In advance of today’s announcement by former Gov. Mark Warner (D) that he’ll run for the state’s open Senate seat in 2008, former state Attorney General Jerry Kilgore (R) and a slew of state Republican officials released a letter Wednesday announcing that they are supporting Rep. Tom Davis (R) in the contest to replace Sen. John Warner (R).
Kilgore, a leading conservative who made an unsuccessful bid for governor in 2005, is the first high-profile GOP official to lend his support in what will likely be a bloody Republican nominating fight between Davis, a moderate, and the more conservative Jim Gilmore (R), who was governor before Warner.
In an acknowledgement of what is expected to be an uphill contest for any Republican facing Mark Warner, who remains a very popular figure in state politics, Kilgore and the eight other Virginia GOP officials said in their letter that they are supporting Davis in part because he has “never shied away from the toughest of challenges.”
John Warner’s retirement marks “a pivotal moment in the history of Virginia’s Republican Party,” the letter says. “We believe the person best-suited to represent our principles and keep the seat in Republican hands is Congressman Tom Davis.”
— John McArdle
Pondering Senate Bid, Johanns Heads Home
Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns, who Gov. Dave Heineman (R) predicts will enter the 2008 Senate race within days and would be an immediate frontrunner for the GOP nomination, is scheduled to be in Nebraska beginning today through the weekend.
On tap are previously scheduled official USDA events with Heineman, as well as a fundraiser Johanns is headlining for the Nebraska Republican Party during which the party’s office building will be dedicated to Johanns.
The state GOP’s building was paid for with funds donated from Johanns’ campaign account after President Bush tapped him to serve at Agriculture in 2005.
Hosts of Saturday’s fundraiser include state Attorney General Jon Bruning (R) and former Rep. Hal Daub (R), both of whom are scheduled to attend the event and both of whom would face Johanns in the GOP Senate primary if he enters the race.
Bruning has been running since the spring, and Daub is getting close to jumping in as well now that Sen. Chuck Hagel (R) has announced he will retire next year. Some well-placed Republicans predict Johanns could announce his candidacy as early as next week.
Meanwhile, Democrats are awaiting a decision from former Sen. Bob Kerrey (D) about whether he will enter the 2008 race. Nebraska is solid Republican territory, but Kerrey has remained popular since retiring in 2000. Democrats believe Kerrey would position them to win Hagel’s seat.
— David M. Drucker
Nashville Voters Derail Clement Comeback Bid
Former Rep. Bob Clement (D) lost his bid to become Nashville’s mayor on Tuesday, garnering just under 48 percent of the vote in his runoff race against former city law director Karl Dean.
Dean, who focused his campaign on education, public safety and economic development issues, took home 52 percent of the vote. He will take office on Sept. 21.
Dean and Clement were the top two vote-getters in the five-candidate, open party general election on Aug. 2, but neither had received 50 percent of the vote, forcing the runoff.
Unofficial results from the Metropolitan Nashville Election Commission Wednesday gave Clement 47,347 votes in Tuesday’s election and Dean 51,946.
Unlike Clement, who has high name recognition in the state and extensive campaign experience, Dean had run previously only for the office of Davidson County public defender.
In 1978, Clement, the son of former Gov. Frank Clement (D), lost the Democratic nomination for governor in the race that now-Sen. Lamar Alexander (R) eventually won. But after winning a special election in January 1988 for the 5th district House seat, Clement went on to be re-elected seven more times to Congress. In 2002 Clement lost an open Senate race to Alexander.
Bono’s Wedding Plans Don’t Affect the Political
Rep. Mary Bono’s (R) engagement and forthcoming marriage to Rep. Connie Mack IV (R-Fla.) is not affecting her plans to run for re-election in 2008, her chief of staff Frank Cullen said this week.
Bono and Mack plan to maintain their existing residences in California and Florida and spend considerable time in their respective districts, though they will share a home in Washington, D.C., Cullen said.
Bono already has filed her re-election paperwork with the Federal Election Commission, and plans to file for re-election well in advance of the 2008 filing deadline.
The Congresswoman represents the Palm Springs-area 45th district. She handily won re-election last year in her GOP-leaning seat, and doesn’t look to be politically imperiled at this point. Bono banked $221,000 at the close of the second quarter.
Brown’s No Blockhead When Wooing Veterans
Democrat Charlie Brown, gunning for Rep. John Doolittle (R) again in 2008 after falling just short last year, has pledged to donate 5 percent of every campaign contribution he receives to veterans’ aftercare charities.
The 4th district is overwhelmingly Republican. But Doolittle’s ethical foibles have damaged his political standing and would appear to put Brown in the driver’s seat in a rematch, should the Congressman survive the GOP primary — which is far from guaranteed.
Doolittle announced last week he is running for re-election in 2008, and in a Sacramento Bee article referred to those Republicans who have abandoned support for him — or come out against him — as “weasels.”
Doolittle’s fundraising was tepid during the first two quarters of this year, with the Congressman banking $76,000 compared with Brown’s $269,000.
Democrat Backing Smith Switches Her Allegiance
State Rep. Deborah Boone (D) has withdrawn her endorsement of Sen. Gordon Smith’s (R) re-election, switching instead to her colleague and fellow Democrat, state House Speaker Jeff Merkley.
Boone had been one among a list of Democrats who were supporting Smith’s quest for a third term. The 22 Democrats still publicly on Smith’s include former Rep. Elizabeth Furse, Beaverton Mayor Rob Drake and Tillamook County Commissioner Tim Josi.
In her statement announcing her change of heart, which was posted on Merkley’s Senate campaign Web site, Boone lauded her colleague’s leadership in the Legislature, but did not criticize Smith.
Smith closed the second quarter with $3.5 million on hand. And he may have caught a break this week when John Frohnmayer, the former chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, announced that he would run for the Senate as an Independent.
Venable PAC Hosting Fundraiser for Wynn
The political action committee for the Washington, D.C., law firm Venable will be hosting a breakfast fundraiser for Rep. Albert Wynn (D) next Tuesday as the Congressman continues to add to his war chest for a second race against the surprisingly strong primary challenger he faced in 2006.
Since his primary scare from lawyer and community activist Donna Edwards (D), Wynn has done his best to tout his liberal credentials while stockpiling cash for his race. As of the end of June, Wynn had a little less than a 4-to-1 cash-on-hand advantage over Edwards, with almost $400,000 in the bank.
Edwards lost by less than 3,000 votes in the 2006 primary and last week she was hammering Wynn for skipping the first primary debate of the cycle sponsored by the Mid-Atlantic Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Wynn sent Prince George’s County Councilman Will Campos (D) to stand in for him and his campaign manager told media outlets that, with Congress just getting back from the August recess, Wynn’s duties on Capitol Hill forced him to miss the event.
Gubernatorial Nominee Won’t Make House Bid
Former state Assemblyman John Faso (R) told the New York Daily News this week that he does not plan to seek the GOP nomination in the 20th district next year.
“After two statewide races, I didn’t feel it was something I wanted to do at this point,” said Faso, who was the Republican nominee for governor in 2006 and the GOP standard-bearer in the 2002 race for state comptroller.
Faso, the former Assembly Minority Leader, refused to rule out a future run for public office, and said he hasn’t decided whether he’ll endorse any of the four Republican candidates looking to defeat freshman Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand (D) before next year’s GOP primary.
Former state Republican Chairman Sandy Treadwell is the choice of national GOP leaders, but retired Army Lt. Col. Michael Roque, former state police officer John Wallace and Richard Wager, a former aide to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I), also are seeking the Republican nomination.
— Josh Kurtz