- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 10, 2002

Democrats yesterday tapped Sen. Jon Corzine of New Jersey to head the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee as it heads into the 2004 election cycle facing a Republican majority and new campaign-finance laws.

A first-term senator, Mr. Corzine, 55, will be in charge of fund raising, supporting incumbents and recruiting challengers for the 34 Senate seats up for election in 2004. He was appointed by Sen. Tom Daschle of South Dakota, the party's Senate leader.

"We will do well because we have the right issues, we're with the American people, we stand firm on homeland defense, we stand strong on the economy," Mr. Corzine said. "I think the last few days have demonstrated what many of us have talked about with respect to the economy; that there was not all well across this country. And where we made that case, we have done very well."

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, Michigan Democrat, will serve as the campaign committee vice chairman.

Democrats are coming off a good showing in a runoff elections in Louisiana on Saturday, where Sen. Mary L. Landrieu won a second term and state Rep. Rodney Alexander won an open congressional seat.

Those races provide a framework for victory, Democrats said, by proving the party can have credibility on foreign affairs while making inroads on other issues.

Sen. George Allen, the incoming chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said Republicans now have a chance to show they can govern, and they must step up to the challenge.

"I'm not going to worry about my counterpart. We're going to execute our plan, and that is to move a positive agenda forward," said Mr. Allen, Virginia Republican. Mr. Allen was unanimously elected to his slot by Senate Republicans.

There are 34 Senate seats up for election in 2004. Those seats are held by 19 Democrats and 15 Republicans.

Mr. Allen said he hasn't heard any Republican incumbents say they plan to retire. Democrats said they haven't heard of any retirements on their side, either.

In this past election cycle, the Democratic committee raised about $115 million while Republicans raised $109 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

One challenge for both chairmen will be to work under the new campaign-finance rules that prohibit committees from raising the large "soft money" contributions they have relied on in recent years. Even though Democrats outraised Republicans overall, Republicans outraised Democrats in "hard money" $51 million to $38 million.

Mr. Corzine, though, said the new rules provide his party with a chance to "broaden the base of participation" by trying to appeal to new donors.

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