Shutdown Anger Inspiring Democrats to Run for Office in Many States

October 31, 2013

Nebraska has not elected a Democrat to the House of Representatives since 1994, and until this month, prospects for changing that were dim at best. Of the state’s three House seats, a Democrat has a fighting chance only in the district encompassing Omaha and its suburbs. And the party’s sole hope there, Omaha’s popular City Council president, had declared that he was not going to run.

But suddenly, the Council president, Pete Festersen, has jumped into the 2014 race against an eight-term incumbent Republican. And a Lincoln lawyer, Dennis Crawford, declared his candidacy in a second Nebraska district where the Republican incumbent also had been unopposed. Both say their moves are fueled by popular anger over the 16-day Republican-led shutdown of the federal government.

“If I ever see Ted Cruz, all I’m going to say is ‘Thank you, thank you,’ ” Vince Powers, Nebraska’s Democratic Party chairman, said in an interview. “I would’ve been in witness protection, because I didn’t have anybody to run.”

Here and nationally, the Democratic Party is enjoying something of a boomlet in newly declared candidacies for the House. Since Oct. 1, five candidates have lined up to contest Republican-held seats, with at least four more in the wings, Democratic officials say. Almost all say they are driven to run — ostensibly, at least — by disgust over the shutdown, first espoused by Senator Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican, and embraced by Tea Party Republicans in the House and, eventually, most others as well.

Nonetheless, most of the Republicans viewed as most vulnerable are moderates, not those who pushed for the shutdown.

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