SOUTH CAROLINA: DeMint Is Backed by Senators, Congressmen
The Senate campaign of Rep. Jim DeMint (R) will receive a major financial boost tonight when he is feted at a fundraiser featuring Sens. Saxby Chambliss (Ga.) and Don Nickles (Okla.) and Ohio Reps. John Boehner, Mike Oxley and Rob Portman.
The event will raise money for DeMint’s Republican primary fight with former state Attorney General Charlie Condon, wealthy developer Thomas Ravenel and Myrtle Beach Mayor Mark McBride. Former Gov. David Beasley is also contemplating a bid.
Both Chambliss and Nickles served in the House before being elected to the Senate; Oxley is chairman of the Financial Services Committee, Boehner chairs the Education and the Workforce Committee, and Portman is chairman of the elected leadership.
The seat is being vacated by Sen. Fritz Hollings (D), who has held it since 1966. State Superintendent of Education Inez Tenenbaum is the odds-on Democratic nominee.
DeMint, a three-term Up Country Congressman, led the field in fundraising at the end of September. He had $1.1 million on hand at the time; Condon was in second place with $824,000 in the bank.
DeMint’s fundraiser comes on the heels of an event for Condon last week that featured National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman George Allen (Va.) as well as Sens. John Cornyn (Texas) and Jeff Sessions (Ala.).
Allen’s presence on the Condon invitation was not an endorsement however, as the Virginia Senator has also done a fundraiser for DeMint and has several others planned in the coming months.
— Chris Cillizza
DSCC Uses Specter of Harris to Raise Money
As Rep. Katherine Harris (R) continues to publicly dangle the possibility that she may enter the Sunshine State Senate race, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee wasted no time this week using the prospect of a Senator Harris to raise funds from its base.
In a fundraising letter to supporters, DSCC Executive Director Andrew Grossman rehashes Harris’ controversial role in deciding the protracted 2000 presidential election while she was serving as Florida secretary of state.
“I think Katherine Harris has done enough to subvert the democratic process — I don’t want to see her run for Senate in Florida,” Grossman wrote. “But if she does, defeating her will be our number one priority.”
The letter continues: “We cannot let Katherine Harris think that because she handed the state of Florida to President Bush she is qualified to be a United States Senator!”
The current field of Republicans seeking the seat of retiring Sen. Bob Graham (D) includes former Rep. Bill McCollum, state House Speaker Johnnie Byrd, state Sen. Daniel Webster and Larry Klayman, founder of a judicial watchdog group.
Last week McCollum released a poll showing him as the frontrunner for the GOP nomination. He won the nomination for Senate in 2000 but lost the general election to now-Sen. Bill Nelson (D).
The survey, conducted for his campaign by the GOP polling firm McLaughlin and Associates, found that 27 percent of the 400 likely primary voters surveyed backed McCollum.
Support for Byrd and Webster was tied at just less than 3 percent, and Klayman got 1 percent. The poll, conducted Nov. 3-4, had a 5 percent margin of error.
Democrats currently running for Senate are former state Education Commissioner Betty Castor, Rep. Peter Deutsch and Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas.
In a general election matchup, the McLaughlin poll found McCollum and Castor in a virtual tie: McCollum with 31 percent and Castor with 28 percent. The survey of 600 likely voters had a 4 percent margin of error.
— Lauren W. Whittington
Pappas Scrambles Senate Picture for Democrats
Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas formally entered the Democratic Senate primary this week, bringing the number of candidates vying in the March 2004 primary to at least nine. All total, at least 15 candidates are running to replace retiring Sen. Peter Fitzgerald (R).
“I get it, and I can get it done,” Pappas repeated during her announcement speech.
Pappas, 54, a lawyer and former psychologist, is a West Virginia native who moved to Chicago in 1972.
She becomes the third woman in the Democratic race but the only female considered to be among the top tier of contenders, which also includes state Comptroller Dan Hynes, state Sen. Barack Obama and millionaire investment banker Blair Hull.
In early polling, Pappas has consistently polled second or third in the primary, without having run any advertising or officially announcing her candidacy. Hynes and Obama are generally considered the top two contenders for the Democratic nod.
While few observers believe Pappas can win the nomination, having high name identification in the area of the state where most primary voters reside could allow her to pull enough votes away from other candidates to impact the outcome.
Meanwhile last week, Obama scored the endorsement of the state’s second-largest teacher’s union.
The 90,000-member Illinois Federation of Teachers announced that it is backing Obama, based on his leadership and voting record in the state Senate.
The endorsement eats into the bases of Hynes and ex-Chicago School Board President Gery Chico, who is also running for the Democratic nomination.
Hynes has been widely expected to have the broad backing of organized labor, and he has already been endorsed by 62 labor organizations representing 700,000 workers.
Chico, meanwhile, has made education the centerpiece of his campaign, and on Tuesday he released a new television ad focusing on his record of education reform and his endorsement by former Chicago public schools chief Paul Vallas.
Energy Exec Joins GOP Race in New 2nd District
Former energy company executive George Fastuca became the second Republican to enter the 2nd district race Monday.
Fastuca worked for Exxon and Enron, although he left the now-defunct energy giant more than a year before its collapse to pursue a public policy degree at the University of Houston.
He joins former state District Judge Ted Poe (R) in the race. Poe entered the contest last week after retiring from the bench, where he served for more than two decades.
The new 2nd district as created by GOP state legislators earlier this fall draws current Rep. Jim Turner (D) out of the seat but includes the homes of both Reps. Gene Green (D) and Nick Lampson (D) within its boundaries.
Green is expected to run in the new 29th district, while Lampson has yet to make a decision about his political future.
The new 2nd district takes in a portion of Houston in Harris County and runs northeast into Liberty and Jefferson counties.
Republicans running for statewide office in 2002 would have won 61 percent of the vote in the district.
Groves Follows Fletcher To Frankfort, Not D.C.
The special election campaign to replace Rep. Ernie Fletcher (R) will not include the outgoing Congressman’s longtime political confidant.
Daniel Groves, who managed Fletcher’s successful gubernatorial campaign this year, will become Fletcher’s chief of staff in Frankfort rather than run for the soon-to-be-vacant 6th district seat.
“I believe this is an excellent opportunity to serve Kentucky at this time, and it’s a tremendous opportunity to help move our state forward,” Groves said.
Groves’ decision against the race leaves state Sen. Alice Forgy Kerr as the leading Republican to replace Fletcher.
Kerr has represented a Lexington-based district since 1998 and is the sister of 1995 GOP gubernatorial nominee Larry Forgy.
State Rep. Stan Lee (R), a vocal anti-abortion rights voice in the Legislature, and state Rep. Lonnie Napier (R) are also in the race.
Democrats are waiting on a decision from outgoing state Attorney General Ben Chandler, who lost the governor’s race to Fletcher last week.
If he decides not to run, Democrats would likely turn to state Rep. Susan Westrom, who is state party chairwoman.
Fletcher will be sworn in roughly one month from now and is expected to resign his Congressional seat soon afterwards. That would create a special election in late January or early February 2004.
The seat is competitive between the parties, although President Bush would have taken 55 percent of the vote there in 2000.