Category Archives: House

House Freshmen Debt

While all the talk in Washington is about fiscal responsibility, the new House freshman class seems to command better standing than many other past first-term groups when comparing their public policy rhetoric to campaign practices.

Looking at the 2010 campaign finance statistics, 158 of 435 winning candidates ended their electoral cycle carrying some amount of campaign debt, slightly more than 1/3 of all victorious candidates, according to the year-end financial disclosure reports as published by the Federal Election Commission. Ninety-three are from veteran member campaigns, meaning much of their debt may be from previous election cycles.

Of the 63 freshmen carrying debt, not including members with a break in service or those elected in post-2008 special elections, the great preponderance are Republicans (56R-7D), mostly because GOP candidates won so many more races. Of the pure freshmen in the current 112th Congress, 87 are Republican compared to just nine Democrats.

Only two freshmen have over $1 million in campaign debt. Rep. Quico Canseco (R-TX-23) is showing the highest amount of red ink, but 52% of the $1.146 million is owed to himself in the form of a candidate loan. The second member to carry a seven-figured debt is Rep. Diane Black (R-TN-6). Her total is $1.046 million, but the entire amount is owed to herself.

Just five new members are carrying more than $500,000 in debt. They are:
• Bill Flores (R-TX-17) – $739,872
• David McKinley (R-WV-1) – $670,000
• Bill Hanna (R-NY-24) – $536,515
• David Schweikert (R-AZ-5) – $523,000
• Nan Hayworth (R-NY-19) – $504,902

A dozen first-term members hold debts of between $200,000 and $499,999. They are:
• Justin Amash (R-MI-3) – $408,200
• Mike Kelly (R-PA-3) – $382,720
• Scott Rigell (R-VA-2) – $378,000
• Jim Renacci (R-OH-16) – $375,222
• Joe Walsh (R-IL-8) – $361,740
• Jon Runyan (R-NJ-3) – $338,529
• Lou Barletta (R-PA-11) – $258,495
• Chuck Fleishmann (R-TN-3) – $250,000
• Cedric Richmond (D-LA-2) – $236,826
• Tim Griffin (R-AR-2) – $232,897
• Tim Mulvaney (R-SC-5) – $210,000
• Joe Heck (R-NV-3) – $203,000

An additional 13 are between $100,000 and $199,999 in the red:
• Reid Ribble (R-WI-8) – $173,009
• Vicky Hartzler (R-MO-4) – $163,406
• Scott Tipton (R-CO-3) – $158,687
• Dan Benishek (R-MI-1) – $157,000
• Blake Farenthold (R-TX-27) – $156,643
• Rick Berg (R-ND-AL) – $154,250
• Frederica Wilson (D-FL-17) – $154,750
• Bob Dold (R-IL-10) – $143,609
• David Rivera (R-FL-25) – $137,474
• Colleen Hanabusa (D-HI-1) – $121,959
• David Cicilline (D-RI-1) – $120,000
• Cory Gardner (R-CO-4) – $103,062
• Sandy Adams (R-FL-24) – $100,850

An additional 31 freshmen members have debt, but all are below $100,000 in dollars owed, and 24 have no debt at all.

It appears that the vast majority of freshmen will be debt-free and in strong financial position when the first quarter reporting period draws to an end on March 31. Maintaining such a status is crucial when preparing for the all-important first re-election campaign.

The rise of the independent organizations that put millions of dollars into specific, candidate-related political messages may be largely responsible for reducing not only candidate campaign spending to some degree, but also the individual members’ campaign debts. The final year-end financial figures are just one more indication that the world of campaign finance continues to evolve in new and very different ways. These results again underscore the fundamental changes in free expression that the Citizens’ United Supreme Court ruling has brought to the political marketplace.
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New Political Heat in the Arizona Desert

Arizona Rep. Jeff Flake (R-6)

More torrid political action is coming to Arizona. As expected, Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ-6) announced yesterday that he will leave the House at the end of next year to run for the Senate, now that Republican Whip Jon Kyl (R) has made his retirement plans known. Flake, who attracts some national attention for opposing earmarks and his fervent support of reducing government spending, may have the right message for a like-minded constituency at exactly the proper time. He certainly will be formidable in a Republican primary and, today, must be cast as the general election favorite too.

The Congressman’s short-term objective is to discourage other top Republicans from challenging him, thus making his road to the GOP nomination smooth and easy. Several already have officially declined to run, including former Rep. John Shadegg (R-AZ-3) and freshmen Reps. Ben Quayle (R-AZ-3) and David Schweikert (R-AZ-5), in addition to retired NFL quarterback Kurt Warner. Another office-holder previously thinking about the Senate race has reportedly altered his plans. Russell Pearce, the Arizona Senate president, is said to be mounting a campaign for Flake’s open House seat, wherever it might be drawn, rather than enter the statewide fray.

The Flake decision also impacts redistricting. With an incumbent-less suburban Republican seat unprotected, it becomes easier for map drawers to make drastic changes in the congressional map.

Politics in the Grand Canyon State are still in a relative state of chaos, rendering it almost impossible to accurately forecast future elections. Considering this tentative back-drop, it appears that Mr. Flake’s decision to run for Senate is a sensible one.
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What’s Next in New York and Arizona?

The surprise resignation of Rep. Chris Lee (R-NY-26) will soon set off yet another special congressional election in New York. The 26th district, stretching from the Buffalo suburbs to the outlying Rochester area, is strongly Republican. With a new, short-term incumbent, however, the district stands a chance of being collapsed in the 2012 redistricting plan, since the state loses two congressional seats in reapportionment. Therefore, redistricting is certainly a factor for the potential candidates assessing their special election chances and prospects for a long tenure in the House. Republicans will have the advantage in this short-term contest.

Previously, when then-Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY-20) was appointed to the Senate, a special election was held to choose a replacement for the House seat. Democrat Scott Murphy prevailed, but current Rep. Chris Gibson (R) subsequently defeated him in November. Rep. John McHugh’s (R-NY-23) appointment as Army Secretary led to a divisive special election allowing Democrat Bill Owens to slip through a three-way contest to capture the normally Republican seat. Owens went on to win a full term last November in similar fashion.

The major political parties will caucus and select a nominee; thus, there will be no primary election. Early reports suggest that Republican Assemblywoman Jane Corwin is already beginning to assemble a campaign operation. Among Democrats, Erie County legislator Kathy Konst has the potential of quickly becoming a consensus candidate. Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has a wide time frame in which to schedule the vote but once he does, the election will be held just 30-40 days from his official call.

In Arizona, Sen. Jon Kyl’s (R) announcement yesterday that he will not seek a fourth term sets the state’s political apparatus in motion. Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ-6) previously indicated interest in making a statewide bid should Kyl retire. The five-term Representative is a nationally known budget hawk, and has a strong following in the state. He has over $627,000 in the bank according to his year-end financial statement. The only other veteran Republican congressman in the Arizona delegation, Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ-2) is more likely to remain in the House.

For the Democrats, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ (D-AZ-8) name is already surfacing, but the congresswoman, recovering from a senseless assassination attempt, is not currently in a position to run a grueling statewide campaign. Had it not been for the tragic Tucson shooting that injured her and killed six others, Rep. Giffords would very likely have joined the field of Senate candidates and been among the favorites to capture not only the Democratic nomination, but possibly the seat itself. Homeland Security Secretary and former Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano is also being mentioned as a person having interest in running. But recent polling indicates that her stint in Washington has cost her dearly among her former constituents.

Turning to other potential Senate candidates, former Rep. John Shadegg (R-AZ-3) is saying he might have interest in such a race. Former Attorney General Grant Woods, known as a liberal Republican, is another mentioned as a potential candidate. Ex-Democratic Party state chairman and 2006 Senatorial nominee Jim Pederson will also find his name prominently on a list of potential office seekers. Former state Treasurer Dean Martin (R), who briefly challenged Gov. Jan Brewer in the Republican primary, is another GOP possibility.

This race will be hard-fought, as the state is rife with controversial issues and the voting base becomes ever more marginal and competitive. Republicans will start out with an advantage, but this race will be one to watch throughout the 2012 election cycle.
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A Strange Potential Re-match in California

Rep. Jane Harman’s (D-CA-36) resignation is putting an odd set of political musical chairs in motion. With Los Angeles City Councilwoman Janice Hahn (D) already moving forward with her special election congressional candidacy, California Secretary of State Debra Bowen (D) also is telling state party officials that she, too, will run for Congress. The interesting part of this scenario is that the man she just defeated for re-election to her statewide post, former professional football player Damon Dunn (R), may also run against her for Congress. Bowen easily won the 2010 statewide race 54-39%.

It is unusual that two statewide opponents in a place the size of California would actually be from the same community, but even wilder that both are now looking to run for a district office so soon after competing on the bigger stage. Bowen’s interest in Congress may pertain to her now serving her second and final term as secretary of state. California limits its constitutional officers to two consecutive terms. The 36th congressional district is decidedly Democratic and, under the state’s new election law, it is permissible for two members of the same party to qualify for the special general election. So, it’s conceivable that the Bowen-Dunn re-match may never occur. Democrats are favored to hold the seat, and a Hahn-Bowen “Double D” general election is certainly within the realm of possibility.
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California Candidates Already Vying to Replace Harman

The new House of Representatives is about to have its first vacancy as Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA-36) will soon resign her seat in Congress to become the director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, succeeding former House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Lee Hamilton (D-IN-9). Harman originally was elected to Congress in 1992 and left six years later, relinquishing her seat to mount an unsuccessful campaign for governor of California. She returned to the House in 2000, defeating then-Rep. Steve Kuykendall (R), and was easily re-elected another five times.

Already Los Angeles City Councilwoman Janice Hahn (D) is saying she will run in the special election. Secretary of State Debra Bowen (D), who was a state legislator from this part of California before winning her current post in 2006, is also reported to have interest in the off-year congressional race.

The 36th district is heavily Democratic and fully contained within Los Angeles County. The communities of Torrance, Redondo Beach and Manhattan Beach together provide the population anchor for the seat. Pres. Obama scored 64% of the vote here in 2008. Former Pres. George W. Bush could do no better than 40 and 39% in his two elections, 2004 and 2000, in respective chronological order.

The eventual CA-36 special election will also be the first such campaign under California’s new primary law. As adopted by the voters in 2010, if no one receives 50% plus one vote, the top two finishers, regardless of political party affiliation, will qualify for the general election. Gov. Jerry Brown (D) must call the special election between 112 and 126 days from the date of vacancy.
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