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Nation: NARAL Looking for a Few Good Candidates

In an attempt to replicate its success in the 2006 elections, when it won five of its six targeted Congressional elections, NARAL Pro-Choice America, the abortion-rights group, recently conducted polls in 22 swing districts to see how the abortion issue may play in 2008.

The conclusion of NARAL leaders: Abortion rights are very important to Republican and independent women — so much so that the issue could be the primary motivating factor for many of them and a boon to candidates who support abortion rights.

Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research polled in August for NARAL in the districts of Reps. Tom Latham (R-Iowa); Peter Roskam (R-Ill.); Tim Walberg (R-Mich.); Joe Knollenberg (R-Mich.); John Kline (R-Minn.); Sam Graves (R-Mo.); Deborah Pryce (R-Ohio); Steve Kagen (D-Wis.); Rick Renzi (R-Ariz.); Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.); Heather Wilson (R-N.M.); Jon Porter (R-Nev.); Ciro Rodriguez (D-Texas); Jim Saxton (R-N.J.); Mike Ferguson (R-N.J.); Jim Walsh (R-N.Y.); Jim Gerlach (R-Pa.); Frank Wolf (R-Va.); Tom Davis (R-Va.); Bill Young (R-Fla.); Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.) and Tim Mahoney (D-Fla.).

Just because NARAL polled in those districts doesn’t automatically mean the group plans to play in any of those elections. But the districts do bear some similarity to the ones where NARAL devoted its resources in 2006 — generally competitive districts with Republican incumbents who oppose abortion rights (obviously, the three Democrats included in the August polling were exceptions).

In 2006, NARAL’s independent expenditures helped now-Reps. Harry Mitchell (D-Ariz.), Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), Bruce Braley (D-Iowa), Joe Sestak (D-Pa.) and Patrick Murphy (D-Pa.) win districts that previously had been held by Republicans. The one race the group lost was in Arizona’s 1st district, where Renzi — who is now retiring — defeated lawyer Ellen Simon (D).

“We took on races where other [liberal] groups weren’t there,” said NARAL’s political director, Elizabeth Shipp — a tactic the group is likely to use in this cycle as well.

— Josh Kurtz

GOP Hopes to CHOMP on Democratic Majority

The Challengers Helping Obtain the Majority Program is scheduled next month to raise campaign cash for nine Republican House candidates seeking to upend Democratic incumbents in next year’s elections.

The program, run by Republican Reps. Pete Sessions (Texas), Mike Rogers (Mich.) and Jim McCrery (La.), usually raises $75,000 to $100,000 for each candidate who participates.

The organizers expect the Oct. 24 Capitol Hill Club fundraiser to yield similar results, and Republicans need the money considering the fundraising disparity between the National Republican Congressional Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

The NRCC banked just less than $2 million at the end of August, with $4.1 million in debt still remaining. The DCCC banked just more than $33 million for the same period and reported a debt of only $417,000.

“At a time when Democrats fill their coffers with money from and Hollywood liberals, House Republicans are countering with funding to support Republican candidates who stand for mainstream American values,” Sessions said.

Republican participants in this year’s CHOMP include former state Assemblyman Dean Andal, running in California’s 11th district; state Sen. David Cappiello, running in Connecticut’s 5th; sales executive Steve Greenberg, running in Illinois’ 8th; retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Rick Goddard, running in Georgia’s 8th; state Sen. Nick Jordan, running in Kansas’ 3rd; former state Assembly Speaker and 2006 GOP nominee John Gard, running in Wisconsin’s 8th; former Rep. Melissa Hart, running in Pennsylvania’s 4th; former Rep. Jeb Bradley, running in New Hampshire’s 1st; and former Rep. Jim Ryun, running in Kansas’ 2nd.

In a letter to every House Republican, Sessions, Rogers and McCrery asked their colleagues to donate $2,000 to each of the candidate’s on CHOMP’s list. The three CHOMP co-chairmen asked Members with leadership political action committees to donate at least $5,000 to each candidate.

— David M. Drucker

Americans United Tags Members on Boehner

Americans United for Change, a liberal group, is launching a round of ads that call on four Republican House Members to renounce Minority Leader John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) recent remarks on the Iraq War.

Boehner told USA Today last week that “the investment that we’re making today [in Iraq] will be a small price if we’re able to stop al-Qaeda here” — a remark that critics interpreted as a slap at U.S. troops and casualties.

“To justify an unpopular war they try to minimize the sacrifice being made by Americans and our troops,” said Brad Woodhouse, executive director of Americans United.

The ads the group is running target Reps. Jean Schmidt (R-Ohio), Heather Wilson (R-N.M.), Jon Porter (R-Nev.) and Thelma Drake (R-Va.). Americans United also will air the ads on national cable channels for almost two weeks.

Woodhouse said the group would spend about $250,000 on the ad campaign, and also is scheduled to stage protest events in the Members’ districts — and Boehner’s — today.

— J.K.

President Clinton Will Stump for Niki Tsongas

With a recent poll showing the special election to replace former Rep. Marty Meehan (D) closer than most Democrats would like, Democratic nominee Niki Tsongas is bringing in the big guns — literally and figuratively.

Tsongas, the widow of former Sen. Paul Tsongas (D), announced Wednesday that former President Bill Clinton — who defeated her late husband for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1992 — will headline a campaign rally with her on Sept. 30 in Lowell.

“I strongly support her candidacy, am delighted she is running and Congress will be a better place because she is there,” Clinton said in a statement.

Tsongas also announced Wednesday that a group called Veterans and Military Families for Progress will endorse her today in Methuen. This could be significant because her Republican opponent, Jim Ogonowski, is an Air Force veteran.

An automated poll, conducted by Survey USA for WBZ-TV in Boston Sept. 7-9, showed Tsongas leading Ogonowski, 51 percent to 41 percent. The poll of 411 likely voters in the Oct. 16 special election had a 4.9 point error margin.

In a related development, the conservative blogger Patrick Ruffini announced this week that he is launching a fundraising drive to aid Ogonowski. “What better way to kick off 2008 than with a stunning upset in the land of Kennedy & Kerry?” Ruffini wrote on “Please chip in what you can.”

— J.K.

Some Party Leaders to Headline Paccione Event

Former state Rep. Angie Paccione, hoping to win the 4th district Democratic primary and earn another shot at Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R), has enlisted a host of Colorado Democrats to headline a fundraiser for her.

The Sept. 28 event, scheduled to feature former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb (D), state Senate President Pro Tem Peter Groff (D) and three other state Colorado legislators, among others, is asking for anywhere from $50 to $500 per attendee.

The evening fundraiser, set for Denver, will offer a private reception to those who contribute at least $200. Paccione banked $107,000 at the close of the second quarter.

The 4th district leans Republican, but Democrats are expected to target Musgrave in 2008. Also running in the Democratic primary are Eric Eidsness, a former Republican; Betsy Markey, a former aide to Sen. Ken Salazar (D) who has been endorsed by her ex-boss; and Bent County Commissioner Bill Long.

Musgrave narrowly defeated Paccione in 2006, winning 45.6 percent to 43.1 percent. Eidsness, who ran last year under the Reform Party banner, took 11.3 percent of the vote.

— D.M.D.

NRSC Sharpening Its Knives for Kerrey Bid

As Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns (R) positions himself to enter the race to replace retiring Sen. Chuck Hagel (R), the National Republican Senatorial Committee is preparing for the possibility that former Sen. Bob Kerrey (D) also might run.

The Lincoln Star Journal reported Wednesday that Johanns — a former governor — is on the verge of resigning as Agriculture secretary and preparing to move back to Nebraska to run for Senate. Meanwhile, the NRSC is readying a Web site that will attempt to highlight Kerrey’s record since retiring from the Senate in 2000.

According to a Republican source familiar with the NRSC’s plans, the Web site would highlight Kerrey’s New York voter registration — the former governor and Senator is currently president of The New School in Manhattan — and the fact that he switched his voter enrollment from Nebraska within six months of retiring from the Senate.

The site also plans to note Kerrey’s defense of disgraced Democratic fundraiser Norman Hsu, who Kerrey had previously recruited to serve on The New School’s board of directors.

— D.M.D.

Poll Shows Latta Support for State Representative

State Rep. Bob Latta (R), who lost a Republican Congressional primary 19 years ago to the late Rep. Paul Gillmor (R) by just 27 votes, appears to be the early frontrunner to replace Gillmor — at least according to a poll released this week by Latta’s campaign.

In the poll of possible contenders in the Nov. 6 special Republican primary to succeed Gillmor, who died on Sept. 5, Latta led handily in a three-way race with state Rep. Lynn Wachtmann and state Sen. Steve Buehrer, and in a four-way race that added former state Rep. Rex Damschroder.

In the three-way race, it was Latta with 34 percent, followed by Wachtmann with 20 percent and Buehrer with 17 percent. In the hypothetical four-way primary, Latta got 30 percent, Wachtmann 18 percent, Buehrer 14 percent and Damschroder 12 percent.

The poll of 300 likely Republican primary voters was conducted by Public Opinion Strategies Sept. 16-17 and had a 6.2 point error margin.

“Starting from where he is as the undisputed frontrunner, if Bob Latta can raise the necessary resources to communicate his conservative message to these GOP voters, he would have a significant edge in this race,” pollster Neil Newhouse wrote.

The Republican primary is almost certain to produce the next Member from the Northwest Ohio district in the Dec. 11 special general election.

— J.K.

Blind Rabbi Explores Bid for Garrett’s House Seat

Dennis Shulman (D), a Harvard-educated psychologist and ordained rabbi who has been blind since childhood, announced this week that he was forming an exploratory committee in the race to take on conservative Rep. Scott Garrett (R).

Shulman would join local activist and attorney Camille Abate in the Democratic field and several other names are being floated as possible Democratic contenders in a district that Garrett won by 11 points in 2006.

Shulman said in a release that he plans to make a formal announcement regarding the race in October.

A 5th district resident for two decades, Shulman wrote in an introduction of himself on his campaign Web site that he has been a rabbi for the past five years.

“Because of this I know that what we do matters, and the importance of taking responsibility for the intended and unintended consequences of our choices,” he wrote. “Because of my experience as a blind person, I know how important community and government support can be for people who are struggling.”

— John McArdle

Businessman Peters Exits Race for Carney’s Seat

Businessman Joe Peters (R) has decided against challenging Rep. Christopher Carney (D) in the GOP-leaning 10th district, though he claimed in a statement that his polling proved he could win the race had he run.

“From political support to survey research to fundraising ability, my efforts passed every test for a successful candidate,” Peters said.

Peters’ move leaves businessman Chris Hackett as the lone Republican to enter the race thus far in what should be a very attractive seat for the GOP.

The conservative, eastern Pennsylvania district delivered 60 percent of its vote to President Bush in 2004, with Carney winning last year in part thanks to then-Rep. Don Sherwood’s (R) ethical foibles.

— D.M.D.

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