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Wake Up To Politics - June 23, 2020

Wake Up To Politics: June 23, 2020
Wake Up To Politics - June 23, 2020

Good Tuesday morning. It’s June 23, 2020. 133 days until Election Day. Have questions, comments, or tips? Email me.

Democrats spar over future of the party in key primaries

Voters will head to the polls in five states — Kentucky, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, and Virginia — today.

After a cycle of disappointments from Bernie Sanders’ presidential loss on down, progressives have pointed to today’s contests as their opportunity to reassert themselves in the fight for control of the Democratic Party.

A spate of progressive candidates are challenging incumbents and other establishment-backed choices today, and many of them have gained momentum in recent weeks. Here are the races to watch:

New York

The most highly-anticipated race is taking place in New York’s 16th congressional district, where Democratic Rep. Eliot Eliot Engel faces a serious primary challenge from middle school principal Jamaal Bowman.

Engel, 73, chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee and has served in Congress since 1989; his bid for a 17th term is supported by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other top Democrats. But Bowman, a 44-year-old first-time candidate, has criticized Engel for not spending enough time in his district and has received endorsements from Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

The incumbent’s chances of victory were not improved earlier this month, when he was caught on a hot mic at a local event saying, “if I didn’t have a primary, I wouldn’t care.” Engel is on very shaky ground heading into the vote today; a Bowman win would be a marquee victory for the progressive bloc in Congress.

Bowman is one of a number of progressives seeking to topple longtime House Democrats in New York, in hopes of replicating Alexandria Ocasio Cortez’s improbable victory in 2018. After Engel, the most endangered incumbent is probably Rep. Yvette Clark, who is facing a rematch from community organizer Adem Bunkeddeko, after beating him by fewer than two thousand votes in the 2018 primary. Both Bowman and Bunkeddeko were endorsed by the New York Times editorial board.

Other top Democrats facing primary challenges include House Oversight Committee chairwoman Carolyn Maloney and House Judiciary Committee chairman Jerry Nadler, although they are seen as more likely to be renominated.

Many Democrats are also keeping a close eye on the 15th District primary, where 12 candidates are running to succeed retiring Rep. José Serrano. One leading candidate, New York City Councilmember Rubén Díaz Sr., is a pro-Trump Democrat with a history of homophobic remarks; if he is able to win the primary, his election to Congress is guaranteed in the deep-blue district, a victory would likely lead to significant embarrassment for Democratic leaders.


Another marquee race is the Senate Democratic primary in Kentucky, where the establishment choice, former Marine fighter pilot Amy McGrath, has faltered against insurgent state Rep. Charles Booker in the final days of the campaign.  

McGrath, who ran unsuccessfully for the House in 2018, has racked up $41 million in her bid to take on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in November, plus endorsements from Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which has not been on the losing side of a primary since 2010.

But before she can face McConnell, McGrath has to get past Booker, who has also been backed by Sanders and Warren as he picked up steam following recent protests over racial justice. If Booker is able to pull off an upset against McGrath, it will be a significant loss for the establishment wing of the party, which has invested significant resources in choosing her as their candidate to face McConnell.

On the Republican side, Rep. Thomas Massie was initially seen as vulnerable in a primary challenge from attorney Todd McMurty: in a rare rebuke of an incumbent, McMurty received a donation from House Republican Conference chairwoman Liz Cheney after Massie delayed a coronavirus relief package. But Cheney and other top Republicans later demanded their donations back after racist tweets from McMurty’s surfaced, giving Massie the edge once again.

North Carolina

North Carolina’s 11th district is hosting a GOP runoff to decide who will take White House chief of staff Mark Meadows’ former House seat. Meadows and President Donald Trump have endorsed businesswoman Lynda Bennett, but she bested 24-year-old real estate investor Madison Cawthorn by only three percentage points in the May primary.

Bennett will face off against Cawthorn, who has received a number of local endorsements, for the final time today in the safe Republican seat.

The Rundown

IMMIGRATION: “President Trump signed an order Monday temporarily barring new immigrants on a slate of employment-based visas, including the H-1B for high-skilled workers, from coming to the U.S. amid the coronavirus pandemic.”

“The restrictions, which are set to take effect June 24 and last through the end of the year, will prevent hundreds of thousands of new immigrants who were expected to rely on the visas to work in industries ranging from tech and consulting to landscaping and seasonal jobs at resorts.” (Wall Street Journal)

2020 CENTRAL: “A sea of empty seats in a Tulsa arena on Saturday set off a furious round of finger-pointing and recriminations around President Trump’s campaign that continued through Monday, amplifying the president and his team’s struggle to find their footing amid national and political crises.”

“Trump has fumed about his campaign manager Brad Parscale over the half-empty arena, campaign officials are engaged in whisper campaigns against their colleagues, and some Trump allies are calling for a dramatic reorganization of the reelection machine, according to several current and former administration and campaign officials.” (Washington Post)

  • “2 more Trump campaign members in Tulsa test positive for coronavirus” (NBC News)

INVESTIGATIONS: “House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) is preparing to subpoena Attorney General Bill Barr for his testimony on July 2, a committee spokesperson confirmed to Axios.”

“The expected subpoena comes after the firing of Geoffrey Berman, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York who had been investigating President Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani.” (Axios)


*All times Eastern

President Donald Trump will travel to Arizona. He will participate in a roundtable briefing on border security in Yuma at 1:20 p.m., participate in a “commemoration of the 200th mile of new border wall” in San Luis at 2:40 p.m., and deliver an “address to young Americans” in Pheonix at 5:40 p.m.

  • “Arizona hits new COVID-19 hospitalization records as cases continue to spike ahead of president's visit” (Arizona Republic)

Vice President Mike Pence will travel to Wisconsin. He will participate in a roundtable on school choice in Waukesha at 11:35 a.m. and deliver remarks at a “Faith in America” event in Pewaukee at 1:40 p.m.

The Senate will convene at 10 a.m. and resume consideration of the nomination of Cory Wilson to be a U.S. Circuit Judge for the Fith Circuit. The chamber will recess from 12:30 p.m. to 2:15 p.m. for weekly caucus meetings.

The House is not in session.

The Supreme Court is not in session.

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden will attend a virtual grassroots fundraiser with former President Barack Obama at 5:15 p.m.

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