House diary: Renzi shows no intention of resigning, Dems make move in Alabama

After Arizona Representative Renzi was (unsurprisingly) indicted a few days ago with 36 charges of corruption, speculation mounted that Renzi would be forced out of his seat early, forcing a very difficult special election for the GOP. And pressure rose even more when Minority Leader Boehner hinted that he would like to see a Renzi resignation, signaling that House Republicans were even more worried about having to face ethics as an issue again next year than the difficulty of defending such a seat in a special election.

Now, Renzi is finally speaking up and pledging to stay in office. “I will not resign and take on the cloak of guilt because I am innocent," he said, a declaration that for now rules out the possibility of a special election here. Renzi is not running in November so the seat was open already, and there is no reason to expect Renzi to resign in the coming months if he wants to hold firm now. After all. Rep. Ney (from OH-18) did jump out of his race late in the fall of 2006, months after his party had started pressuring him but the circumstances were there different: Ney was actually running for re-election. Rep. Jefferson (D-LA), on the other hand, is indicted and still in the House.

Meanwhile, Democrats got some good news in Alabama, where they might have just managed to make an overwhelmingly Republican district competitive. AL-02, which opened up months ago, gave 67% of its vote to Bush in 2004, so it is not the type of open seat the GOP was expecting to spend any time thinking about. But Democrats just scored a major recruiting coup by convincing Bobby Bright, the mayor of Montgomery, to run for the House. Now, what is unusual here is that Bright is a non-partisan mayor and that Republicans were courting him as well, as I had reported back in September. So Bright deliberately chose to jump in as a Democrat when he could have had a much easier time as a Republican. Given the number of Republicans in their party's primary, this might also be to avoid a crowded primary -- and there is little doubt that Bright would seat at the Right of his caucus if he got to the House.

But from an electoral perspective, this is yet another open seat headache for the GOP. The very red nature of the district makes Bright an underdog for now, but his high-profile in his populous city should enable him to keep things close. And this is exactly the DCCC's intention: Expand the map and force the RNCC to defend seats like AL-02. Remember -- and I cannot state this enough -- the GOP has a massive fundraising disadvantage right now. Yes, they have been doing better over the past few months but they remain far behind their counterparts and still don't have that much to spend.

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