No sooner had 22-year Republican Rep. Spencer Bachus of Alabama announced his retirement earlier this week than the anti-incumbent super-PAC that took him on in the 2012 primary claimed a "deferred win."
"The Committee for Public Accountability absolutely takes credit for a 'deferred primary win' with the announcement by Rep. Bachus," CPA spokesman Curtis Ellis told Newsmax Wednesday. "Because of our efforts last year in Alabama's 6th District, Mr. Bachus discovered for the first time what a competitive contest looks and feels like. Rather than face another competitive election in '14, he chose flight over fight."
Founded by Texas multimillionaires Leo Linbeck III and Eric O’Keefe, the Committee for Public Accountability emerged in the last election cycle with what Ellis described as "the goal of equalizing congressional districts that are considered 'safe' for either party and giving them competitive elections."
Ellis said that his organization targeted Bachus because "our polling showed that as much as 50 percent of the [primary] voters were willing to consider someone else, he has a number of ethical issues, and he has not had a competitive election since 1992."
In discussing the race with Newsmax, Ellis said, "We felt Bachus was ethically challenged. As chairman of the House Financial Institutions Committee, he was briefed by the then-secretary of the Treasury about the impending financial collapse [in 2008].
Bachus then proceeded to short-sell some of his own stock, and in the process, he was selling the country short."
The House Ethics Committee investigated these charges but decided the Alabamian violated no House rules.
CPA spent roughly $200,000 in last year's primary on independent television broadsides slamming Bachus. The veteran lawmaker won renomination over three opponents with 59 percent of the vote — a strong showing in the mostcompetitive contest he had faced since he was initially elected in 1992.
Since it first appeared on the scene in 2012, CPA has packed a political wallop. Republican Rep. Jean Schmidt of Ohio and Democratic Rep. Tim Holden of Pennsylvania both went down in major primary upsets last year following intense CPA-run attack spots in their districts.
In addition, the super-PAC hit hard at 20-year Republican Rep. Don Manzullo of Illinois for violating the term-limit pledge he made when he was first elected. Manzullo lost the Republican primary to freshman Rep. Adam Kinzinger when the two House members competed for the same district following redistricting.
As far as the group's plans for 2014 House races, Ellis told Newsmax it "will definitely be going after Charlie Rangel in the Democratic primary in New York in '14, and would also oppose Bill Shuster in the Republican primary in Pennsylvania. We would like to go up against [Democratic Rep.] Adam Schiff in Southern California but so far, he has no opponent."
With polls currently showing Congress held in the lowest public esteem in modern times, it seems a good bet to say that the wallop packed by the Committee for Public Accountability against veteran incumbents will be harder in 2014 than it was in 2012.
Which Republican Will Succeed Bachus?
Not even the most partisan Alabama Democrat believes for a minute that the party can pick up the Birmingham-based district that Bachus is relinquishing after 22 years. With the exception of 10 years from 1982-92, the district with the highest income level in the state has sent a Republican to Congress since John Buchanan first won the seat back in 1964.
With a Republican primary victory tantamount to election, six Republicans are engaging in what Republican National Chairman Lee Atwater once called "the invisible primary." That is, none of the possible candidates is announced, but all are working the phones and lining up support behind the scenes in "exploratory" efforts.
The most often mentioned name is state Sen. Scott Beason, who drew the most votes (27 percent) against Bachus in the 2012 primary. Beason has a following among area tea partyers for his support of tough anti-illegal immigration measures.
Other legislators mentioned are state Sen. Cam Ward of Shelby County, state Rep. Paul DeMarco of Mountain Brook, and state Sen. Slade Blackwell of Mountain Brook — all considered strong conservatives.
State Republican Chairman Bill Armistead is a favorite of evangelical conservatives, and Tony Petelos, the former state secretary of Health and Human Resources and now the appointed manager of Jefferson County, is highly respected as an able administrator.
No one believes that all of those potential candidates will go ahead with a campaign. Any legislator must give up his seat to run next year, and some will be reluctant to roll the political dice.
One intriguing possibility is the last person to give Bachus a competitive race — Marty Connors, former executive director and state chairman of the Republican Party, who lost the runoff to Bachus in 1992.
In 2003, Connors won the Ronald Reagan Award at the Conservative Political Action Conference for defying then-Republican Gov. Bob Riley over a proposal for a record-high tax increase.
After several years as a private business consultant, Connors, 56, again is being mentioned for Congress, and many conservatives who recall his clash with Riley over taxes hope he will run.
"I'm sure flattered, and you're about the 14th caller asking me about [a run for Congress]," Connors told Newsmax. "Sure, I'm considering it. But after so many years of helping others get elected, I have to decide whether I want to be the quarterback or just stay back and remain a coach."
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.
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