House races

House races

Citing President Obama, GOP pressuring Dems over earmarks

Republicans are using President Obama's stance on earmarks to pressure Democrats on spending.

The National Republican Congressional Committee on Friday sent a release to 48 Democratic-held districts accusing the members of being "further to the left" than the president on "reckless spending."

The release hit the gamut of GOP targets, including Reps. Dan Boren (Okla.), Tim Bishop (N.Y.) and Heath Shuler (N.C.).

Obama promised in his State of the Union address on Tuesday that he will veto any bill that includes earmarks. That position has left him at odds with many members of his party, who insert the measures into spending bills to allocate money for projects in their districts.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee also hit Democrats such as Sen. Jim Webb (Va.) this week over the use of earmarks. The NRSC's release accused congressional Democrats of being "to the left of President Obama."


Rep. Weiner: 'All DCCC chairs should be from New York'

The House campaign committee chairmen typically hold safe districts so they can concentrate on their big-picture responsibilities.

But according to Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.), Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel (N.Y.) could be an exception.

"He came from a district that was once and could easily be again a Republican district," he told The Ballot Box. 

Israel's Long Island district, which he won in 2000 after Republican Rep. Rick Lazio left to run for Senate, could help inform his performance as chairman, according to Weiner. "He represents kind of a classic American district, suburban-exurban, which is where a lot of these races are getting fought."

Weiner said he has high expectations for his fellow New Yorker, who was appointed to head the DCCC in November and tasked with winning back the Democratic majority.

"My view is that all DCCC chairs should be from New York. We just operate at a different speed than the rest of the country — meaning faster," Weiner said.

Read our profile of Israel here.


Minnesota Dem takes aim at Rep. Bachmann's speech

Minnesota Democrat Tarryl Clark continues to show signs of preparing for another run against Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.).

In an e-mail to supporters Wednesday, Clark criticized Bachmann's recent trip to Iowa and her response to President Obama's State of the Union address.

"Even with Bachmann working harder than ever to increase her own fame, and push the agenda of her wealthiest supporters, last night's speech was more than a little strange," Clark wrote.

In her speech Tuesday Bachmann criticized the president for overspending and credited the Tea Party movement for shifting the balance of power in Washington.

"She repeated many of her usual false claims," said Clark, citing Bachmann's mention of the federal government hiring 16,500 new IRS agents as one example.

"Michele Bachmann is wrong on the facts, and wrong on the issues," Clark continued. "We need honest debate, and civil discourse. We need to speak up. We need to get active, and stay active."

Bachmann defeated Clark by about 13 points last cycle. The Republican is now mentioned as a possible Senate or presidential candidate, while Clark is thought to be laying the ground work for another run.


Connecticut Republican pitches centrist path as way to win House seat

Connecticut state Sen. Andrew Roraback (R) says if his party wants to win back Rep. Chris Murphy's (D-Conn.) House seat, it should nominate a centrist.

"I'm cut from a bit of a different cloth than some of the other people looking at this seat," Roraback told The Ballot Box. "I'm as fiscally conservative as they come, but I'm a social moderate, which was once a hallmark of the New England Republican brand."

Roraback hasn't entered the race but is considering a run.

The last Republican to occupy the district was longtime Rep. Nancy Johnson, who lost her seat to Murphy in 2006 as the ranks of centrist House Republicans were all but eliminated.

"My hope is that the brand will have a resurgence," he said. "Call me the Mike Castle of northwest Connecticut."

Castle was a very popular centrist Republican who represented Delaware's lone House seat. Castle, despite being a Republican in a blue state, was considered safe in his long-held House seat. When Castle ran for the Senate in 2010, he lost to a Tea Party-backed challenger in the GOP primary.

The centrist angle could hurt Roraback in the primary, too. But the state lawmaker sounds serious about a possible bid.

"The shrillness you see on the extremes of the political equation today doesn't serve voters," he said. "They deserve better."

Roraback said that as of now he's focused on his job in the state senate and expects to make a decision on the race in the coming months.

Connecticut Republicans say they expect former state Sen. Sam Caligiuri (R) to make another run for the seat. He was the party's nominee against Murphy in 2010 and came within striking distance on Election Day.

There could also be a rematch of the three-way GOP primary for the seat last cycle, which included Caligiuri, businessman Mark Greenberg and veteran Justin Bernier. Both Greenberg and Bernier are considering bids in 2012.

On the Democratic side, Connecticut House Speaker Chris Donovan is a rumored candidate, but he's not expected to get into the race quickly. Other potential candidates include local Selectman Mary Glassman and Audrey Blondin, a member of the state's central Democratic committee.

Murphy is running for retiring Sen. Joe Lieberman's (I-Conn.) seat.


Boehner will wait and see on Rivera investigation

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Wednesday he is withholding judgment on an investigation into one of his freshman members.

Rep. David Rivera (R-Fla.) has been under investigation since late last year over allegations of secret payments paid to a company with ties to him. Boehner, in his first comments on the probe, said that the matter is unrelated to Rivera's service in Congress, and is waiting to react until the investigation proceeds. 

{mosads}"We're waiting to see how this plays out," he said at a Capitol Hill press conference. 

Democrats have highlighted the probe in an effort to pressure Republican leaders on ethics after Reps. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) and Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) last year caused headaches for then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in the midst of the midterm campaign season.

They have pointed to House GOP leader Eric Cantor's (Va.) pledge in August that a Republican-led House would have a "zero tolerance" policy toward ethics violations.

"Apparently Republican Leaders like John Boehner and Eric Cantor didn’t really mean zero tolerance for scandals and expanding criminal investigations into their own members like Congressman David Rivera," said Jesse Ferguson, a spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. "Now they’ll tolerate it, but I’m sure it’s just this once." 

Boehner's comments came on the same day that Rivera's longtime aide, Alina Garcia, was reportedly subpoenaed as part of the investigation being carried out by the Florida attorney's office.  

Most of the $500,000 in secret payments were allegedly made in 2008 from Flagler Dog Track to Millennium Marketing, which is co-managed by Rivera's 70-year-old mother.

Then, Rivera helped run a campaign backed by the dog track to help win approval for slot machines at certain gambling venues in Miami-Dade County. At the time, Rivera was a member of the Florida House of Representatives.

Rivera has denied accepting any payments. The House Ethics Committee has not taken up the matter, since it is under investigation by outside law enforcement.


Dems mark territory in Connecticut as House seat opens

Democrats were quick to warn Republicans against trying to recapture the House seat Connecticut Rep. Chris Murphy (D) is vacating to run for Senate.

Murphy on Thursday announced his intention to succeed retiring Sen. Joe Lieberman (I). Murphy's departure opens the door for the GOP to mount an effort to reclaim the seat. Murphy defeated a long-serving Republican, former Rep. Nancy Johnson, to win the seat in 2006.

The Democrat won election to a third term in November, defeating Republican Sam Caligiuri by eight points. His House race was the second closest in the state, as Republicans put in a strong performance in the Northeast.

The GOP isn't going to do better next year with President Obama on the ticket, according to Robby Mook, the executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

"Democratic candidates for president won this district in 2000, 2004 and 2008," Mook noted in a statement Thursday. "Congressman Murphy handily won this seat three times, even in the difficult political environment last year. We are confident that we will win this overwhelmingly Democratic seat in 2012."


Rep. Dingell will seek 30th term in 2012

Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), the longest serving member of the House of Representatives, will seek reelection in 2012, the 84-year-old Democrat said Thursday.

"It's the greatest job in the world," Dingell told the Detroit News in an interview. "I can help people and ... make things better, and I represent some of the finest people on earth."

Dingell, who holds the honorary title "Dean of the House," told the paper he's already fundraising for 2012 and that he's not worried about the looming redistricting battle in Michigan, saying he's already survived "three bad redistrictings."

The state will lose one House seat this year.

Despite a nasty 2010 race, which Dingell said included death threats lobbed at both he and his wife, the Democrat said he has no qualms about running again.

Dingell ultimately won easily in 2010, but the race was closer than he's used to. The Democrat defeated Republican Rob Steele by 17 points.