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Election 2020

Ex-Astronaut Mark Kelly Makes Democratic Bid For US Senate Seat

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PHOENIX (AP) — Retired astronaut Mark Kelly, who became a prominent gun-control advocate after his wife, former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, was shot in a failed assassination attempt, announced Tuesday he will run to finish John McCain’s last term in the U.S. Senate.

The Democrat will take on Republican Martha McSally in what is expected to be one of the most closely contested Senate races of the 2020 election.

Kelly described himself as an independent-minded centrist who will take a scientist’s data-driven approach to solving problems such as climate change, wage stagnation and health care affordability.

“You see a lot of partisanship in Washington and a lot of polarization, and to some extent we’ve created that,” Kelly told The Associated Press. “It’s going to take people who are more independent to fix it. Arizonans value independence.”

If Kelly is nominated the race would pit the Navy veteran and astronaut against McSally, a trailblazing Air Force pilot, in the contest to replace McCain, a legendary Navy flyer who was famously shot down and held captive in North Vietnam.

McSally is a former Republican congresswoman who was appointed to McCain’s seat after she narrowly lost to Democrat Kyrsten Sinema last November in the race for outgoing Republican Jeff Flake’s seat. McSally leaned heavily on her record as the first woman to fly a combat mission, but she was hurt by her embrace of President Donald Trump.

The 2020 election will decide who finishes the last two years of McCain’s term. The winner would have to run again for a full six-year term in 2022.

Democrats are eagerly watching the Arizona contest, having already defeated McSally. The party is also gauging whether Arizona could be competitive at the presidential level in 2020, where Trump won in 2016.

Kelly has never held elected office. He flew combat missions during the first Gulf War before becoming an astronaut along with his twin brother, Scott Kelly. He flew four space missions over 10 years and commanded the Space Shuttle Endeavor in 2011.

Kelly and Giffords have pushed Congress to enact gun control measures with little success. They shifted their focus to state legislatures in recent years, helping to strengthen background checks and domestic violence protections.

Giffords was severely wounded in a mass shooting on Jan. 8, 2011. The shooting at a Giffords meet-and-greet event in Tucson left six dead and 13 injured.

Giffords played a prominent role in the four-minute video Tuesday launching Kelly’s campaign.

“I thought then that I had the risky job,” Kelly says to Giffords. “Turned out, you were the one that had the risky job.”

Kelly told the AP Giffords, who has been a rising Democratic star before the shooting, will join him frequently during campaign appearances.

Republican Gov. Doug Ducey appointed McSally to the vacant Senate seat after his first appointee, former Sen. Jon Kyl, resigned after only a few months in office.

Arizona has been a longstanding Republican stronghold, but a growing Latino population and frustration among women with Trump have helped Democrats make inroads.

U.S. Rep. Ruben Gallego of Phoenix is also considering a Senate run that would likely position him to Kelly’s left politically.

“I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m looking seriously at running for the U.S. Senate in 2020, and that hasn’t changed,” Gallego said on Twitter following Kelly’s announcement. “I’ll be making a final decision and announcement soon.”

Former Attorney General Grant Woods, a lifelong Republican who became a Democrat and a fierce critic of Trump, said last week he will not run for the seat.

McCain, a legendary and beloved Arizona politician, died last year from an aggressive form of brain cancer after more than three decades in the Senate.

Election 2020

PETE BUTTIGIEG IS HAVING A MOMENT

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Pete Buttigieg can tell that things have changed.

Buoyed by positive reviews for the South Bend mayor’s performance at an hour-long CNN town hall earlier this month and a steady stream of well received appearances on TV, Buttigieg’s 2020 presidential exploratory committee has felt a sustained surge of momentum over the past two weeks. The once little-known mayor is getting recognized across the country, while his committee has mapped out plans to double in size in the coming weeks as a steady stream of new donations flood to the 37-year-old Democrat.

It’s been an eye-opening experience for Buttigieg, a mild-mannered candidate who seems allergic to bragging.

“It’s heady,” Buttigieg said in an interview with CNN. “And it has happened very quickly.”

Buttigieg’s fundraising still trails what is known about candidates like Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, and he has yet to see a boost in national or state level polling, but the news has been welcomed by the mayor, who started the campaign with little to no national name recognition and significantly smaller crowds in key states.

“The good news is it means the more people that see our message, the more it resonates,” he said. “Because what I said in the town hall is no different than what I’ve been saying all along, it’s just that more people saw it.”

Buttigieg said that he could tell — on a personal level — when he started to get noticed by people in restaurants and other places, but that he is fighting letting it go to his head.

Pete Buttigieg’s sharp attacks on a former home-state political rival temporarily shifted the spotlight away from better-known candidates in the 2020 Democratic presidential field and onto one of its least-known contenders.

“That’s good news but I’m trying not to let it go to my head because for every one person that stops me at the airport or on the street there’s still probably 99 who still haven’t heard our message yet,” he said.

The momentum was apparent throughout Buttigieg’s 24-hour swing through South Carolina, his first since launching his exploratory committee in January. In Greenville, Columbia and Rock Hill, Buttigieg spoke to packed rooms of voters, some of whom told the candidate that they had only learned about him a few weeks ago.

At an event for Tina Belge, the Democrat running in a special election for a state senate seat around Greenville, Buttigieg — who initially stood out in the race because he is gay, hails from Republican Indiana and had a funny last name — teased his newfound momentum.

“I get that my presence here is a little bit unlikely,” he said. “(I get) that it is not customary for a millennial, Midwestern mayor to be in the conversation about the future of the free world.”

He later told a packed venue in Columbia that “a month ago no one knew who I was.”

And he joked in Rock Hill that he can sometimes “fool myself that I am really famous,” before he realizes most people know nothing about his campaign.

Kate Franch, the chair of the Greenville County Democratic Party, told CNN that the excitement around his visit outpaced others they have hosted for 2020 Democrats.

“This is not our normal crowd,” Franch said, looking around at the cafeteria at the Upstate Circle of Friends Community Center that she was filled twice as much as it normally has been. “When people heard he was coming, that is when a lot of people started reaching out (to attend today’s event) … There is a lot of excitement around him.”

Part of that excitement comes from voters like Adi Dubash, 37, and Michael Upshaw, 34, a gay couple who brought their 16-month-old son Finnick to Buttigieg’s Greenville event.

Pointing to his son, Upshaw said, “For me, with him now, I want him to grow up in a world where our leaders are representative. Right now, there is nothing in Washington that I am proud of for him to grow up in, but with a guy like Buttigieg, I can say, ‘Your dads are represented. You are growing up in a world (that) accepts people and families like you are growing up in’ and that means a lot to me.”

In need of ‘a more robust infrastructure’

The boom in attention has also meant wholesale changes to Buttigieg’s campaign.

Mike Schmuhl, Buttigieg’s campaign manager who has been the mayor’s friend since the two met in ninth grade, said that the campaign is looking to double in size — from twenty staffers to upwards of 40 — in the near future and has rented a campaign headquarters in South Bend that is five times larger than the one the exploratory committee currently occupies.

Schmuhl said that when he and the team launched the committee, they banked on the possibility that a viral moment would vault them into the conversation and that his team just had to be ready to capture that momentum.

“In the early stages of this exploratory effort, we’ve been organizing our team to capitalize on critical moments to build more enthusiasm — like the CNN Town Hall — and ultimately a more robust infrastructure,” Schmuhl said.

It appears that they have: According to Lis Smith, Buttigieg’s spokeswoman, the committee raised more than $600,000 in the first 24 hours after the CNN town hall. When the campaign followed up that fundraising with a call for $500,000 in donations before March 31, they raised it in 24 hours, Smith said. When they asked for the same pledge two days later, they raised another $500,000, bringing their haul from those two emails alone to more than $1 million, she added.

And when the short-staffed committee put out a call for resumes, they received more than 2,000, according to Smith.

The surge in support, while welcome news for the Buttigieg team, also comes with pitfalls. The mayor said he worried about securing the necessary staff to capture the attention, while others around him pushed to raise as much money before the end of the first fundraising quarter, something Buttigieg has tried to do with fundraisers in California, Illinois and New York.

Those concerns were echoed by David Axelrod, a former senior adviser to President Barack Obama and Buttigieg friend, who said “the challenge for any startup campaign that gets some tailwind is how to catch up to their own momentum.”

“How do you capture the data and build relationships with all the people suddenly eager to help? How do you quickly build an organization equipped to utilize that data and those relationships and develop a strategy, particularly in the must-win early states,” said Axelrod, who is a CNN senior political commentator. “And how do you prepare for the sterner tests that come for a ‘hot’ candidate, as media and opponents begin to poke and prod with greater intensity to see if you are up to the job.”

He added, “It’s challenging.”

Reflections on faith resonate on the trail

Buttigieg’s rise has rhetorically been based on two major applause lines on the campaign trail: His attacks on Mike Pence and his discussion of his faith, particularly how it relates to his marriage to Chasten Buttigieg, a teacher he married less than a year ago.

“My former governor (Vice President Mike Pence) is going to be visiting your state soon,” Buttigieg said to a chorus of boos in Greenville. “I think you already know how I feel. It helps me empathize with you on that whole Lindsey Graham thing,” he added to even louder hisses.

The line mimics an attack the mayor lobbed during the CNN town hall, where he questioned Pence’s faith by rhetorically asking how Pence could become “the cheerleader for the porn star presidency.”

“Is it that he stopped believing in scripture when he started believing Donald Trump,” Buttigieg said in a line that quickly reverberated among Democrats.

Buttigieg has been upfront about faith, talking openly about his Episcopal beliefs and why he believes Democrats need to embrace religion.

“So much of what Christ’s teachings are about have to do with the way that we take care of the least among us,” said Buttigieg recently. “I think for those of us who think that our morality is something that needs to be in touch with our religious faith personally, then it’s really important to explain that no one party has a monopoly on faith.”

The mayor combined his lines on Pence and his talk of faith later in his speech in Columbia when he spoke about his marriage, describing it as something “that has made me safer and better and, yes Mr. Vice President, has moved me nearer to God.”

‘I am going to follow him on Twitter!’

Buttigieg, who came out in 2015, also used his marriage to show how much politics matter, telling the audience in Columbia that the fact that he was legally allowed to marry Chasten Buttigieg in 2018 was something going for him when both of his parents were recently ill (his father died shortly after he announced his exploratory committee).

“He is an amazing human being, who when I was getting in the car to make that drive, was in the hospital with my priest and with my mother because he could get into the hospital because he was a member of my family,” Buttigieg said, “a fact that exists as a matter of law by the grace of a single vote on the Supreme Court.”

The audience erupted in response, something that seemed to surprise Buttigieg himself.

Responses like that explain why Chasten Buttigieg has become a minor Twitter celebrity, whose following on the social media platform has multiplied by more than a factor of six since the start of March. The platform has even led Chasten Buttigieg — whose husband described him to a Democrat on Saturday as “a great asset” and someone who is “very outgoing” and “very warm” — to take a leave of absence from his teaching job as he focused on the campaign.

And that fame has transferred into the real world, too.

Chasten Buttigieg was at his local Costco recently when someone walked up to him with a question.

“Hey,” said the shopper. “I’ve seen you on Twitter. Aren’t you someone’s husband or something?”

Tania Meneses, a 47-year-old from Greer, South Carolina, encapsulated the supporter Buttigieg has captured in recent weeks. The Democrat who was born in Nicaragua had never heard of Buttigieg until recently, but when she came out to see him speak on Saturday, she was giddy with excitement afterward.

“I only learned about him through this event. It’s a shame because he has such great potential,” she said. “We need his kind of face in our party.”

When asked if she is going to keep in touch with him after he leaves, she smiled and exclaimed, “I am going to follow him on Twitter!”

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Election 2020

Pete Buttigieg Will Be First Out Gay Politician In Presidential Debate

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The South Bend, Indiana, mayor announced on his Twitter that he has reached 65,000 donors, the minimum threshold needed to participate in the official Democratic presidential debates.

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Election 2020

Former Texas Representative Beto O’Rourke Is Running For President

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EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – Beto O’Rourke is running for President of the United States.

The former El Paso Congressman will make the announcement on Thursday morning, but he confirmed via text to KTSM Wednesday afternoon that he is seeking the Democratic nomination. 

“I’m really proud of what El Paso did and what El Paso represents,” O’Rourke said in the text. “It’s a big part of why I’m running. This city is the best example of this country at its best.”

Speculation on whether he would run for president has been discussed since his Senate loss to Ted Cruz in November. An appearance with Oprah and a February showdown in El Paso with President Donald Trump only added to the discussion.

The field of Democratic candidates already includes Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Julian Castro, among others. Former Vice President Joe Biden is also expected to announce his intentions soon. 

In a Vanity Fair article that came out on Wednesday, O’Rourke said “You can probably tell that I want to run. I do. I think I’d be good at it.”

The article highlights the struggle O’Rourke had in making a decision based on his feelings and the hesitations of his family. 

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