Four Republicans look to make comebacks
© Greg Nash

Four former House members who were swept into office during the 2010 GOP wave — only to lose their seats two years later — are trying to make a comeback. 

The congressional careers of former Reps. Bob Dold (R-Ill.), Frank Guinta (R-N.H.), Nan Hayworth (R-N.Y.) and Bobby Schilling (R-Ill.) were cut short in 2012 thanks to President Obama’s reelection coattails. But they’re trying again in their swing districts in a more favorable year for Republicans, hoping it’s not the end of their Washington tenures. 

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Three of the four ex-lawmakers were part of the historic House GOP freshman class of 2010 and had no prior political experience. They argued they’d bring new perspectives to legislating over career politicians. But this time, none of them would be strangers to the District.

Schilling had been operating a pizza parlor called Saint Giuseppe’s Heavenly Pizza since 1996. Hayworth practiced ophthalmology for 16 years. And Dold ran a pest management company.

Despite now having a term in one of the most unpopular sessions of Congress in history on their resumes, they all still present themselves as fresh alternatives to the incumbents they’re waging rematches against. 

“I’m still a person of the people,” Schilling said in an interview, noting that he still owns the pizza restaurant. (His son now manages day-to-day operations.) “They know I’m not running to make a career out of it.”

Guinta, a former mayor of Manchester, is in a rematch against Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D-N.H.). Shea-Porter has represented the district since 2007 except for the two years after Guinta defeated her in 2010. She won the seat back in 2012.

Even though he recently represented the district in Congress, Guinta argued that voters associate Shea-Porter with Washington dysfunction instead of him. 

“I think most people view [Shea-Porter] as the incumbent who has been in Congress for six years,” Guinta said. “Right now, I’m not in office.”

Campaigning as a former member of Congress has its advantages. For one, these candidates already have high name recognition in their districts.

“Most of the people, especially in the area I live, know who I am. That’s a very big positive,” Schilling said.

They can also recruit their former colleagues in the House to campaign for them. Schilling has hosted fellow Illinoisans and members of the GOP class of 2010 — Reps. Adam Kinzinger and Randy Hultgren — in the district. Meanwhile, Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerIs Congress retrievable? Boehner reveals portrait done by George W. Bush Meadows to be replaced by Biggs as Freedom Caucus leader MORE (R-Ohio), House Budget Committee Chairman Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanAmash: Trump incorrect in claiming Congress didn't subpoena Obama officials Democrats hit Scalia over LGBTQ rights Three-way clash set to dominate Democratic debate MORE (R-Wis.) and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) have hit the trail for Guinta.

Former lawmakers can also point to voting records as evidence of their effectiveness.

“I have a proven record of doing the hard work for the district that they needed,” Hayworth said. “They know me as someone who performed and voted for those best interests time and time again.”

In Dold’s case, he might be even better known than the incumbent, Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.). A polling memo prepared by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times found that 13 percent of voters had never heard of Schneider, while 3 percent were unfamiliar with Dold.

Dold, whose campaign did not make him available for an interview, maintained a centrist voting record during his two-year term in the House. Obama won 58 percent of the vote in 2012, but Dold lost to his opponent by about a percentage point.

“He earned the reputation as a bridge builder between parties and was the most effective freshman in Congress at advancing his legislative agenda,” his campaign website biography states.

Unlike the other three former lawmakers, Hayworth’s campaign website biography makes no direct mention of her two-year stint in Congress. While Schilling, Dold and Guinta’s websites describe their terms at length, Hayworth’s only makes subtle references.

But Hayworth, who probably faces the longest odds of her fellow former members at being elected again, denied she was trying to minimize her tenure in Congress in her contest against Rep. Sean Maloney (D-N.Y.).

“People certainly know me as the congresswoman, and they want me back,” the New York Republican said. “It’s not a secret.”

The ousted lawmakers said they initially had no plans to run for Congress again, but they changed their minds after seeing their opponents in the job and after being recruited by their party to try again.

“There was no significant change in terms of how Carol Shea-Porter was conducting herself in terms of her votes or constituents’ services,” Guinta said.

For his part, Schilling said he was inspired to run again after the incumbent, Rep. Cheri BustosCheryl (Cheri) Lea BustosDCCC leader advises Democrats to keep messaging on impeachment 'simple' House Democratic campaign arm raises .4 million in third quarter Pelosi tells Democrats to focus on Constitution, not Trump MORE (D-Ill.), voted against all budget proposals during consideration of the 2013 House GOP budget resolution, and when she didn’t forgo her pay during the government shutdown, despite saying she would.

Still, Schilling says he doesn’t plan to stay in Congress beyond “four to six” terms.

“I will definitely push for term limits,” Schilling said. “You need fresh faces and fresh ideas to come into Washington to actually move the country forward.”