Florida: Snafu Fuels Retirement Rumors for Diaz-Balart
Reports of the political demise of Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R) are premature.
The Congressman’s campaign committee confirmed Monday that a software error, not out-of-the-blue retirement plans, caused the eight-term Republican lawmaker to shutter his campaign committee last month — on paper, at least.
As of press time Monday, Diaz-Balart’s campaign committee was still determining how a termination report was inadvertently filed with the Federal Election Commission last month, suggesting that he wanted to end his Congressional career.
Although a box checked on the form filed with the agency appeared to indicate Diaz-Balart was requesting to terminate his campaign committee, a separate field appeared to suggest his campaign was merely filing a return for the period Nov. 28 to Dec. 31, 2006.
Diaz-Balart’s 21st district just west of Miami is fairly Republican, and if he retired there likely would be a huge scramble to replace him. But Diaz-Balart is just 53 years old and does not appear to be in a hurry to go anywhere.
— Matthew Murray
Gilchrest Challenger Gets Out of Blocks Quickly
State Sen. Andrew Harris (R) appears to have moved quickly out of the chute in his GOP primary challenge to nine-term Rep. Wayne Gilchrest (R).
Harris announced Monday that he raised $174,000 in his first month as a candidate and finished June with almost $158,000 on hand. Harris said 596 people have contributed to his campaign so far.
“Our fundraising total is proof that people in our district realize how much Wayne Gilchrest has changed since we sent him to Washington 17 years ago,” Harris, the latest in a string of conservative primary challengers to Gilchrest, said in a statement. “Voters sent Wayne to change Washington, but over the years Washington changed him instead.”
Gilchrest, a leading House GOP moderate who has become increasingly critical of President Bush’s Iraq War policies, has yet to release his fundraising totals for the second quarter of the year. Through March 31, he had $324,000 in his campaign account.
— Josh Kurtz
Ex-Sugar Land Mayor Eyes Lampson District
Former Sugar Land Mayor Dean Hrbacek (R), a certified public accountant by trade, is considering a run for the 22nd district seat and announced Saturday that he has launched an exploratory committee to begin raising money.
Incumbent Rep. Nick Lampson (D) is girding for a tough race next year in the conservative, suburban Houston district. He has been aggressively raising money and recently touted his acceptance into the Blue Dogs — a coalition of moderate and conservative House Democrats.
Republicans are heavily targeting Lampson, but thus far their only announced candidate is former Rep. Shelley Sekula-Gibbs (R), who served for three weeks last year after winning a November special election to fill the remainder of former Rep. Tom DeLay’s (R) term.
The GOP is not that high on Sekula-Gibbs and has been searching for a candidate it considers more formidable. Hrbacek has a long history of community service in the 22nd district, including nearly a decade on the Sugar Land City Council.
Hrbacek served six of those years — from 1996 to 2002 — as mayor.
— David M. Drucker
Franken Tops the Charts In 2nd Quarter Intake
Comedian Al Franken (D) won the second-quarter fundraising race, but his face-off with wealthy attorney Mike Ciresi for the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party nomination makes unseating Sen. Norm Coleman (R) all the harder.
Franken’s campaign took in $1.9 million from April 1 to June 30, outpacing Coleman’s $1.6 million haul and Ciresi’s more modest $750,000.
Ciresi, who is worth nearly $27 million, did not jump into the race until May.
Coleman still leads in the cash-on-hand department.
Coleman began July with $3.8 million in his war chest, while Franken had a little less than $2 million. Ciresi banked $625,000.
— Nicole Duran
Duckworth to Forgo Rematch With Roskam
Iraq War veteran Tammy Duckworth’s (D) decision this week not to seek a rematch with freshman Rep. Peter Roskam (R) in 2008 leaves Democrats without a top-tier challenger in a state where the national party is targeting several GOP-held House seats.
Duckworth, who lost both of her legs in the war, received tremendous support in the previous cycle from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which aggressively recruited Iraq veterans.
She ultimately lost to Roskam, 51 percent to 49 percent, in the high-profile race to replace longtime Rep. Henry Hyde (R) in the suburban 6th district.
Christine Cegelis, whom Duckworth beat in the Democratic primary last year, also declined to make a third run for Congress.
In 2004, Hyde beat Cegelis in the general election by 12 points. It was one of the closest calls the former House Judiciary Committee chairman, who was first elected in 1974, ever had.
“This is a major blow to Democrats who have put all their hopes for this seat on Duckworth’s shoulders,” said Julie Shutley, a National Republican Congressional Committee spokeswoman. “This is just writing on the wall for Democrats who hoped to make Illinois a battleground in the ’08 cycle.”
The Democrats’ ability to pick up seats in the Land of Lincoln largely depends on waging serious campaigns in suburban Chicago districts such as Roskam’s.
Ryan Rudominer, a spokesman for the DCCC, said political shifts in the 6th district will enable the Democrats to be competitive there regardless of who their candidate is, particularly in a presidential election year.
“As a one time staffer to Tom DeLay, Congressman Roskam is well schooled in how to play follow-the-leader, and he’s perfected it by sticking with President Bush on his failed policies,” Rudominer said.
Here Comes the Judge, Attacking LaTourette
Bill O’Neill (D) wasted no time in criticizing Rep. Steven LaTourette (R) since announcing his candidacy last week.
O’Neill surrendered his judgeship on the state’s Appeals Court to take on LaTourette, who easily won a seventh term in the 14th district last year.
By Monday, O’Neill was chastising LaTourette for not rebuking President Bush over his decision to prevent former vice presidential aide Scooter Libby from serving his prison sentence.
National Democrats have sought a top-tier challenger for LaTourette the past two cycles and consider O’Neill’s candidacy a recruiting coup.
State Police Retiree Wants Holden’s Career Arrested
State Police veteran Toni Gilhooley (R), 60, has announced her intention to challenge Rep. Tim Holden (D) next year in the 17th district, The Patriot-News reported last week.
The south-central Pennsylvania district, which includes the state capital of Harrisburg, tends to vote Republican in presidential elections, but Holden has won almost all of his eight terms convincingly. His one semi-close call occurred in 2002, when he escaped with 51 percent of the vote against then-Republican Rep. George Gekas in what was a very good year for the GOP nationally.
Gilhooley, who retired from the state police in 1998, recently was elected president of the Dauphin County Council of Republican Women.
Legislator Is First to Seek Johnson’s Senate Seat
State Rep. Joel Dykstra last week became the first major Republican to embrace the tough task of challenging Sen. Tim Johnson (D) in 2008.
Johnson has been recovering from a stroke he suffered in mid-December and remains popular in South Dakota despite the state’s Republican bent.
The Senator has continued to raise money for his 2008 re-election bid with the help of his Democratic colleagues — despite the fact that he has yet to return to work since suffering from a brain hemorrhage.
Republicans for months have been wary of criticizing Johnson, so as not to appear insensitive to his medical condition. Dykstra’s official campaign news release did not appear to break with that strategy and was absent the usual critique of an incumbent that routinely accompanies such announcements.
“Everyone can see that Washington is not working and our government institutions are in crisis right now,” Dykstra said in a statement.
The Republican Party is hoping to lure popular Gov. Mike Rounds (R) into the race, but observers of South Dakota politics say he doesn’t have a huge desire to come to Washington, D.C., and add that he is unlikely to enter the race if Johnson stands for re-election. Most Republicans probably would defer to Rounds if he ran.
Battle for Second Place Poised to Begin in S.F.
San Francisco businesswoman Dana Walsh (R) wants to challenge Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D) next year in the ultra-left-leaning 8th district.
Walsh, the president of the Nob Hill Republican Women’s Club, announced her candidacy on July 4.
Walsh is not the only woman who may be gunning for Pelosi. Anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan announced Sunday that she may run for Pelosi’s seat as an Independent if Pelosi does not sign off on legislation to impeach President Bush and Vice President Cheney by July 23.
In the San Francisco-based district, where Pelosi routinely gets 80 percent of the vote, Republicans and left-wing third-party candidates frequently battle for the right to finish a distant second.