Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
October 13, 2015

January 14, 2014

Bill Owens to Retire From Congress (Updated) (Video)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 2:31 PM | Rep. Bill Owens, D-N.Y., announced Tuesday that he will retire from Congress after just two full terms.

“After careful thought and consideration, I have decided not to seek re-election for the 21st Congressional District this November,” he wrote in a news release. “It has truly been a privilege to serve, and I plan on continuing to work for a brighter future for the region.”

Owens faced a somewhat competitive race against former Bush White House staffer Elise Stefanik. Republicans view the now-open seat in upstate New York as a potential pickup opportunity in 2014. In 2012, Owens won re-election with just 50 percent.

The retirement instigated a Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call ratings change. The race, previously Democrat Favored, is now a Tossup. Last cycle, President Barack Obama carried the 21st District with 52 percent.

Stefanik is considered a rising star in New York Republican politics. She is 29-years-old and a former Bush White House official. The National Republican Congressional Committee named her as one of their “On the Radar” candidates, which means she passed an assortment of internal organizational and fundraising benchmarks.

Still, The Post-Star, a local newspaper, noted that she faces competition in the primary. The report noted that John James, who played Jeff Colby on “Dynasty” is eyeing the seat.

What will be key to any contender in this race are the local party endorsements.

“It’s a very difficult and or expensive process if you don’t have the support of the local committees,” an Empire State GOP operative said in a Tuesday phone interview with Roll Call.

One potential issue for Republicans is the state’s unique ballots, in which candidates can be listed on more than one party line. The process helped Democrats win the district in both the 2009 special, when Owens first ran, and his subsequent re-election in 2010.

In 2009, the Conservative Party’s candidate led the GOP candidate DeDe Scozzafava in fundraising and polling heading into the final week, causing Scozzafava to withdraw from the special. A year later, Owens again won a tight race as the Republican and Conservative parties’ candidates split the vote.

That same New York Republican operative noted that Stefanik is a speaker at the Conservative Party conference later this month. That source said it was a sign that Stefanik had made inroads with the Conservative Party and the hope is that if she is the nominee, she can reduce the threat of a spoiler candidate emerging from the right.

Owens marks the fifth House Democrat to announce their retirement. To see which other House members are retiring this cycle, check out Roll Call’s Casualty List.

Updated 3:20 PM | A New York Democratic consultant floated three possible contenders: former state Agriculture Commissioner Darrel Aubertine, Town of Plattsburgh Supervisor Bernie Bassett and state Assemblywoman Addie Russell.

January 13, 2014

First Potential Miller Successor Announces Candidacy

California state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier quickly launched his campaign Monday to replace retiring Rep. George Miller.

The 20-term incumbent announced earlier in the day that he would not seek another term, opening a safe Democratic seat that could attract a number of ambitious contenders.

“I plan to hit the ground running hard in this campaign,” DeSaulnier said in a statement. “I am ready to run and ready to serve the people of the 11th District.” Full story

Jolly Is Frontrunner in Florida’s Special Election Primary

Republicans will pick a nominee Tuesday for the special election for the late Rep. C.W. Bill Young’s Florida seat.

Most Republicans closely watching the primary predict lobbyist David Jolly, a former Young aide, will defeat state Rep. Kathleen Peters and veteran Mark Bircher in the 13th District.

“I don’t think there are any surprises coming tomorrow,” Florida GOP consultant Rick Wilson said. “Every bit of information I’ve seen so far says that David’s going to have a good day tomorrow.”

Full story

Louisiana Senate Contenders Race to Fund Flood Insurance Bill

Cassidy is running for Senate in Louisiana. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., and her top 2014 opponent, Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-La., are in a de facto race to pass competing flood insurance legislation pending in both chambers.

As one of this cycle’s most vulnerable incumbents, Landrieu has emphasized her seniority in her re-election. She’s argued it makes her a powerful voice for Louisiana in Washington — powerful enough to convince leaders to push forward flood insurance extension.

For Cassidy, getting enough support for the flood insurance bill would demonstrate an ability to put his state above the conservative politics that often drive the House GOP. Disaster relief, even though historically bipartisan, has proven to be a lightning rod over the past few years, with a near-revolt among GOP ranks over a delayed Hurricane Sandy relief bill in 2012. Full story

Weston Wamp to Challenge Fleischmann Again in Tennessee

Fleischmann is a two-term Republican in the House. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Businessman Weston Wamp, a Republican, announced Monday that he will challenge two-term Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn., for a second time.

“America is too great for this Congress to continue to divide our nation and avoid their responsibilities,” Wamp said in a release. “I want to give the Third District an independent conservative voice and a reason to believe our government can still work and serve the people.”

Wamp, the son of former Rep. Zach Wamp, R-Tenn., challenged Fleischmann in 2012. He came in third in a three-way primary against Fleischmann and dairy magnate Scottie Mayfield.

Full story

Top Pelosi Ally to Retire From House (Updated) (Video)

George Miller

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 12:26 p.m. | Longtime Democratic Rep. George Miller announced he will not seek a 21st term in California’s 11th District.

Miller, who was first elected to this Bay Area House seat in 1974, is a top ally to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who also represents Northern California.

This is a great institution and I cannot thank my family and my constituents enough for having given me the honor and privilege of representing my district in Congress these past 40 years,Miller said in a Monday news release.

I look forward to one last year in Congress fighting the good fight and then working in new venues on the issues that have inspired me,” Miller continued. “What a wonderful experience this has been.

Full story

Democratic Super PAC Funnels More Funds Into Louisiana

Senate Majority PAC has put more money behind an attack ad against Louisiana Rep. Bill Cassidy, the top Republican running against vulnerable Democratic Sen. Mary L. Landrieu in one of this cycle’s most competitive races.

The super PAC, which boosts Democratic Senate candidates, purchased an additional $344,000 in air time for an ad against Cassidy, according to spending report filed with the Federal Election Commission.

The ad, first released in December, hits Cassidy for his votes to raise the retirement age, as well as his votes to shut down the government. The initial buy for the 30-second ad was $250,000, according to documents filed with the FEC. Senate Majority PAC Campaigns Director Ty Matsdorf confirmed the additional funds would go toward continuing to air the following spot: Full story

January 12, 2014

New Jersey Republicans Wrestle With Steve Lonegan

Runyan is retiring. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The open-seat race to replace retiring Rep. Jon Runyan, R-N.J., might sound familiar: A tea party firebrand threatens to upend a GOP primary, meanwhile Democrats cleared the field for an all-but-anointed nominee.

But this is New Jersey, where machine politics trump national trends.

The tea party candidate is former Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan, the GOP’s nominee for the Senate special election last year who lost to Cory Booker by 11 points. Democrats have touted Burlington County Freeholder Aimee Belgard, who announced her candidacy for the seat in November.

Lonegan announced his House candidacy this month in The Newark Star-Ledger, infuriating operatives in the district. In other states, congressional candidates — especially Republicans — can successfully run as political outsiders. But New Jersey is different. Full story

January 10, 2014

Iowa Democrat Posts Huge Fundraising as Latham Retires

Former state Sen. Staci Appel, a Democrat running in Iowa’s competitive 3rd District, raised a whopping $500,000 in the past year, according to a local report.

The huge haul could serve as a deterrent for other Democrats looking to enter the open-seat race. Longtime Rep. Tom Latham, R-Iowa, unexpectedly announced his retirement last month.

Full story

House Dems Raise Money at Jay Z, Sting and Paul Simon Concerts

Jay Z attended the president's inauguration. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Democrats may have 99 problems heading into the midterms — but for some members, creative fundraising ain’t one.

At least a dozen House Democrats will raise money at sporting events and concerts between January and March, including an upcoming Jay-Z performance at the Verizon Center, according to a fundraising schedule obtained by CQ Roll Call.

Full story

Cornyn Goes Up With New TV Ad

Judging by his second ad, Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn of Texas is running against President Barack Obama instead of his primary challenger, Rep. Steve Stockman.

The new spot hits Obama and portrays Cornyn as the conservative counter to an “astonishingly liberal” president. The ad makes no mention of Stockman.

“He stands up to Obama, everyday. Pushes back,” the narrator says of Cornyn.

The buy size is “well into the six figures” and is a “substantial statewide buy,” according to a Cornyn aide.  Full story

January 9, 2014

Alaska Super PAC Hits Begich in 3 Radio Ads

An Alaska-based super PAC supporting one of Democratic Sen. Mark Begich’s Republican challengers is launching its first three ads of the campaign on Friday.

The radio ads are an opening salvo for the group, Alaska’s Energy/America’s Values, which backs former Natural Resources Commissioner Dan Sullivan. The group spent about about $12,000 to air the ads over the next five days in Anchorage and Matanuska Valley.

While the buy size isn’t significantly large, the messaging offers a strong hint of the TV ads that are likely forthcoming. Each of the three 60-second ads mentions Begich’s support of Obamacare. One also notes the incumbent’s support of Obama’s appointees, including Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, and questions where he stands on an oil tax rewrite referendum in the state this year. Full story

Report: Ed Gillespie to Challenge Mark Warner

Former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie is informing Virginia Republicans that he will challenge first-term Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., in 2014, according to The New York Times.

A spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee declined to comment on the story. Full story

Christie Could Face Heat on the Hill in Weeks Ahead

Christie leaves a government building in Fort Lee, N.J., on Thursday, where he met with and apologized to the mayor. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Lawmakers issued reviews ranging from nondescript to positive of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s Thursday news conference, largely reserving judgment on the bridge scandal that’s embroiled the potential presidential candidate’s administration.

That could spell trouble for Christie in the weeks ahead.

The GOP governor asserted at the news conference that he had no involvement in the scandal involving unannounced lane closures on the George Washington Bridge. His comments could come under fire as Congress awaits answers to outstanding questions and plans to press authorities further.

In December, Senate Commerce Chairman Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., sent multiple letters — both to the New Jersey Port Authority and to Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx — demanding explanations for the traffic jam and oversight over the Port Authority itself. His original request asked the Port Authority for answers by Jan. 15.

Rockefeller said Thursday he does not yet plan to hold hearings, but said he is continuing to monitor the situation closely. If the requested response from New Jersey officials does not come back complete, or at all, either Rockefeller or other senators on the committee, such as freshman New Jersey Democrat Cory Booker, could take further action.

“I’ve spent all day watching MSNBC,” he told reporters.

“I don’t know, I’m never satisfied,” he teased, when asked if Christie’s answers allayed his previous concerns.

Booker said in an afternoon statement that he also demanded answers Thursday from the Department of Transportation. In the Capitol, Booker repeatedly rebuffed attempts for comment on Christie, noting only by the evening that he had heard part of the governor’s remarks.

Any congressional investigations would test Christie’s greater political viability for 2016, and his national ambitions would likely only amplify the debate, at least compared to other typical state scandals. And the longer unanswered questions linger, the more likely it is that senators and representatives will want to get involved or call hearings.

Full story

By Meredith Shiner Posted at 6:31 p.m.
Governors, RGA

Lamar Alexander Launches First TV Ad

Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., launched the first TV ad of his re-election campaign on Thursday, reminding voters of his conservative principles and years of fighting on behalf of the state.

As he seeks a third term and fends of a GOP primary challenge, the Alexander campaign is pushing out the ad statewide. The 60-second spot will hit the airwaves on Monday and run for four weeks, according to an Alexander consultant, who would not reveal the exact buy size.

“To that land where politics too often doesn’t work, Tennessee sends Lamar Alexander,” the ad’s announcer says to kick off the ad. “Conservative, honest, smart. Lamar Alexander is Tennessee.” Full story

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