Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
April 25, 2014

January 14, 2013

Iowa: Braley’s Gubernatorial Aspirations and Tea Leaves for Harkin’s Re-Election Decision

Iowa: Braleys Gubernatorial Aspirations and Tea Leaves for Harkins Re Election Decision

Iowa Democrats are publicly pushing for Braley to run for governor in the state's largest newspaper. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley has stepped up his interest in running for governor of Iowa in 2014, according to a weekend report in the Des Moines Register.

The four-term lawmaker has long eyed statewide office, but it has been unclear whether Braley would try to run for governor or Senate in 2014. Iowa Gov. Terry E. Branstad, a Republican, has not announced yet whether he will seek another term.

Meanwhile, Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin has not said definitively whether he will run for re-election in 2014. But Braley’s focus on the gubernatorial race comes at a confluence of events that could indicate Harkin is leaning toward running for another term:

  • Instead of keeping their powder dry this early in the cycle, Iowa Democrats are publicly pushing Braley to run for governor in the state’s largest newspaper. 
  • Last week, Sen. Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, told a local newspaper, “I have seen no indication that [Harkin] is not going to run.” In recent years, Grassley and Harkin have not campaigned against each other — although neither has had a competitive re-election race for at least a decade.
  • Harkin keeps bringing in big bucks for his campaign. He will host a fundraiser next month at a Lady Gaga concert. Politicians deplore fundraising, so members looking at retirement generally avoid raising money because they don’t need it anymore. Of course, it’s possible Harkin is a Lady Gaga fan.
  • Either way, money talks — and Harkin reported $2.7 million in the bank at the end of September. That’s the second-highest cash on hand of any Democrat up for re-election in 2014. That kind of figure often — but not always — indicates a senator is gearing up for a big campaign.

So does all this point to Harkin running for a sixth term? Who knows — but it seems Braley and other Iowa Democrats might think so.

South Carolina: Jenny Sanford Not Running for Congress

Sanford vs. Sanford? Not going to happen.

Jenny Sanford, the ex-wife of former South Carolina Republican Gov. Mark Sanford, said today that she would not be running for the state’s open 1st district, according to The Associated Press.

“The idea of killing myself to run for a seat for the privilege of serving in a dysfunctional body under John Boehner when I have an eighth-grader at home just really doesn’t make sense to me,” she said.

Jenny Sanford had earlier told CQ Roll Call that she was considering a bid for the seat, previously held by now-Sen. Tim Scott, a Republican.

Mark Sanford, a two-term former governor and three-term former Congressman, looks poised to announce his bid in the coming days and would enter the race as the immediate front-runner, in spite of his well-publicized infidelities.

A number of other serious candidates are eyeing or have announced for the race for this safe Republican seat.

January 13, 2013

Harry Reid Disavows Report Linking Him to Bribery Case

Harry Reid Disavows Report Linking Him to Bribery Case

(Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid broke days of silence on Sunday evening to deny any knowledge or involvement in a Utah case in which a man claims to have funneled money to others in an attempt to get the Nevada Democrat to intervene in a Federal Trade Commission case.

“Senator Reid has no knowledge or involvement regarding Mr. Johnson’s case,” a statement from Reid’s office said. “These unsubstantiated allegations implying Senator Reid’s involvement are nothing more than innuendo and simply not true.”

A Utah man told federal investigators that he channeled money through the state’s new attorney general in a bid to convince Reid to intervene in stopping an FTC investigation against him.

“The truth is the worst thing I think I’ve done was I paid money knowing it was going to influence Harry Reid,” Jeremy Johnson told the Salt Lake Tribune. “So I’ve felt all along that I’ve committed bribery of some sort there.” Full story

New Jersey: Booker Keeps Options Open

Newark Mayor Cory Booker would not rule out a primary challenge against New Jersey Democratic Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg during an interview Sunday on “Meet the Press.”

“I’m not ruling out anything right now, but I think it’s premature to be speculative,” he said.

Moderator David Gregory asked whether there have been any missteps in the early groundwork of the Booker campaign. Booker announced in December that he was seriously exploring a Senate run and filed papers with the Federal Election Commission on Friday. Lautenberg is up for re-election and has yet to announce his plans.

“No. Again, this is really early,” Booker responded. “We’ve reached out to him. We even had a trip down here to speak with him, but he wasn’t able to speak.”

The context of the line of questioning includes angry, blind quotes from the Lautenberg camp about Booker to Politico on Friday.

“This campaign is over a year away. You know New Jersey has got to focus on a governor’s race and a legislative race. But for me to do a good exploration, the due diligence for running, I have to file that paper,” Booker said.

January 12, 2013

Shop Talk: Markey Hires Benzing as Campaign Manager

Massachusetts Democratic Rep. Edward J. Markey is staffing up in anticipation of a Senate special election and has hired Sarah Benzing as his campaign manager.

Benzing ran Ohio Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown’s successful re-election campaign in 2012 and New York Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s race in 2011.

“Sarah is the best choice to lead this campaign of big issues and ideas,” Markey said in a statement. “Her proven track-record managing grassroots campaigns shows she has the leadership, know-how and passion to lead this campaign to victory.” Full story

January 11, 2013

New Jersey: Booker Files Papers to Run for Senate

New Jersey: Booker Files Papers to Run for Senate

Booker has filed to run for the Senate. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated: 4:30 p.m. | Newark Mayor Cory Booker has filed papers to run for Senate. The Huffington Post first reported the news.

It is another instance of incremental pressure Booker has applied over the last month on Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg, a fellow Democrat. A big question among New Jersey Democrats is: Are these moves encouraging Lautenberg to step aside, or is Booker alienating the incumbent to the point that Lautenberg will double-down and run for re-election?

Earlier this week, Fairleigh Dickinson University released a poll that showed Booker leading Lautenberg in a head-to-head matchup. Also, Sen. Jay Rockefeller’s, D-W.Va., retirement announcement Friday morning sparked chatter on Capitol Hill that Lautenberg is most likely the next senator to announce his retirement.

A “senior adviser” to Lautenberg lashed into Booker in comments to Politico, calling him “self-absorbed and disrespectful.”

West Virginia: Democrats Begin Positioning to Run for Rockefeller’s Seat

West Virginia: Democrats Begin Positioning to Run for Rockefellers Seat

Rahall is among the Democrats expected to consider running for Senate. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 8:15 p.m. | Sen. Jay Rockefeller’s retirement announcement Friday formally kicked off a scramble among West Virginia Democrats, some of whom have been pining to run for an open Senate seat for decades.

Rockefeller thanked his staff and emphasized the progress that has been made on health care in his remarks in Charleston. But West Virginia politicos were absorbed with the future. At least some Democrats said they are relieved that Rockefeller is not running for a sixth term because of his alliance with President Barack Obama, who is very unpopular in the state. Full story

Ryan to Speak at CPAC

Ryan to Speak at CPAC

Ryan is slated to speak at the Conservative Political Action Conference in March. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

House Budget Chairman Paul D. Ryan is scheduled to address the Conservative Political Action Conference in March, the American Conservative Union announced Friday.

The Wisconsin congressman and former Republican vice presidential nominee is a regular at the annual gathering and is considered a potential White House candidate for 2016.

“From the day he was elected, Chairman Ryan has been a strong voice in Congress for pro-growth, free market economic policies and has always been a CPAC favorite,” ACU Chairman Al Cardenas said in a statement. Full story

Massachusetts: LCV Endorses Markey; Downing Won’t Run

Massachusetts: LCV Endorses Markey; Downing Wont Run

Markey was endorsed by the League of Conservation Voters Action Fund. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 12:30 p.m. | The League of Conservation Voters Action Fund — a well-funded environmental group — on Friday endorsed Massachusetts Democratic Rep. Edward J. Markey in his bid for the Senate as a potential primary rival decided against a bid.

Also, Democratic state Sen. Ben Downing, who had earlier floated his name for a potential Senate run, on Friday announced he would not run for the seat soon to be vacated by Democratic Sen. John Kerry.

“After considering every aspect of a possible campaign, I have determined that I will not be a candidate for the U.S. Senate in the upcoming special election,” Downing said in a statement.

Downing’s decision was a win for Markey and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which, along with Kerry, backs the congressman’s bid.

Full story

West Virginia: Rockefeller Retirement Spurs Search for Conservative Candidate

West Virginia: Rockefeller Retirement Spurs Search for Conservative Candidate

GOP Rep. Shelley Moore Capito announced her intention to run for Senate last year, but some conservative groups aren't impressed by her. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

National Republicans’ primary problems from the past two cycles are floating to the surface once again in West Virginia.

Conservatives immediately jumped on the news of West Virginia Sen. Jay Rockefeller’s retirement, noting that there is now no reason a “conservative” candidate can’t win the seat next year with the five-term iconic Democrat absent from the ticket. Conservatives and establishment Republicans have battled in recent election cycles over which GOP Senate primary candidate was best positioned to win a general election.

In a statement Friday morning, Senate Conservatives Fund Executive Director Matt Hoskins said “the door is wide open for Republicans in West Virginia to nominate a true conservative,” citing President Barack Obama’s 26-point loss in the state in 2012 as evidence that a conservative would have no trouble winning. The Senate Conservatives Fund and other like-minded groups oppose Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, who jumped into the race a few weeks after the Nov. 6 elections and was immediately hailed by many Republicans in Washington, D.C., and West Virginia.

“We’re not going to stop looking for a conservative challenger in this race until the primary is over,” Hoskins said. “The voters in West Virginia get to decide who represents them and they should have a conservative choice.” The Senate Conservatives Fund is a super PAC founded by former Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., who resigned his seat and jumped to The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think thank.

Full story

Massachusetts: Democratic Rabbi Mulls Senate Bid

Rabbi Jonah Pesner sounds a lot like a man who is about to launch a bid for the Senate.

He weaves a compelling biographical narrative, says he has the ability to raise a lot of money and a has a spark of passion when speaking about the issues and why he might be called to run.

“At this moment in history, when it feels so polarized, when there is so much discussion of what divides us,” he said. “I know there are models of elected leadership where we can bring people together for common purpose and overcome the obstacles of partisanship and narrow self-interest.”

“I believe that this may be a moment for me to take all the things that I’ve learned as a rabbi, as an organizer, as a politically and civically engaged leader,” Pesner said, “and put a new kind of stake in the ground and aspire to engage in a higher plane of politics.”

Full story

West Virginia: Rockefeller to Retire in 2014

West Virginia: Rockefeller to Retire in 2014

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 11:37 a.m. | West Virginia Democratic Sen. Jay Rockefeller will retire at the end of his term in 2014. The 75-year-old senator made the announcement Friday morning in Charleston.

“As I approach 50 years of public service in West Virginia, I’ve decided that 2014 will be the right moment for me to find new ways to fight for the causes I believe in and to spend more time with my incredible family,” Rockefeller said, according to a statement released by his office.

The five-term senator’s retirement immediately puts his seat in jeopardy. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., announced her candidacy for the seat in November.

Among the Democrats mentioned as possible candidates are former Sen. Carte P. Goodwin, West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant and state Supreme Court of Appeals Justice Robin Davis. Full story

January 10, 2013

DSCC Announces New Hires, Returning Staff for 2014

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee announced several new additions to its staff for the 2014 midterm election cycle, as well as a few returning aides from 2012, to help the party hold its majority in the Senate.

Matt Canter, who served as communications director last cycle, was promoted to deputy executive director. Working under Executive Director Guy Cecil for a second straight cycle, Canter will serve as the top communications adviser and help manage message operations for all Democratic Senate campaigns. Full story

New Jersey: Booker Leads Lautenberg in New Poll

New Jersey: Booker Leads Lautenberg in New Poll

Lautenberg, above, trailed Booker in a new poll. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

In a new Fairleigh Dickinson University poll, Newark Mayor Cory Booker led Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg by 22 points in a hypothetical 2014 Democratic Senate primary matchup.

Among “self-identified Democrats and Democratic leaners,” 42 percent preferred Booker, while 20 percent favored Lautenberg. The two men both have high name identification, with 83 percent identifying Lautenberg and 75 percent saying they knew who Booker was.

Full story

Report: Obama Campaign Restructure to Assist Policy Push in Second Term

Report: Obama Campaign Restructure to Assist Policy Push in Second Term

A crowd celebrates in front of the White House to celebrate President Barack Obama's re-election on Election Night. (Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

President Barack Obama’s campaign is set to be reconfigured into an operation that will assist the White House’s policy goals in a second term, CNN reported on Thursday.

Citing a source familiar with the campaign, CNN reported that the operation could be converted to a 501(c)(4) or a super PAC. The restructured organization will be led by former Obama campaign manager Jim Messina and other top operatives from the campaign, including Stephanie Cutter and Jennifer O’Malley Dillon. Full story

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