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President’s attorney endorses challenger who employs his new girlfriend; Trump tweets support for incumbent
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor
LAFAYETTE, Louisiana (CFP) — Rudy Giuliani is intervening on behalf of a challenger in a Louisiana congressional primary, tangling his politics with his love life in an episode that has angered state GOP leaders and prompted President Donald Trump to take sides against his own personal attorney.
The drama is taking place in Louisiana’s 3rd U.S. House District, which covers the Acadiana region in the state’s southwestern corner.
The incumbent Republican, freshman U.S. Rep. Clay Higgins, is a former sheriff’s deputy who gained national fame as the “Cajun John Wayne” after appearing in Crime Stoppers videos that went viral online. He is being challenged in the state’s all-party jungle primary by eight candidates, including Republican Josh Guillory, a Lafayette attorney.
Jennifer LeBlanc, a GOP fundraiser in Louisiana, is working for Guillory. She is also Giuliani’s new girlfriend — or, as he described it to the New York Daily News, “We are dating, however not that advanced yet.”
And there is one more wrinkle: LeBlanc worked for Higgins until switching horses, without explanation, last year.
Giuliani is scheduled to head a June 25 fundraiser for Guillory in Lafayette — news that has irritated Louisiana Republican leaders who support Higgins’s re-election, according to a report in Politico.
To counter the perception that Trump had anything to do with Giuliani’s support of Guillory, Higgins got an audience at the White House, which was followed by an endorsement offered by the president’s re-election campaign. However, Trump stopped short of offering him the holy grail of a coveted endorsement tweet.
LeBlanc, who worked for Giuliani’s ill-fated 2008 presidential campaign, released a statement to Politico saying that she “ended work with Congressman Higgins, and later began work with Josh Guillory, well before I began spending part of my social life with Mayor Rudy Giuliani.”
“These three decisions in my life were made for very different reasons, and are independent of each other,” she said.
Giuliani, the former mayor of New York City who has been married and divorced three times, has led a colorful love live. While still married to wife No. 2, Donna Hanover, he began seeing wife No. 3, Judith Nathan, an affair that played out in the New York tabloids in 2000 and 2001.
He and Nathan married in 2003. She filed for divorce in April.
Giuliani denied to the Daily News that his relationship with LeBlanc precipitated his divorce from Nathan, saying the two did not begin seeing each other until May.
Under Louisiana’s unusual primary system, all nine candidates in the 3rd District will compete in November, with the top two finishers advancing to a December runoff if no one captures a majority.
Higgins and Guillory are the only Republicans running, which makes a runoff more likely if the GOP vote is divided.
Even with LeBlanc’s help, Higgins so far enjoys a 3-to-1 fundraising advantage over Guilllory.
Garrett discloses he’s an alcoholic, amid controversy over alleged misuse of his congressional staff
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com
RICHMOND (CFP) — Freshman U.S. Rep. Tom Garrett of Virginia has announced he not seek re-election this fall because he is an alcoholic, while also insisting that allegations that he and his wife misused his congressional staff to perform personal errands are untrue.
In an emotional statement videotaped outside the State Capitol on Memorial Day, Garrett called the allegations of misuse of staff, first made by Politico, “a series of half truths and whole lies.”
But he also said anyone “who has known me for any length of time and has any integrity knows two things — I am a good man, and I am an alcoholic.”
“Sometimes winning means knowing where your priorities should be. My devotion to the ideas and belief in America has not wavered, but my commitment to be the best husband, father and friend means addressing the only truth I’ve been heretofore unwilling to tell,” he said.
Garrett, 46, a former prosecutor, won election to the 5th District seat in 2016, after serving five years in the Virginia Senate. The sprawling district takes in much of central Virginia from the Washington, D.C. suburbs to the North Carolina border.
Garrett’s decision to depart the race comes amid concerns by Republican leaders about weak fundraising for the coming battle with Cockburn, a former network television producer and correspondent.
As of April, Federal Election Commission reports show that he had raised only $433,000 and had just $133,000 in cash; Cockburn had raised $715,000, with $271,000 remaining.
Citing four unidentified former staffers, Politico reported on May 25 that Garrett and his wife, Flanna, used staff members to run personal errands, including taking care of their dog, which would be a violation of House ethics rules.
In his withdrawal statement, Garrett refuted the allegations, which he said are “driven more by Republicans than Democrats.”
“These attacks aren’t true, and I can prove that,” he said.
The Politico story came two days after reports began surfacing that Garrett was considering dropping his re-election bid after his chief of staff resigned. The next day, he held a news conference in which he insisted that he would run again but giving a performance described in press accounts as “rambling” and “bizarre.”
With the filing deadline for Virginia’s June 12 primary closed, the 5th District Republican Committee will now pick a replacement for Garrett. Cockburn is unopposed in the Democratic primary.
Garrett won the 5th District race by 16 points in 2016; President Donald Trump carried it by 11 points.
Report: Democrat Doug Jones outspending Republican Roy Moore 7-to-1 on TV
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor
BIRMINGHAM (CFP) — Just two weeks before a special election to pick Alabama’s next U.S. Senator, Lee Busby, a retired Marine Corps colonel and one-time aide to White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, has launched a last-minute write-in bid for the seat as an independent.
In another development in the race, Democrat Doug Jones’s campaign has outspent embattled Republican nominee Roy Moore by a whopping 7-to-1 margin on television ads in his quest to become the first Democrat to win a Senate race in Alabama in 25 years, according to a report in Politico.
Busby told MSNBC’s Morning Joe that he got into the race because he was dissatisfied with choosing between Moore, who has been accused of sexually pursuing teenage girls, and Jones, a former federal prosecutor from Birmingham making his first bid for political office.
“I felt like there was a lot of people in Alabama who felt like me,” Busby told the network. “The more I talked to [people], the more sense I got that there was this huge swath in the middle that feels like they’re not represented.”
Since announcing his write-in candidacy on November 27, Busby said he has been the target of a deluge of criticism on social media from Moore supporters angered by his candidacy.
“I’m either a Democratic agent or a lackey of [Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell,” he said.
Busby told MSNBC that he is a registered Republican but did not support Moore during the GOP primary, well before the sexual pursuit allegations surfaced.
“I don’t know Roy Moore. I’ve never met him. But there’s a sense of self-righteousness that comes out of that campaign that bothered me, and I don’t think it represents the majority of Alabama voters,” he said.
Busby, who lives in Tuscaloosa, served 31 years in the Marine Corps and Marine Reserve, reaching the rank of colonel. After leaving the military, he has focused on his work as a sculptor, creating memorial busts of service members killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
While in the military, Busby served as vice chief of staff to Kelly, the retired Marine general who is now Trump’s chief of staff.
Since allegations against Moore became public on November 9, Trump has refused to condemn him, instead offering pointed criticism of Jones on Twitter. However, the president has so far stopped short of traveling to Alabama to campaign with his party’s nominee.
By contrast, McConnell and most of the Republicans in the Senate have called on Moore to exit the race, even though the deadline had passed to remove his name from the ballot.
Five women have come forward to say that Moore, now 70, made advances toward them when he was in his 30s and they were teenagers. One of the women, Leigh Corfman, said Moore initiated sexual contact with her back in 1979, when she was just 14.
Moore has denied the allegations and resisted pressure from Republicans to drop out of the race.
The most recent public polls, taken before Busby’s entry, have shown the race between Jones and Moore within the margin of error, which means that the polls can’t offer a conclusion as to which man is ahead. The competitiveness of the race is shocking sight in Alabama, where Republican Richard Shelby won by 28 points in 2016 and Democrats didn’t even run anybody against Republican Jeff Sessions in 2014.
Just as shocking is the disparity on the TV airwaves, with Jones airing more than 10,000 ads since the primary, compared to just 1,000 for Moore, according to figures compiled by Advertising Analytics and reported by Politico.
National Democrats had been wary of putting resources into the long-shot Alabama race, but money began pouring into Jones’s campaign after Moore won the GOP primary and the allegations against him surfaced.
The special election to fill the Senate seat is December 12.
The Alabama seat became vacant in February, when Sessions resigned to become U.S. attorney general. Republican Luther Strange was appointed to fill the seat but failed to hold it when Moore challenged him in the GOP primary to pick a nominee for a special election to elect a permanent replacement.
Moore was a controversial figure even before the allegations about his alleged sexual pursuit of teenage girls surfaced. He was twice elected as chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court and removed both times, first for defying a federal judge’s order to remove a 10 Commandments display at the state judicial building in Montgomery and then for encouraging local officials to refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples after the U.S. Supreme Court ruling mandating marriage equality.
In 2006 and 2010, he ran poorly in GOP primaries for governor. But in the special election, he was able to parlay unhappiness with the Republican establishment in Washington into a win over Strange, who was backed by Trump and McConnell.
Watch Busby’s full interview with MSNBC: