Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
September 17, 2014

Posts in "Michigan"

August 18, 2014

Republicans Gain Steam in House Races

valadao002 051512 Republicans Gain Steam in House Races

Valadao is gaining steam. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

While political reporters and party strategists argue over whether there is an electoral wave ahead, district-level data demonstrates a difficult landscape for Democratic candidates in House races.

Democrats believe, as competitive races become more engaged and the party exercises some of its financial advantage to get its message out, that some contests will turn in their favor. That scenario is possible, but in many cases Democratic challenges aren’t developing as quickly as expected and some Democratic incumbents are struggling to gain their footing.

We’re changing The Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call ratings in a half dozen House races, all in favor of Republican candidates: Full story

July 16, 2014

‘Would You Rather?’ House Race Edition

grimm 130 071114 445x297 Would You Rather? House Race Edition

If running in the 11th District, would you rather be Grimm or from Brooklyn? (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

In the game “Would You Rather?” one is usually faced with a choice between two difficult and undesirable options.

“If you had a machete, would you rather amputate the feet of two friends or amputate one of your own feet?” asks the site YouRather.com. Or, “Would you rather spend a day with Justin Bieber or spend a day with Miley Cyrus?”

It’s some of the same anxiety facing voters at the polls in the next election. But the contrast in a trio of House races stand out as particularly difficult choices for voters this year. Remember, your first reaction may not be the best choice.

Question 1: Would you rather be an indicted congressman from Staten Island or a candidate from Brooklyn in New York’s 11th District?

Don’t laugh. The answer isn’t as simple as you might think.

When a 20-count indictment came out against GOP Rep. Michael G. Grimm in April, there was a widespread assumption the congressman could not win his re-election bid in New York’s competitive 11th District.

But the charges against Grimm may not be as toxic as being from Brooklyn in a district dominated by Staten Island. That’s one of the biggest challenges facing former Democratic New York City Councilman Domenic M. Recchia Jr., who is challenging Grimm.

There is qualitative and quantitative data that suggest this race is far from over. Grimm has withstood the barrage of negative headlines and is still standing. But the question is whether the congressman can withstand paid Democratic attacks headed his way later this year, particularly when is fundraising has been poor.

The Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call continues to rate the race as Leans Democrat, but Democrats still have some work to do to put it away. And as I wrote this spring, legal action does not guarantee electoral loss.

Question 2: In a congressional race in West Virginia, would you rather be a former state senator from Maryland or a former Obama advocate?

Being a former state legislator and former chairman of the state party are common credentials for office, except when they are from a different state. Democrats, and even some Republicans, aren’t happy with Alex Mooney’s move from Maryland to West Virginia, where he is the GOP nominee in the 2nd District.

But even though most of Mooney’s résumé comes from across the state line, he is a Republican running in a district where President Barack Obama’s job approval rating can’t be higher than the mid-30s.

Democrat Nick Casey is trying to position himself as a bipartisan accountant, but he is a former state party chairman and top party fundraiser who endorsed Obama in the past presidential elections.

This race will be an excellent test of what West Virginia voters hate more: candidates from Maryland or candidates connected to Obama. The Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call rates the race Leans Republican.

Question 3: In a congressional race in Michigan’s 11th District, would you rather be a Santa Claus-impersonating incumbent or someone whose law firm sent a foreclosure notice on Christmas Eve?

Republican Kerry Bentivolio has been ridiculed for his reindeer farm and hobby of impersonating Santa Claus. He became an accidental congressman when former Rep. Thaddeus McCotter was dropped from the 2012 primary ballot because of a lack of valid signatures.

But Bentivolio is a sitting member of Congress at a time when 99 percent of incumbents (273 out of 275 through July 8, according to the University of Virginia Center for Politics’ Kyle Kondik) have won their primaries thus far this cycle. And the congressman’s primary challenger, attorney Dave Trott, is not perfect.

Trott’s law firm specializes in home foreclosures on behalf of banks and lenders. The Detroit Free Press detailed one eye-popping incident in particular:

But Rozier, like tens of thousands of other Michiganders, lost his home to foreclosure during the housing crisis. After a three-year legal battle with Trott’s law firm and the bank, the notice arrived last Christmas Eve. He was evicted in January and moved his wife, who is on kidney dialysis, his bedridden mother, and his uncle, who has Down syndrome and is in a wheelchair, into a neighbor’s empty duplex across the street.

But Trott is far outpacing Bentivolio in fundraising and is controlling the debate on the television airwaves. Most GOP insiders believe the congressman is at least a slight underdog in the Aug. 5 primary.

May 22, 2014

Race Rating Change: Michigan Governor

As a Republican governor in a blue state, Rick Snyder started the midterms as one of Democrats’ prime targets. But while Michigan has been a tossup for much of the cycle, it appears to be slipping from the top tier of opportunities.

At this stage, Maine, Pennsylvania and Florida are more likely Democratic takeovers, while Ohio and Michigan make up a distinct second tier of Democratic opportunities. In both cases, Republican governors are presiding over states that Barack Obama won in two presidential contests, but where Democratic challengers have yet to put together the type of campaigns often necessary to knock off incumbents — particularly when the national trend is working against them. Full story

April 14, 2014

The War of Obamacare Anecdotes in the 2014 Elections

A couple months ago on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal, I said that I thought the 2014 elections would be driven by anecdotes related to the Affordable Care Act. I think a pair of ads in two of the most competitive Senate races in the country could be a pretty accurate roadmap for the debate that is coming over the next six months.

Last week in Alaska, an outside group called Put Alaska First went on the air with a new, 30-second television ad, “Beat,” featuring cancer survivor Lisa Keller talking about her struggle to gain insurance coverage and thanking  Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, for his fight against the insurance companies.

Full story

March 28, 2014

Ratings Change: Michigan’s 8th District

These Republican retirements must be driving Democratic strategists crazy. Some tantalizing districts have come open as formidable Republican incumbents have announced their retirements, but the midterm election environment is turning out to be very tough terrain for Democrats. And that makes it difficult for Democrats to take over those districts, which they certainly would have won in 2006 and 2008 (and possibly in 2012, as well), had they been open seats at that time.

Michigan Rep. Mike Rogers is the latest Republican to announce his retirement. He leaves behind an 8th District that Mitt Romney carried with just 51 percent in the 2012 presidential election and Barack Obama won with 52 percent four years earlier. In 2004, President George W. Bush won the 8th with 54 percent.

Rogers is the 22nd member of the House to retire this cycle without seeking another office. From 1976 to 2012, the average and median number of House retirements was 22.

Full story

March 4, 2014

Ratings Change: Michigan Senate

When it comes to Republican chances of winning the Senate race in Michigan this year, we have been skeptical. While our colleagues at the Cook Political Report have Democratic Sen. Carl Levin’s seat rated as a Toss-Up, the Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call has had it rated as Democrat Favored.

As we wrote in the Nov. 8 edition of the Report ($), and continue to believe, the fundamentals in Michigan favor a Democratic candidate in a federal race. But this may not be a typical cycle. Full story

January 21, 2014

The Real Reasons Recruits Don’t Run

recchia011714 445x296 The Real Reasons Recruits Dont Run

Recchia is running in New York’s 11th District. He cut his first congressional bid short in 2008 after his wife was the victim of an attack. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

I hate candidate recruitment stories.

More specifically, I hate stories that seem to blame the party campaign committees for their inability to coerce candidates to run.

In reality, there are so many factors that the committees cannot control that it’s simply unfair to hold them responsible for every alleged recruiting “failure.” Until party strategists obtain the abilities to heal the sick and cause children to age more rapidly, there is no amount of polling or promises that will get some potential recruits to run for Congress.

Florida state Rep. Kathleen Peters came up short in last week’s Republican primary in Florida’s 13th District, but most people are probably unaware of what she was going through personally during her bid. Full story

November 14, 2013

Michigan Senate Seat No Longer Safe for Democrats

peters 202 1130111 445x295 Michigan Senate Seat No Longer Safe for Democrats

Peters is the likely Democratic nominee for Senate in Michigan. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Republicans don’t need to win Michigan to get the majority in the Senate, but the Wolverine State could become a serious takeover target later next year.

After more than three decades, Democratic Sen. Carl Levin announced that he would not seek re-election. Instead of competitive primaries filled with ambitious candidates, it looks like both parties have settled on their nominees for next fall. At this point, the general election looks like it will be between Democratic Rep. Gary Peters and Republican former Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land. Full story

October 28, 2013

6 Democratic House Candidates With Plenty of Potential

bilbray kohn003 101013 212x335 6 Democratic House Candidates With Plenty of Potential

Bilbray will try to unseat Heck in 2014. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

In this political environment, not having an extensive legislative record can be an asset. Not surprisingly then, three of six Democratic House candidates I interviewed recently have never before sought elective office, and a fourth was elected as a judge, not a legislator. (I will discuss a seventh Democratic hopeful, Martha Robertson, in a separate column.)

Considered as a group, the half-dozen hopefuls deserve to be mentioned in any discussion of Democratic House takeover opportunities in 2014. The only question is how many of them will continue to be in the conversation one year from today. Full story

October 17, 2013

With Real Candidate, Dem Chances Improve in Michigan’s 7th District

walberg 161 062613 445x296 With Real Candidate, Dem Chances Improve in Michigan’s 7th District

Walberg is a Democratic target in 2014. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Democrats failed to get a top-tier candidate against Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Mich., in 2012, and the congressman won re-election with 53 percent. This time around, Democrats are likely to nominate a spunky former legislator and make the 7th District a top target in 2014.

Pam Byrnes, 66, has had her share of wins and losses throughout her political career. But she should give Democrats a credible nominee in a competitive district. Mitt Romney carried the 7th 51 percent to 48 percent in 2012, while Barack Obama carried it 51 percent to 47 percent in 2008. In 2004, President George W. Bush carried the district handily, 55 percent to 44 percent. Full story

By Nathan L. Gonzales Posted at 11:26 a.m.
House, Michigan

September 12, 2013

Michigan: There’s a Sucker Born Every Minute

Attorney David Trott’s recent announcement that he plans to challenge freshman Rep. Kerry Bentivolio, R-Mich., in next year’s GOP primary in the 11th District has gotten plenty of attention, both in Roll Call and elsewhere. And it deserved it, since Bentivolio is one of a very small handful of House incumbents who seem poised to lose bids for renomination.

Bentivolio is hardly a political powerhouse. In 2012, he lost more than a third of the primary vote to a write-in candidate to win the Republican nomination for Congress. Then he defeated a weak Democratic opponent by 6 points in November. Since then, he has done nothing to shed his reputation as a libertarian loose cannon.

Trott has been endorsed by some substantial GOPers already, including former state Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop and former state Rep. (and one-time U.S. Senate and U.S. House nominee) Rocky Raczkowski. If the attorney puts together the kind of effort that many assume he will, Bentivolio will be in deep trouble. We are talking about Tennessee Rep. Scott DesJarlais kind of trouble — a problem for Bentivolio since DesJarlais is going to lose his primary if he runs for another term.

Which now brings us to the suckers born every minute … Full story

September 11, 2013

Is Dan Benishek Waffling on Term Limits?

benishek002 0218111 445x288 Is Dan Benishek Waffling on Term Limits?

Benishek is a two-term Republican from Michigan. (Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call File Photo)

When Rep. Dan Benishek, R-Mich., first ran for office, he was a strong proponent of term limits. But now, the two-term Republican congressman’s stance is much less clear.

“Career-consumed politicians in Washington got us into the mess we are in today by voting for bills they haven’t read, for the deficits America can’t sustain, and for the unrestrained increase in federal power,” Benishek said in a press release on Sept. 29, 2010. “That is why I am happy to tell voters I strongly favor term limits. Three terms and you’re retired seems about right to me.”

At the time, Benishek was a doctor and a political outsider running in Michigan’s open 1st District against Democrat Gary McDowell, who spent nearly three decades in office at the state and county levels. Benishek won that race and was re-elected in 2012 in one of the closest House races in the country.

As he approaches his re-election for a third term, it’s unclear whether it will be Benishek’s last. Full story

August 29, 2013

What Happens When Political Spouses Misbehave?

Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell has endured weeks of negative headlines as The Washington Post thoroughly examines his relationship with a campaign donor. But as the investigation moves along, his wife, first lady Maureen McDonnell, is coming under increased scrutiny as well.

Depending on the level of the Virginia governor’s involvement and legal jeopardy, his future political career is uncertain. McDonnell is prohibited from seeking re-election this fall but he was on the outskirts of the 2016 presidential discussion before the scandal broke. And he might have the opportunity to run for the U.S. Senate over the next decade, if he so chooses.

If the first lady ends up taking more of the blame for accepting gifts, Bob McDonnell wouldn’t be the first politician with a spouse in legal trouble. Here is a quick look at a few politicians and how their spouses’ legal problems affected their political careers. Full story

July 10, 2013

Top 5 Races to Watch in the Midwest

The Midwest has traditionally been the land of the House races. But the open Senate seat in Michigan is unlikely to become very competitive, and Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., is closer to making his race a laughingstock than Republicans are to defeating him.

But the region is filled with competitive House races, most of which Democrats must win to get to the majority. Here are the top five races in the Midwest next year:

Illinois’ 13th District. Democrats love their likely nominee, former Madison County Circuit Court Chief Judge Ann Callis. And they want to defeat freshman Rep. Rodney Davis to complete their set of districts they redrew before the 2012 elections following the decennial redistricting. Davis also is being challenged by former Miss America Erika Harold, a Harvard graduate and attorney, in the primary. This should be one of the top races anywhere in the country. Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call rating: Toss-Up/Tilt Republican. Read the full Rothenberg Political Report analysis here ($). Full story

July 9, 2013

RATINGS CHANGE: Michigan Governor

schauer001 121609 209x335 RATINGS CHANGE: Michigan Governor

Schauer is running for governor. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Former Rep. Mark Schauer announced his gubernatorial campaign in late May, rejuvenating Democratic hopes of defeating GOP Gov. Rick Snyder in Michigan next year.

Schauer defeated GOP Rep. Tim Walberg, 49 percent to 46 percent, in 2008. He then lost to Walberg, 50 percent to 45 percent in a 2010 rematch. In spite of his loss, Schauer should give Democrats a credible candidate to take on the governor. Full story

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