Coburn Beefs Up Staff in Oklahoma After Bad Press

Posted September 21, 2004 at 5:49pm

Amid a week’s worth of bad press and sagging poll numbers, former Rep. Tom Coburn (R) has retooled his campaign staff, bringing in a top GOP campaign operative to help steady the operation.

Coburn’s campaign has hired Jason Miller, a former Hill staffer who has worked on two other open-seat Senate races this cycle.

One GOP strategist close to the campaign maintained that current campaign manager Michael Schwartz is not being pushed aside and that he will continue to hold the title of manager.

“It’s not a shakeup, it’s more of bolstering the current staff,” the strategist explained.

Miller’s official title had yet to be determined as of Tuesday, although he is expected to be in place by as soon as today.

“I don’t think anyone’s focused on titles,” the GOP strategist said. “I think people are more focused on responsibilities.”

Coburn is locked in a tight race with Rep. Brad Carson (D) to replace retiring Sen. Don Nickles (R). Recent polls have shown Carson holding a slight edge, though within the surveys’ margins of error.

Miller’s arrival is part of the third high-level staff retooling within Coburn’s operation since he began his campaign earlier this year.

Curt Price managed Coburn’s campaign through the July 27 primary. After Coburn’s lopsided victory against former Oklahoma City Mayor Kirk Humphreys (R), Coburn brought on Schwartz, a former aide to the Congressman, to manage his campaign.

Previously, Schwartz was vice president for government relations for Concerned Women for America.

Miller, a former chief of staff to Rep. Ric Keller (R-Fla.), began the election cycle as campaign manager for then-Illinois GOP Senate candidate Jack Ryan, leading the investment banker-turned-school teacher to a primary victory.

After Ryan was forced to end his campaign amid allegations that he had patronized sex clubs, Miller was dispatched by national party strategists to aid the Florida Senate primary campaign of former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Mel Martinez (R).

Miller served as political director for Martinez’s campaign through his primary victory late last month.

Even as GOP aides went to great lengths to deny a shakeup had taken place, Oklahoma Democratic Party Chairman Jay Parmley released a statement Tuesday calling the staff addition a red flag for Coburn.

“It’s clear that Tom Coburn’s campaign is in turmoil, and he is trying to revive it by bringing in yet another national campaign operative,” Parmley said.

Coburn has spent the past week fending off allegations that he sterilized a then-20-year-old woman without her written consent 14 years ago, then committed fraud by billing Medicare for the procedure.

Coburn, a family physician who served in the House from 1994 to 2000, has denied he did anything wrong and maintained he had the woman’s verbal consent for the procedure.

— Lauren W. Whittington

WISCONSIN
Feingold Camp Warns of Coming Attack Ads

Anticipating an onslaught of negative advertising, Sen. Russ Feingold (D) called on Republican challenger Tim Michels on Tuesday to disown third-party ads.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee has reserved $1.2 million worth of television time in Wisconsin, prompting Feingold to challenge Michels to demand the ads’ removal before one even airs.

Noting that the agency making the buys produced the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth ads that so damaged Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry, Feingold campaign manager George Aldrich said: “Wisconsinites should brace themselves for one of the most negative campaigns waged in Wisconsin history.

“Michels ran a negative campaign in the primary, he refused to sign a clean campaign pledge and now his Washington-based special interest friends have purchased over one million dollars in ad time to run negative attack ads against Russ Feingold in the final three weeks of the campaign,” Aldrich added in a statement and in a conference call with reporters.

Michels spokesman Tim Roby said Feingold’s campaign is jumping the gun.

“They need to relax,” Roby said, noting that no one yet knows what the NRSC’s independent expenditure will deliver.

Under the new campaign finance law, the party committees must create separate entities to produce and buy political commercials on their candidates’ behalf.

“They keep saying this is going to be the most negative campaign in Wisconsin’s history,” Roby said. “They are sadly mistaken.”

While Michels did refuse to sign Feingold’s “clean campaign pledge,” dismissing it as a “gimmick” and saying that he did not need to sign a piece of paper to keep his word, he has asked outsiders to refrain from running negative ads on his behalf, Roby said.

Of course, what constitutes a negative ad is “in the eye of the beholder,” Roby conceded. “Senator Feingold’s definition [of negative advertising] is questioning his record.”

During the GOP primary, Michels took issue with Feingold’s lone dissenting vote against the USA Patriot Act — going so far as to use images of the World Trade Center attack in his ads — but Roby called that a legitimate campaign tactic.

As in his tough 1998 re-election campaign, Feingold has called upon the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee to refrain from running ads on his behalf.

The difference this year is such ads must now be paid for with hard money, not the unlimited, and hard-to-trace soft money that Feingold railed against and eventually banned through the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform bill that became law.

“The decision he made in ’98 was the right decision and he thinks it’s what won him the campaign,” Aldrich said of Feingold’s continued insistence to refuse outside ads.

The DSCC has “no plans” to run any ads in Wisconsin, spokesman Brad Woodhouse said.

However, Feingold will accept financial help from the committee.

The DSCC has already given the maximum direct contribution of $35,000 to Feingold. It can also spend almost $620,000 in “coordinated party” expenditures on behalf of Feingold for services such as polling or direct mail.

Woodhouse would not reveal how much the DSCC will spend in that category.

The NRSC gave Michels its $35,000 last week along with about $58,000 that was raised for the eventual GOP Senate nominee. Michels just won the three-way primary Sept. 14.
— Nicole Duran

WASHINGTON
DCCC Poll: Ross Has Slight Edge in 8th District

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee wasted no time providing a poll to counter Republican claims that King County Sheriff Dave Reichert (R) leads in the open 8th district race.

Both parties want to capture this swing seat badly and have been willing to put their money where their hopes are.

Last week Republicans released a survey showing Reichert leading Democratic challenger Dave Ross by double digits.

On Tuesday the DCCC released a poll showing Ross, a local radio show host, with a slight edge.

According to the Lauder Research Inc. poll of 401 likely voters with a 4.9 percent error margin conducted Thursday through Sunday, Ross led 45 percent to 43 percent with 12 percent undecided.
— N.D.

CALIFORNIA
Jones Schedules 2-Day Swing With Giuliani

Former Secretary of State Bill Jones (R), who has already benefited from fundraising appearances by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Arizona Sen. John McCain and Vice President Cheney, will now have another Republican superstar aiding his uphill Senate campaign: former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

Giuliani is scheduled to spend parts of Thursday and Friday stumping with Jones at events in Los Angeles, Sacramento and Tulare, Jones’ campaign announced Tuesday.

Jones is seeking to unseat two-term Sen. Barbara Boxer (D) in November. Public polls have shown Boxer with a lead of up to 17 points, but most political professionals in the state believe the gap between the two candidates is somewhere in the high single digits.

Jones, who is personally wealthy, has vowed to put more than $2 million of his own money into the race, but that covers about a week’s worth of advertising in the state and he continues to raise money vigorously. Boxer is also fundraising at a torrid pace.

Schwarzenegger was supposed to appear with Jones at a fundraiser in Beverly Hills earlier this month, but a problem with faulty radar equipment at Los Angeles International Airport kept the governor stranded in Sacramento. He phoned into the fundraiser instead.
— Josh Kurtz

SOUTH DAKOTA
Citizens Offer Thune Testimonials in Ads

Former Rep. John Thune (R) began an extensive radio buy this weekend featuring testimonials from South Dakota citizens on a variety of issues from ethanol to gun ownership.

The seven ads are part of a huge media campaign on Thune’s behalf that includes television commercials being run by the candidate as well as the National Republican Senatorial Committee and several other third-party groups.

In one spot, Rory King, a self-described “old friend” of Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D), says the Senator “went to Washington and I think he was captured by that national Democrat aura.”

As for Thune, King describes him as a “bright young man who has South Dakota values to his core.”

The race, which is seen as the marquee contest on the Senate slate in the fall, has taken a negative turn in recent days.

During a debate Sunday on “Meet the Press,” Thune said he believed that Daschle had “emboldened” terrorists with his comments about the war in Iraq and national security. The Daschle camp has pledged to remind Thune of that comment every day between now and the election.

Recent polling has shown Thune closing the gap on Daschle although both sides concede the Minority Leader likely retains a lead of from 2 points to 5 points.

Thune is making his second Senate run in as many cycles. In 2002, he lost to Sen. Tim Johnson (D) by 524 votes.
— Chris Cillizza

PENNSYLVANIA
Greenwood Throws His Support to Fitzpatrick

Rep. James Greenwood (R) last week threw his full support behind Bucks County Commissioner Michael Fitzpatrick, the GOP nominee in the race to replace him.

Greenwood had initially backed a state legislator when party leaders weighed who would replace him on the ballot.

The six-term Congressman has been the most vocal supporter of abortion rights among House Republicans, while Fitzpatrick opposes abortion rights.

“He will vote the same way I have voted 95 percent of the time,” Greenwood said in announcing his endorsement, according to the Allentown Morning Call.

Fitzpatrick faces Democrat Ginny Schrader in November. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) campaigned with Schrader last weekend.
— L.W.W.

Spurned by AFL, Hoeffel Gets UAW Endorsement

Rep. Joe Hoeffel (D) scored the endorsement of the United Auto Workers union Tuesday in his bid to defeat Sen. Arlen Specter (R) in November. The union represents 35,000 workers in the state.

Last month Specter received the key endorsement of the state’s AFL-CIO, a huge blow to Hoeffel’s campaign.

In a statement Tony Forte, director of the UAW Pennsylvania Community Action Program, said that Hoeffel’s understanding and long support of labor issues made him the clear choice for the UAW nod. Forte criticized Specter for supporting Bush administration policies.

“Whatever Arlen Specter says he’s been doing clearly isn’t working for working families in Pennsylvania,” said Forte, who also serves on the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO executive council. “We need change and we need Joe Hoeffel as our Senator.”

Public polling has shown the four-term Senator with a healthy lead in the contest and Hoeffel is still unknown to almost one third of the state’s voters. Both campaigns are now airing television ads.
— L.W.W.