WASHINGTON, Feb. 28 (UPI) -- Capital Comment -- News notes, political rumors, and important events that shape politics and public policy in Washington and the world from United Press International.
On the comeback trail -- Several former members of Congress are trying to get back in the game this November. Reports out of Ohio says Republican Lyle Williams, who served for one term from 1983 to 1985, may be challenging Democrat Rep. Ted Strickland in the newly reconfigured 6th Congressional District. In Maryland, former GOP Rep. Helen Bentley is making plans to return to Capitol Hill from the 2nd Congressional District if incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Bob Ehrlich runs for governor as expected.
In Virginia, former U.S. Rep. Ben Jones may take on incumbent Republican Eric Cantor in the 7th Congressional District. In his previous tour of duty, Jones represented a congressional district outside Atlanta, distinguishing himself most notably through his specious attacks on the ethics of another member of his state's delegation, former GOP House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Jones is best remembered for his years on the top-rated CBS sitcom "The Dukes of Hazard," where he played Cooter the mechanic.
All alone -- Illinois Rep. Ray LaHood, R-Ill., a leading GOP moderate who once served as chief of staff to Republican House Leader Bob Michel, has dropped out of the race for whip. LaHood's withdrawal leaves Rep. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., as the only candidate in the race. Sources on Capitol Hill say Blunt has the votes to win, making a continued campaign by LaHood a search for what could only by a Pyrrhic victory.
Blunt's ascension to the number three GOP job in the House is, of course, predicated on a continued Republican majority.
No time like the present -- A source tells Capital Comment former U.S. Rep. Bob Dornan, R-Calif., also may be on the comeback trail. Conservative activists reportedly have been surprised by a fundraising appeal from Dornan -- who very publicly walked away from politics after losing a rematch to current U.S. Rep. Loretta Sanchez, D-Calif. -- seeking cash for a war chest in anticipation of the retirement of an unnamed member of the state's GOP House delegation.
Enlightened speculation on the identity of the supposedly retiring member has centered on U.S. Rep. Chris Cox, R-Calif., who earlier was thought to have been on the fast track to a seat on the federal bench and now is being talked about for IRS commissioner.
Next! -- With all signs pointing to the defeat of Judge Charles Pickering for a seat on the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, all eyes are moving to the next likely candidate for a "Borking," say conservative legal experts. The name most mentioned to be next in the sights of the coalition dedicated to stopping President Bush's nominees from taking new seats on the federal bench is D. Brooks Smith, currently chief U.S. district judge for the Western District of Pennsylvania and nominee to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit.
Davis rules, not! -- Two years ago, California Gov. Gray Davis was on top of the world. Thought to be a likely presidential candidate for the Democrats in 2004, he was well-funded, had strong support on the left, and was viewed in a generally positive light by the business community. My how times have changed.
A Field Poll of 718 likely California voters shows if the election were held today, Davis could lose to either former Los Angeles GOP Mayor Richard Riordan or businessman Bill Simon, son of Ford administration Treasury Secretary William Simon.
With a margin of error of 4.9 percent, the poll shows Riordan on top 46 percent to 40 percent. But even more shocking is Simon's 44 percent to 42 percent advantage over the governor.
On Jan. 2, the Filed Poll showed Davis beating Simon 46 percent to 37 percent -- so the shift is astonishing. Simon also has pulled ahead of Riordan in the primary, leading 37 percent ot 31 percent among all voters and 39 percent to 30 percent among Republicans.
Simon, who the poll shows has a 59 percent to 12 percent "favorable/unfavorable" rating, has increased his name identification among voters from 22 percent at the beginning of December to 71 percent in the latest survey.
Out -- Former U.S. Rep. Frank McCloskey, a Democrat, will not seek a rematch against the man who beat him in 1994, current 8th Congressional District Rep. John Hostettler, R-Ind.
The empire strikes back? -- The nastiness of the Democrat's New York gubernatorial primary may be paying dividends to Gov. George Pataki. In the latest Quinnipiac University survey of 1,402 registered voters, the two-term incumbent governor defeats State Comptroller Carl McCall 57 percent to 29 percent and former U.S. Housing Secretary Andrew Cuomo by a margin of 59 percent to 28 percent.
The same poll shows Cuomo, son of former New York Democrat Gov. Mario Cuomo, beating McCall, who is a protégé of the same Mario Cuomo, 40 percent to 35 percent among registered Democrats.
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