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Finally, one local Democrat promises that next year's primary won't be straight-up Karen McCarthy.

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Rumors and speculation have been fermenting over the past few weeks about which local Democrats might take on Congresswoman Karen McCarthy in the primary next August. Finally, one challenger isn't afraid to speak up.

"I'm absolutely in," Damian Thorman tells the Pitch.

Thorman, who serves on Kansas City's Public Improvements Advisory Committee, had been eyeing Marsha Campbell's term-limited seat in the Missouri House. But in the wake of McCarthy's well-publicized affair with John Barleycorn and reports of fleeing staffers and her general lame-o-ness in Washington, friends and colleagues encouraged Thorman to go mano-a-mano with the incumbent. "[But] nobody pulled my leg to go into this," he says emphatically.

Even before McCarthy fell down drunk on an escalator this past spring, Kansas City political junkies had harbored doubts about her effectiveness on the Hill. Now, following a statistic-rich Associated Press investigation on her, taxpayers across the city are sharing those doubts (Kansas City Strip, August 28).

Just out of curiosity, we spent a few minutes last week trying to figure out what, exactly, McCarthy has accomplished since taking office in 1995.

Like her colleagues, McCarthy has a Web site where she posts press releases touting her initiatives, opinions and -- one would hope -- triumphs. Over the past year, she's released six such statements, starting with an October 2002 announcement that she opposed the use of force in Iraq. The most recent, late last month, announced a meeting with cops and firefighters in Cass County.

By comparison, Sam Graves, the Northland's Republican rep, offered the public 47 official memos over the same time period. Ike Skelton, a Democrat who covers the district to the south and east, released 39.

Months pass between McCarthy's attempts to inform the public about what's going on in her allegedly now-happy office. And this pattern has continued since her return from an Arizona rehab in May. In late August, Kansas Citians were treated to a veritable flurry of announcements -- two released on successive days! (Coincidentally, they were issued on the two days immediately following the Associated Press' blistering exposé.)

Prior to that, she had last put out an official statement on February 13.

That sort of surprises us considering that in June, McCarthy hired Matt Nerzig to take the reins of her staggering PR nightmare.

If his résumé is any indication, Nerzig thrives on fiasco.

He was the Congressional spokesman to the United Nations when the United States decided to stop paying its membership dues. Then he flacked for AOL when the disconnection-plagued Internet service provider became joke fodder on late-night TV. And he was the top press guy when New Mexico Democrat Phil Maloof ran an extremely nasty, ultimately doomed bid for a House seat in 1998.

Alas, Nerzig lasted barely two months in McCarthy's office. Last week, he gave our congresswoman his two weeks' notice. Nerzig, who didn't return our call seeking comment, told the Associated Press that he had expected it to be only a two-month job and that he'd achieved all of his goals to have "new systems in place so that she could move forward with her agenda, policy, press" and other issues.

Yet back in early July, when Nerzig was quoted in the D.C. paper Roll Call, he gave no indication that his was a temporary contract position. His new full-time job, he said then, was "an exciting opportunity, from both a press and policy perspective."

But considering the measly pair of communiqués Nerzig and his boss sent to constituents during his tenure, it doesn't seem like it was very exciting at all.

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