Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
December 20, 2014

March 29, 2013

Iowa: Christie Vilsack Announces New Federal Gig; Second House Bid Unlikely

Former Iowa first lady Christie Vilsack, a Democrat, has taken a top post with an international government agency, a strong indication she will not run for Congress again anytime soon.

Last year, Vilsack unsuccessfully challenged Republican Rep. Steve King in Iowa’s GOP-leaning 4th District.

King is strongly considering a bid for retiring Sen. Tom Harkin’s seat in 2014, a campaign that would force an open-seat race in his current district in northwestern Iowa. Democrats had named Vilsack as a potential candidate for congress again, although she never publicly acknowledged her interest in a second race.

On Friday, Vilsack announced in an email that she’s taken a new gig in Washington, D.C.: Full story

March 28, 2013

Kansas: Roberts Racks Up GOP Endorsements, Thwarting Primary in 2014

Kansas: Roberts Racks Up GOP Endorsements, Thwarting Primary in 2014

Roberts indicated he will seek re-election in 2014 (Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Every top Republican official in Kansas threw their support behind Sen. Pat Roberts’ re-election campaign on Thursday, signaling that the three-term senator is unlikely to get a primary challenge in 2014.

Roberts released a list of endorsements that included Gov. Sam Brownback, Secretary of State Kris Kobach, National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Jerry Moran of Kansas, every House member in the congressional delegation and many others.

The Sunflower State is safe GOP territory, and Republicans are expected to hold the seat in 2014. But earlier this cycle, some quietly wondered if Roberts would face a primary challenge.

Kobach was the most-often mentioned possible challenger, CQ Roll Call noted in November. Now it’s clear the secretary of State is throwing his support behind Roberts, along with many others.

“No one fights for Kansas and Kansans harder or more effectively than Pat Roberts,” Moran said in a release. “I am honored to be on Pat’s team and look forward to continuing our work together to put Kansas first.”

Shira Toeplitz contributed to this report. 

Kentucky: Paul Discusses 2016 Decision Timeline, Hemp Policy

Kentucky: Paul Discusses 2016 Decision Timeline, Hemp Policy

Paul has openly considered running for president in 2016. (Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., warned Bluegrass State reporters Wednesday not to expect an announcement about a possible 2016 presidential bid until next year, while also opining about other policy priorities.

“I want to be part of the national debate,” Paul said. “I think the country faces a lot of problems, and I do want to be a part of trying to bring about answers and solutions for making the Republican party big enough that we can be competitive again, but I won’t make any decision until 2014 or so.”

Paul also would face re-election to the Senate in 2016.

Speaking to press assembled at the University of Kentucky, where the tea party favorite gave a wide-ranging policy speech, Paul spoke about some of his favorite subjects, including the gun violence debate and his bids to curtail foreign aid to countries such as Egypt. Paul also spoke about the Kentucky Legislature’s approval of legislation regarding regulation of industrial hemp production. Full story

Georgia: Ex-Rep. Bob Barr Mounts Congressional Comeback

Georgia: Ex Rep. Bob Barr Mounts Congressional Comeback

Barr lost a redistricting created member-vs.-member race in 2002. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Former Georgia Rep. Bob Barr will run for Congress again in a district that overlaps part of his area he used to represent.

The Republican scheduled a news conference for Thursday morning at an outdoors store in Smyrna, Ga., to officially enter the race for the 11th District seat being vacated by GOP Rep. Phil Gingrey, who is running for Senate.

In an interview Wednesday, Barr said he already has a campaign team in place and is excited to return to Capitol Hill after more than 10 years to again work to limit “the power and scope of government.” He cited balancing the budget, changing welfare and cutting taxes as the highlights of his tenure in Congress. Full story

Kentucky: DSCC Hits McConnell on Radio in First Spot of Cycle

Kentucky: DSCC Hits McConnell on Radio in First Spot of Cycle

Democrats are targeting McConnell. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

A day after actress Ashley Judd declined to challenge Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Democrats went up with a week-long radio advertisement Thursday attacking the Kentucky Republican.

The basketball themed, 60-second radio spot marks the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee’s first campaign advertisement of the 2014 cycle. A DSCC aide declined to go into detail about the exact size of the buy but said it cost “five figures or more.”

Democrats face an uphill battle in the Bluegrass State, which has consistently voted for Republicans for federal office in recent cycles. What’s more, McConnell — and his $7.4 million campaign war chest — is known for his brutal campaigns. Despite this, the Kentucky race remains one of Democrats’ best opportunities to pick up a seat in 2014.

Several local Democrats, plus Judd, have declined to challenge McConnell. However, Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes has reportedly spoken with the DSCC about running and, according to a local television station WHAS, could file exploratory committee paperwork as early as next week.

The DSCC could be using this spot to show Grimes they are willing to support her if she enters the race:

Full story

March 27, 2013

Kentucky: Judd Passes on McConnell Challenge

Kentucky: Judd Passes on McConnell Challenge

Judd announced Wednesday that she will not run for Senate in Kentucky. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated: 6:45 p.m. | Actress Ashley Judd announced Wednesday on Twitter that she will not challenge Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in Kentucky next year.

“Thank you for these months of remarkable support & encouragement, for your voices, exhortations, & prayers. I have decided,” Judd wrote. “After serious and thorough contemplation, I realize that my responsibilities & energy at this time need to be focused on my family. Regretfully, I am currently unable to consider a campaign for the Senate.”

The Washington Post first reported that the Democrat would take a pass on challenging the top Senate Republican, noting that the potential candidacy of Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes made her decision easier.

Although Judd would have been able to raise a significant amount of money, Democrats in the state were concerned about her candidacy and questioned how it would affect other members of the party on the ballot next year. Still, Judd hinted at a run in a speech just last week.

Update: Louisville TV station WHAS reported that Grimes has spoken with the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and plans to file an exploratory committee as early as next week. When asked by CQ Roll Call, a DSCC spokesman would not comment on the party’s recruitment.

Shop Talk: Franken Hires Manager; Draft Hillary PAC Gets Digital Director

Minnesota Sen. Al Franken’s re-election campaign and the Ready for Hillary super PAC made public Wednesday new hires to their organizations.

Franken’s team announced that Matt Burgess has been hired to manage the Democrat’s 2014 re-election campaign, according to Minnesota Public Radio. Burgess is a longtime Democratic operative, with former stints at EMILY’s List and the Service Employees International Union, among others.

The super PAC devoted to drafting Hillary Rodham Clinton into the 2016 presidential race, Ready for Hillary PAC, announced Wednesday that it has hired Nickie Titus to be its digital director.

Titus spent the 2012 cycle on now-Sen. Tim Kaine’s, D-Va., campaign. She previously worked for the new media firm Blue State Digital and, like Burgess, she came up through the ranks at EMILY’s List.

CQ Roll Call recently took a look at who else is behind the Draft Hillary effort.

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.

South Carolina: Pat Boone Endorses Bostic Over Sanford

Republican attorney Curtis Bostic has picked up two high-profile conservative endorsements in as many days, with less than a week to go in South Carolina’s special election GOP runoff.

In the last 24 hours or so, ex-Sen. Rick Santorum and 1950s pop singer Pat Boone announced their support for Bostic in the runoff against former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford.

“Today I’m singing the praises of Curtis Bostic,” Boone wrote in a press release from the 60 Plus Association. “As a former U.S. Marine, Curtis Bostic can always be counted on to be faithful to his office. And Curtis Bostic can always be counted on to be faithful to those who place him in office.”

Boone’s use of the word “faithful” is a fairly overt allusion to Sanford’s highly publicized marital infidelity.

Meanwhile, Santorum’s endorsement of Bostic on Monday is yet another example of a possible 2016 presidential contender poking around South Carolina in recent days. Full story

Hagan Latest 2014 Democrat to Come Out for Gay Marriage

Hagan Latest 2014 Democrat to Come Out for Gay Marriage

Hagan is the latest Senate Democrat to come out in favor of gay marriage rights. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The Supreme Court’s focus this week on gay marriage has put Democratic senators seeking re-election in 2014 under a microscope, with no shortage of media outlets asking their offices about evolving views on the issue.

With the court taking up the constitutionality of a portion of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which restricted the federal definition of marriage to opposite sex couples, several Democratic senators have determined in recent days that now is the time to make public revised or clarified stands on the marriage issue. Sen. Kay Hagan of North Carolina, who is up for re-election in 2014, became the latest Democrat to announce her support for gay marriage Wednesday morning in an interview with the Raleigh News & Observer.

Full story

Georgia: Gingrey Enters Senate Race

Georgia: Gingrey Enters Senate Race

Gingrey is the second member to enter the Georgia Senate race. (Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

On Wednesday morning, Georgia Rep. Phil Gingrey entered what’s expected to be a crowded and spirited Republican primary for the Peach State’s open Senate seat.

Speaking in his hometown of Augusta, Ga., Gingrey joined Rep. Paul Broun as the first two major candidates to announce bids for the seat of retiring GOP Sen. Saxby Chambliss. The news was not a surprise, as Gingrey has been putting together a campaign team for a statewide bid. Full story

March 26, 2013

South Dakota: Johnson Makes Retirement From Senate Official

South Dakota: Johnson Makes Retirement From Senate Official

Johnson will not seek re-election in 2014. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

South Dakota Sen. Tim Johnson will not seek re-election in 2014, vacating what was already one of the Democrats’ most vulnerable seats.

Johnson announced his retirement Tuesday at his alma mater, the University of South Dakota, in his hometown of Vermillion.

“I will be 68 years old at the end of this term, and it is time for me to say goodbye,” Johnson said at a press conference. He thanked Democrats, Republicans and independents for supporting him in 12 straight general elections since 1978.

Senate Republicans already indicated they will target the seat, which is one of the party’s top pickup opportunities. The GOP already boasts a top-tier candidate in the race, former two-term Gov. Mike Rounds.

However, the GOP primary field could grow as other Republicans, including Rep. Kristi Noem, continue to consider the race. And the Senate Conservatives Fund announced Tuesday that it is seeking an alternative to Rounds, the first outside group to indicate it intends to play in the primary. Full story

Napolitano Predicts Arizona Will Become Democratic Stronghold

Napolitano Predicts Arizona Will Become Democratic Stronghold

Napolitano thinks Arizona will transform from a swing state to a Democratic stronghold. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano predicted Arizona will follow its Southwestern neighbors and move from swing-state status to Democratic stronghold as the border state’s demographics continue to change.

On Tuesday, the former Arizona governor told reporters that she is confident her home state will take after Nevada, New Mexico and Colorado in gaining Democratic voters in the coming cycles.

“Arizona will be behind them,” Napolitano said during a discussion hosted by the Christian Science Monitor. “I think it will be more purple over time, but ultimately blue.”

In 2012, Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., secured his first term with a 3-point margin of victory in a race much closer than many operatives anticipated. Meanwhile, partisan control of the congressional delegation flipped as Democrats won two House seats and Republicans lost one seat. But those gains were also a reflection of a newly redrawn congressional map that favored Democrats.

“It’ll happen, I think,” Napolitano said. “The fact that I could win three straight elections there, I think is indicative that Democrats can win and do win in Arizona.”

In the 2012 elections, Republican Mitt Romney carried Arizona with more than 54 percent of the vote. In John McCain’s failed bid for president in 2008, the GOP senator won his home state with 53 percent.

But the recent presidential elections have been somewhat anomalous, Napolitano said. In 2012, President Barack Obama’s campaign “really didn’t play in Arizona,” and McCain is a “favorite son” back home, she said.

Full story

Massachusetts: Markey Leads in Another Special Election Poll

Massachusetts: Markey Leads in Another Special Election Poll

Markey leads in a new Senate poll. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Rep. Edward J. Markey led by double digits in a new poll in the Democratic primary for the Massachusetts Senate special election.

According to the WBUR poll, 35 percent of likely Democratic primary voters said they would support Markey, 24 percent backed Rep. Stephen F. Lynch and 41 percent remained undecided.

The results follow a poll from earlier this month showing Markey ahead of Lynch by a nearly 30-point margin.

The winner of the April 30 Democratic primary will be heavily favored to win the seat of former Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., who is now secretary of State. In this poll, both Markey and Lynch led their potential GOP opponents for the June 25 special election by wide margins. Full story

Gingrich Forms Committee to Retire Campaign Debt, Help Candidates

Gingrich Forms Committee to Retire Campaign Debt, Help Candidates

Gingrich's 2012 campaign owes about $5 million. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has formed a new fundraising venture, Committee for America, to support conservatives and retire his 2012 campaign debt.

The new group combines American Legacy PAC and Gingrich’s former presidential campaign to ”train” future conservative candidates and “chart a course for a better America,” according to a news release.

Gingrich’s campaign owes nearly $5 million, according to online fundraising records.

Here’s how the new committee describes the financial arrangement:

Full story

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