Lawmakers in Baltic caucuses fare well in election

For the U.S. congressional representatives who lost their seats during the Nov. 7 midterm election, here’s a bit of advice: Join the House Baltic Caucus and your political career might just be ensured.

Of the 70 U.S. representatives who are members of the House Baltic Caucus, only three were not re-elected. Rep. Rob Simmons of Connecticut, Rep. Curt Weldon of Pennsylvania and Rep. Sue Kelly of New York, all Republicans, lost their seats in the election that returned the House to Democratic control. Simmons held on through a recount of a close race, but conceded Nov. 15.

One other caucus member, Republican Rep. Jim Kolbe of Arizona, has announced his retirement and did not run in the election. Another, Democratic Rep. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, ran for the U.S. Senate and was elected.

Both chairs of the House caucus were returned. Republican Rep. John Shimkus of Illinois and Democrat Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio easily won re-election.

“For any election, it is always a relief when Baltic Caucus leaders, especially the co-chairmen, win their races,” Karl Altau, executive director of the Joint Baltic American National Committee, said in an e-mail. “It really helps with the continuity.”

However, JBANC suffered one setback. Republican Sen. George Allen of Virginia, whose hopes for re-election evaporated after he used the word “macaca” to describe a worker for his Democratic opponent, is one of the 13 members of the Senate Baltic Freedom Caucus.

Back in 2000, Altau said, the Baltic lobby was shocked to lose a friend when Republican Sen. Slade Gorton of Washington lost re-election.

Other Senate Baltic Freedom Caucus members fared better, including Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, who failed to get the Democratic Party’s endorsement for re-election, but ran as an independent and won.

Altau said he hopes Brown, now that he has been elected to the Senate, will join the Senate Baltic Freedom Caucus. He also mentioned Democrat Ben Cardin of Maryland, who also moved from the House to the Senate and has been “a real friend over the years” to Baltic causes.

The general success of lawmakers who serve in the Baltic caucuses should help JBANC in its lobbying efforts.

“I feel that we have established some good continuity, and will continue to deepen these bonds, and exchange of information and ideas,” Altau said. “JBANC, for instance, makes it a habit to regularly visit all Baltic Caucus offices in the House and Senate three to four times a year to exchange information. Of course, there will be more attention depending on need and issue.”

JBANC now is focusing on getting word out about the NATO summit in Rīga later this month.

Andris Straumanis is a special correspondent for and a co-founder of Latvians Online. From 2000–2012 he was editor of the website.

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