Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
December 21, 2014

January 28, 2013

Iowa Senate Race Now Leans Democratic

Iowa Senate Race Now Leans Democratic

Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley is considering a 2014 Senate bid. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. Tom Harkin’s retirement makes the Iowa Senate seat more competitive by virtue of the six-term Democrat’s departure. Couple that with the Hawkeye State’s competitive nature, and this race could be one of the most targeted of the 2014 cycle.

Accordingly, CQ Roll Call now characterizes the Iowa Senate race as Leans Democratic, after previously rating the contest as Likely Democratic.

Harkin was favored for re-election, thanks in part to the $2.7 million he had in the bank. Today, the seat is in play — although it does not yet join the most competitive echelon of 2014 Senate races.

For this race to become a top target in 2014, the GOP must circumvent a divisive primary.

Full story

Montana: Baucus Has $3.6 Million in the Bank

Montana: Baucus Has $3.6 Million in the Bank

Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus raised $3.6 million in the fourth quarter of 2012. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., will kick off his re-election bid with $3.6 million in the bank, according to a copy of his fundraising report obtained by CQ Roll Call.

The Senate Finance Committee chairman raised $610,000 during the final three months of last year. His year-end report, which will be filed on the Jan. 31 deadline, showed he spent $121,500 during the same period.

Baucus’ big number comes as welcome news for Democrats, who face a difficult map in 2014. The six-term senator represents one of seven seats up this cycle in a state that the president lost.

Full story

January 27, 2013

Iowa: Braley to Explore Senate Bid for Harkin’s Seat

Iowa: Braley to Explore Senate Bid for Harkins Seat

Braley indicated Sunday that he is interested in running for Senate. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Rep. Bruce Braley on Sunday publicly acknowledged his interest in running to succeed retiring Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin in 2014.

“Over the past 24 hours, I’ve been overwhelmed by the outpouring of encouragement and support from Iowans in every corner of the state urging me to consider a campaign for the U.S. Senate in 2014,” the Democrat said in a statement released by his office. “Iowans deserve a Senator who will continue Tom Harkin’s legacy of strengthening the middle class and standing up for Iowans who don’t have a voice. While Senator Harkin’s shoes are impossible to fill, over the coming days my family and I will carefully weigh a possible candidacy for Senate.”

Harkin announced his retirement Saturday morning, setting up the Hawkeye State’s first open Senate seat race in several decades. The novelty, plus Iowa’s competitive political composition, is expected to make this race one of the most targeted of 2014. Full story

January 26, 2013

Iowa: Harkin Retirement Sets Off Open-Seat Scramble in 2014

Iowa: Harkin Retirement Sets Off Open Seat Scramble in 2014

(Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated: 11:40 a.m. | Iowa Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin announced on Saturday that he will not seek a sixth term in the chamber. The news was first reported by the Associated Press.

“After 40 years, I just feel it’s somebody else’s turn,” Harkin said in a lengthy statement. “I don’t by any means plan to retire completely from public life at the end of this Congress. But I am going to make way for someone new in this Senate seat. I think that is right not just for me, but for Iowa, as well.”

Harkin, who is 73 years old, serves as chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee as well as the Appropriations subcommittee that handles the budgets for many of the same agencies. He passed up a chance to become chairman of the full Appropriations Committee after the death of Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, D-Hawaii, late last year.

Harkin’s retirement sets off what is expected to be a highly competitive open-seat race in the swing state — one that is likely to feature two or more House members. Rep. Bruce Braley, who was exploring a run for governor, now tops the list of possible Democratic Senate candidates. Meanwhile, Republicans await word from two House members, Reps. Steve King and Tom Latham, on whether they will pursue the open seat. Full story

January 25, 2013

Massachusetts: Talk of Lynch Bid to Replace Kerry Increases

Massachusetts Democratic Rep. Stephen F. Lynch will announce his decision on a Senate run next week, but has been setting the groundwork for a bid — from fundraising to political maneuvering — should he decide to get in.

Lynch spokesman Scott Ferson told CQ Roll Call the congressman is doing everything he would need to do to mount a Senate bid next week and will make a final announcement on his decision then, when Sen. John Kerry is expected to be confirmed as secretary of State.

Lynch on Friday denied local media reports that he had made up his mind to challenge Rep. Edward J. Markey, telling the Boston Herald that he is still weighing what he would do. “I realize that time is short, but I still think we have a shot,” Lynch said to the paper.

Kerry is expected to be confirmed as secretary of State next week and immediately resign his Senate office. Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick will then appoint an interim senator and set the date of the special election, expected in early summer. Full story

Priebus Easily Re-Elected RNC Chairman

Priebus Easily Re Elected RNC Chairman

Priebus was re-elected as Republican National Committee chairman. (Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Reince Priebus was re-elected as chairman of the Republican National Committee on Friday, garnering the near unanimous support of the 168 RNC voting members.

The challenges facing Priebus as the head of the Republican Party entering the 2014 cycle are different than what he dealt with when he took over in 2011. Then, Priebus was tasked with overhauling RNC operations, including paying off a $24 million debt and rehabilitating its image among GOP donors. But he was buoyed at the time by fresh enthusiasm from big wins in the 2010 midterm elections.

This time around, the RNC is in good shape financially — the committee ended 2012 debt free and with $4.7 million in the bank. But the result of the 2012 elections left the party faithful deflated: The party’s brand is in the tank nationally, emerging demographic voting blocs favor the Democrats, and the GOP also finds itself trailing its opposition in the ability to target and turn out voters. Full story

Georgia: Barrow Has ‘No Plans’ for Senate Bid; Atlanta Mayor Mum on Run

Georgia: Barrow Has No Plans for Senate Bid; Atlanta Mayor Mum on Run

Barrow has said he has "no plans" to run for Chambliss' Senate seat in 2014. (Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call)

Conservative Democratic Blue Dog Rep. John Barrow said Friday he has “no plans” as yet to run for the newly open Senate seat in Georgia in 2014.

“At this time, I have no plans to run for anything else than re-election in the 12th district,” he said in a statement to CQ Roll Call, “but I am certainly gratified that people have been suggesting I run for the Senate.”

“Senator Chambliss has been a great public servant to the State of Georgia and the entire country, and he’s someone I’ve respected throughout our time working together. He’s set an example for his willingness to reach across the aisle to actually get things done in a very partisan Congressional climate,” Barrow said.

Barrow, along with Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, are considered the best Democratic prospects for the seat currently occupied by Sen. Saxby Chambliss, who Friday announced he wouldn’t run for another term. Full story

Stop Obsessing Over Budget, Jindal Tells Hill GOP

Stop Obsessing Over Budget, Jindal Tells Hill GOP

Jindal spoke at the Republican National Committee's winter meeting Thursday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Stop obsessing over the federal budget and start focusing on policies that benefit the middle class and stimulate economic growth. That’s the message Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal has for congressional Republicans as the GOP charts a path forward post-2012.

In a speech at the Republican National Committee ‘s winter meeting a few blocks from where President Barack Obama was nominated for a second term, Jindal delivered tough advice to a party trying to rebound after a rough 2012 election cycle. That included an admonition to stop being the “stupid party.”

But in remarks focused on the need for the GOP to prioritize reaching out to, and persuading, voters of all political stripes and backgrounds, Jindal also offered pointed advice for Republicans on Capitol Hill.

“A debate about which party can better manage the federal government is a very small and shortsighted debate. If our vision is not bigger than that, we do not deserve to win,” Jindal said Thursday evening. “Today’s conservatism is completely wrapped up in solving the hideous mess that is the federal budget, the burgeoning deficits, the mammoth federal debt, the shortfall in our entitlement programs … even as we invent new entitlement programs. We seem to have an obsession with government bookkeeping.” Full story

By David M. Drucker Posted at 10:41 a.m.
RGA, RNC

Chambliss to Retire

Chambliss to Retire

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 12:05 p.m. | Georgia Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss, 69, announced Friday that he will not seek a third term in 2014.

In a statement, Chambliss denied that his decision had anything to do with the likelihood that he would draw a challenger from the right in 2014. Instead, he insisted that the partisan gridlock in Congress, particularly surrounding fiscal issues, was the reason for his retirement. Chambliss has been a key member of the bipartisan “gang of six,” which sought to forge a bipartisan solution to the nation’s debt and deficit problems.

“Lest anyone think this decision is about a primary challenge, I have no doubt that had I decided to be a candidate, I would have won re-election,” Chambliss said.

He continued, “This is about frustration, both at a lack of leadership from the White House and at the dearth of meaningful action from Congress, especially on issues that are the foundation of our nation’s economic health. The debt ceiling debacle of 2011 and the recent fiscal-cliff vote showed Congress at its worst and, sadly, I don’t see the legislative gridlock and partisan posturing improving anytime soon. For our nation to be strong, for our country to prosper, we cannot continue to play politics with the American economy.”

His announcement sets up a furious scramble for an open seat in a red state trending blue. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution first reported the news of Chambliss’ retirement. Full story

January 24, 2013

California: Joe Baca Wants to Return to Congress

California: Joe Baca Wants to Return to Congress

Baca says he wants back in the game, two months after losing re-election. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Two months after he was ousted from Congress by a fellow Democrat, former California Rep. Joe Baca said he wants back in.

Baca told the Riverside Press-Enterprise he plans to challenge Rep. Gloria Negrete McLeod, who defeated him 56 percent to 44 percent in the redrawn 35th District east of Los Angeles.

“If you get knocked down, you’ve got to stand up,” Baca told the newspaper Thursday.

Baca was undone in part by the state’s new top-two primary system, which allowed Negrete McLeod to advance to the general despite finishing second in the first round of balloting June 5. But the seven-term congressman was also hit by a late multimillion dollar ad campaign by Independence USA PAC, a super PAC formed by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an independent.

“Hopefully, this time I run against [Negrete McLeod] and not against the mayor of New York,” Baca told the newspaper.

RNC Report to Address Candidate Recruiting

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Improving candidate recruitment at all levels is a key focus of a Republican National Committee project to overhaul GOP operations and position the party to better compete in the 2014 and 2016 elections.

The five-member task force appointed to examine the Republican Party’s weaknesses and chart a path forward said recommendations on attracting appealing, demographically diverse candidates to run for office at all levels will likely be included in its report, due in March. Task force members said the GOP must engage in a concerted, prolonged effort to recruit talented politicians — particularly women and ethnic minorities — if the party hopes to keep pace with the Democrats.

“This is not a difficult equation to complete,” Sally Bradshaw, a Republican consultant and task force member from Florida, told reporters during a news conference to update the group’s progress. Full story

Virginia: Warner, Kaine Disappointed With Controversial State Senate Bills

Virginia: Warner, Kaine Disappointed With Controversial State Senate Bills

Kaine said the Virginia state Senate will continue to be the butt of late night TV jokes. (Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call)

Virginia Democratic Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine — both former governors of the commonwealth — are disappointed with a couple of bills moving forward in the state Senate, including a proposal that would allocate the state’s presidential electoral votes by congressional district.

That bill, sponsored by Republican state Sen. Bill Carrico, would give presidential nominees an electoral vote for each of Virginia’s 11 congressional districts they carry, plus two at-large votes to the nominee that wins a majority of the districts. If the bill had been law last year, President Barack Obama would have won just four of the state’s 13 electoral votes, despite winning the state by some 150,000 votes.

“The vote is sacred,” Kaine said in a statement to CQ Roll Call. “No legislative chamber should use this kind of partisan stunt to gain a temporary advantage at the expense of the electorate. It’s dirty tricks like this that will keep the Virginia legislature a staple on late night TV.” Full story

Nevada Ron Paul Supporters to Nominate Priebus

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Reince Priebus, running unchallenged for re-election as Republican National Committee chairman, has secured the support of Nevada GOP Chairman Michael McDonald and Silver State RNC committeeman James Smack, sources said Thursday afternoon.

In fact, McDonald and Smack are set to serve as two of the six nominators (two each from three different states) that Priebus needs to secure on a position on the ballot.

Although Priebus’ re-election is not in doubt, their decision to back the incumbent chairman could prove significant for the RNC moving forward. Both supported former Texas Rep. Ron Paul’s failed 2012 bid for the GOP presidential nomination, and last year’s takeover of the Nevada GOP by Paul supporters caused top Silver State Republicans, the RNC and White House nominee Mitt Romney to build a shadow party to handle the basic political activities usually overseen by the state party.

Dysfunctional state parties in key states, such as Nevada, are believed to be among the factors that put Romney and other Republican candidates at a disadvantage against President Barack Obama and downticket Democrats last cycle.

RNC members are in Charlotte for the party’s annual winter meeting as the GOP attempts to chart a path forward in the aftermath of the November elections, in which Obama was handily re-elected and Democrats netted two Senate seats. Among the lingering issues from the 2012 cycle was a small division that opened up between the Republican establishment and Paul supporters, who remain active in various state parties.

Connecticut: Roraback to Be Nominated as Judge, Diminishing Likely Rematch With Esty

Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is about to do fellow Democrat Rep. Elizabeth Esty a big favor. He is nominating her 2012 Republican rival, former state Sen. Andrew Roraback, to a state judgeship, according to local reports.

Connecticut political operatives are abuzz with the news. Democrats are elated, while Republicans are concerned. All wonder if the move neutralizes Roraback’s ability to challenge Esty next year. The 5th District saw one of the closest House races in the country and is a place where Republicans had been looking to go on offense — with Roraback as their standard-bearer. A local newspaper recently named Roraback its 2012 Person of the Year.

Roraback is a long-time officeholder and a passionate moderate. In November, reflecting on a dreadful year for Republicans in New England, he was on the fence about another run against Esty.

“I view my race not as a reason for pessimism,” he told CQ Roll Call at the time. “I think my race was a reason for optimism for our party because it shows that victory is within reach for Republicans in New England.”

South Carolina: Moffly Loans Campaign $200,000

South Carolina: Moffly Loans Campaign $200,000

(Courtesy Elizabeth Moffly)

Republican Elizabeth Moffly, one of a number of candidates running for the open seat in South Carolina’s 1st District, loaned her campaign $200,000 Wednesday, a source close to the campaign told CQ Roll Call.

Moffly, a Charleston County schoolboard trustee and owner of some local businesses, is currently the only woman in a crowded GOP field for the seat vacated by now-Sen. Tim Scott, a Republican.

The loan, while not a huge amount of money for the race, at least gives Moffly the potential to become competitive.

She launched her campaign last week and joins a long list of GOP hopefuls including former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford; state Rep. Chip Limehouse; Teddy Turner, the son of TV mogul Ted Turner; state Sen. Larry Grooms and former state Sen. John Kuhn, among others.

Although the district is comfortably Republican, there are two Democrats running, one of whom is the sister of comedian Stephen Colbert.

Filing for the race closes on Jan. 28 at noon.

The primary will be held on March 19. An April 2 runoff is expected because no candidate is likely to get more than 50 percent of the vote in such a crowded field. The special election will be held May 7.

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