The NRCC Gets Their Man . . . and Their Woman . . . and Their Man . . . and Their Woman . . .

July 9, 2009

So what’s fueling the strong run for GOP recruitment of House candidates?

First, a small matter of timing. The last fundraising quarter just ended, and the National Republican Congressional Committee urges candidates to file papers and make it official at the beginning of a quarter, rather than the middle or end, lest a decent two weeks of fundraising look like a dismal total for three months’ time.

But beyond that, if you’re a potential Republican candidate, this cycle appears to be the first since 2004 when you won’t have a strong wind in your face. In fact, with frustration about the economy, the deficit, and spending growing, 2010 is shaping up to be the best cycle for a Republican challenger in many years.

Yesterday the Post’s Chris Cillizza declared that recent GOP recruitment “shines” lately, highlighting former congressman Steve Pearce’s bid to regain his New Mexico seat in 2010 and state senator Steve Stivers’s rematch against Ohio Democrat Mary Jo Kilroy (D), whom he came within 2,312 votes of topping. He also mentioned Montgomery city councilwoman Martha Roby in Alabama’s 2nd district, state representative Cory Gardner in Colorado’s 4th, Assemblyman Van Tran in California’s 47th, and former congressman Steve Chabot in Ohio’s 1st.

But there’s more. Reid Ribble, a roofing contractor who’s announced a bid against Wisconsin Democrat Steve Kagen, might seem like a sequel to Joe the Plumber — “Reid the Roofer.” But he’s been managing the family business, an establishment that’s been in the Fox Cities area for three generations. Elsewhere in Wisconsin, some may remember Sean Duffy as cast member of MTV’s The Real World in 1997, but he’s come a long way since then as Ashland County district attorney, and he could be the strongest challenger to David Obey in a long time.

“You’re seeing businessmen coming out of the woodwork, saying, ‘I’m going to run for Congress, because if we don’t stop this, it’s going to put everyone out of business,'” says one Washington Republican familiar with House recruiting efforts.

In Illinois’s 11th District, there’s Adam Kinzinger, a captain in the Air National Guard who was named Hero of the Year by the Milwaukee Red Cross for subduing a man who had sliced the neck of a woman on a street in that city. He’s also been awarded the Valley Forge Cross for Heroism for his service in Iraq.

Democratic Rep. Peter DeFazio is reportedly strongly considering running for governor of Oregon in 2010. The NRCC really likes the challenger they’ve recruited to run for DeFazio’s seat, Springfield mayor Sid Leiken, who has run the district’s second-largest city since 2000. Obviously, in an open-seat race, he’s got an even better shot.

In Hawaii, Democratic Rep. Neil Abercrombie has announced he’s not running for reelection and instead is running for governor in 2010. Hawaii is a pretty deep blue state, and Obama took 70 percent in this district last year, but the NRCC thinks they have a grade-A candidate, two-term Honolulu city councilman Charles Djou. He has a much better chance against an unknown Democrat than against an entrenched incumbent, and Democrats are near-certain to have a contested primary campaign that will run until September 18.

In New Hampshire, Democratic Rep. Paul Hodes announced he’s running for Senate. The Granite State also has a primary in September and at least two Democrats running. Republican Charlie Bass, who represented the seat for twelve years, is reportedly thinking of running again.

In Connecticut, state senate minority leader John McKinney may be gearing up to take on Rep. Jim Himes. McKinney has been reelected to his state senate seat five times, and his father represented that district in Congress for 16 years.

In Idaho’s 1st district, Democrat Walt Minnick will make a tough opponent, but it’s still a heavily Republican region. He’s likely to face Vaughn Ward, a former 2nd lieutenant in the Marines who decided he had to return to serving his country after September 11.

In Colorado’s 4th,  there’s a bumper crop of good GOP candidates with Diggs Brown, whose “day jobs” are as a Fort Collins city council member and a professional financial adviser — but who is currently deployed with the U.S. Army Special Forces as a Green Beret major in the U.S. Army National Guard. Tom Lucero, familiar to the listeners of the Hugh Hewitt Show, is also considering a run. He’s an elected volunteer University of Colorado Board of Regents member who built some name recognition and reputation for his vocal opposition to University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill.

Similarly, there are several promising candidates in Louisiana’s 3rd district, where the incumbent Democrat, Rep. Charlie Melancon, is expected to run for Senate — at least partially because his House reelection bid looks so tough. In Florida’s 24th district, local Republican officials “are lining up” to run against Rep. Susanne Kosmas.

Republicans in Washington are pleased with their recruiting, and tell NRO they have a top-tier or near-top-tier candidate in every frontline district — more than 20 districts. They expect more filings and official announcements later this month.
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