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Dotty Lynch, Douglas Kiker, Steve Chaggaris and Joanna Schubert of The CBS News Political Unit have the latest from the nation's capital.



Gray Davis Fights Back: Supporters of embattled California Gov. Gray Davis have organized a committee to quash the GOP-led effort to recall him. At the same time, state figures released Tuesday show the recall effort has filed only 18,000 of the almost 900,000 needed to call a special election to recall Davis, a term-limited Democrat with abysmal poll ratings.

The anti-recall committee will include a "broad coalition of labor, teachers and religious leaders," reports the San Francisco Examiner. Dan Terry, head of the California Professional Firefighters, tells the L.A. Times the committee plans to raise between $1 million and $4 million. A top Davis aide, Steven Smith, is temporarily leaving the state payroll to run the anti-recall operation.

The group, "Taxpayers Against the Recall," has hired a professional signature-gathering firm to "make a statement" about the voters' displeasure with the prospect of holding a $35 million special election in a time of record state deficits, the Examiner reports.

The Times says the new committee "is the most explicit acknowledgement to date by Davis and his supporters that the ouster effort poses a threat." But, according to figures from the California secretary of state's office, the pro-recall folks have submitted just 2 percent of the signatures needed to require a special election.

Recall supporters need to have 897,158 valid voter signatures by Sept. 2 in order to have the state hold a special election. But, as of May 19, the recall petitions had only 18,560 signatures, despite claims by backers that they'd have 100,000 signatures by May 5. So far, the recall backers have not turned in a single signature from the state's most populous counties, including L.A., Orange, San Bernadino and Riverside.

"With numbers like that, they aren't scaring anyone," said Davis spokesman Roger Salazar.

One of the pro-recall organizers, Ted Costa, claims the anti-Davis forces have collected 287,410 signatures but are waiting to turn them in until they can verify each one. Another pro-recall signature group being funded by GOP Rep. Darrell Issa, who says he'd run against Davis in the possible special election, claims it has gathered 200,000 signatures as well. Issa has spent $445,000 on the recall effort so far.

"We've got an awful lot of signatures sitting around these processing places," Costa told the Times.

All The Way To The Top: Democrats are smelling blood – or at least trying to draw some - over the Homeland Security Department's role in the search for the Texas Democratic legislators who left the state during the redistricting battle. Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., the ranking Democrat on the Governmental Affairs Committee, has asked the White House whether any of its employees were contacted about the search.

In a letter to White House Chief of Staff Andy Card, Lieberman wrote Tuesday: "It is completely unacceptable that any government official would think it appropriate to use federal taxpayer dollars to help one political party settle an intra-state partisan feud."

"I am writing to ask you… to ensure that we have a complete picture of what happened," continued Lieberman.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer brushed off Lieberman's letter, reports CBS News' Mark Knoller. "It was intended less to be a serious letter and more to be a campaign gambit by somebody who is running for the presidency," Fleischer said.

The letter is in response to reports that the Homeland Security Department was asked to search for the 50-plus Texas Democrats who fled to Oklahoma earlier this month to oppose a GOP plan to redraw the state's congressional districts. By leaving the state the Democrats, in essence, put debate in the legislature on hold and prevented a vote on the redistricting plan, which was endorsed by U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas.

Last week, DeLay admitted that his office had contacted the Justice Department and the FAA to assist in the search. Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta has opened an investigation to determine if anything improper was done.

DeLay spokesman Jonathan Grella agreed with Fleischer, accusing Lieberman of firing off the letter for political purposes. "Someone should ask the good senator if he believes he's using government resources to further his presidential campaign," Grella told the Houston Chronicle.

Meantime, the Chronicle reports that a Texas legislative investigator said yesterday that Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican, and his state homeland security coordinator had visited a command post set up to look for the Democrats.

House General Investigating Committee Chairman Kevin Bailey, a Democrat, said security tapes show Perry entering and leaving the office of House Speaker Tom Craddick, where a command post had been set up. Bailey also said Assistant Attorney General Jay Kimbrough, Perry's homeland security point man, was there and was the one who facilitated the call to federal Homeland Security officials.

Angela Hale, spokeswoman for Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, said Kimbrough was in the room in his capacity as an assistant attorney general and had gone there to offer legal assistance, according to the Chronicle.

Perry spokeswoman Kathy Walt refused to discuss what the governor did while in Craddick's office, though she denied he had any role in the use of federal Homeland Security resources.

"I've never had any inkling that anybody on our staff, including the governor, called Homeland Security," Walt said.

Lubbock Love-In: With all the dust flying in Austin, politics in Lubbock has turned into a walk in the park. According to the Lubbock Avalanche Journal, there's not a trace of mud in Texas's 19th District, where two Republicans, City Councilman Randy Neugebauer and Mike Conaway are facing a runoff on June 3 to succeed retiring Republican U.S. Rep. Larry Combest.

In a live television forum Tuesday, Neugebauer and Conaway seemed to share the same conservative Republican platform, promoting interests in agriculture and small business. The forum did little to separate the two candidates since neither candidate challenged his opponent's position or even mentioned the other's name. Both Neugebauer and Conaway said the most important issue in the 19th District is creating jobs.

Conaway said, "The most important issue is the economy and jobs. District 19 will prosper if we can get new jobs into this district. Those kind of jobs are created by the private sector." On the same note, Neugebauer said, "Jobs for West Texas families is one of the most important issues facing the people of District 19, and small business is the primary creator of … jobs in West Texas."

Since the candidates sound so similar, voters may cast their ballots based on geographical interests. The 19th District shifted from a predominantly agricultural before 2002 redistricting, and now includes the Permian Basin's oil and gas interests. In the May 3 election, Neugebauer ran first with 22 percent of the vote mainly from the northern counties, and Conaway with 21 percent, mainly from the southern part of the district.

Neugebauer is a real estate developer. Conaway is an accountant, former Midland school board member, and friend of President Bush. He worked with Mr. Bush in an energy business where he worked as chief financial officer.

Neuberger has the edge on money. He reported $604,000 in contributions to the Federal Elections Commission in the first quarter in comparison with Conaway's $490,000. Neugebauer put in $150,000 into his own campaign at the beginning and the Midland Reporter Telegram says he may pass the million-dollar mark in the runoff.

Edwards Tops The Charts In New Hampshire: According to PoliticsNH.com, Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C., may be down in the polls, but his campaign field director was the big winner in the "first-ever" karaoke contest sponsored by the political Web site and the New Hampshire Democratic Party. Michael Palamuso, dressed in leather pants and a maroon jacket, took first place with his rendition of Will Smith's "Getting Jiggy With It."

The contest took place at Manchester's Uptown Tavern and seven of the nine Democratic campaigns participated. (Braun and Sharpton don't have paid staff in New Hampshire and thus did not "qualify" for the contest.) The Gephardt campaign won second place for their rewrite of "I'm Too Sexy," which included verses sung by staffers wearing cut-out masks of all the candidates.

The Lieberman camp grabbed third prize with "Stuck in the Middle with You." Fourth place went to the Graham campaign, which "rallied all the Democratic campaigns" with a dig at President Bush's chances in 2004: "All My Exes Live In Texas"

Because the judges wanted to see more fighting between the Kerry and Dean forces, they made them duke it out for fifth place. After the Dean Team's first offering to Kerry - "You're So Vain" - the judges made them perform the Dixie Chicks "Landslide." The Kerrys lost the runoff with their rendition of "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous."

The Kucinich campaign brought up the rear performing Billy Joel's "Only the Good Die Young."

Quote Of The Day: "Ari Fleischer said that when he told Bush of his plans to resign, the president took the news well and actually kissed Fleischer on the forehead. At which point, Sen. Rick Santorum ran into the office to make sure it didn't go any further." ("Jon Stewart Daily Show," courtesy of Hotline's Wake-Up Call)

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