Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) is adamant this is his last term as chairman — but that doesn’t mean he’s ready to leave House leadership.
Israel told The Hill in an exclusive interview that he will not seek a third term after the 2014 elections but wants to keep a seat at the leadership table. That could lead to some interesting machinations next winter, unless someone in House leadership decides to retire.“I’ve really enjoyed doing this for two terms, but I believe that two terms is the maximum that anybody should chair a committee,” Israel told The Hill. “I will support our leadership’s decision and choice for DCCC chair as long as it is not Steve Israel.”
The congressman, a close confidante of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), said he’d like to remain in a top spot with the party, though.
“I’ve always enjoyed being in leadership. I hope to continue to have a voice in leadership. But that’s not my decision, that’s the decision of my colleagues in leadership and in the caucus. But I’ve really enjoyed being in leadership,” Israel said.
It’s unclear how that would occur without a retirement or the creation of a new leadership role, however. All five Democratic leadership slots are occupied by members who have shown no signs of retiring or stepping aside.
Israel has long been expected to step aside as DCCC head after this term, and his trio of deputies are all said to be interested in the slot. He had kind words for all three, praising Reps. Donna Edwards (D-Md.), Jared Polis (D-Colo.) and Jim Himes (D-Conn.).
“Donna Edwards has done an extraordinary job of recruiting. Jared Polis is one of our best fundraisers and just has a real sense of what has to happen in our campaigns. Jim Himes has just crushed it as our national finance chair. We have newer members like Lois Frankel, who got 100 percent of our members to pay dues. And there are so many others,” he said. “I’m sure our leader will choose somebody who is both operational and somebody who has a good handle on the issues to succeed me.”
Israel wasn’t as keen on predicting what will happen in 2014, repeatedly refusing to prognosticate about whether Democrats have any chance at retaking the House (which Pelosi has said is possible and most prognosticators think isn’t), win seats (which looks tough) or hold losses to a minimum (which most Democrats quietly admit would be a win).
“Our job is not to predict, it is to prepare,” he said. “The one thing I can tell you about this cycle is, it is so volatile, for us and for them. I will see a poll on a Frontliner [incumbent] or a challenger one week that makes me grin from ear to ear, and then a week later, I will see a poll on the same candidate that makes me frown. Republicans know it, and I know it. It is an extremely volatile environment.”
Israel said the biggest challenge the party faces this fall is midterm voter drop-off, and said they were working to counter that by doubling the DCCC’s historic budget on field operations and have 500 paid field staff, the most in the campaign’s history.
He downplayed concerns that President Obama’s poor approval ratings could hurt Democrats, pointing out that many of the most competitive House races are in Illinois, California and New York, states where Obama’s numbers have held up a bit better.
He also said that two of his party’s two most popular surrogates, Bill and Hillary Clinton, were likely to appear on the campaign trail more and more between now and November.
“I’ve had several conversations with the Clintons,” he said. “She has said that she wants to be engaged. … As soon as they’re ready to work out some of the logistical details, we are ready to go.”
About time Steve Israel quits the DCCC leadership after this election.
h/t: Cameron Joseph at The Hill
Former Metro East Judge Ann Callis, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for Congress in Illinois’ 13th Congressional District, has made the national party’s “Red to Blue” list of targeted districts nationwide that Democrats believe they can win this year.
Callis, the former Madison County chief judge, is among 16 congressional hopefuls nationally (10 of them women) held up by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee as candidates who have realistic shots at unseating Republicans in Congress.
Callis is one of three Democrats vying for the party nomination in the March 18 state primaries for the 13th District, which runs from Madison County northeast to the Champaign area.
Fighting her for it are physics professor George Gollin and social policy analyst David Green. Today’s announcement regarding the “Red to Blue” program is the DCCC’s latest signal where it’s coming down in that primary.
Incumbent Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, faces his own primary challenger, from former Miss America-turned-Harvard-trained lawyer Erika Harold.
IL-13 residents should vote for Ann Callis on March 18th in the Democratic Primary and the General in November.
With two days left in the Illinois legislative session, President Obama reiterated his support for a marriage equality bill there, telling attendees at a fundraising dinner in Chicago Wednesday night that passage of the bill is “the right thing to do.”
“Here in Illinois, we’ve got a vote on same-sex marriage that’s going to be coming up in the state legislature. And I just want to say for the record it’s something that I deeply support,” Obama said at the event held to raise money for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
The remarks came at a dinner held at the home of Bettylu and Paul Saltzman in Chicago’s Streeterville neighborhood, which the DCCC estimated would be attended by 70 people. Obama made no mention of the marriage measure in his earlier speech to a larger audience, which the DCCC estimated at 150 people, at the Hilton Chicago.
The Illinois Senate already passed a marriage equality bill, but the bill has not been brought to a vote yet in the Illinois House, where supporters have claimed they have the 60 needed votes for passage but confirmation of those numbers has been hard to come by.
Obama noted his own path on the issue in his mention of marriage equality at the dinner event, saying, “I wrestled with this for a long time and I am absolutely convinced it is the right thing to do. And we have to make sure that wherever we go, we are reminding people that the essence of America is that everybody is treated equally under the law without exception.”
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee released a video Tuesday going after House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) over reportedly blocking the Violence Against Women Act.
Cantor on Tuesday is set to deliver a policy address aimed at recasting the Republican Party in the wake of the 2012 election.
“No matter how much the Tea Party House Republicans try to rebrand their party, the fact remains: They are still the party that is blocking funding to prevent domestic violence,” DCCC press secretary Emily Bittner said in a statement. “For years, the Violence Against Women Act enjoyed broad, bipartisan support – until the Tea Party War on Women. American women don’t want to see the clock turned back on their safety or their rights, and no sales job can change the truth, that Tea Party House Republicans will relentlessly pursue their War on Women.”
Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) is expected to remain as head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee for the 2014 election cycle.
The New York lawmaker, who took over the fundraising operation for House Democrats in 2010, will retain his position alongside House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who said Wednesday that she planned to run again for the Democratic House leadership.
According to a House leadership aide, “Leader Pelosi told a packed caucus meeting, including the incoming members of the 113th Congress today that, if Steve Israel is willing to take on the DCCC again, then she will happily place her hat in for leader.”
Israel told CNN earlier Wednesday that he hoped Pelosi decided to stay on as leader, appearing to confirm that he would remain in the fifth-ranking position among House Democrats.
"She just helped elect 49 new Democrats who are problem-solvers," Israel said. "If you take a look at the footage from that press conference yesterday, 49 new Democrats who are diverse, the first Democratic Caucus, the first caucus in history that has a majority of women, African-Americans, Asian-Americans, Hispanic-Americans, but more than anything else, she helped elect a class of problem-solvers, people who are business people who create jobs, mayors who balance budgets, veterans who serve the country."
Israel had previously served as the DCCC’s recruitment chairman during the 2010 midterms. Thought to have a close relationship with Pelosi, he replaced Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), who moved on to become the ranking member of the House Budget Committee.
h/t: The Hill
National Democrats believe Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) could lose this fall. Bachmann, one of the top tea party Republicans facing national efforts to defeat them from progressive groups this year, is now on the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s “Red to Blue" district target list.
On Monday the DCCC announced it will throw its weight behind businessman Jim Graves, who has mounted a well-funded campaign targeted at highlighting Bachmann’s national profile as a divisive figure. Democrats in Washington like what they see, and now promise Graves support from the national party.
Unexplained millionaire Jason Plummer is still lying about Democratic TV ads being pulled down. The reality is that Plummer has a problem with the truth and can’t face tough questions about his so-called business and policy experience and his support for plans that end the Medicare guarantee just to give tax breaks to millionaires like himself and companies that outsource jobs. Cap Fax first caught Plummer in the lie about TV ads and the Belleville News Democrat pointed out Plummer is still lying about the ads and other misleading claims he made during this week’s congressional debate.
“Jason Plummer is giving Illinois voters a front row seat into the kind of politician they can expect in Washington – a first-rate liar,” said Haley Morris of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “Apparently running for 4 years has schooled Jason Plummer to lie about just about anything, but Illinois families deserve better.”
Plummer Refused to Release His Tax Returns, Falsely Claims All His Financial Information is Publicly Available. In an October 10, 2012 debate Plummer again refused to release his tax rates, and falsely claimed “anything that people want to know about my assets, my investments, any liabilities, anything I have, it’s all public information you can go look it up.” In reality, Plummer has never released his tax returns. [Belleville News-Democrat’s 12th Congressional District Debate, 10/10/12; St. Louis Post Dispatch, 2/23/12]
Plummer Touts Business Experience, But He Never Worked Anywhere but the Family Business. During an October 11, 2012 debate Plummer said that voters of Illinois’ 12th Congressional District should send a small businessman to Congress. Plummer said, “I’d argue you send a small businessman to Washington, D.C., a small businessman who understands public policy.” The Chicago Tribune has previously reported, however, that other than his internships, Plummer had never worked anywhere but the family business, RP Lumber. In addition, Plummer has been repeatedly caught exaggerating his resume. [Belleville News-Democrat’s 12th Congressional District Debate, 10/10/12; Chicago Tribune, 10/10/10; Chicago Tribune, 2/13/10; State Journal-Register, 2/11/10]
Plummer Lied About Endorsing Paul Ryan’s Plan. In an October 10, 2012 debate Plummer denied endorsing vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan’s budget plan. In reality, during a June 2012 town hall, Plummer was asked if he supported the Ryan plan. He answered “The specifics of it are pretty simple. I think that the Ryan plan aggressively addresses basically every entitlement program that we have. […] I think the benefits of the Ryan plan are pretty obvious. They aggressively put Social Security in a situation where it will actually be there for people that are retiring. It puts Medicare in a situation that it will actually be there to fund the healthcare needs of the people that it’s there for. The negatives of the Ryan care are very political to be frank.” [The Southern, 10/11/12; Alton Town Hall, 6/12/12, 2:07]
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s Independent Expenditure released its fourth TV ad exposing Jason Plummer for pledging to protect tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas and ensure that he and other millionaires get more tax breaks as well. The DCCC’s TV ad, “Never” asks voters to consider, Jason Plummer has never had to work for anything, so why would he work for Illinois middle class families.
#wi01: Rob Zerban: The other guy trying to beat Paul Ryan (and why you haven’t heard of him) | The Raw Story
On the Democrats’ list of top targets in the 2012 election, Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan is number two. Congressman Paul Ryan, on the other hand, doesn’t even make the list — even though recent polling has his Democratic opponent, Rob Zerban, almost within striking distance of Ryan. But Zerban’s FEC filings show that, of the $1.2 million in contributions he’d received as of July 2012, only $10 in in-kind email services came from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC). Zerban told Raw Story that he’s not sweating it. “It’s not money that’s going to win the race,” he said in an interview. “It’s the constituents that get to decide this race, not the monied special interests that line Ryan’s campaign’s coffers.”
Democrats and progressives are making a concerted effort to rid Congress of some of its biggest tea party stars, the Republicans whom Democrats dream about defeating when they go to bed at night.
Interviews with Democrats, progressives and Republicans this week suggest their efforts aren’t likely to break through across the board but there’s a real chance Democrats will erase a couple of faces off the tea party Mt. Rushmore come November.
Rep. Joe Walsh - Illinois 08
Walsh is the liberals’ embodiment of the tea party freshman: brash, unpredictable and perhaps a little unhinged at times. He started out with anuphill climb after redistricting put him in a more Democratic district, and he didn’t do himself any favors when he decided to attack the war record of his Democratic opponent, Tammy Duckworth, who lost both legs in Iraq.
Polling has shown Duckworth with a significant lead, and progressives who’ve rallied around removing Walsh from office are feeling pretty confident. Republicans seem less so — The Hill reported Wednesday that the NRCC has not reserved any airtime to protect Walsh.
Rep. Steve King - Iowa 05
If Walsh is the progressive caricature of the tea party freshman, King is the progressives’ dream conservative veteran. Prone to eyebrow-raising statements and patron saint of causes liberals love to hate — like making English the official language — King is proudly incendiary. When Mitt Romney endorsed him on the trail in Iowa, Democrats went wild, stating that just standing near King made Romney more extreme.
King is facing Democratic nominee Christie Vilsack, wife of Obama Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, former Iowa first lady and big name in the Hawkeye State. Vilsack has proven an able fundraiser and she’s had an assist from progressive groups on the ground.
Rep. Michele Bachmann — Minnesota 06
Before she ran for president, Bachmann was a number one dream defeat for Democrats and progressives. When she ascended to the presidential stage this year she only made progressive disdain for her worse. Where to begin, they say when asked about her: Bachmann’s impromptu backing of anti-vaccination conspiracies or her crusade to rid the government of terrorist spieshidden in the U.S. government?
Bachmann faces her toughest congressional opponent in recent memory in Democrat Jim Graves, a wealthy businessman who made his fortune in the hotel business. Like Duckworth and Vilsack, Graves has help from progressives and the national party. Internal polling and Graves’ bio continues to give Democrats hope, though even usually optimistic progressive observers admit this is an unphill climb for the left. Bachmann’s as popular among elements of the hard right as she is detested among elements of the left, and she’s been able to leverage her national name to build up a large warchest. That said, the idea that Bachmann’s in real trouble this November is catching on among the mainstream media and Bachmann’s fundraising emails are starting to sound more desperate.
Rep. Allen West — Florida 18
In many ways, West is the male Bachmann. His national profile among conservatives is beyond reproach, while his standing among the left is something considerably short of that. Happiest in the spotlight, West is a tea party freshman who’s fond of comparing President Obama to a slave owner. Tea partiers absolutely love him, and there’s been talk that he could make a run for Senate down the road.
Progressives hope to put an end to his political rise before it starts by defeating him at the end of this first term. It looks like a tall order. Democrat Patrick Murphy, a young newcomer to politics who raised enough money to draw support from the national party, can still pull in the big names to help out in the high-profile race. Bill Clinton was in the district for Murphy just the other week. And Democrats and their allied super PACs are spending big, though the DCCC recently canceled a week of ads.
House Democrats are on the air in Illinois and hitting a GOP candidate in regard to Ryan — jailed former Gov. George Ryan, that is. Rodney Davis, the GOP nominee in the 13th district, is the recipient of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s first independent expenditure in the Land of Lincoln.
Illinois remains a target-rich environment for Democrats, who tried to put more House seats in play in their redraw of the Congressional map last year. The DCCC has reserved millions in TV ad time in markets across the state.
That’s why it’s notable Democrats started their Illinois ad campaign in the 13th district. The party’s preferred candidate lost the primary to emergency room doctor David Gill, who just joined the ranks of the DCCC’s Red to Blue program earlier this month.
DCCC Chairman Steve Israel: "Paul Ryan's Selection May Have Become Democrats' 'Majority Maker' In House"
The man charged with electing Democrats to the House of Representatives boasted on Saturday that the party had higher hopes for taking back the majority now that Mitt Romney had tapped Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) as his vice presidential candidate.
"Mitt Romney this morning may have just become the most recent DCCC majority maker," said Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel in an interview with The Huffington Post. "It’s no question, we have been slogging uphill to get the majority. We needed a national breeze at our backs, and Mitt Romney may have given us that breeze this morning."
Israel isn’t the only Democrat waxing optimistic about the benefits the party stands to gain from Romney’s choice of Ryan. The Wisconsin Republican is best known for his budget proposal, which includes steep cuts to federal spending and aggressive entitlement reforms, such as turning Medicaid into a block grant program and Medicare into a voucher-like system. Polling has shown that these prescriptions aren’tall that popular.
Unlike other Democrats, however, Israel has first-hand experience in seeing how the Ryan budget can play in an election. He helped engineer victories for Rep. Kathy Hochul in upstate New York and for Rep. Ron Barber in Arizona, both of which hinged largely on using the Medicare proposal to the Democrats’ advantage. “We know it works,” he said, “and it works well.”
"The choice of the plan’s author as a running mate makes that task seemingly much easier," Israel said. He said he believes Democrats chances of taking back the house are much improved. "It is still an uphill battle, but we now have a wind at our backs. And I will say this, if we win the majority and the pundits look back at where it turned, I think they are going to look at August 11, with this announcement."
This race is a perfect microcosm of the debate this election will be about. On one side, we have a candidate who has spent his career as part of the political machine. Having spent 16 years working as a congressional aide for climate change denier and Ryan-budget supporter John Shimkus, Rodney Davis is now aiming for a seat beside him. He is getting funding from the Koch brothers and big oil, and he is doing a good job of keeping allegations of his role in a money-laundering scandal out of the news.
On the other side, you have Dr. David Gill, an emergency room doctor who got into politics after seeing the effects of a broken health care system first-hand. Gill is a supporter of single-payer and marriage equality who refuses to take money from corporate PACS. He eked out a primary victory over a conserva-Dem preferred by the DCCC, and now faces a race for this open seat that is expected to be very close.
Anyway, I had moved away from Illinois, and I had Dr. Gill chalked up as a great candidate in a hopeless district… until I saw the results of re-districting in Illinois. The bulk of Dr. Gill’s base from Champaign, McLean, and DeWitt counties was no longer a part of the red and rural old 15th that Tim Johnson knew so well. Gill’s base is now in the new 13th district, which encompasses Democratic parts of Bloomington, Springfield, and Edwardsville, including a number of universities and community colleges. It is definitely a winnable race now.
Now, don’t get me wrong. The state party didn’t draw up this district for Dr. Gill. In fact, the Party establishment threw their weight behind the other guy. He was a family friend of Dick Durbin, and I can’t blame them for their logic: they think that Blue Dog centrism is the safe bet. I politely disagree.
The people of the 13th district agreed with me, although by a relatively bitter sliver. That’s saying something about his grassroots support, considering he was outspent 5-1 in the primaries. In Champaign, DeWitt, Piatt, and McLean counties (the only parts of the new 13th that came from the old 15th), Dr. Gill trounced Goetten. Dr. Gill will be a proud voice for reform, and he has a true grassroots campaign behind him. Most of the Democrats that supported Goetten down here did so because of the electability argument, and they have closed ranks behind Dr. Gill.
Unexpectedly, Tim Johnson, the sitting incumbent, announced that he was retiring shortly after Gill’s unexpected primary win. Johnson gave the usual line about “wanting to spend more time with his family,” but it sounds he was scared he might lose his first election. He certainly wasn’t fundraising like someone with plans to retire.
After this bombshell, the GOP was forced to search for a candidate to replace Johnson. They looked past Erika Harold (a female multi-racial Harvard Law grad and former Miss America winner), and chose Rodney Davis.
Rodney Davis has spent more than a decade as a Congressional aide to John Shimkus for more than a decade, and a supporter of the Ryan budget. He raised nearly half a million dollars in the past five weeks, as the GOP machine has thrown its full weight behind him. He has experience working with dark money behind the scenes. In fact, that might be part of the reason the GOP picked him. The GOP didn’t have the benefit of an actual primary election, and it seems that actual Republicans in the district aren’t especially enthused about the outcome.
h/t: Mr. Z at Daily Kos
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee sent a fundraising email in support of the Wisconsin recall on Thursday, in another sign that the national party is stepping up its involvement for the June 5 election.
"We’ve gotten a lot of questions about the upcoming Wisconsin election," Brynne Craig, the DCCC field director, wrote in the email. "Here’s the answer: our Wisconsin team is in."
"If Republicans are going to launch an assault on worker’s rights and the middle class, we’re going to stand up and fight them every step of the way from Wisconsin to Washington, D.C. We already have field organizers on the ground in key districts — but we have to get going quickly," she added, asking for donations of $3 or more, with a goal of reaching 5,000 contributions.
The DCCC is devoted to electing Democratic congressional candidates, while the six recalls that will be taking place are for races at the state level (governor, lieutenant governor and state Senate). The donations will go to the DCCC, not directly to the campaigns of any of the recall candidates. But a spokesman told The Huffington Post that the group’s congressional organizers are now focused on the recalls.
The DCCC’s solicitation comes as other Democrats at the national level are increasing their involvement.
On Tuesday, Democratic National Committee Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) called Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett (D), the Democratic candidate trying to unseat Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R), pledging to host a fundraiser and provide grassroots support.
URBANA, Ill. • U.S. Rep. Tim Johnson insisted on Thursday that his tear-choked retirement announcement was “100 percent” about grandchildren he’s missed, along with an unspecified private family issue.
"There are more important things than the next election," the six-term Urbana Republican told a packed room at the Urbana City Council Chambers. "I know some of my constituents better than I know some of my grandchildren. That’s going to change."
But it appeared during the emotional surprise announcement that Johnson — one of a dwindling number of centrists in an increasingly polarized Washington environment — might be shedding tears for lost political civility as well.
He lashed out at a system he said has become more toxic than he’s seen in four decades. He said a “grossly gerrymandered congressional map” created by Illinois Democrats would have forced him into a district in which he hadn’t previously represented two-thirds of the residents, including parts of the Metro East area.
And rancor in both parties in Washington, he said, “has reached a pinnacle.”
"I’ve never seen a more dysfunctional state of affairs," said Johnson, co-chairman of the Congressional Center Aisle Caucus, which promotes civility and bipartisanship in Congress. "We have become so bogged down … by partisanship and anger."
Johnson issued a warning to his fellow politicians about today’s tone: “I think the American people are fed up.”
Johnson easily won the GOP primary for re-election against two challengers less than a month ago, and all indications were that he would be on the general election ballot in November as a ‘safe” GOP incumbent.
His departure sets in motion a scramble among Republicans to select a nominee. Fourteen county chairmen will cast weighted votes to select a replacement to oppose David Gill, a Bloomington physician who won the Democratic primary.
Speculation about Johnson’s possible replacement as the Republican on the November ballot includes state Rep. Chapin Rose, R-Charleston; state Rep. Adam Brown, R-Decatur; state Sen. Sam McCann, R-Carlinville; former Johnson chief of staff Jerry Clarke; and Rodney Davis, former executive director of the Illinois GOP.
Also a possibility is Michael Firsching of Moro, one of the two Republicans who lost to Johnson in the March 20 primary.
Firsching, a veterinarian who works in Edwardsville, said he is “definitely going to let people know in the Republican structure that I’m interested” in being the candidate in November.
"It’s a little surprising," Firsching said of Johnson’s decision. "I had a feeling (during the campaign) that he didn’t feel engaged in the process."
Johnson’s other GOP opponent, Glen Carbon businessman Frank Metzger, couldn’t be reached for comment.
The development is certain to bring national attention and heavy spending to the race, with Democrats seeing a potential pickup in their uphill challenge to retake the House.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which is expected to pour resources into the race, said in a statement that “Republicans are not going to find a new candidate who can defend the Republican’s agenda that fails Illinois’ middle-class families.”
My pick for replacement for Johnson: Chapin Rose.