State By State

Illinois

Former Speaker Dennis Hastert (R) officially resigned from the House on Monday night, paving the way for a special primary election likely to be set on the same day as the Feb. 5 national presidential primary.

Both the Republican and Democratic primaries are contested and figure to be expensive. The ensuing special election must take place by late March, according to the 120-day window set by law.

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Hastert urged Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) to set the special primary for Feb. 5, when Illinois and about half of the country will vote to nominate their presidential candidates.

“I am grateful to [my constituents] and proud of all that we have been able to accomplish together,” Hastert said.

— Aaron Blake


Nebraska

Businessman Tony Raimondo has confirmed talk that he is considering running for retiring Sen. Chuck HagelCharles (Chuck) Timothy HagelAlmost 100 former officials, members of Congress urge Senate action on election security GOP Senate candidate said Republicans have 'dual loyalties' to Israel White House aide moves to lobbying firm MORE’s (R) Senate  seat as a Democrat.

Raimondo had formed an exploratory committee to run for the seat as a Republican, but after popular former governor and Agriculture Secretary Mike JohannsMichael (Mike) Owen JohannsMeet the Democratic sleeper candidate gunning for Senate in Nebraska Farmers, tax incentives can ease the pain of a smaller farm bill Lobbying World MORE entered the GOP primary, Raimondo exited the race.

Democrats have struggled to find a standard-bearer in the ruby-red state, as former Sen. Bob Kerrey (D-Neb.) and Omaha Mayor Mike Fahey have both passed up the chance. Former congressional candidate Scott Kleeb (D) is still weighing a bid.

Raimondo is close with Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), and he told local newspapers that he has talkedwith Nelson, along with state and national Democrats, about a run at the Democratic nomination.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee declined Tuesday to comment on the prospect of a Raimondo candidacy.

— A.B.


New Jersey

The daughter of former Gov. Christine Todd Whitman (R) is one of several politicians considering the GOP race for the seat of retiring Rep. Mike Ferguson (R).

Ferguson announced his retirement last week in the battleground district, and a crowded Republican field is still shaping up. Democrat Linda Stender, who lost to Ferguson 49-48 last year, is running again.

Kate Whitman lost a primary bid to become a freeholder in Somerset County earlier this year. She is executive director of the Republican Leadership Council, which was founded by her mother.

State Senate Minority Leader Leonard Lance and Scotch Plains Mayor Martin Marks are also likely to run on the GOP side. Assemblyman Peter Biondi, Somerset County Freeholder Jack Ciattarelli and Hunterdon County Freeholder-elect William Mennen have also been mentioned.

Mennen is heir to the family deodorant company that bears his name.

— A.B.


New York

Several names are being floated in GOP circles as potential challengers to freshman Democratic Rep. John Hall after businessman Andrew Saul (R) abruptly ended his campaign last week.

Iraq veteran Kieran Michael Lalor announced he would challenge Hall after Saul dropped out, but the National Republican Congressional Committee continues to reach out to other prospective candidates, several of whom, like Saul, could self-finance campaigns.

One name frequently mentioned is Michael Finnegan, who served as chief counsel to former New York Gov. George Pataki (R). Finnegan, who is now with JP Morgan Chase, fits the bill as a candidate who could raise funds and put together a grassroots campaign.

State Assemblyman Greg Ball and Orange County Executive Ed Diana have also been mentioned as candidates, a GOP source said.

Republicans have made no secret that they will try to link incumbent Democrats like Hall to Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s (D) aborted plan to provide illegal immigrants with driver’s licenses.

— Ian Swanson


Pennsylvania

Businessman Chris Hackett (R), who is running to unseat Rep. Chris Carney (D), says in his first ads that he wants to put a stop to wasteful pork spending and make Washington accountable to the taxpayers by repealing the estate tax and keeping the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts permanent.

In two radio ads released this week, the political newcomer touts his financial expertise and working-class background as reasons to support his economic plan. Hackett also said he would force “career politicians” to take an up-or-down vote on every “wasteful project.”

Hackett is facing wealthy businessman Dan Meuser in the GOP primary.

— Nathaniel Weixel


South Carolina

Republican National Committeeman Buddy Witherspoon officially announced his candidacy for Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGOP divided over impeachment trial strategy GOP eager for report on alleged FBI surveillance abuse Johnson opens door to subpoenaing whistleblower, Schiff, Bidens MORE’s (R) seat on Tuesday, setting up a primary campaign that could test the senator’s record as a dealmaker and a backer of citizenship for illegal immigrants in a red state.

Witherspoon, an orthodontist who has to give up his committeeman post to run for Senate, said two weeks ago that he was weighing a bid. This week, he is traveling the state to launch his campaign.

“People feel like we’re not receiving the best representation in Washington and therefore would like to see another candidacy,” Witherspoon said between stops.

— A.B.