ARIZONA: State House Speaker Skips Renzi Challenge
State House Speaker Jake Flake (R) has ruled out a primary challenge to freshman Rep. Rick Renzi (R) in the competitive 1st district.
Flake, whose nephew Jeff has served in the House since 2000, would have provided a serious challenge to Renzi, according to political observers.
Flake is a Mormon, a group that makes up a significant portion of the GOP primary electorate — estimated at 40 percent by one Arizona source.
In 2002, two Mormon candidates split the vote and Renzi was able to capitalize and win the crowded primary.
Even with the primary field clear, Renzi is likely to face serious opposition from Democrats hoping to win the massive northeastern Arizona 1st district.
A number of names are mentioned as possible challengers, including 2002 nominee George Cordova, former Clinton administration aide Fred DuVal, former Apache County Attorney Steve Udall and attorney Diane Prescott.
— Chris Cillizza
Unopposed Last Time,Snyder May Face Parks
State Rep. Marvin Parks (R) has formed an exploratory committee to begin raising money for a race against Rep. Vic Snyder (D).
Parks was first elected to the state House in 1998 and because of term limits will be forced out of his seat in 2004. He currently serves as Republican leader.
Snyder’s Little Rock-based district is one that regularly appears on Republican wish lists, but they have yet to come close to knocking off the quirky Snyder.
Although George W. Bush would have won 49 percent in the district in the 2000 presidential race, Snyder has never taken less than 58 percent in his own re-elections. In 2002, Republicans didn’t field a candidate against him.
Even so, Snyder’s policy of not raising money in the year before an election coupled with the swing tendencies of the district make it a difficult opportunity for Republicans to pass up.
Snyder showed $8,000 on hand through March 31.
DSCC: Regrets, Has Campbell Had a Few?
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee hopes to make the rising federal deficit — put at $400 billion in a new Congressional Budget Office estimate — an issue in the 2004 campaign against Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R).
In a news release this week, the DSCC noted that when Campbell joined the GOP in 1995 after being elected as a Democrat in 1992, he cited the Democrats’ opposition to a balanced budget amendment as a central reason. The committee quoted Campbell in 1995 warning that the budget deficit could put the United States at the brink of financial collapse, like Mexico.
“The difference will be there will be no one to bail us out,” the Senator said.
Of course, with the Democrats controlling the White House and Republicans controlling Congress, the country enjoyed budget surpluses in the late 1990s, and Democrats blame Republican tax cuts — which Campbell supported — for the new deficits.
“For a guy who claims to care deeply about balancing the budget and not adding to the deficit, it seems like he’s running quickly out of reasons to be a Republican,” said DSCC spokesman Brad Woodhouse. “He might want to check to see if the offer for him to come back to the caucus of fiscal responsibility still stands.”
So far, there is no indication that Campbell regrets his decision to become a Republican. And so far, Democrats have not been able to persuade a top-tier candidate to take him on in 2004. Only middle school principal Michael Miles has entered the Democratic race so far.
— Josh Kurtz
A Top Challenger for Simmons Drops Out
The leading candidate to challenge two-term Rep. Rob Simmons (R) bowed out this week, opening the door for a former state Representative who briefly ran for the seat in 2002.
Joe Courtney, a former state House Member and the 2002 nominee against Simmons, said a candidacy “doesn’t work right now.”
As Courtney took himself out of the running, former state Rep. Shaun McNally (D) said he would announce his candidacy in the next few weeks.
McNally dropped out of the 2002 race following the events of Sept. 11, 2001.
The 2nd district was one of a handful of targeted House seats in the previous cycle, with more than $3 million spent between the two candidates, according to The Associated Press.
After narrowly defeating longtime Rep. Sam Gejdenson (D) in 2000, Simmons was able to again co-opt much of the moderate Democratic base and defeated Courtney 54 percent to 45 percent in 2002.
Westmoreland Officially Enters 8th District Race
State House Minority Leader Lynn Westmoreland (R), as expected, this week officially kicked off his campaign for the open-seat 8th district race to replace Rep. Mac Collins (R).
Collins has announced he will run for the seat of retiring Sen. Zell Miller (D) in 2004 and Westmoreland, 53, had been contemplating a run for Senate until Collins decided to enter the race.
State Sen. Mike Crotts (R), who represents Collins’ old state Senate seat, is also running in the staunchly Republican 8th district, which stretches south of Atlanta and dips to Columbus.
Dylan Glenn, a former Congressional candidate and current aide to Gov. Sonny Perdue (R), is also mentioned as a possible candidate.
— Lauren W. Whittington