ARIZONA: Babbitt, Heir to Famous Name, Considers Run
In a major step forward for House Democrats, Coconino County Board of Supervisors member Paul Babbitt (D) has formed an exploratory committee to weigh a possible challenge to freshman Rep. Rick Renzi (R).
Babbitt, the brother of former Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt, is considered a top recruit for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which has made Renzi one of its top targets in 2004.
Babbitt joins 2002 nominee George Cordova and 2002 candidate Diane Prescott among the Democratic candidates considering the race.
Former Apache County Attorney Steve Udall and former Clinton administration official Fred DuVal are also mentioned. Both ran in 2002.
Cordova was the surprise winner of last cycle’s primary, running particularly strong on American Indian reservations.
Shortly after becoming the nominee, the National Republican Congressional Committee ran a series of ads attacking Cordova’s past business practices, which included property liens and a disgruntled former partner.
Cordova never recovered but lost to Renzi by only 49 percent to 46 percent.
Democrats believe Babbitt’s combination of government experience (he has been on the Coconino County Board since 1986 and also has served as mayor of Flagstaff) coupled with his famous last name make him a very appealing candidate. Bruce Babbitt spent two terms as governor of Arizona, and the family operates a chain of stores throughout the state.
The 1st district was created following the 2000 Census and was one of two new seats Arizona gained. It is one of the largest districts in the country, covering more than 58,000 square miles, and is considered highly competitive by both parties.
— Chris Cillizza
Comptroller Passes on Challenging Simmons
State Comptroller Nancy Wyman (D) announced last week that she is preparing for a run for lieutenant governor in 2006, taking herself out of the running as a challenger to Rep. Rob Simmons (R).
Wyman’s decision comes just one week after she traveled to Washington, D.C., to meet with Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee officials to discuss the House race. She told The Associated Press that she decided against a challenge to Simmons because she wanted to focus on state issues and remain close to her family.
Wyman’s departure from the race leaves former state Rep. Shaun McNally as the only announced Democratic candidate in the field. McNally ran briefly in 2002 but dropped out in favor of former lieutenant governor candidate Joe Courtney.
Former Norwich City Councilman Jim Sullivan is also mentioned as a potential candidate.
Simmons won the seat in 2000 when he ousted longtime Rep. Sam Gejdenson (D). He was heavily targeted in 2002 but won with 54 percent.
Cubin Declares Bid for Sixth Term in House
Ending months of speculation, Rep. Barbara Cubin (R) announced last week that she would seek a sixth term to the at-large seat in 2004.
“We’re ready to go,” she told The Associated Press. “We have money in the bank and campaign workers on the ground.”
Because Cubin’s husband has been ill, Wyoming Democrats — buoyed by the election of Democratic Gov. Dave Freudenthal last year — privately speculated that she might not run again, and felt they could be very competitive in an open-seat scenario.
Democrats hold out hope that Cheyenne attorney Paul Hickey, runner-up to Freudenthal in the Democratic gubernatorial primary last year, will decide to enter the House race. His father is a former governor and his mother is a former state Senator.
But with Cubin running again, Ron Akin (D), an Air Force veteran who took 36 percent of the vote against Cubin in 2002, may be the only challenger. He said he is “99.9 percent sure” he will try again.
Cubin said she hoped her opponents would not use the fact that she missed some House votes due to her husband’s illness against her.
“Wyoming has never ever suffered because of my absence,” she said.
— Josh Kurtz
Connie Mack IV Will Seek Dad’s Old Seat
State Rep. Connie Mack IV (R) resigned from his state House seat last week and prepared to move back to southwest Florida to run for the Congressional seat once held by his father, former Sen. Connie Mack (R).
Mack, who represents a Fort Lauderdale-based legislative seat, becomes the second Republican to announce he will seek the 14th district seat being vacated by Rep. Porter Goss (R), who is retiring.
Lee County Commissioner Andy Coy (R) is already in the race for the heavily Republican seat. Others Republicans considering running are Lee County Commissioner Doug St. Cerny, state Sen. Burt Saunders and state Rep. Carole Green.
— Jessica L. Brady
Democrats Unifying Around Ex-Celtics Scout
After a unanimous vote by 8th district Democrats a week ago, the party officially endorsed former Boston Celtics scout Jon Jennings last week in his 2004 bid to unseat Rep. John Hostettler (R). Businessman Kevin Durr, who was also seeking the Democratic nod, withdrew from the race and endorsed Jennings before the vote was taken at a meeting of 8th district Democratic county chairmen.
“It is a great honor to have the party leaders stand up in support of our campaign this early in the race,” Jennings said in a statement. “By doing this the Democratic Party has put itself in a position to mount a serious campaign to take back the 8th district.”
Hostettler, who has been targeted by Democrats before in the “Bloody Eighth,” won re-election in 2002 with just 51 percent, and new fundraising reports show that as of Sept. 30 he had just $32,000 in the bank.
Sen. Dorgan Will Have Sand in His Face in 2004
Sen. Byron Dorgan (D) will likely face off against 2000 Senate candidate Duane Sand (R) in 2004.
Sand, who took 38 percent of the vote against Sen. Kent Conrad (D), officially left the military last Friday and was expected to announce his candidacy shortly after returning to his hometown of Fargo last weekend.
“I feel I’ve done my part and it’s time to serve my state on a bigger scale,” Sand told The Bismarck Tribune.
A Navy reservist, Sand was called into active duty in 2001 and spent time on a submarine in Washington, D.C. He also worked at the Pentagon.
Sand asserted that he had learned a variety of lessons from his unsuccessful challenge to Conrad. He was drastically outraised and despite a campaign visit from Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) never got the attention of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
Sand faces a hard road in ousting Dorgan, who has been in elected office in the state since 1969. Dorgan won re-election in 1998 with 63 percent and already had $1.3 million stockpiled in his war chest through June 30.
Cox Drops Senate Bid, Backs Rauschenberger
Millionaire businessman John Cox (R) dropped out of the 2004 Senate race last week and threw his support to state Sen. Steve Rauschenberger (R), one of the five Republicans left in the race to replace retiring Sen. Peter Fitzgerald (R).
Cox, who acknowledged he had only raised about $70,000 for his campaign, said he is considering running for state treasurer or comptroller in 2006. He lost a race for the GOP nomination to face Sen. Dick Durbin (D) in 2002.
Among the Republicans still in the race are Rauschenberger, former Goldman, Sachs and Co. executive Jack Ryan, paper company executive Andy McKenna and dairy magnate Jim Oberweis.
Keever Makes House Bid With Taylor on the Ropes
Buncombe County Commissioner Patsy Keever last week became the first Democrat to enter the race against embattled Rep. Charles Taylor (R) in 2004.
“This election is about the future,” Keever said in a statement.
Taylor, who has faced questions about his ownership of Blue Ridge Savings Bank and his business dealings in Russia in past elections, won a seventh term in 2002 with 56 percent of the vote.
State Sen. Steve Metcalf is among the Democrats sill weighing a bid for the Asheville-based 11th district seat. He is expected to announce whether he will run by the end of the year.
Glenn Makes Run for Rep. Collins’ Seat Official
Career politico Dylan Glenn (R) — who in his 33 years has lost two bids for Congress and worked in the administrations of Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue (R) and both President Bushes — has launched his third attempt to win a House seat.
At a rally earlier this month in Columbus, Glenn announced that he will run for the 8th district seat being vacated by Rep. Mac Collins (R), who is running for Senate office.
Glenn becomes the third Republican to run in the staunchly conservative district. State House Minority Leader Lynn Westmoreland (R), who has the backing of Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R) and the conservative anti-tax Club for Growth, and state Sen. Mike Crotts (R) are already in the 8th district race.
Glenn had served as a deputy chief of staff to Perdue since the governor was sworn in at the beginning of 2003, but he left the position in early September to explore a Congressional bid.
He has run twice before in the Peach State’s 2nd district, represented by Rep. Sanford Bishop (D). In 1998 Glenn lost in the GOP primary, and two years later he won the nomination but was defeated by Bishop 54 percent to 47 percent.
— Lauren W. Whittington