House races

House races

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.

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Dems mark territory in Connecticut as House seat opens

Democrats were quick to warn Republicans against trying to recapture the House seat Connecticut Rep. Chris Murphy (D) is vacating to run for Senate.

Murphy on Thursday announced his intention to succeed retiring Sen. Joe Lieberman (I). Murphy's departure opens the door for the GOP to mount an effort to reclaim the seat. Murphy defeated a long-serving Republican, former Rep. Nancy Johnson, to win the seat in 2006.

The Democrat won election to a third term in November, defeating Republican Sam Caligiuri by eight points. His House race was the second closest in the state, as Republicans put in a strong performance in the Northeast.

The GOP isn't going to do better next year with President Obama on the ticket, according to Robby Mook, the executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

"Democratic candidates for president won this district in 2000, 2004 and 2008," Mook noted in a statement Thursday. "Congressman Murphy handily won this seat three times, even in the difficult political environment last year. We are confident that we will win this overwhelmingly Democratic seat in 2012."

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Rep. Dingell will seek 30th term in 2012

Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), the longest serving member of the House of Representatives, will seek reelection in 2012, the 84-year-old Democrat said Thursday.

"It's the greatest job in the world," Dingell told the Detroit News in an interview. "I can help people and ... make things better, and I represent some of the finest people on earth."

Dingell, who holds the honorary title "Dean of the House," told the paper he's already fundraising for 2012 and that he's not worried about the looming redistricting battle in Michigan, saying he's already survived "three bad redistrictings."

The state will lose one House seat this year.

Despite a nasty 2010 race, which Dingell said included death threats lobbed at both he and his wife, the Democrat said he has no qualms about running again.

Dingell ultimately won easily in 2010, but the race was closer than he's used to. The Democrat defeated Republican Rob Steele by 17 points.

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Ads target GOP freshmen on repeal vote

The liberal group Public Campaign Action Fund is out with early TV ads targeting three freshman Republicans who could face tough reelection contests next year.

The spots, which hit Reps. Jon Runyan (R-N.J.), Jim Renacci (R-Ohio) and Tim Walberg (R-Mich.), target their Wednesday votes in the House to repeal the healthcare law.

The ads, which aren't exactly high in production value, point to campaign donations from the healthcare industry, which wants to "deny you coverage for preexisting conditions, kick your kids off your plan, and jack up premiums," according to the ad's narrator. "Is this the change we voted for?"

A spokesman for the group says the campaign may expand to include more GOP members. Watch the ads here.

All three Republicans won close contests in 2010, with Renacci winning by the largest margin of the three, defeating Democratic Rep. John Boccieri by more than 20,000 votes. 

Walberg, who served two terms before losing reelection in 2008, won his House seat back from Democrat Mark Schauer in 2010 with just over 10,000 votes to spare.

And Runyan won by the slimmest of margins, defeating Democrat John Adler by less than 6,000 votes.

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Rep. Chris Murphy promises 'fresh, progressive voice' in Senate

Rep. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) jumped into the 2012 Senate race Thursday, saying in a statement that he decided to run to offer "a fresh, progressive voice."

Murphy is the second Democrat to enter the race, just one day after Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) told supporters he would not run for a fifth term. 

Former Connecticut Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz (D) declared her candidacy earlier this week. 

"I've decided to run for the United States Senate in 2012 because I believe that I can be a stronger voice for the issues that matter to Connecticut, like creating good jobs and ending these costly wars, in the Senate," Murphy's statement read.

Murphy said entering the race was a "tough decision" but that ultimately, "what I've heard is that people feel that the Senate simply doesn't work anymore — it's become an unjustifiable barrier to positive change, and Connecticut needs a fresh, progressive voice there that will push for both policy and institutional reform."

The Democrat is heading back to Connecticut Thursday afternoon to officially launch his campaign at a 5 p.m. event in Cheshire.

Along with guaranteeing a Democratic primary for Lieberman's seat, Murphy's decision also means his congressional district could be up for grabs next year in an open-seat race that will likely be an early House target for Republicans. 

Bysiewicz welcomed Murphy's entrance Thursday, saying in a statement, "I look forward to a spirited discussion of the issues over the course of this campaign, focused on creating jobs right here in Connecticut."

A Bysiewicz internal poll shows her beating Murphy head to head in a Democratic primary 46 percent to 37 percent.   

-Updated at 2:45 p.m. and 3:36 p.m.

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Rep. Giffords' seat won't be deemed vacant during recovery

Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' House (D) seat won't be deemed vacant while she recuperates.

Some reports have suggested Giffords' seat would be in jeopardy if she undertakes a lengthy recovery. Arizona has law declaring an office vacant if an elected official fails to perform his or her duties for three months in a row, according to the Arizona Republic.

Giffords is expected to be transferred from a Tucson hospital to a rehabilitation center in Houston on Friday to continue her recovery from a gunshot wound to the head.

Amy Rezzonico, a spokeswoman for Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne, said the state's law on office vacancies doesn't apply in Giffords' case.

"The state has no jurisdiction over federal officeholders," she told the paper.

The House, meanwhile, doesn't require members to relinquish their seats because of illness or debilitating injury.

--Jordan Fabian contributed to this post.

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Ousted House Dem to voters: 'Look what you got'

Former Rep. Mike McMahon (D-N.Y.), who was defeated by Republican Michael Grimm this past November, sounds like he's gearing up for a 2012 rematch.

Speaking to a Staten Island Democratic club Tuesday, McMahon suggested his loss to Grimm was largely the result of Obama voters not coming to the polls on Election Day, telling Democrats, "We need to get back the congressional seat." 

The Democrat lost by just over 4,000 votes. 

"Some people told me, 'I didn't vote for you because you voted against healthcare,' " McMahon said, according to the Staten Island Advance. "OK, but look what you got." 

McMahon took some heat at Tuesday's appearance from Democrats unhappy with the ex-congressman's vote against healthcare. 

After he was confronted by a voter who accused him of abandoning his political base by voting against the reform, the Democrat said, "I saw it a little differently at the time, but I take what you say very seriously ... Maybe I made some mistakes along the way."

McMahon didn't rule out another run in 2012. 

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Democrats see opportunity in repeal debate

As the floor debate over healthcare repeal gets under way in the House on Tuesday, many Democrats see it as an opportunity to re-pitch the law's more popular components. 

Ahead of another campaign cycle where "yes" votes on healthcare are likely to haunt the campaigns of some Democrats in the House and Senate, expect Democrats to try and use the coming debate as a chance to correct the messaging that fell flat on its face two years ago.  

"Our biggest failure was that we passed a fairly moderate bill, but we allowed it to be painted as this crazy liberal monstrosity," said Democratic pollster Stefan Hankin. "So we completely lost the moderation, and I think that's what we have the opportunity to get back in this debate."  

Hankin said Democrats should refocus on parts of the law that polling shows broader support for, including coverage of pre-existing conditions. 

"We had way too much focus on the 30 million people who are uninsured," he said. "While that's important and people care about that, what you really need to show people is what this bill does for them." 

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