Doolittle to announce future this morning |

Doolittle to announce future this morning

Dave Moller and Jeff Pelline, The (Grass Valley Union) Tahoe Daily Tribune staff

Congressman John Doolittle, R-Roseville, under a long-lasting investigation for a lobbying scandal, will announce at 10:30 a.m. this morning whether he will run for a 10th term or not, staffer David Plag confirmed.

A solidly Republican seat hangs in the balance. Doolittle’s district includes the Lake Tahoe Basin on the California side.

“He’s going to announce whether he will run or not,” staffer David Plagg told The Union this morning.

Speculation has focused that the announcement would focus on Doolittle’s political future, but this marks the first official confirmation. A statement late Wednesday had only said that a press conference would he held, providing no other details.

The press conference is set for 10:30 a.m. in Roseville.

Later the Congressman will meet with supporters, including some from Nevada County. The ones who were contacted last night ” known as “Team Doolittle” members ” were unsure what the Congressman would announce but remained hopeful he would run again.

The county’s Republican Central Committee met last night, but members were not sure of Doolittle’s plans as well.

No matter what Doolittle decides, challengers for his seat will include Democrat Charlie Brown and two declared Republican challengers ” former Auburn Mayor Mike Holmes and Air Force reservist Eric Egland.

Former State Senator Rico Oller also has said he would run for Doolittle’s seat if the Congressman dropped out, and state Assemblyman Ted Gaines has formed an exploratory committee. The candidate filing period for California’s June 2008 primary begins Feb. 11.

In August, Doolittle, 57, said he was planning to run in November. But speculation has been mounting that Doolittle will change his mind because of his links to jailed lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who pled guilty to illegal lobbying in 2006.

Doolittle also has been losing support in the GOP ” deeply worried about losing a solidly Republican seat ” and his fundraising had lagged far behind Brown’s because of the lobbying scandal. The GOP lost control of Congress in 2006, and the presidential race is up for grabs.

Some county GOP leaders have expressed frustration at Doolittle’s poor judgment in getting tangled in a lobbying scandal. They also complained when he backpedaled on support of the Iraq war.

Doolittle has served on the powerful House appropriations committee for seven years but stepped down last year as the investigation heated up.

His troubles began when he intervened on Indian gaming issues for Abramoff and referred to him as a friend.

After Doolittle’s wife, Julie, performed work for Abramoff, the couple’s home office was raided by the FBI in April 2007 as part of the three year investigation into the lobbyist’s activities.

The congressman from the Placer County Republican stronghold 4th District almost got beat by Brown of Roseville in 2006. Doolittle won by only 9,000 votes.

The close call made him politically vulnerable for the first time in years.

He has been served with grand jury subpoenas but is challenging them. The legal dispute and investigation is not expected to be resolved until after the November election, putting voters in the awkward position of voting for a candidate who might be indicted.

Doolittle’s legal bills are growing as well.

Doolittle has been criticized for being aloof in his district, but after nearly losing to Brown, he became more visible.

He visited The Tahoe Daily Tribune once in the past year and has held regular weekly telephone press conferences with reporters and editors. He also drew praise among many for calling attention to stream zone issues and forest practices following the Angora fire.

Regarding criticism on the ethics questions that have swirled around him, Doolittle steadfastly declared his innocence.

The political fate of Doolittle has come into sharp focus this week, when he flew from Washington to his district late Tuesday for a Wednesday morning meeting with staffers.

The staffers continued to dismiss speculation about the congressman’s future, despite persistent media reports that suggested he would not seek re-election.

Prior to the upcoming visit, Doolittle sent supporters an upbeat e-mail inviting them to meet with him.

“Please join with our key supporters for news about our plans for 2008,” Doolittle wrote in the e-mail. “You have been an important part of my election efforts, and I want you to get the inside news directly from me and my campaign advisers,” the e-mail said.

This week, Doolittle released a list of updated accomplishments during his 17 years in Congress.

In Nevada County, it included $2.8 million for the widening of State Road 89, known as the Mouse Hole, near Truckee; $744,256 for the Dorsey Drive Interchange in Grass Valley: $470,000 for the Narcotics Task Force to combat methamphetamine use; $335,000 for a community-wide system of electronic health records at the Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital; $100,000 for a mobile data computer system; and $50,000 for Grass Valley Detection K-9 unit.

Some of the funding and projects are incomplete, however, such as the Dorsey Drive Interchange.

” Associated Press contributed to this report.

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