- - Monday, May 9, 2011

SENATE

Heller sworn in as newest senator

Nevada’s Dean Heller was sworn in Monday as a senator to replace the embattled John Ensign, who resigned amid a Senate Ethics Committee investigation stemming from an extramarital affair he had with a campaign aide.

Mr. Heller, 50, was serving his third term in the House when Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval selected him to serve out the remainder of Ensign’s term.

Mr. Heller was escorted to the front of the Senate chamber by Majority Leader Harry Reid, whose right arm was in a sling and left eye was blackened from a fall suffered last week. Vice President Joseph R. Biden administered the oath as Mr. Heller’s wife, Lynne, and their four children and son-in-law watched from the gallery.

“As Dean transitions from representing a single district to the entire state, I look forward to working with him to make the tough choices that will help our state and our citizens recover,” said Mr. Reid, Nevada’s other senator and a Democrat.

The transition does little to change the political dynamic in the Senate, as Mr. Heller and Mr. Ensign shared similar views on most issues.

Mr. Heller was already the favorite to win next year’s GOP primary election for Mr. Ensign’s seat when Mr. Sandoval made the appointment. On the Democratic side, Rep. Shelley Berkley has said she will run for the seat.

INDIANA

Donnelly enters Senate race

SOUTH BEND | U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly says he’s running for the Indiana seat in the U.S. Senate currently held by Republican Richard Lugar, and expects the political climate for Democrats to be better than last year.

Mr. Donnelly spoke to reporters by telephone Monday, hours after he announced his run.

He is entering a race where Democrats see potential for winning because of the strong challenge the six-term incumbent Lugar is facing from his right by state Treasurer Richard Mourdock for the Republican nomination.

Democratic activists believe the seat will be a strong pickup opportunity if Mr. Lugar does not win his primary.

In his announcement video, Mr. Donnelly speaks against what he called Republican proposals to privatize Social Security and Medicare.

Mr. Donnelly narrowly won a third term in Congress last year from northern Indiana.

NEW JERSEY

Christie ‘thrilled’ by race requests

TRENTON | New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said he never tires of being asked to run for president, but insists he’s still not doing it.

“How self-important would one have to be to become tired and annoyed by having people ask you to run for president?” Mr. Christie said Monday morning during an interview on a Philadelphia radio station.

“I’m a kid from Jersey who has people asking him to run for president. I’m thrilled by it,” he said. “I just don’t want to do it.”

That hasn’t stopped the Mr. Christie, who only took office in January 2010, from playing a kingmaker role in the race to the White House and having the top-tier GOP contenders over for dinner at the governor’s mansion in Princeton, including Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (he has since declined to run), former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

Jon Huntsman Jr., the former U.S. ambassador to China and former Utah governor, is scheduled to stop by in the next week, Mr. Christie said, adding that he had only met Mr. Huntsman once at a White House dinner.

“If I decide to support a candidate for president, I want to make sure I really get to know that person,” Mr. Christie said.

NEW YORK

Boehner headlines special election event

DEPEW | House Speaker John A. Boehner stepped in to rescue the Republican candidate in an upstate New York special election long thought to be a shoo-in for the GOP.

Mr. Boehner headlined a fundraiser Monday in Depew for state assemblywoman Jane Corwin.

Miss Corwin is running to replace Republican Rep. Chris Lee in the 26th District in western New York. The district is heavily Republican, but polls show a tight three-way contest between Miss Corwin, Democrat Kathy Hochul and multimillionaire tea party candidate Jack Davis.

The race has become a proxy battle over recent Republican efforts to cut Medicare. Miss Corwin supports a plan by Rep. Paul Ryan to turn Medicare into a voucher program.

The special election is May 24.

WHITE HOUSE

First lady hosts fitness demos

First lady Michelle Obama is offering some physical fitness opportunities to military families.

Mrs. Obama announced on Monday that the International Health, Racquet and Sports Club Association would offer free memberships to immediate family members of actively deployed reservists. She said the American Council on Exercise would provide at least 1 million hours of free personal training. And the Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition will hold a series of events with military families and celebrities.

Mrs. Obama was joined by gymnast Dominique Dawes, figure skater Michelle Kwan and basketball players Grant Hill of the Phoenix Suns and Chris Paul of the New Orleans Hornets as they led demonstrations at activity stations on the South Lawn. The activities included dancing, ball tossing and a three-part obstacle course.