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September 30, 2014

Posts in "On the Trail"

September 30, 2014

Ex-First Lady of Florida Fires Back at Congressman

Ex First Lady of Florida Fires Back at Congressman

It's hard being the parents of a political candidate. Former Sen. Bob Graham and his wife Adele Graham in 2004. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

ST. GEORGE ISLAND, Fla. — Former Florida First Lady Adele Graham is not happy with her daughter’s political rival, Republican Rep. Steve Southerland II.

Graham and her husband, ex-Sen. Bob Graham, have been a pervasive presence on the campaign trail in support of Democratic attorney Gwen Graham’s bid to unseat Southerland in his 2nd District in the Florida panhandle.

Full story

September 26, 2014

Bill Cassidy Dips Into Landrieu Territory for Votes

Bill Cassidy Dips Into Landrieu Territory for Votes

Cassidy speaks with pharmacy students from Xavier University of Louisiana. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

NEW ORLEANS — At a Saturday morning community health fair in a Vietnamese enclave in the predominantly black eastern wing of this city, Cassidy wasn’t exactly in politically friendly territory.

Bill Cassidy Dips Into Landrieu Territory for VotesBut he was quickly met by a familiar face ready to show him around. Greeting Cassidy behind a mobile pregnancy care bus was former Rep. Anh “Joseph” Cao, a fellow Republican who entered the House with Cassidy after the 2008 elections and served for a single term.

Cassidy, who is challenging Democratic Sen. Mary L. Landrieu, would work his way through a welcoming campus-wide, college football tailgate in Baton Rouge later that day. But first he was here in a church parking lot in Village de L’Est, a traditionally Vietnamese neighborhood with a growing Hispanic population, to try to pick up a few votes.

“Wherever I can meet the most voters works for me,” Cassidy said as Cao led him toward the crowd.

Full story

September 24, 2014

Jeb Bush Knocks Harry Reid While Campaigning for Thom Tillis

Jeb Bush Knocks Harry Reid While Campaigning for Thom Tillis

Bush campaigned for Tillis in North Carolina. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

GREENSBORO, N.C. – Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said Wednesday getting the country back on track requires Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s ouster from the top spot “at minimum.”

Jeb Bush Knocks Harry Reid While Campaigning for Thom Tillis

Speaking at a warehouse event for Thom Tillis, the GOP’s nominee for Senate, Bush pinned the country’s hopes for an economic recovery on Republicans taking control of the Senate.

“Most of the big things that need to be fixed are in Washington, D.C., and if we get them right — which will require Harry Reid’s departure from the Senate, or, at minimum, being minority leader — people’s fears about the future will be lifted, their belief in their children’s opportunities will come back naturally,” Bush said.

Tillis is challenging Sen. Kay Hagan, a Democrat, in one of the country’s most competitive Senate races. Republicans need to gain six seats in November to take control of the Senate, and North Carolina, a state that typically favors the GOP, is seen as a prime pick-up opportunity.

Full story

September 23, 2014

Vote Now in the #RCReadersChoice Runoff

Vote Now in the #RCReadersChoice Runoff

Peters is a freshman in California's 52nd District. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Readers will have one more opportunity this week to pick the House and Senate races Roll Call will cover from the ground in the final weeks of the midterms.

Last week, thousands of votes were cast to send reporters @cahnemily and @alexis_levinson on the road in our first #RCReadersChoice survey. Two House races and two Senate races lead their packs, and now readers have until Thursday at 5 p.m. for the runoff contest.

On the Senate side, readers can select between Kansas, where GOP Sen. Pat Roberts is unexpectedly fighting for his re-election, and Colorado, where Democratic Sen. Mark Udall is attempting to fend off a strong challenge from GOP Rep. Cory Gardner. In the first round of voting, Kansas was the clear front-runner, and Colorado beat out the North Carolina Senate race by just two votes to make the final round.

The finalist House races are California’s 52nd District, located in San Diego, and Nebraska’s 2nd District, located in Omaha. Both incumbents in these races — Democrat Scott Peters in California and Republican Lee Terry in Nebraska — are on Roll Call’s list of the 10 Most Vulnerable House Members.

Have an opinion on which race we should cover? Tweet your thoughts @RollCall with #RCReadersChoice. Otherwise, vote below:

Full story

September 22, 2014

Mary Landrieu to Keg-Stand Critics: ‘Get a Life’

Mary Landrieu to Keg Stand Critics: Get a Life

Landrieu, right, answers questions from the local media during her event with Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-La., left, in Baton Rouge, La. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

BATON ROUGE, La. — In the shadow of the state Capitol on Monday, Sen. Mary L. Landrieu had a message for any Republican critics of her decision Saturday to help a Louisiana State University football fan perform a keg stand as she campaigned across campus.

“They need to get a sense of humor, and they need to get a life — it’s just the way we roll,” Landrieu said in response to a question at a news conference where she and Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-La., exchanged endorsements.

Landrieu went on to note that the fan was a 28-year-old alumnus with a master’s degree in business. Full story

Voters, Tigers and Beers — Oh My!

Voters, Tigers and Beers — Oh My!

Landrieu poses for a selfie with LSU football fans as she campaigns at tailgate parties on campus. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

BATON ROUGE, La. — Six weeks from Election Day, Sen. Mary L. Landrieu gathered the troops on the Louisiana State University campus, where tens of thousands of football fans and prospective voters congregated for hours ahead of the Saturday night game.

Voters, Tigers and Beers — Oh My!The three-term Democrat faces arguably her most challenging race yet against, among others, Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy, who worked the Tigers fans for votes a couple hours later. Landrieu’s best shot may be to break 50 percent in the November jungle primary, but that avenue to victory has shrunk since her last race in a state increasingly difficult for any Democrat to win.

For that reason, Landrieu attempted to reach every voter she could among the boisterous and boozy crowd before kickoff.

Nearly two dozen volunteers and staff formed a circle around Landrieu at a tailgate in the heart of campus, where her younger brother Martin offered food, water and beer to the campaigners — who all had been trying to keep up with the hyper-speed pace of the senator for more than a half hour already. Landrieu ordered the group to split in two, to remind voters about the Nov. 4 jungle primary, early voting dates and to hand out stickers.

“Not everybody is going to be a supporter,” Landrieu told them, “but just be nice, friendly. You’re very visible.”

Not long after, Landrieu went to new lengths for a vote. Egged on to perform a keg stand, she instead held the spigot for a 20-something supporter — one of many methods the LSU faithful would use to imbibe that Saturday afternoon. Full story

September 21, 2014

Mary Landrieu Assists Keg Stand

Mary Landrieu Assists Keg Stand

Landrieu assists on a keg stand at LSU on Saturday Sept. 20. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

BATON ROUGE, La. — There are some wild and crazy people in there.

Mary Landrieu Assists Keg StandThat’s what a campaign staffer warned Democratic Sen. Mary L. Landrieu as she eyed an opening to the Parade Grounds in the center of Louisiana State University, where football fans began setting up intricate tailgate parties campus-wide 24 hours before the Saturday night game.

Landrieu had already been working the campus with a fury for an hour, flanked by an army of volunteers in navy “I’m With Mary” t-shirts and handing out Landrieu for Senate stickers.

“Let’s do it,” responded Landrieu, who is one of the cycle’s most vulnerable senators as she seeks a fourth term. Full story

September 10, 2014

Pot Still Too Hot to Handle for Colorado Politicians

Pot Still Too Hot to Handle for Colorado Politicians

Marijuana in Terrapin Care Station, a marijuana dispensary, in Boulder, Colo. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

BOULDER, Colo. — Long a flashpoint in the culture wars, marijuana’s growing legitimacy hasn’t yet turned it into a political weapon, even in the marquee races in the first state to legalize the drug.

In Colorado, the issue has barely gotten a mention as Rep. Cory Gardner takes on Democratic Sen. Mark Udall, and Republican Rep. Mike Coffman faces a challenge from Andrew Romanoff in one of the country’s hottest House races.

Pot Still Too Hot to Handle for Colorado Politicians

For now, the lawmakers still seem to find pot too hot to handle as a political weapon. Republicans in the state have shifted how they talk about the matter, but Democrats aren’t trying to capitalize on what could potentially become a new wedge issue in their favor this cycle — and in elections to come.

Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia currently have legalized medical marijuana. Only Colorado and Washington have legalized recreational marijuana, but more are expected to vote on whether to change their laws, including Oregon and Alaska in November, as polls have shown surging support for legalization.

Udall, whose race could decide control of the Senate, said marijuana is now simply a business interest in Colorado.

“We are all together in urging the attorney general to let this experiment unfold,” Udall said in Greenwood Village, Colo., after an event with Denver business interests.

But he hasn’t attacked Gardner’s hard-line record on marijuana, something advocates for legalization call a missed opportunity.

“It seems that many elected officials … still haven’t come to terms with the fact that marijuana legalization is a mainstream issue that’s supported by a growing majority of the public,” said Tom Angell, chairman of the Marijuana Majority, a legalization advocacy group. Full story

September 3, 2014

Bill Enyart Challenger Looks to Leap From Illinois House

Bill Enyart Challenger Looks to Leap From Illinois House

Bost makes a mid-August campaign stop at a Du Quoin, Ill., brewery. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

DU QUOIN, Ill. — With more than 19 years under his belt as an Illinois legislator, state Rep. Mike Bost has seen it all on the campaign trail.

At a mid-August campaign stop, the Republican taking on Democratic Rep. Bill Enyart, one of the most vulnerable members of Congress, dished on door-knocking memories as he sipped a beer at the St. Nicholas Brewing Company. It’s a new craft beer joint here in a farming town of some 6,000 people, connected to Chicago and Carbondale via Amtrak’s Saluki train, and in the heart of the swingy 12th District.Bill Enyart Challenger Looks to Leap From Illinois House

Bost leaned over to an aide, smirking. “I’m going to tell her about walking precincts with my wife in Belleville,” he said, before relaying the tale of finding a pool of blood in a driveway and missing a fatal stabbing by just hours.

While he survived that experience, Bost admits his challenge this cycle may be the greatest he’s staked yet. But it’s one national Republicans are increasingly optimistic about.

Full story

August 28, 2014

Romanoff Courts Latinos Crucial to Colorado Race

Romanoff Courts Latinos Crucial to Colorado Race

Romanoff, left, toured the theater that caters to the Latino community. Becerra joined the Democratic House candidate on the campaign trail. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Aurora, Colo. — Outside the Cinema Latino as he campaigned against Rep. Mike Coffman, Democratic House hopeful Andrew Romanoff outlines his strategy for winning over Hispanic voters critical to his chances in the Nov. 4 contest.

Romanoff told CQ Roll Call he is optimistic turnout will be high, thanks in part to a state law passed last year to allow same-day registration and voting, as well as a requirement every voters is automatically sent mail-in ballots.

Romanoff Courts Latinos Crucial to Colorado Race

“Those two things — universal mail-in balloting, Election Day registration — will increase turnout and that’s good not just for my campaign…but I think for democracy,” said Romanoff, the former state house speaker.

To win here, Democrats need Latinos to vote. Romanoff, who speaks fluent Spanish, has been trying to win over the community as he battles Coffman in a race The Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call rate a Tossup.

That’s one reason why on this summer day his campaign has reached out Cinema Latino’s management team for a tour. He lauded the business owners as working to “maximize their connection to the community.” Romanoff has visited a few dozen small- and medium-sized businesses as he tries to win over voters in the 6th District in the central part of the Centennial State. Full story

August 26, 2014

Once-Vulnerable Freshman on Safer Ground in Illinois

Once Vulnerable Freshman on Safer Ground in Illinois

Davis at the Illinois State Fair. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Freshman Rep. Rodney Davis entered the midterms as one of the most vulnerable Republicans on the map.

Not anymore.

In 2012, the former staffer for Rep. John Shimkus, R-Ill., won the 13th District by a mere 1,002 votes to a perennial Democrat panned by party operatives. This cycle, Democrats in Illinois and Washington, D.C., recruited former judge Ann Callis, billing her as a top-tier challenger who could win this Springfield-based swing seat.

Once Vulnerable Freshman on Safer Ground in Illinois

But nearly two months from Election Day, Republican operatives in the Land of Lincoln and Washington, D.C., are cautiously optimistic about Davis’ chances, thanks to his adept political skills and favorable tail winds behind the GOP in the midterms. At the same time, Republicans and, privately, Democrats say Callis has not lived up to her candidacy’s hype or made the necessary inroads to win the district.

“Other than knowing her name I don’t know if she even exists, frankly,” said Mark Scranton, a Republican and blasting and painting company owner from Decatur at the Illinois State Fair. “It’s going to be a challenging race, but I think Rodney’s been in office long enough that he’s proven himself, he makes himself available to his constituents, he’s been in my business several times over the last two or three years.”

Davis also appeared confident at Republican Day, Aug. 14, at the fair, where he glad-handed his way through the crowd of GOP insiders at the unofficial kick-off to election season. A red cup in hand, Davis handed out hugs and back slaps, catching up with operatives, insiders and elected officials, many of whom were pals from his years as a political operative in Illinois and on Capitol Hill.
Full story

August 24, 2014

Temps and Tensions Max Out in Arizona Primary

Temps and Tensions Max Out in Arizona Primary

Gallego speaks to Arizona primary volunteers before they canvass. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

PHOENIX — It’s a dry 108-degree heat this August afternoon, and Tony Valdovinos only prays it gets hotter. The curly-haired field director for Ruben Gallego, a Democrat running in the open House race here, has his reasons.

“We know when it’s hot, we’re the only ones out there,” says Valdovinos, slighting the opposition’s turnout operation as he drives through a wide boulevard en route to an early evening canvass.

Temps and Tensions Max Out in Arizona Primary

In Arizona’s 7th District, a generational party brawl has consumed urban Latino politics, pitting a longtime local pol, former Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox, against Gallego, a former two-term state representative three decades her junior.

The decisive Democratic primary for retiring Rep. Ed Pastor’s seat is Tuesday, but the race has been culminating for weeks thanks to Arizona’s burgeoning permanent early voter list. In the Valley of the Sun’s prohibitively expensive media market, the victor will be decided by direct mail and, most importantly, a month-long get-out-the-vote push in the late summer heat.

In the weeks leading up to the primary, Gallego’s team expressed more confidence they will prevail. They’re probably right: A high-tech ground game has served him well, even in some of the southwest’s oldest barrios.

Full story

August 21, 2014

Once a GOP Staffer, Candidate Now Vies to Be Main Event

Once a GOP Staffer, Candidate Now Vies to Be Main Event

Young, left, and Grassley, right, campaign at the Iowa State Fair. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

ADEL, Iowa – When David Young first became Sen. Charles E. Grassley’s chief of staff seven years ago, the senator sat him down for a talk. Young thought he was in for the riot act or a long list of rules.

Once a GOP Staffer, Candidate Now Vies to Be Main Event

Instead, as he tells it in the parking lot where people are shucking corn for the Adel Sweet Corn Festival, Iowa’s beloved senior senator recounted some advice he received when he first came to Washington.

“He said, ‘[whatever] your constituents want, anything and everything, you do it,’” Young recalls. “‘If they want you to cut their toenails, you cut their toenails.’”

A few weeks later, Young went out and bought enough toenail clippers for the entire staff as a reminder of their mission. Today, Young recounts that tale as a candidate for Iowa’s open 3rd District. Grassley tells the same story in Young’s first general election radio ad.

Young jokes that he probably needs to start carrying around toenail clippers. “Undoubtedly, someone’s going to come up to me and say, ‘Cut ‘em Dave,’” he jokes, saying he might also need “a 5 gallon Purell pump” to finish the job.

Full story

August 20, 2014

Pat Quinn Could be Drag on Illinois Democrats

Pat Quinn Could be Drag on Illinois Democrats

Schock, left, and Davis, watch Rauner fire up the crowd. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — The national political tide isn’t looking good for Democrats, but in Illinois this November, down-ballot candidates have an even bigger problem: the drag of Gov. Pat Quinn.

Pat Quinn Could be Drag on Illinois Democrats

The Land of Lincoln is a hotbed of political activity this cycle, with Democrats defending three freshmen House incumbents and looking to pick-off one more — Republican Rep. Rodney Davis in the ultra-competitive 13th District.

All but one of those races take place outside of Chicago’s Cook County — the last bastion of support for Quinn and one of just three counties he carried in the state when he narrowly won the role in 2010. That geography is bad news for Democrats looking to tamp down losses in the midterms.

There was no clearer example of Quinn’s problems than last week’s Illinois State Fair, where elected officials, political operatives and party insiders from both sides of the aisle descended upon the Springfield fairgrounds for each party’s respective day of rallies.

On Aug. 14, Republicans flocked to the fairgrounds to support Bruce Rauner, the party’s wealthy gubernatorial nominee who rolled up to the rally on his Harley Davidson and then delivered a red-meat speech going after Quinn in front of a fired up crowd of supporters.

It was a stark contrast from Democrats’ gathering the day before, where instead of riling up his base at the fair, Quinn instead hosted a low-key picnic to pose for photos with a more mellow group of supporters, many of whom were bussed in from the Chicago area.

Full story

August 18, 2014

Martha McSally Tries to Fly to Victory

Martha McSally Tries to Fly to Victory

McSally is running for Congress in Arizona. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

TUCSON, Ariz. — Operatives couldn’t make up a better candidate résumé if they tried: retired Air Force Colonel, first in her class at the U.S. Air War College, the first female fighter pilot in combat who flies the very plane — an A-10 Warthog — that’s economically essential to the 2nd District.

At a time when Republicans wrangle with messaging to female voters, this 48-year-old’s spunk and articulate bite is made for television — and unlike anything the House GOP Conference has seen in a while.

Martha McSally Tries to Fly to VictoryBut can Martha McSally finally win this House seat on her third try, and, more pressing for this Friday evening, can the Republican spell “logomachy”?

“L-O-G-O-M-A-C-H-Y,” McSally enunciates to the judges, who nod in approval at a spelling bee fundraiser just off the Old Pueblo’s newly booming downtown strip. It means an argument about words — something of which there’s plenty in her race.

After nearly a dozen rounds, the competition has dwindled from 15 local celebrities and the judges have to regroup because they’ve run out of pre-selected words to challenge the two finalists. McSally is one of them, and when it’s her turn, she walks into the single spotlight on stage and tries to spell “sayonara.”

She blows it. Full story

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