Battin contemplates challenge to Ackerman

Sen. Jim Battin launched a leadership challenge today to oust Senate Republican Leader Dick Ackerman, saying Ackerman lacks fund-raising prowess and has not performed key caucus duties.

The issue may come up as early as today, when Republicans meet for a private caucus.

When asked about his challenge to Ackerman, Battin said “I don’t comment on the internal workings of our caucus.” But other senators confirmed that Battin had had discussions with them about a possible leadership change.

“There are always issues that people have with leadership,” said Sen. George Runner, R-Lancaster, who is not supporting Battin. Runner hinted some senators were contemplating taking out Ackerman without directly confronting the current leader. “There are right ways and wrong ways to go about it. As far as I know, nobody has had a discussion with Sen. Ackerman about their concerns except Senator Battin.”

Senate sources say Battin has support from 4-6 other senators. Battin would need seven votes, plus his own, to take the reins of the 15 member caucus.

Ackerman, an Orange County Republican, drew fire earlier from some Republicans for considering a run for Congress to replace Rep. Christopher Cox, who was tapped by President Bush to head the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Ackerman was elbowed out of that race by fellow Sen. John Campbell, also from Orange County.

Ackerman seemed nonchalant about the possibility of a challenge from Battin. “I’ve been up here for ten years. It’s just part of the game,” he said. “But I haven’t seen any consensus among our caucus that anything should happen today.”

Battin and Ackerman were seen huddling this morning in the back of the Senate chambers during floor session.

Battin, who represents the 37th Senate District, sought the Senate GOP leader’s job earlier this year, when Ackerman was planning to run for Congress. Ackerman then signed a letter of support for Battin, a move that angered Campbell enough to jump into the Congressional primary against Ackerman, and ultimately force Ackerman out of the race.

Ackerman, in the 33rd Senate District, took over as Senate Republican leader in 2004, following the departure of Jim Brulte of Rancho Cucamonga.

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