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Southern House Democrats in targeted seats vote to turn up pressure on Trump

House Judiciary Committee can now sue to force compliance with requests for documents, testimony

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

WASHINGTON (CFP) — In the first major test of how Southern Democrats in vulnerable seats will navigate through ongoing House investigations of President Donald Trump, all of them stuck to the party line in supporting new powers that could escalate those inquiries.

By a vote of 229-191 on June 11, the House authorized the Judiciary Committee to go into federal court and demand that the Justice Department comply with requests for documents and witness testimony.

From top left clockwise: Cunningham, McBath, Allred, Weston

All 10 Southern House Democrats who flipped seats in 2018 and are at the top of the GOP hit list in 2020 agreed to give the committee the power to sue to force compliance, although none of them yet support moving toward impeaching the president.

That list includes Reps. Joe Cunningham of South Carolina; Lucy McBath of Georgia; Kendra Horn of Oklahoma; Elaine Luria, Jennifer Wexton and Abigail Spanberger of Virginia; Colin Allred and Lizzie Fletcher of Texas; and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell and Donna Shalala of Florida.

Not a single Southern Republican supported the resolution, including 11 GOP members who are on the Democrats’ target list for 2020.

The resolution is aimed squarely at Attorney General William Barr, who has refused to comply with some document requests, and former White House counsel Don McGahn, who has refused to testify at a committee hearing under instructions fro the White House.

The resolution ratchets up the pressure on the Trump administration, as an increasing number of House Democrats are calling for an impeachment inquiry.

While none of the Southern Democrats in competitive seats have so far come out in favor of an impeachment inquiry, 14 members in safe seats have done so.

That list includes Steve Cohen of Tennessee; Val Demings of Florida; Veronica Escobar, Sheila Jackson Lee, Joaquin Castro, Lloyd Doggett, Al Green, and Filemon Vela of Texas; Cedric Richmond of Louisiana; Alma Adams and G.K. Butterfield of North Carolina; Don Beyer of Virginia; Bennie Thompson of Mississippi; and John Yarmuth of Kentucky.

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Democrat MJ Hegar enters race against Texas U.S. Senator John Cornyn

Hegar dismisses Cornyn as “that tall guy lurking behind Mitch McConnell”

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

AUSTIN (CFP) — MJ Hegar, a tattooed former Air Force fighter pilot who nearly pulled off an upset against a veteran Republican Texas U.S. House member in 2018, now has her sights on a bigger target — U.S. Senator John Cornyn.

Hegar launched her campaign to unseat Cornyn in 2020 with a video in which she rides a motorcycle and lampoons the former Senator majority whip for his close relationship with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

MJ Hegar announces her U.S. Senate bid

“He’s that tall guy lurking behind Mitch McConnell in basically every single video,” Hegar said. “He calls himself Big John, but he shrinks out of the way while Mitch McConnell gets in the way of anything actually getting done in our government.”

Cornyn’s campaign fired back at Hegar, tweeting that she was Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s “hand-picked candidate.”

“If elected, she will end all of the progress Texas has made by eliminating private healthcare, raising taxes and supporting late-term abortion,” the campaign tweeted, posting a quiz for its followers to judge how liberal Hegar is.

In 2018, Hegar, a political newcomer from Round Rock, lost by just 3 points to seven-term Republican U.S. Rep. John Carter in the 31st District, based in Austin’s northern suburbs. Carter had carried the district by 22 points in 2016.

“I didn’t win that election, but we won something bigger,” Hegar said in her announcement video. “We helped change the status quo — new voices, new volunteers, new voters, standing up to demand better.”

WATCH: Hegar’s full announcement video

Hegar, 42, spent five years flying helicopters in the Air Force. While serving in Afghanistan in 2009, she was wounded when her helicopter was shot down by the Taliban, and she was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

After Hegar could no longer fly because of her injuries, she was barred by military policy from serving in other combat roles. She was part of a group of women who sued to overturn the policy, which was repealed in 2013.

Hegar launched her 2018 campaign with a video entitled “Doors,” in which she displayed her tattoos, some of which cover her war injuries. The video went viral, helping her raise more than $5 million for her race against Carter, nearly tripling his fundraising take.

Other Democrats are expected to join the Texas Senate race against Cornyn, including U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro from San Antonio.

U.S. Senator John Cornyn

Cornyn, 67, has represented Texas in the Senate since 2002 and served as the Senate majority whip, the chamber’s No. 2 position, from 2015 to 2019. He won his last re-election race in 2014 by 28 points.

While Cornyn had to face down a primary challenge in 2014, no Republicans have yet stepped forward to challenge him next year.

No Democrat has won a Senate race in Texas since 1988. However, after Beto O’Rourke nearly unseated U.S. Senator Ted Cruz in 2018, Democrats have made Cornyn one of their top targets for 2020.

O’Rourke decided to pursue the Democratic presidential nomination rather than taking on Cornyn.

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Former San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro announces run for Democratic nomination

Former Obama Cabinet secretary is first Southerner in 2020 White House field

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

SAN ANTONIO (CFP) — Telling supporters that he wants to “make sure that the promise of America is available to everyone in this country,” former San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro launched his campaign for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.

Julian Castro announces 2020 White House bid (From YouTube)

“It’s time for new leadership, it’s time for a new commitment to make sure that the opportunities I’ve had are available to every American,” he said in his January 22 kick-off with supporters in the mostly Latino West Side neighborhood of San Antonio, where he grew up.

“There are no front-runners that are born here, but I’ve always believed that with big dreams and hard work, anything is possible in this country,” he said.

Castro, the grandson of immigrants from Mexico, lit into President Donald Trump’s policy of trying to dissuade asylum seekers from Latin American countries from trying to cross into the United States, which Castro described as “cruel.”

“After (Trump) claimed that we are facing an invasion at the border, he called it a national security crisis,” Castro said. “Well, there is a crisis today. It’s a crisis of leadership.”

“Donald Trump has failed to uphold the values of our great nation.”

He also drew another contrast with Trump by thanking the news media assembled to cover the rally, saying, “I know that the press work hard and that they are the friend of the truth in this country.”

Castro, 44, served as mayor of Texas’s second-largest city from 2009 to 2014 before being picked as President Barack Obama’s housing secretary in 2014. He was reportedly on the short-list to be Hillary Clinton’s running mate in 2016.

His identical twin brother is U.S. Rep., Joaquin Castro, who represents the West Side in Congress.

Castro is the second Southerner to enter what is expected to be a crowded 2020 Democratic field, joining Richard Ojeda, a former state senator and unsuccessful congressional candidate from West Virginia.

Another Texan, former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, who lost a Senate race in 2018, is considering the race. Other Southerns who have been mentioned include former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, U.S. Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, and former Virginia Governor Terry McCauliffe.

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U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke will take on Ted Cruz in Texas U.S. Senate race

Congressman from El Paso is first major Democrat to launch a bid to unseat Cruz

♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor

EL PASO (CFP) — Democratic U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke is giving up his safe House seat in order to make a long-shot bid to unseat Republican U.S. Senator Ted Cruz in 2018

U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-Texas

O’Rourke kicked off his campaign March 31 with a rally in his hometown of El Paso, which he represents in Congress, followed by a weekend of stops in major cities around the Lone Star State.

Without mentioning Cruz by name, O’Rourke accused him of putting political ambition above his job as a senator, saying that to meet the challenges of the future, Texans will need “a senator who’s working full time for Texas, a senator who’s not using this position of responsibility and power to serve his own interests, to run for president, to shut down the government.”

O’Rourke kicks off campaign in El Paso.

O’Rourke is also positioning himself as principled opponent to President Donald Trump, saying the new administration is “focused on the wrong things instead of the right things that (are) going to get us ahead,” such as a ban on refugees from Muslim counties, an immigration crackdown and construction of wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

“We can decide that we’re going to take back this country, and we’re going to take back this state, and that we’re going to do that in 2018,” he said. “2018 starts right here, right now.”

O’Rourke, who had previously made a commitment to serve no more than four terms in the House, said that if elected, he would serve only two six-year terms in the Senate. He took a shot at the Washington political class, saying the American people need a Congress “that actually works, that’s not more preoccupied and focused on the re-election of its members than the business of this country.”

O’Rourke also gave part of his kickoff speech in Spanish, in which he is fluent. Texas has 4.8 million eligible Latino votes, making up about 28 percent of the states total eligible electorate, according to figures from the Pew Research Center.

O’Rourke, 44, was first elected to the House in 2012, representing the majority Latino 16th District, which takes in most of El Paso County and borders Mexico. He has strong political roots in El Paso, where his father, Pat, served as county judge.

Although the first name he uses, Beto, is a common Spanish nickname for his given name, Robert, O’Rourke is Irish, not Latino. He acquired the nickname in childhood.

O’Rourke will face an uphill battle against Cruz, given that no Democrat has won a statewide office in Texas since 1994 or a Senate race since 1988. His background and liberal policy positions may also prove to be a difficult sell.

O’Rourke played in a rock band in the early 1990s and was later arrested, but not convicted, on burglary and drunk driving charges. He is a supporter of LGBT rights and an opponent of what he calls the “failed war on drugs.” He supports comprehensive immigration reform and participated in a 2016 sit-in by House members in support of stronger restrictions on gun purchases.

O’Rourke may also have primary opposition from U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro of San Antonio, who is also considering a run.

Cruz, who run unsuccessfully for the GOP presidential nomination in 2016, has so far not drawn any Republican primary opposition.

O’Rourke’s run will open up the 16th District seat in 2018. However, the seat in the strongly Democratic district is unlikely to change hands.

13 Southern U.S. House Democrats bow out of Trump inaugural

All of the no-shows represent districts carried by Hillary Clinton

♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor

southern states smWASHINGTON (CFP) — Thirteen of the 40 Southern Democrats in the U.S. House have announced that they will not take part in the January 20 inauguration of Donald Trump.

Lawmakers from Florida, Georgia, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia are among the no-shows. All of the boycotting members represent urban or black-majority districts that were carried by Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Trump’s tweets castigating U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Georgia, for announcing an inauguration boycott seemed to particularly rankle some of the members opting not to attend; Trump’s reaction was called “repugnant,” “ignorant,” and “insensitive and foolish.”

“We are sending a message to Mr. Trump. Respect, like Pennsylvania Avenue, is a two-way street,” said U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas, who will be among the no-shows.

However, none of the three other Democrats in Lewis’s own Georgia delegation have joined the boycott. Also not joining so far is U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who, as head of the Democratic National Committee during the presidential campaign, had been a sharp Trump critic.

As for the contention by Trump supporters that the inauguration is a celebration not of him but of the peaceful transfer of power, U.S. Rep. Julian Castro, D-Texas, said, “Every American should respect the office of the presidency and the fact that Donald Trump will be the 45th President of the United States. But winning an election does not mean a man can show contempt for millions of Americans and then expect those very people to celebrate him.”

U.S. Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Virginia, said Trump’s “behavior and harmful words during and after the campaign have left the country I love with open, bleeding wounds. Instead of binding those wounds, he has poured salt on them. Instead of unifying us, he has reveled in driving wedges between us.”

Trump won 108 of the 154 congressional districts across the South in the November election; none of them are represented by Democrats.

Lawmakers boycotting the inaugural are unlikely to pay a political price, as all but two of them represent districts that Clinton carried with at least 60 percent of the vote. However, U.S. Reps. Darren Soto, D-Florida, and John Yarmuth, D-Kentucky, come from districts where Clinton’s share was just 55 percent.

The list of boycotting Democrats includes:

Georgia

Florida

Kentucky

Mississippi

North Carolina

Tennessee

Texas

Virginia

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