GOP Challengers Hope To Capture Dem Strongholds

New Jersey’s 6th U.S. House District
Little vs. Pallone

Anna Little is one of a kind.

She’s a mother of three who is most comfortable in bluejeans, sandals and a “Mom” T-shirt. Moreover, she’s an immigration lawyer who is fluent in Spanish and French and, as she puts it, “is one of the very few immigration lawyers in America who is a conservative and supports the controversial Arizona law” [to stem the tide of illegal immigration]. She’s a former Monmouth County, N.J., freeholder and current mayor of the Borough of Highlands (Population: 5,000).

Earlier this year, the 42-year-old Little did her own thing again. She decided to seek the Republican nomination for Congress in the Garden State’s 6th District, running in the primary against a candidate with vast personal wealth and the backing of the local party establishment.

But the 5-foot-tall Little showed she had so much energy she could have powered a Volt electric car for 200 miles. Meshing high-tech modern campaigning tools with old-fashioned “shoe leather,” Little deployed Twitter to alert potential backers to when she would be at their local diner or IHOP for coffee, sent updates to Facebook friends and canvassed door-to-door the same way she successfully did when seeking local office.

Little says, “My message was simple: I’m strongly pro-life, would repeal Obamacare in a minute, cut the capital gains tax and eliminate the death tax forever. And I’m Tea Party approved.”

And it worked. After days of ballot-counting and then a recount, Anna Little emerged as the Republican nominee by 84 votes. That’s far more impressive than it sounds in that she was outspent by ten-to-one and New Jersey is one of the few remaining states in which party endorsements carry weight. And the Republican Party in New Jersey strongly tends to nominate moderates rather than candidates like Anna Little.

But just as campaign techniques are changing, so are the state’s politics. As she faces 22-year incumbent liberal Democratic Rep. Frank Pallone, Little uses the same techniques that brought her to this point. And there are a lot more Facebook friends, a lot more Twitter feeds and the members of “Anna’s Army” who meet at IHOP and then canvass neighborhoods have swelled to more than one hundred.

And she doesn’t trim her political sails either. Of opponent Pallone (lifetime American Conservative Union rating: 12.14%), she says, “He’s was against all the Bush tax cuts, is rated 100% by the National Abortion Rights Action League, backs ‘card check’ to throttle the secret ballot in union elections, and actually claims he helped write the healthcare bill I will fight to repeal. Can you really think of any race with two candidates who are farther apart?”

While there may be several races with such a clear choice, there are few candidates as unique and plain-spoken as Anna Little—and so deserving of all-out conservative support. 

North Carolina’s 8th U.S. House District
Johnson vs. Kissell

At a rally for then-Sen. Jim Broyhill (R-N.C.) in Charlotte, back in 1986, the emcee was popular television sportscaster Harold Johnson. At one point in the event, he turned to the visiting speaker seated next to him and recalled something they had in common in their backgrounds.

“I said to Ronald Reagan, you’re a former sportscaster,” recalled Johnson. “Can I go on to be President like you?’ He said to me, ‘Harold, this is America. Anything can happen.’”

Today, Johnson is the Republican nominee for Congress in North Carolina’s 8th District After four years in the U.S. Marine Corps, 35 years in radio and television broadcasting (winning four Emmys), and with three children and nine grandchildren, Johnson is making his first political race at 69—the same age Reagan was when he became President.

In facing freshman Democratic Rep. Larry Kissell (lifetime American Conservative Union rating: 20%), Johnson is going up against an incumbent whom organized labor and other pillars of the left are ignoring because he voted against Obama’s healthcare bill.

“That doesn’t impress me in the least,” says Johnson. “He also voted to bring that bill to the House floor, and that insured its passage. Look, my opponent voted for that stimulus package that isn’t creating private-sector jobs and by voting with Speaker Nancy Pelosi 96% of the time. My first vote in Congress will be to make [House Republican leader] John Boehner speaker and the sooner that happens, the sooner we can start turning America around.”

As the campaign heats up, the controversy over letting the Bush tax cuts expire at the end of the year is starting to dominate debate. Kissell, Johnson declares, “will go along with Obama and Pelosi and let the tax cuts expire—which will put a tremendous burden on small businesses and discourage them from investing and creating new jobs. We can’t let this happen.”

Taking to the stump and to the airwaves that he knows so well, Johnson often refers to a recent quote from Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who said that “if we keep spending the way we do, the interest alone on the national debt in 2012 will be what we’re spending on national defense today. I’m surprised he wasn’t fired the way [Gen. Stanley] McChrystal was. He’s right.”

Given his long career, Johnson is often asked why, at his age and with all those grandchildren, he is now taking on the assignment of running for Congress. And he replies, “That’s what I say when I wake up and look at myself in the mirror. And then I always say that, if I don’t, I can’t look at myself in the mirror again.” 

Michigan’s 15th U.S. House District
Steele vs. Dingell

Michigan’s 15th Congressional District (Dearborn-Ann Arbor) offers possibly the best example on U.S. soil of the dynastic succession by which North Korean strongman Kim Jong-il came to power and hopes to pass it on to his son. Democrat John Dingell was elected to the House from the district in 1932, became an ardent New Dealer and one of the most spirited champions of national health insurance before his death in 1954.

He was succeeded by his son, John, Jr., who had met Franklin Roosevelt while working as a page in the U.S. House, and went on to serve in World War II and then as a prosecutor in Detroit. Although redistricting has changed the boundaries of the district over the years, the man who became known as “Big Bad John” for his temper has hung on for 56 years—the longest tenure of any U.S. representative in history and two years shy of the record set by the late Sen. Robert Byrd (D.-W.Va.) for length of service by any member of Congress.

It is taken for granted that if Dingell (lifetime American Conservative Union rating: 11.41%) ever retires, he will attempt to pass his House seat on to his wife, Michigan Democratic National Committeewoman Deborah Dingell.

But at least this year, even after fellow House Democrats removed him from the chairmanship of the Energy Committee, Dingell is running again at age 84.

“And that’s the problem right there,” says his Republican opponent, Dr. Rob Steele. “With the exception of a few years, John Dingell has spent his entire career in Washington and it shows. He votes for things like ‘cap and trade’ climate legislation which, if it ever becomes law, will kill Michigan. And we all saw that scene on television at his town hall meeting when it was obvious he had not even read the healthcare legislation. I say it is legislative malpractice for lawmakers to vote on a law that they have not read.”

When it comes to healthcare, Steele knows what he’s talking about. Born and raised in Grand Rapids (“Gerald Ford announced for Congress in 1948 in my grandparents’ living room”), Steele earned his medical degree from the University of Michigan. Now head of a cardiology practice with 36 doctors and 300 employees in southeast Michigan. Dr. Steele, a father of four, is making his first run for office.

“About the most political activity I’ve had is supporting and reading the publications of the [conservative] Heritage Foundation,” he said with a laugh, “That should tell you where I’m coming from.”

As conservatives are accused of wanting to repeal “Obamacare” without any alternative, Dr. Steele calls for greater use of health savings accounts, higher deductibles, and tort reform. In his words, “health reform without tort reform is no reform and health reform without portability and options is no reform, either. Mandated programs make things more expensive—it’s that simple!”

And for conservatives, the race in Michigan’s 15th District, it’s that simple: replacing John Dingell and the politics of the past with Dr. Rob Steele, who has the right prescription for the future.


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