By Sean J. Miller and Shane D'Aprile - 07/28/10 11:50 PM EDT
Less than two weeks before the Aug. 10 Republican primary, the Senate campaign of former Rep. Rob Simmons (R-Conn.) is back on.
After calling himself a candidate for Senate in a debate with businessman Peter Schiff Tuesday night, Simmons sent an e-mail to supporters Wednesday that left little doubt he still harbors hopes of defeating Republican Linda McMahon, who was endorsed by the state GOP.
“Today, our state and nation still face the daunting challenges which led me to enter the race for U.S. Senate 18 months ago,” Simmons wrote in the e-mail message to supporters.
He continued: “Republicans need to take a serious look at the candidates and the issues to decide who will stand strongest against [presumed Democratic nominee] Richard Blumenthal and the Democrats in November. While I have no intention of tearing down my fellow Republicans, or undermining our eventual Republican nominee, I believe I provide Republicans with a better choice.”
Simmons ended the e-mail with this: “This is not a time for slogans or gimmicks, but for serious leadership in serious times. I’m Rob Simmons, and I’m still on the ballot.”
A spokesman for Simmons told The Hill on Wednesday that the candidate has no plans to hire any new campaign staff, but that Simmons “will also be attending debates and other political events to which he is invited.”
The McMahon campaign dismissed Simmons’s restarted campaign.
“Simmons walked away from this campaign two months ago, and over the past few weeks his behavior has grown increasingly erratic and bizarre. It’s impossible to take his campaign seriously, and it’s difficult to believe anything he says at this point,” McMahon campaign spokesman Shawn McCoy said in a statement.
Simmons suspended his primary campaign after he lost out on the party’s endorsement to McMahon in May.
McMahon has largely been focusing her fire on Blumenthal, the state’s attorney general, since then.
In an interview with The Hill last week, Simmons denied a recent TV ad buy signaled a resumption of his primary campaign. Simmons labeled the ads “public service announcements” and said he simply wanted to ensure his supporters knew his name remained on the ballot.
Simmons had pledged not to seek the nomination if he didn’t win the party’s endorsement at the state convention.
Dems take private tax debate public
The Democrats’ internal deliberation on the extension of the George W. Bush-era tax cuts played out in front of a conference room full of reporters Wednesday as freshman Reps. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) and Tom Perriello (D-Va.) traded jabs over whether to support what amounts to a tax increase.
Party leaders have hedged on whether to permanently extend the tax cuts for families making less than $250,000 annually and individuals making less than $200,000, which was a major campaign promise of President Obama’s.
The cuts are set to expire at the end of the year. But with spending, the deficit and jobs topping lists of voters’ concerns, not extending the cuts, which would result in higher taxes, could be anathema to Democrats and their hopes of retaining control of Congress.
“I do not favor the permanent extension of Bush tax cuts,” Connolly said. “I do favor extending the current rates for some period of time until the economy is on a sustained and robust track.”
He noted the role the rich play in boosting consumer spending.
“The top 5 percent income bracket in this country [is] accountable for 30 percent of the consumer spending in this country,” he said at the event, which was hosted by the Third Way, a Democratic-leaning think tank. “It’s been estimated that if that tax cut [isn’t extended], it could shave as much as a half a percentage off GDP growth.”
Connolly criticized his party for adhering too rigidly to ideology.
“Democrats need to abandon their ideology when it comes to the Bush tax cuts and look at the economic reality on the ground,” he said.
Perriello disagreed that ideology was taking precedence over logic.
“I think at the higher end the logic is not there,” he said. “Particularly, given that we have a medium- and long-term deficit concern.”
Perriello argued the rich have received enough of a break in recent times.
“I’m not saying stick it to them in terms of what we do with these tax cuts; the idea of animus is not constructive,” he said. He noted he would not support giving the top 5 percent of earners an extension of the tax cut.
Connolly jumped back in.
“I would argue, frankly, Tom, that this is Democrats not being able to get over their own ideology,” Connolly said. “I’m not carrying water for George Bush. I think the tax cuts were wrong in the first place.”
The timing isn’t right to allow them to expire, he added.
“Reasonable people can disagree on that,” Perriello shot back.
Miller and D’Aprile are campaign reporters for The Hill. They can be found on The Hill’s Ballot Box, located at thehill.com/blogs/ballot-box.