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Massachusetts: Special Election Is Today; Tsongas Tops Final Poll

Democrat Niki Tsongas was holding onto her almost 10-point lead in the last poll published before today’s special election in the 5th district.

According to a SurveyUSA poll for WBZ-TV released Oct. 11, Tsongas was preferred by 51 percent of voters, while 42 percent said they would vote for Republican Jim Ogonowski. The automated poll included responses from 457 likely voters.

“We are so pleased to be leading in the WBZ poll with over 50 percent,” Tsongas spokeswoman Katie Elbert said in a statement. “According to details of the poll, Niki Tsongas is leading with 64 percent among women and 55 percent among seniors.”

The results are almost identical to the SurveyUSA poll released on Sept. 11.

In the final days of the campaign, both candidates and groups paying for independent expenditures have pulled out all the stops. EMILY’s List and the Service Employees International Union’s political committees have purchased ads, while Ogonowski launched a radio ad blasting Tsongas on immigration reform.

Even Connecticut Rep. Christopher Shays (R) jumped into the fray, hailing Ogonowski as the heir to Meehan/Shays legacy of 527 finance reform. Shays worked with Rep. Marty Meehan (D), who held the seat until he resigned July 1, to pass campaign finance reform.

“Jim Ogonowski is carrying on the true reform legacy of Marty Meehan and [Sen.] John McCain [R-Ariz.],” Shays said in a statement. “It seems to me Jim has led by example and made clean campaigning and honest government the hallmark of his race to replace Marty.”

Tsongas is favored to win, and if she does so, she will be the first female elected to the state’s Congressional delegation in 25 years.

— Shira Toeplitz

State Republicans Opt for Senate Convention in ’08

Virginia’s GOP central committee decided over the weekend that a convention, rather than a primary race, will be the format that will be used to decide who will be the Republican Party’s nominee to fill the seat of retiring Sen. John Warner (R).

State GOP sources have said a primary format would have favored Rep. Tom Davis (R), who is widely expected to join the race along with former Commonwealth Gov. Jim Gilmore. Davis has a base in vote-rich Northern Virginia and was perhaps hoping to use the primary campaign to build name ID across the state leading up to a battle with popular former Gov. Mark Warner (D).

A convention, which is a smaller forum dominated by social conservatives and party activists, appears at first glance to favor Gilmore. Davis has a legislative record that reflects his moderate social views, including supporting abortion rights, and Gilmore sympathizers have argued that it would be almost impossible for Davis to win in a convention.

Davis adviser John Hishta said the decision to hold a nominating convention would not have any bearing on Davis’ decision on whether to run for the Senate. He added that the Congressman still plans on making a formal announcement about the race after Virginia’s November legislative elections.

“You should not underestimate [Davis’] ability to win a convention,” Hishta said.

— John McArdle

Bolling Decides He Won’t Run in Special Election

After his name was floated last week as a potential candidate to replace the late Rep. Jo Ann Davis (R), Old Dominion Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling (R) said in a statement Friday that he is not considering entering the upcoming special election that will determine who will finish out the Congresswoman’s term.

Davis died Oct. 6 after a two-year battle with breast cancer, and Bolling was touted by some Republican insiders as a possible frontrunner in what is expected to be a crowded GOP field.

Bolling, who is less than halfway through his lieutenant governor term and is rumored to be eyeing the Commonwealth’s gubernatorial seat in 2009, said he received “a great deal of encouragement” to run for the Davis seat from business and political leaders in both Virginia and in Washington, D.C.

But Bolling said he is currently focused on the looming Virginia legislative elections in November where, he said, he is “doing everything I can to make certain that we retain our Republican majorities in the state Senate. Given the importance of the position I currently hold at this critical time in Virginia history, it would not be appropriate for me to consider running for any other political office.”

If control of the state Senate deadlocks after the next election, which is a distinct possibility, Bolling, as lieutenant governor, would be called upon to break ties. The lieutenant governor job would remain vacant until the next election if Bolling left to enter Congress.

Bolling praised Davis’ work on Capitol Hill and offered his thoughts and prayers to the late Congresswoman’s family, including her husband Chuck Davis (R), whose name also has been mentioned as a possible heir to Jo Ann Davis’ seat.

— J.M.

Trauner Announces He’s Seeking House Rematch

Gary Trauner (D), who came extremely close to knocking off Rep. Barbara Cubin (R) last year, announced Monday that he is running again for the Equality State’s at-large House seat.

Trauner held Cubin below 50 percent of the vote in 2006, losing by just one half of 1 percent. The businessman is seen as a serious threat to take the lone House seat of solidly Republican Wyoming this time around.

Cubin, who regularly pops up on the list of Republicans considering retirement, has declined to reveal her 2008 plans. She has missed dozens of votes this year while recovering from a broken foot and attending to her husband, who has been hospitalized.

Several Republicans are considering running for this seat next year, and not all are basing their plans on whether Cubin retires. Among them are state Rep. Collin Simpson, son of former Sen. Alan Simpson (R), and former U.S. Attorney Matt Mead.

Many Republican operatives privately concede that their chances of holding the seat would be better if Cubin decided to retire.

— David M. Drucker

Bush Helps Alexander Fatten His War Chest

President Bush was the top draw at a fundraising event held Monday at a private residence in Memphis for Sen. Lamar Alexander’s (R) re-election campaign.

While no Democratic candidate has officially filed to run against Alexander next year, attorney Mike McWherter (D), the son of former Gov. Ned McWherter (D), has formed an exploratory committee.

Alexander raised $675,000 in the third quarter of 2007 and had almost $1.5 million in cash on hand at the end of September.

— J.M.

EMILY Adds Kirkpatrick to Its List in 1st District

EMILY’s List has endorsed former state Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick in the 1st district Democratic primary, providing what could be a significant financial boost to her campaign.

Kirkpatrick, the choice of the Democratic establishment for the seat being vacated by retiring Rep. Rick Renzi (R), has two primary foes thus far and could face more before the candidate field is done shaking out.

EMILY’s List endorses pro-abortion-rights female Democratic candidates, and its backing usually is accompanied by heavy financial support from the group’s donors.

“Ann Kirkpatrick will be a tremendous asset for Arizona in the United States Congress,” Ellen Malcolm, president and founder of EMILY’s List, said in a statement.

Also running in the 1st district Democratic primary are former television reporter Mary Kim Titla and attorney Howard Shanker. State Environmental Quality Director Steve Owens (D) is considering a bid, as are others.

— D.M.D.

Martin Joins Many Other Democrats on Sidelines

State Rep. Grier Martin (D) told a local newspaper late last week that he will not challenge Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R) in 2008.

Martin, an Army major, is the latest in a long list of North Carolina Democrats who have decided not to challenge Dole. Earlier last week, state Sen. Kay Hagan (D) said she would not run, and better-known Democrats already have taken a pass, including Gov. Mike Easley, state Attorney General Roy Cooper and Rep. Brad Miller.

Chapel Hill investment banker Jim Neal is the lone Democratic candidate so far.

— Matthew Murray

State Lawmaker Will Take On Young in Primary

Embattled Rep. Don Young (R) has a primary challenge in the form of state Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux (R), a second-term lawmaker and former Democrat. Also the former mayor of Kodiak, LeDoux made her announcement last week.

“I think people are looking for a new way of doing things, a much more accountable form of government,” LeDoux said. “And I’ve always been that way as mayor, as representative. I’m just open to all of the people.”

LeDoux said she had not talked to the National Republican Congressional Campaign Committee, but she did call Young’s office to tell him about her intentions.

“Ms. LeDoux did graciously contact the Congressman’s campaign office to advise of her intent prior to her announcement,” confirmed Young campaign spokesman Mike Anderson. “Mr. Young looks forward to the primary where he will continue to focus, just as he focuses now, on the issues that Alaskans have told him are relevant to their future.”

Other Alaska Republicans also were considering a bid for the seat, most notably state Speaker John Harris, who is deferring to Young for now.

Former state House Minority Leader Ethan Berkowitz (D) also announced his candidacy last week, joining former state Democratic chairman Jake Metcalfe and 2006 nominee Diane Benson in their race for the Democratic nomination.

— S.T.

D.C. Democrats High on Feeney Challenger

Former state Rep. Suzanne Kosmas (D) announced late last week that she will take on Rep. Tom Feeney (R) next year.

House Democrats expect Kosmas, a real estate agent who served four terms in the state House between 1996 and 2004, to give the scandal-tinged Feeney his first serious challenge since he was elected in 2002. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is targeting Feeney, who faces allegations of misconduct related to jailed former GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Kosmas also is likely to get help from EMILY’s List.

Still, Feeney posted healthy third-quarter fundraising results, taking in $325,000 from more than 500 new donors. The suburban Orlando 24th district gave President Bush 55 percent of the vote in 2004.

— M.M.

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