UPDATE – Rep. Massa (D – NY) Quitting on March 8
BREAKING – Rep. Massa (D – NY) Retiring
In a move that took political junkies by surprise, upstate New York Democratic Rep. Eric Massa announced yesterday that he will not run for reelection. Massa won a narrow victory over Republican incumbent Randy Kuhl in 2008, after losing narrowly in 2006. Before Kuhl, the seat had been held for decades by the Republican Amo Houghton. Massa was facing a tough reelection fight already, but now that he is out, this race, which nobody saw coming, immediately jumps into the “toss-up” category and will likely be a top priority for both parties.
The reason for Massa’s sudden retirement is unclear. Initial reports cited a health issue, Massa survived a bout with cancer before running for Congress, so that is certainly plausible. The inside-the-beltway Politico newspaper has quite a different story. They claim, based on unnamed sources, that Massa, who is married with two children, was about to be accused of sexually harassing a male staffer. At a press conference this afternoon, Massa acknowledged the allegations and admitted to using “salty” language, but called them “unsubstantiated” and reiterated that he was motivated by his health.
Whatever Massa’s reasons for retiring, Republicans now see New York’s 29th congressional district as a top pick–up opportunity.
Retirements Open Up Republican Primaries in Georgia
A pair of retirements have created competitive Republican primaries in Georgia. Unlike NY-29, neither of these seats is likely to switch parties, but the dynamics of internal GOP politics should be interesting.
The first Rep. to announce retirement was Rep. John Linder in the 7th district, outside Atlanta, who has served for 18 years. Linder served as chair of the National Republican Campaign Committee (the national Republican PAC that works on House races) during the period in which Newt Gingrich ruled the Republican party. After the failed attempt to impeach President Clinton, however, Gingrich’s starpower began to fade and Linder was replaced when Gingrich resigned.
There are quite a number of potential Republican candidates for Linder’s seat, and it will take some time for the field to shake out. Candidates have to file for election by April 30, but the election is not until July 20. One name mentioned early was Atlanta Braves pitcher John Smoltz, but Smoltz quickly took himself out of the running. Another interesting name mentioned is Ralph Reed, former head of the Christian Coalition and the Georgia Republican party.
The second retirement (actually resignation) is Rep. Nathan Deal in the 9th district in northern Georgia. Ostensibly, Deal is resigning immediately to focus full time on his gubernatorial run. Some observers believe, however, that nother factor is an impending ethics investigation into Deal’s alleged work to protect a no-bid contract in Georgia. With the Rangel investigation settled (see the entry on New York politics below), Deal’s case would likely be the next taken up by the House Ethics Committee.
Since Deal is resigning rather than not running for reelection, there will have to be a special election to fill his empty seat. There are well over a dozen declared or rumored Republican candidates in the race.
Take My Wife, Please
Dennis Moore (D) is retiring in Kansas’ 3rd congressional district. His first choice to replace him? It may well be his wife.
When asked about whether his wife was a potential candidate to replace him at a luncheon speech, Moore replied “Stay tuned!
The state party chair later confirmed the “she’s on the list.”
Stephene Moore was coy as to her intentions: "I've not made any decisions on anything,"
This stands in stark contrast to Republican Senator Don Young (AL-AL). In a speech quashing rumors that he would retire, Young stated:
“[My wife] Beverly told me that if I didn't run, she was going to. [So I thought] maybe I better stay on the job."
New York Minute
Rep. Massa’s retirement is only the latest woe for New York State Democrats. In a major embarrassment, Rep. Charlie Rangel has been admonished by the House Ethics Committee for improperly accepting corporate-sponsored travel. While Democrats had stood behind Rangel during the investigation, now that his actions have been ruled unethical that support began to disintegrate as Democrats echoed Republican calls that Rangel give up his powerful chairmanship of the House Ways and Means Committee. After maintaining his innocence for several days, Rangel finally complied on Tuesday. House members across the country have spent the last few days busily and loudly giving campaign contributions from Rangel and his PAC to charity,
The other black eye for Democrats in the Empire Statement has been the rapid unraveling of Governor David Patterson at the hands of the New York Times. The Times reported that Patterson, already fairly unpopular, had arranged for police to call a woman who accused one of his top aides of assault to encourage her not to testify. This was only the latest in a series of exposes about the Patterson administration, but clearly the most damaging. Patterson quickly gave his reelection campaign, but many New York politicians are now calling for his resignation.
These twin back eyes for Democrats come on the heels of a string of scandals. The state government is clearly dysfunctional and ground to a halt for a period last summer due to an inter-party power struggle. Patterson, you may recall, took office after Democratic Governor Elliot Spitzer resigned due to a prostitution scandal. A recent Times article painted a picture of out of control and unaccountable local judges. In short, the state is a mess.
Ironically, having the Patterson scandal break now may actually be good for the Democrats. First of all, it avoids a divisive gubernatorial primary with racial overtones between Patterson and Andrew Cuomo. Perhaps more importantly with eight months to go the scandal will not be on voters minds in November greatly increasing Democrats’ chances of retaining control of the State Assembly. This is crucial because the next Assembly will redraw the state’s congressional districts following the 2010 census and setting the political map for the next 10 years.
Hawaii set the date of a special election to fill the seat Neil Abercrombie left open when he resigned to run for Governor. In a twist, no one will be going to the ballot box, the election will held entirely through mail-in ballots.
The first district is heavily Democratic but Republicans think they have a pick up opportunity. Two Democratic candidates, Ed Case and Colleen Hanabusa, could split the Democratic vote enabling Republican Charles Djou to win with a plurality of the vote. Republicans ambitions may be larger than their wallets, though. Republican strategists will have to decide whether they want to compete here or in the special election to fill John Murtha’s seat in Pennsylvania. They don’t have enough cash to play in both elections.
Pot. Kettle. Black.
Republican Joe Walsh, who won the Republican nomination to run against Democratic Rep. Melissa Bean in Illinois, has based his campaign on calls for fiscal responsibility. It might have b”een embarrassing then when reporters found that he lost his condominium to foreclosure in October – the same month he filed to run against Bean.
Walsh, however, didn’t seem phased: “This experience helped me gain a better appreciation for the very real economic anxieties felt by 8th District families.”
Local GOP leader Gene Dawson, who said he did not know of the foreclosure before the primary, did not seem so blasé and stated that the party should consider asking Walsh to drop out of the race.