House races

House races

Rep. Reichert draws first Dem challenger

Rep. Dave Reichert (R-Wash.) has drawn his first Democratic challenger.

Washington state Rep. Roger Goodman (D) has filed papers to seek the Democratic nomination to face Reichert, the Seattle Times reported Friday. Goodman, an environmental lawyer, already has a campaign website.

"I’ve proven to be a leader who can do that for you here in our own state, and I hope for the opportunity to do that for you in the other Washington," Goodman said on his website.

Goodman faces a formidable opponent in Reichert. Although Democrats have won the 8th district in the last two presidential elections, Reichert has managed to keep his seat since he won it in 2004.

One of the nation's leading gun violence reduction advocates, Reichert has taken liberal positions on the environment and been praised by the League of Conservation Voters, which has probably helped him keep the district.

Reichert has not said whether he will seek reelection in 2012. He won reelection to a fourth term in November, defeating Democrat Suzan Delbene by a six-point margin.


Freshman Rep. faces new questions over finances

Rep. David Rivera (R-Fla.) did not sufficiently explain some $60,000 in campaign expenditures during his eight years in the Florida state legislature, according to a review of his filings by The Associated Press. 

It's just the latest bad news for Rivera, who already faces a criminal investigation into allegations of secret payments made to a company that he has ties to.

More from the AP:

Serving as his own campaign treasurer, the Miami Republican didn't report any details for more than a third of the roughly $160,000 in expenses for which he reimbursed himself, other than simply calling them campaign expenses, according to the records.

The AP review also shows his total reimbursements far exceeded those claimed by 12 other top Florida state legislators who served with him. Those lawmakers — both Democrats and Republicans — usually gave at least some explanation of how the money had been spent, as required by Florida law. Rivera denies wrongdoing.

Responding to questions about the unexplained payments, Rivera insists he followed state and federal law and never took money that wasn't a legitimate reimbursement. It would be against state law to divert campaign donations to personal use.

"Reimbursements were for campaign-related expenditures such as travel, meals, and supplies. The campaign reports speak for themselves. All information provided was accurate and all expenses properly reported," he said in a statement Thursday through his campaign.

The investigation is proving to be an early headache for House Republicans. 

Earlier this week, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) declined to address the Rivera investigation that is already ongoing, telling reporters that he is withholding judgment, but that Republican leaders are watching the situation.

"We're waiting to see how this plays out," Boehner said.   

Democrats have jumped on the Rivera story, pointing to GOP promises that the new Republican majority would impose a "zero tolerance" policy with regard to ethics violations. 

During the 2010 midterm cycle, Republicans cited the ethics woes of Reps. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) and Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) as evidence that then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) didn't follow through on her promise to "drain the swamp."

Rivera won an open seat race this past cycle against Democrat Joe Garcia, and Florida Democrats are already talking to potential candidates ahead of 2012.  

—Jordan Fabian contributed.


Citing President Obama, GOP pressuring Dems over earmarks

Republicans are using President Obama's stance on earmarks to pressure Democrats on spending.

The National Republican Congressional Committee on Friday sent a release to 48 Democratic-held districts accusing the members of being "further to the left" than the president on "reckless spending."

The release hit the gamut of GOP targets, including Reps. Dan Boren (Okla.), Tim Bishop (N.Y.) and Heath Shuler (N.C.).

Obama promised in his State of the Union address on Tuesday that he will veto any bill that includes earmarks. That position has left him at odds with many members of his party, who insert the measures into spending bills to allocate money for projects in their districts.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee also hit Democrats such as Sen. Jim Webb (Va.) this week over the use of earmarks. The NRSC's release accused congressional Democrats of being "to the left of President Obama."


Rep. Weiner: 'All DCCC chairs should be from New York'

The House campaign committee chairmen typically hold safe districts so they can concentrate on their big-picture responsibilities.

But according to Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.), Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel (N.Y.) could be an exception.

"He came from a district that was once and could easily be again a Republican district," he told The Ballot Box. 

Israel's Long Island district, which he won in 2000 after Republican Rep. Rick Lazio left to run for Senate, could help inform his performance as chairman, according to Weiner. "He represents kind of a classic American district, suburban-exurban, which is where a lot of these races are getting fought."

Weiner said he has high expectations for his fellow New Yorker, who was appointed to head the DCCC in November and tasked with winning back the Democratic majority.

"My view is that all DCCC chairs should be from New York. We just operate at a different speed than the rest of the country — meaning faster," Weiner said.

Read our profile of Israel here.


Minnesota Dem takes aim at Rep. Bachmann's speech

Minnesota Democrat Tarryl Clark continues to show signs of preparing for another run against Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.).

In an e-mail to supporters Wednesday, Clark criticized Bachmann's recent trip to Iowa and her response to President Obama's State of the Union address.

"Even with Bachmann working harder than ever to increase her own fame, and push the agenda of her wealthiest supporters, last night's speech was more than a little strange," Clark wrote.

In her speech Tuesday Bachmann criticized the president for overspending and credited the Tea Party movement for shifting the balance of power in Washington.

"She repeated many of her usual false claims," said Clark, citing Bachmann's mention of the federal government hiring 16,500 new IRS agents as one example.

"Michele Bachmann is wrong on the facts, and wrong on the issues," Clark continued. "We need honest debate, and civil discourse. We need to speak up. We need to get active, and stay active."

Bachmann defeated Clark by about 13 points last cycle. The Republican is now mentioned as a possible Senate or presidential candidate, while Clark is thought to be laying the ground work for another run.


Connecticut Republican pitches centrist path as way to win House seat

Connecticut state Sen. Andrew Roraback (R) says if his party wants to win back Rep. Chris Murphy's (D-Conn.) House seat, it should nominate a centrist.

"I'm cut from a bit of a different cloth than some of the other people looking at this seat," Roraback told The Ballot Box. "I'm as fiscally conservative as they come, but I'm a social moderate, which was once a hallmark of the New England Republican brand."

Roraback hasn't entered the race but is considering a run.

The last Republican to occupy the district was longtime Rep. Nancy Johnson, who lost her seat to Murphy in 2006 as the ranks of centrist House Republicans were all but eliminated.

"My hope is that the brand will have a resurgence," he said. "Call me the Mike Castle of northwest Connecticut."

Castle was a very popular centrist Republican who represented Delaware's lone House seat. Castle, despite being a Republican in a blue state, was considered safe in his long-held House seat. When Castle ran for the Senate in 2010, he lost to a Tea Party-backed challenger in the GOP primary.

The centrist angle could hurt Roraback in the primary, too. But the state lawmaker sounds serious about a possible bid.

"The shrillness you see on the extremes of the political equation today doesn't serve voters," he said. "They deserve better."

Roraback said that as of now he's focused on his job in the state senate and expects to make a decision on the race in the coming months.

Connecticut Republicans say they expect former state Sen. Sam Caligiuri (R) to make another run for the seat. He was the party's nominee against Murphy in 2010 and came within striking distance on Election Day.

There could also be a rematch of the three-way GOP primary for the seat last cycle, which included Caligiuri, businessman Mark Greenberg and veteran Justin Bernier. Both Greenberg and Bernier are considering bids in 2012.

On the Democratic side, Connecticut House Speaker Chris Donovan is a rumored candidate, but he's not expected to get into the race quickly. Other potential candidates include local Selectman Mary Glassman and Audrey Blondin, a member of the state's central Democratic committee.

Murphy is running for retiring Sen. Joe Lieberman's (I-Conn.) seat.


Boehner will wait and see on Rivera investigation

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Wednesday he is withholding judgment on an investigation into one of his freshman members.

Rep. David Rivera (R-Fla.) has been under investigation since late last year over allegations of secret payments paid to a company with ties to him. Boehner, in his first comments on the probe, said that the matter is unrelated to Rivera's service in Congress, and is waiting to react until the investigation proceeds. 

{mosads}"We're waiting to see how this plays out," he said at a Capitol Hill press conference. 

Democrats have highlighted the probe in an effort to pressure Republican leaders on ethics after Reps. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) and Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) last year caused headaches for then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in the midst of the midterm campaign season.

They have pointed to House GOP leader Eric Cantor's (Va.) pledge in August that a Republican-led House would have a "zero tolerance" policy toward ethics violations.

"Apparently Republican Leaders like John Boehner and Eric Cantor didn’t really mean zero tolerance for scandals and expanding criminal investigations into their own members like Congressman David Rivera," said Jesse Ferguson, a spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. "Now they’ll tolerate it, but I’m sure it’s just this once." 

Boehner's comments came on the same day that Rivera's longtime aide, Alina Garcia, was reportedly subpoenaed as part of the investigation being carried out by the Florida attorney's office.  

Most of the $500,000 in secret payments were allegedly made in 2008 from Flagler Dog Track to Millennium Marketing, which is co-managed by Rivera's 70-year-old mother.

Then, Rivera helped run a campaign backed by the dog track to help win approval for slot machines at certain gambling venues in Miami-Dade County. At the time, Rivera was a member of the Florida House of Representatives.

Rivera has denied accepting any payments. The House Ethics Committee has not taken up the matter, since it is under investigation by outside law enforcement.