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Hurricane Sandy: Freeze on politics affects key races for Congress, too

Amid the struggle to control the Senate in the next Congress, Hurricane Sandy put two close races on hold, in Massachusetts and Connecticut, where the candidates' focus turned to storm recovery.

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Responding to disasters is, foremost, the job of chief executives (governors, mayors, the president) rather than of legislators. But incumbent members of Congress haven't been shy about speaking up for storm relief in recent days.

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On Tuesday, Sen. Bob Casey (D) urged the president to expand the scope of the Pennsylvania disaster declaration made before the storm's landfall. "The devastation from Hurricane Sandy has resulted in the need to ensure that additional services are available," said a press release from the senator, who holds a current polling edge in his race for reelection.

Five New York area members of Congress joined across party lines in writing a letter to House leaders, calling for a hurricane relief funding package to be "the first order of business once Congress reconvenes" on Nov. 13. The Long Island representatives cited the urgency of repair efforts, given the approach of winter weather. The letter was signed by Democrats Tim Bishop, Gary Ackerman, Carolyn McCarthy, and Steve Israel, and by Republican Peter King.

Another representative from New York state, Nan Hayworth (R), also emphasized storm relief. Some opponents had criticized her, in the wake of last year's hurricane Irene, for aligning with other Republicans in the view that emergency relief funds should be paid for by cuts in other federal spending. In the rolling list of items at the top of her website Wednesday, all are Sandy-related.

Reps. Bishop and Hayworth are each in races ranked by the RealClearPolitics website as among the 50 closest in the House this year.

In the Massachusetts and Connecticut Senate races, the Democrats have a lead in some recent polls, but both are considered "toss-ups."

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