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NYT: House Democrats Who Rejected Health Bill May Face Trouble From Their Friends

March 26, 2010

This is really not the best news for would-be congressmen Mike Grimm and Michael Allegretti in the 13th CD. Whenever you have liberal Democrats furious at a fellow Democrat, that’s not a good formula for Republicans trying to challenge that Democrat:

WASHINGTON — The New York City Council speaker, Christine C. Quinn, agreed a few weeks ago to host a fund-raiser for a fellow Democrat who faced the prospect of a tough challenge this fall, Representative Michael E. McMahon of Staten Island.

Her offer has now been rescinded.

After Mr. McMahon, a former city councilman, voted against the health care overhaul bill that Congress approved on Sunday, her office called his staff to say she would not attend the event next month at the Woolworth Tower Kitchen in Manhattan.

“She’s upset about it,” said a person who is close to Ms. Quinn, referring to Mr. McMahon’s vote and insisting on anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly. “It is a very big issue for her.”

Ms. Quinn’s decision underscores the fallout for Mr. McMahon and other Congressional Democrats in New York and New Jersey who voted against the health care bill that President Obama signedinto law on Tuesday.

The lawmakers were already confronting the difficult task of holding onto their seats in conservative swing districts and in midterm elections this year that may not bode well for Democrats. Now they are facing intense criticism from labor organizations and other Democratic constituency groups that are, in some cases, vowing to mount primary challenges against them.

“Bad votes have consequences,” said Dan Cantor, executive director of the Working Families Party, which has emerged as perhaps the most influential third party in New York.

The threat is significant enough that national party leaders, who are working to defend the party’s House majority in the fall, are urging the groups to ratchet down the rhetoric.

Representative Steve Israel of Long Island, the chief national recruiter of candidates for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, warned that divisions in the party over health care could give Republicans an edge in the election.

“I’ve been telling my friends in labor and in the progressive community, ‘If you’re frustrated with the votes of a handful of Democrats against health care, imagine how you will feel if we lose the majority and we are voting to privatize Social Security and Medicare,’ ” Mr. Israel said.

“I may not like how they voted,” he added. “But I definitely will not like a Republican majority in the House.”

Every Republican House member and 34 Democratic members opposed the health care legislation. Three of the Democrats are from New York and New Jersey: Michael A. Arcuri, of New York’s 24th District in the Utica region; Mr. McMahon, of New York’s 13th District on Staten Island; and John H. Adler, of New Jersey’s Third District in the central part of the state.

A spokesman for Mr. Arcuri did not return phone calls. Spokeswomen for Mr. McMahon and Mr. Adler said their offices had no comment.

The criticism by liberal groups is not limited to lawmakers in New York and New Jersey. Democrats in other parts of the country, including Massachusetts, Ohio and Pennsylvania, are also under fire for opposing the health care bill.

Though supporting the health care measure carried potential electoral risk for Mr. Arcuri, Mr. McMahon and Mr. Adler, the outcry from labor and other liberal groups could pose a problem for them as well, since the groups can provide considerable resources, and energy, to Democratic campaigns.

The groups conduct mass mailings, assign campaign volunteers, run phone banks and stage rallies — at no cost to the candidates they back.

Mr. Arcuri and Mr. McMahon face especially daunting challenges. Not only has the Working Families Party withdrawn its support from them, but 1199 S.E.I.U., the powerful union of hospital workers in New York, also said the organization would work to defeat the two this year.

“We are seeking solid Democrats to run against them in the primary,” said Kevin Finnegan, the union’s political director.

Ilyse Hogue, the spokeswoman for the liberal group, said it was seriously considering helping organize a primary challenge against a number of Democrats around the country who voted no, including Mr. Arcuri, Mr. McMahon and Mr. Adler.

“Our members worked incredibly hard to get these representatives elected, expecting them to carry their voices to Washington for progressive change,” Ms. Hogue said. “This vote is proof positive that these representatives are not up to the task of doing the hard work to protect the rights of struggling Americans, and they should be replaced.”

Mr. McMahon, Mr. Arcuri and Mr. Adler have been bracing for potentially strong challenges this year from Republicans.

Mr. McMahon, a freshman House member, has about $1 million in his campaign treasury, far more than either of the Republicans in the race: Michael Allegretti, an official at an environmental firm, who has roughly $235,000, and Michael Grimm, a retired F.B.I. agent, who has about $298,000.

In the Utica area, Mr. Arcuri, who is in his second term, has amassed about $415,000, though he faces a wealthy construction executive, Richard Hanna, who has told Republican leaders in Washington that he is prepared to spend significant amounts of his own money.

In New Jersey, Mr. Adler, another freshman lawmaker, has nearly $1.4 million in his campaign account, as he prepares to face potentially strong challenge from a former Philadelphia Eagles football player, Jon Runyan.



One Comment
  1. Craigy Baby permalink
    March 26, 2010 6:38 pm

    Go shove it, GOP Establishment! Baby, you’re next, Craig Eaton!

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