Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
October 7, 2015

April 2, 2013

Shop Talk: Senate Majority PAC Hires Matsdorf, Brockman

Senate Majority PAC, a super PAC dedicated to electing Democrats to the Senate, announced Wednesday the hiring of two new staffers:

  • Karyn Brockman will be the super PAC’s finance director. Most recently, she worked on now-Sen. Christopher S. Murphy’s, D-Conn., 2012 Senate campaign.
  • Ty Matsdorf has signed on as campaigns and communications director. CQ Roll Call profiled Matsdorf as a Hill aide in 2009, when he was a communications director to Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont. More recently, Matsdorf ran the war room for American Bridge 21st Century, a Democratic opposition research super PAC. He will continue with his other job at the newly formed Messina Group while working with Senate Majority PAC.

Democrats Announce Challenges to Three GOP Incumbents

Democrats recruited a challenger for Southerland. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Four Democratic challengers announced on Tuesday their plans to run against three House GOP incumbents in California, Florida and Minnesota:

Florida’s 2nd District

Gwen Graham, daughter of former governor and Sen. Bob Graham, D-Fla., will challenge Rep. Steve Southerland II. Graham’s campaign described her as “Washington outsider,” and traced her roots in the Tallahassee-based Panhandle district back to her father’s tenure as governor beginning in 1979.

However, Graham’s father later served three terms in the Senate and she boasts relatives at The Washington Post. CQ Roll Call reported Gwen Graham was a likely contender earlier this year.

California’s 31 District

Redlands Mayor Pete Aguilar will challenge one of House Democrats’ top  2014 targets, Republican Rep. Gary G. Miller. It’s Aguilar’s second try at Congress in as many cycles after he shocked Democrats by failing to make it to the general election in California’s new jungle primary system last year. Already in December, CQ Roll Call reported that Aguilar was interested in another run. Full story

South Carolina: Sanford Poised for Comeback in GOP Runoff

(Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images File Photo)

For a candidate known for one of the past decade’s most colossal political mistakes, former Gov. Mark Sanford has run a nearly flawless campaign for the 1st District.

As a result, Sanford is on track to win the Republican runoff and maintains a solid position in the special election for the coastal, GOP-leaning district.

On Tuesday, voters will determine whether Sanford can proceed with his political comeback over his GOP opponent, attorney Curtis Bostic. Palmetto State Republicans are confident Sanford will win the GOP nomination and continue to face Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch in the May 7 general election.

A runoff victory will show that even after the former governor’s epic political implosion — disappearing from the state for days and admitting to an extramarital affair with a woman from Argentina — solid campaign mechanics can push a candidate to victory.

“The governor has spent plenty of time addressing his personal failures from 2009, and I think anyone who knows him would agree that it was very much at odds with the rest of his political career,” Sanford spokesman Joel Sawyer said in an interview. Full story

West Virginia: NRCC Makes TV Buys Against Rahall

House Republicans are targeting Rahall early. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The National Republican Congressional Committee will begin airing advertisements Wednesday targeting Democratic Rep. Nick J. Rahall II.

The small buy is intended to show that the committee is readying to take on Rahall’s district — regardless of whether he seeks re-election in 2014. Rahall is considering a bid for retiring Democratic Sen. Jay Rockefeller’s seat.

The NRCC will spend $12,000 to air the spot from April 3 to 9.

Full story

April 1, 2013

Iowa: Democrat Sherzan Drops Bid to Challenge Latham

Businessman Mike Sherzan, a Democrat, has dropped his campaign for Iowa’s 3rd District, citing “personal health reasons” in a statement released Monday.

His announcement clears the way for another Democrat, perhaps former state Sen. Staci Appel, to challenge GOP Rep. Tom Latham in this competitive district.

House Democrats have targeted the 3rd District since the start of the cycle. In January, they touted Sherzan as one of their first potential recruits during the presidential inauguration festivities. He announced his campaign a month later.

Sherzan’s decision to leave the race comes after the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee met with Appel about the race on her recent trip to Washington, D.C. But in a statement, he insisted his decision was based “solely upon my individual circumstances.”

“Finally, I have made this decision based solely upon my individual circumstances and what I believe to be in my best interest and that of my family,” Sherzan said. “Ending my candidacy is very disappointing to me personally.”

Colorado: Mark Udall Raises $1.5 Million in First Quarter of Cycle

Udall had a strong first fundraising quarter (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., raised $1.5 million in the first quarter of 2013 and has $2.5 million in the bank to kick off his re-election campaign in 2014.

On paper, the re-election race should worry Senate Democrats: Colorado is a competitive state, and in recent cycles national parties have dumped millions into races there.

But Udall’s supporters list his strong fundraising as one of the reasons the first-term senator does not top this cycle’s list of the most competitive races. More importantly, Udall has yet to field a serious GOP challenger.

Full story

Iowa: House Democrats Talk to Ex-State Senator About Latham Challenge

Democrats are talking up a new candidate to challenge Rep. Tom Latham (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Democrats hope former state Sen. Staci Appel will challenge GOP Rep. Tom Latham of Iowa this cycle, after the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee met with her recently in Washington, D.C., to discuss the race, according to a Democratic operative with knowledge of the encounter.

Appel, a former stock broker and one-term state senator from rural Ackworth, Iowa, is the wife of Iowa Supreme Court Justice Brent Appel.

Democrats view the 3rd District as one of their best pick-up opportunities of 2014. Last year, President Barack Obama carried the Des Moines-based seat. At the same time, Latham defeated then-Rep. Leonard L. Boswell, D-Iowa, there by nearly 9 points.

If Appel runs — and the source stressed that her candidacy is not a done deal — she will have company in a Democratic primary. Businessman Mike Sherzan announced his campaign for the seat last month, after the DCCC feted him during the presidential inauguration in January. Full story

Shop Talk: American Bridge Signs Mackler, Vale for Super PAC

American Bridge 21st Century, a Democratic super PAC focused on opposition research, announced Monday that it has brought on two new top staffers:

  • Jessica Mackler will be the new vice president-campaign director. Last fall, Mackler was campaign manager for then-Rep. Shelley Berkley’s Senate race in Nevada. She’s a veteran of EMILY’s List and American Rights at Work as well.
  • Eddie Vale will be the new vice president-C-4 director for American Bridge’s not-for-profit arm and senior adviser to the PAC. He comes to American Bridge from the AFL-CIO Workers’ Voice super PAC. His previous experience includes John Edwards’ 2008 presidential campaign, Ned Lamont’s Senate race and former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s gubernatorial effort.

“As we prepare to build on the success of the last election cycle, Jessica and Eddie will be valuable additions to American Bridge and bring years of experience right in line with our core mission,” said Rodell Mollineau, the president of American Bridge, in a statement. “They will further strengthen a rock-solid senior staff and organization that I couldn’t be prouder of.” Full story

March 29, 2013

North Carolina: Rouzer to Seek Rematch Against McIntyre

Rouzer, a Republican, will run for Congress again (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Former state Sen. David Rouzer will make another run for North Carolina’s 7th District, according to the Charlotte News Observer.

If Rouzer wins the GOP nomination, he will face a rematch against Rep. Mike McIntyre, D-N.C., in 2014.

McIntyre edged out Rouzer by 654 votes, the closest margin of any House race in the 2012 cycle. The ballot counting went past Election Day. It was the last congressional race to be called, in late November.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee named McIntyre to its “Frontline” incumbent retention program earlier this month.

NRCC Makes Small Ad Buys In Arizona, Georgia, Minnesota

Rep. Greg Walden is the NRCC chairman. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The National Republican Congressional Committee has bought airtime in three television markets in the next week, according to a Democrat and a Republican who monitor media buys.

The small buys target competitive districts home to Democratic incumbents:

  • Arizona’s 2nd District: $3,585 in the Tucson market targeting Rep. Ron Barber;
  • Georgia’s 12th District: $2,750 in the Augusta media market targeting Rep. John Barrow; and
  • Minnesota’s 7th District: $1,540 in Minneapolis media market targeting Rep. Collin C. Peterson.

These buys are minimal for television advertisements, but a well-placed GOP source cautioned the initial figures do not reflect the NRCC’s full upcoming advertising spending — and additional spending could be on the way soon.

3 Reasons Why Don Young Is Alaska’s Political Teflon

Young has come under scrutiny for a controversial phrase he used in an interview. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Longtime Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, drew anger from colleagues and voters when he referred to Hispanic farm workers as “wetbacks” this week. Young tried to explain the slur as outdated terminology from his youth, even as Speaker John A. Boehner demanded he apologize.

But Young, a 40-year House veteran, is probably not going anywhere anytime soon. He plans to seek a 21st term, saying recently he will keep running for Alaska’s sole House seat “until the day I can’t physically do it.”

In fact, Young has proved himself to be political Teflon in the Last Frontier. Here are three reasons why:

1. After 40 years in Congress, Young has seen — and said — it all. He’s survived multiple investigations by both the Justice Department and the House Ethics Committee (he was never charged). Earlier this month, the House Ethics Committee announced it is formally investigating him again, prompting this comment to the Alaska Dispatch:

“I’ve been under a cloud all my life,” Young said this week before his “wetbacks” comment aired. “It’s sort of like living in Juneau — it rains on you all the time and you don’t even notice it.”

Throughout his career, Young spouted off to his colleagues, most often about fighting for federal funds for Alaska. In 2005, for example, Young was asked to forgo some federal transportation projects for Alaska to help Hurricane Katrina relief efforts.

“They can kiss my ear!” Young told a The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reporter. “That is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.”

Full story

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

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

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

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

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