House races

House races

Centrist Dem Kissell a "no" vote on healthcare repeal

Rep. Larry Kissell (D-N.C.), one of 34 House Democrats who voted against healthcare last year, will not vote in favor of repealing the law when the new Republican majority brings it up for a vote next week. 

"I am not going to vote to repeal it," Kissell told The Hill, adding that despite his opposition to the measure, Democrats "put a lot of energy into this bill."

Kissell said he was pleased the new majority was bringing a repeal vote to the floor, but said a long and drawn out fight over healthcare will only serve to distract from what should be the top priority of the new Congress — the economy and jobs.

"Get it on the floor, let everybody vote, and then let's focus on the economy and get people back to work, because that's what the American people want us to do," he said.

Kissell was also one of 19 Democrats who voted against Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) Wednesday. He voted for fellow North Carolina Rep. Heath Shuler (D). 

"After the election, I felt that we as a party needed to look at what happened and seek out new leadership," Kissell said. "This was an opportunity to vote for someone else and demonstrate my belief that we need to move in a new direction."

Kissell is the fifth House Democrat who voted against healthcare who has pledged to not vote in favor of a full repeal. Reps. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.), Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), Daniel Lipinski (D-Ill.) and Shuler have all told The Hill they will not vote for repeal.

Only 13 of the 34 Democrats who voted against healthcare reform were reelected in the midterms, and at least three of those — Reps. Jim Matheson (Utah), Mike McIntyre (N.C.) and Ben Chandler (Ky.) — survived close races and are likely targets in 2012. McIntyre has previously expressed his support for full repeal of the law.

Other Democrats who voted "no" include Reps. Jason Altmire (Pa.), John Barrow (Ga.), Tim Holden (Pa.) and Mike Ross (Ark.).


Alec Baldwin 'very interested' in running for public office

Actor Alec Baldwin may enter politics after all.

"It's something that I'm very, very interested in," he told CNN's Eliot Spitzer in an interview to air Wednesday and Thursday nights.

Baldwin said the problem is that "to leave what I'm doing now would be extremely painful." The 51-year-old actor has won multiple Emmys for his portrayal of Jack Donaghy on NBC's "30 Rock."

But he noted: "I've had people approach me about running for jobs and moving to other locations and it's been a very difficult decision for me because I am a New Yorker." He said the problem with running from New York is "there's a lot of ambition and there's a lot of entitlement."

In early December, Baldwin denied any interest in politics.

"No, that's bulls--t," he told The Hill when asked about rumors he would run for Congress in New York.


Voters set bar low for incoming GOP majority

Voters have low expectations for the incoming Republican House majority, which is bad news for Democrats looking to make their slip from power only temporary.

Democratic strategists were hoping a bungling performance by House Republican leaders John Boehner (Ohio) and Eric Cantor (Va.) would provide campaign fodder for 2012, when they'll need to recapture 25 seats to reclaim the speaker's gavel.

But a new poll shows voters aren't expecting much from the Republicans, which will make it hard for Democrats to capitalize if the GOP has a subpar performance over the next two years. 

Two thirds of voters believe it's "somewhat likely" that congressional Republicans will prove a disappointment before the 2012 elections, according to a survey from the conservative-leaning Rasmussen group conducted Jan. 2. Moreover, 37 percent went so far as to call it "very likely."

Only a quarter of the 1,000 respondents expected the GOP would deliver a satisfactory performance.

Democrats' hopes of a haphazard Republican performance weren't unfounded. There are 96 new members who will be sworn in on Wednesday -- 87 of them Republicans -- and at least 35 of the freshmen have never held elected office before, according to one estimate.

"Some of these guys have never been on a city council before," said Gabe Holmstrom, a former advisor to the Arkansas Democratic Party. "We'll see what happens when they get up there."

Republicans could wind up compromising with congressional Democrats during the legislative process. That may serve to nullify the GOP's ability to use the Democrats' Washington leadership as a campaign bludgeon.

"All these Republicans up there, they're going to have to work with [incoming Minority Leader Nancy] Pelosi and [President] Obama," said Holmstrom. "All the ads that have been run against Democrats can be run against Republicans."

The president on Tuesday indicated he is ready to work with the GOP congressional leadership.

"My hope is that John Boehner and [GOP Senate leader] Mitch McConnell will realize that there will be plenty of time to campaign for 2012 in 2012, and that our job this year is to make sure that we build on the recovery," Obama told reporters during his flight back to Washington from Hawaii. "We started to make good progress on that during the lame duck, and I expect to build on that progress when I get back."

--Updated at 3:43 p.m.


Centrist House Dems face pressure to vote for healthcare repeal

A dozen House Democrats who voted against the healthcare legislation last year are under heavy pressure to vote for its repeal.

The vote sets up a tough political calculation for these Democrats sitting in moderate to conservative House districts. Several of these Democrats survived tough challenges in 2010 and a "no" vote on repeal could hand a potent campaign issue to potential GOP challengers.

Already, two Democrats who voted against healthcare have told The Hill they will not support its full repeal, while a third told Fox News he was leaning toward a "yes" vote on repeal.    

Reps. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) and Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.) told The Hill they are open to repealing parts of the law and finding fixes, but that both are opposed to voting in favor of a wholesale repeal.  

Rep. Dan Boren (D-Okla.) told Fox News that he's "inclined to support the repeal." 

Republican leaders announced Monday that a full repeal vote will be set for next Wednesday. 

Of the 34 House Democrats who voted against final passage of healthcare last March, just 13 remain after November's midterm elections.  

Aside from Peterson, Lipinski and Boren, the remaining House Democrats who voted "no" are Reps. Jason Altmire (Pa.), John Barrow (Ga.), Ben Chandler (Ky.), Tim Holden (Pa.), Larry Kissell (N.C.), Stephen Lynch (Mass.) Jim Matheson (Utah), Mike McIntyre (N.C.), Mike Ross (Ark.) and Heath Shuler (N.C.).

Matheson, McIntyre and Chandler are among those who survived close House races this past cycle and are sure to be targets in 2012. 

McIntyre, who defeated Republican Ilario Pantano this past fall, is also a likely "yes" vote on repeal. McIntyre has previously signaled his support for full repeal of the law. 

The only other Democrat to publicly back repeal before the midterm elections was Rep. Gene Taylor (D-Miss.), who lost his bid for reelection to Republican Steven Palazzo. 

Meanwhile, the Democratic leadership and the White House are likely to exert pressure on House Democrats in an attempt to have as few as possible vote in favor of full repeal.

-- This post was updated at 11:41 a.m. and 12:55 p.m.


Tea Party-backed Republican open to rematch against Rep. Donnelly

Rep. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), one of the few centrist House Democrats who survived the 2010 midterm elections, could face a rematch in 2012 with the Republican challenger he narrowly defeated in November.  

Republican Jackie Walorski told the South Bend Tribune that she's keeping her 2012 options open and not ruling out another run against Donnelly. 

“I’m watching to see what happens with redistricting, seeing if the need is the same at the federal level, seeing if things change with the new Congress,” she told the paper. 

Donnelly defeated Walorski by a slim margin this past fall, winning with less than 49 percent of the vote. Libertarian candidate Mark Vogel took 5 percent of the vote in the race. 

The Republican's 2010 campaign received some high-profile help from former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. Both attended campaign events for Walorski, and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin endorsed the candidate on Facebook.  

Walorski told the paper that she blames the Indiana Democratic Party for her narrow loss, citing a mailer paid for by the party that touted Vogel as the real conservative in the race. 

Without Vogel in the contest, Walorski said she has "no doubt" she would have ousted Donnelly. 


Grayson says Obama losing credibility; hints at another run in 2012

Ousted Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) laid into President Obama and his fellow Democrats in an exit interview with The New York Times, leaving open the possibility of another run for Congress in 2012.

The outspoken liberal, who lost his bid for reelection by a wide margin to Republican Dan Webster, told the paper that Democrats are largely to blame for the loss of the party's majority in Congress and that the president's shifting position on George W. Bush-era tax cuts "will not help his credibility."

More from the Times ...

“What did the environmentalists see over the last two years?” he asked. “A proposed monumental increase in subsidies for nuclear power industry and offshore drilling."

As for gay voters, he said: “What they got to see was a judge order that 'don't ask, don't tell no longer be enforced and a Democratic president appeal that decision. That is what that constituency saw before Nov. 2.” (The law was repealed in the final hours of the 111th Congress.)

By Election Day, Democratic voters in many districts felt that they had no real choice, Mr. Grayson said.

“If you want people to support you, then you have to support them,” he said. “You have to think long about what you did for people who voted for you, made phone calls for you, who went door to door for you.”

As for waging another campaign in 2012 to reclaim his House seat, Grayson said he will run "if that's what people want."

Some on the left have even thrown his name out as a potential primary challenger to Obama in 2012.

Given Grayson's proven fundraising prowess and ability to pump his own money into a campaign, most observers expect him to make another run at some point. 

Either way, don't expect Grayson to fade from the public eye even if he doesn't run again in 2012. He's already indicated that he'll remain a mainstay on cable news.  


Sen. Reid's son might seek new Nevada House seat

The son of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) is expected to make a run for Nevada's new House seat.

Population growth prompted the Census Bureau to add a new House seat in southern Nevada, and some observers have touted Rory Reid's chances of claiming it.

Reid is apparently considering a run, though he wouldn't confirm or deny any plans.

"I always want to be involved in working for the public," he told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. "It's who I am."

Last year, Reid opted not to run for another term as chairman of the Clark County Commission and instead launched a bid for governor. He ultimately lost to Republican Brian Sandoval.

Republican consultant Chuck Muth told the paper that Sandoval might look to fortify freshman Rep. Joe Heck's (R) district with registered Republicans, which could result in the new 4th district being more Democratic.


Only 12 House Dems in conservative districts survived reelection

Only 12 House Democrats out of the 40 who represent districts won by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in 2008 survived the November election.

The good news: This group of mostly Blue Dog Dems made it through one of the worst national environments for Democrats in years, which bodes well for their 2012 prospects.

The downside: Several of them will be targets again, particularly Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), who defeated Republican challenger Jesse Kelly by a little more than 4,000 votes. 

Here's the list of Democrats who head into 2012 occupying districts won by McCain in 2008:

Rep. Mike Ross (Ark)
Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (Ariz.)
Rep. Ben Chandler (Ky.)
Rep. Collin Peterson (Minn.)
Rep. Mike McIntyre (N.C.)
Rep Heath Shuler (N.C.)
Rep Dan Boren (Okla.)
Rep. Mark Critz (Pa.)
Rep. Jason Altmire (Pa.)
Rep. Tim Holden (Pa.)
Rep. Jim Matheson (Utah)
Rep. Nick Rahall (W.Va.)  

Between retirements, runs for higher office, a primary defeat and one sex scandal (New York Rep. Eric Massa), another eight Democrats in conservative-leaning districts didn't run for reelection in 2010. Republicans went eight for eight in those open seat races.

A ninth opted for a party switch, which didn't work out any better — Rep. Parker Griffith (R-Ala.) lost a GOP primary after defecting from the Democrats.