Some in GOP wary of repeat candidates

Some in GOP wary of repeat candidates

Republicans have familiar faces running in more than 15 targeted races, but not all of these repeat candidates are being welcomed back with open arms.

Most of the hopefuls face primaries, and some of them are being looked upon poorly for their past performances.


While Republicans claim the enthusiasm to try again is a good sign of GOP momentum, it does have its drawbacks. Several of the repeat candidates face top GOP recruits in primaries, and their name recognition could threaten the party-preferred candidates.

It could also be a dicey situation for a party whose grass roots just delivered it a stunning rebuke in upstate New York.

Candidates like former Reps. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio) and Steve Pearce (R-N.M.) have excited their party by seeking their old seats. Conversely, former Reps. Tim Walberg (R-Mich.) and Bill Sali (R-Idaho) face difficult paths to their party’s nomination. (Sali is considering running again.)

National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) spokesman Paul Lindsay said repeat candidates can be a good thing for the party.

“Many former candidates are willing to take another shot at a campaign because they see a changing political environment, but they’re also applying lessons learned and building strong grassroots support that will help them both in primaries and against their Democrat opponents,” Lindsay said.

Ryan Rudominer, a spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), said the conflicts show the primary problem the GOP has on its hands.

“Not only did the NRCC and House Republicans completely mishandle a special election that cost their party a seat they held onto since the 1800s, but they also fueled a Republican civil war that’s playing out all across the country,” Rudominer said.

The de facto GOP candidate in that New York special election, Doug Hoffman, became the latest repeat candidate when he said last week that he will again challenge freshman Rep. Bill Owens (D-N.Y.). But the one-time Conservative Party candidate’s performance on the campaign trail — he knew little about local issues and recently un-conceded the race before re-conceding — didn’t thrill some party leaders.

Already, he faces possible primary opposition from investment banker Matt Doheny, who also sought the GOP nomination last year. An adviser said Doheny will decide on the race after the holidays.

East of Owens’s district, in New Hampshire, former Rep. Charlie Bass (R-N.H.) will try to regain the seat he lost in 2006. Before that, though, he must overcome another former nominee, in 2008’s Jennifer Horn.

Bass will garner establishment support from his time in Congress, but Horn is a favorite of grassroots conservatives.

Another key state will be Ohio, where state Sen. Bob Gibbs has locked up most of the establishment support and has Republicans optimistic about winning back Rep. Zack Space’s (D-Ohio) seat. Standing in Gibbs’s way, though, is 2008 nominee Fred Dailey, who has renewed his efforts to win the district.

Dailey said he believes the NRCC is tacitly backing Gibbs.

“I attended the candidate school, and they never said a thing to me, but my sense was that they were going to look for another candidate,” Dailey said.

The situation is somewhat similar in the neighboring 16th district, held by freshman Rep. John Boccieri (D-Ohio). There, businessman Jim Renacci has caught the eye of the national party, but 2008 primary runner-up Matt Miller could pose a grassroots threat.

Dailey and Miller both took about 40 percent of the primary vote last year, and Dailey spokesman Matt Parker said convincing people that Dailey can win is something the campaign has to tackle.

“Fred knows what he did wrong last time, and he’s working to fix those things,” Parker said. “Folks in Washington and Columbus think that once you lose an election, you’re done.”

In fact, that’s not always the case. Republicans have been happy to welcome back two other 2008 nominees from the same state, in Chabot and former state Sen. Steve Stivers, who is running against Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy (D-Ohio).

They have also hailed the return of former Kansas state Sen. Nick Jordan in retiring Rep. Dennis Moore’s (D-Kan.) district, as well as that of Hazleton Mayor Lou BarlettaLouis (Lou) James BarlettaBottom Line Ex-GOP congressman to lead group to protect Italian products from tariffs Head of Pennsylvania GOP resigns over alleged explicit texts MORE in Rep. Paul Kanjorski’s (D-Pa.) district. State Sen. Andy Harris underperformed then-presidential candidate Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainThe electoral reality that the media ignores Kelly's lead widens to 10 points in Arizona Senate race: poll COVID response shows a way forward on private gun sale checks MORE (R-Ariz.) by 11 points in Maryland’s 1st district last year, but he is still seen as formidable against freshman Rep. Frank Kratovil (D-Md.).

In Michigan, Walberg spokesman Joe Wicks pointed out that his candidate lost to Rep. Mark Schauer (D-Mich.) by three points even as McCain lost the district by five, but that performance hasn’t earned Walberg his party’s full support for another try. And with Rep. Tom Rooney’s (R-Fla.) brother Brian running against the former congressman in the primary, it puts establishment types in a tough spot.

Wicks noted that Walberg recently held a fundraiser featuring Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.), former Sen. Spencer Abraham (R-Mich.), former NRCC Chairman Tom Cole (Okla.) and Rep. Joe WilsonAddison (Joe) Graves WilsonDemocrats raise alarm about new US human rights priorities Democrat Teresa Leger Fernandez defeats Valerie Plame in New Mexico primary Trump campaign launches new fundraising program with House Republicans MORE (R-S.C.).

“He’s just building support as we go along,” Wicks said. “A lot of people in the district look at Tim as having gotten swept away by Obama.”

Brian Rooney signed up for the race last month and said recently that the NRCC had recruited him.

The NRCC responded by stressing to the media that it isn’t picking sides. And an NRCC source told The Hill that the committee didn’t recruit Rooney.

The national GOP has taken a similar tack in Idaho, where several members of GOP leadership, including NRCC Chairman Pete Sessions (Texas), will headline a fundraiser for Vaughn Ward next week. With former Rep. Sali still considering another run, fundraiser host and Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) emphasized that he wasn’t endorsing Ward.

House Minority Leader John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerLongtime House parliamentarian to step down Five things we learned from this year's primaries Bad blood between Pelosi, Meadows complicates coronavirus talks MORE (R-Ohio) was also on the fundraising invitation, even though he is not officially backing a candidate. Sali’s website features old quotes from BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerLongtime House parliamentarian to step down Five things we learned from this year's primaries Bad blood between Pelosi, Meadows complicates coronavirus talks MORE praising Sali.

That posture will be a familiar one for the party, which is wary of irritating its base like it did in New York. It has already led the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) to state that it will not spend money in contested primaries.