Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
September 1, 2015

September 13, 2013

This Cycle’s Top 8 Most Fascinating Recruits (So Far)

Walter, a former star quarterback at Arizona State University who went on to play for the Oakland Raiders, is aiming to unseat Sinema. (Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images File Photo)

A beekeeper, a Gitmo commander and a Bosnian war refugee all want the same thing. It’s not a riddle; it’s the 2014 election cycle.

Congressional candidates often boast a résumé that includes time in local office, terms in the legislature or experience running a business. It’s a formula that instantly boosts name identification with voters.

But the cast of congressional candidates usually offers some upstarts — people with an unusual background, a unique curriculum vitae or an unconventional motivation that gives them a shot at Congress.

Of course, a special résumé does not translate to victory. Several of last cycle’s most-hyped candidates — including Ret. Air Force Col. Martha E. McSally, an Arizona Republican, and former astronaut Jose M. Hernandez, a California Democrat — lost their House races, to Ron Barber and Jeff Denham, respectively. (McSally is running again in 2014).

But an out-of-the-box background can help a candidate break through a tough field. Just ask the former world champion USA Volleyball team member, the double-amputee war hero or the reindeer farmer who won House races last cycle.

In no special order, here are several of this election’s most fascinating candidates for Congress: Full story

September 12, 2013

Alaska GOP Primary Set to Expand #AKSEN

Updated 1:22 p.m. | Republican Dan Sullivan resigned his post as commissioner of the Alaska Department of Natural Resources on Thursday and is set to launch a bid for Senate.

Sullivan consultant Art Hackney said Sullivan would file for the race no later than Sept. 24, the date Sullivan’s resignation becomes effective. He will join Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell and 2010 Senate nominee Joe Miller in a competitive nomination battle to take on Democratic Sen. Mark Begich.

Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell announced Sullivan’s departure in a press release on Thursday, including a copy of Sullivan’s resignation letter.

“As I explore new opportunities and challenges in the next phase of my life, I intend to seek ways to continue to serve my fellow Alaskans,” Sullivan wrote. Full story

Conservative Preacher Joins North Carolina Senate Primary | #NCSEN

Hagan is vulnerable in 2014. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The Rev. Mark Harris told a meeting of more than 200 supporters in North Carolina Thursday that he will formally launch a Senate campaign on Oct. 2, according to his consultant Tom Perdue.

Speaking to the group in Clemmons, a suburb of Winston-Salem, Harris confirmed that after 117 meetings during a 70-county listening tour this summer, he has decided to challenge Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan.

According to Perdue, a longtime consultant to Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., Harris also announced that former Rep. Robin Hayes, who most recently served as state party chairman, and longtime state political activist Mary Frances Forrester would chair the campaign.

“Now Mark is the conservative in this campaign,” Perdue told CQ Roll Call. Full story

Syria Radio Ad Aired by GOP Georgia Senate Candidate | #GASEN

Georgia Republican Senate candidate Karen Handel launched a radio spot Thursday contrasting her position on intervention in Syria with that of Michelle Nunn, the likely Democratic nominee.

Nunn said last week that she would support a “limited, defined and strategic military action” in Syria. After noting in her 60-second spot that she “would vote against the authorization of military force,” Handel refers to Nunn as “just another vote for Harry Reid or Barack Obama.” Full story

House Progressives Endorse Special-Election Candidate | #MA05

State Rep. Carl Sciortino, one of five Democrats running in Massachusetts’ 5th District special election this fall, received two more endorsements from liberal members on Thursday.

Democratic Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva of Arizona and Keith Ellison of Minnesota — the co-chairmen of the Congressional Progressive Caucus — joined Rep. Alan Grayson of Florida in supporting Sciortino’s campaign.

Full story

Bost Proud of Passionate Floor Speeches (Video) | #IL12

The candidate: State Rep. Mike Bost, a Republican
The member: Bost is challenging freshman Rep. Bill Enyart, a Democrat.
The district: Illinois’ 12th District is located in the southwest corner of the state and is one of the most competitive congressional districts in Illinois. President Barack Obama won the district by a slim 2-point margin in 2012.
The candidate’s team: Julie Wadler (fundraising), Ben Burger, SRCPmedia (media), Tarrance Group (polling).

Illinois state Rep. Mike Bost, who garnered YouTube fame when his heated “Let my people go” floor speech on the state House floor went viral, said he could show that same passion in Congress, should he be elected next fall.

Bost is challenging freshman Rep. Bill Enyart, D-Ill., in the competitive 12th District next year. Last cycle, Enyart defeated his Republican opponent by a 9-point margin.

But many Republicans lamented that their nominee for this race last cycle was lackluster. They believe Bost — who has represented a large chunk of the district over his 20 years in the state legislature — will have a better shot in 2014.

Full story

The Shrinking House Map: A Regional Breakdown

Republicans and Democrats are getting ready to spend 14 months and hundreds of millions of dollars on a House campaign that is likely to end in a split decision with a small gain for one party or the other.

The likelihood that only a handful of incumbents from either side will lose may in the end give the winning party a pickup as small as a single seat.

Because redistricting has given the parties — primarily Republicans — lopsided control of many districts and a working majority in many others, this is one of the narrowest fields of competitive races in recent memory. Twenty-six Democratic seats and 23 Republican seats are currently considered less than safe, according to ratings compiled by the Rothenberg Political Report and used by CQ Weekly and Roll Call. Of those, only 14 are regarded as highly competitive. (View ratings map.)

What’s more, this election is the first in at least a decade without a presidential race and also with no sign of an overriding issue such as the health care debate that helped Republicans win the House in 2010.

Region by region, and in some cases, state by state, Democrats and Republicans are battening down to protect the seats they have, while at the same time launching aggressive campaigns to pick off seats held by the opposition. Full story

September 11, 2013

The Open-Seat Senate Race No One’s Talking About

Osborn is running for Senate. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The open Senate seat that no one is talking about could get a little more interesting this month.

The retirement of Sen. Mike Johanns, R-Neb., next year has invited a crop of ambitious Republicans that includes rising stars and fresh faces in Nebraska’s political realm. Given the state’s Republican lean, Johanns’ replacement will most likely be decided among them in the May 13 GOP primary.

Already in the race are former state Treasurer Shane Osborn, Midland University President Ben Sasse and attorney Bart McLeay. Sid Dinsdale, head of one of the largest banks in the state and son of a well-known businessman, Roy Dinsdale, will reportedly announce his intentions as early as next week.

Dinsdale’s entrance would provide another wrinkle into what will be an intriguing intraparty slugfest by early next year. Unlike other primaries around the country, this one in the heavily Republican Cornhusker State is not expected to affect the competitiveness of the general election.

But a year after a surprise outcome in the GOP Senate primary produced now-Sen. Deb Fischer, this year’s lineup could be equally unpredictable. Full story

Poll: Booker Up 35 With a Month to Go | #NJSEN

With a month to go in New Jersey’s Senate special election, Newark Mayor Cory Booker has pulled out to a 35-point lead, according to a Rutgers-Eagleton Poll released Wednesday.

Booker took 64 percent, with 29 percent supporting Republican Steve Lonegan and 6 percent undecided. The special to replace the late Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg, D-N.J., will be held Oct. 16. Full story

The Cheap Seats: Senate Majority Determined in Inexpensive States

Getting an ad on the air in a competitive Senate race next year may not break the bank, but that won’t change the unruly amount of money that will be spent.

A Senate playing field (view ratings map) constructed almost entirely of small media markets has several implications for the candidates, campaign committees and outside groups in the most targeted states next year. Above all, it likely guarantees an extended campaign season.

“It means the poor, unfortunate people who live in those states will be subjected to much more ugliness,” as Curt Anderson, a Republican media consultant, put it. Full story

September 10, 2013

Team Mitch Makes Syria Fundraising Pitch

Not long after President Barack Obama finished his Syria speech Tuesday evening, people on Mitch McConnell’s campaign mailing list received a fundraising pitch touting the Kentucky Republican’s decision earlier in the day to oppose a military strike in the war-torn country.

The email featured a letter to supporters from McConnell campaign manager Jesse Benton, who included the full text of McConnell’s floor speech on Tuesday morning. During the speech, McConnell announced his opposition to a resolution authorizing military intervention.

“Mitch made it very clear to me from the beginning that he does not politicize issues of national security. He believes that America’s strength in the world should not be subject to the political theatre that so often takes hold of Washington these days,” Benton wrote.

Before joining “Team Mitch,” Benton was a longtime political aide to the libertarian-leaning Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and his father, former GOP Rep. Ron Paul of Texas. Rand Paul delivered his own critical response to Obama’s national address on Tuesday evening, saying any effort to intervene in Syria would help rebels aligned with the terrorist group al-Qaida.

Benton’s letter appears below:

Full story

By Niels Lesniewski Posted at 10:58 p.m.
Ky. Senate

Boehner Ally Returns Fire Against GOP Primary Challenger | #ID02

Simpson has a new radio spot. (Scott J. Ferrell/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Idaho Republican Rep. Mike Simpson fired back this week at his primary rival, attorney Bryan Smith, escalating one of the most high-profile House primaries of the 2014 elections so far.

Last week, Smith went on the radio airwaves with an ad attacking Simpson — a close ally of Speaker John A. Boehner — for being “liberal,” a charge Simpson’s campaign denied. On Tuesday, Simpson sent out his own negative radio spot. The minute-long advertisement includes audio of a car crash and an ambulance, before the narrator accuses Smith of being a “personal injury lawyer.” Full story

GOP Poll: Rounds Holds Large Lead in Senate Contest | #SDSEN

Former Gov. Mike Rounds, a Republican, has a large lead over likely Democratic challenger Rick Weiland in South Dakota’s open Senate contest, according to an automated GOP poll released on Monday.

Rounds leads Weiland, a former aide to former Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D., 58 percent to 38 percent, with 10 percent of respondents undecided, according to the survey from Harper Polling.

The open-seat contest marks one of the Senate GOP’s best pickup opportunities this cycle. Sen. Tim Johnson’s retirement announcement left his party searching for a top candidate to take on the former two-term governor.

Full story

DCCC Chief: Syria Not Big Issue in 2014 Elections

Israel is the DCCC chairman. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The House Democratic campaign chief told reporters Tuesday that while Capitol Hill is consumed with debate on Syria, the issue will not affect the 2014 midterms.

“2014 is not going to be a referendum on Syria,” said Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast. Instead, he added, the 2014 midterms will be about “solutions,” helping the middle class, extremism and partisanship.

Israel declined to detail the Syria issue in his role as DCCC chairman, reiterating the committee does not endorse policy positions. Instead, he argued that many House Republicans who oppose authorization for intervention in Syria would support the same policy if Mitt Romney were president and proposed it instead of President Barack Obama. Full story

DNC Adds Staff to Press Shop

The Democratic National Committee announced Tuesday that two Capitol Hill staffers have joined its communications office.

Lily Adams will be the new DNC deputy communications director and Ian Sams is the committee’s new regional press secretary. Most recently, Adams served as press secretary to Virginia Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine, and Sams served in the same capacity in the office of Sen. Thomas R. Carper. Full story

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