Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
October 1, 2014

September 29, 2014

Democrats Dominate Michigan Senate Race Spending (Charts)

Democrats Dominate Michigan Senate Race Spending (Charts)

(Courtesy Echelon Insights)

Outside groups are driving the spending on broadcast television ads in the final months of the Michigan Senate race and Democrats are dominating the spending battle, according to a breakdown compiled by Republican firm Echelon Insights for Terri Lynn Land’s campaign.

Land is running against Democratic Rep. Gary Peters in the open seat contest.

In the past month, 54.89 percent of ad spending in the race has come from outside groups, a higher percentage than any other Senate race in the country, according to the data, provided to CQ Roll Call.

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September 28, 2014

Congressional ‘Perks’ Under Siege in Midterm Ads (Video)

Congressional Perks Under Siege in Midterm Ads (Video)

Peterson, seen here on the Hill with his band in 2012, has been scrutinized in campaign ads for accepting congressional 'perks.' (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Flights home from Washington, D.C., a six-figure salary and the House gym: They’re all perks of the congressional gig.

They’re also political collateral in more than a dozen House races this cycle.

In political ad after political ad, challengers are taking aim at incumbents for accepting “perks” in a Congress mired in gridlock. Incumbents feel the heat, emphasizing their own commitment to ending taxpayer-funded congressional benefits.

The irony, of course, is that the winning challengers will have access to the same salary and benefits as soon as they’re sworn into office in January. But operatives from both parties argue the message remains potent in a political environment where Congress is unpopular.

“Look, if you were any other person on the planet and you didn’t do your job and you still got paid and all the perks that came with it — the only other place you can do that is Wall Street, and they’re not so popular themselves,” said Democratic consultant Travis Lowe, who has made ads attacking GOP incumbents and their perks this cycle. “So of course, it hits a chord.”

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September 26, 2014

New Bill Cassidy Ad Stars Former Landrieu Supporters

New Bill Cassidy Ad Stars Former Landrieu Supporters

Cassidy greeted voters outside the LSU football stadium on Sept. 20. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-La., is launching a new Senate ad Saturday featuring former supporters of Democratic Sen. Mary L. Landrieu.

The spot, shared first with CQ Roll Call, showcases three women who say they’ve previously voted for the three-term incumbent and list Landrieu’s support for the Affordable Care Act as the main reason they now back her leading Republican challenger.

“We’re voting for Bill Cassidy,” one of the women says. “He stands up to Barack Obama,” says another. “And he’ll vote to repeal and replace Obamacare,” says the third.

The ad will run statewide and is initially backed by a $400,000 buy, according to a Cassidy campaign aide. Full story

Internal Poll: Democrat Holds Slight Lead in Arkansas

Internal Poll: Democrat Holds Slight Lead in Arkansas

Hays is a Democrat from Arkansas. (Meredith Dake/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

A new campaign poll from Democrat Patrick Henry Hays showed him ahead of his Republican opponent by 3 points in one of his party’s top House targets in Arkansas.

Hays, the former mayor of North Little Rock, had a small lead over banker French Hill, 44 percent to 41 percent, according to the poll conducted by Global Strategy Group and paid for by Hays. That’s within the poll’s 4.8 percent margin of error.

Hays and Hill are vying for Arkansas’ 2nd District, an open-seat race because GOP Rep. Tim Griffin is leaving Congress to run for lieutenant governor. The district voted for GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney by a 12-point margin last cycle, and the race is rated a Leans Republican contest by the Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call.

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McConnell, Grimes Split on Marijuana Legalization Debate

McConnell, Grimes Split on Marijuana Legalization Debate

Marijuana accessories are pictured in Terrapin Care Station, a marijuana dispensary, in Boulder, Colo. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The national discussion about legalizing marijuana has now surfaced in Kentucky’s Senate race.

A day after Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes encouraged a conversation about it, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell voiced his opposition to following Colorado’s lead and legalizing marijuana more broadly in an interview on a local radio station Friday.

“I’m against legalizing marijuana,” the Republican said. “Certainly it’s not in the same category as heroin, but I think to begin … to sort of send the message that we’re giving up, you know, that this is just the way it’s going to be, then one thing leads to another and pretty soon … you completely transform your society in a way that I think certainly most Kentuckians would not agree with.”

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DSCC Ad Ties Thom Tillis to Ryan Budget

DSCC Ad Ties Thom Tillis to Ryan Budget

Tillis, right, at an event Wednesday with ex-Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is going up with a new TV ad Friday in North Carolina that attacks Republican Thom Tillis on Medicare and continues to push the theme that he cares more about the wealthy.

The spot, provided first to CQ Roll Call, ties the state House speaker to Rep. Paul D. Ryan’s 2012 budget proposal, which would have cut spending on Medicare and used a voucher-like system. Tillis expressed support for certain aspects of the Wisconsin Republican’s plan.

In the ad, an older woman named Marie Grauerholz, says that would be a problem for her.

“I’m not a millionaire and I don’t own a private jet,” she says. “I depend on Medicare. I think the fact that Thom Tillis wants to cut Medicare just shows that he doesn’t know what people in North Carolina are like and what the average person needs.” Full story

Bill Cassidy Dips Into Landrieu Territory for Votes

Bill Cassidy Dips Into Landrieu Territory for Votes

Cassidy speaks with pharmacy students from Xavier University of Louisiana. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

NEW ORLEANS — At a Saturday morning community health fair in a Vietnamese enclave in the predominantly black eastern wing of this city, Cassidy wasn’t exactly in politically friendly territory.

Bill Cassidy Dips Into Landrieu Territory for VotesBut he was quickly met by a familiar face ready to show him around. Greeting Cassidy behind a mobile pregnancy care bus was former Rep. Anh “Joseph” Cao, a fellow Republican who entered the House with Cassidy after the 2008 elections and served for a single term.

Cassidy, who is challenging Democratic Sen. Mary L. Landrieu, would work his way through a welcoming campus-wide, college football tailgate in Baton Rouge later that day. But first he was here in a church parking lot in Village de L’Est, a traditionally Vietnamese neighborhood with a growing Hispanic population, to try to pick up a few votes.

“Wherever I can meet the most voters works for me,” Cassidy said as Cao led him toward the crowd.

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September 25, 2014

Democratic Super PAC Enters Maine Race (Video)

Democratic Super PAC Enters Maine Race (Video)

Cain is a Democrat running in Maine. (Meredith Dake/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

House Majority PAC will start airing advertisements Friday targeting an open seat in Maine, suggesting Democrats are concerned the race could become more competitive than initially anticipated.

HMP, a super PAC aiding House Democrats, laid down a $270,000 buy on broadcast television in the Bangor and Portland markets, according to spokesman Matt Thornton.

Thornton said the buy aims to get their candidate “across the finish line safely” — and before other groups start spending there.

Maine’s 2nd District features an open seat race between state Sen. Emily Cain, a Democrat, and former state Treasurer Bruce Poliquin, a Republican. The race is currently rated a Leans Democratic contest by Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call.

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The Big Issue in the North Carolina Senate Race

The Big Issue in the North Carolina Senate Race

Hagan speaks with Victor Crosby, 95, on Wednesday during an event with volunteers and supporters at a campaign office in Statesville, N.C. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

STATESVILLE, N.C. — The biggest issue in the North Carolina Senate race? It’s not health care, Syrian airstrikes or even the economy.

It’s education.

The Big Issue in the North Carolina Senate RaceOften relegated to state and local elections, education has taken a leading role in the race between Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., and her GOP opponent, state Speaker Thom Tillis. And in a state steeped in a rich tradition of public schooling, the focus on education is mostly working in Hagan’s favor in this high-stakes race.

At her field office Wednesday evening, Hagan readily brings it up to supporters.

“In the state house, [Tillis] did the tax cuts, then he cut, cut, cut. What did he cut? He cut a half a billion dollars from our education system,” Hagan said. “You know in North Carolina, education has always been a sacred bipartisan priority.” Full story

Democrats Cut Ad Time in Michigan House Race (Updated)

Democrats Cut Ad Time in Michigan House Race  (Updated)

Benishek is a Republican from Michigan. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Updated 3:49 p.m. | A Democratic super PAC has cut a television ad reservation for the party’s best offensive opportunity in Michigan, according to two sources who monitor media buys.

House Majority PAC’s cancellation could be a sign Democrats are no longer optimistic their nominee, retired Army Maj. Gen. Jerry Cannon, can defeat Rep. Dan Benishek, R-Mich.

In June, HMP — a super PAC that boosts House Democrats — reserved $375,000 for the district, according to The Washington Post. A Republican source said the reservation was for Sept. 23 through Oct. 13 in the Marquette and Traverse City media markets.

But this week, HMP went dark in Michigan’s 1st District.

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September 24, 2014

Jeb Bush Knocks Harry Reid While Campaigning for Thom Tillis

Jeb Bush Knocks Harry Reid While Campaigning for Thom Tillis

Bush campaigned for Tillis in North Carolina. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

GREENSBORO, N.C. – Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said Wednesday getting the country back on track requires Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s ouster from the top spot “at minimum.”

Jeb Bush Knocks Harry Reid While Campaigning for Thom Tillis

Speaking at a warehouse event for Thom Tillis, the GOP’s nominee for Senate, Bush pinned the country’s hopes for an economic recovery on Republicans taking control of the Senate.

“Most of the big things that need to be fixed are in Washington, D.C., and if we get them right — which will require Harry Reid’s departure from the Senate, or, at minimum, being minority leader — people’s fears about the future will be lifted, their belief in their children’s opportunities will come back naturally,” Bush said.

Tillis is challenging Sen. Kay Hagan, a Democrat, in one of the country’s most competitive Senate races. Republicans need to gain six seats in November to take control of the Senate, and North Carolina, a state that typically favors the GOP, is seen as a prime pick-up opportunity.

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Last Call: Where Should We Travel to Cover the Midterms? (Video)

Less than 36 hours remain for readers to vote on a locale to send two Roll Call politics reporters to cover the midterms.

Readers can pick one of two Senate races in Colorado and Kansas, and one of two House races in California and Nebraska.

Have an opinion on which race we should cover? Tweet your thoughts to @RollCall with the #RCReadersChoice tag.

Otherwise, polls close Thursday at 5 p.m. Vote below:

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Joe Biden to California for Democratic House Hopeful

Joe Biden to California for Democratic House Hopeful

Biden will make a campaign stop in California next month. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. will make a campaign stop in Bakersfield, Calif., on Oct. 7 to campaign for Amanda Renteria, a former Senate chief of staff and top Democratic recruit this cycle.

Biden’s visit to the Central Valley, which Renteria announced on Facebook, will come less than a month before Election Day, when the Democrat will face off against freshman Republican Rep. David Valadao. Democrats are hoping the vice president’s appearance will gin up excitement for the contest and motivate the base to turn out.

The district voted for President Barack Obama by an 11-point margin in 2012, making it a top pick-up target for Democrats this year.

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September 23, 2014

NRCC Buys Airtime to Help Vulnerable Congressman

NRCC Buys Airtime to Help Vulnerable Congressman

Terry is a Republican from Nebraska. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The National Republican Congressional Committee has reserved $730,000 in television airtime in the Omaha, Neb., media market to help one of the party’s most vulnerable incumbents, according to two sources tracking media in the 2nd District.

The reservation, which was placed via an independent expenditure Tuesday evening and runs through Election Day, is a sign Republicans think Rep. Lee Terry is in trouble — or will be soon. Earlier on Tuesday, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee aired its first ad hitting Terry in the same market.

Terry’s re-election prospects have dimmed in recent months. Public polling shows the incumbent locked in a dead heat with the Democratic nominee, Brad Ashford, helping to put the congressman on Roll Call’s list of the 10 Most Vulnerable Members. Full story

DCCC Pulls Ad in New Jersey Race

DCCC Pulls Ad in New Jersey Race

MacArthur is a Republican candidate from New Jersey's 3rd District. (Meredith Dake/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 5:36 p.m. | The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is removing a television ad that aired in a southern New Jersey House race — a change caused by incorrect information in the GOP nominee’s personal financial disclosure forms, according to a committee aide.

The ad, which is still online, features a Phoenix fireman accusing the Republican nominee, Tom MacArthur, of dishonest tactics as an insurance executive.

MacArthur is running against Burlington County Freeholder Aimee Belgard, the Democratic nominee, in a competitive race to replace retiring GOP Rep. Jon Runyan in the 3rd District.

Here is the ad:

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