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Some former members of Congress are hoping 2014 will be the year of the comeback.
Congress may have public approval ratings hovering near record lows, but several Republicans who once served in the House are trying to recapture their old seats. Among Democrats, former Rep. Marjorie Margolies, who was bounced from office two decades ago after casting a decisive vote for President Bill Clinton’s budget plan, wants to represent the Philadelphia suburbs again.
Entering the new year, Republicans see a more favorable political landscape with President Barack Obama’s political standing weakened after the botched rollout of his signature health care law. Democrats, meanwhile, will try to connect Republican candidates to their old voting records in Congress and the tea party movement, which contributed to last year’s government shutdown.
Republicans currently hold a 31-seat advantage in the House, and some of the comeback efforts could be among the more competitive races in the 2014 congressional elections. As far as some of the ex-lawmakers are concerned, this year will be different.
“There’s a fair amount of buyer’s remorse,” said Robert Dold, a Republican who represented a suburban Chicago district for one term before losing in 2012.
In New Hampshire, former GOP Rep. Frank Guinta hopes to win a third campaign against Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, the Democratic incumbent, in a race that is likely to draw interest from potential presidential candidates eyeing the state’s first-in-the-nation primary. Guinta, a former mayor of Manchester, ousted Shea-Porter in 2010 but then relinquished the seat to her in 2012.
In New York’s Hudson Valley, Republican Nan Hayworth wants a rematch against Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, D-N.Y., a former White House aide to Clinton. In Atlanta’s suburbs, former Rep. Bob Barr, who lost his seat more than a decade ago, is vying for the Republican nomination in a crowded primary field.
Margolies, who was known as Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinsky when she served in Congress, is trying to make a comeback two decades after losing her seat in the House Republican landslide of 1994. This time she could get some high-profile help: Her son Marc is married to Chelsea Clinton, the daughter of the former president and Hillary Rodham Clinton.
In California, Republican Doug Ose vowed to serve only three terms when he was elected to Congress in 1998 and kept his promise, declining to seek another term in 2004. Now Ose is making a comeback attempt in the suburbs of Sacramento, where he hopes to challenge Democratic Rep. Ami Bera.
Along the Mississippi River, former Republican Rep. Bobby Schilling wants another chance in the Illinois portion of a Quad Cities-area district that he held for one term before losing to Democrat Cheri Bustos. Schilling said his former constituents are angry over the health care overhaul, and he’s made it clear that he’ll seek to separate himself from the current Republican-controlled House.
“I will be able to run as an outsider. The 112th Congress never shut down the government,” Schilling said, referring to his term in Congress.
In suburban Chicago, Dold predicted that 2014 would be the “year of the moderate.” He defended himself against Democratic charges that he would simply add to a conservative majority, pointing to his support of abortion rights and stem cell research. “As we look at what’s going on, you want moderates, you want people who work across the aisle,” Dold said.
Democrats scoff at that notion.
Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., who leads the House Democrats’ campaign committee, said Republicans would be tarnished by the shutdown and the politics that nearly led to a government default. “I don’t blame them for trying to do everything they can to escape the brand, but they are the brand,” said Israel, who dismissed the Republicans as “stale tea party candidates who have been brewing since they lost two years ago.”
The sense of deja vu could extend to a slate of candidates who failed to win in 2012 and are taking another shot.
Rep. Ron Barber, D-Ariz., is expected to face retired Air Force Col. Martha McSally in a rematch of their tight 2012 race. Barber was an aide to former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was wounded in a deadly Tucson, Ariz., shooting in January 2011.
A California district east of Los Angeles could offer redemption for former Democratic Rep. Joe Baca or Democrat Pete Aguilar, who lost to Republican Rep. Gary Miller in 2012 in a district handily won by Obama. In Minnesota, Democrat Mike Obermueller hopes to challenge Republican Rep. John Kline again in a district south of the Twin Cities.
In a district northeast of Boston, Republican Richard Tisei may wage another challenge to Democratic Rep. John Tierney, who defeated the openly gay Republican by only 1 percentage point in 2012.
Republicans in North Carolina, meanwhile, hope a second try by former legislator David Rouzer will help them oust Democratic Rep. Mike McIntyre, whose district supported Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential election.
Some Republican efforts are already bearing fruit.
In Utah, Mia Love, who is trying again to become the first black woman to represent Republicans in Congress, received a major boost when Democratic Rep. Jim Matheson announced he would not seek another term. Matheson, who represents a Republican-leaning district in the Salt Lake City suburbs, narrowly defeated Love in 2012.
Jon Vogel, a Democratic strategist and former executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said for many retread candidates, the overriding political climate could help determine their fates.
“You can’t run as an outsider, and you’re tied to the record that you previously had,” Vogel said. “There are certain limitations and your success is either tied to the partisanship of the district or the weakness of the incumbent member.”
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