The Republican in charge of his party’s national campaign strategy to retake the House of Representatives says his goal is “to retire Nancy Pelosi as speaker, nothing less,” in 2010.
“If you are not interested in winning and making John Boehner speaker of the House, then I don’t have time for you,” National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (Texas) told me, as he gleefully spelled out his committee’s many successes so far in districts around the country. “In terms of candidate recruitment, fund-raising, and issue development, we are far ahead of where we were at this point in 1993 — and you remember what happened in ’94.”
In an exclusive interview with HUMAN EVENTS late last week, Sessions underscored his committee’s intentions to make an issue of the super liberal Pelosi by tying her to Democratic House members he brands “Pelosi Puppets.”
Issues, Tea Parties Fuel GOP Enthusiasm
In declaring the removal of Pelosi from the speaker’s chair his top priority and boasting about the progress of the NRCC in terms of the 2010 races so far, seven-termer Sessions (lifetime American Conservative Union rating: 98%) came closer than any Republican leader so far to predicting a repeat next year of the historic Republican 1994 capture of the House.
Sessions’ enthusiasm about a big GOP win in the mid-term elections, he explained, is fueled by the big-government agenda of Democrats in Washington and the recent string of huge “Tea Parties” nationwide protesting what the NRCC chief dubs “the Obama-Pelosi-Reid big-government plan.”
“They’ve killed and now want to field-dress the auto industry, among other businesses. The hand of big government is already strong in the financial services industry. And Democrats in the White House and in congressional leadership are continuing down the same path with more government control of healthcare and the ‘cap and trade’ legislation.
“Cap and trade” and the electricity tax almost certain to result from it come, Session says, “from the same playbook that the Clinton Administration got the BTU [British Thermal Unit] tax from in 1993. That passed the House by about the same margin as cap-and-trade did this year, but it was doomed in the Senate. I’m surprised the [Obama Administration] hasn’t figured that out.”
As a result of voter outrage over the Democrat’s leftward push, Sessions told me, “candidates are flocking to us, wanting to run in districts against Democratic congressmen that most folks wrote off as unbeatable years ago.” House Appropriations Committee Chairman and 40-year Rep. David Obey (D.-Wis.), for example, will face an opponent whom Sessions characterized as “Tier One” and “there will also be at least two impressive Republicans in Missouri seeking the nomination to oppose Ike Skelton [chairman of the House Armed Services Committee and a House member since 1976].”
More specifically, the NRCC chief singled out several categories of districts with Democratic congressmen for special attention from the campaign committee: the 49 districts that John McCain carried in ’08 and the 83 districts that George W. Bush carried in ’04.
NRCC places strong emphasis on recruiting small businessmen to run against vulnerable House Democrats. (“That’s really where we’re coming from.”), But the major criterion Sessions cited for GOP candidates is “being a community leader, someone who can inform the electorate and stimulate the grass-roots. A community leader — someone who holds an office in the local Chamber of Commerce or the Kiwanis or Rotary — can solve the problems that a community-organizer causes.”
In addition, Sessions noted, “We are doing a good job recruiting veterans” to run for the House next year.
In discussing efforts to recruit “tier-one” candidates, Sessions also made it clear that the NRCC discourages hotly contested primaries. Conceding that a promising political year can attract more than one strong candidate in many districts, he also pointed out that damaging “primaries often occur when you have two great candidates and too little time to recover from their contest before November. [Hotly contested] primaries are not advantageous.”
Sessions, who has had a better relationship with conservatives than several of his recent predecessors at the NRCC, also addressed recent criticism from the right about his committee’s support of State Asssemblywoman Dede Scozzafava, the GOP nominee in the special election in New York’s 23rd District for the seat of former Republican Rep. (and now Secretary of the Army) John McHugh.
Along with her stands in favor of abortion and same-sex marriage, Scozzafava has been strongly criticized for her past acceptance of the ballot line of the Working Families Party, which has a close affiliation with the radical, scandal-ridden, community-organizing organization ACORN. (Scozzafava has recently said she would vote to deny federal funds to ACORN).
Because of Scozzafava’s obvious liberalism, many conservative Republicans have bolted to support the Conservative Party nominee, Doug Hoffman, a local CPA. Former Sen. Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.) recently endorsed Hoffman and American Conservative Union Chairman David Keene called on conservative contributors to withhold their donations to the NRCC because it is backing Scozzafava.
Angered by this criticism, Sessions shot back that he had urged county GOP leaders in the 23rd District to “open the process and hold a series of debates between Republican candidates” before they selected a nominee for the November 3 special election and they did this. He strongly insisted that the NRCC had “absolutely nothing” to do with the nomination process beyond encouraging a more open procedure.
“You may not like the closed process but that is the rule there and at least they did try to open it up with debates, in which nine candidates were included,” he said.
In admitting Scozzafava’s liberal record on several issues, Sessions nevertheless said his committee would back her “because she is one more vote to make John Boehner speaker. Look, you cannot have a candidate with my conservative record or that of other Texas Republicans in every district in the country.”
After our conversation, the hyperliberal blog, “Daily Kos” endorsed Scozzafava.