Democrats are thrilled with two recent recruiting coups out in California that materialized shortly before Friday's filing deadline: former representative Jane Harman (D), who will try to reclaim her old seat from freshman GOP Rep. Steve Kuykendall, and Democratic state assemblyman Mike Honda, who will take on GOP assemblyman Jim Cunneen for the seat vacated by Rep. Tom Campbell (R).

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee executive director David Plouffe said the party waged a "full court press" to enlist Harman and Honda. Democrats had previously focused on unseating GOP Reps. Brian P. Bilbray and James E. Rogan in the state, while launching longer-shot challenges against Stephen Horn and Elton Gallegly.

"It's one of the more significant developments in the cycle," Plouffe said. "We're playing offense in California, and the Republicans are playing defense."

Party leaders wooed Harman and Honda relentlessly. Harman was promised she could regain her seniority and sit on the Commerce and Select Intelligence committees if she returned, Democrats said, while President Clinton promised Honda in a Tuesday morning phone call that he would attend a fund-raiser on his behalf. House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt (D-Mo.) called Honda just before departing for Africa, while DCCC chairman Patrick J. Kennedy (R.I.) checked in just after the White House ball on Monday. Vice President Gore also gave Honda a ring, as did Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) and Harman herself.

"It's an important race to Democrats nationally, and that meant a lot to Mike," said Honda spokeswoman Jennifer Van Der Heide.

Republicans, for their part, said they believe they can hold onto the seats in question and make gains by defeating incumbent Democrats such as Reps. Lois Capps, Calvin M. Dooley, Loretta Sanchez and Ellen Tauscher.

National Republican Congressional Committee executive director Dan Mattoon noted that Cunneen's current seat encompasses 65 percent of Campbell's district, as opposed to Honda's 11 percent. He added that while Harman had attracted significant support from Republicans in previous races, Kuykendall had effectively dismantled that operation through his outreach efforts and moderate voting record.

"We feel real good about California," Mattoon said.

McCain Challenges N.Y. Primary Rules

Calling the New York Republican primary ballot process Byzantine, presidential hopeful John McCain said last week he will file a federal lawsuit in an effort to change the process before the March 7 primary, the Associated Press reported. The rigorous process of qualifying for the ballot, including collecting numerous signatures in every congressional district, tends to favor establishment favorites--in this case George W. Bush, McCain says.

Gays Seek Meeting With Hillary Clinton

Irish-American gays excluded from New York City's annual St. Patrick's Day Parade have demanded a meeting with Hillary Rodham Clinton after the senatorial candidate said she would march in the parade next March.

Clinton's spokesman, Howard Wolfson, had said Clinton believes all such parades to be inclusive, but the Irish Lesbian & Gay Organization said Clinton was "apparently ignorant of the 10-year history of bigotry associated with the NYC St. Patrick's Day Parade."

"Clinton needs to make her stand now," the Associated Press quoted Anne Maguire as saying Friday. "She either supports lesbians and gay men in New York, or she actively supports the bigots who tell us we can't be Irish and gay at the same time."