In it, but not of it. TPM DC

A Georgia Republican who pointed his gun at a teenager in a campaign ad and joked about personally rounding up undocumented immigrants will advance to the runoff in the state’s gubernatorial primary.

Secretary of State Brian Kemp earned 25.6 percent of the vote in Tuesday’s election, placing second behind Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, who earned 39 percent.

Left behind are even more extreme candidates like State Sen. Michael Williams, who received plenty of earned media in the final weeks of the race by touring the state in a “deportation bus” but scored only 4.9 percent of the vote.

Kemp, who is vying for the Trump base of rural, deeply conservative voters, will continue to paint Cagle as a moderate. The GOP official honed this message in recent controversial ads, including one where he pointed a gun at a teenager who was asking permission to date his daughter and another in which he pledged to hunt down “criminal illegals” in his “big truck” and personally remove them from the country.

“Yep, I just said that,” seems to be Kemp’s new self-consciously anti-politically correct tagline.

He used it in the “So Conservative” ad on immigration, and repeated it at a Tuesday election night party in Athens, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

“He’s not a leader. He’s a puppet,” Kemp said of Cagle. “Yeah, I just said that. He’s not fighting for us. He’s fighting for those with deep pockets whose interests are not ours.”

As Georgia’s top elections officials, Kemp has supported a restrictive approach to voting and registration, drawing the ire of voting rights advocates.

Whoever wins the July 24 runoff will face off against Democrat Stacey Abrams, who won her own primary in a landslide. If Abrams wins, she will become the country’s first black female governor.

Read More →

When the Trump administration set about chipping away at the Affordable Care Act immediately upon taking office, it was widely predicted that the policy changes and outreach cuts would create the biggest hurdles for the groups most likely to vote Democratic — including young people, people of color, and the poor. Many months later, new reports on the national uninsured rate suggest the opposite may be true: the Trump administration’s health care agenda is whacking red states hardest.

Read More →

An anti-establishment progressive who emerged as a bête noire of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has fallen far short in her runoff bid for Congress.

Democratic activist and writer Laura Moser has lost her primary runoff in a key House district in suburban Houston, Texas to attorney Lizzie Pannill Fletcher (D). Fletcher led Moser by 68 percent to 32 percent with 63 percent of precincts reporting. The Associated Press has called the race.

Moser drew national headlines when she was the target of aggressive attacks from the DCCC, who before the March primary highlighted controversial statements she’d made about her home state.

The attack is the only time the committee has taken a public swipe at one of their own candidates this election cycle — and in any recent cycle — and it seemed to backfire, helping Moser pull in some big dollars from national Democratic groups and possibly cementing her position in the runoff.

Tuesday’s results let national Democrats breathe a sigh of relief; groups like the DCCC had made clear that they saw Moser as a fatally flawed candidate who would have taken a winnable race against Rep. John Culberson (R-TX) off the map. Culberson’s district is historically very Republican but Hillary Clinton narrowly won it last election cycle, and Democrats are hopeful they can beat him with the more moderate Fletcher as their nominee.

“Born and raised in Houston, Lizzie Fletcher has dedicated her life to service and protecting economic opportunity for the people of this community,” DCCC Chairman Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) said in a statement. “Lizzie is in a very strong position for the general election, and her inclusive message will strike a powerful contrast with her Republican opponent’s record of undermining investment in critical infrastructure and disaster preparedness, and raising the cost of health care for thousands of families across Texas.”

Moser essentially conceded the race in a Tuesday night speech, urging her supporters to back Fletcher if the results held.

Read More →

This post has been updated.

Former Georgia House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams (D) has won her state’s Democratic gubernatorial primary, making her the first black woman to win a major-party gubernatorial nomination in U.S. history as she seeks to become the first black female governor in the U.S.

Abrams led former state Rep. Stacey Evans (D) by 74 percent to 26 percent of the vote with 31 percent of precincts reporting. The Associated Press has called the race.

Abrams, a Democratic rising star who’s long been talked up by party leaders, has spent years working to expand Georgia’s electorate by pushing to register more young and minority voters in the quickly diversifying state.

She easily bested Evans in this race after getting heavy support from the pro-choice EMILY’s List as well as a bevy of top surrogates including Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

“We proved that an unmuted voice can shake the foundations of an ‘immutable’ status quo. We showed the nation that there is power in our voices, and there is power in our feet,” Abrams said in a Facebook post after her victory was declared, nodding to the historic nature of her campaign. “Tonight’s victory was only the beginning. The road to November will be long and tough, but the next step is one we take together.”

The race pitted two competing visions for the future of the Democratic Party against each other; Abrams called for the Party to lean into a progressive vision and to excite new voters while Evans, who is white, stressed a more moderate message aimed at winning back the state’s long-dead Democratic coalition that was rooted in moderate white voters.

Abrams faces an uphill battle in her race for governor in the Republican-leaning state — but it’s one that national Democrats are excited to see take place.

Georgia Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle (R) led the GOP field by a double-digit margin in the primary but won far below the 50 percent of the vote needed to avoid a runoff. He will face Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp (R), a hardline Republican who’s run some controversial culture war ads and is a longtime foe of Abrams’ in her battle to expand the voting rolls in the state.

Georgia’s population has trended younger and more diverse in recent decades, and isn’t as solidly Republican as some might think — Hillary Clinton lost it by just five percentage points, the same margin President Obama lost the state by in 2008, and better than his eight-point loss in 2012. But those final five points have proven elusive for Democrats, whose most recent top statewide candidates have been white. It will be interesting to see if Abrams can combine what’s shaping up to be a good year for Democrats and her own appeal to base progressives to make this a tight race in the fall.

Correction: This post has been updated to reflect that Abrams called for a progressive vision, while Evans pitched a more moderate message to voters.

Read More →

Marine veteran Amy McGrath (D) has upset Lexington Mayor Jim Gray (D) in a key House race primary, becoming the latest female political neophyte to knock off a more established male politician in a Democratic primary this year.

McGrath led Gray by 49 percent to 41 percent with 95 percent of precincts reporting. The Associated Press has called the race.

She’ll face Rep. Andy Barr (R-KY) in a GOP-leaning district centered on Lexington that national Democrats are bullish about winning this November.

McGrath made a big splash when she jumped into the race with an impressive campaign video highlighting her experience as a fighter pilot that kickstarted her fundraising in a big way. But the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee had long dreamed of convincing the well-liked Gray to run for the seat, and kept recruiting him to run even though McGrath’s campaign was already underway.

The race definitely pitted a more establishment candidate against an outsider — Gray had been his party’s nominee against Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) in 2016, and carried the district in that race, while McGrath has never run for office before. But neither candidate ran particularly hard to the left, as has happened in some other establishment-versus-outsider Democratic primaries this year.

And while national Democrats had begun the race preferring Gray, they’d become increasingly impressed with McGrath’s campaign — enough so that the DCCC stayed officially neutral in the race.

“She’s shown she can mount quite a campaign,” Rep. Jim Yarmuth (D-KY), who sources say helped talk Gray into the race, told TPM late last week. “People are taking her a lot more seriously than they did early on.”

Republicans sought to paint her as a hardline progressive in the wake of her victory.

“Despite their best efforts, national Democrats were unable to stop radical liberal Amy McGrath from squeaking her way through the primary,” National Republican Congressional Committee spokeswoman Maddie Anderson said in a statement. “When even the DCCC thinks you’re too liberal for the District, that’s an insurmountable problem. The NRCC looks forward to Andy Barr’s reelection.”

But national Democrats were less concerned about her liberal views as her being an untested candidate — a concern she’s allayed in this primary win. And they will likely invest heavily to help her campaign this fall.

“Battle-tested in more ways than one, Amy McGrath ran a tremendous race to win this competitive primary and could not be in a stronger position to win in November,” DCCC Chairman Ben Ray Luján said in a Tuesday evening statement. “Amy has built a formidable campaign, and voters across the district have responded to her message of leadership and standing up for affordable health care. With her inspiring record of service and all of the momentum at her back, there is no question that Amy McGrath is ready to flip this key district.”

Read More →

House Democrats’ main super PAC is quietly attempting to boost a hardline Republican candidate in a key House race, the latest attempt by national Democrats to avoid disaster in California.

The House Majority PAC has sent out mail pieces to Republican and independent voters in retiring Rep. Ed Royce’s (R-CA) district tying Phil Liberatore to President Trump, a clear move to raise the underfunded Liberatore’s name recognition in the district and try to siphon off votes from other GOP candidates to him. Images of the mail pieces were obtained by TPM from a source in-district.

The mailers advertise that Liberatore and Trump “want a bigger border wall,” oppose sanctuary cities (a major flashpoint in California, where Republicans are outraged Democratic lawmakers have declared it a sanctuary state), and tout his endorsement from controversial former Maricopa County, Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio (R), a hero on the anti-immigrant right. While the ad is framed as an attack, it’s clear the goal is to boost him at other Republicans’ expense.

The effort is just one of many efforts from Democrats to avoid the disastrous scenario of failing to get a single candidate into the general election in a state where they have a number of key pickup opportunities.

The Democratic-aligned House Majority PAC’s mail piece on Phil Liberatore.

Because of California’s unusual jungle primary system, the top two candidates in the state’s June 5 primary will advance to the November general election regardless of party. In the past, that’s occasionally led to Democrats being locked out as two Republicans advance in some key races — and it’s an even bigger risk this year given how many competitive races there are and how many Democrats are running for the seats.

In this race, Democrats have six candidates including three spending real money, and are concerned that they’re splitting up the Democratic share of the vote enough that two Republicans could sneak through to the general election, guaranteeing a GOP congressman in a district Hillary Clinton won by nine percentage points in 2016.

“Southern Californians have a right to know the facts about the Republican candidates running in these critical Congressional races particularly given the complicated jungle primaries and crowded fields of candidates,” House Majority PAC spokesman Jeb Fain told TPM. “We’re making sure a broad range of voters know the facts about several Republicans in CA-39, including Phil Liberatore, who is far too conservative for California, and we’re working to ensure people in these important districts have the opportunity to vote for a Democrat in November.”

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has already been spending heavily on TV ads to try to knock down Shawn Nelson and Bob Huff, two of the other Republicans in the race, in order to make sure only GOP front-runner Young Kim makes it through. This HMP mail piece is a further effort to make sure that Huff and Nelson don’t join her in the general election by trying to subtly move voters from them to the lesser-known Liberatore.

Democrats are hopeful they can get one of their candidates through, with self-funding Gil Cisneros (D) and Andy Thorburn (D) leading the pack but in danger of falling behind Huff or Nelson.

Read More →

Michel Grimm, the ex-felon running for his old congressional seat in New York City, has earned plenty of support among the president’s allies for his unabashedly pro-Trump campaign.

But there’s one notable exception: Rudy Giuliani.

Giuliani, who has been serving as Trump’s personal lawyer, announced over the weekend that he’s endorsing Grimm’s opponent in the GOP primary, Rep. Dan Donovan, and plans to hit the stump on Donovan’s behalf. In an interview with the New York Post, Giuliani said that Grimm “should back off” and suggested that his checkered past made it more difficult for the GOP to retain control of the district.

“Dan would win re-election for sure,” Giuliani told the Post. “With Grimm as the nominee, it would be a battle to hold the seat. It would be a heavier lift.”

The comments from the former New York City mayor add further intrigue to the unexpectedly tight race for the seat Grimm was forced to give up in 2015 when he was sentenced on felony tax evasion charges.

Grimm is running hard as the #MAGA candidate, hiring former Trump aide Michael Caputo as a communications advisor, meeting last year with former Trump adviser Steve Bannon, and, on Saturday, hosting a fundraiser with short-lived White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci. The Post reported that the event, where Scaramucci described Grimm as a “guy with a heart of gold and a backbone of steel,” pulled in some $20,000.

But Grimm’s devotion to the President’s agenda — and praise for his “massive hands” — has yet to secure him the backing of the Commander-in-Chief himself.

And Caputo acknowledged that Giuliani’s endorsement carries real weight in the district, which covers Staten Island and parts of south Brooklyn.

“The mayor goes way back with [those neighborhoods],” Caputo told TPM in a Monday phone interview. “His support for any candidate is a positive thing for them.”

Though Caputo said that he respected Giuliani “completely” and knew from the campaign’s early days that he would align himself with Donovan, a former Staten Island district attorney, because of their histories in the New York political world, he tossed a few light barbs Giuliani’s way.

“I’m not going to criticize his decision to support the wrong candidate,” Caputo said, adding that, “No matter how many times Donovan votes against the President, I’m sure that the mayor will be there for him.”

Donovan voted against both the GOP tax bill and the failed May 2017 effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Yet he, too, has sought to frame himself as an ally of the president — just a more serious, measured one than his opponent.

Grimm is arguably best known for getting in the face of a NY1 reporter who asked about his legal troubles, threatening to toss him over a Capitol Hill balcony and break him “like a boy.”

Neither that incident nor Grimm’s prison sentence seem to concern voters in the district, who actually re-elected him in 2014 while he was facing a 20-count indictment.

An April poll from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee had Grimm ahead by 10 points, while Caputo said internal polling put him up by 8. (Donovan disputes those numbers).

All that Grimm needs to do to secure a win in the June 26 primary, Caputo said, is to continue to prove to local Republican voters that he is “the more solid and reliable ally of the President.”

Correction: This piece originally identified Caputo as Grimm’s campaign manager rather than communications advisor.

Read More →

Don Blankenship isn’t done being a thorn in the side of the GOP.

The ex-con former coal baron announced Monday morning that he plans to run as the Constitution Party’s nominee for Senate, a move that could damage his former party’s chances at defeating Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) if he’s able to actually get on the ballot.

That’s a big if, however, as West Virginia has a “sore loser” law that prevents candidates who lose primaries for a race to switch parties and run in the general election for the same seat.

“It is especially appropriate for me to be nominated by the Constitution Party given its staunch and uncompromising commitment to upholding the United States Constitution.  My First, Second, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Eighth Amendment rights were violated when I was falsely charged and politically imprisoned following the unfortunate mining accident at Upper Big Branch — a tragedy wholly caused by the actions of the establishment and the federal government,” Blankenship claimed in a statement.

The announcement came after weeks of complaints by Blankenship about his treatment in the West Virginia GOP Senate race, which he finished in third place earlier this month, losing to West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R).

Blankenship’s bid has been long on braggadocio and short on actual results, as evidenced by his poor showing in the GOP primary. But if he pushes a legal challenge and successfully gets on the ballot this fall — or mounts a write-in bid —  he could cost Morrisey votes from the right and help Manchin stay in office, boosting Democrats’ chances in the battle for the Senate. Getting on the ballot appears to be an uphill fight, but not an impossible one for a man with seemingly unlimited resources and a deep grudge against seemingly everyone in the state political establishment.

He’s kept up his attacks against Morrisey since his loss, while further fueling his feud with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). And he’s seemed to have added President Trump to his enemies list following Trump’s last-minute intervention into the race to encourage voters to back another candidate.

“This time we won’t get surprised by the lying establishment. We were assured by White House political staff that they would not interfere in the primary election.  Obviously, that turned out not to be true.  Now that we know that the establishment will lie and resort to anything else necessary to defeat me, we are better prepared than before,” he declared.

Read More →

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has gone public in attacking just one Democratic candidate this election. On Tuesday, they’ll find out if that person will be their nominee in a key congressional race.

The DCCC went hard after former writer and liberal activist Laura Moser earlier this year, publicly blasting her for past writings they argued would disqualify her in the race, including one where she said she’d “rather have my teeth pulled out without anesthesia” than live in her grandparents’ hometown of Paris, a few hundred miles away from the Houston-area district where she’s running.

Those attacks backfired, delivering a fundraising surge for Moser and elevating her in a crowded primary field, which may have helped her make the primary runoff against more centrist attorney Democrat Lizzie Pannill Fletcher.

“If the DCCC hadn’t given Moser that bump, I do not think she would have been in the runoff,” former Harris County Democratic Chairman Lane Lewis, who backed another candidate in the first round and now supports Fletcher, told TPM.

Now the day of reckoning is almost here, with Moser and Fletcher squaring up on Tuesday in their rubber match.

The race is one of a handful of key Tuesday contests for House Democrats. In Kentucky, Lexington Mayor Jim Gray (D) and Navy veteran Amy McGrath (D) are in a barn-burner of a primary for the right to face Rep. Andy Barr (R-KY).  In Arkansas, a moderate backed by the Blue Dogs is hoping to top 50 percent and avoid a runoff to face Rep. French Hill (R-AR) in a GOP-leaning district. And Democrats will pick their nominee to face Rep. Karen Handel (R-GA) in another chance to win Georgia’s 6th race after losing a high-profile special election there last year.

I pay my dues to the DCCC, and I was not happy when I saw a front-page article [in the local paper about their attacks on Moser] — it’s kind of like fighting within the family,” Rep. Gene Green (D-TX) told TPM, saying he confronted House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) about the move. Ms. Moser actually got a lot of exposure [from the attacks], and I think that helped her get into the runoff.”

Green said that either candidate would have a tough fight against Rep. John Culberson (R-TX) in the district, which narrowly went for Hillary Clinton but has historically been a lock for the GOP ever since George H.W. Bush represented it in Congress.

“Don’t get your hopes up too much. If you look below John Culberson, every local elected official is a Republican,” he said. “It’s still an uphill battle.”

But he said Moser’s past statements could badly damage the party’s chances in the district.

Moser is clearly to the left of Fletcher. She supports single-payer healthcare and has called for impeaching President Trump, which local Democrats say could be a tough sell in the district. Some unions also take major issue with Fletcher, whose law firm was behind a major anti-union lawsuit — the state AFL-CIO lost $5.3 million in the case, and did an anti-endorsement of her in the primary (her campaign contends she wasn’t involved in the lawsuit).

Both Moser and national Democrats dispute that she made the runoff because of the attacks, saying she was already positioned to do so. But the attacks clearly turned her into a cause célèbre of left-wing groups and activists who were spoiling for a fight with the establishment.

That ugly spat is gone but has not been forgotten by either side. While the DCCC has avoided any more public involvement in the race since accidentally listing Fletcher on its “red-to-blue” endorsement list in a press release before quickly walking it back, party officials stand by their contention that Moser would doom their chances to defeat Culberson in the GOP-leaning district. DCCC Chairman Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) called her past statements “disqualifying” in a recent TV interview. And Moser told TPM that they’re “still interfering in the race and don’t let anyone tell you they’re not,” while declining to provide evidence.

Most national and local Democrats say Fletcher has the edge heading into Tuesday’s race. Moser’s fundraising boon after the DCCC attacks proved fleeting, and Fletcher has outspent her by a wide margin in the runoff. Fletcher is the only one running broadcast TV ads in the expensive Houston media market. Fletcher out-raised Moser by $175,000 to $131,000 in the homestretch of the campaign, and Moser had just $80,000 left in cash on hand to Fletcher’s $360,000 as of early May.

Remarkably, there hasn’t been a single independent expenditure during the runoff. The DCCC has been notably silent, and the pro-choice EMILY’s List, which sent mail pieces for Fletcher in the primary, has been AWOL in the runoff even as they stand by her, a sign they may think she has the race in hand.

“Lizzie has been running a strong campaign and communicating her message to voters extremely effectively. EMILY’s List endorsed Lizzie because she is a progressive leader with deep ties to her community—and we think those are the same reasons that voters will choose her to advance to the general election to take on John Culberson,” EMILY’s List spokeswoman Julie McClain Downey told TPM.

But in a runoff where strategists expect turnout to be abysmal, it’s hard to game out who will win.

“At this point, you’re looking at campaign fatigue not just by the candidates but the voters,” Lewis said.

Another late-breaking factor is Friday’s school shooting in nearby Santa Fe. While the tragedy happened on the other side of Houston and both candidates strongly support more gun control, it further complicates both candidates’ attempts to break through in a media market where it’s already almost impossible to get voters enthused about a runoff election.

“We have a lot of people phone banking and I just a had a volunteer tell me a voter said, ‘I can’t believe you’re calling right now.’ And I’m like, this is why we’re calling,” Fletcher campaign manager Erin Mincberg told TPM Friday afternoon. “Both candidates have been talking about gun safety this entire race.”

Moser’s reaction to the shooting showed the difference in styles as well as anything else.

I am fucking angry that this stuff keeps happening,” she said, before ripping Culberson for opposing gun control.

Read More →

LiveWire