Despite disgust, voters rarely fire lawmakers
WASHINGTON (AP) — Congress is wildly unpopular.
In fact, two-thirds of Americans want their own House member booted. And the tea party is dogging longtime Republican lawmakers.
So incumbents are sweating out this year’s election, right?
Nope. Mostly they’re not.
People talk about throwing the bums out, but voters keep sending the same bunch back in.
More than halfway through the party primaries, 293 House and Senate members have completed their quests for renomination.
The score: Incumbents 291, challengers 2.
Granted, one of those two losses was a shocker. A virtual unknown, Dave Brat, toppled House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia in a Republican primary.
Two longtime lawmakers — Republican Sen. Thad Cochran of Mississippi and Democratic Rep. Charles Rangel of New York — barely clung to nominations to their seats Tuesday.
But those rare exciting races that draw national attention are misleading. Most of the House candidates, about 60 percent so far, didn’t have a soul running against them. Only a few faced a challenger who posed a real threat. No senator has been defeated yet.
What about November, when Republicans and Democrats face off in the general election? It looks to be a dramatic midterm, all right, with Republicans pushing to seize control of the Senate. More incumbents will be vulnerable in the general election than the primaries. Still, the vast majority of sitting lawmakers are snug in their seats.
Over the past five decades, voters have routinely returned 9 of 10 incumbent candidates to the House. Senate races are a bit less predictable, but usually more than 80 percent of incumbents win.
Consider 2010, which was a “bad year” for incumbents. A wave of angry voters swept Republicans into the House majority. Fifty-eight House members were ousted that year, nearly all of them Democrats. President Barack Obama called it a “shellacking.”
Yet even in that remarkable midterm, voters rehired 85 percent of Congress members who were on the ballot.
This year, Congress logged a confidence rating of 7 percent, the lowest Gallup has measured for any institution, ever. People don’t put much attachment to their own representative anymore, either. An Associated Press-GfK poll last month found that 65 percent of Americans say their own House member should lose.
9 shot on Bourbon Street in New Orleans
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Two men exchanged gunfire early Sunday on the city’s always-crowded Bourbon Street in the celebrated French Quarter and nine people were shot in the crossfire, including two who were critically wounded, police said.
Images captured from a surveillance camera above a bar showed people running down the famous street in the chaos of the shooting at 2:45 a.m., NOLA.com The Times-Picayune reported.
Police and emergency workers responded immediately and attended to victims as other revelers looked on.
New Orleans Police Chief Ronal Serpas said six victims were hospitalized in stable condition. The other victim’s condition was not available. Some of them were tourists. Their names have not been released.
The victims were shot two blocks from historic Jackson Square and just around the corner from the popular Pat O’Brien’s piano bar. Preservation Hall, a music venue dedicated to preserving New Orleans jazz, is also nearby.
Serpas said at a news conference in the French Quarter that the victims were shot “by two cowardly young men trying to hurt each other.”
“What happened was two young men got angry at each other and shot at each other,” he said.
Bourbon Street is a nightly swirl of bright neon and tourists, usually with beverages in hand. A blend of jazz joints, strip clubs, bars and restaurants, Bourbon Street has everything from four-star dining to sex shows.
New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu pledged a swift response from law enforcement.
Girl, 3, ID’d as victim of Italian ice shop door
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Authorities on Sunday were investigating how a metal security grate detached and fell from the facade of an Italian ice shop, killing a 3-year-old girl in front of dozens of people who tried to rescue her.
The girl, Wynter Larkin, was with her mother at the Rita’s Water Ice store in north Philadelphia where a fundraiser for a sorority and fraternity was underway Saturday when she was trapped under the falling grate, police and witnesses said.
Members of the Omega Psi Phi fraternity rushed to get the girl out from under the grate and give her CPR, witnesses said. The girl was taken to Hahnemann University Hospital, where she was pronounced dead.
“It took about 20 to 30 men to get that awning off of the baby,” witness Tracey Stanford told KYW-TV. “When they finally got it up off of her, she was just lying there, lifeless.”
Carlton Williams, commissioner of the Department of Licenses and Inspections, said in an emailed statement that there were no open violations at the store and no reported problems with its security gate.
“The Department of Licenses and Inspections will only inspect these gates upon report of a complaint of an apparent defect,” Williams said, noting that property owners are responsible for their maintenance, care and inspection.
Nevertheless, police Inspector Christine Coulter said the investigation was broadening to all other buildings on the block and, in particular, their security grates. But at this point, Coulter said, the incident appears to be “a horrible tragedy.”
The Philadelphia medical examiner’s office did not return calls and emails seeking comment Sunday on its role in the investigation.
Photos from the scene showed the black metal gate lying on the sidewalk, pink balloons still tied to it in front of the shop’s red-and-white striped awning. Several popped balloons appear trapped underneath the gate, which businesses typically roll down after hours to prevent crime.
“Our hearts and prayers go out to the child’s family,” said Linda Duke, a spokeswoman for Rita’s Italian Ice, the shop’s parent company. “Due to the current investigation we really cannot comment about the unfortunate incident.”