Rep. Gary Condit Ready For Another Run

Rep. Gary Condit's re-election office is in full swing, trying to gather enough petition signatures to qualify him to run for an eighth term in office.

Speculation about Condit's political future has been rampant since his personal relationship to a missing California woman was revealed this summer.

Condit needs 3,000 voter signatures to launch his bid for the district seat, though newly-drawn borders could put him at a disadvantage. 

Condit consultant Richard Ross, said seeking the signatures is the best way to check the temperature of prospective voters.

"He believes this would give him the most accurate read on his viability," Ross said. "To get 3,000 petitions you have to talk to 6,000 or 7,000 people and each conversation has to be done face to face. You get a pretty good read. They're either signing or slamming the door." 

Voter signatures must be received by the Dec. 7 filing deadline. Condit could skip the signatures and pay a $1,451 filing fee, equivalent to 1 percent of a congressman's salary. He has collected signatures in the past to qualify for past campaigns.

Political consultants and some Condit supporters are shaking their heads about a Condit re-election bid. He was harshly criticized for his sometimes-evasive answers during a national television interview in August in which the lawmaker wouldn't say if he had an affair with 24-year-old Chandra Levy, who has been missing for five months. 

"I think while the world has changed a lot since Sept. 11 the world of Gary Condit hasn't," said Gale Kaufman, a political consultant for California Democrats. "I think the chances are the same as the night he went on Connie Chung. No one will have forgotten anything when it comes to election time."

Washington police say they have no evidence of a crime in Levy's disappearance, and Condit, a former Ceres councilman, mayor, county supervisor and state Assembly member, is not a suspect.  But his silence about their relationship caused his popularity to falter.

Aides in Condit's Modesto office referred calls Wednesday to Condit's campaign office, which he has kept separately from his congressional office since 1989.

A Condit bid could set up what many Democrats fear may be a bloody March 5 primary fight that would pit him against Assemblyman Dennis Cardoza, a friend, former aide, and protege. 

Cardoza is a three-term assemblyman, former real estate agent, and part owner of a family bowling alley. On Wednesday, sources close to Cardoza said the Atwater Democrat is leaning toward running regardless of Condit's plans.

Previously, Cardoza planned to run for a state Senate seat and already raised $131,000. He declined comment Wednesday.

Highlighting awkwardness in Democratic circles, Condit's son, Chad, was one of Cardoza's chiefs of staff, and planned until recently to run for Cardoza's Assembly seat.

Initial polls show Cardoza doing well, said Sandra Lucas, chairman of the Stanislaus County Democratic Committee. "His numbers are very good. Right now, he could beat anybody."

Other potential candidates for Condit's seat include a 23-year-old Democratic state senator, and two Republicans -- a state senator and Modesto City Councilman.

The Associated Press contributed to this report