House races

House races

N.Y. House candidate made controversial remarks about Latinos, blacks

An independent candidate for Congress in New York is facing questions over recent statements suggesting Latino farmworkers be deported and inner-city African-Americans be bused to farms to replace them.

Wealthy businessman Jack Davis, who is running for former Rep. Chris Lee's (R-N.Y.) seat as an Independent, made the comments during an interview with GOP officials in February, the Buffalo News reported.

Davis, who has made several runs for the House as a Democrat and Republican, made similar statements in 2008. "We have a huge unemployment problem with black youth in our cities. Put them on buses, take them out there [to the farms] and pay them a decent wage; they will work," he said then.

He apparently echoed those remarks when he was interviewing for the special-election nomination with the seven GOP county chairmen in the 26th district. Davis's spokesman acknowledged the comments "may not be politically correct and ... may not be racially correct."

Local GOP leaders weren't impressed.

"I was thunderstruck," Amherst GOP Chairman Marshall Wood told the paper. "Maybe in 1860 that might have been seen by some as an appropriate comment, but not now."

The report could help clear the way for GOP nominee Jane Corwin. The state lawmaker has the party's institutional backing, but could face Iraq war veteran Davis Bellavia in addition to a Democrat in a three-way race. The special election is set for May 24.


Special election for ex-Rep. Harman seat called for July

California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) has set the date for the special election to fill former Rep. Jane Harman's (D) seat.

The vote will take place on July 12, with the primary set for May 17, according to the Sacramento Bee. The nomination contest will be the first congressional primary to employ the state's new top-two system, wherein the two candidates who receive the most votes advance to the general. The general election could be two Democrats, in this case.

The competition on the Democratic side is between Los Angeles City Councilwoman Janice Hahn and Secretary of State Debra Bowen. Two Republicans, Redondo Beach Mayor Mike Gin and Redondo Beach City Attorney Mike Webb, are also vying for the seat.

Democrats are heavily favored to retain the 36th district in the special election.

Harman left Congress on Feb. 28 to join the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.


Freshman Republican asks for $100 donations to back spending cuts

A freshman House Republican is fundraising off his support for cuts to government spending.

Arizona Rep. David Schweikert sent a pitch to supporters Monday asking for $100 contributions and billing it as "investing in honesty."

"Quite frankly, the cuts aren't coming fast enough, but we are keeping up the pressure!," Schweikert wrote. "We can keep that fight going, we are driving the agenda and listening to you."

The appeal comes as Democrats have begun targeting lawmakers for their support of spending cuts.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee last month accused vulnerable Republicans of "choosing dangerous cuts that will cost jobs and hurt the middle class while still preserving taxpayer subsidies for Big Oil companies making record profits."

Schweikert unseated Democrat Harry Mitchell in a nine-point race last November.

"When we continue to cut government, we win," the Republican wrote in his appeal for campaign donations.


Missouri Rep. Carnahan unbowed by redistricting risk

Missouri Rep. Russ Carnahan (D) said he's confident redistricting won't eliminate his seat, but if it does, he still plans to run for Congress again in 2012 — even it means challenging a fellow lawmaker.

The four-term Democrat also predicted that President Obama will be a boon to the party's electoral fortunes in 2012.

With its population declining over the last decade, Missouri has lost one of its nine House seats through reapportionment. Observers believe that could it could be Carnahan's St. Louis-area district on the chopping block. That district encompasses the area south of the city and could be merged into the other two metro-region seats.

That would see Carnahan in a potential head-to-head contest against either Rep. Lacy Clay (D) or Rep. Todd Akin (R). Carnahan said he was committed to running again, regardless of what redistricting brings.

"There's a lot of speculation out there," he told The Ballot Box. "I'm 100 percent focused on running for Congress in 2012."

Carnahan said the 2010 Census has shown St. Louis making "substantial gains in population."

"As did some of the suburban areas of my district, so I think there's a strong case to keeping three whole seats for the St. Louis region. We have the population for that," Carnahan said.

Observers have also speculated that Carnahan may leave to run for another office. The state's lieutenant governor, Republican Peter Kinder, is expected to challenge either Gov. Jay Nixon (D) or Sen. Claire McCaskill (D). That could provide Carnahan — whose father, the late-Gov. Mel Carnahan, held the state's No. 2 job for a term — with an alternative to running against another member.

Carnahan said he has no plans to seek the lieutenant governor's job. "I'm 100 percent focused on getting through that [redistricting] process and running for Congress again in 2012," he said.

Missouri is expected to be a tough environment for Democrats in 2012, but Carnahan speculated that having Obama on the ticket will be helpful to the party.

"He'll energize a lot of voters," he said. "I'm optimistic about him really building up another strong organization there for our Democratic ticket."

Obama came close to winning the state last cycle, when he pulled in almost 200,000 more votes than the previous Democratic nominee, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), did in 2004.

The president "showed what he could do in 2008," Carnahan said, noting he lost to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) by fewer than 5,000 votes. "I think he's got a good base to build on there."


Freshman Republican balances mortgage assistance and spending cuts

Freshman Rep. Joe Heck (R-Nev.) faces two difficult votes this week as he looks to balance toeing the line on the GOP's budget cuts with supporting struggling homeowners in his district.

Heck's suburban Las Vegas district, which he captured from Democrat Dina Titus in a close race last year, is one of the hardest hit by the foreclosure crisis.

Heck has shown he's sensitive to the issue, having already voted to save a Federal Housing Administration refinancing program — the only Republican to do so.

This week he'll have to vote on keeping the Home Affordable Modification Program and the Neighborhood Stabilization Program. According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the programs provide millions in support to Nevada homeowners, including $45.8 million in grants for Clark County, which falls within the 3rd district.

Heck's votes could become campaign fodder.

Democrats have already targeted the Republican's district with calls and Web ads. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee last month accused him of "choosing dangerous cuts that will cost jobs and hurt the middle class while still preserving taxpayer subsidies for Big Oil companies making record profits."


Vulnerable Dems introduce gas price 'gouging' bill

As Republicans seek to capitalize on rising gas prices, some vulnerable House Democrats have introduced a bill to eliminate fuel price "gouging."

The bill, known as H.R. 964, would empower the Federal Trade Commission and state attorneys general to "institute civil and criminal penalties for fuel price gouging during periods proclaimed by the president as an international crisis affecting oil markets, and could also apply to speculation in the oil futures market," according to a release by Rep. Tim Bishop (D-N.Y.), the lead sponsor of the bill.

Bishop squeaked out a very narrow reelection victory in November and remains a GOP target. The bill's co-sponsors are Reps. Jerry McNerney (Calif.), Tim Walz (Minn.), Mike McIntyre (N.C.), Bruce Braley (Iowa), John Yarmuth (Ky.) and Ben Chandler (Ky). 

In a statement, Chandler said the bill, which was introduced on Wednesday, is targeted at "greedy oil companies and CEOs" who "shouldn't be allowed to take advantage of Kentuckians trying to make ends meet in this tough economy."

The bill is similar to one introduced by then-Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) in the last Congress. That legislation passed the House but was not taken up by the Senate.

The Democrats' move comes as GOP strategists are encouraging their party to "to seize the high ground on energy and gas issues."

Republican pollster Glen Bolger offered this advice: "It is important to focus on your support for a balanced energy policy that offers a range of ways for America to break our dependence on foreign oil, contrasted against your opponent’s limited plan."

With that in mind, the GOP has been hitting Democrats who didn't sign on to Bishop's bill or one introduced by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), which would open vast offshore areas to oil-and-gas drilling and require permitting of scores of new nuclear reactors over 30 years.

The National Republican Congressional Committee blasted a release to 34 Democratic-held districts accusing members of doing "nothing to bring down the skyrocketing cost of gas and reduce America’s dependency on foreign oil."