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Jeffords Exit Gives GOP Chance For Senate Gain

Republican governor could step in

The surprise announcement from Vermont’s Republican-turned-Independent Sen. James Jeffords that he will not seek re-election in ’06 has given Republicans a key opportunity to increase their 55-seat majority in the Senate.

Within an hour of the announced exit of Jeffords–a three-term senator whose change of parties in ’01 briefly gave Democrats a majority in the Senate–the office of Republican Gov. Jim Douglas in Montpelier was deluged with calls urging him to run for the open Senate seat. A press spokesman for Douglas confirmed to us that a bid for the Senate was “the nature of the calls” the governor had been receiving and “dozens of calls” have come in. National Chairman Ken Mehlman and National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Elizabeth Dole (R.-N.C.) were among those trying to reach Douglas, who was attending a Republican Governors Association meeting, said Press Secretary Jason Gibbs.

“Gov. Douglas is focused on being governor right now,” Gibbs told us, “His agenda include balancing the budget, saving Medicaid, reforming health care, and passing our omnibus public safety bill. Speculation about what he will do in ’06 is premature. He’ll take an appropriate amount of time [to study the Senate race] and make a decision, I assume, sometime after legislative session concludes this spring.”

A former secretary of state and state treasurer, moderate-to-conservative Douglas drew a strong 45% of the vote in 1992 as the Republican nominee against Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy. Narrowly elected governor in ’02 and re-elected handily last fall, Douglas had previously announced he would not oppose the more liberal Jeffords, a longtime family friend. But with the 70-year-old senator calling it quits, Douglas may now make the race for the seat he reportedly has long eyed.

On the Democratic side, the almost-certain Senate nominee is Rep. Bernard Sanders, an Independent who has long been elected with Democratic support. Sanders is best-known for his years as the Socialist mayor of Burlington and has done little to trim his arch-liberal views since going to Congress in 1990. While the man conservatives dub “the Sandernista” has a record that is easy to attack, Sanders is also considered one of the ablest and most resourceful campaigners in the Green Mountain State.

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John Gizzi has come to be known as â??the man who knows everyone in Washingtonâ? and, indeed, many of those who hold elected positions and in party leadership roles throughout the United States. With his daily access to the White House as a correspondent, Mr. Gizzi offers readers the inside scoop on whatâ??s going on in the nationâ??s capital. He is the author of a number of popular Human Events features, such as â??Gizzi on Politicsâ? and spotlights of key political races around the country. Gizzi also is the host of â??Gizziâ??s America,â? video interviews that appear on HumanEvents.com. Gizzi got his start at Human Events in 1979 after graduating from Fairfield University in Connecticut and then working for the Travis County (Tex.) Tax Assessor. He has appeared on hundreds of radio and TV shows, including Fox News Channel, C-SPAN, America's Voice,The Jim Bohannon Show, Fox 5, WUSA 9, America's Radio News Network and is also a frequent contributor to the BBC -- and has appeared on France24 TV and German Radio. He is a past president of the Georgetown Kiwanis Club, past member of the St. Matthew's Cathedral's Parish Council, and secretary of the West End Friends of the Library. He is a recipient of the William A. Rusher Award for Journalistic Excellence and was named Journalist of the Year by the Conservative Political Action Conference in 2002. John Gizzi is also a credentialed correspondent at the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. He has questioned two IMF managing directors, Dominique Strauss-Kahn and Christine LaGarde, and has become friends with international correspondents worldwide. Johnâ??s email is JGizzi@EaglePub.Com

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