State by State

Colorado

Rep. Doug Lamborn (R) got a boost in his primary fight against two challengers Tuesday when he was endorsed by the conservative Club for Growth’s political action committee.

The organization’s statement makes no mention of Lamborn’s two Republican opponents, former House aide Jeff Crank and retired Maj. Gen. Bentley Rayburn, who are challenging him for the nomination in the solidly Republican, Colorado Springs-based 5th district.

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The group said Lamborn was one of 16 members to score 100 percent in its key votes program, which it calls the “RePORK Card.”

“In 2006, Rep. Lamborn promised to fight against wasteful spending and tax increases, and he has lived up to his word even when many Republicans chose to side with the Democrats,” Club for Growth President Pat Toomey said.

Lamborn narrowly won the primary in 2006 against Rayburn and Crank, a top aide to then-Rep. Joel Hefley (R-Colo.), whose retirement created the vacant seat. The bitter campaign left hard feelings, with Hefley deeming Lamborn’s campaign “sleazy” and declining to endorse him in the general election.

— Mike Soraghan


Illinois

Businessman Martin Ozinga entered the race for retiring Rep. Jerry Weller’s (R) seat on Monday, and GOP leaders in the 11th district appear ready to make him their replacement nominee.

That decision won’t be made official until April 30, though, as that is the date the leaders set for the final decision.

The slot became open when New Lenox Mayor Tim Baldermann backed out of the race following the Feb. 5 primary.

Ozinga is attractive as a candidate who brings personal wealth to the race and can help finance his campaign. Democrats have focused early attacks on a 2005 Chicago Tribune story that reported that Ozinga skirted laws to win city contracts for minority-owned companies.

Pizza chain owner Harry Bond has also shown interest in running for the GOP nomination.

State Sen. Debbie Halvorson is the Democratic nominee.

— Aaron Blake


Florida

Freshman Rep. Tim Mahoney (D-Fla.) said over the weekend that he will skip the Democratic National Convention in Denver this August if his party has a nominee lined up.

“I have better things to do in my district” than attend the convention, the freshman Democrat told the Vero Beach Press-Journal. The report, posted Monday, paraphrased him as calling the event “a glorified pep rally” for the party.

Mahoney, an uncommitted superdelegate, said he would go to Denver if neither Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) nor Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) had sealed the nomination and his vote was needed.

Republicans pounced. The state party chairman, Jim Greer, said he was “not at all surprised” by the remarks.

“While most people, let alone members of Congress, would be energized, engaged and excited to represent their fellow Floridians at an event that will choose their party’s nominee for president of the United States, Mahoney has better things to do,” he said.

Mahoney, a millionaire businessman who took over the seat of former Rep. Mark Foley after the Republican resigned in disgrace amid the House page scandal, initially showed ambivalence about life in Congress. He told The Hill last year that being a congressman “isn’t the greatest job I’ve had.”

He also represents a very conservative district.

He has been a stand-out fundraiser, however, raising $1.8 million in 2007.

Although Mahoney said he didn’t plan to endorse a candidate, he signaled his preference for Clinton, whom he said had been courting him more aggressively than Obama.

He also suggested that party bigwigs might award the nomination to a third candidate, such as former Vice President Al Gore, as a compromise if they fail to agree on Clinton or Obama.

— Jessica Holzer


New Jersey

Wealthy businessman Andrew Unanue this week became the latest Republican to join the GOP field vying to run against Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D).

joins a field that already includes state Sen. Joseph Pennacchio and Professor Murray Sabrin. Party leaders lost their moderate candidate of choice when businesswoman Anne Evans Estabrook (R) dropped out of the race earlier this month, and Unanue was recruited by the state party to replace her.

Democrats wasted no time signaling their line of attack on Unanue, a former executive at local Goya Foods, hitting him for a less-than-amicable exit from his family business in 2004 and his ownership of a nightclub in New York.

“Running a nightclub in New York would seem like an odd qualification for a U.S. Senate candidate from New Jersey, but we know Republicans are desperate,” said a spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, Matthew Miller.

— Aaron Blake


New York

Democrats are touting a new internal poll showing candidate Dan Maffei leading his likely Republican opponent by 12 points in New York’s 25th district, which retiring Rep. James Walsh (R) barely won in 2006.

After winning a surprisingly close contest with 51 percent of the vote in 2006, Walsh announced that he would not seek reelection this year, opening the door for the man who almost beat him, Maffei, the former Democratic spokesman for the House Ways and Means Committee.

A poll by Global Strategy Group, a Democratic consulting firm, showed Maffei with 41 percent support among 200 likely general election voters. His likely Republican opponent, former state fair director Peter Cappuccilli, garnered 29 percent. Thirty percent of likely voters could not decide in a hypothetical match-up.
Global Strategy Group conducted the poll for Syracuse Mayor Matt Driscoll, who contemplated running for Walsh’s seat but opted out, giving Maffei a clear path to the nomination. The firm shared its research with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee last week.

“What it shows is that central New York is looking for a leader bringing new ideas to the table, someone who’s going to bring jobs back to central New York, who’s going to fight for quality and affordable healthcare and who’s going to bring our troops home from Iraq,” said Maffei campaign manager Dan Krupnick.

Ken Spain, the National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman, argued the research raised questions about Maffei.

“If Democrats are so high on Dan Maffei then why are they circulating a polling memo that was done for his primary challenger?” said Spain. “The fact that he is only polling at 41 percent after nearly winning in 2006 should be a troubling sign for Democrats.”

— Alexander Bolton


Texas

Former Rep. Shelley Sekula Gibbs (R) received the endorsement of one of her former primary opponents in her runoff campaign for the GOP nomination against former Senate aide Pete Olson.

The backing of former Sugar Land Mayor Dean Hrbacek comes as a surprise, as many expected the field to adopt an anybody-but-Sekula Gibbs attitude toward the runoff. As the front-runner, Sekula Gibbs had attracted criticism from the other GOP candidates.

“Shelley is one of the hardest-working people I know,” Hrbacek said in a statement. “She has the integrity and experience needed to represent us in Congress. We need a representative who has lived in, worked in and served the community for over 20 years and understands the needs of our district.”

Olson boasts the support of more than 10 members of the Texas congressional delegation and Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), under whom he served as chief of staff.

— Aaron Blake