SOUTH DAKOTA: Without Naming Him, Thune Rips Daschle
In the first fundraising appeal of his nascent Senate bid, former Rep. John Thune (R) sent a letter to past supporters that fails to mention his opponent, Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D), by name.
That is not to say, however, that Thune doesn’t outline his plan of attack against Daschle in the letter.
“Like you, I have watched as political agendas become more important to some than the agenda of the people they represent,” writes Thune. “The incessant and increasingly partisan bickering in Washington has done nothing to improve America’s position in the world or to improve the lives of South Dakotans.”
The Thune campaign is expected to attack Daschle as more interested in leading the Democratic opposition in Congress than representing the people of the state.
Daschle has already taken a number of steps to counter this notion, running ads touting his work on ethanol, an alternative fuel source key to the state’s economy, and his proposal to offer military health insurance to reservists after they return from service.
In the letter, Thune goes on to mention his support for American troops in Iraq and his anger at the Senate for not allowing straight “yes or no” votes on President Bush’s judicial nominees.
“This year, for the first time in the history of the republic, a minority of senators headed by South Dakota’s senior senator, employed the rules in a way that denied the opportunity for judicial nominees to have an up or down vote in the United States Senate,” Thune wrote.
Thune also acknowledges that he will be outspent by Daschle in the race.
“No amount of money will buy the kind of support my family and I have enjoyed from South Dakotans,” he adds.
In his 2002 challenge to Sen. Tim Johnson (D), Thune spent roughly $6 million. He lost that race by 524 votes.
Daschle is expected to show roughly $4 million in the bank in his year-end report with the Federal Election Commission. His campaign plans to spend upwards of $10 million on his re-election.
In addition, he has more than 30 campaign workers on staff, including 20 field organizers.
— Chris Cillizza
DSCC Touts Results of Poll on Bunning Race
A new poll conducted for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee showed that only four in 10 voters will definitely vote to re-elect Sen. Jim Bunning (R).
In a head-to-head matchup, Bunning still held a commanding lead over state Sen. Daniel Mongiardo, who has already secured the endorsement of the DSCC in the race, however.
Bunning received 52 percent to 23 percent for Mongiardo, according to the Mellman Group survey, which was in the field Jan. 17-19. It tested 600 likely voters with a 4 percent margin of error.
The poll showed Bunning, a Hall of Fame pitcher and six-term Congressman prior to his victorious Senate bid in 1998, with an inexplicably low 57 percent name identification. He was thought of favorably by 42 percent of those polled and unfavorably by 15 percent.
Bunning was seen as one of the most potentially vulnerable Republican Senators coming into the 2004 cycle after beating then-Rep. Scotty Baesler (D) by just more than 6,000 votes in 1998.
But Democrats were decimated by the scandal surrounding former Gov. Paul Patton, who was seen as an all-but-announced candidate in the Senate race.
Patton’s extramarital affair with a state employee was seen as the biggest factor in the party losing the governorship in 2003 for the first time in 32 years and has had a decidedly chilling effect on Senate recruiting.
Mongiardo, who is an otolarynologist by training, was first elected to the state Senate in 2000 but found himself redistricted out of the seat the next year.
He ran and won another state Senate seat in 2002 and briefly held both. When Mongiardo was sworn in to his new eastern Kentucky seat he resigned his old seat, which encompassed much of northern Kentucky.
In Case of Emergency, Buford Offers Services
As filing closed in the Bluegrass State on Tuesday, state Sen. Tom Buford (R) added his name as a potential candidate in the 6th district, which will play host to a special election on Feb. 17.
Buford filed to run in the May GOP primary and in the November election as an “emergency backup candidate” in the event that state Sen. Alice Forgy Kerr (R) loses the special election to former state Attorney General Ben Chandler (D) next month.
Kerr and Chandler are competing for the remaining 10 months of the term of former Rep. Ernie Fletcher (R), who was elected governor in November.
Whoever wins the special election must run again in the May 1 party primaries as well as the November general election to serve a full two-year term.
Chandler and state Auditor Ed Hatchett have filed to run for the full term on the Democratic side.
Buford told the Lexington Herald-Leader that he would immediately drop out of the race if Kerr wins the special. Kerr has filed for the May primary as well.
Buford said he made his decision to file for the race after learning that President Bush would not make a campaign visit for Kerr.
“It’s the first Congressional race out of the hat,” said Buford. “[Bush] cannot afford to be on the losing side.”
Both candidates as well as both party committees have been advertising heavily for the special since the start of the year.
On Super Bowl Sunday, Ex-Broncos Raise Cash
Pueblo County Sheriff Dan Corsentino (R), one of several candidates running in the open 3rd district race to replace retiring Rep. Scott McInnis (R), is using the Super Bowl to raise money.
Two former Denver Broncos stars, Howard Griffith and Rick Upchurch, are hosting a fundraiser for Corsentino this Sunday at Griffith’s home in Lonestar, Colo.
Lonestar is in the Denver area rather than in the sprawling 3rd district, which covers roughly the western half of the state, but Corsentino will take the help anyway. He expects to report having about $58,000 on hand in his campaign account as of Dec. 31.
Corsentino is in a tight multicandidate fight for the GOP nomination. The other leading Republican contenders are state Sen. Ken Chlouber, state Rep. Gregg Rippy, state Rep. Matt Smith — McInnis’ brother-in-law — and former Colorado Department of Natural Resources Secretary Greg Walcher.
State Rep. John Salazar is the Democratic frontrunner for what is expected to be a highly competitive general election.
— Josh Kurtz
Beauprez Challenge No Longer in the Works
Four months after launching an exploratory committee for a possible challenge to freshman Rep. Bob Beauprez (R), businessman John Works (D) has decided to remain on the political sidelines this year.
“While trying to give my best to my family, my business, and my civic activities, there just isn’t room right now for another project that demands my full attention,” Works said this week in a statement.
Jim Hedemark, who managed Works’ exploratory effort, said he spent close to $150,000 before deciding to abandon the race.
Works’ decision leaves Jefferson County District Attorney Dave Thomas, who has lost two past Congressional primaries, as the likely Democratic nominee.
“I have not heard of anybody else out there, so this sets the field,” Chris Gates, chairman of the Colorado Democratic Party, told The Denver Post on Tuesday.
Democrats have high hopes of defeating Beauprez in the Denver-area district. He beat then-state Sen. Mike Feeley (D) by just 121 votes in 2002.
Nethercutt: Constituents Don’t Object to Move
Rep. George Nethercutt’s (R) staff vigorously rebutted charges by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee that his move to Bellevue signals an abandonment of his Spokane-area constituents.
“He’s spending Thursday and Friday in Eastern Washington,” Nethercutt spokeswoman April Gentry said. “He’s absolutely got to court the whole state.”
The flap started when Nethercutt announced last weekend that he would move to the other side of the Cascades in an attempt to build a base in the more populous west in his bid to unseat Sen. Patty Murray (D).
Nethercutt’s constituents in the mostly rural 5th district do not feel let down, Gentry insisted — quite the contrary.
“His constituents want to know how he’s perceived on the western side,” Gentry said. “They would like to see him become a Senator.”
The DSCC charge is much ado about nothing, Gentry said, adding that “it’s only a one-hour flight from Seattle to Spokane.”
— Nicole Duran
Alben Reports $290,000 Raised for Dunn Race
Democrats, who were already high on Alex Alben, their candidate to take on Rep. Jennifer Dunn (R) in the 8th district, are ecstatic now that he has released his year-end campaign finance report.
Alben, a high-tech businessman, will report in his year-end campaign disclosure report that he has raised almost $290,000 thus far.
“Alben is organizing his challenge against the incumbent in what is expected to be one of the most closely watched races in the country,” the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said in a news release.
Dunn spent more than $1 million to win 60 percent of the vote on her way to a sixth term in 2002, in a district that went 49 percent for Al Gore in 2000.
Bond Still Outpaces Farmer in Fundraising
Sen. Kit Bond (R) outraised state Treasurer Nancy Farmer (D) in the final three months of 2003 and retained a whopping cash-on-hand edge heading into the election year.
Bond brought in $620,000 from Oct. 1 to Dec. 31, significantly less than the $1.5 million he raised in the previous three months but $113,000 more than Farmer collected in the period. She showed $507,000 raised in her quarterly report; she raised $935,000 in 2003 for her bid.
Bond ended 2003 with $4.3 million in the bank to Farmer’s $609,000.
Despite this disparity, Democrats remain keen on Farmer’s chances against Bond, who, they note, has never won re-election with more than 53 percent.
It remains an open question, however, whether Farmer will be able to make a significant dent in Bond’s fundraising lead. If not, she must depend on the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee to close the gap, a prospect that might become increasingly difficult as Senate Democrats must defend five of their own open seats in the South in November.
House Candidate Keeps His Brawling Manager
The campaign manager of former Navy SEAL David Rogers (R), who is taking on Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D) in the 1st district, was arrested for assault Jan. 18.
Christian Winthrop, 31, was arrested for punching a waiter, the Providence Journal reported. He was released on a $1,000 bail bond and is scheduled for a Feb. 4 pretrial hearing.
Rogers said he would keep Winthrop on board as he tries to unseat Kennedy for a second time.