Ballot Box

N.C. Republican to challenge Rep. McIntyre again in 2012

Republican Ilario Pantano wants a rematch against Rep. Mike McIntyre (D-N.C.) next year.

Pantano announced Monday that he will run against McIntyre again in 2012, after giving the centrist Democrat his toughest race in years last cycle. McIntyre won with just 54 percent of the vote in 2010.

"It is with a profound sense of honor and humility that I ask once again to be your candidate, a people's candidate for the U.S. Congress," Pantano wrote in an e-mail to supporters.  

Pantano's early entry comes just in time for this week's Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington. The former Marine is set to speak at the event, appearing as part of a panel discussion titled, "How political correctness is harming America's military." 

The playing field for 2012 is far from set in the district, though. North Carolina's 7th could look much different after the boundaries are redrawn ahead of the 2012 election. 

Meanwhile, McIntyre already has a primary challenger — Democrat Del Pietro — who is running to McIntyre's left. 


Rep. Rehberg hits 'insufferable arrogance' in D.C.; slams federal judge

Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.), who officially jumped into the 2012 race against Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) over the weekend, went after President Obama and Washington Democrats hard on Monday.  

In a speech to members of the Montana Legislature, Rehberg pointed to GOP victories in the 2010 midterm elections as a rejection by voters of "the insufferable arrogance that they saw coming out of Washington, D.C," and vowed to fight for states' rights in the Senate.   

But it was Rehberg's comments about a recent ruling by a federal judge that drew a rebuke from the executive director of Montana's Democratic Party.  

In his remarks, Rehberg took exception to a ruling that the gray wolf should remain on the endangered species list, arguing the federal government shouldn't have a say in the state's wildlife policies.   

"When I first heard of this decision, like many of you I wanted to take immediate action," Rehberg said, according to the Helena Independent Record. "I asked: How can we put some of these judicial activists on the endangered species list?" 

Ted Dick, executive director of the state's Democratic Party, said Rehberg's comments amounted to a "veiled threat" in light of the recent shooting in Arizona.


Pawlenty talks religion in Iowa

Tim Pawlenty was in Iowa on Monday, where he told a group of religious conservatives that he shares their views but doesn't "become judgmental" with those who don't.

"I share what I believe is applicable Scripture for the moment or the occasion. But I do it in a way that hopefully expresses a tone and an outreach that says I'm being respectful, civil, hopefully thoughtful," he said at a forum in Pella sponsored by Family Leader, a conservative advocacy group.

The former Minnesota governor has been steadily shifting his attention to the conservative wing of the GOP as he edges toward a run for the 2012 presidential nomination. Pawlenty would almost certainly have competition for the caucus votes of Iowa's religious conservatives, but he has sought to make it clear that he's no lightweight on the issues.

"The goal here isn't to dilute what we believe in an effort to try to get support from the other side," he said, according to the Des Moines Register. "The goal is to make sure that we stay true to what we believe, our core values and our core principles, and [with] love and hope and optimism and enthusiasm go into the marketplace and convince others to join us."

He added, "This notion that if you're pro-life you can't get elected, it's not true, even in Minnesota."


Liberal groups hit GOP reps. on healthcare

The liberal group Americans United for Change is out with an early radio ad going after Rep. Charlie Bass (R-N.H.) for his vote to repeal the healthcare law.

The group is partnering with Daily Kos to fund the spot, which will run on five stations in Bass's congressional district starting Tuesday. Listen to the ad here.

"Congressman Bass gets affordable healthcare, with protections against insurance companies cutting him and his family off," the ad says. "No lifetime limits. No annual caps. No pre-existing conditions. But last month Bass voted to deny you and your family these same protections." 

Daily Kos is also going after Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) with a similar spot set to air in Milwaukee, Racine and Janesville for the next week. 

Reps. Sandy Adams (R-Fla.) and Leonard Lance (R-N.J.) are also targets of radio ads funded by the Blue America PAC.  

Bass's district has been an early target for Democrats. The Democratic-leaning district was one of 19 GOP-held districts the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee targeted with early radio ads last week.  

The Democratic nominee last cycle, Ann McLane Kuster, earned the backing of several liberal groups nationwide, ultimately losing a close contest to Bass. 


Conservative group wants answers from Palin on gay rights

The conservative American Principles Project, which is already boycotting this week's Conservative Political Action Conference over the inclusion of a gay GOP group, is now demanding "clarity" from former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

The organization wants to know exactly where Palin stands on the inclusion of GOProud as one of CPACs sponsors and wants clarity on her stance on gay marriage after Palin suggested over the weekend that she supports the group.   

Asked about the controversy over GOProud's presence at CPAC, which has led to a boycott of the event by several leading conservative groups and Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), Palin told the Christian Broadcasting Network that she desires a "healthy debate." 

"Should conservatives not reach out to others, not participate in events or forums that perhaps arising within those forums are issues that maybe we don't personally agree with?" Palin asked. "And I say 'no.'" 

Palin's comments to CBN were highlighted by Andrew Breitbart, who is a member of GOProud's board and will take part in one of the group's events during CPAC later this week. 

But the interview raised the ire of APP's President Frank Cannon, who demanded answers from Palin on Monday. 


Nebraska GOP pushing electoral reform

Nebraska Republicans are pushing hard to eliminate the state's system of awarding presidential electoral votes by congressional district.

State Sen. Beau McCoy (R) has introduced a bill to revert Nebraska's current system to a winner-take-all allocation. On Friday, the legislature's Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee announced it would take up McCoy's bill Feb. 23.

Republicans hold a five-four majority on the committee. The state GOP has been gently pressuring its members to move the bill on to floor vote, where officials are confident it will pass because the party enjoys its largest majority in 25 years.

To that end, the state GOP has provided activists with templates for writing letters to newspaper editorial boards and state lawmakers encouraging passage of the bill. And state GOP Chairman Mark Fahleson said at the party's annual meeting last month that he intends to "hold our Republican state senators accountable" for their votes on the bill.

GOP officials said they are conscious of treading on sensitive ground, lobbying state lawmakers who traditionally operate in a nonpartisan atmosphere.

"There's historically been some sensitivity to either party weighing in on issues in the Legislature," Jordan McGrain, executive director of the Nebraska GOP, told The Ballot Box. "We really pick our spots, and this has been something too important to sit on the sidelines."

McGrain brushed off the Democrats' suggestion that the move is motivated by "sour grapes" over President Obama winning the state's 2nd congressional district in 2008. "We just want to do it the way the other 48 states do it," he said of the Electoral College reform. "It remains a partisan issue."

Still, McCoy told the Lincoln Journal Star in January: "We would not want to see Obama reelected (in 2012) by one electoral vote in Omaha."

There's been speculation that if lawmakers do away with the current system, it could hurt the reelection chances of Sen. Ben Nelson and other Democrats running statewide. It could also have a small effect on the 2012 presidential race. Obama's campaign in 2008 invested heavily in the Omaha region, driving up Democratic turnout.

The Nebraska legislature has twice before passed bills to scrap the current system, but Nelson, who was governor at the time, vetoed both measures. The current governor, Dave Heineman, is a Republican.


LA councilwoman enters race to succeed Rep. Harman

Los Angeles City Councilwoman Janice Hahn has officially entered the race to succeed Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.).

"I'm running for Congress to create new jobs, expand clean energy technologies and ensure that local small business owners get the help and opportunities they need to flourish in a global economy," Hahn said in a statement Monday.

Harman is expected to leave her seat next month to head the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars, a Washington-based research institution. 

Hahn, who ran for the seat against Republican Steve Kuykendall in 1998, talked up her connection with Harman and said she'd focus on "clean energy" in Congress.

“It has been an honor to work closely with Congresswoman Harman over the past decade on a variety of important efforts to create jobs and improve security at LAX and the port. Her leadership will be missed," she said. "It's time we end the corporate tax giveaways to multinational corporations that send jobs overseas and invest those dollars in businesses that create jobs here at home. We need to invest in a clean-energy economy and there’s no better place to start than right here in the 36th Congressional District."

Hahn is a famous family name in L.A. politics. Most recently, Janice Hahn's brother, James, was mayor of LA from 2001-2005, when he was unseated by current Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Her father is former Los Angeles County Supervisor Kenneth Hahn.

Other potential Democratic candidates include state assemblywomen Betsy Butler and Bonnie Lowenthal, and state Senator Ted Lieu. Secretary of State Debra Bowen (D) is also apparently interested, according to the Sacramento Bee. 


Special W.Va. gubernatorial election dates set

Acting West Virginia Gov. Earl Tomblin (D) signed legislation Monday setting the dates for a special gubernatorial election. The primary will be May 14; the general election Oct. 4.

The special election comes after then-Gov. Joe Manchin (D) decided to run for the open seat left after the death of Sen. Robert Byrd (D). Manchin won the seat last year. Tomblin, the former state Senate president, was in line to take his place temporarily.

The election is for the last two years of Manchin's term — the state's Supreme Court ordered that the new governor take office by Nov. 15. The next four-year term will also be on the ballot.

So far, four Republicans, a member of the third-party Mountain Party, and three Democrats have filed to run in the special election.

The Democratic candidates are House Speaker Rick Thompson, Secretary of State Natalie Tennant and Tomblin.

On the Republican side, former Secretary of State Betty Ireland, Putnam County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Sorsaia, state Sen. Clark Barnes and West Virginia Delegate Patrick Lane are running.

Jesse Johnson is the Mountain Party candidate.


Ron Paul headed to Iowa for social conservatives event

Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) is headed back to Iowa next month to speak to a group of social conservatives as he weighs another run for the GOP presidential nomination in 2012.  

Paul is the latest rumored Republican hopeful to confirm he will take part in a series hosted by the Family Leader, a group led by former Iowa gubernatorial candidate Bob Vander Plaats. 

Paul will be in the state for the event on March 7. 

Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) is in Iowa on Monday to kick off the series that will also include appearances in the coming weeks from former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.).    

Vander Plaats chaired former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee's successful Iowa caucus campaign in 2008 and has indicated that his group will make an endorsement ahead of the 2012 Iowa caucuses.