Ballot Box

Dems readying for grudge matches

Some Democrats are gearing up for grudge matches against their old Republican foes, with former Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (Ariz.) the latest to announce her comeback bid. 

The one-term Democrat was defeated in November by Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) in a six-point race. Kirkpatrick announced Tuesday that she wants a rematch with the Republican.

"It's clear to me, now that Paul Gosar has a record, that he is toeing the party line rather than serving the district," Kirkpatrick told the Arizona Republic.  

"The real key for me is the number of people who I've been hearing from in the district — and this is Democrats, independents, Republicans and even folks who are actively involved in the 'Tea Party' — that they feel he is deeply out of touch with the district."

Kirkpatrick could have better luck in 2012, when the district will have a different look and the presidential race should help drive up Democratic turnout.

Also on Tuesday, New Hampshire Democrat Ann McLane Kuster said she wants a rematch with Rep. Charlie Bass (R-N.H.), to whom she narrowly lost in November.


Rep. Bachmann: Schumer, Dems rooting for government shutdown

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) stressed Tuesday night that she won't vote for a budget compromise that includes funding for the healthcare law, but she said it's Democrats who are standing in the way of an agreement.

"They want to throw the Tea Party under the bus once again, because they've decided they're not willing to negotiate," Bachmann said in an interview on Fox News Tuesday evening. "That's what we heard from [Sen.] Chuck Schumer."

Bachmann, a rumored 2012 presidential contender, was reacting to comments from Schumer (D-N.Y.), who was caught on tape telling fellow senators to label GOP lawmakers "extreme" ahead of a conference call with reporters on the budget.  

"Chuck Schumer is saying they're not going to work together because they want the government to shut down," she said. "That's what they want. We want to make this thing work." 

Bachmann insisted that House Republicans are coming together and willing to work toward a solution that would prevent a government shutdown, but that it's Schumer and the Democratic leadership making a purely political calculation by openly rooting against a compromise.

The Minnesota Republican also blasted the comments of former Democratic National Chairman Howard Dean, who said Tuesday that he would be "quietly rooting" for a shutdown if he still headed the DNC.

"They want the American people to blame Republicans," Bachmann said. "But now we have proof positive that you can't blame Republicans. Republicans aren't wanting to shut the government down. It's Chuck Schumer and Howard Dean saying they want to see the government shut down."

Bachmann said, for her, the No. 1 priority remains defunding the healthcare law. Asked if she would vote for a budget agreement that includes money for healthcare implementation, Bachmann said: "I will not. I will not because I'm going to fight on this issue because the American people want us to."

Bachmann wouldn't definitively rule out the possibility of another short-term resolution to fund the government if the parties can't reach a compromise by April 8, but she said that "it's time to have this thing end." 

While the Minnesota Republican has already made high-profile trips to Iowa and New Hampshire ahead of a possible presidential campaign, she's certainly not closing the door on her spot in the House. Bachamnn filed with the Federal Election Commission on Tuesday to run for reelection to the House.


Rep. Bass's 2010 opponent will challenge him again in 2012

New Hampshire Democrat Ann McLane Kuster wants a rematch with the Republican who narrowly defeated her last year, Rep. Charlie Bass. 

Kuster told supporters in an email that she will wage another campaign for the state's 2nd district next year.

"To fight for good jobs, to protect the fragile economic recovery, and to invest in strengthening our country’s future, this week I am taking the first steps to begin a campaign for U.S. Congress in 2012," Kuster wrote Tuesday.

Kuster won a hotly contested Democratic primary last cycle against centrist Democrat Katrina Swett before losing in the general election.

The Democrat said a formal announcement about her 2012 bid won't come until next year but that she intends to start raising funds and organizing immediately.

"I am a frugal Yankee and I believe we need to cut wasteful government spending – like the billions in subsidies for oil companies, the corporate tax breaks for moving jobs overseas, and the billions more spent on redundant weapons systems that our military leaders have identified as wasteful and unneeded," Kuster wrote.  "But instead of these cuts, the U.S. House of Representatives is cutting what we need most – education, public safety, and the clean energy research that will reduce our dependence on foreign oil. It makes no sense."

Last cycle, Kuster was aided by liberal groups around the country, including the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, which quickly released a statement of support Tuesday.

"Annie Kuster is a bold progressive champ who will be at the forefront of fighting for a progressive economic and jobs agenda in 2012," PCCC co-founder Stephanie Taylor said in a statement. "For those who care about putting Main Street ahead of Wall Street and holding Republicans accountable for their war on middle-class families, Annie's entry into the race is burst of great news."

The National Republican Congressional Committee also reacted quickly Tuesday to Kuster's announcement. The Democrat lost by less than 2 percentage points to Bass in 2010.

"Ann Kuster's record of supporting higher taxes, bigger government and more debt was rejected in 2010 because it stands in sharp contrast to the New Hampshire values of fiscal discipline and limited government," NRCC spokesman Tory Mazzola said in a statement. "With a history of supporting a New Hampshire state income tax and Nancy Pelosi's government-takeover of health care, it's clear that Kuster is drastically out of touch with voters in the Granite State."

-updated at 12:18 p.m.


Former lawmakers complain it’s run left or right, lament loss of center

Don't expect the ranks of the middle-of-the-road House Democrats to swell anytime soon, former House members warned Tuesday.

Former Reps. Dan Maffei (D-N.Y.) and Glenn Nye (D-Va.) said they don't anticipate the path will be much easier for Democratic centrists in 2012, but both are weighing bids to reclaim their seats anyway.

The former lawmakers spoke to reporters Tuesday at the Washington think tank Third Way, along with ex-Rep. Artur Davis (Ala.), another centrist Dem who left his seat to make a failed run for Alabama governor last year.

"I can't say that I'm an optimist, going forward, about things getting easier for moderates to survive," said Nye, who lost his seat to Republican Scott Rigell last year. "At the end of the day, moderates tend to be the folks that come from the districts that are the swing districts, so we're always the ones who are gonna be vulnerable in elections."

Nye said Tuesday that he's waiting to see what the new district lines look like before he makes an official decision on a 2012 run, but said he anticipates an announcement one way or the other by this summer.

Maffei, who told supporters in an email last week that he's seriously considering another run next year, said his timeframe for a decision is likely sometime within the next two months.


Top Texas Republicans wary of taking sides in Senate primary

Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison won't rule out endorsing in the crowded Republican primary for her open seat, but is waiting to see how the race develops.

Hutchison announced in January she intends to leave the Senate at the end of her third term, a decision that touched off a rush of candidates into the GOP primary.

The field already includes former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert, former Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams, former solicitor general Ted Cruz, former Secretary of State Roger Williams and Railroad Commissioner Elizabeth Ames Jones.

Hutchison said she has spoken to several of the candidates about the race. 

"I'm not saying that they've asked for an endorsement, but I've talked to a lot of them," she said. "Right now, I've just said I don't plan to get involved."

With the primary vote less than a year away, candidates have already started rolling out big-name backers. Williams, for instance, announced Monday that retired Gen. Tommy Franks would serve as national chairman of his effort.

Meanwhile, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst (R) is considered the favorite to succeed Hutchison, but he's opted to remain on the sidelines during the current legislative session while he presides over the state Senate.

"I think everyone understands that that is his priority right now," Hutchison said. "It's certainly not too late" to get into the race after the session wraps up at the end of May.

Some observers believe candidates will need to spend about $20 million to be competitive, a figure Hutchison predicted could be just a baseline. 

"Easily that, easily that," she said. "These Senate seats don't come up very often. We have twenty-one media markets in Texas and that's twenty-one television [ad] buys. It's expensive to run in Texas."

While Hutchison is open to endorsing in the primary, Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) has ruled out backing a candidate.

"May the best person win," Perry recently told The Ballot Box. "They'll be a host of people getting in. God bless 'em all." 

Sen. John Cornyn (Texas), who chairs the National Republican Senatorial Committee, is also expected to remain on the sidelines during the nomination contest. 

--Updated at 6:23 p.m.


Ex-Rep. Djou wants former Gov. Lingle in Hawaii Senate race

Former Rep. Charles Djou (R-Hawaii) said over the weekend that while he isn't ruling anything out in 2012, he'll defer to former Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle if she opts for a Senate run next year.  

Lingle is weighing a bid for the seat of retiring Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) and is expected to make a final decision sometime this summer. 

"I look forward to supporting Gov. Lingle," the former congressman told a crowd over the weekend at a GOP dinner, according to the Hawaii Tribune-Herald.  

In the wake of Akaka's retirement, Djou said he was open to a 2012 run, but indicated that Lingle's decision would exert an impact on his own, noting that the two are next-door neighbors and close friends.

Djou won a special election to Congress in May of last year to fill the seat of former Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D), who resigned to run for governor. He lost his bid for a full term this past fall to Democrat Colleen Hanabusa. 

While the state is heavily Democratic and the only in the nation where President Obama currently enjoys an approval rating greater than 60 percent, Republicans think an open-seat race with Lingle as the party's nominee would make for a contested election.


Centrist Dem: Government shutdown would be on President Obama

Former Rep. Artur Davis (D-Ala.) said Tuesday, no matter how budget negotiations between the White House and Congressional Republicans play out, it's President Obama who will get the blame if the government shuts down. 

"I think that voters always focus on the executive as the responsible officer," Davis said. "There is this belief in Democratic circles that because Republicans are so intransigent about spending cuts that they'll get the blame. But people expect the president to bring all sides together, especially when he's made that one of his selling points." 

Davis made the comments after a breakfast with reporters in Washington, D.C. that featured three former Democratic House members. Davis, who lost a bid for Alabama governor last year, was joined by former Reps. Glenn Nye (Va.) and Dan Maffei (N.Y.), both of whom were ousted in 2010's midterm elections.