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California: Businessman Explores Race for Hunter’s Seat

Businessman and former San Diego County Lincoln Club Chairman Bob Watkins (R) on Monday announced that he is exploring a run for the 52nd district seat being vacated by Rep. Duncan Hunter (R), who is retiring to run for president.

“We’ve received very strong support from the donor community, as well as from the Republican grass roots activists,” Watkins said in a statement. “We’re moving ahead toward a formal announcement, and we expect to become the front-runner once we make our announcement.”

That might be news to Marine Reservist Duncan D. Hunter (R), the son of Congressman Hunter who launched his bid earlier this year. Hunter is currently deployed to Afghanistan and has been campaigning in absentia with the help of his wife and myriad supporters. He is expected to return from active duty next year, well in advance of California’s June primary for Congressional and state legislative seats.

Watkins is the president and CEO of R.J. Watkins & Company Ltd., an executive recruiting firm.

The San Diego-area 52nd district is solid Republican territory and should be easily held by the GOP next year. The other declared Republican candidates are businessman Ken King and Santee City Councilman Brian Jones, though others could follow.

— David M. Drucker

Berryman Clearing Path for Fellow Democrat

Democrats continue to catch breaks in the 7th district, where a second potentially strong contender has deferred to state Senate Minority Leader Mark Schauer (D) in the race to take on freshman Rep. Tim Walberg (R).

The Associated Press reported Monday that former state Sen. Jim Berryman (D) has told supporters that he is withdrawing from the race because he is worried about splitting the labor vote with Schauer. Earlier this month, attorney David Nacht (D) dropped out of the race and endorsed Schauer.

Schauer, the favorite of national Democratic leaders, would now appear to have a clear path to Walberg, who won a contentious Republican primary last year and then limped to victory in November, despite the slight GOP lean of the Battle Creek-based district. Organic farmer Sharon Renier, the Democratic nominee in 2004 and 2006, remains in the race.

Former Rep. Joe Schwarz (R), who was ousted by the more conservative Walberg in the primary last year, has yet to rule out the possibility of running again, either as a Democrat or as a Republican.

— Josh Kurtz

Levin’s Previous Foe Contemplates Rematch

Former state Rep. Andrew Raczkowski (R) may seek a rematch with Sen. Carl Levin (D), who beat him handily in 2002.

Raczkowski told a gathering of state Republican leaders over the weekend that he has set up an exploratory committee for a possible run.

According to The Associated Press, Raczkowski promised a different campaign this time. He has served in Iraq in the U.S. Army Reserve since the previous campaign, and he told the AP that he now considers himself less of a Republican and more of an advocate for soldiers and Michiganders who have been hurt by the state’s troubled economy.

Levin, who was first elected in 1978, beat Raczkowski by 23 points five years ago, even though it was a strong Republican year. If Raczkowski runs this time, he may not have the Republican field to himself: State Rep. Jack Hoogendyk (R), who briefly ran for governor in 2006 before pulling the plug, said he is considering entering the race.

— J.K.

Back to School for Novick for Campaign Kickoff

Senate candidate Steve Novick (D), running an insurgent primary campaign against state Speaker Jeff Merkley (D), formally kicked off his fall campaign on Monday with appearances at three college campuses.

Merkley is the Democratic establishment’s pick to challenge Sen. Gordon Smith (R) in 2008. But Novick, an attorney and longtime Democratic policy adviser, was the first Democrat to enter the race and has attracted support from the net roots and other liberal activists.

Novick on Monday was scheduled to appear at the University of Oregon in Eugene, Western Oregon University in Monmouth, and Portland State University in Portland. He closed the second quarter of the year with $177,000 on hand, compared with $3.5 million for Smith.

Merkley entered the race over the summer and will file his first campaign fundraising report at the close of the third quarter.

— D.M.D.

Pataki Aids Treadwell as His Foe Hits D.C. Circuit

Michael Rocque (R), the retired soldier who is one of four Republicans seeking to oust freshman Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand (D), was in Washington, D.C., last week meeting with conservative interest groups and raising money.

Although he is not the favorite of most national Republican leaders, Rocque drew three Members of Congress to his D.C. fundraiser — GOP Reps. John Shimkus (Ill.), who is a West Point classmate of Rocque’s wife, Rep. Geoff Davis (Ky.) and Rep. Howard Coble (N.C.).

Meanwhile, the man who is the favorite of most Republicans — former state GOP Chairman Sandy Treadwell — was raising money Sunday at the Essex farm of former Gov. George Pataki (R), who appointed Treadwell to New York secretary of state and later arranged for him to become party chairman.

According to the Plattsburgh Press-Republican, Treadwell told the crowd that he hoped to change the tone on Capitol Hill. He recalled a recent visit to Congress, likening it to “‘Animal House’ without the food fight.”

— J.K.

McHugh Insists He Intends to Run Again

Rep. John McHugh (R), the focus of retirement rumors in the past two election cycles, issued a statement Monday in which he said he intends to seek a 9th term in 2008.

McHugh issued his statement in response to an article in Sunday’s Washington Post that speculated on which House Republicans could be contemplating retirement this cycle.

McHugh is considered safe in his upstate seat for as long as he wants it, but the district could be competitive in an open-seat scenario. President Bush took 51 percent of the vote there in 2004.

“Had any reporter bothered at any time to ask, I would have told them quite simply that at this time, I fully expect to be a candidate for re-election in 2008,” McHugh said. “I have never told anyone otherwise and I have never at any time told anyone I was thinking of retiring and, as the Washington Post put it, ‘wanting to go home.’ My campaign is going forward on those matters necessary to wage another successful effort and when the time comes, we will be ready.”

— J.K.

Potential GOP Primary Opponent Backs Latta

State Rep. Bob Latta (R), the son of ex-Rep. Del Latta (R) who is bidding to replace the late Rep. Paul Gillmor (R) in a special election this fall, picked up a key endorsement late last week.

State Rep. Lynn Wachtmann (R), who was contemplating a Congressional bid of his own, has thrown his support to Latta, who lost a 1988 Republican primary to Gillmor by just 27 votes.

“You never have to keep an eye on Bob Latta,” Wachtmann said in a statement. “He always does the right thing without having to be coerced.”

State Sen. Steve Buehrer is the other leading Republican in the race so far.

— J.K.

Hackett Wants to Carry GOP Banner to Carney

Businessman Chris Hackett (R) is officially a candidate in the 10th district, and hopes to win his party’s nomination and upend Rep. Christopher Carney (D) next year.

The northeastern Pennsylvania district is solid Republican territory, but was snatched by Carney last year in part because of the personal scandal surrounding then-Rep. Don Sherwood (R).

Republicans are heavily targeting Carney for elimination.

But some GOP sources familiar with the district caution that Carney has performed well and won’t be easy to dispose of, although they say a good Republican candidate would certainly be positioned to win the seat in 2008.

— D.M.D.

Fishmonger Enters Race To Take on Rep. Murphy

The owner of a Pittsburgh seafood market has joined the Democratic race to take on Rep. Tim Murphy (R).

Dan Wholey (D) told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette last week that he is running “because the people of southwest Pennsylvania deserve better representation.”

Wholey, who opposes abortion rights, will compete with Brien Wall, who works in the insurance industry, and Beth Hafer, daughter of former State Auditor Barbara Hafer (D), in the race for the Democratic nomination.

In an interview with the newspaper, Wholey railed against “big oil” and large pharmaceutical companies, called for a large withdrawal of American troops from Iraq, and said he opposes abortion rights.

Democrats believe they can run a competitive race against Murphy in a suburban Pittsburgh district that leans Republican in presidential years, but it isn’t clear whether any of their three candidates have what it takes to oust the three-term Congressman.

— J.K.

Republican Is Quico to Air Anti-MoveOn Ads

Wealthy attorney Quico Canseco, thus far the only Republican to announce for the 23rd district, is running a radio ad calling on Rep. Ciro Rodriguez (D) to return donations he has received from

Canseco is attacking Rodriguez over the ad ran in The New York Times earlier this month that suggested U.S. commander in Iraq Gen. David Petraeus is a traitor and could not be trusted to provide truthful testimony to Congress regarding the progress of President Bush’s Iraq War strategy.

“Congressman Rodriguez either needs to return this money or explain to South Texans how he can claim to support the military while receiving support from an organization that attacks the military,” Canseco said in a statement.

According to Canseco’s campaign, the 60-second spot is running on radio stations across the sprawling 23rd district, which runs from San Antonio to the edge of El Paso.

Rodriguez’s office said Canseco’s ad is littered with falsehoods and mischaracterizations, including the claim that the Congressman has accepted more money from than any other House Member.

“While I strongly disagree with the characterization of General Petraeus in the New York Times ad paid for by MoveOn, I am focused on representing the people of the 23rd District of Texas. Candidates on both sides of the aisle should take care not to repeat MoveOn’s mistake by politicizing our troops and veterans for personal political gain,” Rodriguez said in a statement.

The 23rd district, redrawn in the summer of 2006 per a Supreme Court decision that ruled the district’s old boundaries violated the Voting Rights Act, would have chosen President Bush over then-Vice President Al Gore in the 2000 presidential election.

However, the new district lines are more friendly to Democratic candidates than the old 23rd district, with the new boundaries helping Rodriguez defeat then-Rep. Henry Bonilla (R) in a December 2006 runoff.

— D.M.D.

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