Communications Inc. decided not to show the ad during the University of Louisville football game on ESPN2 on Thursday.

But after the Public Campaign Action Fund, which produced the ad, protested that the cable company was practicing “political censorship that squashes freedom of speech,” Insight Communications reversed its decision Friday.

The decade-old group, which promotes campaign finance reform, is one of several that is running ads in Kentucky that target McConnell, who is up for re-election in 2008.

The new ad claims McConnell helped steer $8.3 million to a nonprofit group, which was being represented by his former chief of staff, Hunter Bates, after Bates helped raise $120,000 in campaign contributions for McConnell.

“We’re obviously disappointed in the decision,” NRSC spokeswoman Rebecca Fisher said Monday. “We still believe the ad is deceptive and we still believe that [the cable company’s] first decision was correct. And we will be talking to Sen. McConnell’s campaign lawyers to see if we can pursue any further options.”

— John McArdle

Bilbray Fundraiser On Tap for Friday Evening

Rep. Brian Bilbray (R) is scheduled to pass the hat on Friday at a suburban San Diego fundraiser that costs a relatively modest $100 per person.

The Escondido, Calif., event, set for a private residence, features a reception and dinner with Bilbray, who won his 50th district seat last year in a contentious special election to replace the now-jailed former Rep. Duke Cunningham (R).

Bilbray, not known for his fundraising abilities, banked $225,000 to close the second quarter. The 50th district leans Republican and Bilbray is not expected at this point to have much trouble winning re-election in 2008.

— D.M.D.

Peterson Wants Another Term in His GOP District

Rep. John Peterson (R), who cruised to re-election last year in the 5th district, will seek a seventh term in 2008, an individual with knowledge of the Congressman’s plans said Monday.

Peterson, whose sprawling Republican-leaning district includes football-happy Penn State University, had banked only $85,000 toward his re-election bid at the close of the second quarter.

But the individual with knowledge of Peterson’s plans said he’s been actively raising money and preparing to run again next year.

— D.M.D.

Boehner to Boost Foxx at October Fundraiser

House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) is planning to pass the hat on Oct. 5 for Rep. Virginia Foxx (R). The two-term Member, who as yet faces no credible challenger, has been busy squirreling away money this cycle. During the previous quarter, Foxx raised more than $215,000 and had about $800,000 in the bank.

Tickets to her Boehner-headlined fundraiser, which will be held at a private residence in the 5th district, range from $100 to $1,000.

— M.M.

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