Monday, August 9, 2010

Blue Dogs push for new blood

The House Blue Dog Coalition, which is losing an unusual number of members, is aiming to replenish its ranks by making endorsements in a handful of competitive races.

Blue Dogs are throwing their support to a group of like-minded conservative Democrats that includes Steve Raby in Alabama’s 5th District, Chad Causey in Arkansas’s 1st District, Roy Herron in Tennessee’s 8th District, Trent Van Haaften in Indiana’s 8th District, and Stephene Moore in Kansas’s 3rd District.

If elected, these hopefuls would join a thinned Blue Dog group in the upcoming 112th Congress. Tennessee Reps. John Tanner and Bart Gordon, Arkansas Rep. Marion Berry, and Kansas Rep. Dennis Moore, are all retiring, while Indiana Rep. Brad Ellsworth and Louisiana Rep. Charlie Melancon are waging Senate campaigns. Alabama Rep. Parker Griffith, a freshman who started the cycle as a Blue Dog, switched to the Republican Party in 2009 before losing his seat in a primary.

The list of outgoing Blue Dogs outpaces the 110th Congress, when the only Blue Dog who retired was Alabama Rep. Bud Cramer. Texas Rep. Nick Lampson, Florida Rep. Tim Mahoney and Louisiana Rep. Don Cazayoux - all freshmen – lost their campaigns for re-election.

Causey, a former Berry chief of staff who is running for his onetime boss’s Jonesboro-area seat, said the turnover allowed for an infusion of new leadership into the influential coalition, whose focus on fiscal conservatism has put them at odds with their national party on issues including the health care overhaul to the economic stimulus package.

“People come and people go. Sometimes it provides some fresh air into the House. It gets a little musty in there sometimes and it lets you gets some fresh ideas onto the table,” he said.

Causey, Herron, Van Haaften and Moore, who is the wife of Dennis Moore, are all looking to fill seats of departing Blue Dogs. Raby, a former chief of staff for Alabama Sen. Howell Heflin, is running for the conservative-leaning 5th District seat that had been held by Griffith and, prior to him, Cramer.

Raby and Van Haaften secured their endorsements last week after meeting with groups of local Blue Dog Democrats, said their respective campaigns. Raby huddled with Mississippi Rep. Travis Childers, Alabama Rep. Bobby Bright, Florida Rep. Allen Boyd and Tanner, while Van Haaften met with Indiana Reps. Joe Donnelly, Baron Hill, and Ellsworth, whose seat he is seeking.

The Blue Dog endorsement typically provides candidates with an opportunity to distinguish themselves from party leaders.

In an interview, Raby, who faces a November battle against Republican Madison County Commissioner Mo Brooks, argued that the Blue Dog seal of approval would help him sell himself as an independent-minded and fiscally conservative Democrat in a district where John McCain won 61 percent of the vote.

“It’s going to be helpful for my campaign in north Alabama. It’s a well-known political commodity,” said Raby, whose campaign website makes no mention that he’s a Democrat. “People understand that a Blue Dog is a congressman who can focus on issues and not politically pander.”

If the Bluedogs are endorsing candidates to replenish their ranks, then they ought to look here in Georgia where candidates like Doug Heckman & Frank Saunders are running as center-right democrats this election cycle, (Heckman's running in a open seat)

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