House races

House races

N.Y. Dems eye Craigslist lawmaker's seat

Erie County Democratic Chairman Len Lenihan said the party is doing its "due diligence" to determine how much to invest in the special election for former Rep. Chris Lee's seat (R-N.Y.).

Lee abruptly resigned from Congress last week in the wake of an online scandal. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has 30 days to call a special election after a vacancy is declared, although it's unclear when that will happen.

Lenihan told WGRZ that he's met with Democratic strategists from Washington to determine whether to invest in the race for the GOP-leaning seat.

"We're just trying to determine if this is a district that we can put enough in to make it competitive," he said. "If we do go ahead, we're going to have a real battle for this district, there's no doubt about that."

"It's a tough district, it is," Lenihan added. "But being tough doesn't mean you don't do it."

Meanwhile, Republicans leaders from the seven counties in the 26th district are interviewing as many as 10 prospective candidates to determine the party's special election nominee. The final round of interviews is expected to take place this Sunday.

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Rep. Rangel files for 2012

Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) filed a statement of candidacy with the Federal Election Commission on Monday, a first step toward running for a 22nd term in 2012. 

Rangel, who was censured by the House late last year after a two-year congressional ethics investigation, has hinted that he might opt to retire rather than run again, and despite the paperwork Rangel filed, it's still possible he could decide against another campaign.   

If Rangel did opt for another term, he would likely face little opposition. Even amid the ethics inquiry last cycle, Rangel easily survived a Democratic primary challenge and went on to win the general election handily in his overwhelmingly Democratic district. 



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Freshman Republican warns of 'backlash' if cuts are too deep

One freshman House Republican is warning of a potential "backlash" against the GOP if its spending cuts are too far-reaching.

Republican House leaders have proposed $61 billion in cuts to current spending levels, but there's debate within the caucus about whether deeper cuts are needed to meet their post-election promises.

"We have to be very responsible about what we're cutting out," Wisconsin Rep. Sean Duffy (R) told The Ballot Box. "If we go too far, there will be backlash."

Some freshman Republicans have pushed for $100 billion in cuts to current spending levels, the proposal contained in the GOP's "Pledge to America."

Duffy, who won the seat held by long-time Wisconsin Rep. David Obey (D), said he never campaigned on making $100 billion in spending cuts.

"This is a messaging failure," he said. "I never talked about $100 billion, I talked about '08 levels and I think the conference talked about '08 levels.

"Some folks are trying to pigeon hole the party, when they really said '08 levels," Duffy added. "That's what I had talked about. I think we're well on our way of getting there, or very close to it."

But Duffy warned that his constituents are worried about deep cuts to entitlement programs.

"I see it with my constituents. They want us to cut back, but I think it's possible to go too far," he said. "I think real reform is going to come when both parties sit down and talk about Social Security and Medicare. It's got to be a bipartisan solution. Otherwise, as we've seen in history, both parties will snipe at each other."

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Sen. Feinstein endorses in race to fill Harman's House seat

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) is backing L.A. City Councilwoman Janice Hahn's campaign for Rep. Jane Harman's (D-Calif.) soon to be open congressional seat. 

Harman will vacate her seat to become the new head of the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars, a Washington think tank, paving the way for a special election.   

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villarigosa and California's state Assembly Speaker have already announced their support of Hahn for the Democratic nomination, but she may still face a primary. California Secretary of State Debra Bowen and Democrat Marcy Winograd, who challenged Harman in a primary last cycle, are also weighing runs for the seat. 

Republicans, meanwhile, are cautiously eyeing the district, with some candidates already weighing bids. The largely Democratic district was held for one term in the late 90s by centrist Republican Steve Kuykendall.

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Rep. Sessions sends 'best wishes' to Jeff Flake

Rep. Pete Sessions (Texas) may have to juggle the ambitions of several House colleagues in Arizona as the Senate race heats up.

Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) announced his intention to run on Monday and is expected to leave his 6th district seat. Sessions, who chairs the National Republican Congressional Committee, called Flake a "stalwart fiscal conservative."

"Jeff has been a great friend and colleague to me, and the House will miss his principled leadership," Sessions said in a statement. "I look forward to the people of Arizona's 6th congressional district sending another Republican to Congress who will continue Jeff Flake's pursuit of smaller government and individual liberty."

Flake's Phoenix-area district has been comfortable territory for the GOP, but it may not be the only open seat the party has to defend next year. Rep. Trent Franks (R), who represents the sprawling 2nd district, could also get into the race.

And complicating matters, former Rep. J.D. Hayworth (R-Ariz.) is also mulling a run for Senate. Hayworth represented the 5th district, which is now held by Republican Rep. David Schweikert.

Sessions was once an ally of Hayworth's, even helping him financially.

Sessions donated to the Freedom in Truth Trust (FITT), which Hayworth set up in 2008 to pay down legal bills stemming from the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal.

Hayworth came under investigation by the Department of Justice after he received campaign contributions from Abramoff and his Indian tribe clients, including in-kind use of skyboxes at sporting events. He incurred more than $170,000 in legal fees defending himself and set up a legal trust to receive donations after he left Congress. Hayworth was eventually cleared by DoJ.

Several prominent House Republicans, including Sessions, donated to the trust.

"The donation was given with the sole intent of helping a former congressional colleague with his legal defense against baseless claims," Emily Davis, a spokeswoman for Sessions, told The Hill last year. "The donation cannot and does not have any connection to political funds."

Sessions' campaign finance filing shows the $2,500 donation was made on Oct. 7, 2009 -- two days after reports surfaced that Hayworth intended to challenge Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in a primary.

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Several Republicans mulling runs for Rep. Harman's seat

Despite facing long odds of capturing the seat in a special election, several Republicans are mulling runs to succeed Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.).

Redondo Beach City Attorney Mike Webb is "strongly considering" jumping into the race, according to the Sacramento Bee; former state Assembly candidate Nathan Mintz said he is "collecting information" about making a bid; and Republican Craig Huey is also considering a run, the Bee reports. 

Republicans operatives believe Mattie Fein, who challenged Harman in 2010, will run again.

Harman was named as the new head of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars on Tuesday. She's expected to leave her seat in March.

There's no shortage of candidates on the Democratic side either. Los Angeles City Councilwoman Janice Hahn officially entered the race on Monday. Other potential Democratic candidates include state Assemblywomen Betsy Butler and Bonnie Lowenthal, state Sen. Ted Lieu and Secretary of State Debra Bowen.

The upcoming special election will see the first use of the state's new top-two primary system in a congressional race. Under the new law, which was approved by California voters last June, the primary would be non-partisan with the top two vote getters advancing to a general election. But if a candidate gets over 50 percent of the vote in the primary, he or she wins the seat. The law is being challenged in court.

Some Republican strategists believe the party will have a better chance of capturing the seat in 2012, after redistricting is completed.

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