House races

House races

McMahon gets union backing despite healthcare vote

New York Rep. Mike McMahon (D) angered union officials this spring by not voting for healthcare reform. One labor official went so far as to call him "Judas in Staten Island."

But that anger appeared to have dissipated as the New York State Public Employees Federation (PEF) announced Friday it's backing the freshman Democrat.

PEF, an affiliate of the AFL-CIO, is the second-largest state-employee union in New York. It has some 1,300 members in the 13th district.

"Mike McMahon understands and respects the work that our members do on behalf of the public," PEF President Kenneth Brynien said in a statement. "By working to make sure that New York gets a fair share of Federal funds, Mike McMahon has helped to prevent the layoff of thousands of workers in our state. New York needs McMahon standing up for us in Congress."

McMahon said he was "honored" to have the endorsement.


Rep. Rangel opponent declares 'community will take him out'

With Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) digging in and preparing to fight 13 alleged House ethics violations, his leading Democratic rival is ramping up the rhetoric ahead of the September primary. State Assemblyman Adam Clayton Powell IV (D) said Thursday that if Rangel won't resign with dignity, "The community will take him out." 

With leaders in Harlem and throughout New York City largely coalescing around Rangel, Powell has little choice but to up the pressure. 

Despite the ethical cloud surrounding the 80-year-old congressman, most of the state's Democratic elite showed up at his public birthday bash last week. 

Rangel's congressional district, which includes all of Harlem and the Upper West Side of Manhattan, has backed Rangel overwhelmingly since he first won the seat by ousting Powell's father in 1970.

Powell is one of four Democrats challenging Rangel in the Sept. 14 primary.   


Rep. Titus, Treasury highlight efforts to reduce foreclosures

Rep. Dina Titus (D-Nev.) will highlight her work to reduce home foreclosures at an event Friday with a senior Treasury Department official.

Herb Allison, an assistant Treasury secretary, is headed to Las Vegas for a press conference with Titus on the government's efforts to reduce foreclosures and stabilize the housing market in southern Nevada. Allison oversees a $50 billion federal effort to help the housing market, which continues to suffer under mounting foreclosures.

Nevada has been hit particularly hard with the highest rate of foreclosures in the country, according to RealtyTrac. Titus has focused significant attention on the housing crisis, including a TV ad this week that portrays her as helping homeowners stay in their homes.

Titus's congressional district has the eighth highest rate in the country of mortgages that are seriously delinquent (at least 90 days late on payments), according to a Deutsche Bank analysis.

Republicans responded to the ad this week by arguing that Titus "recklessly" spends taxpayer money and that her policies have contributed to the housing crisis.


Rep. Donnelly touts opposition to 'Nancy Pelosi's energy tax' in campaign ad

A new ad from the campaign of Rep. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) takes a major shot at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

Donnelly touts his opposition to cap-and-trade in the 30-second spot, with the ad's narrator deriding the proposal as "Nancy Pelosi's energy tax," and calling Donnelly "Indiana's most independent congressman." 

It's one of the most overt attempts this cycle from any House Democrat to distance themselves from Pelosi. 

Donnelly faces state Rep. Jackie Walorski (R) in the fall. Walorski won the backing of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin on Wednesday and is on the National Republican Congressional Committee's list of "Young Guns." 


Sessions to headline fundraiser for McKinley in W.Va.

Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas), chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, is set to headline a fundraiser for congressional candidate David McKinley (R) in West Virginia. 

Sessions and Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) will be the major GOP draws at the event set for the first week in September at The Greenbrier Resort. An e-mail to supporters from the McKinley camp puts the price tag at $250 per couple. 

A day before Sessions and Capito come to town, McKinley will get a fundraising visit from Fox News commentator Dick Morris. He will headline a rally in downtown Parkersburg, W.Va., on Sept. 1, followed by two fundraising receptions. 

The party senses a major pick-up opportunity in the state's 1st Congressional District after 14-term Rep. Alan Mollohan (D) was defeated in the state's May primary. House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) headlined a fundraiser for McKinley in July. 

McKinley faces state Sen. Mike Oliverio (D) in November's general election, and like many House Republican candidates this cycle might as well be running against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). 

McKinley has focused his message almost entirely on the Democratic leadership in Congress, telling the New York Times this week that, "Our fight is not with Mike Oliverio. Our fight is a fight for this country and whether Nancy Pelosi or John Boehner is going to be speaker."

The two candidates are relatively tight on the fundraising front, but McKinley could certainly use the help. 

McKinley reported raising some $200,000 in the second quarter and reported $307,000 cash in hand. Oliverio raised more than double that in Q2, pulling in $592,000, but reported just $303,000 cash on hand. 


Chamber backs Rep. Halvorson challenger

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has thrown its support behind congressional candidate Adam Kinzinger (R) in Illinois. A former local county commissioner and Iraq war veteran, Kinzinger is challenging freshman Rep. Debbie Halvorson (D), who won easily in 2008.

In a statement announcing its backing of Kinzinger, the Chamber's Vice President of Political Affairs and Federation Relations Rob Engstrom said he's confident Kinzinger will prove to be "an invaluable leader on important business issues in Washington," while hitting Halvorson's voting record in Congress.

“She voted for a job killing tax on energy, supported a government takeover of the health care system, and was a co-sponsor of card check legislation, an undemocratic attempt to strip workers rights to a private ballot election," Engstrom said in the statement.

Halvorson voted in favor of the president's healthcare overhaul and for the Disclose Act, both of which the Chamber lobbied strenuously against. 

Halvorson's district wasn't one that appeared to be a prime pick-up opportunity for Republicans a year ago, but the party is now convinced the race is winnable. Election handicapper Charlie Cook moved the race into the toss-up category earlier this month. 


In Texas, a campaign battle over vets' healthcare

Rep. Chet Edwards (D-Texas) this week is blasting his Republican challenger over the future of healthcare for the nation's veterans. 

Edwards, in a tough fight for an 11th term, said Wednesday that Bill Flores's proposal to shift veterans into private insurance plans "would destroy the VA healthcare system as we know it and undermine healthcare for America's veterans."

The charge came in response to comments from Flores earlier in the year that "veterans would be much better off if they could go into the private healthcare system and have the government pay for it."

"Typically, the care in the private citizens' sector is better than the government sector," Flores said during a January debate. "The government usually doesn’t do some things very well that involve bureaucracies, so they need to go into the private system."

Neither Edwards nor Flores served in the military.

Edwards said his challenger's plan would "dilute the patient base at our VA hospitals, undermining quality care for our veterans, raising costs to taxpayers and ultimately leading to the closure of the VA hospitals in Waco, Temple and across the country."

Flores, a former oil executive, told The Dallas Morning News that Edwards's allegations were "baseless."

"Only a career politician like Chet Edwards would think that giving veterans options is a bad thing," Flores told the News.

It's likely not the end of the debate. Next week, Edwards is scheduled to undertake a five-day campaign focusing directly on veterans' issues. The "Vets for Chet" tour launches Aug. 23. 

The Cook Political Report rates the Edwards-Flores contest a toss-up.


Palin backs another seven candidates; hits Rep. Etheridge for 'turning violent'

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) rolled out a new slate of endorsements of Republican women on her Facebook page Wednesday, including congressional candidate Renee Ellmers in North Carolina.

Ellmers gained some brief national attention earlier this summer after a video surfaced of her opponent, Rep. Bob Etheridge (D), in an altercation with a student on a street near the U.S. Capitol.

Palin references the incident in her endorsement of Ellmers, writing, "Renee has an uphill battle against a truly out of touch incumbent who made news not too long ago when he was caught on video assaulting a student who asked him if he supported the Obama agenda."

Palin continues: "Simple enough question, but this Democrat congressman who’s been in Washington for 14 years turned violent rather than answer it."

Despite the video incident, Ellmers is still considered a long-shot contender this fall. 

Palin used the 90th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment as the occasion for endorsing "another group of strong American women who continue this tradition of service to our country."

Palin is also backing Martha Roby, who's considerably less of a long shot. She's running against Rep. Bobby Bright (D-Ala.), a Blue-dog Democrat who occupies one of the country's most conservative congressional districts. 

Palin endorsed another two congressional candidates — Jackie Walorski, who's running against Rep. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) and Vicki Hartzler, who's taking on Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.). 

Palin's also backing attorney general candidates Pam Bondi in Florida and Brenna Findley in Iowa. In Alabama, she endorsed Beth Chapman, who's running for secretary of state. 

As the Ballot Box noted earlier, Palin is on a losing streak this month when it comes to her endorsements, which she alluded to Wednesday in her Facebook post.

"Regardless of whether the many candidates I’ve had the honor of endorsing win or lose this time around, I support them because they boldly shake things up in their primary races," Palin wrote.

It's also worth noting that just one of the candidates Palin endorsed Wednesday still faces a primary this cycle — Pam Bondi in Florida.

Given the losses of Clint Didier in Washington state and Rita Meyer in Wyoming on Tuesday, Palin is 0 for 5 so far this month when it comes to candidates she has backed. 


Rep. Minnick leaving GOP challenger in his wake

The National Republican Congressional Committee's (NRCC) decision not to spend money in Idaho's 1st district increasingly appears justified.

Democratic Rep. Walt Minnick leads Republican challenger Raul Labrador 52 percent to 29 percent in a poll of 400 likely voters, conducted July 29 by GS Strategy Group for the Idaho Hospital Association.

Minnick’s lead has increased by 13 points since a poll conducted for the Labrador campaign by GOP pollster Bob Moore July 12 and 13, according to the Idaho Statesman.

Labrador's campaign disputed the results from the new poll.

"This poll is not consistent with polling that we've seen both internally and otherwise," China Veldhouse Gum, a Labrador spokeswoman, said in an e-mail. "Voters are recognizing who truly has the qualifications, background, values, and ideals that resonate with them and that's Raul Labrador."

Earlier this week, Minnick was chuckling on Twitter after it emerged the NRCC didn't plan to buy TV airtime in the district.

"Someone's missing. Again," Minnick tweeted Tuesday, referring to Labrador. 

Labrador was also left out of the NRCC's "Young Guns" promotions in June and July. He defeated Iraq War veteran Vaughn Ward — a committee favorite — in the May primary. 

Despite the lead, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has reserved time in the district, although it likely has the option to cancel before it needs to dole out the cash.

Minnick, a one-term incumbent, voted against healthcare reform and the stimulus bill. He reported a significant cash-on-hand advantage — $1.1 million to Labrador's $69,000 — at the end of June.

--Updated at 3:27 p.m.