Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
July 3, 2015

December 7, 2012

NRSC Funneled Money to Missouri GOP That Supported Akin

Updated 11:55 a.m. | In the last days of the 2012 campaign, the National Republican Senatorial Committee sent $760,000 to the Missouri Republican Party, which appears to have used the money to run TV ads for Rep. Todd Akin’s ill-fated Senate campaign.

By not transferring the money until the first two days of November, people could only speculate as to the source of the cash infusion until after casting their ballots. Democrats would no doubt have targeted Republicans in other battleground states with ads and statements that the GOP was effectively backing Akin, despite indications to the contrary by the group’s chairman, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas.

Democrats were quick to pounce on the news Friday morning after a report by the Springfield News-Leader outlining the apparent connection between the $760,000 transfer and an ad buy by the Missouri GOP for practically the same amount in support of Akin.

Full story

December 6, 2012

In Private Meeting, RNC, GOP Digital Strategists Look to Improve

Several dozen Republican digital strategists met at the Capitol Hill Club on Thursday to hear what worked and what didn’t from the digital heads of the Mitt Romney campaign and the Republican National Committee.

According to three sources in the room, the two-hour meeting was a review of the key metrics from the campaign and a discussion about how the party can improve its digital strategies and prepare for 2016. It is widely acknowledged that President Barack Obama’s re-election victory was built in part on a vastly superior digital effort.

The “entire GOP digital world” was there, one source said, plus representatives from Google, Facebook and Twitter. The meeting was led by Romney Digital Director Zac Moffatt, RNC Digital Director Tyler Brown and RNC Chief of Staff Jeff Larson. Full story

By Kyle Trygstad Posted at 5:41 p.m.

South Carolina: Who Will Haley Appoint to the Senate?

Scott is among the contenders in the mix to be appointed to the Senate. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The political question of the hour has become: Who will South Carolina Republican Gov. Nikki R. Haley appoint to fill the open Senate seat held by resigning Sen. Jim DeMint?

There is a bevy of ambitious Republicans in the state, but a few names float to the top of the list. Conservative freshman Rep. Tim Scott, a favorite of the grass roots, is seen as a top contender. A number of GOP insiders in the state also mentioned Henry McMaster, the former state attorney general who ran against Haley in the 2010 gubernatorial primary but gave his strong support to her in the GOP runoff, campaigning for her around the state. Full story

DeMint Resigning to Head Heritage Foundation

UPDATED 10:53 a.m. | Sen. Jim DeMint will resign from the Senate early next month to take the helm of the conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation, The Wall Street Journal first reported Thursday morning.

The South Carolina Republican, who was first elected to the Senate in 2004, has been a driving force among the conservative Republican Party base and the tea party movement. And he has often been a thorn in the side of Senate GOP leadership by supporting conservative primary candidates in 2010 and 2012 who later had trouble winning general elections.

“I’m leaving the Senate now, but I’m not leaving the fight,” DeMint said in a statement. “I’ve decided to join The Heritage Foundation at a time when the conservative movement needs strong leadership in the battle of ideas. No organization is better equipped to lead this fight and I believe my experience in public office as well as in the private sector as a business owner will help Heritage become even more effective in the years to come.”

The move came as a surprise on Capitol Hill, where the senator was in line to take over as ranking member of the Commerce, Committee next year, with aides already raising questions about how well he would work with Chairman Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va.

South Carolina law allows the governor, Republican Nikki R. Haley, to make an appointment to fill DeMint’s unexpired term, in a state that would be safe Republican territory either way.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal announcing the move, DeMint, who had already said he would not seek another Senate term, indicated he still had work to do politically, but thought that the timing was right.

“This really gets my blood going again thinking about the possibilities. This is the time to elevate the conservative cause,” he said.

Jim DeMint has shown that principled conservatism remains a winning political philosophy. His passion for rigorous research, his dedication to the principles of our nation’s founding, and his ability to translate policy ideas into action make him an ideal choice to lead Heritage to even greater success,” Heritage Chairman of the Board Thomas A. Saunders told employees this morning, according to the organization.

Fellow conservative GOP Sen. Patrick J. Toomey of Pennsylvania was among the first offer words of encouragement.

“Jim is not just a colleague; he is a friend and a mentor, and his departure will be a tremendous loss for the U.S. Senate and for the conservative movement. In eight years, he has personally led the effort to change the composition of the Senate for the better, and provided consistent and principled leadership in the fight for liberty and limited government. He will be missed,” the former Club for Growth president said in a statement. “I’m confident he will continue to play an important role in the ongoing public debate about the future of this country, and I wish him the best in his new position.”

December 5, 2012

Illinois: Special Election Candidate Charged With Trying to Bring Gun on Plane

State Sen. Donne Trotter, a Democratic candidate in the 2nd District special election, has been charged with trying to bring a weapon onto a plane at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport.

Trotter must appear in bond court Thursday morning to answer the Class 4 felony charge that carries from one to three years in prison, according to Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Tandra Simonton.

A Transportation Security Administration agent found an unloaded gun with bullets in Trotter’s garment bag Wednesday morning while he was attempting to travel to Washington, D.C., according to local reports. He allegedly told the agent that he forgot to remove the weapon after his shift at a security job.

A favorite of local Democrats, Trotter was seen as having the inside track to win his party’s endorsement for the Feb. 26 primary. He’s a longtime state lawmaker, serving for more than 20 years.

Full story

Shop Talk: Jesmer Joins Washington Public Affairs Firm

Jesmer has served as executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee for the past two election cycles. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

National Republican Senatorial Committee Executive Director Rob Jesmer is leaving the NRSC to join FP1 Strategies, a Washington-based public affairs firm.

For the past two cycles, Jesmer has been in that post under its outgoing chairman, Sen. John Cornyn of Texas. It was widely expected that he would not sign up for another cycle at the committee. The new NRSC chairman, Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas, has been actively searching for executive director candidates.

At FP1, Jesmer willl hold the title of partner. The firm’s other partners are Danny Diaz, Jon Downs and Terry Nelson.

Jesmer is originally from St. Paul, Minn. He has previously worked on the House side on the Hill; on the presidential campaign of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.; at the Republican National Committee and at the National Republican Congressional Committee.

New Mexico: Weh Considering 2014 Senate Bid

Udall is up for re-election in 2014. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

New Mexico business executive Allen Weh is considering a challenge to Democratic Sen. Tom Udall in 2014.

The former New Mexico Republican Party chairman and 2010 gubernatorial candidate said in a telephone interview with CQ Roll Call on Tuesday that he expects to decide by spring of next year.

“As anybody should do when considering a move like this, you do your homework … and gather enough information to make a sound decision,” Weh said. Full story

By Kyle Trygstad Posted at 11:12 a.m.
N.M. Senate

December 4, 2012

Shop Talk: NRCC’s Brock McCleary Joins Pennsylvania Firm

Brock McCleary is leaving the National Republican Congressional Committee and headed to his home state of Pennsylvania.

The outgoing polling director/deputy political director will begin work in January for the Harrisburg, Pa., public affairs firm Long Nyquist & Associates.

“Brock McCleary is one of the brightest political minds in the nation. For the past two election cycles, we have been impressed with his innovative ideas, use of new technology and his polling expertise,” the firm’s owners, Mike Long and Todd Nyquist, wrote in a press release.

McCleary will help with the firm’s clients within the Pennsylvania delegation, and he will also focus on building a national portfolio of political and public affairs clients.

After two cycles at the NRCC and a few other Beltway gigs, McCleary will live in his wife’s hometown of York, Pa.

Here is the other latest news from within the political industry.

Colorado: State Party Chairmen React to Bennet DSCC Announcement

Democrats reacted favorably Tuesday to news that Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado will lead the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in the 2014 cycle. But Republicans were quick to criticize the DSCC’s new chairman.

“Unfortunately, Sen. Bennet’s decision to head the DSCC proves that his priorities now lie outside of Colorado and with the special interests of Washington, D.C.,” Colorado GOP Chairman Ryan Call wrote in a statement. “Sen. Bennet’s new role as head of the DSCC misplaces his priorities and obligations to the people of Colorado,” he added. Call also noted that Bennet’s 2010 campaign was focused on distancing himself from the image of a Washington insider.

Colorado Democratic Party Chairman Rick Palacio issued a crowing statement on Bennet’s new job.

“As Tea Party groups prepare to take over Senate seats in 2014, the American people will discover what Coloradans already know — voices for mainstream values can win out over shrill partisanship,” Palacio wrote. Like Call’s statement, the Palacio comment returns to  2010 campaign themes — in Bennet’s race, the Democrats used terms such as “extreme” in television advertisements to successfully tie his opponent to the tea party.

Sen. Bennet Named DSCC Chairman

Bennet will be the new chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Update, 1:30 p.m. | Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet will chair the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee for the 2014 cycle, as Democrats look to hold their newly expanded majority.

“Michael is one of the brightest rising stars in the Democratic Party, and he is exactly the right person to lead our efforts over the next two years,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said in a statement Tuesday. “Not only does Michael know how to win tough races, he has the trust and loyalty of the entire Democratic caucus behind him.”

Bennet, who turned down the job two years ago, was the top choice, and Reid was expected to inform Senate Democrats of the decision Tuesday during the party’s weekly lunch. Full story

Tennessee: Bredesen Leans Against Alexander Run

In an interview, Bredesen said he didn't think he would mount a senatorial bid against Alexander, above. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Former Democratic Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen didn’t rule out a bid for Senate, but he certainly didn’t sound like a man itching for a run.

In an interview with The Tennessean newspaper’s editorial board, Bredesen said he didn’t think he would mount a bid against Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander.

“I’m always careful to never say ‘never, never, never, never.’ But I’m not doing anything remotely that you would expect me to be doing at this point if I were to be interested in doing that,” he said, according to the paper. “As I’ve told some of the recruiters, I don’t think I’d like it, and I don’t think you’d like me.”

If Alexander, up for his third term in 2014, is vulnerable at all, it’s probably from a primary challenge. And the senator has already been working to shore up his right flank. During the weekend, he made a show of strength, announcing that just about every important statehouse and Tennessee federal official was supporting him.

Roll Call rates the race as Safe Republican.

In 2012, ‘Blame Bush’ Worked Again

Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice leaves after her speech on the third day of the 2012 Republican National Convention. The president she worked for, George W. Bush, did not appear at the convention. (Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Republicans insisted that President Barack Obama couldn’t win a second term by blaming George W. Bush for the lackluster economy.  The 43rd president left office nearly four years ago, and blaming high unemployment and stagnant growth wouldn’t fly with voters in 2012, they argued.

But according to at least one Republican pollster, this strategy worked exceedingly well — thanks in large part to an assist from Mitt Romney and his campaign team. Yes, the Republicans encountered challenges with voter demographics that aren’t going away, acknowledged David Winston in his post-election survey and analysis of the presidential contest. Yes, the Democrats’ voter turnout operation is significantly more advanced than the GOP’s. Full story

December 3, 2012

Arizona: Two Republicans Seriously Considering Taking On Sinema

Democratic Rep.-elect Kyrsten Sinema has not even been sworn in, and Arizona Republicans are already abuzz about candidates preparing to take her on in 2014.

Two contenders who sought the GOP nomination in Arizona’s 9th District earlier this year confirmed to CQ Roll Call that they are seriously considering running for the nomination to challenge Sinema. They are businessman Martin Sepulveda and retired Air Force Lt. Col. Wendy Rogers.

Sepulveda said that if he won the nomination, he would run as the “polar opposite” to Sinema on the size of government, military issues and values. He also placed a heavy emphasis on tying her to Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. Full story

Illinois: Democratic Field Solidifies for 2nd District Special Election

At least seven well-known Democrats will run in next year’s special primary for former Rep. Jesse L. Jackson Jr.’s seat on the south side of Chicago.

Cook County Chief Administrative Officer Robin Kelly kicked off her campaign for the 2nd District over the weekend, joining six Democrats already in the race: Former Rep. Debbie Halvorson, Alderman Anthony Beale, former Rep. Mel Reynolds, former NFL Linebacker Napoleon Harris, state Sen. Donne Trotter and state Sen. Toi Hutchinson.

Two other potential candidates declined bids recently: Rev. Corey Brooks and Alderman Will Burns.

The 2nd District is heavily Democratic, and the winner of the Feb. 26 special primary will most likely win the April 9 special election and join Congress. Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed legislation this weekend to schedule that April 9 special general election to coincide with local elections. Full story

Jo Ann Emerson Resigning

Missouri Republican Rep. Jo Ann Emerson announced Monday morning she is resigning from the House, effective in February 2013.

In a release, her office said she would take a job as the president and CEO of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.

“I am not leaving Congress because I have lost my heart for service — to the contrary — I see a new way to serve,” she said in a statement. “I did not go seeking this opportunity, but I am excited about the new challenge it offers to find ways to promote strong rural policy.”

Once the vacancy is official Gov. Jay Nixon (D) will call a special election. After that, the 8th District party committees will choose their nominees — there will be no primary special election.

The 8th District is a safe Republican seat. Republicans in the state say the top two contenders are Lt. Gov Peter Kinder and the current executive director of the state Republican Party, Lloyd Smith, who was a former chief of staff to Emerson. The two are unlikely to run against each other.

Other potential contenders include former state treasurer Sarah Steelman, state Sens. Kevin Engler and Jason Crowell, state Reps. Jason Smith and state Sen.-elect Wayne Wallingford.

“If Lloyd wants it, it’s his,” said one Missouri Republican insider who wasn’t sure he Smith would take it.

Emerson was first elected to Congress in a 1996 special election. Her late husband, GOP Rep. Bill Emerson, held the seat previously. In her first general election, she won with only 50 percent of the vote. But she has subsequently cruised to re-election victories. She won last month with 72 percent of the vote.

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