Barbara Comstock

At the Races: The Wheels on McDaniel’s Bus Go ’Round and ’Round
Our weekly newsletter on congressional campaigns

Welcome to At the Races! You can keep track of House and Senate races with this weekly newsletter. Sign up here. We want to hear what you think. Send us your questions, tips or candidate sightings at — Simone Pathé and Bridget Bowman

This week … Chris McDaniel launched another Senate primary run in Mississippi, voters picked their candidates in Arizona, and underdog Democrats used the gun debate to make their mark.

Decision Time in the Desert: Former state Sen. Debbie Lesko won the GOP primary Tuesday in the special election to replace GOP Rep. Trent Franks (who resigned amid sexual harassment allegations). She’s in a strong position heading into the April 24 special election, since President Donald Trump carried the seat by 21 points. Lesko will face emergency room physician Hiral Tipirneni, whom Democrats see as a strong candidate. So Lesko might not want to get too confident. Nathan Gonzales shifted this race rating from Solid Republican to Likely Republican, because, well, special elections have been pretty crazy this cycle.

Bob Dold Starts New Group to Thank ‘Centrist’ GOP Incumbents
American Solutions Action Project is already running ads for Walters and Comstock

Former Illinois Rep. Robert J. Dold is behind a new nonprofit social welfare organization educating Americans about “center-right” Republicans and their work in Congress. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Former Illinois Rep. Robert J. Dold knows what it’s like to break from his party. 

That wasn’t enough to save the moderate Republican lawmaker in 2016. He lost to Democrat Brad Schneider, while Hillary Clinton was carrying his 10th District by nearly 30 points. 

Post-#MeToo, Stalled Careers, Alienation Still Haunt Sexual Harassment Victims
Lawmakers say they are aware of challenges

Marion Brown, whose $27,000 sexual harassment settlement prompted the resignation of former Michigan Rep. John Conyers Jr., wants to stay active in the #MeToo movement. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Shortly after Marion Brown’s account of sexual harassment toppled a powerful congressman last fall, she returned to Washington on a frigid afternoon to ask for support from the lawmakers who had lauded her as a hero.

Wearing a smartly tilted fur cap, she left her business cards with aides who, to her, looked two generations her junior. She hoped for a reference, a lead on a new job, a bit of advice. She left the Capitol feeling disappointed, although lawmakers told Roll Call they want to do all they can to help.

Active-Duty Candidates Can Run — But Can They Campaign?
Even Matt Reel’s staff doesn’t know where he’s deployed

Matt Reel is running for Congress. But he’s also on active duty. (Screen Shot/Matt Reel for Congress/YouTube)

Matt Reel is running for Congress. But he can’t campaign until June — two months before Tennessee’s August primary.

Even if his staff knew where he is — which they don’t — and even if he had time while overseas, Reel can’t legally communicate with them about campaign strategy for his 7th District race while he’s on active duty.

House Leaders Face Threats of Intraparty Rebellion on Budget Deal
Conservatives are already balking and DACA proponents could be right behind

Speaker Paul D. Ryan arrives in the Capitol on Jan. 29. Ryan is already facing conservative opposition from his GOP conference to the reported budget deal in the works. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The House Republicans’ day of reckoning is almost here.

As early as Wednesday, the four corners of congressional leadership are expected to announce a sweeping budget deal that could increase the sequestration spending caps by nearly $300 billion over two years, extend the debt ceiling without any spending changes designed to reduce the deficit, and appropriate more than $80 billion for disaster relief without pay-fors.

At White House, a Day of Contradictions
President and senior officials offer differing shutdown, DACA stances

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly waits to speak as Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders introduces him in October. The two offered different opinions of whether the president can extend his own deadline on the DACA program. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Senior White House officials — from President Donald Trump on down — again on Tuesday contradicted one another and struggled to express clear messages as key deadlines approach.

Would Trump really shutter the government this week unless a bipartisan immigration deal is in place? Depends on who is speaking.

Trump Declares Love for Shutdown Over Immigration
Bipartisan action in House, Senate undercuts his remarks about Democrats

The Capitol Visitor Center, usually full of tourists, sits empty on Jan. 22 during a government shutdown. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

President Donald Trump barreled past members of his own party and nascent signs of progress on a broad budget and immigration deal Tuesday, threatening a government shutdown if he does not get what he wants. 

“I’d love to see a shutdown if we can’t get this stuff taken care of,” the president said Tuesday, just over 48 hours before funding expires. “If we have to shut it down because the Democrats don’t want safety ... let’s shut it down.”

House Adopts Rules to Curb Sexual Harassment
Members are now forbidden to have sexual relationships with their aides

Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., says the rule changes, along with the bill passed by the house on Tuesday, empower survivors of harassment. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

In the wake of high-profile resignations over sexual harassment claims, the House on Tuesday approved sweeping changes to its internal rules intended to protect staffers, including a prohibition on sexual relationships between members and their aides. Lawmakers also passed a bipartisan bill to overhaul the process for investigating and resolving complaints by congressional employees regarding sexual harassment.

The House by voice vote adopted the rules change, which goes into effect immediately because it only pertains to the chamber. Representatives also passed by voice vote the bill that would revamp the twenty-year-old Congressional Accountability Act. That bill now heads to the Senate.

New GOP Women’s Group Makes First Endorsements
Winning for Women announces staff, names Ayotte to board

Winning for Women is endorsing California Rep. Mimi Walters, left, and New York Rep. Elise Stefanik, right, among others. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Democratic women outnumber Republican women in Congress 3-to-1. But a new group supporting conservative women is hoping to change that imbalance.

Winning for Women Inc. is making its first endorsements and announcing its key staff on Thursday. The initial round of endorsements, shared first with Roll Call, includes 12 women running for Senate or re-election to the House. 

Opinion: Women Played a Key Role in Harassment Bill
In the #MeToo era, some lawmakers may be scurrying for cover

Rep. Susan Brooks, R-Ind., describes legislation aimed at helping victims of harassment on the Hill as “some of the most important work” she’ll ever do in the House. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

When people talk about women running for office, we hear a lot about numbers. X-number of women are running. Women make up y-percent of Congress or elected officials. When x and y are equal, then we’ll finally see a difference in our government.

But beyond the numbers, if you really want to see the difference it makes to have women from both parties at the table when legislation is drafted, look no further than the bill introduced last week to finally begin to change the way sexual harassment has been dealt with in Capitol Hill offices since the Congressional Accountability Act passed in 1995.