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Four States to Chose Midterm Nominees  05/22 06:14

   ATLANTA (AP) -- Four states will cast ballots Tuesday as the 2018 midterm 
elections take shape. Voters in Arkansas, Georgia and Kentucky hold primaries, 
while Texans settle several primary runoffs after their first round of voting 
in March. Some noteworthy story lines:


   Texans will settle an all-female congressional runoff between liberal 
activist Laura Moser and Houston attorney Lizzie Fletcher in a Houston-area 
House race that has become a proxy for the Democratic Party's battle over style 
and substance. The winner faces Republican Rep. John Culberson in the fall.

   Women also could claim nominations in two other Texas congressional 
districts on Democrats' national target list. In the metro-Dallas district now 
represented by Republican Pete Sessions, it's attorney Lillian Salerno vs. 
attorney Colin Allred. Both are former Obama administration officials; Allred's 
also a former player for the NFL's Dallas Cowboys. In a San Antonio-Mexican 
border district, Gina Ortiz Jones is vying to become the first openly lesbian 
Latina congresswoman from her state.

   The three Texas districts are among the 25 nationally where President Donald 
Trump ran behind Hillary Clinton in 2016. Democrats must flip 24 GOP-held seats 
for a House majority.

   In Georgia, 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.


   Georgia's Republican candidates for governor have engaged in a sprint to the 
right on everything from immigration to bear-hugging Trump.

   Secretary of State Brian Kemp set the curve with his home-stretch ads. In 
one, he wields a shotgun alongside a young male suitor of his teenage daughter. 
Another features an explosion (what Kemp says he does to government spending), 
a chain saw (he'll use it to cut regulations), and Kemp driving a pickup truck 
(which he says might come in handy to "round up criminal illegals").

   Michael Williams, a state senator lagging badly in public polls, followed 
suit by campaigning with a "deportation bus." When it broke down --- literally 
--- he suggested leftists had put water in the gas tank.

   Kemp is trying to secure a second-place finish to qualify for a likely 
runoff against Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, who has GOP business establishment support 
but also touts his determination to "protect" Georgians from "criminal illegal 

   The question is whether Cagle leads by enough to suggest that he's a clear 
runoff favorite. A second round between Cagle and Kemp could escalate the 
rhetoric and spook Georgia Republicans accustomed to more centrist, 
business-aligned politicians who rarely flout Atlanta-based behemoths like 
Delta and Coca-Cola. Some of those GOP figures worry the gamesmanship already 
has ensured Georgia won't land Amazon's second headquarters.


   While Washington fixates on the daily glut of 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 field. His real target is Republican Rep. French Hill, 
who voted many times to repeal the 2010 Affordable Care Act.


   Several congressional matchups will test Democrats' recruiting and campaign 
strategies. In metro Houston, national Democrats' House campaign arm incensed 
liberals when operatives unloaded opposition research essentially calling Laura 
Moser a carpetbagger.

   The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee hasn't endorsed her 
opponent, but the implications were clear: Washington Democrats think Moser is 
too liberal to flip the seat in November. Moser parlayed voter disgust with 
DCCC's maneuver into her runoff spot, but Moser says the unusual move hurt her 
fundraising and momentum in the long run.

   The DCCC initially missed in the Dallas-area seat: Its preferred candidate 
didn't make the runoff. The committee has since shifted to Allred, the civil 
rights attorney and former NFL player.

   National Democrats say they'd be OK in Kentucky's 6th District with Amy 
McGrath, a veteran fighter pilot who garnered national attention with her 
announcement video that detailed her struggles against sexism as she pursued 
her goals. But the national party's initial recruit in the race is Lexington 
Mayor Jim Gray, who lost a 2016 Senate race to Republican Sen. Rand Paul.


   The battle between Stacey Abrams, 44, and Stacey Evans, 40, in Georgia 
Democrats' primary for governor is a microcosm of the national party's debate 
over strategy.

   Abrams, a former state House minority leader, is an African-American 
attorney from the Democratic bastion of Atlanta who says the way to turn 
GOP-run Georgia into a battleground is to take an unabashedly liberal message 
to potential voters who aren't casting ballots. That group, she says 
matter-of-factly, invariably trends young and nonwhite.

   Evans, 40, is a white attorney who represented suburban Atlanta in the 
General Assembly, insists that the path involves the traditional Democratic 
base while coaxing back voters (read: white voters) that Democrats have lost.

   It's very much a reflection of the 2016 post-mortem: Did Hillary Clinton 
lose because too many nonwhite Democrats stayed home or because too many whites 
defected to Trump?

   TED CRUZ 2.0

   Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, a favorite for re-election this fall, backed two former 
staffers among his many endorsees this primary season. One failed to advance in 
March. But a second, Chip Roy, is in a GOP runoff for the House seat being 
opened by the retirement of Republican Rep. Lamar Smith. Cruz would love to 
place another ally among House conservatives, particularly one who once served 
as his chief of staff.


   Republicans outvoted Democrats in some big-state early primaries this year 
--- Texas on March 6 and Ohio on May 8. There'll be plenty of eyeballs on the 
respective vote totals of the two parties in Georgia. In those three Texas 
congressional battlegrounds, partisans will compare Democratic runoff turnout 
to the March vote totals of the three vulnerable Republican congressmen.

   Worth noting, of course: Reactions to those numbers will be as much about 
claiming momentum as they will be about actual predictive value for November.


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