ILLINOIS: Edgar’s Decision Leaves Republicans Scrambling

Posted May 9, 2003 at 5:00pm

Former Gov. Jim Edgar (R), who had been heavily recruited by President Bush and top Republican leaders to run to replace retiring Sen. Peter Fitzgerald (R), announced Friday that he will forgo a Senate bid.

“We decided this wasn’t what we wanted to do for a variety of reasons,” the 56-year-old former governor said at a Chicago news conference. However, he did not rule out another run for public office in the future.

Edgar was considered the Republicans’ top choice to replace Fitzgerald after his surprise announcement last month that he would not run for a second term. Jockeying among other potential candidates had remained on hold, pending Edgar’s decision.

“We understand and respect former Governor Edgar’s decision today and we know there are many other potential Senate candidates in Illinois who can now explore this race,” National Republican Senatorial Committee spokesman Dan Allen said Friday.

Among the leading Republicans considering bids are businessman Andy McKenna, former Goldman, Sachs & Co. executive Jack Ryan and former Lt. Gov. Corrine Wood, all of whom have the ability to self-fund the race.

Republicans may also encourage state Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka, the state party chairwoman, to run, although she has signaled little interest in the race thus far.

At his news conference, Edgar said he believes Topinka would make the best Senate candidate and would have a good chance of winning.

Other possible GOP candidates include former Illinois Attorney General Jim Ryan, former state Sen. Patrick O’Malley, dairy entrepreneur James Oberweis, DuPage County Board Chairman Robert Schillerstrom, state Sen. Steven Rauschenberger and retired Air Force Maj. Gen. John Borling. Rep. Judy Biggert is also being encouraged by some Republicans to take a look at the race.

“I’m very happy here [in the House],” Biggert said Friday. Asked whether that meant she was definitely not running for Senate, she said, “Not quite a ‘definitely not,’ but almost.”

On the Democratic side, former Chicago School Board President Gery Chico, millionaire Blair Hull, state Comptroller Dan Hynes and state Sen. Barack Obama are leading the field of seven candidates who have expressed interest in running.

— Lauren W. Whittington

CALIFORNIA

Pushing Davis Recall, Issa Forgoes Senate Race

Now that Rep. Darrell Issa (R) has plunged deeper into the effort to recall Gov. Gray Davis (D), he is abandoning the idea of challenging Sen. Barbara Boxer (D) next year.

Issa was one of three GOP Members — Reps. Doug Ose and George Radanovich were the others — who were openly contemplating a Senate bid. But in recent weeks, Issa has turned his attention to the recall — and has all but admitted that he would run for governor if the recall wound up on the statewide primary ballot next March.

Last week, Issa announced that he was creating a new political organization called Rescue California to aid the grassroots activists who are collecting petition signatures to stage a recall. Issa, the wealthy owner of a car alarm business, is contributing an undisclosed six-figure sum to the recall campaign.

Even if the anti-Davis troops do not collect enough signatures to force a recall vote, political observers believe Issa’s participation in the movement will help him with party activists should he run for governor in 2006, when Davis’ term ends. That means a Senate race is no longer on Issa’s radar screen, his consultant, Scott Taylor, said.

“Congressman Issa is getting a tremendous amount of encouragement from a cross-section of individuals all across the state who are telling him he should run for governor,” Taylor said. “Congressman Issa is listening.”

— Josh Kurtz

PENNSYLVANIA

Basketball Exec Says He’ll Skip Political Game

Philadelphia 76ers General Manager Billy King, one of several Democrats being recruited by party leaders to run for Senate next year, said last week that he’s not interested in seeking public office — at least not yet.

“I appreciate them thinking of me, because I know at some point in time, I know that politics is something that I will pursue,” King told The Associated Press. “But I think the timing is just not right at this time.”

King had discussed a potential Senate bid with Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Jon Corzine (N.J.), who is searching for an unconventional, and potentially wealthy, candidate to take on the winner of the GOP primary between Sen. Arlen Specter and Rep. Pat Toomey.

Among the other Democrats being eyed by the DSCC are Marsha Perelman, who heads an energy company and is the sister-in-law of Revlon chief Ron Perelman, PennFuture President John Hanger and Judith Rodin, the president of the University of Pennsylvania.

— L.W.W.

OHIO

Springer Continues to Sound Like a Candidate

Shock TV talk-show host Jerry Springer (D) said last week that he will decide whether to enter the 2004 Senate race by the end of June.

Springer made the announcement at the annual dinner held by Ottawa County Democrats, one of several recent stops he has made on the rubber chicken circuit as he gears up for a potential bid. Springer is a former mayor of Cincinnati.

Currently state Sen. Eric Fingerhut is the only Democratic candidate vying to face Sen. George Voinovich (R) next year.

Voinovich has recently faced heat from conservative anti-tax groups such as the Club for Growth over his support for trimming President Bush’s $550 billion tax cut to $350 billion unless further spending cuts are made. Still, the 66-year-old former Cleveland mayor is heavily favored to win re-election to a second term.

— L.W.W.

COLORADO/TEXAS

Democrats Mobilize to Kill Redistricting Moves

National and Colorado Democrats were licking their wounds and assessing their next move after the Legislature redrew the state’s Congressional district lines in the final hours of the General Assembly session last week.

While Gov. Bill Owens (R) has not said whether he will sign the redistricting bill, Democrats see that as a given and are preparing to sue.

The new plan, which passed strictly along partisan lines, adds a substantial amount of Republican territory to the swing 7th House district in suburban Denver, where freshman Rep. Bob Beauprez (R) won by just 121 votes last year. And it adds GOP voters to the 3rd district on the Western Slope — a relatively competitive region that Rep. Scott McInnis (R) has held since 1992. McInnis may run for governor in 2006.

Meanwhile, Democrats are tensely watching the Texas Legislature, where the House was expected Saturday, after this edition went to press, to pass a bill that would cost Democrats at least three Congressional seats. Republicans do not, however, appear to have the votes at the moment to bring the measure to the floor of the state Senate.

— J.K.