House diary: Recruitment woes as filing deadlines approach

The GOP's recruitment trouble is continuing in the House, this time affecting two crucial seats that the NRCC needs to keep competitive. First comes NY-26, a seat the party currently holds (by none other than Reynolds). I reported last week that the GOP's top two choices (state Senator Maziarz and Assemblyman Jim Hayes) had declined to run for this clearly red leaning district. Today, it is the turn of Republican Nick Sinatra, a 28 year old aide of the Bush White House, to turn down the NRCC's pleas. Sinatra explained he wanted to pursue a master's degree. When a congressional committee is being turned by people who still want to go back to studying, you know things are not going well.

Meanwhile, the Alabama filing deadline is approaching (it's tomorrow) and Republicans could be on the verge of giving up on a golden opportunity: AL-05, the seat of Democratic Representative Bud Cramer who announced earlier in March that he will not run for re-election. This is only the second Democratic-held open seat that Republicans have any hope of contesting, and it is a district that clearly leans Republican: Bush got 60% here in 2004.

Republicans did their best to recruit state Senator Tom Buter, a Democrat. Even Governor Barbour contacted Buter urging him to switch parties and run against a candidate Democrats are highly touting, state Senator Griffith. But Buter announced this week that he will not run -- and that he will not switch parties either. Republicans will thus probably pin their hopes on businessman Wayne Parker, who unsuccessfully ran for the seat in 1994 and in 1996. The reason this is a particularly important district for the GOP is that the party feels the seat should belong to them but conquering it might get very difficult if Democrats manage to somehow hold on to it, just as they never managed to dethrone Bud Cramer. Consider that AL-05 has never elected a Republican representative... the Southern realignment has for now stopped in this district.

Democrats are having their own recruitment failures. In New Jersey, they have a few more days to find a challenger against Rep. LaBiondo in NJ-02 now that their top hope, state Senator Jeff van Drew, has announced that he will stay out of this year's race. van Drew unseated a Republican incumbent just a year ago and felt that it was too early for him to move on.
“I will run for Congress one day but this is not the right time to announce," the Democrat said. This is a relief for Republicans who were worried about having to defend a third New Jersey seat (check the house rankings to get details on the two others). Democrats are still hoping to get someone in who could keep hte race competitive, but the filing deadline is on Monday.

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