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In Congress, Win a Race, Lose a Friend

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call FIle Photo
After Rep. Dennis Kucinich (above) was defeated by fellow Ohio Rep. Marcy Kaptur, the relationship between the Democrats cooled considerably.

Illinois Republican Reps. Don Manzullo and Adam Kinzinger served in Congress together for less than six months before it was obvious they would challenge each other.

Kinzinger defeated a Democrat in a competitive district in 2010, and Manzullo had not faced a tough race in decades.

It showed. Manzullo took Kinzinger’s attacks personally. He accused the freshman of making his “wife weep” with his direct-mail attacks. Manzullo also called for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) to step down for supporting Kinzinger.

Four months after Kinzinger’s victory, Manzullo has made amends with his  colleagues, although he has not yet publicly endorsed Kinzinger.

Still, for a Member nicknamed “Mad Dog,” several Illinois Republicans remarked that Manzullo has been particularly cooperative.

“There’s a lot of opportunities for him to go off the rails, and he hasn’t chosen to do it,” one Illinois GOP aide said. “He’s even more of a team player now than he was.”

In particular, Manzullo has worked with freshman Rep. Bobby Schilling (R-Ill.) on a few initiatives in Rockford, Ill., such as transitioning the state-run Thomson Correctional Center to a federal prison. Rockford anchors Manzullo’s current district, but Democrats moved half of the manufacturing hub into Schilling’s district under the redrawn map.

As in the Illinois race, Democratic Reps. Jason Altmire and Mark Critz didn’t know each other well before their April primary in southwestern Pennsylvania’s 12th district. Critz, a longtime district director for the late Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.), won a special election in May 2010. The two Democrats met only a handful of times before Critz’s victory, and both Democrats have since run in different Congressional social circles.

After Altmire lost the divisive primary by a couple of points, he immediately offered Critz his endorsement in his concession call. Democrats said he’s been helpful ever since.

“Mark is grateful for the advice and support Congressman Altmire has provided,” said Mike Mikus, a Critz campaign adviser.

Altmire declined to comment. But he has been so helpful that at least one Democrat publicly questioned his motives. Critz faces a tough race this November, and if he loses, Altmire would be the heir apparent to run in 2014.

“Altmire is helping,” said Jack Hanna, chairman of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party’s Southwest Caucus. “He’s being nice to people, so maybe he’s pocketing something to pull back out in the future.”

Of course, it’s in the losing Members’ interests to make amends with their colleagues. That’s especially true if the defeated is angling for a K Street career or future campaign.

Either way, these Members have months to mull their next career move — and legacy — before they cast their final vote.

 

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