The Campaign Spot

GOP Recruiting in House Races Finds Some Shining Stars

Chris Cillizza of the Post takes a look at recent good news in Republican recruiting for the 2010 cycle – mentioning declared or likely Senate candidates Charlie Crist and Marco Rubio in Florida, Tom Ridge in Pennsylvania, Rob Simmons in Connecticut, Rep. Mark Kirk in Illinois, and Rep. Mike Castle in Delaware, as well as declared or likely House candidates Manchester (N.H.) mayor Frank Guinta and Springfield (Ore.) mayor Sid Leiken to run against Rep. Peter Defazio.

But there’s a lot more going on on the House side.

In Colorado’s 4th district, there’s possibility of Diggs Brown, whose “day jobs” are as a Fort Collins city council member and a professional financial adviser – but who is currently deployed with the U.S. Army Special Forces as a Green Beret major in the U.S. Army National Guard.

This district actually runneth over with good candidates, because Tom Lucero, familiar to the listeners of the Hugh Hewitt Show, is also considering a run. He’s an elected volunteer University of Colorado Board of Regents member who built some name recognition and reputation for his vocal opposition to University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill, the one who called 9/11 victims “Little Eichmanns.”

In Idaho’s 1st district, Democrat Walt Minnick will make a tough opponent, but it’s still a heavily Republican region. He’s likely to face Vaughn Ward, a former 2nd Lieutenant in the Marines who decided he had to return to serving his country after September 11. He joined the CIA, where he was trained as an operations officer and served in the Middle East and Africa; then he took a leave of absence from the CIA and volunteered to serve on active duty with the Marines for a tour in Iraq.  He assumed command of Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 25th Marines. Major Ward led his men through a combat tour in Fallujah, Al-Anbar Province, Iraq, in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.  For his actions, Vaughn was awarded the Bronze Star with Combat V (Valor).

In Illinois’s 11th District, there’s Adam Kinzinger, a captain in the Air National Guard who was named Hero of the Year by the Milwaukee Red Cross for subduing a man who had sliced the neck of a woman on a street in that city. He’s also been awarded the Valley Forge Cross for Heroism for his service in Iraq.

In Florida’s 22nd District, Allen West garnered 133,000 votes and won 45 percent with just about no outside help while Obama was winning the district, 52-48. Retired Lt. Col. West has won the Bronze Star, three Meritorious Service Medals, three Army Commendation Medals (one with Valor), and a Valorous Unit Award.

In Pennsylvania’s 11th District, besides incumbent Democrat Paul Kanjorski’s troubles, Hazleton mayor Lou Barletta may be up for a rematch. He lost by 3 percent in a district Obama carried by 15 percent. (Kanjorski may face a Democratic primary challenger.) Similarly, in New York’s 24th District, philanthropist Richard Hanna came within 10,000 votes of unseating Rep. Michael Arcuri, in another district Obama carried, and Arcuri’s fundraising is lagging so far. There’s some hopes that Hanna is interested in another run.

This isn’t even getting into the races where Republican House members who lost by a hair in 2008 are thinking of running again; bottom  line, they’re out there, in places like Ohio’s 15th district, where Republican Steve Stivers won on Election Day and lost on provisional ballots, in a district that Obama carried 54 percent to 46 percent.  In Virginia’s 5th District, Virgil Goode lost his seat by 727 votes out of about 316,000.

In a lot of these races, geography plays a key factor in recruiting the right candidate. In many swing districts, one section will lean Republican, one will lean Democrat, and one will split; running the right GOP candidate with the right base of support in the right community can either mitigate the Democratic advantage in the Democratic area, or win over the swing area.

The opportunities for Republicans are out there. And while it’s still early, so far, recruiting is proceeding the way the GOP would hope.