House races

House races

Van Hollen: GOP hopes of taking back the House 'hit a brick wall'

The House Democrats' top campaigner said Thursday that a win in the Pennsylvania special House election shows that Republicans' hopes of taking back the House of Representatives have taken a huge hit.

Republicans have said the Democrats' passage of the controversial healthcare law, as well as high unemployment, have put Democrats' hopes of holding onto their majority on the rocks.

{mosads}But Rep. Chris Van Hollen (Md.), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), said that Congressman-elect Mark Critz's (D-Pa.) win in Tuesday's special election to replace the late Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) put a damper on Republican momentum.

"The hype about this being another 1994, the hype about them taking back the House hit a brick wall of reality in Pennsylvania 12," he said at a press briefing with reporters in Washington.

Democrats are riding high after the special election win on Tuesday. It continues a streak of Republicans not being able to take a seat from Democrats in a special election since 2001.

Some observers framed the race as a must-win for Republicans; the district is mainly comprised of white working-class voters who heavily favored GOP nominee Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) in the 2008 presidential election over Barack Obama.


Dem campaign chief defends Pelosi: She's not a 'boogeywoman'

Republicans are portraying Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) as a boogeywoman in their attempt to win back the House, according to Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine.

"I have my own theories about why Republicans often like to make the speaker a 'boogeywoman.' And you might divine my theories from the way I phrased that," Kaine told a National Press Club lunch Wednesday.

Republicans made Pelosi and President Barack Obama an issue in Tuesday's special election for former Rep. John Murtha's (D-Pa.) seat. Both were unpopular in the district but Democrat Mark Critz, a former Murtha staffer, prevailed with a comfortable nine-point margin, which Kaine pointed out several times during his remarks.

He also defended Pelosi's tenure in the House.

"She's done a very effective job especially in a Democratic caucus that is extremely broad," he said. "Being a speaker of a very broad caucus in its diversity and its ideological position is a tough job and she's done a good one. I should have given her praise in terms of that special win last night, because, boy I'll tell you, the House Democrats have quite a track record going winning those special elections. She gets a lot of credit."

Republicans also have made the speaker an issue in several competitive House races, given the controversial votes the chamber has held under her tenure, including ones on climate change and healthcare reform.

Kaine, meanwhile, declined to play political predictor, refusing to name how many seats his party may gain or lose this fall.


Washington favorites lose primaries in Pa. and Ky.

Kentucky businessman Jeffrey Reetz (R) wasn't the only National Republican Congressional Committee-backed candidate to lose in Tuesday's primaries. Former U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan, who was running in Pennsylvania's 4th district GOP primary, also failed to win her party's nomination. Buchanan was reportedly a top recruit for the NRCC but she lost by more than 30 points to attorney Keith Rothfus (R).

From the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:

According to preliminary results, Rothfus held a commanding lead with 67 percent of the vote compared to Buchanan's 33 percent with 77 percent of precincts reporting Tuesday night.

Rothfus, 48, raised more money and carried less political baggage than Buchanan -- two reasons he said made him the stronger choice to face Democratic U.S. Rep. Jason Altmire, 42, of McCandless in November. Altmire took office in 2007.

"People I actually came in contact with were very supportive and very responsive. Apparently there were a lot of other people out there who felt differently," Buchanan said at her campaign headquarters in Wexford.

Rothfus, a father of six, touted his time as an attorney in President George W. Bush's Office of Faith-Based Initiatives. The Bush administration hired Rothfus after he volunteered on the former president's 2004 re-election campaign.

Buchanan promoted her eight years as Western Pennsylvania's top federal prosecutor even though opponents ridiculed her for a failed corruption case against former Allegheny County Coroner Dr. Cyril H. Wecht and her conviction of famed marijuana advocate Tommy Chong for selling bongs online.


Boehner: GOP needs more money, organization before November

House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said his party needs to raise more more money and get organized before the November election.

The GOP suffered a setback Tuesday night when its candidate lost the special election for former Rep. John Murtha's (D-Pa.) seat. The party had invested heavily into the race and billed it as a referendum on national Democrats. The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) spent close to $1 million supporting businessman Tim Burns’s (R) campaign.

Boehner told reporters Wednesday that “it’s pretty clear that we have to organize and we’ve got to continue working on our agenda project. … We’ve got to continue to raise resources.”

The top-ranking House Republican explained that Burns was at a disadvantage because the “fact is that this is a Democratic district and (there were) two big statewide Dem primaries.”

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) carried the district by one point in 2008. Murtha had held it for 19 terms.

But Boehner praised Burns, who will be the Republican candidate for the seat in the November general election.


Palin to stump for struggling Idaho GOP hopeful

Former Gov. Sarah Palin (R-Alaska) is headed to Idaho on Friday to campaign for a Republican congressional candidate trying to recover from a series of political stumbles.

Palin will stump for Vaughn Ward, who faces a competitive GOP primary next week in his bid to challenge first-term Rep. Walt Minnick (D) in Idaho’s first district. Ward’s campaign confirmed Palin’s visit to the Idaho Spokesman-Review.

A heavy favorite who has been promoted by the National Republican Congressional Committee, Ward shook up his campaign staff late last week after a spate of negative press, including a reprimand from the Marines for wearing his military uniform during a campaign ad, along with a report that the “Issues” section of his campaign website contained passages lifted verbatim from other Republicans. His opponent has also criticized him for not voting in the 2008 presidential election despite working as the Nevada state director for Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) campaign.

Ward’s opponent in the May 25 primary is state Rep. Raul Labrador. The district is one of the most Republican in the nation to be held by a Democrat, but the incumbent Minnick has the distinction of being the only Democrat endorsed by the national Tea Party.


Dems keep Murtha seat

Mark Critz (D), a former aide to Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.), won the race to replace his late boss.


Dems play expectations game in PA-12

National Democrats are characterizing the special election for the late Rep. John Murtha's (D) Pennsylvania seat as a must-win for the GOP. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee sent out a release Monday noting the 12th district "is the only district in the country that Senator Kerry won and President Obama lost. … [It is] exactly the type of district that House Republicans need to win this cycle."

Meanwhile, the candidates have very different closing messages.  

Democrat Mark Critz, who was joined by Sen. Bob Casey Jr. (D-Pa.) for several campaign stops Monday, continued to talk about jobs and the economy.
"I've laid out a jobs plan that will get folks back to work," Critz said in Washington, Pa. "Bringing economic development to western Pennsylvania will be my top priority."

Meanwhile, Republican Tim Burns directed his fire toward President Barack Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.).

"This election is literally a referendum on the Obama-Pelosi agenda," Burns said at an event in Richland. "We are going to send a loud message to Washington that the American people are not going to stand for them not listening. We are going to take back this government."


Calif. Dem Richardson again in primary trouble

Rep. Laura Richardson's (D-Calif.) personal financial problems didn't trouble voters in 2008 when she first won reelection to the House. But in a year when ethical issues are compounded by anti-incumbent sentiment, she may be in trouble. And it doesn't help that the Democrat is embroiled in another ethics controversy.

Richardson's decision earlier this year to take her 19 staff members on a helicopter tour of Long Beach is now being crititicized, according to the Contra Costa Times. Richardson's party took off in two Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department helicopters at a cost of over $20,000 to taxpayers. The controversy is giving hope to her three primary challengers -- two of which she faced in 2008.

College professor Peter Mathews and writer Lee Davis are again trying to unseat Richardson, while attorney Terrance Ponchak is making his first go at the congresswoman.