Dems in Tough House Races Target Capitol Hill Perks

Friday, 04 Jul 2014 04:37 PM

By Todd Beamon

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As the November congressional elections draw near, Democratic candidates in Republican-friendly districts are campaigning on promises to eliminate such perks for legislators as gym memberships and subsidies for healthcare costs.

"Members of Congress in both parties are viewed as incompetent and beneficiaries of special favors," Gregory Valliere, chief political strategist at the independent Potomac Research Group, told The Washington Times. "That’s a bad combination.

"Accordingly, many candidates will campaign against special perks, and it might make a difference for several Democrats running in close races."

The situation was highlighted by the defeat of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor last month by little-known, tea party-backed economics professor Dave Brat in their Virginia Republican primary.

Cantor, who was first elected to the House in 2000, had been viewed as out of touch with voters, Valliere said. The loss awakened incumbents of both parties to the reality that voters might perceive them as "not one of us," he said.

The Times cited one hotly contested race in upstate New York for the seat being vacated by retiring three-term Democratic Rep. William Owens.

The race pits Republican Elise Stefanik, a former Bush White House staffer, against Democrat Aaron Woolf, a documentary filmmaker.

Woolf has pledged to withhold lawmakers' pay if they don't pass a budget and has targeted such Capitol Hill perks as free barbershop and salon services, according to the Times.

Woolf also has proposed eliminating free vehicles for legislators, healthcare subsidies and loopholes in ethics rules that allow Congress members to use campaign funds to upgrade privately financed flights to first class, the Times reports.

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