Democrats give lawyer chance to become first black female governor

Georgia Democrats gave Atlanta lawyer Stacey Abrams a chance to become the first black female governor in American history on a primary night that ended well for several women seeking office. 

Ms Abrams set new historical marks with a primary victory on Tuesday that made her the first black nominee and first female nominee for governor of either majority party in Georgia. 

Voters also picked nominees in Kentucky, Arkansas and Texas ahead of the November midterms. 

Democrats were set to nominate a woman for governor either way, with Ms Abrams and Stacey Evans battling it out in a pitched primary fight. 

But the 44-year-old Ms Abrams stood out in her bid to be the nation’s first African-American woman to lead a state.

The former state General Assembly leader was insistent the way to dent Republican domination in Georgia wasn’t by cautiously pursuing the older white voters who had abandoned Democrats over recent decades. Rather, she wanted to widen the electorate by attracting young voters and non-whites who hadn’t been casting ballots. 

She will test her theory as the underdog against either Lt Gov Casey Cagle or Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who will meet in the Republican runoff in July. Mr Cagle led a five-man Republican field, with Kemp qualifying for the second spot after a campaign that was a sprint to the right on everything from immigration to support for President Donald Trump. 

Mr Kemp promised to keep pulling in that direction, with Mr Cagle trying to balance the demands of a conservative primary electorate with his support from the business establishment. The scenario worried some Georgia Republicans who were accustomed to centrist, business-aligned governors who rarely flouted Atlanta-based behemoths like Delta and Coca-Cola. 

Some GOP figures worried the GOP gamesmanship on immigration and gay rights, in particular, had already ensured Georgia wouldn’t land Amazon’s second headquarters. 

Elsewhere in the South, Texas had three House runoffs that will be key to whether Democrats can flip the minimum 24 GOP-held seats they would need for a majority in next year’s Congress.

All three were among 25 districts nationally where Mr Trump ran behind Hillary Clinton in 2016. Democrats nominated women in two of the districts and a black man in the third; all three nominees will face white, male incumbent Republicans in November. 

Attorney Lizzie Fletcher far outpaced activist Laura Moser in a metro-Houston congressional contest that became a proxy for Democrats’ fight between liberals and moderates. National Democrats’ campaign committee never endorsed Ms Fletcher, but released opposition research against Ms Moser amid fears that she was too liberal to knock off vulnerable Republican Rep. John Culberson in the autumn election. 

In a San Antonio-Mexican border district, Gina Ortiz Jones, an Air Force veteran and former intelligence officer, got Democrats’ nod to face Republican Rep. Will Hurd in November. Ms Jones would be the first openly lesbian congresswoman from her state. 

Former NFL player Colin Allred won a battle of two attorneys and former Obama administration officials in a metro-Dallas House district. Mr Allred, who is black, topped Lillian Salerno and will face Republican Rep. Pete Sessions in November. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee lined up behind Mr Allred after the group’s initial favourite failed to make the runoff. 

Among Republicans, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz showed off his endorsement muscle, with his former chief of staff, Chip Roy, winning a competitive runoff for a San Antonio-area congressional seat opened by the retirement of Rep. Lamar Smith. 

In the governor’s race, Democrats tapped former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez to take on Republican incumbent Greg Abbott in November. Ms Valdez is Texas’ first openly gay and first Latina nominee for governor. 

Voters in a central Kentucky congressional district opted for retired Marine officer and fighter pilot Amy McGrath over Lexington Mayor Jim Gray to advance to a campaign against Republican Rep. Andy Barr. 

National Democrats once touted Mr Gray as one of their best recruits in their efforts for a House majority. They said in recent weeks they’d be happy with Ms McGrath, but the race still shaped up as a battle between rank-and-file activists and the party establishment. 

Ms McGrath was making her first bid for public office, among a handful of female Naval Academy graduates running for Congress this year. 

Mr Gray also lost a 2016 Senate race. 

In eastern Kentucky’s Rowan County, voters denied the Democratic nomination to a gay candidate who wanted to challenge the local clerk who denied him and others same-sex marriage licenses. 

David Ermold had wanted to face Republican Kim Davis, who went to jail three years ago for denying marriage licenses in the aftermath of an historic US Supreme Court decision legalising same-sex marriage. 

While Washington fixates on the daily developments in the Russia election meddling investigation, Democratic congressional candidates insist they’ll win in November arguing about bread-and-butter issues like health care. 

Arkansas state representative Clarke Tucker captured Democrats’ congressional nomination in a Little Rock-based district by telling his story as a cancer survivor. Though he faced a crowded primary field, his real target all along has been Republican representative French Hill, who voted many times to repeal the 2010 Affordable Care Act. 

The Arkansas district may not be at the top of Democrats’ national target list, but it’s the kind of district the party might have to win to be assured of regaining House control in November. 

The state’s Republican governor Asa Hutchinson dispatched primary opposition as he sought another term. Democrats nominated former Teach for America executive Jared Henderson. 

AP

The Blue Dogs Are Barking Again

Brendan Kelly is running in a district in southern Illinois that went for Donald Trump by nearly 15 points in 2016, so his message shouldn’t come as a surprise.

“We see a system that is rigged for a powerful few,” he said in a voice full of gravel. He rails against “elites on the coasts” and understands why many are “frustrated” and “angry” over low-paying jobs and high health care costs.

He blames both parties for the shape America is in. He talks about increased security at the border with Mexico and has good things to say about the president’s trade policies. He believes there are drug cartel leaders who should get the death penalty. He thinks an assault weapon ban is taking things too far. He favors term limits.

Oh, and another thing: He’s a Democrat.

The 41-year-old state’s attorney and former Navy officer is at the forefront of a group of conservative and moderate Democrats the national party is counting on to help win back a majority in the House.

Ask Democrats in Washington who they are most excited about, and he’s usually near the top of the list — he was asked three times in the past to run.

“I’m not your cookie-cutter Democrat, that’s for sure,” Kelly is fond of saying.

As for the “moderate” label, he rejects it — but mostly for style purposes, it seems. “I’m not going to be moderate in my approach,” he said. “I don’t think it’s moderate to want to fight like hell for the future of our democracy.” Indeed, he won’t be voting for Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi should Democrats regain control of the House, saying it’s time for a change (though he did attend a recent fundraiser Pelosi headlined in D.C. for Illinois Democrats).

If he wins his election in the 12th District against second-term GOP Rep. Mike Bost — an election that prognosticators in the past few months have been inching into more favorable territory for Democrats — he’ll also bolster the ranks of a once-storied group of conservative Democrats that has since fallen on hard times: the Blue Dogs.

They’ll need all the help they can get.

Signs of a revival

At the height of their powers, in 2009, the Blue Dog Coalition boasted 54 members — 21 percent of the entire Democratic caucus. The group of conservative Democrats was formed in 1995 because its members believed that they had been “choked blue” by the extremes in both parties.

The last time Democrats had unified control of government, in 2009-10, the group shaped negotiations over the stimulus bill, cap-and-trade and the Affordable Care Act, oftentimes withholding support in exchange for concessions. Unsurprisingly, this angered the liberal wing of the party.

But the coalition was wiped out in 2010, losing over half of its membership in a tea party-fueled Republican wave. By the start of the 114th Congress in 2015, the membership had dwindled to a mere 14 members. (It’s up to 19 now.)

Their ability to influence anything has likewise evaporated. Most of the policy proposals they have endorsed this year, like a balanced-budget amendment, have been ignored by both parties. And even when members reached out to Republicans last year on the tax bill, they got the stiff-arm.

“We’re irrelevant, it’s true,” said Rep. Collin C. Peterson with a rueful laugh. The Minnesotan is a founding member of the group who is in line to chair the Agriculture Committee if Democrats win back the House in the fall. The problem, he said, is that Republicans “have a big enough majority. They don’t need us. It is what it is.”

Yet many are now eyeing 2018 as the Blue Dog’s comeback tour, its path back to relevance. In 2017, the group hired a full-time communications director for the first time since 2014.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has teamed up with the Blue Dogs to identify candidates in districts where Trump prevailed. They are quick to point out that of the six seats Democrats picked up in 2016, four of them are current Blue Dogs. So far, the Blue Dog PAC has endorsed 14 candidates for 2018 (though some have already lost), and more endorsements are on the way, members of the group said.

In March, one of their members, Illinois’ Daniel Lipinski, turned back a determined challenge from a more liberal opponent, Marie Newman.

Conor Lamb, who stunned everyone in March with his special election win in Pennsylvania, is the newest member of the group. Many candidates now are starting to emulate his campaign: pro-union, Trump-curious, anti-Pelosi.

Watch: Democratic Leaders Promote ‘Better Deal’ Agenda

The group hit a bump in the road May 15, when former Rep. Brad Ashford of Nebraska, who got the Blue Dog PAC endorsement in his race to reclaim a seat he lost in 2016 to GOP Rep. Don Bacon, came up short in a primary to Kara Eastman, a social worker with a significantly more liberal profile. On that same day, moderates in Pennsylvania fell to more liberal challengers.

Still, the group is now starting to think big. Jim Costa, the California Democrat who co-chairs the group, has no doubt there will be growth in the ranks.

“I think the only question is what the number will be,” Costa said. “Will it be seven or eight?”

If that were the case, the Blue Dogs would once again be players at the table.

“If they were to be a caucus of 30 members and they were able to institute rules like the Freedom Caucus” — the far-right group in which members vote as a bloc on legislation — “they could have leverage,” said Danielle M. Thomsen, a professor at Syracuse University who has studied the decline of moderate candidates for Congress.

The screening process

As the group plotted its comeback last year, it tapped a moderate diaspora that is now sprinkled throughout D.C.

Kristen Hawn, who once worked as communications director for the group on Capitol Hill, said that since the 2010 wipeout, the Blue Dog mafia, as she and others have been calling it, has kept in close contact. “We’re a tightly knit group of people. Not just colleagues, but close friends,” she said. The group she co-founded after she left the Blue Dogs, Granite Integrated Strategies, is helping train moderate candidates on messaging, issues and interacting with the media.

The Blue Dog PAC, which has raised nearly $1 million so far this cycle, is poised to exceed its fundraising efforts from 2014 though will likely fall short of 2012, when it raised $1.8 million. The PAC “double maxes out” — meaning candidates receive $5,000 in the primary and another $5,000 in the general election.

Fundraising-for-Blue-Dog-Endorced-Candidates

Many contributors who have hit their contribution limit to the PAC have been steered to individual candidates, Hawn said. And even though many Blue Dogs are staunch defenders of gun rights, the group did run into some rough waters when the McClatchy news organization discovered in April the PAC had accepted $9,950 from the National Rifle Association.

While the PAC had accepted NRA money in the past, Hawn said that following an objection from Rep. Stephanie Murphy, a Florida Democrat and a Blue Dog, the money from 2017 was returned and the 2018 money was refused. Going forward, the PAC won’t accept NRA money, she said.

The co-chairs of the PAC, Reps. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Kurt Schrader of Oregon, screen potential candidates, asking open-ended questions on fiscal issues and national defense, the group’s top two priorities. The candidates get questions about the size of the national debt and whether they think it’s bad that China is holding so much of it.

Schrader said he’s been telling candidates that in his recruitment pitch there will be opportunities to work with Republicans on “meat and potatoes issues,” no matter the outcome in November.

He cites some of the regulatory rollback that’s been happening using the Congressional Review Act as an example — many moderates and Blue Dogs have joined Republicans in supporting resolutions striking down Obama-era regulations, including one that prohibited mentally impaired Social Security recipients from purchasing firearms.

Schrader said that when he was recruiting Jeff Van Drew, a Blue Dog-endorsed candidate from southern New Jersey with an A-rating from the NRA and who is running for a seat being vacated by GOP Rep. Frank A. LoBiondo, the Democrat told him he was having a tough time getting things done in his own state legislature. So Schrader encouraged him to set his sights on Congress, “because frankly with Republicans in control, you’re going to find you’re going to have a lot more opportunity than you did back home.”

And should Democrats take over in November, Schrader added, “you’ll be the decision-makers, because you’ll be the swing vote.”

But Thomsen is less sure of such a scenario. “Until there are more moderates elected they aren’t going to be able to galvanize and be able to leverage the votes that they need to have any influence,” she said. “And until that happens, other moderates aren’t going to view the job as particularly attractive and thus are not going to run.”

In the meantime, Blue Dogs are eyeing candidates for potential future endorsements.

What if?

Let’s say Blue Dogs deliver in a big way in 2018. What will they do with that newfound power?

That is not entirely clear. One scenario that seems most likely: Democrats take control of the House, the Senate retains its narrow Republican majority and Trump is still in the White House. What legislation could get passed?

Blue Dogs say they remain open to working with Republicans and the White House on issues like immigration, infrastructure, trade and the opioid addiction crisis. Henry Cuellar, a Texas Democrat and co-chair of the group, met with Trump last year when Republicans were scrounging around for votes on the tax overhaul. (He ultimately voted against the bill, saying that the Republicans weren’t interested in incorporating his ideas.)

Cuellar said the group reached out to the administration early on to signal they were willing to work on issues like taxes and trade. He’s met with Trump multiple times, and has even been to the home of presidential daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner, both White House advisers. Of the president, he insisted: “I’m an optimist, I hope he still gives bipartisanship a chance. I will always have my door open.”

Molly Reynolds, who studies Congress at the Brookings Institution, thinks infrastructure would be a likely candidate for action. She also thinks there’s an appetite for overhauling the appropriations process. “That’s another place where there is bipartisan support for reform,” she said.

In March, the DCCC commissioned an internal poll in 52 swing districts on Trump, taxes and the economy, along with a memo prepared by the polling firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research. It concluded that candidates should feel free to oppose Trump where they disagreed with him “but must express a willingness to work with the President when his agenda might help the district.” And why is that? “Blanket opposition to Trump closes the door for many voters in these districts.”

Schrader acknowledges that type of approach is a balancing act. “To run in those districts you’ve got to be threading the needle on a regular basis,” he said. “You’ve got to show Democrats that you’re good on creating opportunity for everybody. A shared prosperity. I think that’s a great Democrat message. I don’t think it’s an anti-Republican message.” And on appealing to Republicans? “You have to talk about personal responsibility. Again, everyone has to have some skin in the game. And businesses aren’t evil, they’re actually the job-creators.”

But even if Democrats get their dream of a majority in the House — would they really be willing to work on big-ticket issues while the national party attempts to defeat Trump in 2020? Costa further thinks that if Republicans retain a narrow majority, with, say Speaker Kevin McCarthy of California, they’ll need to come to Democrats for votes on certain issues. “Can you imagine McCarthy or whoever else trying to run his group with 225 [Republicans]? He’s going to have all the same problems and worse that [Paul D.] Ryan’s had and [John] Boehner’s had before him. They’re going to have to learn to work on a bipartisan basis.”

In addition, Blue Dogs say they are seeking more assurances to get to the front of the line for committee assignments. In years past, moderate Democrats sat in greater numbers on what are considered plum committees like Energy and Commerce, Finance and Appropriations. Costa said talks are underway with leadership on this issue. “Clearly that’s part of our discussion as we attempt to ensure that after the elections, we’re relevant in ways that we want to be,” he said. When pressed on whether he’s received any assurances, he allowed: “It’s still a work in progress — we’ve had that conversation, directly and indirectly.”

One option that could be on the table is bloc voting. Blue Dogs could follow the lead of the House Freedom Caucus. In that group, if 80 percent of the members take a stand on an issue or legislation, the rest of the group must endorse it. Peterson, the Minnesota Blue Dog, said he’d be open to the idea. “It’s something to be considered,” he said. “On certain bills or certain times.” Most others in the group, though, are not terribly enthusiastic about it. “We’ve resisted that in the past,” said Costa, who thinks the group can use its leverage in other ways.

Can we all just get along?

While Blue Dogs say candidates have been plentiful this year, Thomsen’s research suggests this might be a momentary blip. Since 1980 there has been a dramatic decline in the number of moderate Democrats running for Congress. Her research, which defines moderates as those at least as conservative as former Rep. John Tanner of Tennessee (a Blue Dog co-founder), shows a decline from a high of more than 20 percent in 1980 of the total pool to only 3 percent in 2014. This year, according to recent data compiled by The Washington Post, the number of liberal candidates running for Congress is at its highest level in decades.

Thomsen thinks today’s moderates — who are much more liberal than their forebears from 10 to 20 years ago — are simply forestalling the inevitable, that eventually most all of their kind will be wiped out.

Reynolds agrees. “I don’t necessarily see a really large-scale change where all the sudden we see a huge centrist bloc of moderates,” she said.

Schrader thinks that may have been true a few years ago, but said Democrats have changed their tune since 2016. “For the first time since I’ve served in Congress,” he said, “the centrists, the progressives, the moderates are all getting along. It’s been pretty nice. A lot of my progressive colleagues realize that we need more candidates like myself to get to that 218 [majority] and get them their chairmanships. Enlightened self-interest, perhaps.” He believes that what’s happening is a “swing back to where, once again, we’re the big-tent party.”

It may be a bigger tent, but the group clashed with the DCCC earlier this year, when New Mexico Rep. Ben Ray Luján, the chairman of the DCCC, declined to provide a specific endorsement for Lipinski, an anti-abortion Democrat from Chicago, in his election win over Newman, a liberal candidate backed by Illinois Reps. Jan Schakowsky and Luis V. Gutiérrez. After an outcry from moderates, the DCCC reversed course and endorsed him.

Lipinski said he isn’t interested in rehashing the fight, but is gratified that he won, all but assuring an eighth term in his Chicago-area district. “I’m not looking back at this point,” he said, allowing there have been some “rough patches” with party leaders. “Democrats can’t have these fights within the party when you’re trying to regain the majority,” he said.

To that point, Schrader said he and many in the group were upset with the DCCC and are now advocating for changes to ensure that incumbent candidates get the group’s explicit backing.

“I think we’ll hopefully see a rule change,” he said. “We do expect the DCCC to support incumbents. And anyone that’s on the DCCC Council must support incumbents in our book, and we’re going to make that an issue going forward.”

Rep. Denny Heck of Washington, co-chair of the DCCC’s Red to Blue program, which provides fundraising and organizational support to Democratic candidates in Republican-held seats that are potential takeover opportunities, said such fights are inevitable, but doesn’t think they’ll amount to much. “That’s what happens when you have a big-tent political party. We’re going to have those squabbles. It’s hell in the short term and it’s absolutely right in the long term. And it makes us stronger.”

The abortion issue has riled the Democratic Party — most notably in Lipinski’s race. Lipinski is one of the few remaining abortion foes in the party, and pro-choice groups led by NARAL spent $1.6 million to defeat him. Democratic leaders have reiterated time and again that they would not use a candidate’s position on abortion as a litmus test.

In Utah, the issue has come into play, but this time as an attack from the right against a candidate Democrats are excited about. Ben McAdams, the mayor of Salt Lake County, who considers himself a “pragmatist,” will likely face Mia Love, the first African-American woman elected as a Republican to Congress. He’s received the Blue Dogs’ endorsement.

He said he’s personally pro-life, but believes the decision should be left up to the woman. Still, he said, “I do support restrictions on abortion,” adding: “I think abortion is far too common in America.” Love has gone after McAdams, a Mormon, for his stance, relaying a conversation she had with her daughter, who told her: “If we’re a country that decides we’re going to kill our babies, we’re good for nothing.”

McAdams considers that a personal attack. “I find this attack offensive [and] not the way we do things in Utah,” he wrote on Twitter. “I think it is unfair,” he said in an interview. “That’s not my record. My record is someone who rolls up his sleeves to find solutions to tough issues.”

Long road ahead

For the most part, Blue Dog candidates are not facing many significant primary threats from the left, but where they have, it’s been rough going. Three prominent, Blue Dog-backed candidates who many in the party saw as keys to retaking Republican-held districts have fallen this spring. In Texas, Jay Hulings outspent his opponents after being showered with $64,000 from establishment-backed committees, but still finished fourth in a bid to unseat GOP Rep. Will Hurd, considered one of the most vulnerable Republicans in Congress. Instead, the candidate in that district is Gina Ortiz Jones, an openly gay Air Force veteran.

In Virginia, Roger Dean Huffstetler outspent his opponents, but his campaign never seemed to catch on. Indeed, the PAC associated with the Blue Dogs donated $3,500 to Huffstetler — $1,500 below what the group typically gives to endorsed candidates in their primary.

National Democrats have poured their effort into recruiting and running centrists in an all-of-the-above strategy, sometimes working to shove progressives to the side during primary season out of a fear that such candidates would get wiped out in a general election — most prominently in a Texas district with candidate Laura Moser.

16bluedog-political

That wasn’t the case in Virginia’s 5th District, a massive, 10,000-square-mile area that stretches from the Washington suburbs to the North Carolina border, and includes the city of Charlottesville. In that race, Huffstetler squared off with Leslie Cockburn, a former journalist. Huffstetler checked all the boxes for this year’s strategy — former military, entrepreneur, former chief of staff to Democratic Rep. Seth Moulton of Massachusetts, who has been recruiting veteran candidates. He outraised Cockburn by over $400,000, and seemed primed to challenge first-term GOP Rep. Tom Garrett, a member of the House Freedom Caucus who won his race in 2016 by 17 points, but whose fundraising has been weak.

But Cockburn, who supports Medicare for all, an assault weapon ban and repealing the tax cut bill that passed in December, said she never felt any pressure to drop out.

“They have not caused us any problems,” she said of the DCCC. “They’re being extremely helpful right now.” She defeated Huffstetler convincingly, not in a primary election, but rather in a caucus convention held earlier this month.

Still, some of her stances and history could cause unease for those eyeing the district for a takeover — and the DCCC has put the race as a target for pickup.

Some Democrats fear that advocating Medicare for all will expose candidates to GOP attacks in the fall. “It would be a massive tax increase; it would make your individual plan illegal,” said one Democratic strategist not involved in the race.

A former “60 Minutes” producer and “Frontline” correspondent, Cockburn is getting renewed attention for a 1991 book she co-authored with her husband, Andrew Cockburn, titled “Dangerous Liaison,” that explores Israel’s influence on U.S. policy. The Virginia Republican Party called her a “virulent anti-Semite.” Cockburn’s campaign dismisses those charges, saying that she has “dedicated her career to speaking truth to power and standing up to racism, anti-Semitism and corporate special interests that take advantage of everyday people.”

In addition, her campaign was embroiled in a dispute that led to the resignation of a county committee chair. During an April caucus, staffers for Cockburn were seen speaking with caucus attendees, which is prohibited, according to the committee chair, Elizabeth Alcorn. One staffer was spotted campaigning several times and was eventually told to leave. Cockburn sent an email to Alcorn saying she believed that her staff had been treated rudely and that it “may be a racist incident.”

Alcorn subsequently resigned, but Cockburn said that after meeting with the committee, all has since been smoothed over. “I have a fantastic campaign staff that behaved impeccably during the caucus,” she said. “We are moving forward.”

And in a March interview with a local radio station in Charlottesville, she compared recent actions by Immigration and Customs Enforcement to Nazi Germany’s secret police. “We don’t like the fact that ICE is like our new Gestapo,” she said.

When asked about this comment, Cockburn did not disavow it and explained that she was talking about aggressive enforcement actions such as roadblocks and checkpoints that she felt went too far. “That kind of effort … is very unfortunate and I would not support that type of operation,” she said.

Give us some space

Brendan Kelly, the Illinois Democrat, said he’s tired of the labels being placed on candidates — “I think these ‘You’re on the right, you’re on the left or you’re a centrist’ — I think that’s garbage, too,” he said.

After all, in addition to his conservative leanings on a number of issues, he is still a supporter of abortion rights, believes in stricter background checks for gun owners and, most recently, has come out with a decidedly left-wing proposal in support of the rescheduling of marijuana, which could smooth the way for legalization efforts (though he thinks recreational use should be left up to the states). Kelly believes that prescription marijuana could ultimately replace opioids.

“I run into a lot of guys who love their union, support the Second Amendment and they want to be able to smoke weed whenever they want without having to worry about going to jail,” he said. “Put that into a neat little political consultant diagram. I don’t know if you can do that.”

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History in Georgia as Democrat Challenges Racial Barrier

Georgia Democrats gave Atlanta lawyer Stacey Abrams a chance to become the first black female governor in American history on a primary night that ended well for several women seeking office.

Abrams set new historical marks with a primary victory Tuesday that made her the first black nominee and first female nominee for governor of either majority party in Georgia.

Voters also picked nominees in Kentucky, Arkansas and Texas ahead of the November midterms. A closer look at key story lines:

GEORGIA GOVERNOR’S RACE
Democrats were set to nominate a woman for governor either way, with Stacey Abrams and Stacey Evans battling it out in a pitched primary fight.

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But the 44-year-old Abrams stood out in her bid to be the nation’s first African-American woman to lead a state. The former state General Assembly leader was insistent that the way to dent Republican domination in Georgia wasn’t by cautiously pursuing the older white voters who had abandoned Democrats over recent decades. Rather, she wanted to widen the electorate by attracting young voters and nonwhites who hadn’t been casting ballots.

She will test her theory as the underdog against either Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle or Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who will meet in Republican runoff in July. Cagle led a five-man Republican field, with Kemp qualifying for the second spot after a campaign that was a sprint to the right on everything from immigration to support for President Donald Trump.

Kemp promised to keep pulling in that direction, with Cagle trying to balance the demands of a conservative primary electorate with his support from the business establishment. The scenario worried some Georgia Republicans who were accustomed to centrist, business-aligned governors who rarely flouted Atlanta-based behemoths like Delta and Coca-Cola.

Some GOP figures worried the GOP gamesmanship on immigration and gay rights, in particular, already had ensured Georgia wouldn’t land Amazon’s second headquarters.

TEXAS CONGRESSIONAL RUNOFFS
Texas had three House runoffs that will be key to whether Democrats can flip the minimum 24 GOP-held seats they would need for a majority in next year’s Congress. All three were among 25 districts nationally where Trump ran behind Hillary Clinton in 2016. Democrats nominated women in two of the districts and a black man in the third.

Attorney Lizzie Fletcher far outpaced activist Laura Moser in a metro-Houston congressional contest that became a proxy for Democrats’ fight between liberals and moderates. National Democrats’ campaign committee never endorsed Fletcher, but released opposition research against Moser amid fears that she was too liberal to knock off vulnerable Republican Rep. John Culberson in the fall.

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In a San Antonio-Mexican border district, Gina Ortiz Jones, an Air Force veteran and former intelligence officer, got Democrats’ nod to face Republican Rep. Will Hurd in November. Jones would be the first openly lesbian congresswoman from her state. Hurd is black.

Former NFL player Colin Allred won a battle of two attorneys and former Obama administration officials in a metro-Dallas House district. Allred, who is black, topped Lillian Salerno and will face Republican Rep. Pete Sessions in November. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee lined up behind Allred after the group’s initial favorite failed to make the runoff.

Among Republicans, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz showed off his endorsement muscle, with his former chief of staff, Chip Roy, winning a competitive runoff for a San Antonio-area congressional seat opened by the retirement of Rep. Lamar Smith.

In the governor’s race, Democrats tapped former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez to take on Republican incumbent Greg Abbott in November. Valdez is Texas’ first openly gay and first Latina nominee for governor.

DEMS BATTLE IN KENTUCKY
Voters in a central Kentucky congressional district opted for retired Marine officer and fighter pilot Amy McGrath over Lexington Mayor Jim Gray to advance to a fall campaign against Republican Rep. Andy Barr.

National Democrats once touted Gray as one of their best recruits in their efforts for a House majority. They said in recent weeks they’d be happy with McGrath, but the race still shaped up as a battle between rank-and-file activists and the party establishment.

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McGrath was making her first bid for public office, among a handful of female Naval Academy graduates running for Congress this year.

Gray also lost a 2016 Senate race.

In eastern Kentucky’s Rowan County, voters denied the Democratic nomination to a gay candidate who wanted to challenge the local clerk who denied him and others same-sex marriage licenses.

David Ermold had wanted to face Republican Kim Davis, who went to jail three years ago for denying marriage licenses in the aftermath of an historic U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage.

ARKANSAS’ HEALTH CARE PREVIEW
While Washington fixates on the daily developments in the Russia election meddling investigation, Democratic congressional candidates insist they’ll win in November arguing about bread-and-butter issues like health care.

Arkansas state Rep. Clarke Tucker captured Democrats’ congressional nomination in a Little Rock-based district by telling his story as a cancer survivor. Though he faced a crowded primary field, his real target all along has been Republican Rep. French Hill, who voted many times to repeal the 2010 Affordable Care Act.

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The Arkansas district may not be at the top of Democrats’ national target list, but it’s the kind of district the party might have to win to be assured of regaining House control in November.

The state’s Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson dispatched primary opposition as he sought another term. Democrats nominated former Teach for America executive Jared Henderson.

CORRECTION (May 23, 2018, 7:37 a.m. ET): This story has been corrected to show that Republican Rep. Will Hurd of Texas is black, not white. 

Georgia Dems give progressive Stacey Abrams, a shot at being its first black, female governor

Stacey Abrams
In this May 20, 2018, photo, Georgia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams participates in a debate against Stacey Evans in Atlanta.
AP Photo/John Amis

ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia Democrats gave Atlanta lawyer Stacey Abrams a chance to become the first black female governor in American history on a primary night that ended well for several women seeking office.

Abrams set new historical marks with a primary victory Tuesday that made her the first black nominee and first female nominee for governor of either majority party in Georgia.

Voters also picked nominees in Kentucky, Arkansas and Texas ahead of the November midterms. A closer look at key story lines:

Georgia governor’s race

Democrats were set to nominate a woman for governor either way, with Stacey Abrams and Stacey Evans battling it out in a pitched primary fight.

But the 44-year-old Abrams stood out in her bid to be the nation’s first African-American woman to lead a state. The former state General Assembly leader was insistent that the way to dent Republican domination in Georgia wasn’t by cautiously pursuing the older white voters who had abandoned Democrats over recent decades. Rather, she wanted to widen the electorate by attracting young voters and nonwhites who hadn’t been casting ballots.

She will test her theory as the underdog against either Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle or Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who will meet in Republican runoff in July. Cagle led a five-man Republican field, with Kemp qualifying for the second spot after a campaign that was a sprint to the right on everything from immigration to support for President Donald Trump.

Kemp promised to keep pulling in that direction, with Cagle trying to balance the demands of a conservative primary electorate with his support from the business establishment. The scenario worried some Georgia Republicans who were accustomed to centrist, business-aligned governors who rarely flouted Atlanta-based behemoths like Delta and Coca-Cola.

Some GOP figures worried the GOP gamesmanship on immigration and gay rights, in particular, already had ensured Georgia wouldn’t land Amazon’s second headquarters.

Texas congressional runoffs

Texas had three House runoffs that will be key to whether Democrats can flip the minimum 24 GOP-held seats they would need for a majority in next year’s Congress. All three were among 25 districts nationally where Trump ran behind Hillary Clinton in 2016. Democrats nominated women in two of the districts and a black man in the third.

Attorney Lizzie Fletcher far outpaced activist Laura Moser in a metro-Houston congressional contest that became a proxy for Democrats’ fight between liberals and moderates. National Democrats’ campaign committee never endorsed Fletcher, but released opposition research against Moser amid fears that she was too liberal to knock off vulnerable Republican Rep. John Culberson in the fall.

In a San Antonio-Mexican border district, Gina Ortiz Jones, an Air Force veteran and former intelligence officer, got Democrats’ nod to face Republican Rep. Will Hurd in November. Jones would be the first openly lesbian congresswoman from her state. Hurd is black.

Former NFL player Colin Allred won a battle of two attorneys and former Obama administration officials in a metro-Dallas House district. Allred, who is black, topped Lillian Salerno and will face Republican Rep. Pete Sessions in November. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee lined up behind Allred after the group’s initial favorite failed to make the runoff.

Among Republicans, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz showed off his endorsement muscle, with his former chief of staff, Chip Roy, winning a competitive runoff for a San Antonio-area congressional seat opened by the retirement of Rep. Lamar Smith.

In the governor’s race, Democrats tapped former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez to take on Republican incumbent Greg Abbott in November. Valdez is Texas’ first openly gay and first Latina nominee for governor.

Dems battle in Kentucky

Voters in a central Kentucky congressional district opted for retired Marine officer and fighter pilot Amy McGrath over Lexington Mayor Jim Gray to advance to a fall campaign against Republican Rep. Andy Barr.

National Democrats once touted Gray as one of their best recruits in their efforts for a House majority. They said in recent weeks they’d be happy with McGrath, but the race still shaped up as a battle between rank-and-file activists and the party establishment.

McGrath was making her first bid for public office, among a handful of female Naval Academy graduates running for Congress this year.

Gray also lost a 2016 Senate race.

In eastern Kentucky’s Rowan County, voters denied the Democratic nomination to a gay candidate who wanted to challenge the local clerk who denied him and others same-sex marriage licenses.

David Ermold had wanted to face Republican Kim Davis, who went to jail three years ago for denying marriage licenses in the aftermath of an historic U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage.

Arkansas’ health care preview

While Washington fixates on the daily developments in the Russia election meddling investigation, Democratic congressional candidates insist they’ll win in November arguing about bread-and-butter issues like health care.

Arkansas state Rep. Clarke Tucker captured Democrats’ congressional nomination in a Little Rock-based district by telling his story as a cancer survivor. Though he faced a crowded primary field, his real target all along has been Republican Rep. French Hill, who voted many times to repeal the 2010 Affordable Care Act.

The Arkansas district may not be at the top of Democrats’ national target list, but it’s the kind of district the party might have to win to be assured of regaining House control in November.

The state’s Republican governor, Asa Hutchinson, dispatched primary opposition as he sought another term. Democrats nominated former Teach for America executive Jared Henderson.

‘Pawn Stars’ Brett Maly Praises Diddy’s $21 mil Art Purchase

‘Pawn Stars’ Brett Maly Diddy Did His Homework … $21M Art Buy’s a Win-Win

5/23/2018 12:20 AM PDT

EXCLUSIVE

Diddy‘s got a keen eye for fine art, and his historic purchase of a Kerry James Marshall painting is a huge score for him and a bigger score for the artist … according to a famous expert.

Brett Maly — the fine art appraiser from “Pawn Stars” — tells TMZ … Diddy deserves a lot of praise for making all the right moves before dropping $21.1 MILLION on Marshall’s 1997 work “Past Times” during a Sotheby’s auction last week.

Maly says the combo of focusing on an acclaimed artist AND going after one of his most important pieces is a baller move … and Diddy certainly made a splash.

As for that splash … Brett tells us it should have a ripple effect for Marshall — who’s sold million-dollar paintings in the past — by boosting his sales a few more million … per piece. Not too shabby, especially since Puff’s purchase already made him the most expensive living African-American artist.

Brett also seems to be on the same page as Diddy’s son, Quincy Brown — who says his dad’s now a major player in the art world … get used to it.

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

“Striking” role of race seen in kids’ suicide risk

Several recent studies have pointed to a worrisome increase in suicide rates among Americans of all ages, and young people in particular. While suicide rates traditionally have been higher among whites than blacks in the United States, new research finds that’s not true among younger children.

When researchers focused in on kids between the ages of 5 and 12, they discovered that the suicide rate among black children is roughly two times higher than that of white children in the same age group. 

For teens, the trend reversed. Suicide rates were about 50 percent lower in black adolescents aged 13 to 17 than their white counterparts. The findings are published in JAMA Pediatrics.

“While the suicide rate was lower for black youth than white youth overall, we found a striking change in that trend when we analyzed the suicide rates by the two age groups,” study co-author Lisa Horowitz, Ph.D., of the National Institute of Mental Health, said in a statement.

The findings were similar for both boys and girls.

Suicide is a major public health problem in the United States and the second leading cause of death among American teens. The authors note that the overall risk of suicide among children is very small, but of course the impact can be devastating for parents, friends, and communities.

For the study, conducted by researchers from Nationwide Children’s Hospital and the National Institutes of Health, the authors used data from a CDC database which tracks fatal and nonfatal injuries, violent deaths, and cost-of-injury data. The researchers looked at data from 2001 to 2015 for children ages 5 through 12 and teens ages 13 to 17.

Why are black children at a higher risk of suicide?

The study did not include data on what might be contributing to the racial difference in suicide rates in the younger age group. That’s going to be the focus of follow-up research, says study co-author Jeff Bridge, Ph.D., director of the Center for Suicide Prevention and Research at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

“There’s very little research about suicide in black youths,” he told CBS News. “Most of the studies that have looked at risk factors for suicide included mostly white suicide[s].”

Bridge said he and his team are planning to look at potential factors such as the availability of health care and community resources, attitudes towards mental health care, and the potential impact on children of higher homicide rates among older black adolescents.

Jeanne Miranda, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences at the University of California, Los Angeles, who was not involved in the study, called the findings “distressing.” While she also emphasized that there is no data to explain the reasons behind the disturbing trend, she did offer a few theories.

“We know that African-Americans are much less likely to use mental health services,” Miranda told CBS News. “One reason for this is the lack of access to care. Even with the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, the states that chose not to expand Medicaid are heavily African-American in the South.”

Another concern, she says, is that African-Americans may have less trust in the mental health care system. “It’s still unfortunately quite white,” said Miranda, who also co-directs the Youth Stress and Mood Program at UCLA. “There are not enough minorities [working at mental health care facilities] and I think people don’t always feel comfortable seeking mental health services.”

Exposure to violence, which is statistically much higher among black youth, and families torn apart due to the higher rate of incarceration of African-American men, may also play a role in suicide risk in black children, she says. According to the Pew Research Center, African-Americans make up 12 percent of the total U.S. adult population but account for 33 percent of the share of people in prison.

“There’s also quite compelling evidence that in some ways, there’s this school to juvenile justice to prison pipeline that shows that African-American kids are punished more severely in schools,” Miranda said. “When we started seeing these ‘zero tolerance’ policies, it primarily ends up falling on the heads of African-American children who are disproportionately or more severely punished for the same violations of school rules. That is setting them up for failure in a system.”

“All of this speaks to the legacy of racism and I think there’s a demand for African-American children to be stoic in the face of all this and not get care,” Miranda said.

Warning signs of suicide in children and teens

If a young person of any race or ethnicity is having thoughts of suicide, experts say it is important to get them care immediately.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, signs that a young person may be at risk for suicide include: 

  • Thinking or talking about or threatening suicide
  • Seeking a way to kill themself
  • Increased substance abuse
  • Feelings of purposelessness, anxiety, being trapped, or hopeless
  • Withdrawing from people and activities
  • Expressing unusual anger, recklessness, or mood changes

Bridge emphasizes the need for parents and caregivers to have open conversations with their children if they think something might be off. 

“If you have a concern about a child, ask if they’re having thoughts of suicide, if they’re feeling hopeless, or having thoughts that they don’t want to live anymore,” he said. “Asking allows there to be a conversation around mental health. Asking will not put the thought of suicide in a child’s head. It really creates an opportunity to get treatment if it’s warranted.”

Miranda also notes how critical it is that parents don’t have anything available in the home that a child could use to harm themself.

Locking up guns is so essential. A huge number of deaths in the United States are by firearms. You can do it so quickly and impulsively,” she said. “Make sure any drugs or medications are kept locked up and only opened when adults use them. Those things are so important to make the home safe.”

Primary Results: Big Night For Democratic Women Across The South

Democrat Stacey Abrams greets voters at an early vote event in DeKalb County, Ga. Abrams won a competitive Democratic primary with an opponent who shares the same first name, Stacey Evans. Asma Khalid/NPR hide caption

toggle caption

Asma Khalid/NPR

Democrat Stacey Abrams greets voters at an early vote event in DeKalb County, Ga. Abrams won a competitive Democratic primary with an opponent who shares the same first name, Stacey Evans.

Asma Khalid/NPR

Updated at 8:53 p.m. ET

Tuesday was another big night for Democratic women, with a potentially historic nomination in Georgia and an upset victory in a Kentucky House race.

Stacey Abrams easily won the Democratic nod for governor in Georgia, beating fellow former state legislator Stacey Evans with her argument that firing up the base is the best way to win in a conservative state, instead of primarily focusing on flipping moderates. Abrams still faces a tough general election, but if she wins in November she’d be the first African-American female governor in U.S. history.

The day’s contests also featured Democratic ideological and stylistic battles that could have a major impact on how competitive the party is in the fall general election.

Progressive activists placed their hopes hopes in Laura Moser, the Texas congressional candidate targeted by national Democrats who think she’s too far left to flip a swing district in the Houston suburbs. The populist left is looking to score more wins after finally bringing the fight to party leaders by defeating their favored candidate in a Nebraska primary last week. But early votes had national Democrats’ preferred nominee Lizzie Fletcher up big, though there’s still plenty left to count.

Democrats are also hoping to target a suburban House seat in Kentucky, and it’s another woman — Marine combat veteran Amy McGrath — who nabbed her party’s nomination in yet another example of Democratic women prevailing in their primaries. She’s a political newcomer who beat a long-time elected official backed by some establishment Democrats.

Georgia: Abrams wins Democratic nomination big by appealing to party base

Democrats have struggled for years to win statewide in Georgia, despite the state’s changing demographics. Abrams’ argument that playing to the base and working to turn out minority voters gave the former state House minority leader a commanding win on Tuesday.

Abrams is running to become the first African-American woman elected governor in U.S. history. Her candidacy drew plenty of national support from women’s groups like EMILY’s List, plus endorsements from both Hillary Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

As NPR’s Asma Khalid reported, Abrams believed that “the only way a Democrat can win is by engaging with untapped minority voters, particularly those in rural communities, who’ve often been overlooked” instead of trying to woo disaffected GOP voters. Her opponent Stacey Evans, who is white, said she would largely hew to the traditional Southern Democratic strategy of trying to win over centrists and independents, while also campaigning in black communities. But Democratic voters in the state overwhelmingly chose the approach by Abrams instead.

Abrams still starts as the underdog against the Republican nominee, who may not be chosen yet on Tuesday. Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle is the front-runner, but the big question is whether he can top 50 percent and avoid a runoff in the seven-way contest to succeed term-limited GOP Gov. Nathan Deal.

Texas: Lone Star liberals vs. centrists

The most high-profile Democratic fight is the runoff in the Texas 7th Congressional District. The suburban Houston seat fits the mold of Democratic top-tier targets: High-income and highly-educated voters who narrowly backed Hillary Clinton over President Trump in 2016, while also reelecting Republican Rep. John Culberson.

Because the seat is so high on their list of targets, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee made the unusual decision to plop itself right in the middle of the crowded primary ahead of the March ballot. The DCCC unloaded an opposition research memo on candidate Laura Moser, a progressive activist who party leaders worry would lose a fall campaign against Culberson.

The move backfired and now Moser is in the runoff against attorney Lizzie Fletcher, who most party leaders prefer. Both candidates say the DCCC drama has had minimal impact on Houston voters, but Moser was able to raise money off the party’s hardball tactics. She has become a cause célèbre and Exhibit A for progressive candidates across the country who have felt squeezed by party leaders looking for general election candidates who can appeal to Republicans and independents.

Culberson’s district is probably Democrats’ best chance to flip a district in Texas, but there are other contests on their radar too. The DCCC has backed former NFL player Colin Allred, who finished first in the March primary, over Lillian Salerno in the 32nd District to challenge GOP Rep. Pete Sessions in a suburban Dallas district that also voted narrowly for Clinton.

In the 23rd District, the DCCC has also weighed in for Iraq War veteran Gina Ortiz Jones, who has the edge over former Sanders activist Rick Trevino. The winner will face Republican congressman Will Hurd in the expansive border district that also voted for Clinton.

Kentucky: Fighter pilot beats the mayor

Three-term GOP Rep. Andy Barr is rising atop Democratic target lists, and he will face retired Marine Lt. Colonel Amy McGrath, who won her primary over Lexington Mayor Jim Gray. McGrath drew national attention last year when she released an ad that quickly went viral showing the Iraq and Afghanistan veteran talking about when she was younger and politicians told her that she shouldn’t be a fighter pilot — but went on to become one anyway.

Despite McGrath’s national surge and fundraising pull following her entrance, Gray also joined the race soon after, encouraged by some national Democrats who have long eyed him as an ideal challenger to Barr. He’s an openly gay Southern Democrat who carried the 6th District in the 2016 Senate race, when he challenged Republican Sen. Rand Paul.

Democratic strategists were split on who would be the stronger challenger, and there were no clear progressive vs. centrist divides in this contest, though McGrath has probably drawn more liberal support. She painted Gray as part of the political establishment, but the DCCC didn’t weigh in for either candidate. Some Republicans, however, were more worried about Gray’s proven ability to win crossover voters if he had become the nominee.

The race turned negative in its final days as Gray aired an ad criticizing McGrath for just recently moving to the district from the east coast to run for Congress — a clear sign he was worried about her strength in the contest. McGrath responded on Facebook, calling it “an attack against any American citizen who chooses to serve their country in times of war and then come home to continue their service in another way.”

Ultimately, that ad could have backfired against Gray and pushed voters to McGrath. She was also possibly buoyed by the surge in female candidates across the country.

DCCC Chairman Ben Ray Luján called McGrath “battle-tested in more ways than one” in a statement and argued that the primary had only made her stronger. “

“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,” Luján said. “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.”

But Congressional Leadership Fund executive director Corry Bliss, who directs the House GOP’s main outside superPAC, argued that the divisive primary had ended with the more progressive candidate winning.

“Once again, the DCCC meddled in a primary and failed,” Bliss said. “Now, Democrats are stuck with an ultra-liberal candidate who can’t even name the counties she wants to represent in Congress. As this race continues, CLF looks forward to informing Kentucky voters of McGrath’s ultra-liberal political views, including her support for single-payer health care and her opposition to a $2,052 tax cut for hardworking families.”

Arkansas: Wave watching

Democrats recruited state Rep. Clarke Tucker to challenge GOP Rep. French Hill in the only closely-watched race in the state. Public polling has shown Tucker is the heavy favorite to win his primary. However, all three of his opponents have run to Tucker’s left by touting a more progressive platform — which could benefit Tucker if that voting bloc is split. However, he still needs to top 50 percent to avoid a runoff.

Democrats probably only have a chance here if it is Tucker who wins the nomination, and it’s still not an easy climb — the state’s once-Democratic heavy congressional delegation has been wiped extinct since 2010.

Nomination battles set in Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Texas

Updated 8:47 pm, Tuesday, May 22, 2018

ATLANTA (AP) — A retired female fighter pilot upset an established Democratic politician Tuesday in a key congressional primary in Kentucky as four states cast primary and midterm ballots ahead of the November midterms.

Votes also were being tallied in Arkansas, Georgia and Texas. A look at key story lines:

GEORGIA GOVERNOR’S RACE

Democrats will tap either Stacey Abrams or Stacey Evans as the state’s first female nominee for governor from either major party. If Abrams ultimately were to prevail in November, she’d become the first black female governor in any state capital.

Both are Atlanta-area attorneys and former state lawmakers. They’re mostly aligned on policy but have shredded each other’s legislative and legal careers. More interesting, perhaps, are their competing strategies.

Abrams, 44, says Democrats can flip the GOP-run state only by expanding the electorate and attracting younger and nonwhite voters to the Democratic column. Evans, 40, says liberal policies can be pitched to all voters, even including white Georgians who have abandoned Democrats in recent decades.

Georgia Republicans, meanwhile, likely will have a runoff after a bitter primary that has been a run to the right on everything from immigration to support for President Donald Trump.

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle is expected to lead Tuesday’s voting, but it’s the men chasing him who’ve stolen headlines. One of Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s closing ads depicted him with a shotgun sitting next to a teenage boy supposedly wanting to date the candidate’s daughter. In another spot, Kemp drove a pickup truck he said would be useful in case he had to “round up criminal illegals.”

A state senator lagging badly in the polls tried to one-up Kemp. Michael Williams campaigned with a “deportation bus,” and when it broke down — literally — he suggested leftists had put water in the gas tank.

The GOP nominee will be a favorite in the fall, but some Georgia Republicans are concerned that a nasty runoff could harm the party in a state accustomed to more centrist, business-aligned governors who rarely flout Atlanta-based behemoths like Delta and Coca-Cola. Some GOP figures worry the gamesmanship already has ensured Georgia won’t land Amazon’s second headquarters.

TEXAS CONGRESSIONAL RUNOFFS

Texas has three House runoffs that will be key to whether Democrats can flip the minimum 24 GOP-held seats they’ll need for a majority when a new Congress convenes next year.

The Texas districts are among 25 nationally where Trump ran behind Hillary Clinton in 2016. Democrats could end up nominating women in all three districts, adding another wrinkle to a midterm election year that has seen record numbers of women running for office.

A metro-Houston matchup between attorney Lizzie Fletcher and activist Laura Moser has become a proxy for the internal party fight between liberals and moderates. National Democrats’ campaign committee never endorsed Fletcher, but released opposition research against Moser amid fears that she’s too liberal to knock off vulnerable Republican Rep. John Culberson in the fall.

In a San Antonio-Mexican border district, Gina Ortiz Jones is the favorite to become the first openly lesbian Latina congresswoman from her state. Republican Will Hurd currently holds the seat.

A Dallas-area seat matches two attorneys and former Obama administration officials, Colin Allred and Lillian Salerno. Both made the runoff ahead of national Democrats’ initial preferred candidate. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has since lined up with Allred, who is also a former player for the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys.

Republicans will be watching whether Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, a favorite in his own re-election race, can help his former chief of staff join Congress. Chip Roy is in a runoff for a San Antonio-area seat being opened by the retirement of Rep. Lamar Smith. Cruz would love to place another ally among House conservatives.

DEMS BATTLE IN KENTUCKY

Voters in a central Kentucky congressional district opted for retired Marine officer and fighter pilot Amy McGrath over Lexington Mayor Jim Gray to advance to a fall campaign against Republican Rep. Andy Barr.

National Democrats once touted Gray as one of their best recruits in their efforts for a House majority. They said in recent weeks they’d be happy with McGrath, but the race still shaped up as a battle between rank-and-file activists and the party establishment.

McGrath was making her first bid for public office, among a handful of female Naval Academy graduates running for Congress this year.

Gray also lost a 2016 Senate race.

In eastern Kentucky’s Rowan County, voters denied a Democratic nomination to a gay candidate who wanted to challenge the local clerk who denied him and others same-sex marriage licenses.

David Ermold had wanted to challenge Republican Kim Davis, who went to jail three years ago for denying marriage licenses in the aftermath of an historic U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage.

ARKANSAS’ HEALTH CARE PREVIEW

While Washington fixates on the daily developments in the Russia election meddling investigation, Democratic congressional candidates insist they’ll win in November arguing about bread-and-butter issues like health care.

Arkansas state Rep. Clarke Tucker is running for Congress in a Little Rock-based district by telling his story as a cancer survivor. His first target is a crowded Democratic primary field, and Democrats may be looking at a runoff.

Still, Tucker’s real target is Republican Rep. French Hill, who voted many times to repeal the 2010 Affordable Care Act.

The Arkansas district may not be at the top of Democrats’ national target list, but it’s the kind of district the party might have to win to be assured of regaining House control in November.

___

Follow Barrow on Twitter at https://twitter.com/BillBarrowAP .

___

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Should white people ever sing the N-word?

Kendrick LamarImage copyright Getty Images
Image caption Kendrick Lamar was performing a show in Alabama

The controversy over the use of the N-word has hit the headlines again after a white woman was booed at a Kendrick Lamar gig for singing it on stage.

The rapper invited the woman to sing M.A.A.D City during his set at the Hangout Festival in Alabama.

But Lamar stopped her after she repeatedly used the N-word – which is heard multiple times in his song.

As the crowd reacted angrily, Kendrick told the fan: “You gotta bleep one single word.”

The N-word is a derogatory term; a racial slur which was used to refer to and insult black slaves, but today it is used prominently in hip-hop.

The reaction to the Kendrick footage on social media was mixed – with some defending the woman and others saying Lamar did the right thing by cutting her off.

South London grime artist Yizzy, who recently released his EP SOS, points out that Lamar had already had a couple of fans up on the stage who sang along with him without using the N-word.

“The word shouldn’t have been used at all [by the female fan] – it would have been very easy for her not to use it,” he tells BBC News.

“It’s a choice when you use that word, whatever race [you are]. Kendrick dealt with it in a very good way. She could have avoided the whole situation herself and she put herself in that position.”

He explains that he uses the word sparingly himself to add impact when necessary.

Image caption Yizzy performed at a celebration of 10 years of BBC Introducing in Brixton last year

“I use it in several different ways, as a way to refer to another person of that ethnicity or to explain the word as a metaphor, for example.

“I use it when I feel I need to. I try to avoid swearing in my songs… but my lyrics flow naturally, when that word fits and makes a lot of sense, I’ll put it in there.”

Yizzy adds: “Every person can say what they want, there’s freedom of speech, but you have a responsibility.

“If you use the word… and you’re not of any black heritage, in this modern day world, be prepared to face a backlash.”

And if a white artist used it “and it had no relation to what you’re saying, you’re just saying it to be controversial, you’re completely unacceptable”, he says.

This issue also came up last year, when footage of a group of students at the University of New Hampshire was posted online, attracting national attention.

The group, which included white students, were seen singing along to Kanye West’s 2006 hit Gold Digger, which features the word prominently.

They were widely criticised and their university said the students had displayed “poor judgement”, but some came forward to defend them.

“[The students] didn’t write the song, Kanye West did,” wrote Piers Morgan in The Daily Mail.

“They didn’t make millions of dollars from that song, Kanye West did.

“They’re young, free and partying and it would have just seemed like any other very popular rap song. So they sang along to it.”

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Chris Rock dealt with the issue in one of his famous stand-up routines

Chris Rock touched on the subject in a famous stand-up routine when he joked about his white friends not being “able to enjoy a Dr Dre song around me. So they start taking out the word or mumbling… it’s a sad sight to see”.

He also appeared to suggest it was all right for white people to dance or sing along to songs which included the word, but never for them to use it in their own speech.

“Don’t worry white people. Get our Dre on, get your Jay-Z on, get your Kanye on. It’s all good, it’s okay. But it’s got to be in the song. Got to be in the song.”

But, he added: “So the question remains the same. Can white people say the [N-word]? And the answer remains the same: Not really.”

While you’d be hard pushed to find someone who would think it appropriate for a white artist to use the N-word, some think that nobody should use it at all, regardless of race.

Broadcaster and writer Edward Adoo says: “It seems it’s become acceptable now to use [the N-word].

“There’s more reluctance to call people out: ‘Let’s let it lie and let people do what they want.’

“When my black friends use it I feel uncomfortable, it feels rude, and if a white person says it, it’s degrading.”

‘Fuelled the fire’

He adds: “I think the N-word should be treated in the same context as anti-Semitic speak. Any derogatory term should be classed in the same category.”

And he criticises those from within the industry.

“People in hip-hop and in the black community have fuelled the fire and don’t admit the word is wrong. It’s down to education, it’s ignorance, people who don’t seem to care.”

And he has no truck with black artists who say they are reclaiming the word.

“You know, people suffered, so how are you reclaiming it? It’s a matter of stupidity.”

“In terms of reaching out to the next generation, it doesn’t bode well because if Kendrick says it [then people think] ‘I can say it.'”

Image copyright PA
Image caption Students were criticsed for singing along to Gold Digger by Kanye West

He adds that he’s been criticised by his own community for his stance.

“People have called me out for being a sell-out,” he says.

Journalist and blogger Jessica Noah Morley agrees with Adoo.

“If you don’t want people to sing an offensive word, it should not be sung or included in the song in the first place,” she says.

“If you are in a position of power, or in this case, a position whereby fans are likely to repeat the words you put out, don’t put them out if you don’t want them repeated. I believe that the N-word shouldn’t be used by anyone point blank.”

She added: “I think it is hypocritical to sing a word and berate a white person who has repeated the very words in the context in which they were sung.

“We, myself included, have to be careful about being hypocritical and implementing a double standard when it comes to race relations. The N-word is, and will always be, offensive, no matter who says it.”

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