The announcement last week from Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) that she would challenge Democratic Sen. Jay Rockefeller made her 2nd District the site of first officially open U.S. House seat in 2014.
With Democrats needing a net gain of 17 seats to recapture control of the House after four years, national operatives from both parties are already watching the southern West Virginia district seriously.
No sooner had Capito made her announcement than the names of two liberal Democratic state senators‚??John Unger and Herb Snyder‚??were floated as possible candidates.
Among Republicans, the two names generating the most buzz for the open seat are those of Betty Ireland, former secretary of state and State Delegate Eric Nelson, from the more populous panhandle part of the district. Ireland, who lost a bid for the Republican nomination for governor to conservative Bill Maloney last year, is considered the more conservative than Nelson.
Capito, son of West Virginia‚??s former three-term Republican Gov. Arch Moore, Jr., has held the 2nd District with ease since she first went to Congress in 2000. This year, the 2nd District gave Mitt Romney and winning Attorney General candidate Republican Pat Morrisey a big majority of its votes.
Although they fell short in bids to unseat Sen. Joe Manchin and Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, West Virginia GOPers nonetheless had a good year.
Along with carrying their state‚??s five electoral votes for Romney, Republicans increased their numbers in the 100-member state House of Delegates from 35 to 46.
In the 34-member state senate, the GOP went from six to nine seats. Most spectacular of all was the win of Morrissey over Democratic incumbent and 20-year Attorney General Warren McGraw. In so doing, Morrisey became the first Republican to hold his state‚??s top law enforcement office since 1932.
The Race to Replace Jesse Jackson, Jr. Set
Tentative dates for the election of Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr.‚??s (D-Ill.) replacement to the House have been set‚??February 26 for the primary and March 19 for the general election.
Late last week, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn announced the schedule and indicated that he could change the general election to April 9, the date of the remaining local elections, CBS News reported.
Even before Jackson resigned amid widespread rumor of a plea bargain agreement on alleged campaign violations, the talk in Illinois political circles was of the congressman‚??s succession by his brother Jonathan Luther Jackson.
The second son of civil rights leader Jesse Jackson and godson of Dr. Martin Luther King (hence his middle name), Jonathan is his father‚??s right-hand man and spokesman at the Rainbow Coalition.
Should Jonathan follow Jesse, Jr. in the House, it would be the first time one brother succeeded another in the U.S. House of Representatives since Sam Ervin‚??later senator and famed as chairman of the Senate Watergate Committee‚??succeeded his late brother, Rep. Joseph Ervin (D-N.C.), in 1946.
But there are also reports that others within the Democratic Party resent the Jackson family treating the district as if it were its own personal fiefdom.
Democrats ready to jump in
Even if Jonathan Jackson runs for the soon-to-be-open seat other heavyweight Democrats are expected to jump in the resulting special election contest.
Dr. Robin Kelly, former state legislator and now the much-respected chief administrative officer of Cook County, gets considerable mention as a candidate.
Former Rep. Debbie Halvorson, who lost to Jackson in this year‚??s primary, has announced she will seek the seat, as will former NFL linebacker and Northwestern University stand-out Napoleon Harris. Also in the Democratic contest is former Rep. Mel Reynolds, whose conviction on felony charges resulted in his resignation and Jackson‚??s subsequent election.
However, some in the community feel that the seat shouldn‚??t automatically be given to a Jackson relative.
‚??It is my understanding from people in the community that the voters are tired of being taken for granted and the Jackson brand has been damaged,‚?Ě Isaac Hayes, clergyman and 2010 Republican opponent to Jackson, told Human Events.
‚??They feel betrayed and disappointed that a family to whom they have been exceptionally loyal would show such blatant disrespect and disregard. I believe the frustration is so intense that a well-funded Republican who was willing to work with President Obama to build common ground might actually have a slight chance of pulling an upset.‚?Ě Hayes told Human Events he has not ruled out another run for Congress. Another Republican, radio broadcaster and Chicago conservative activist Len McAllister told Human Events he will make a bid in the special election.
Hayes noted that Congressman Jackson normally gets about 85 percent of the vote, but (in 2012) he barely got over 60 percent. Part of it is the redrawn district that includes the more Republican-leaning Will and Kankakee counties, and part an exhausted electorate seeking to go in a different direction.
Illinois law dictates the governor must announce a special election date within five days after the vacancy occurs. The special election must be held within 115 days. The April 9 date Gov. Quinn has indicated he would like the election to be moved falls outside the 115 day window.
Hanger to Challenge Pa. Gov. Tom Corbett
The Philadelphia Inquirer reported last week that former Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Secretary John Hanger will announce his candidacy for the Democratic nomination for Keystone State governor in 2014, challenging one-term Republican incumbent Gov. Tom Corbett.
Hanger served as the chief environmental protection officer for former Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell for three years and since has founded the environmental group PennFuture, which, according to its website, serves as the ‚??guardian of the environment and public health as well as the most effective advocate for a clean economy.‚?Ě
Corbett, elected in 2010, has come under some criticism from the left for his cuts to education and entitlements, along with what some feel was ‚??turning a blind eye‚?Ě to the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse case when he was state attorney general.
‚??Gov. Corbett‚??s first two years have been a disaster for this state,‚?Ě Hanger told the Inquirer.
Managing Editor Adam Tragone contributed to this report.