Absentees Expected to Preserve Lungren Lead
Former state Attorney General Dan Lungren (R) was expecting to declare victory Wednesday night in the close Republican race to replace retiring Rep. Doug Ose (R).
Lungren, who served in Congress from 1979 to 1989, finished 1,600 votes ahead of state Sen. Rico Oller (R) in the March 2 primary. Businesswoman Mary Ose, the Congressman’s sister, finished third.
Absentee ballot counts from the 3rd district’s mountain counties pulled Oller to within about 1,400 votes of Lungren. The Sacramento County Registrar of Voters was expected to release its absentee count on Wednesday evening, after Roll Call went to press.
Lungren finished 11 points ahead of Oller in populous Sacramento, and his forces were confident that his lead would hold. Oller had not indicated by press time if he would seek a recount if the absentee results left him trailing.
— Josh Kurtz
New Contender May Hurt Democratic Hopes
State Rep. Arthur Morrell (D) announced Wednesday that he will run for the seat of retiring Sen. John Breaux (D), further complicating Democrats’ efforts to hold the seat.
“I think I can speak for the little man,” Morrell told the New Orleans Times-Picayune. “This Congress needs to remember who put them there.”
Morrell, who is black, has held a state House seat since 1983.
He joins Reps. Chris John (D) and David Vitter (R) as well as state Treasurer John Kennedy (D) in the contest.
National Democrats have repeatedly said they favor only one serious candidate from their side in the race and have made it clear that candidate is John.
Under Louisiana law, all Senate candidates will run in an open primary Nov. 2; if none receives 50 percent, the two top votegetters, regardless of party, advance to a Dec. 4 runoff.
Democrats are concerned that given that blacks make up a third of the Bayou State’s population (and a much larger piece of the Democratic electorate), Morrell could secure a runoff spot, which could cost them the seat.
— Chris Cillizza
In 7th District Race, Fred Bear on His Side
State Sen. Gene DeRossett (R) received the backing of a key outdoorsmen’s group.
Ted Nugent United Sportsmen of Michigan endorsed the GOP candidate in his bid to replace retiring Rep. Nick Smith (R) in the 7th district.
“Gene has the heart and soul of an American sportsman and we salute him and wish him Godspeed on his way to the United States Congress,” Skip Coryell, the group’s director, said. No word, however, from rocker Nugent, an avid hunter and gun-rights advocate — and a Michigan native.
DeRossett is one of six candidates vying for the GOP nomination. Only Jason Seagraves, a teacher’s aide, has filed on the Democratic side for the strong GOP seat.
— Nicole Duran
Fundraising of Two Democrats Questioned
The fundraising practices of the two leading Democrats in the open 13th district primary are coming under scrutiny, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported Wednesday.
The newspaper reported that state Sen. Allyson Schwartz (D) used $20,000 from her state campaign fund to pay a media consultant working on her Congressional race. Under federal law, Schwartz is barred from using money raised under state fundraising guidelines.
Schwartz’s campaign and the firm that received the payment, Dixon Davis Media group, maintained that the payment was for work not related to the Congressional race done in 2002, but that Schwartz had not been billed until October 2003. Schwartz officially entered the 13th district race to succeed Rep. Joe Hoeffel (D) in August 2003.
Meanwhile, Schwartz allies are calling into question donations received by her chief rival, Joe Torsella (D), from board members and donors at the National Constitution Center, which he headed until last year.
They point to $85,000 in contributions Torsella received from donors, board members, employees and former vendors at the Constitution Center, which opened in July 2003. Torsella left his position toward the end of 2003, and the contributions he received from four of the center’s employees were made after it was known that he would be leaving.
“Remember, I worked for them; they didn’t work for me,” Torsella told the Daily News, referring to the board members. “The fact that people associated with the Constitution Center gave me money is the strongest evidence that I did a good job.”
As of Jan. 1, Schwartz had raised $961,000 for the race, while Torsella had raised $704,000.
— Lauren W. Whittington
2-Time GOP Nominee Bows Out of Dist. 5 Race
Just before Tuesday’s filing deadline, two-time Republican nominee Brian Boquist withdrew from the 5th district House race.
Boquist, an Army reservist who was called up to serve in Iraq, leaves it to state Sen. Jackie Winters (R) and attorney Jim Zupancic (R) to face off to challenge Rep. Darlene Hooley (D), who also has a primary challenger, media consultant Andrew Kaza.
Boquist instead is seeking a state House seat, the Salem Statesman Journal reported.
Six little-known Republicans filed to take on Sen. Ron Wyden (D), who is heavily favored for re-election. They are: Thomas Lee Abshier, Earl Bowerman Jr., Bruce Broussard, Pavel Goberman, Al King and Philip Petrie.
Meanwhile, the GOP primary contest in the 1st district continued to grow more acrimonious between frontrunners Goli Ameri and Tim Phillips.
Ameri skipped a scheduled debate on Sunday, prompting the Phillips campaign to accuse Ameri of ditching the event to raise money in California.
“Usually, candidates in our state are pretty sensitive about keeping their Oregon fences mended,” said Renee Cannon, Phillips’ campaign manager. “But the Ameri campaign has proven it will go anywhere for a buck.”
Ameri did in fact travel south on Sunday, thereby missing a candidates’ forum at the annual statewide meeting of Republicans known as the Dorchester Conference, according to her campaign manager, Hap Hinman. But Ameri attended almost all of the three-day conference and tried to reschedule the debate.
“Unfortunately, that just didn’t work,” he said, adding that no one complained to him about her absence.
“I’m glad that a campaign that’s at least $200,000 behind in fundraising is spending its time on silly releases like this,” Hinman shot back.
The third Republican hoping to prevail in the May 18 primary and face Rep. David Wu (D), Jason Meshell, has stayed out of the fray.
Professor to Challenge Peterson in ‘Wobegon’
“Lake Wobegon” will have a Congressional race after all.
Southwest Minnesota State University political science professor David Sturrock (R) — whom GOP officials are high on — declared his candidacy in the 7th district, “home” to Garrison Keillor’s fictional town on “A Prarie Home Companion,” The Associated Press reported.
Sturrock, who is also a Marshall city councilman, will face seven-term Rep. Collin Peterson (D) in November.
In a district that went for President Bush in 2000, Peterson won re-election last year with 65 percent of the vote. Traditionally the 7th has been a marginal district, but local GOP officials say it’s becoming more Republican. Peterson has fortified himself in a district infamous for bucking incumbents by sounding populist notes, staking out socially conservative positions and siding with outdoorsmen on environmental matters.
Peterson defeated veteran Rep. Arlen Stangeland (R) to win the seat in 1990 after previously losing to him twice.
Top Republican Exits 3rd District House Race
Former state Rep. Zane Yates (R) dropped out of the 3rd district race Tuesday, leaving Republicans without a strong candidate in the contest.
“It was a dream I really wanted to try but sometimes it’s not meant to be,” said Yates.
He cited family concerns as his biggest motivation for leaving the race; his father is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.
Yates served in the state House from 1990 to 1994. He left that post to be family court administrator in St. Louis County.
Yates’ departure leaves two-time 3rd district candidate Bill Federer and former Webster Groves City Councilwoman Joan McGivney in the race for Republicans.
State Sen. Steve Stoll, state Rep. Russ Carnahan, former state Rep. Joan Barry, St. Louis County Clerk Mariano Favazza, Washington University Associate Dean Mark Smith and Washington University professor Jeff Smith are all running on the Democratic side.
The St. Louis County-based district, which tilts strongly toward Democrats, has been held since 1976 by Rep. Richard Gephardt (D). He is retiring at the end of the 108th Congress after coming up short in his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination.