House races

House races

Dems criticize award for Delaware Republican

Democrats are attacking Delaware businesswoman Michele Rollins (R) for accepting a prestigious award from the Spanish government.

In a ceremony in Jamaica last week, Jesus Silva, Spain's ambassador to the Caribbean island nation, presented Rollins with the Order of Civic Merit.

"Michelle Rollins has been someone who saw from the very beginning that the arrival of the Spanish investors was a very positive trend for Jamaica and for its economic and social development," Silva said at the event, according to the Jamaica Observer newspaper.

A spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said the award will help Rollins's "bank account."

"It looks like Michele Rollins is more committed to the Jamaican economy than she is Delaware’s," Shripal Shah, a spokesman for the DCCC, said in a statement. "That may serve her bank account well, but it's exactly what Delaware can't afford right now."

The Rollins campaign noted she and her late husband, John, have helped create "thousands of jobs" in the state.

"Michele has 35 years of history in Delaware, she and her husband have helped create thousands of jobs in Delaware," said Matthew Hunter, a spokesman for her campaign. "Wherever the Rollins' have done business, they've always been recognized for their commitment to the community in which they're working."

Rollins heads Rose Hall Developments, which owns and develops property in Delaware and Jamaica. She's running for the state's open House seat.

The award, which confers the title the "Most Illustrious Michelle Rollins," was given to the Delaware Republican in recognition of her role in facilitating Spanish investment in Jamaica.

This isn't the first time that Rollins has had to defend her business interests in Jamaica. In May, primary rival Glen Urquhart (R) raised questions about her dealings and questioned her commitment to the state. But after winning the state GOP's endorsement in May, Rollins is considered the frontrunner in the Sept. 14 primary.

--Updated at 12:41 p.m and 1:05 p.m.


N.Y. Republican downplays campaign shakeup

New York House candidate Chris Cox (R) is trying to downplay the loss of several senior advisers.

The Ballot Box confirmed that John Weaver, Mark Salter, Fred Davis, Jim McCray, Josh Geleris and Danny Diaz have recently left Cox's campaign. The consultants all had ties to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). Geleris accompanied Cox on his last round of interviews in Washington.

Cox said the move was simply "shifting personnel."

"In preparation for the upcoming September primaries for the Republican and Conservative Party ballot lines, our congressional campaign team is shifting some personnel," Cox said in a statement Tuesday night. "This shift will allow our team to move from the initial organizational phase to a more tactical phase."

Cox is vying against wealthy businessman Randy Altschuler and former SEC attorney George Demos in the Sept. 14 primary to face Rep. Tim Bishop (D).

Cox is the son of state GOP Chairman Ed Cox and the grandson of the late President Richard Nixon.


Top Democrat: 'We’ll lose some seats'

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) said Democrats are facing an "uphill slog" this cycle, but she's confident that the party's losses in November won't be enough to give the GOP a majority.

"We're facing an uphill slog; I think we'll lose some seats," Wasserman Schultz told The Hill. "I'm confident we're going to retain the House."

Wasserman Schultz is currently a vice chairwoman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. In past cycles, she helped lead the DCCC's "Red to Blue" program, which supports promising challengers running in Republican-held districts.

The program is one of the reasons the Democrats won't lose the House, said Wasserman Schultz.

"Our goal was to put about 20 seats in play, and our Red to Blue program is actually grown larger than 20 seats now," she said. "We feel really good about more than 20 candidates who are running either in open seats held by Republicans or running against Republican incumbents. We have a lot of optimism."

She said Red to Blue candidates have to meet fundraising and campaign infrastructure benchmarks in order to qualify for the program.

"Unlike the Republicans, we don't just stick 104 people who happen to put their name on the ballot on our program. You actually have to earn your way onto our program," said the three-term congresswoman. "That's why we have a smaller number of candidates on our program, because our program means something."

The National Republican Congressional Committee has a similar challenger program called "Young Guns," which has more than 100 members.

Wasserman Schultz admitted the caucus is having a hard time striking a balance between conservative and progressive members on spending versus deficit reduction.


Vulnerable Dems switch votes on Wall Street reform

Some vulnerable Democrats voted against the financial reform conference report that passed the House Wednesday, The Hill's Silla Brush reports.

Reps. Travis Childers (D-Miss.) and Bill Owens (D-N.Y.), for instance, voted for the House version of the bill but not the conference report, which passed by a 237 to 192 margin.

Travis, who faces a rematch with state Sen. Alan Nunnelee (R), said he was concerned about the use of funds from the Trouble Asset Relief Program (TARP).

"Its provision to use $11 billion of TARP funding instead of requiring big banks to pay for their own mistakes lets Wall Street off the hook," Childers said in a statement. "I voted against TARP twice because American taxpayers shouldn’t have to bail out Wall Street for its own wrongdoing."

Owens faces a potential three-way contest with businessman Matt Doheny (R) and Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman. The first-term lawmaker defeated Hoffman in a November 2009 special election. His office has not released a statement about his vote.

Rep. Jim Cooper (Tenn.) was the only other Democrat who switched from "yes" to "no," but he's not expected to face a tough reelection race.

Meanwhile, the three Republicans who voted for the measure were Rep. Mike Castle (R-Del.), who is running for the Senate; Rep. Joseph Cao (R-La.), one of the most vulnerable Republicans in Congress; and Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.).


Controversial ads aren't resonating in Alabama, officials say

An Alabama House candidate's controversial campaign ads featuring conversations with actors playing dead presidents have received national attention, but local GOP officials say they've gone virtually unnoticed in the 2nd district.

Several officials told The Ballot Box they didn't even know about businessman Rick Barber's (R) most recent Web ad, which equates taxation to slavery and features an actor playing Abraham Lincoln.

"I really don't know what to think, I'm just surprised" to hear about it, said Charlene Erbskorn, chairwoman of the Houston County Republican Party, which sponsored Monday's debate between Barber and rival Martha Roby (R).

Butler County Republican Party Chairman Cleveland Poole was one of the few officials contacted by The Ballot Box who'd seen the recent "slavery" Web ad.

He said it was overly provocative. "Comparing President Obama's healthcare act to Jewish prison camps or to slavery in the South is taking the comparison too far," Poole said.

Barber also released a minute-long TV ad that features him yelling about being taxed without representation to a group of men dressed as America's founding fathers. The ad closes with an actor dressed as a young George Washington murmuring "gather your armies."

He addressed the controversial ad during an appearance on MSNBC's "Hardball" Wednesday.


EMILY's List props up three House candidates

Ahead of Wednesday's second quarter fundraising deadline, EMILY's List — a group advocating for the election of pro-choice women to political office — is making a last-minute fundraising appeal for Rep. Dina Titus (D-Nev.) and candidates Julie Lassa in Wisconsin and Terri Sewell in Alabama. 

EMILY's List President Stephanie Schriock made the appeal in an e-mail to its members Wednesday afternoon. 

In Nevada, Titus is facing a challenge from Republican Joe Heck and is high on the National Republican Congressional Committee's list of targets. Americans for Prosperity and other third-party groups have already run ads attacking Titus.

Lassa, who won the backing of retiring Rep. David Obey (D-Wis.) on Monday in the race to replace him in Congress, is expected to have a close contest against Republican Sean Duffy. Duffy's first-quarter fundraising numbers were impressive, and he has the attention of some national conservatives after winning the backing of Sarah Palin. 


NRCC has 39 'Guns' ready for November

The National Republican Congressional Committee now has 39 challengers who it considers "Young Guns." The committee's candidate training and promotion program added 16 members to its top echelon Wednesday.

Not coincidentally, it's the number needed for the GOP retake control of the House. 

"The latest Young Guns class is a testament to the strength of our candidates this year," House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said in a statement. "When these 16 Young Guns come to Washington as new members of Congress, they'll join our fight to change the culture of spending that the Democrat majority has forced on our country."

There were three candidates from Illinois promoted, including state Sen. Randy Hultgren (R), who defeated the NRCC-backed Ethan Hastert in the February primary and will face Rep. Bill Foster (D-Ill.) in November.

An official with the committee told The Ballot Box this won't be its last round of candidates elevated to full Young Gun status.

See the full list after the jump.

-Updated at 11:54 a.m.


Rep. Djou praises Obama on trade

Rep. Charles Djou (R-Hawaii) praised President Barack Obama on the House floor Tuesday for pressing ahead with negotiations on a trade deal with South Korea.

In a floor speech, Djou said he was "encouraged by the opportunity which has happened this past weekend and compliment President Obama for committing to a free trade agreement between the United States and South Korea."

Noting that his congressional district "lies within the flight arc of North Korea's ballistic missiles," Djou said it was time for the U.S. to "further cement our bonds and our relationships" with South Korea "and make sure that we change the dictatorship in North Korea for the benefit of our nation and the world as a whole."

In May, Djou won a special election in the president's hometown congressional district. Colleen Hanabusa and former Rep. Ed Case split the Democratic vote, which helped Djou to a win with less than 40 percent.

In November, Djou faces a tough race against Hanabusa in the heavily Democratic district now that Case has opted out of the race.