Category Archives: House

A Trio of Political Icons Pass

It’s said that famous people die in threes, and that certainly happened again this week in the world of politics. Rather extraordinarily, the youngest of the trio was 96 years of age.

Former Virginia Sen. Harry F. Byrd Jr. (I), who served from 1965 to 1983) passed away on Tuesday at the age of 98.

Ex-Rep. Lindy Boggs (D-LA-2), who succeeded her late husband in Congress back in 1973 and served nine terms, passed away from natural causes at the beginning of the week. She was 97.

And William Scranton, the former Pennsylvania Republican governor and congressman who served as the US Ambassador to the United Nations, also died this week in California at the age of 96.

Sen. Byrd was appointed to his seat, succeeding his father, who was forced to resign in 1965 due to health issues. He then died in 1966 of brain cancer. The younger Sen. Byrd went into the Senate as a Democrat, but his conservative philosophy on fiscal issues led him to leave the party in 1970 to become an Independent. Until his death this week, Byrd was the oldest living former senator.

Boggs succeeded her husband, Hale Boggs, who was the House Majority Leader. He died in a plane crash over a remote area of Alaska, flying with his Democratic colleague Rep. Nick Begich. The late Begich was the father of current US Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK). After retiring from the House, President Clinton appointed the former congresswoman as the US Ambassador to the Holy See, a position she would hold from 1997-2001.

Like the other two luminaries who passed, Scranton was from a political family. His grandfather, Joe Scranton, served five non-consecutive terms in Congress. Scranton’s son, William W. Scranton III, later became Pennsylvania’s lieutenant governor.

Candidate Developments

Alabama

With resigning Rep. Jo Bonner (R-AL-1) leaving office this Friday, Gov. Robert Bentley (R) announced the schedule for the upcoming replacement special election. With 11 candidates already running, eight of whom are Republicans, the governor has designated Monday, Aug. 5 as the candidate filing deadline. The party primaries will occur on Sept. 24, with run-offs, if necessary, to be held Nov. 5. The special general will then be Dec. 17.

In the unlikely occurrence of candidates from both parties securing a majority of the vote on Sept. 24, and thus clinching their respective nominations, the general election will then move to the Nov. 5 date. The eventual Republican nominee will be favored.

Arkansas

Key political insiders believe that Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR-4) will announce a challenge to Sen. Mark Pryor (D) later this week. Cotton, a freshman, has been considered a potential Pryor opponent almost the day after he was elected to the House, and now his move looks to become official.

The Arkansas Senate seat will likely fall into the highly competitive category, and this should be one of the most important statewide campaigns during the entire election cycle. It is clearly one of the seats that will determine the Senate majority for the next Congress.

Former Lt. Gov. Bill Halter (D), who forced then-Sen. Blanche Lincoln into a divisive Democratic primary that added to her political woes in 2010, thus leading to her eventual 57-36 percent defeat at the hands of then-Rep. John Boozman (R), has decided not to pursue another statewide Democratic primary battle. Originally announced as a 2014 open seat gubernatorial candidate, Halter announced this week that he is withdrawing from the contest. The action gives former Rep. Mike Ross (D-AR-4) a clear shot for the Democratic nomination that means a virtual sure general election contest with former Rep. Asa Hutchinson (R-AR-3). Early polling had given Ross a large lead over Halter, which clearly played into the ex-lieutentant governor’s withdrawal decision.

Illinois

Beginning with the end of World War II until January of this very year, the southwestern Illinois seat anchored in East St. Louis had been represented by only two men: representatives Mel Price (D; 1945-1988) and Jerry Costello (D; 1988-2013). Now, freshman Rep. Bill Enyart (D-IL-12), who won a 52-43 percent victory over former lieutenant governor nominee Jason Plummer (R), has already drawn a significant challenger for his first re-election.
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Minnesota Rumblings; Weiner Under Fire

Several developments are unfolding in budding Minnesota congressional races. A new Democratic poll in the state’s 2nd District shows House Education and Workforce Committee chairman John Kline dropping under 50 percent to the man he summarily defeated in 2012, while a serious Democratic challenger is potentially surfacing against Rep. Erik Paulsen (R-MN-3) in the adjoining district.

Victoria Research (July 17-21; 400 registered MN-2 voters), polling for the liberal House Majority PAC, tested former state Rep. Mike Obermueller against incumbent Kline and found the congressman to be leading 45-32 percent. But, the poll appears slanted.

Repeatedly the questionnaire stresses “compromise” in law making and clearly attempts to paint Kline as one not inclined to bend. For example, Obermueller was cast as a person who is “working together with others to achieve common goals.” The inference is that Kline is not. After characterizing Obermueller in this manner, another ballot test was then asked and, unsurprisingly, the Democrat forges into the lead 44-38 percent. Such a push question skews the poll’s overall results.

In any event, however, Kline did not receive a particularly favorable draw in redistricting and his Minneapolis suburban district is marginal in nature. President Obama carried the seat over Republican nominee Mitt Romney, but by only the smallest of spreads, just 0.1 percent of the vote. In the last congressional election, Rep. Kline defeated Obermueller 54-46 percent, a margin of some 29,000-plus votes.

Next door, former news anchorman Don Shelby (D) is confirming that he is considering launching a challenge to three-term incumbent Paulsen.

The 3rd CD, which encompasses the western Minneapolis suburbs of Bloomington, Eden Prairie, Plymouth, and Brooklyn Park, is also a marginal district but trends a bit more Republican though President Obama topped Romney by one point and almost four in 2008.

Paulsen, a former seven-term state Representative and legislative leader, originally won the district in 2008 with a 48-41 percent victory. He has since been re-elected with margins of 59-36 percent and 58-42 percent in 2010 and ’12, respectively. Neither of his re-election opponents, however, spent more than $530,000 against him.

It remains to be seen if either Democratic challenge develops in these Twin Cities’ suburban districts, but the voting patterns will yield competitive campaigns under the right circumstances. It is difficult to see, however, the climate becoming ripe for Democrats under a mid-term turnout model as we will experience in 2014.
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NRCC Announces More Patriots

The National Republican Congressional Committee has released the names of their second round of Patriot Program members, those congressmen who the NRCC believes are its most vulnerable incumbents. Back in April, the Committee publicized the first group of 11 GOP members facing the most competitive political situations.

Yesterday, nine more Representatives became “Patriots.” The program is designed to recruit incumbents in safe political situations to help raise and/or contribute funds to the designated colleagues.

The nine new members are:
• Dan Benishek – MI-1
• Michael Grimm – NY-11
• Bill Johnson – OH-6
• Tom Latham – IA-3
• Gary Miller – CA-31
• Tom Reed – NY-23
• Scott Rigell – VA-2
• Keith Rothfus – PA-12
• Lee Terry – NE-2

Two are rather obvious choices who did not make the first cut when the original Patriots were tabbed three months ago. Rep. Benishek won a second term last November, but with just 48 percent of the vote, outlasting by one point the same opponent he topped in double digits just two years before. Rep. Miller holds the most Democratic seat, at least in terms of the 2012 presidential vote, of any Republican House member.

Rep. Grimm represents the Staten Island seat that generally votes Republican, but did elect a Democrat for a term in the original Obama presidential year of 2008. Announced Democratic candidate Domenic Recchia, a New York City councilman, has already raised more money than Grimm, hence the sophomore congressman being added as a Patriot Program participant.

Representatives Johnson, Rigell, and Terry all hold marginally swing districts. In the majority of political circumstances they, as Republican incumbents, should maintain their seats.

Rep. Reed scored only a 49-46 percent win last November in a district that is more Democratic than his original pre-redistricting 29th CD. Even with the change, the three-point victory was an under-performance.

Rep. Rothfus upset Democratic incumbent Mark Critz in 2012, taking advantage of a favorable Republican redistricting map. The fact that Critz is considering seeking a re-match lands Rothfus in the Patriot Program.

Rep. Latham won a huge victory (52-43 percent) over fellow Congressman Leonard Boswell (D) last November in an incumbent pairing situation, but the district is still very attainable for the Democrats who plan to make the seat a target. It’s unlikely they’ll succeed, but the NRCC action signals that their party will take no chances here.

House Re-Set

Completing our two-part series examining the congressional political picture (the July 8 Political Update covered the Senate outlook), today we look at the House.

Currently, 234 Republicans and 201 Democrats comprise the body’s membership. Three seats are slated to soon become vacant: Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA-5) will be sworn into the Senate upon official certification of his late June special election victory; Rep. Jo Bonner (R-AL-1) announced his resignation effective in mid-August to accept a position at the University of Alabama; and Rep. Mel Watt (D-NC-12), should he be confirmed, will become the Director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency thus leaving the House at an undetermined date.

In contrast to the 2012 cycle when 62 seats were open, at this point only 14 members have announced their retirements, accepted new positions, or are running for a different office. Three others: representatives Robin Kelly (D-IL-2), Mark Sanford (R-SC-1), and Jason Smith (R-MO-8), have won special elections since the current 113th Congress began making a grand total of 17 seats that have opened, or will open, since the 2012 general election. Of the fourteen currently projected open seats, eight are Republican held and six Democratic.

Toss-Ups

Attributable to a tight national redistricting model, only eight seats are now in this column. Six of those belong to Democrats (representatives Ron Barber (AZ-2), Scott Peters [CA-52), Patrick Murphy (FL-18), Joe Garcia (FL-26), Mike McIntyre (NC-7), and Jim Matheson (UT-4)], while only two are Republican-held [representatives Gary Miller (CA-31) and Mike Coffman (CO-6)]. Therefore, the GOP is in a slightly better position to gain a small number of seats.

The Leans

Both parties have just about an equal number of “lean” seats. Majority Republicans have 18 of their members or open seats rated as Lean Republican, while  Continue reading >