House races

House races

Nevada opens special election to all comers

The special election to fill Rep. Dean Heller's (R-Nev.) seat will be a free-for-all with candidates allowed to compete without securing their party's nomination.

Nevada Secretary of State Ross Miller, a Democrat, announced Monday the Sept. 13 special election will be open for all comers, which could give his party an edge.

A spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee called the decision a "blatantly partisan ruling from Harry Reid’s political machine" that will lead to "what will surely be a long and drawn out process."

Former Senate candidate Sharron Angle, state lawmaker Greg Brower and Navy veteran Kirk Lippold have all announced their intention to run for the 2nd district seat, which Heller is vacating this week. The congressman was appointed last month by Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) to replace Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.), who resigned effective May 3.

No Democrat has yet to step forward to run in the Republican-leaning district. But if multiple GOP candidates remain in the field for the special election, it could hinder the party's chances of retaining the seat.

The winner of the special election will serve the remainder of Heller's current term. The seat will be up for reelection in November 2012.

--Updated at 3:34 p.m.

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Ret. USS Cole commander 'celebrates' bin Laden killing

The race for Rep. Dean Heller's (R) seat in Nevada is one campaign where terrorism could remain an issue going into 2012.

The slate of GOP candidates incudes former Senate candidate Sharron Angle, state lawmaker Greg Brower and Navy veteran Kirk Lippold, who commanded the USS Cole when it was attacked by al Qaeda terrorists while in port in Yemen. Seventeen sailors died in the incident.

Lippold issued a statement "celebrating" Osama bin Laden's death at the hands of U.S. forces.

The al Qaeda leader's death signals "that no matter how long it takes or how difficult the task, the United States will be relentless in its pursuit of justice,” Lippold said.

"Having experienced firsthand, as commander of the USS Cole, the death and carnage ruthless al Qaeda killers can inflict, I join Americans everywhere and our servicemen and -women all over the world in celebrating the death of Osama bin Laden," he said. "My thoughts and prayers, too, are with the 17 Cole crewmembers we lost on Oct. 12, 2000, and their families. May tonight’s news bring a measure of justice and closure to them.”

Heller is leaving his 2nd district seat this week after being tapped by Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) to replace Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.), who resigned effective May 3. 


Other GOP candidates could also join the field. 

--Updated at 3:43 p.m.

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Angle preps for battle with 'left wing of the Republican Party'

Nevada Republican Sharron Angle warned supporters in a fundraising email Friday that while she wants Rep. Dean Heller's (R-Nev.) soon-to-be-vacant House seat, "the left wing of the Republican Party wants it more."

State elections officials are still working out the logistics of a special election to fill Heller's seat after Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) settled on him as the appointed replacement for Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.). But the process may leave Angle on the outside looking in.

In a fundraising pitch to supporters, Angle suggested she intends to wage a special election campaign no matter what.

"Instead of more than a year to prepare, I must now raise hundreds of thousands of dollars in just weeks," Angle wrote Friday. "I must do this so we can set the agenda, not our opponents."

In the case of a special election, the nominees of both major parties either will be selected by the state party committees or there would be an open election. The state's GOP establishment prefers the former, which would likely freeze out Angle.

"Instead of an open process — already they are behind closed doors, choosing one of their own to be the preferred candidate in the race," Angle said of Nevada's GOP establishment. "This is exactly why I am running and why I need your help — to put an end to special interest politics!"

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Poll: Dem within striking distance in NY special election

In a House special election contest that has drawn next to no interest so far from national Democrats, a new poll shows New York Democrat Kathy Hochul down just five points to Republican Jane Corwin.

New numbers from Siena College, released Friday, show Corwin with 36 percent to Hochul's 31. Third-party candidate Jack Davis, who's running on the "Tea Party" line, is pulling 23 percent of the vote.

The May 24 special election will fill the seat of ex-Rep. Chris Lee (R-N.Y.), who resigned earlier this year in the wake of an online scandal.

The numbers add some fuel to the argument that Davis, a wealthy industrialist, could be a spoiler for the GOP. Earlier this year, he sought the GOP’s nomination in the special election, but was rebuffed and managed to gather enough signatures to run on the “Tea Party” line.

According to the poll, Davis's support is split relatively equally among Democrats, Republicans and independents. Twenty percent of Davis supporters are Democrats, 24 percent are Republicans and 27 percent are self-described independents.

The poll mirrors the scenario some Democratic operatives have been pushing: Hochul has an opening if Davis gains some traction and pulls GOP votes away from Corwin. In that case, they argue, the race would resemble the 2009 special election in New York's 23rd district, where a rift between conservatives and establishment Republicans aided Democrat Bill Owens. 

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Tea Party groups increase pressure on debt limit

Tea Party activists across the country are upping the pressure on lawmakers over the impending debt-ceiling debate just before members head back to Washington.

The Tea Party Express on Thursday called on House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and the GOP leadership in the House to say, "Hell no!" to a debt ceiling increase.

In a statement that left little room for compromise on the issue, Tea Party Express Chairman Amy Kremer accused Congress of abdicating fiscal responsibility and "causing the steady erosion of the integrity of the US economy."

"We are equally disturbed by the attitude among many of our Representatives and Senators that there is 'no alternative' to this fatal spending addiction," Kremer said. "Clearly, many of them still need to be replaced by the tea party. For this reason we are calling on Speaker Boehner to say 'Hell No!' to the cacophony from the left that demands we quietly raise the debt ceiling, and harness our children and grandchildren with the weight of their failures."

GOP leaders have acknowledged that the ceiling must be raised, but members of the Republican caucus in the House are under heavy pressure from conservative activists, many of whom appear increasingly unwilling to find a compromise.  

Tea Party Patriots, which bills itself as the nation's largest grassroots organization, has organized local activists to head to the district offices of lawmakers across the country Thursday to demand they oppose a debt ceiling increase. 

“We stand with those in office who are standing with us, but will be keeping a close watch on those in Washington who are ignoring their constituents and engaging in backroom deals at the expense of the American people,” said the group's national coordinators, Mark Meckler and Jenny Beth Martin. "Patriots are telling Congress that we’ve had enough of their meaningless backroom deals and fuzzy math. We expect the real changes necessary to save our nation, and we expect them now.”

The group is posing four questions to members Thursday, demanding a "yes" or "no" on raising the debt limit and a commitment to support the Full Faith and Credit Act.

Earlier this month, Meckler warned that votes in favor of the short-term budget deal and raising the debt limit would send local activists in districts across the country searching for primary challengers to sitting GOP members. 

Both parties, meanwhile, have spent the recess strategizing for the impending debt limit debate, which could have far-reaching implications for the 2012 elections.

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More Dems lining up for potential challenge to Rep. David Wu

As many as four Oregon Democrats could end up in next year's primary against Rep. David Wu (D-Ore.).

Concern over reports of the incumbent's bizarre behavior in recent months has piqued political interest on both sides of the aisle in Wu's district. State Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian (D) is already in the race against Wu, and Republicans are eager for another chance at ousting him in a general election.

Avakian jumped in the race against Wu last week, and at least three other Democrats are weighing a bid — state Rep. Brad Witt, former state Sen. Ryan Deckert and state Sen. Suzanne Bonamici.

On Tuesday, Wu lost yet another adviser in lawyer Michael Simon, according to the Portland Oregonian. Simon happens to be the husband of Bonamici, who revealed yesterday that she's weighing a run against Wu.

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Sharron Angle won't launch Independent bid

Nevada Republican Sharron Angle has no intention of running as an Independent in a potential special election to fill Rep. Dean Heller's (R-Nev.) House seat, she said Tuesday.

Angle contradicted a story from the Las Vegas Review-Journal, which reported the party's 2010 nominee against Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) was weighing an Independent bid in the event she was passed over by party insiders.

In a statement, Angle said she will run in 2012 no matter what.

"I look forward to running in a legitimate campaign cycle where all registered voters are able to participate in both a primary and general election," Angle said. "A special election free-for-all, or a situation where party insiders nominate a candidate, does disservice to our representative democracy."

Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) is expected to make an appointment by May 3 to fill the seat of Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.). Sandoval is widely expected to pick Heller, who is already in the 2012 race for Ensign's seat.

That pick would set the stage for a special election to fill Heller's vacant House seat, but state elections officials are still trying to determine whether the candidates would be selected by party officials or would run in an open election.

A spokesman for Nevada Secretary of State Ross Miller said Friday that should Sandoval appoint Heller, the secretary of state's office will have clarity on the special-election process by the time Heller's House seat is declared vacant.

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Florida Republican shouted down at town hall over Ryan plan

A town-hall meeting hosted by freshman Rep. Daniel Webster (R-Fla.) descended into chaos Tuesday as the Republican was shouted down while explaining his support for Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-Wis.) budget plan.    

The Orlando Sentinel has details on the raucous meeting that ended up with police officers flanking Webster and attempting to calm the crowd:

Webster tried to go over a series of charts showing growing levels of federal spending and debt, and the reason he supports the federal budget plan put forward by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis. But he was interrupted at every turn by shouts from his critics, including members of progressive groups such as Moveon.org and Organize Now.

Boos and shouts of "liar" were mixed with angry accusations that Ryan's plan to change Medicare would leave those now under 55 without health insurance in their retirement, calls to eliminate the tax cuts first put in place by former President Bush and the need to raise corporate taxes rather than cut entitlement programs.

Others in the crowd began yelling at Webster's critics to quiet down, at one point with the chant "Let him talk!" But the meeting frequently devolved into multiple arguments — some of them heated — between members of audience.

When one man who said he was a veteran yelled that he wanted to know why Webster was cutting Medicare and veterans' benefits, his answer came from the audience instead.

"We can't afford it, you moron!" a red-faced man screamed.

Two Orlando police officers moved to the front of the room and flanked Webster, and pleaded for decorum when the congressman could no longer be heard.

"It's not going to be solved by yelling and screaming and hollering," the officer said. "Let's conduct ourselves like grown people."

 

The Webster town hall is the latest event led by a GOP member during the recess to get heated over the Ryan plan to overhaul Medicare. Last week, Ryan was booed at a town-hall meeting in his home district a few days before one of Rep. Lou Barletta's (R-Pa.) town-hall events devolved into a shouting match over the issue.

Barletta's office pinned the blame on MoveOn.org, which it said was attempting to organize disruptions at town-hall events across the country.

Democrats see a 2012 opening in Ryan's proposed budget and have been relentlessly hitting Republican members for votes to "eliminate Medicare."

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Ann Wagner 'exploring' 2012 bid for Congress

Missouri Republican Ann Wagner is taking a step toward a congressional run next year, officially launching an exploratory committee ahead of a possible bid for the state's 2nd district House seat.  

Wagner, the former co-chair of the Republican National Committee who launched a failed bid for the RNC's top job earlier this year, said the move comes "in the likely event" that Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) opts for a Senate bid.

"My concern for the future of our country, our families and my home region is the reason I'm announcing an exploratory committee for U.S. Congress," Wagner said in a statement posted on her website. "Now the future of the people and the place that we love is being threatened by failed leadership in Washington that is dragging us down a path of ruin."

Wagner was also considered a potential Senate candidate in 2012. Akin has been weighing a 2012 race against first-term Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) for several weeks, but he has yet to make a final decision. Should Akin get in, he would join a GOP primary race that already includes Sarah Steelman and Ed Martin.

Adding to the 2012 uncertainty is the redistricting fallout from a map that eliminates Rep. Russ Carnahan's (D-Mo.) district. Rather than run against fellow Democratic Rep. Lacy Clay, Carnahan could make a run in the 2nd district, which could pit him against Wagner in an open seat race.

In her statement Tuesday, Wagner hit "the Obama administration and Washington liberals" for "taxing too much, spending too much" and "stifling job creation." 

"Although I have worked for over 20 years in politics and public service, this is the first time I've taken a step toward putting my name on the ballot for state or federal office," Wagner concluded. "But the stakes could not be any higher for our country and my commitment to serve our region could not be stronger."

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