House races

House races

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."


GOP targets N.Y.'s 'Beltway Kathy'

Democrats in New York's 26th district have released their list of contenders for the special-election nomination, prompting a swift jab from the GOP.

The seven county chairs in the district have six candidates to pick from, and the top prospect has already been labeled "Beltway Kathy" by local Republicans.

The Erie County GOP released a statement citing a Buffalo News column that noted Democrat Kathy Hochul is "very much enamored with the whole 'D.C. thing.'"
"It must be easy to become 'enamored with the whole D.C. thing' when you've spent so much time working for Washington career politicians and as [a] lobbyist," chairman Nick Langworthy said in a statement. 

News columnist Bob McCarthy also called Hochul the Democrats' "best hope in the largely Republican district."

Hochul, who serves as Erie County clerk, spent time on the staff of former Rep. John LaFalce (D-N.Y.) and the late Sen. Pat Moynihan (D-N.Y.).

Her main competition for the nomination is Amhurst town Councilman Mark Manna (D). The other Democrats in the running — Jane Bauch, Martin Minemier, Diana Voit and Robert Stall — don't currently hold elective office.

Meanwhile, Republicans have chosen state lawmaker Jane Corwin as their nominee.

Former Rep. Chris Lee (R-N.Y.) left the seat last month after a brief scandal. Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has yet to declare a vacancy that would start the clock ticking on a special-election vote.


No grudge match in race for ex-Rep. Harman's seat

Former Rep. Steven Kuykendall (R) has decided against a likely rematch with Los Angeles City Councilwoman Janice Hahn (D).

Kuykendall represented California's 36th district for a single term in the late 1990s, when Harman left for the first time to make an unsuccessful run for governor. During that 1998 race, Kuykendall narrowly defeated Hahn.

The Republican cited redistricting as his main concern. "You could win only to find the seat will be gone," Kuykendall told the Los Angeles Times.

A special election is expected in June for Harman's seat. Redistricting won't have an impact until the 2012 election.

Harman left Congress on Feb. 28 to lead the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars, a Washington-based research institution.

Hahn could face up to a half-dozen candidates for the Democratic nomination while the GOP continues to search for a contender to run in the special election.