House races

House races

Rep. Van Hollen: Some Dems ignored warnings

Some Democratic incumbents ignored warnings from the party leadership about the tough political climate and didn't "fully prepare" for the campaign season, according to the party's House campaign chief.

Rep. Chris Van Hollen (Md.), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), said Thursday that his party has been preparing for months for a difficult reelection year for incumbents.

"There are a few members who we approached many, many, many months ago to tell them to get their act together, who did not take that advice," Van Hollen said at a breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor. "We're obviously working very closely now to try and protect even those who did not fully prepare themselves."

Normally safe members such as Reps. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Phil Hare (D-Ill.) and Jim Oberstar (D-Minn.) are locked in tight reelection contests this year. All of them hold Democratic-leaning districts; the DCCC has spent money to support Grijalva and Hare.

Van Hollen wouldn’t name the members he thought were caught napping. But he did say Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) was one example of a member who took the committee's advice and prepared for a tough environment.

Some members, he said, are in tough races because of spending by outside groups.

"What has obviously shuffled the deck in some of these districts is the outside money," Van Hollen said.

He estimated Republican-allied groups were outspending their Democratic counterparts by about a five-to-one ratio.

"It's pouring in. That is something that obviously in some of the races people are having to contend with."

Van Hollen pointed to Rep. Bruce Braley (D-Iowa), who was elected in 2006 and serves as a vice chairman of the DCCC.

"He's a member of Congress who understands campaigns, he fought a hard campaign and yet he’s seeing now $2 million" being spent against him in the district, the Maryland Democrat said. "So we’re going to war in that district's race, despite the fact that I’m confident he's going to win."

Van Hollen noted that the committee was in its strongest position ever to help struggling incumbents.

"I believe the DCCC in 2006 and 2008, today [are] the strongest DCCCs in the history of the organization," he said. "We demonstrated very clearly in the special elections in the past that we know how to win races."



Rep. Michael Arcuri is one incumbent who appears to be in good position to survive next month's expected GOP wave.


Top GOP candidate in Mass. House race dealt blow from strip-search victim

Congressional candidate Jeff Perry’s bid for the U.S. House was rocked Wednesday by a 19-year-old allegation that he was present during an illegal strip-search of a Massachusetts child.

Perry, a Republican, was a police sergeant in 1991 when 14-year-old Lisa Allen was strip-searched by a police officer under Perry’s watch in Wareham. The incident occurred in a cranberry bog. 

The woman had not come forward publicly until Wednesday, when she issued a statement.

Perry issued a statement to the Boston Globe that did not directly deny the changes, but said that “what happened to Lisa Allen was wrong and should never happen to anyone.” He also denied being at the scene when asked about the case by the Globe earlier this year.

The officer who searched Allen, Scott Flanagan, confessed to the incident and was convicted in 1993 of indecent assault on a child and of civil-rights violations.

Perry is a state representative from Sandwich. He is the Republican nominee for the seat held by the retiring Rep. Bill Delahunt (D).


Rep. Kirkpatrick hits opponent for backing out of only debate

Democratic strategists have complained recently that GOP House candidates are trying to run out the clock. Many Republican challengers hold slender leads in the polls and don't want to put themselves in situations — exchanges with reporters, debates — where that could be jeopardized.

In Arizona, freshman Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick trails her Republican opponent, dentist Paul Gosar, by seven points, according to The Hill's recent 2010 Midterm Election Poll.

Gosar recently withdrew from the only debate scheduled between himself and Kirkpatrick, which was supposed to occur Oct. 21. His decision prompted the Kirkpatrick camp to accuse Gosar of running scared.

"Paul Gosar is dodging debates because he realizes that the more people learn about his frightening views, the more they will unite behind Ann Kirkpatrick," Carmen Gallus, Kirkpatrick's campaign manager, said in a statement.

Gosar's camp said it was a matter of logistics. The debate was set to happen at KAET TV, the PBS affiliate, in Phoenix.

"Dr. Gosar has said he will debate anytime, anywhere in Arizona's 1st congressional district — whereas liberal Kirkpatrick continues to walk out on her constituents and instead caters to people outside of the district in Phoenix," said J.P. Twist in an e-mail. "Our requests for debates in the district have gone unanswered."

The Kirkpatrick camp said it proposed four in-district debates but never heard back from Gosar. The Kirkpatrick camp also pointed to comments Gosar made to reporters about debating in an "isolated area."

"We don't need to debate somewhere in an isolated area where Ms. Kirkpatrick can define the questions, isolate herself and not have to be accountable to her constituents," he told ABC News.

Arizona's 1st district is roughly the size of Pennsylvania and is largely rural.


Anti-abortion group targeting 42 House Dems

The Susan B. Anthony List is launching a wide-scale direct-mail campaign targeting Democrats in 42 competitive congressional districts ahead of Election Day. 

The effort begins this week and is aimed at motivating pro-life voters to get to the polls on Election Day. The group says it will reach more than 2.3 million voters.

The mailers hit Democrats who voted in favor of the healthcare law, claiming a vote for healthcare was a vote in support of "taxpayer-funded abortion."

“Poll after poll shows that Americans do not want their tax dollars funding abortions, yet the Obama administration and its allies in Congress have expanded taxpayer funding of abortion both here and abroad in unprecedented ways,” said SBA List President Marjorie Dannenfelser in a statement announcing the effort. “These representatives can’t hide from their positions, though many of them are trying to.” 

The targets include Reps. Ann Kirkpatrick (Ariz.), Debbie Halvorson (Ill.), Phil Hare (Ill.), Mark Schauer (Mich.) and John Spratt (S.C.). The group has already run TV and radio ads targeting vulnerable Democrats this fall.  


Barney Frank loans campaign $200k

Facing one of his most difficult reelection battles in years, Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) loaned his campaign $200,000 this week, according to media outlets. 

The Boston Herald reported that campaign finance documents show he raised $316,000 and had more than $1 million cash on hand. Frank's Republican opponent Sean Bielat, a former Marine, has $364,000 left to spend. 

Frank, the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, has come under fire from Bielat for heading the committee during the 2008 financial collapse. Republicans have long made Frank a target, arguing he failed to crack down on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac's home lending policies. 

His loan is a sign that he is taking Bielat's campaign seriously amid a Republican wave some predict could cost Democrats their majorities in Congress.

National Republicans have invested in the race and Bielat, a member of the GOP's "Young Gun" program, outraised Frank in September, $379,000 to $317,000.

The 15-term congressman, however, still has a 3-to-1 advantage over Bielat in cash on hand.


Pa. Democrat admits helping Tea Party candidate

A Pennsylvania Democratic House candidate on Tuesday admitted to helping a third candidate get on the ballot in the hopes he would siphon votes away from his Republican opponent. 

Bryan Lentz, the Democratic nominee running for the seat being vacated by Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.), said he knew that volunteers from his campaign helped Tea Party candidate Jim Schneller.

"If somebody's already made the decision to run, I didn't think that 'helping' with the process of signature petitions was improper," Lentz told told the Delaware County Daily Times editorial board in an interview.

Republicans have accused Democrats of helping set up Tea Party candidates as spoilers in several House and Senate races around the country. Democrats face a tough political environment this fall, when they are trying to maintain their congressional majorities against a GOP wave spurred in part by Tea Party groups.

Lentz said he could not remember when he learned of his volunteers' work on behalf of Schneller, but he said, "I didn't think it was a bad thing for the process or for my candidacy."

Republican nominee Pat Meehan and Lentz are locked in a tight race; The Hill's 2010 Midterm Election Poll last week showed that Meehan is narrowly leading Lentz, 40 percent to 39.

Meehan's campaign responded to Lentz's claim in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

"It's about time Bryan Lentz would admit what the media has been reporting on for months," said Meehan campaign manager Bryan Kendro. "Despite his efforts to fool voters about his role in supporting Schneller's candidacy, he was forced to come clean, and he should apologize for not being forthright."

Lentz stressed, however, that his campaign's activities on behalf of Schneller, who has filed a lawsuit questioning President Obama's citizenship, began after the Tea Partier began his campaign.

"I did not encourage him to run for office," he said. "He made that decision on his own."



There wasn't much "Minnesota nice" on display when the supporters of Rep. Jim Oberstar and his Republican challenger clashed.