WISCONSIN: Thompson Resignation Won’t Mean Senate Run
Even though Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson (R) announced this week that he will resign his post at the end of his term and plans to run for office again in Wisconsin some day, it isn’t likely that the former governor’s name will appear on the ballot as soon as next year.
Thompson, 62, has said there is a “slim to none” chance he will challenge Sen. Russ Feingold (D) next year, and an HHS spokesman told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel that the secretary’s official calendar is booked through 2004.
Thompson was midway through his fourth term as governor before becoming HHS secretary in 2001.
Republicans are still searching for a top-tier candidate to challenge Feingold in 2004, since both Thompson and Rep. Paul Ryan (R) have said they are not interested in running.
— Lauren W. Whittington
Janklow Ruminates, Says Thune Senate Bid Likely
Freshman Rep. Bill Janklow (R) has not decided whether he will seek a second House term, run for the Senate or retire, according to an interview with the Sioux Falls Argus Leader.
“If I am going to run for re-election, I owe it to everyone to say so,” Janklow said. “If I am going to, I have to start a campaign soon.”
Janklow raised just $9,000 in the first three months of the year. He had $20,000 left in the bank.
The former four-term governor of the Rushmore State surprised many by entering the at-large House race in the first place.
It was suggested that Janklow ran only to deny former Sen. Larry Pressler (R) the nomination. Others said Janklow was simply positioning himself for a future run if Sen. Tom Daschle (D) decided against seeking re-election in 2004.
A Senate bid seems a much less likely proposition for Janklow now that Daschle appears set to run for re-election. Daschle and Janklow are friends, and White House operatives have already made clear that former Rep. John Thune (R) would have their backing in a primary fight.
On an interesting side note, Janklow told the paper that he believes Thune will run against Daschle, although the former Congressman has yet to reveal his intentions.
In the event Janklow steps down, 2002 nominee Stephanie Herseth would be the favorite for the Democratic nomination. On the Republican side, state Sen. Larry Diedrich is mentioned as a possible candidate.
— Chris Cillizza
Runner-Up Ticket May Produce ’04 Candidates
Although state House Speaker Jody Richards and his running mate Tony Miller came up 10,000 votes short of winning the Democratic gubernatorial nomination on May 20, the near miss has turned both men into future stars of the state party.
Both have been mentioned as potential challengers to Sen. Jim Bunning (R) in 2004 and Miller, a Jefferson County circuit court judge, is also considering a race against Rep. Anne Northup (R).
Democrats were left without a top-tier opponent against Bunning when Gov. Paul Patton admitted having an affair with a state employee, which provoked a scandal that has destroyed the two-term governor’s political career.
Bunning was narrowly elected in 1998, beating out then-Rep. Scotty Baesler (D) for the seat of retiring Sen. Wendell Ford (D).
Richards told The Associated Press he would “never say never” to a Senate race but expected to return to the state House.
Miller has been more open about his interest in both the Senate and Congressional races.
“I don’t have any plans yet,” he said. “There are a lot of opportunities that will come down the road.”
Miller would be a potentially intriguing candidate against Northup, who has held the Louisville-based seat since 1996 despite a number of serious challenges.
He has sat on the bench in Jefferson County, which takes in Louisville, since 1988 and has been re-elected to two subsequent six-year terms.
A number of other Democrats have been rumored as Northup challengers, including former Gov. Martha Layne Collins, state Sen. Bob Jackson, state Agriculture Commissioner Billy Ray Smith and businessman Tracy Farmer. Jack Conway, Northup’s opponent in 2002, also has been mentioned.
Northup has proven her electoral toughness in one of the most Democratic districts currently held by a Republican.
In 2002, she beat Conway 52 percent to 48 percent; in 2000 she defeated state Rep. Eleanor Jordan (D) 53 percent to 44 percent.
State GOP Won’t Come To the Aid of Gilchrest
The Republican Main Street Partnership, the centrist GOP organization that helped Rep. Wayne Gilchrest (R) fend off a well-funded primary challenge in 2002 with TV ads and a get-out-the-vote operation, announced last week that it was prepared to come to Gilchrest’s aid again.
Conservative state Sen. Richard Colburn (R) has announced that he will challenge Gilchrest in the 1st district GOP primary in 2004. While there is little evidence yet that Colburn has been working with the Club for Growth and other conservative organizations that helped Gilchrest’s 2002 challenger, lawyer David Fischer, the Main Street Republicans are taking no chances.
“It’s disappointing that Gilchrest will face another primary battle,” said Sarah Chamberlain Resnick, the organization’s executive director.
In a related development — or non-development — the Maryland Republican Party has decided not to take up a proposal to endorse incumbents in all party primaries, a measure that would have boosted Gilchrest in his battle with Colburn.
The state GOP’s bylaws committee had developed a pro-incumbent proposal. But it never came before the full state committee for a vote at its semiannual convention last weekend after some Republican leaders said they would fight it.
“This has nothing to do with Wayne Gilchrest,” said Baltimore County GOP Chairman Donald Murphy, the leading dissident on the incumbent endorsement plan.
Murphy and Gilchrest were, in fact, Maryland co-chairmen of Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) presidential campaign in 2000 — when the state Republican chairman broke from the tradition of neutrality for party leaders and endorsed George W. Bush. He has been rewarded with a federal judgeship.
— Josh Kurtz
Treasurer Confirms He’ll Stay Out of House Race
In a bizarre development three months ago, Rep. Tom Tancredo (R) announced that state Treasurer Mike Coffman (R) would not challenge him in a GOP primary in 2004. Coffman, however, kept mum.
Tancredo’s announcement followed an incident in which Coffman, a veteran of the first Persian Gulf War, refused to share the stage with Tancredo at a statehouse rally in support of U.S. troops in Iraq. Coffman said he walked out of the rally because Tancredo received a draft deferment during the Vietnam War.
But Coffman confirmed this week that he would not challenge Tancredo in 2004. Tancredo now appears to have a clear shot at a fourth term in suburban Denver’s 6th district — despite breaking a term-limit pledge.
Under the new Congressional redistricting plan that Gov. Bill Owens (R) signed into law last month, Coffman now lives in the 7th district anyway, which is held by freshman Rep. Bob Beauprez (R). Ironically, Coffman was preparing to run in the 7th in 2002, because he expected the lines that the courts were drawing in 2001 to place his home in the 7th.
But when he found himself in the 6th — less than a block from the 7th — Coffman decided not to run. Instead, Beauprez moved from the 2nd district into the 7th — and won by just 121 votes.
“I’m about a year too late,” Coffman told Roll Call. He said he is not sure what he is going to do when his term as state treasurer ends in 2006, though many political professionals expect him to run for governor.
Another Republican Eyes Fitzgerald’s Seat
Add Gary Skoien’s (R) name to the long list of Republicans weighing a Senate bid next year.
In a column that appeared Wednesday, the Chicago Sun Times reported that Skoien is considering running for the seat of retiring Sen. Peter Fitzgerald (R).
Skoien, a onetime aide to former Illinois Gov. Jim Thompson (R), challenged Rep. Phil Crane (R) in two primaries in the early 1990s.
In 1992, Skoien lost to Crane 45 percent to 55 percent, and two years later he received 21 percent of the vote in a three-way primary that also included Fitzgerald, then a state Senator.
Goldman, Sachs & Co. investment banker turned teacher Jack Ryan and Chicago area businessman Andy McKenna are currently the only Republicans officially in the Senate race. Meanwhile, at least a half-dozen others are contemplating a run.