Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
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May 30, 2013

Al Franken Vs. the Unknown #MNSEN

Al Franken Vs. the Unknown #MNSEN

Franken is running for re-election and so far the GOP bench to challenge him is thin. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The first Minnesota Republican to challenge Democratic Sen. Al Franken piqued both curiosity and optimism within the state’s GOP circles. Finance executive Mike McFadden, who heads a Minneapolis management firm, is a largely unknown quantity in state politics, aside from a few donations.

Some Republicans think that may be one of McFadden’s best assets in this Democratic-leaning state, which hasn’t voted for a Republican presidential candidate since 1972. They’re also realistic about his chances against someone who is now a formidable incumbent.

“He’s a very personable guy. That’s obviously a good asset,” said one Republican strategist who’s worked on statewide campaigns. “But when you’re going from basically high school ball to the major leagues — that’s a big jump.”

Those who have actually met McFadden were impressed and they are genuinely optimistic about this being a competitive race, especially with a midterm electorate that tends to be more favorable for Republicans than in presidential years.

Full story

Aloha, Campaign Manager #HISEN | Shop Talk

Hawaii Sen. Brian Schatz has hired Clay Schroers to manage his campaign for next year’s highly competitive Democratic primary.

Schroers was born and raised in Hawaii. He has managed several congressional races, including New York Rep. Dan Maffei’s successful comeback bid last year. He also served as an aide to Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann.

Full story

March 27, 2013

Hawaii: LCV Action Fund Endorses Schatz

With a possible Democratic primary challenge coming, the political action arm of the League of Conservation Voters announced Wednesday its endorsement of Hawaii Sen. Brian Schatz.

Schatz is running in the 2014 special election to fill the remaining two years of the late Sen. Daniel K. Inouye’s term, and he’s facing a possible challenge from Democratic Rep. Colleen Hanabusa. The endorsement means Schatz is now featured on LCV Action Fund’s bundling website, which helps raise money for candidates who support the group’s environmental causes.

“Brian Schatz is a lifelong environmentalist and a proven leader on climate change policy,” LCV Action Fund President Gene Karpinski said in a statement. “He has championed clean energy initiatives that have put Hawaii at the forefront of utilizing renewable energy and reducing dependence on petroleum. We will need his continued leadership in the U.S. Senate.”

On Dec. 26, Gov. Neil Abercrombie appointed Schatz to the Senate, then the lieutenant governor, instead of Hanabusa, whom Inouye had endorsed to replace him shortly before his death.

Hanabusa is now considering taking on either Schatz or Abercrombie, and she’s likely to decide in the next few weeks.

March 5, 2013

Illinois: Kelly Plans to Follow Obama’s Lead on Gun Control

Illinois: Kelly Plans to Follow Obamas Lead on Gun Control

Kelly won the Democratic nomination in Illinois' 2nd District. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call)

Democrat Robin Kelly made gun control a central issue in her successful House primary last month, and now she says she will follow the president’s lead on that very issue in Congress.

“I see myself as standing with the president in helping him pass what he wants to pass,” Kelly said about gun control in an interview during her first trip to Washington, D.C., since her victory.

Kelly added that background checks and closing gun show loopholes are realistic policy points that could positively effect the 2nd District. She won the Feb. 26 primary in the south side Chicago district, an area that has been plagued by massive gun violence in recent years.

The 2nd District is a safe Democratic seat, and Kelly is all but certain to come to Congress after the April 9 special election to succeed former Democratic Rep. Jesse L. Jackson Jr. Her Republican rival, Paul McKinley, is a convicted felon, according to The Chicago Tribune.

But Kelly’s primary garnered national attention when New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s super PAC spent $2.5 million to boost her campaign. Her race served as the first test case for the super PAC, which supports candidates who back gun control, after the school shootings in Newtown, Conn.

Kelly noted that she has never spoken with Bloomberg, even after her victory.

“Never talked to him before, never talked to him after [the primary],” she said. “We don’t know each other. He got involved on behalf of the families [affected by gun violence]. That’s how I look at it.”

Full story

February 26, 2013

Illinois: Kelly Wins Democratic Primary to Succeed Jackson

Cook County Chief Administrative Officer Robin Kelly won the Democratic nomination in the special election to replace former Rep. Jesse L. Jackson Jr. on Tuesday and is now poised to succeed him in Congress.

Kelly had 55 percent, former Rep. Debbie Halvorson had 21 percent and Alderman Anthony Beale had 11 percent, with 63 percent of precincts reporting, according to The Associated Press.

Kelly’s win also marks a victory for New York City Michael Bloomberg, whose super PAC spent more than $2 million in the race. Bloomberg supports gun control, which became a central issue in the race for the district on Chicago’s south side. The area has endured a spike in gun violence in the past few years.

This was Bloomberg’s first foray into congressional races since the elementary school shootings in Newtown, Conn., last year. He spent millions of dollars knocking Halvorson, who received support from the National Rifle Association in her previous races, and boosting Kelly. Full story

January 30, 2013

Illinois: Harris Drops Out, Backs Kelly in Special

And then there were 21 … candidates to succeed former Rep. Jesse L. Jackson Jr., D-Ill.

This afternoon, former NFL linebacker Napoleon Harris dropped out of the 2nd District special election and backed fellow Democrat, Cook County Chief Administrative Officer Robin Kelly.

“I believe we need to fight for more educational opportunity, better jobs and to get guns out of the hands of criminals and gangs that are preying on our neighborhoods,” Harris said in a statement from the Kelly campaign. “I believe Robin Kelly is the right candidate to pick up that cause to fight for the people of Chicago and the Southland.”

While the Democratic field remains large and varied, Kelly’s supporters argue this helps her because it puts more of Harris’ geographic base — including the key Thornton Township — in play.

The top tier of candidates includes Alderman Anthony Beale, former Rep. Debbie Halvorson, state Sen. Toi Hutchinson and Kelly. The Feb. 26 Democratic primary winner is expected to come to Congress given the district’s heavy Democratic composition.

Full story

January 29, 2013

Illinois: Bloomberg Super PAC Targets Halvorson With Negative Ads

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Independence USA PAC has started airing TV ads in Illinois’ 2nd district special election targeting the front-runner’s support for the Second Amendment.

Former Rep. Debbie Halvorson leads a crowded field of Democrats, according to polls released by her opponents’ campaigns this month.

But the super PAC’s ad buy marks a shift in the race for former Rep. Jesse L. Jackson Jr.’s seat on Chicago’s south side. It’s possible none of the candidates, including Halvorson, will raise enough money to air campaign ads in the Windy City’s pricey market. So far, the better-funded campaigns have relied on direct mail to reach voters.

Also, gun control is a major issue in the 2nd district, which includes areas of Chicago that have been greatly affected by a recent wave of gun violence.

Full story

January 28, 2013

Illinois: Hutchinson Gets Cook County Board President’s Endorsement

Illinois state Sen. Toi Hutchinson received the backing of Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle on Monday in the special election for the 2nd District.

Preckwinkle is one of Chicagoland’s top elected officials, and her support will help Hutchinson in the crowded Democratic primary, scheduled for Feb. 26.

“A wildly popular figure such as President Preckwinkle gives Hutchinson an important boost,” said Tom Bowen, a media strategist and former political adviser to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Former Rep. Jesse L. Jackson Jr.’s resignation prompted the special election in this heavily Democratic,black-majority district on the South Side. The Democratic field is large and varied: Alderman Anthony Beale, former Rep. Debbie Halvorson, former NFL linebacker Napoleon Harris, Cook County Chief Administrative Officer Robin Kelly, former Rep. Mel Reynolds and Hutchinson.

Full story

January 8, 2013

Illinois: Cook County CAO Robin Kelly Wins Top Spot on Special Election Ballot

Democrat Robin Kelly hit the jackpot — sort of.

The 2nd District special election candidate in Illinois won the lottery for the top spot on the primary ballot.

It’s a small victory, but every advantage helps in a crowded field for what officials expect to be a low turnout primary Feb. 26. The winner of the Democratic primary will likely become the next Member of Congress from this heavily Democratic district on Chicago’s south side.

On Tuesday, election officials hosted two separate lotteries to determine the ballot order.  Full story

January 7, 2013

Illinois: Filing Period Closes for Jackson Special Election

Twenty-two candidates filed to run in the special election for former Rep. Jesse L. Jackson Jr.’s seat before Monday’s deadline.

Every previously announced top-tier candidate filed his or her signature petitions for this heavily Democratic district on Chicago’s south side: Alderman Anthony Beale, former Rep. Debbie Halvorson, former NFL linebacker Napoleon Harris, state Sen. Toi Hutchinson, Cook County Chief Administrative Officer Robin Kelly and former Rep. Mel Reynolds.

Additionally, health care executive Joyce Washington filed to run in the Democratic primary. She was a statewide candidate in 2002 and 2004.

In the coming weeks, election officials will confirm each candidate has the requisite signatures on their petitions — about 1,300 valid names for Democrats. The primary is scheduled for Feb. 26.

Seventeen Democrats submitted their signature petitions, plus five Republicans, including conservative analyst and radio host Lenny McAllister. Democrats are expected to easily hold the seat. Jackson resigned from the House in November amid a federal investigation and after a prolonged absence for health troubles.

December 5, 2012

Illinois: Special Election Candidate Charged With Trying to Bring Gun on Plane

State Sen. Donne Trotter, a Democratic candidate in the 2nd District special election, has been charged with trying to bring a weapon onto a plane at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport.

Trotter must appear in bond court Thursday morning to answer the Class 4 felony charge that carries from one to three years in prison, according to Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Tandra Simonton.

A Transportation Security Administration agent found an unloaded gun with bullets in Trotter’s garment bag Wednesday morning while he was attempting to travel to Washington, D.C., according to local reports. He allegedly told the agent that he forgot to remove the weapon after his shift at a security job.

A favorite of local Democrats, Trotter was seen as having the inside track to win his party’s endorsement for the Feb. 26 primary. He’s a longtime state lawmaker, serving for more than 20 years.

Full story

November 29, 2012

Illinois: Hutchinson Joins Special Election in 2nd District

The field continues to grow in the special election for former Rep. Jesse L. Jackson Jr.’s seat.

State Sen. Toi Hutchinson announced Thursday that she will join the burgeoning open Democratic primary for the 2nd District, south of Chicago.

“Families in the South Suburbs and the southside deserve a representative who understands their concerns and who will work alongside President [Barack] Obama to create new jobs, rebuild our roads and schools, and protect the gains we’ve made on equal pay, health care and civil rights,” Hutchinson said in a statement.

Officials scheduled the special primary for Feb. 26. The winner of the Democratic primary will likely come to Congress to represent this heavily Democratic district.

Full story

November 28, 2012

Inside the 2014 Senate Races

Inside the 2014 Senate Races
Roll Call’s initial Senate ratings outlook projects a potentially bullish cycle for Republicans, with an opportunity to recapture the majority for the first time in eight years.

But that’s exactly how things looked two years before the 2012 elections, when Democrats surprised many with victories in Missouri and North Dakota on their way to picking up two seats. So the challenge for the GOP and incoming National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Jerry Moran of Kansas is to capitalize on their opportunities.

That and how voters feel about President Barack Obama in 2014 could determine how the parties fare at the ballot box less than two years from now. Democrats won their current majority in 2006, in the second midterm election under President George W. Bush.

Republicans are hoping Obama’s second midterm is similarly kind to them, if not equal to the president’s 2010 midterm shellacking, when the GOP won seven seats (and control of the House) despite beginning the cycle as the underdog.

Full story

Illinois: Ex-Rep. Reynolds to Run for Former Seat in Special Election

Disgraced former Rep. Mel Reynolds, a Democrat, will announced Wednesday afternoon that he’s seeking the Illinois 2nd District seat he once held, according to The Associated Press.

Reynolds resigned in 1995 after he was sentenced to prison for a sexual relationship with a teenage campaign worker.

Accordingly, local Democrats do not view him as a viable candidate in the special election for former Rep. Jesse L. Jackson Jr.’s seat.

Former Rep. Debbie Halvorson, Alderman Anthony Beale and former NFL Linebacker Napoleon Harris have announced campaigns, and several more Democrats are expected to join the field in the next week. (See a full list of potential candidates here.)

Jackson announced his resignation from Congress last week, and officials have scheduled a special primary for his seat on Feb. 26. In this heavily Democratic district, the winner of the primary will serve in Congress in all likelihood.

Jackson won the special election to succeed Reynolds in 1995.

November 27, 2012

Illinois: Harris to Play Ball in 2nd District Special Election

Count former NFL linebacker Napoleon Harris in for Illinois’ 2nd District special election.

Harris, a Democrat, won a state Senate seat earlier this month. But on Tuesday morning, the Chicago Sun-Times reported that Harris will run for the seat held by former Democratic Rep. Jesse L. Jackson Jr. until last week.

Harris joins two fellow Democrats, Alderman Anthony Beale and former Rep. Debbie Halvorson, in the race. Democrats expect an extremely crowded field (for a full rundown of potential candidates, see Tuesday’s Roll Call story).

The 2nd District south of Chicago is a heavily Democratic district. The Feb. 26 primary victor is expected to serve in Congress.

Harris dumped more than $200,000 of his own cash into his state legislative bid. His deep pockets could prove to be an even greater asset in this short, 16-week special election because raising cash is at a premium.

Harris played defensive end for Northwestern University’s football team. He later played for the Oakland Raiders and Minnesota Vikings. Harris also owns two Beggars Pizza franchises.

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