Dem campaign chief: We ‘are not scared’ of Tea Party


The Tea Party movement is claiming credit for knocking off some GOP party favorites in recent primaries, but Democrats aren’t worried about being next to face the fury, according to Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.).

“Our candidates are not in any way scared of the Tea Party movement,” said Van Hollen, who chairs the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

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The party believes it can avoid being the target of voters’ anti-incumbent anger and make the midterms about Republicans’ positions on key economic issues such as financial reform, according to Van Hollen.

“This race is not just about [Democratic incumbents], it’s also about the other guys,” Van Hollen said Monday at a breakfast sponsored by The Christian Science Monitor. “It’s about where the other candidates stand on the issues.”

Van Hollen also noted the movement isn’t homogeneous, which may mean that Democrats can peel off some support.

“The question for us, of course, is how many of the more independent-minded voters are part of the Tea Party movement, and it’s still very unclear,” he said. “What we do know is that in order for our candidates in these swing districts to win, they need to capture a majority of the independent vote.”

Having the Tea Party movement represented publicly by its most conservative members will drive independents toward the Democrats, Van Hollen said. “That does have the effect of making the centrist voters more nervous.”

One state where that may play out is New Jersey.

Tea Party groups there are hoping momentum from Republican Senate candidate Rand Paul’s primary win in Kentucky spills over into their fight to recall Sen. Robert Menendez (D).

The primary results in Kentucky, Arkansas and Pennsylvania have energized activists in New Jersey, RoseAnn Salanitri, a Sussex County Tea Party activist, told the Newark Star-Ledger. “It’s about finally the people stepping up and stepping out of that apathetic coma. People are starting to look at what their records are and saying, ‘We’re not going to accept this.’ “

Lawyers for the recall effort, backed by the state’s Tea Party groups, will present their oral argument to the New Jersey Supreme Court on Tuesday.

Ahead of the Supreme Court hearing, the New Jersey Democratic Party launched a website called Recall Reality, which it said “gives New Jerseyans the chance to see what this ‘movement’ is really about.”

—S.J.M.

Hawaii Dems headed for contested primary this fall

State Sen. Colleen Hanabusa (D) is focused on running again after taking second place in Saturday’s three-way special House election in Hawaii.

In an e-mail to her supporters Monday, Hanabusa said the results showed “we can and will win in the September primary and November general elections.”

She also hinted at the tension between Hawaii Democrats and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

“Some told us that we shouldn’t be in this race. They told us to sit on the sidelines,” she wrote. “They insisted that we were going to fail. They were wrong. We left no doubt that momentum is on our side, and will continue to build to our advantage.”

She closed with what is likely to remain her pitch throughout the primary. “It is clear that the voters believe I am the more electable Democratic candidate, one who will stand strong for our values and priorities,” Hanabusa said. “I will continue campaigning as Hawaii’s favored Democratic candidate.”

Earlier on Monday, former Rep. Ed Case (D-Hawaii), who finished third, told supporters he “eagerly look[s] forward to continuing our work together.”

Republican Charles Djou won Saturday’s vote with 39.7 percent. Former Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii) resigned to concentrate on his gubernatorial race. The primary to run for the seat in the November election is Sept. 18.

—S.J.M.

House GOP wants renewed contract

House GOP leaders have planned a high-profile event at the Newseum on Tuesday morning to launch the start of their “America Speaking Out” project.

 Chief Deputy Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) is in charge of the initiative that will result in the release of a set of policy items that Republicans would pursue if they won back control of the House in November.

According to officials involved in the effort, America Speaking Out will focus on gathering feedback from Americans on what items lawmakers should be focusing on in the future.

GOP conference Chairman Mike Pence (Ind.) said Monday “it’s part of a process of engaging Americans.”

 Pence added that the project was not a product of the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC.)

“America Speaking Out is not a project of the political” campaign arm, Pence said, but refrained from going into too many details.

House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) tasked McCarthy with heading up the effort to produce a list of policy changes, similar to the successful “Contract With America” that Republicans used in 1994 to win control of the House and Senate.

 Boehner and other GOP lawmakers involved in the project have said the final agenda would not be ready until after Labor Day, sometime in September.

— Molly K. Hooper

Miller is a campaign reporter for The Hill.  He can be found on The Hill’s Ballot Box, located at thehill.com/blogs/ballot-box.