US House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan and President Donald Trump shake hands at the 2018 State of the Union speech.
By Jim Ellis
April 12, 2018 — As we know, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) announced his retirement yesterday, and even more change can be presumed coming to Capitol Hill as a result.
In the short term, expect increased analyses predicting an ensuing Democratic majority forming in House races and further predictions over what party strategists refer to as an impending “blue wave.” They will suggest that the Ryan retirement shows the speaker understands the “wave” is becoming a political tsunami, and one not destined to fail in the manner that the predicted presidential “blue wall” crumbled.
Long term in this election cycle, however, things have a chance to play out differently. With a sure change in leadership coming no matter what the general election produces, Republican members and candidates will be freer to re-set the GOP agenda and join the chorus charging that the current Congress has failed to deliver on enough campaign promises.
Ryan has been a huge fundraiser for party candidates, and is credited in some reports with being responsible for some $54 million already being distributed to GOP contenders and party institutions. And, that’s before the latest Federal Election Commission (FEC) quarterly disclosure reports are released after April 15.
Nov. 16, 2016 — Though the media has obsessed over stories about internal Republican skirmishes for the past four years, the House GOP Conference came together yesterday in a strong show of unity just as the Democrats begin to see division in their own ranks.
In the GOP leadership elections, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI-1) was re-nominated for the House’s top post without opposition, with his re-election bid seconded by the congressional liaison to the incoming Trump Administration, Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY-27).
The other incumbent party leaders, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA-23), Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA-1), and Republican Conference chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA-5) were also re-elected without opposition, all enjoying at least tacit support from the president-elect.
In the major contested internal battle, Rep. Steve Stivers (R-OH-15) claimed the National Republican Congressional Committee chairmanship with a 60 percent victory over Rep. Roger Williams (R-TX-25). Stivers replaces Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR-2), who was ineligible to seek a third term in the position.
Dec. 14, 2015 — Time sometimes changes perspective in politics. Three-term North Carolina Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-Dunn) came to Congress with a 2010 victory margin of just under 1,500 votes against then-Rep. Bob Etheridge (D-Lillington/Durham) in what became one of that cycle’s biggest Tea Party upsets. Now running for a fourth term, some of the congresswoman’s past allies are backing one of her Republican primary opponents. Her performance in office has disappointed various conservative segments.
This week, the Club for Growth, one of the most prolific conservative outside support groups endorsed Rep. Ellmers’ top primary opponent, former Chatham County Republican chairman Jim Duncan. The Ellmers’ conservative detractors have a major problem, however, in that the anti-incumbent vote is split among three candidates. In addition to Duncan, local radio talk show host Frank Roche and public relations executive Kay Daly are both in the race.
With the Club helping Duncan, his resource base will expand exponentially. He becomes Ellmers’ key challenger and, if the other two could be talked out of running before the upcoming Dec. 21 candidate filing deadline (for the March 15 primary), would be in strong position to deny her re-nomination. But, considering that North Carolina employs a 40 percent run-off rule, defeating any incumbent in a crowded field is a difficult proposition. To avoid a secondary election, Ellmers would only have to reach the 40 percent plateau to clinch the nomination, which, in the 2nd District is the tantamount to winning in November.
Nov. 20, 2015 — The first person to declare his candidacy in the open Monterey, Calif., congressional district has come forward.
On Friday, veteran California Congressman Sam Farr (D-CA-20) announced he would not seek a 13th term next year, retiring from the House at what will be age 75 when the current term ends.
Prior to Farr winning this California coastal seat in 1993, then-Rep. Leon Panetta represented the region since his original election 16-plus years earlier. Panetta would later serve as President Bill Clinton’s Director of the Office of Management & Budget, and then as White House Chief of Staff. Out of public life for almost 12 years, President Obama brought him back to Washington as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, and then as Secretary of Defense.
Now, Panetta’s second son, Jimmy Panetta a 43-year-old Monterey County Deputy District Attorney, announced his congressional candidacy yesterday, and will have to be rated a favorite to advance to the general election. The seat’s Democratic nature suggests that two party members could well advance to November.
Oct. 6, 2015 — Responding to the uproar Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA-23) caused when he indicated that the House Benghazi Committee was largely responsible for ex-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s decline in the nationwide polls, Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT-3) announced his candidacy for Speaker over the weekend.
Does this development endanger McCarthy’s ascension to the Speakership? Not within the Conference, but the Benghazi Committee flap certainly has caused many members, and the Republican faithful at large, to question his ability to lead.
Virtually, inappropriately, and incorrectly saying that the Benghazi investigative committee was politically driven, McCarthy has reinforced the leadership’s internal and external opponents. His statements have given Republican financial donors and grassroots activists reason for pause, while reinforcing the impression that the GOP congressional hierarchy has failed to inspire confidence within the right-of-center political base.