The Campaign Spot

Democratic House Challengers, Suddenly Silent on Health Care

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the organization aiming to take back control of the U.S. House of Representatives, touts 20 of their top challengers to GOP incumbents as “Jumpstart Candidates.”

Earlier this week I noted that the words “Affordable Care Act” and/or “Obamacare” do not appear on the DCCC’s home page. Their spokesmen insisted that a section labeled “GOP Hypocrites” counts, although even on that link, there’s no mention of the president’s signature domestic legislation; it’s merely an attack that “Republicans are so intent upon taking away your health care that they shut down the government over it.” (Conflating Obamacare with “your health care” is the point, obviously.)

If you look at the individual campaign websites of the Jumpstart Candidates, you find that references to “Affordable Care Act” and/or “Obamacare” are few and far between. In fact, most of the campaign sites don’t even mention health care at all.

The web site of Pete Aguilar, running in California’s 31st district, doesn’t have a page listing his policy positions yet. While it’s possible he’s mentioned Obamacare in a Facebook Page or Twitter message, there is no mention of Affordable Care Act or Obamacare.

*The web site of Stacy Appel, running in Iowa’s third district, opens with a YouTube video that, at least for me, blocks access to any other part of the page. The video offers a quick reference to a commitment to “more affordable health care” but otherwise offers a lengthy touting of her efforts taking on her own party over . . . texting while driving and the need “to do more to protect people from the dangers of distracted driving.”

The web site of Erin Bilbray, running in Nevada’s third district, does in fact mention the Affordable Care Act, generally positively, but with a caveat:

Health care costs continue to be too high for both patients and small businesses. The Affordable Care Act contains a lot of common sense solutions, such as protecting coverage for those with pre-existing conditions, lowering drug costs for seniors, and allowing young people to stay on their parents’ insurance plan for a longer period. But the results of full implementation remain to be seen. I believe we still need to do more to contain costs. I’m proud that along with my husband, we created Nevada’s only completely free pediatric heath clinic.

The web site of Pam Byrnes, running in Michigan’s seventh district, also does not have an “issues” page and does not mention the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare.

*The web site of Ann Callis, running in Illinois’s 13th district, declares she wants to “fix and improve” the law.

Middle-class families want health care solutions that lower cost and expand care, not more partisan politics. Ann Callis believes we need reforms that fix and improve the Affordable Care Act, not kneejerk partisanship that doesn’t solve problems. She’ll work to preserve sections of the law that ensure no one can ever be denied coverage for a pre-existing condition, keep the cost of prescription drugs low and that children can remain on their parents’ coverage until the age of 26. 

The web site of Jerry Cannon, running in Michigan’s first district, has a “why I’m running” page that focuses upon his military service. It refers to  “protecting Medicare & Social Security” but does not otherwise mention health care or Obamacare/ACA.

The web site of Michael Eggman, running in California’s tenth district, has an issues page, but “health care” is not one of them. There is a page for “Medicare and Social Security” that pledges to “I will stand up to politicians who want to play games with Medicare” but does not mention Obamacare/ACA.

The web site of Sean Eldridge, running in New York’s 19th district, has an issues page and a section for “Lowering Health Care Costs” that appears to refer to Obamacare, but never mentions it by name. Here it is, in its entirety:

Sean believes access to quality, affordable health care is a basic right of every American. He will work to fix and improve our nation’s health care laws in order to lower costs, hold insurance companies accountable, reduce the burden on small businesses, and ensure that affordable health care is available to every family.

The web site of Pete Festersen, running in Nebraska’s second district, does not have an issues page.

*The web site of Jennifer Garrison, running in Ohio’s sixth district, does not have an issues page. Her biographical section mentions her work in the state legislature on a variety of issues, but not health care.

*The web site of Gwen Graham, running in Florida’s second district, does not have an issues page and her brief “why I’m running” statement does not mention health care other than a pledge to “protect Medicare.”

The web site of Rocky Lara, running in New Mexico’s second district, offers only a short biography and a request for donations.

The web site of John Lewis (not to be confused with the longtime Democratic congressman from Georgia), running in Montana’s at-large House district, has an issues page and one section is on health care. Here it is, in its entirety:

All of Montana is considered rural and many of its small towns are considered “frontier” communities that lack access to health care. John Lewis believes that all Montanans deserve access to affordable, quality health care no matter where they live. That means creating incentives to bring good health care providers to small communities. It means improving access to health care for veterans, seniors and children. And it means holding the nation’s insurance companies accountable — to make sure that they don’t charge women more than men, or that they don’t deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions.

The web site of Suzanne Patrick, running in Virginia’s second district, has a “priorities” section that does not mention health care other than a reference to opposing “turning Medicare into a voucher program.”

The web site of Domenec Recchia, running in New York’s eleventh district, features a “Why I Fight for the People of New York” section that focuses on Hurricane Sandy and economic issues. It does not mention health care, or Obamacare/ACA.

The web site of Amanda Renteria, a former economic adviser to Senator Dianne Feinstein running in California’s 21st district, does not have an issues page but offers a lengthy biography. That section mentions “healthy foods initiatives” in the 2012 Farm Bill but does not mention health-care legislation.

The web site of Martha Robertson, running in New York’s 23rd district, is one of the few indisputable defenders of Obamacare. She offers a “priorities” section that specifically mentions the Affordable Care Act:

In order to make Medicare more affordable, we have to drive down the cost of health care as a whole. Over time, the Affordable Care Act will reduce the real cost of health care, while preserving or even enhancing quality. Thanks to Obamacare, seniors are already enjoying access they didn’t have before to primary care, and greater reimbursement for their prescription drug costs.

Another section also mentions Medicaid, which is expanded under the law to include people with higher incomes than before:

Protecting Medicaid is vitally important. It’s a fundamental American value to take care of those in need. When it comes to health care, this means people with disabilities, seniors in nursing homes, children, and the very poor. Cuts to Medicaid only serve to drive up health care costs across the board, meaning that we all pay more. It’s absolutely crucial that we protect Medicaid.

The web site of Andrew Romanoff, running in Colorado’s sixth district, declares right on the home page, “I want to make it possible for every child to enjoy the same kind of basic opportunities my
mom and dad gave me: A solid education, a steady source of health care, and a safe place to live.” But there is no “issues” or “priorities” page that mentions the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare.

The web site of Alex Sink, running in Florida’s 13th District . . . has nothing beyond a photo and an invitation to link on Facebook and follow on Twitter.

The web site of Kevin Strouse, running in Pennsylvania’s eighth district, has an issues page that lists innovation, investing in American workers, improving education, balancing the budget, national defense, “honoring our veterans,” protecting a woman’s “right to choose” and support of gay marriage. But health care, Obamacare, and/or the Affordable Care Act are not mentioned.

Going over the sites, you come across the same generic phrases over again: declarations that “we need common sense in Washington,” pledges to be “an independent voice,” and endless denunciations of “bickering” “partisanship” “dysfunction” “finger pointing” and “Washington special interests.” Another word missing from most of the sites: “Democrat.”

I’m sure the DCCC and the candidates will be able to offer a lot of excuses for the absence of any reference to Obamacare or even health care in general from their campaign sites. It’s early. They’re still staffing up. Campaign web sites rarely list detailed positions on every issue. The issue is complicated, and the situation of Obamacare’s implementation seems to change by the day.

But let’s face it, if Obamacare were popular and the American people loved it, every Democratic challenger would be loudly embracing it and running on a pledge to ensure it’s kept in place as is. What’s really striking is that “health care” was a bread-and-butter issue for Democrats going back to Harris Wofford’s win over Dick Thornburgh in Pennsylvania in 1991. Suddenly it’s a missing issue, sometimes unmentioned entirely, sometimes merely alluded to briefly while discussing other issues.

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