Trump looms as primaries close in South Carolina, Virginia

Primary voters in five states have President Donald Trump on their minds as they choose general election candidates Tuesday — especially in South Carolina, where Trump could sink a congressional adversary and buoy a supportive governor as the polls closed.

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster, an early Trump backer, is running on the president’s endorsement as his top qualification as he seeks a full term of his own, while Rep. Mark Sanford, a vocal Trump critic, is fending off a primary challenge from his right flank, with state Rep. Katie Arrington bringing in a late Twitter endorsement from Trump during the final hours of voting.

In Nevada, Trump publicly prodded Danny Tarkanian to drop his Senate primary bid against GOP Sen. Dean Heller, and Tarkanian instead walked away with an endorsement tweet for another battleground House campaign, which looks set to help him through Tuesday’s nominating contest.

“The nod from Continue reading “Trump looms as primaries close in South Carolina, Virginia”

Trump’s clout in GOP is driving Tuesday’s primaries. Here’s what to watch.

The full scope of President Donald Trump’s influence on the Republican Party will be on display in Tuesday’s primaries, as one of his original 2016 supporters and one of his biggest Republican detractors in Congress fight for their political lives.

Rep. Mark Sanford’s (R-S.C.) frequent criticism of Trump’s policies and rhetoric has landed him in an unexpectedly competitive House primary against a state representative touting herself as a staunch Trump partisan. But at the top of the ticket in South Carolina, Trump’s support is one of the biggest things going for South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster, who was the first statewide elected official to back Trump in 2016 but faces questions over his ties to corruption in state government.

Both primaries, and others in South Carolina, could go to overtime if no candidate gets 50 percent of the vote, forcing runoffs between the top two contenders in two Continue reading “Trump’s clout in GOP is driving Tuesday’s primaries. Here’s what to watch.”

Pence heading to Ohio for latest special election scare

Vice President Mike Pence is heading to Ohio on Friday to throw his support behind a Republican candidate in a critical upcoming special election contest.

Pence is slated to host a fundraiser for state Sen. Troy Balderson, who’s competing in an Aug. 7 special election in a district President Donald Trump won by 11 points in 2016, according to a person familiar with the vice president’s plans. The seat was recently vacated by former GOP Rep. Pat Tiberi.

The Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC aligned with GOP House leadership, also started airing TV ads boosting Balderson in the district last week. The group spent $250,000 on the spots, which focused on tax cuts and the opioid crisis. CLF is also opening a field office in the district, aiming to knock on 500,000 doors before Election Day.

Pence has been traveling around the country on behalf of the party ahead Continue reading “Pence heading to Ohio for latest special election scare”

‘This is basically a home run for Democrats’

LOS ANGELES — Democrats claimed new life in their bid to retake the House Tuesday, with a path back to the majority that once again runs squarely through the Golden State.

Bolstered by an increasing number of young and Latino voters and by President Donald Trump’s deep unpopularity in California, Democrats this year poured millions of dollars into flipping several suburban, Southern California House districts. For months, though, the party feared a nightmare scenario in which no Democrat would appear on the November ballot in several critical House races — victimized by the state’s top-two primary system in which the top two vote-getters advance to the general election regardless of party affiliation.

But as results from the primary election on Tuesday rolled in, Democrats breathed a loud sigh of relief.

In all seven Republican-held House districts that went for Hillary Clinton in 2016 — and that Democrats are targeting this Continue reading “‘This is basically a home run for Democrats’”

Over 118,000 voters accidentally left off rolls in Los Angeles County

A printing error affecting more than one-third of the precincts in Los Angeles County left 118,522 registered voters off the rolls during the California primary on Tuesday, the county election authority said in a statement.

County Clerk Dean C. Logan said that voters left off the rolls can still cast provisional ballots. But the process of verifying and counting a large number of provisional ballots could delay the vote tally in local races, depending on exactly where the affected precincts are. Two battleground House seats, California’s 25th and 39th Districts, take in parts of Los Angeles County.

“We apologize for the inconvenience and concern this has caused," Logan said in a statement Tuesday evening. "Voters should be assured their vote will be counted.”

Logan added that poll workers at those locations have been instructed to make sure that voters whose names did not appear on the roster are issued Continue reading “Over 118,000 voters accidentally left off rolls in Los Angeles County”

California goes to the polls for mega-primary

Voters in eight states are heading to the polls on the biggest primary day of 2018, with the spotlight trained on Democrats’ efforts to avoid getting locked out of the general election in key battleground House districts in California.

California’s top-two primary system has Democrats sweating in three Orange County-based districts carried by Hillary Clinton in 2016, where there is a chance two Republicans could finish at the front of the pack. The top two vote-getters regardless of party move on to the November general election under California’s primary system.

It’s a nightmarish possibility for Democrats, who are hoping to make significant inroads in California as part of their effort to undo Republicans’ 23-seat edge Republicans have in the House. The state has seven Republican members of Congress in Clinton-won districts, including two in California’s Central Valley and one north of Los Angeles. But it’s the ones in historically Republican-leaning Continue reading “California goes to the polls for mega-primary”

Republican super PAC secretly promoted candidates in California

A House GOP leadership-backed super PAC secretly picked favorites in three high-profile California primaries to be decided Tuesday that could help to decide control of the chamber.

Republican leadership typically stays out of contested primaries where incumbents are not seeking reelection. But in April, Congressional Leadership Fund, a group closely aligned with House Speaker Paul Ryan, funneled about $1.5 million to American Future Fund, an Iowa-based outside Republican organization, according to a CLF official.

American Future Fund, which is overseen by longtime GOP strategist Nick Ryan, then aired TV commercials, sent out mailers, and dispatched door-knockers across three sprawling Orange County-based districts. Over 400,000 doors were knocked on.

The advertising onslaught was aimed at boosting six Republicans competing in Tuesday’s “jungle primary,“ in which the top two vote-getters advance to the general election regardless of party affiliation.

None of the commercials identified Congressional Leadership Fund as a sponsor. The Continue reading “Republican super PAC secretly promoted candidates in California”

‘This is the weirdest race in the country’

FULLERTON, Calif. — Gil Cisneros and Andy Thorburn, two millionaire Democratic candidates for a battleground House district in Southern California, had been attacking each other so ruthlessly that party leaders encouraged them to meet at an Italian restaurant in Los Angeles earlier this month to force a truce: Play nice, or risk forfeiting a top district to Republicans.

The armistice, brokered by California Democratic Party Chairman Eric Bauman and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, altered the course of one of the stranger primaries of 2018, replete with party meddling and nasty attacks but few policy differences. Looming above it all is the possibility that two Republicans would advance to the general election to replace Republican Rep. Ed Royce in a district Hillary Clinton carried in 2016.

The Orange County-based seat tops the nationwide list of Democratic targets, but it became the site of an early, multimillion-dollar rescue operation when it Continue reading “‘This is the weirdest race in the country’”

California Democrats agonize over House primaries

IRVINE, Calif. — Omar Siddiqui, a long-shot Democrat running for Congress in Southern California, was guaranteed two questions at a crowded candidate forum last week. But instead of probing his positions or qualifications, the moderators questioned his very presence in the race: “Shouldn’t you consider dropping out?”

The 200-person crowd, gathered at a local synagogue, broke into applause at the suggestion.

Siddiqui has become a symbol of Orange County Democrats’ worst fear: that they will split votes among too many candidates in his race to take on GOP Rep. Dana Rohrabacher. That could allow a pair of Republicans to vault through California’s unusual top-two primary system and lock Democrats out of the general election.

Three battleground districts in Orange County — a onetime conservative bastion that backed Hillary Clinton in 2016 — all pose the same risk in next Tuesday’s primaries, which could cost Democrats some of their most Continue reading “California Democrats agonize over House primaries”

Democrats pin midterm hopes on millennials

DALLAS — When Colin Allred, a 35-year-old former NFL linebacker-turned-congressional candidate, addressed two dozen student volunteers at a rooftop restaurant last week, he promised them that he knows millennials are more than avocado toast-eating social media obsessives.

“People think millennials just tweet … and complain, but you all are living proof that that’s not true,” Allred said. “You are the best part of this party.”

Allred — the newly minted Democratic nominee for a competitive House seat here— is part of a swell of young Democratic House candidates hoping to inspire higher turnout among fellow millennials in the midterm elections, when youth voting rates typically decline. At least 20 millennial Democratic candidates are running in battleground districts, a leap over previous cycles that could remake the party’s generational divide.

“I don’t recall a cycle with anything close to this number of younger candidates in recent times,” said Ian Russell, Continue reading “Democrats pin midterm hopes on millennials”

Can the black candidate win?

A network of Democratic donors and operatives are organizing an ambitious effort to elect African-American candidates for governor and Congress in 2018 — politicians who have often been overlooked by the party’s predominantly white leadership in past years.

They see the 2018 elections as a crucial opportunity to elect a wave of black candidates, especially to governorships, where only two African-Americans have been elected in U.S. history but a half-dozen prominent hopefuls are running this year. Many organizers also see running strong black candidates as a key way to inspire higher African-American voter turnout that will boost the whole Democratic Party in November.

But their efforts are also motivated by weariness, some said, of watching local and national Democratic groups — and the largely white donors who fund political campaigns — pass over promising African-American politicians before, even during the Obama era, when many expected the election of the Continue reading “Can the black candidate win?”

Democrats clash over party’s direction in key Texas race

HOUSTON — Laura Moser was at the center of a Democratic civil war in March, after the DCCC derided her as a D.C. carpetbagger and furious activists leaped to her defense ahead of Texas’ primary.

But two months later, the heat has dissipated. Moser and fellow Democrat Lizzie Pannill Fletcher are still competing for the Democratic nomination to face Republican Rep. John Culberson this fall. But Tuesday’s primary runoff has been so collegial that the moderator at a recent forum felt the need to interject 20 minutes in: “How are you different?”

The question brings out more on political style and strategy than ideology for this pair, with the fiery Moser a believer that Democrats can flip longtime GOP districts by motivating a dormant base and Fletcher more focused on reaching out to former Republican voters. On policy, Moser and Fletcher both noted that they are largely on Continue reading “Democrats clash over party’s direction in key Texas race”

Top takeaways from a wild primary night

One thing was clear after the latest round of primaries on Tuesday: Democrats will be spending the next four months fighting among themselves along the familiar battle lines of ideology and identity.

If last week’s primaries focused on GOP efforts to maintain or expand their majority in the Senate, the second big primary night of 2018 was all about Democrats and their chances to win back the House this November. And in both Nebraska and Pennsylvania, Democratic voters picked nominees for battleground seats that the national party didn’t expect — and may not have wanted.

In Nebraska, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee wanted former Rep. Brad Ashford as its nominee for an Omaha-based seat. But Tuesday night ended with liberal Kara Eastman, a social worker, proclaimed the winner by more a thousand votes.

The results weren’t as clear-cut in Pennsylvania, but the victors in a handful of competitive or Democratic-leaning Continue reading “Top takeaways from a wild primary night”

Road to Democratic House majority runs through Pennsylvania

ALLENTOWN, Pa. — House Democrats’ return to the majority runs through Pennsylvania.

Redistricting, retirements and resignations have roiled the state’s political landscape over the last nine months, shuffling the partisan and geographic makeup of Pennsylvania’s congressional districts and yielding a whopping seven open seats out of 18 ahead of Tuesday’s primaries. The upshot of all that chaos: a wider playing field for Democrats in a state that helped deliver President Donald Trump the White House two years ago, with the opportunity to gain as many as five districts in November.

That’s a significant chunk of the 23 seats Democrats must net to take back the House, and Republicans have already responded with plans to spend millions of TV ads in the fall. But the flip side to the turmoil has been an unusually raucous set of primaries, some of which started late because of the court-ordered redraw of Pennsylvania’s districts Continue reading “Road to Democratic House majority runs through Pennsylvania”

‘When gerrymandering backfires’: Democrats go after once-safe GOP seats

Republicans redrew congressional districts across the country in 2010 in an attempt to consign Democrats to a semi-permanent House minority.

But in 2018, the long-successful GOP insurance policy is at risk of backfiring in a big way — not only carving a path for a takeover, but possibly allowing for bigger Democratic gains.

In many states, Republicans maximized gains in the House by spreading GOP voters across as many districts as possible. Typically, that left Democrats with around 40 to 45 percent of the vote in those districts, making them difficult under normal circumstances for the minority party to contest.

But this election year is anything but normal. Many of the once-secure 55-45 Republican districts are very much in play, even in states that have not had competitive congressional races since 2012, the year new maps were installed. And North Carolina and Ohio — where Democrats chose nominees in primaries Continue reading “‘When gerrymandering backfires’: Democrats go after once-safe GOP seats”

Balderson wins Ohio 12 GOP primary

State Sen. Troy Balderson won the Republican primaries in the special and regular elections in former Rep. Pat Tiberi’s old district.

Balderson had 29.2 percent of the vote to 28.2 percent for Melanie Leneghan when the Associated Press called the race with 100 percent of precincts reporting. Balderson won the regular primary by a similar margin over Leneghan.

Balderson’s slim victory follows a contentious Republican proxy battle over the seat, which pit former House colleagues against each other in the latest in a series of mainstream-versus-outsider Republican primary battles.

Tiberi, who backed Balderson, dipped into his own campaign account to support the state senator, airing TV ads to boost him. But Rep. Jim Jordan, the House Freedom Caucus co-founder, backed Leneghan and cut a competing TV ad for her that aired with help from conservative megadonor Richard Uihlein.

National outside groups also jumped into the fray. The Club Continue reading “Balderson wins Ohio 12 GOP primary”

North Carolina Rep. Pittenger loses primary

Rep. Robert Pittenger conceded the Republican nomination in North Carolina’s 9th District to opponent Mark Harris on Tuesday night, becoming the first congressman defeated in a primary in 2018.

Harris, a pastor who also ran in the 2016 primary, had 48.5 percent of the vote to Pittenger’s 46.2 percent with 99.5 percent of precincts reporting.

“I’ve called Mark Harris and I’ve conceded the race,” Pittenger said, after thanking his family and supporters. “I wish him the best.”

Pittenger, who was first elected in 2012, nearly lost to Harris in 2016, squeaking by with a 134-vote margin. At the time, Pittenger was under federal investigation for allegedly transferring money to his 2012 campaign from his real estate company – which Harris hammered the congressman for in 2016.

In 2018, Harris attacked Pittenger as part of the "Washington swamp." The challenger blasted Pittenger’s vote for the omnibus Continue reading “North Carolina Rep. Pittenger loses primary”

Trump litmus test hits House GOP primaries

For years, opposing President Barack Obama was among the top issues in Republican primaries. Now, they hinge on supporting — or opposing — President Donald Trump.

In California, a Republican opponent of Rep. Dana Rohrabacher is calling him a “hypocrite” on supporting Trump, as a super PAC runs digital ads using an old tape of Rohrabacher calling Trump “a mean nasty SOB.” A Texas Republican in a runoff for an open, GOP-heavy seat is citing his opponent’s old Facebook posts criticizing Trump. And in Indiana, Republican front-runner Mike Braun has given Rep. Todd Rokita a Trump-style nickname, “Todd the Fraud,” for running as a Trump supporter after previously criticizing the president.

Hundreds of Republican primaries are just ahead on the 2018 calendar, and after watching Trump play a huge role in special primaries last year, GOP candidates have seen the power of dredging up an opponent’s old comments opposing Continue reading “Trump litmus test hits House GOP primaries”

GOP civil war in Ohio threatens another special election loss

Republicans’ latest special election headache is unfolding in central Ohio, where a chaotic primary has divided the party and stoked fears of losing another seat in Donald Trump territory to Democrats.

The race pits the two wings of the House Republican Conference against each other, going all out to nominate rival candidates. On one side is the scrappy co-founder of the House Freedom Caucus, Rep. Jim Jordan, who is lining up behind Melanie Leneghan, a self-described Trump Republican. Jordan is going up against former Rep. Pat Tiberi, a close ally of GOP leadership who resigned from his seat in January and has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars from his old campaign account to boost state Sen. Troy Balderson as his successor.

A week before the primary, the Club for Growth, a longtime conservative antagonist of business-backed Republicans like Tiberi, is jumping into the 10-candidate race with TV ads attacking Continue reading “GOP civil war in Ohio threatens another special election loss”

GOP civil war in Ohio threatens another special election loss

Republicans’ latest special election headache is unfolding in central Ohio, where a chaotic primary has divided the party and stoked fears of losing another seat in Donald Trump territory to Democrats.

The race pits the two wings of the House Republican Conference against each other, going all out to nominate rival candidates. On one side is the scrappy co-founder of the House Freedom Caucus, Rep. Jim Jordan, who is lining up behind Melanie Leneghan, a self-described Trump Republican. Jordan is going up against former Rep. Pat Tiberi, a close ally of GOP leadership who resigned from his seat in January and has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars from his old campaign account to boost state Sen. Troy Balderson as his successor.

A week before the primary, the Club for Growth, a longtime conservative antagonist of business-backed Republicans like Tiberi, is jumping into the 10-candidate race with TV ads attacking Continue reading “GOP civil war in Ohio threatens another special election loss”