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Davis plans to take on Reynolds Lost race in 2004, but has own resources

Democrat Jack Davis is assembling a top-level campaign team for the area's premier congressional race this year as he prepares for a repeat challenge to Republican powerhouse Thomas M. Reynolds of Clarence.

Davis, president of an Akron heating element manufacturer, is weeks away from officially announcing his candidacy. But all signs point to another run against Reynolds, built once again upon his anti-free trade views. He also appears ready to match the $1.2 million he committed to his unsuccessful 2004 race.

"Maybe more," he said of his spending plans for this year.

Davis would not elaborate further on his plans during a recent interview, but sources close to him and local Democratic officials point to evidence of serious campaign preparations, including:

* Phone calls to Davis encouraging his candidacy from Rep. Rahm Emmanuel of Illinois, head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which is charged with electing more Democrats to the House of Representatives.

* Hiring high-level political consultants, including pollster Stan Greenberg, who worked on former President Bill Clinton's campaigns, and Hank Sheinkopf of New York City, one of the top Democratic consultants in the state.

* Davis' reaching out to local and national Democrats for more staff help and coordination than in 2004.

National Democrats are intrigued by a Davis candidacy because of his ability to self-finance his campaign and, at the very least, tie down Reynolds, chairman of the Republican National Congressional Committee. Democrats are making an issue of the war in Iraq and scandals dragging down Reynolds allies, including former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas. They believe they can overcome Reynolds' 56 to 44 percent ratio of victory over Davis in 2004.

Bill Burton, a Buffalo native and Democratic campaign committee spokesman, called Reynolds a "good guy who has made bad choices," citing his vote for the Central American Free Trade Agreement.

"Being from Western New York, I know [the North American Free Trade Agreement] decimated a lot of industries in town, so for Tom Reynolds to vote for another trade agreement is not what the folks in Western New York sent him to Congress to do," he said. "Jobs are what's the priority for Western New York."

But knocking off Reynolds, one of the top Republicans in the House, will not prove an easy assignment. His latest filing with the Federal Elections Commission indicates he has $2.4 million on hand, plus $936,000 in his own political action committee. In addition, he is bolstered by a carefully drawn congressional district in which Republicans outnumber Democrats 186,000 to 142,000.

Reynolds spokesman L.D. Platt called the budding Davis candidacy "old news."

"He's been doing this for however long he's been doing this, so it's old news," Platt said of Davis.

e-mail: rmccarthy@buffnews.com

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