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SC attorney general won't prosecute rep who displayed loaded gun at campaign event

South Carolina's attorney general won't bring charges against a Republican congressman who displayed a loaded gun on a table at a campaign event last week. 

Rep. Ralph Norman, who has served in Congress since winning a special election last year, said he took out the gun in front of constituents to demonstrate that guns are only dangerous in the hands of criminals. 

"I'm not going to be a Gabby Giffords," he said afterwards — a comment that drew ire from Mark Kelly, the husband of the former Arizona congresswoman who was shot at a campaign event in 2011. 

Democrats argued that the action violated state law. But South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson said Tuesday that there was no "prosecutable offense." 

"Some have complained about the Congressman's actions," the attorney general's office said in a statement. "However, our conclusion must be based upon the law and sound prosecutorial discretion."

Norman is now facing another reelection contest against four Democrats, including 2017 foe Archie Parnell. 

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Andrew Rafferty

Red state Dems breaking for Pompeo

Red state Democrats are breaking for President Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of state.

Sens. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Joe Donnelly of Indiana, each up for re-election this November in states won by Trump, are the first three Democrats to announce support for CIA Director Mike Pompeo’s nomination. Their yes votes seemingly clear the path for his confirmation. 

Ten Democratic senators will be on the ballot this fall in red states. The other seven have yet to announce where they come down on what is a political dilemma for these senators. As First Read wrote last week: “Do they vote FOR his vote confirmation, risking alienating base Democrats they’ll need even in these red states? Or do they vote AGAINST him, and risk seeming like a partisan engaging in obstruction when they’re trying to tout their bipartisan credentials?”

Heitkamp was the first Democrat to announce her support for Pompeo last week, with Manchin and Donnelly pledging support on Monday.

 

Teacher pay mixes things up in AZ-GOV

It's a tricky time to be Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey. 

Ducey, a Republican who is up for reelection, has drawn a primary challenger over his handling of teacher pay as educators in the state are planning a massive walkout protest. 

Former Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett announced over the weekend that he will challenge Ducey after his "panic and flip-flopping" over the teacher pay issue. 

Ducey announced a plan last week to give teachers a 20 percent pay raise by 2020, a proposal that has been met with resistance from GOP lawmakers who are skeptical that the state will have the money to pay for the plan. 

Here's more on Bennett's challenge, from the Arizona Republic. 

Carrie Dann

Paul Ryan's former driver is running for his congressional seat

The new frontrunner in the GOP primary to replace Paul Ryan is back in the driver's seat. 

Bryan Steil, who announced his run over the weekend, is an attorney and a member of the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents who has been active in GOP politics in the district. But he's also got a connection to the departing speaker of the House; he was his personal driver from 2003-2004. 

Democrats are enthusiastic about their leading candidate, ironworker and Army vet Randy Bryce (often referred to by his twitter moniker @Ironstache.) Bryce, who's posted impressive fundraising hauls, outraised Ryan in the last quarter. Schoolteacher Cathy Myers is also running. 

The district has been a competitive battleground. In 2008, Obama won it, 51 percent to 48 percent. In 2012, with Ryan on the ticket, Mitt Romney won it by just five points, 52 percent to Obama’s 47 percent.

In 2016, the margin for Trump was 10 points; 52 percent to Clinton’s 42 percent. 

The primary is August 14. 

Kailani Koenig

DNC head Tom Perez defends lawsuit against Trump and Russia

WASHINGTON – DNC Chairman Tom Perez on Sunday defended his committee’s lawsuit against President Donald Trump's campaign, the Russian government and WikiLeaks as worth whatever the cost it might take to pursue.

“I don't know the amount of money that it will take, but I will tell you, it's hard to put a price tag on preserving democracy,” Perez said on Sunday’s “Meet The Press.” “That’s why I concluded that it would be irresponsible of me not to do this.” 

The lawsuit, filed on Friday, alleges that the Trump campaign, the Russian government, and Wikileaks engaged in a conspiracy to damage Democrats during the 2016 presidential race.  

But some Democrats have expressed concern about whether the financial investment involved could take away from needed resources for the 2018 midterms. Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill reportedly called it a “silly distraction,” while Democratic Rep. Jackie Speier called the lawsuit “not in the interest of the American people." 

Perez responded Sunday by saying, “I love those two Democrats. They're great people. We're working to help re-elect them and I disagree with them for the simple reason that preserving our democracy is priceless.”

Michael Flynn to campaign for MT-SEN candidate

Troy Downing, one of four Republicans vying for a chance to face off against Democratic Sen. Jon Tester in Montana, announced Friday that Michael Flynn will campaign for him.

Flynn also recently campaigned for Omar Navarro, a Republican running against Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., who has been pushing for Trump’s impeachment. (Navarro isn't a threat to Waters, whose district is very heavily Democratic and majority-minority.) 

Carrie Dann

Race to replace Issa is getting pricey already

Not a whole lot in southern California comes cheap, and that includes TV air time.

So it's no surprise that the race to replace Rep. Darrell Issa in California's 49th congressional district is expensive. But the competitiveness of the race — and its crowded contest in an unusual top-two nonpartisan primary — is making it particularly pricey, perhaps even setting it up to be the most expensive House race in the country. 

According to ad buying group Advertising Analytics, $1.4 million has already been spent on the airwaves, with another $1.5 million booked through the primary on June 5. 

Backers of Democrat Sara Jacobs, the granddaughter of the billionaire founder of Qualcomm, account for nearly half the spending so far. Her campaign has spent about $900,000 on TV ads so far, while advocacy group Women Vote!has spent an additional $670,000 on her behalf. 

Another rival Democrat, Paul Kerr, has spent just over $1 million.

Other Democrats in the race include businessman Doug Applegate and Mike Levin. 

Republican spending hasn't ramped up so much yet. Candidates Kristin Gaspar and Brian Maryott are each spending a bit less than $250,000. GOP Assemblyman Rocky Chavez is viewed as a frontrunner in the race, but has spent little on his campaign so far. 

Carrie Dann

Trump backs Blackburn: 'I will be there to campaign with her!'

As departing Republican Sen. Bob Corker has continued to praise the Democrat running to replace him, President Donald Trump is making clear that he's firmly in Republican Marsha Blackburn's corner. 

"@MarshaBlackburn is a wonderful woman who has always been there when we have needed her," he tweeted. "Great on the Military, Border Security and Crime. Loves and works hard for the people of Tennessee. She has my full endorsement and I will be there to campaign with her!"

Trump won Tennessee by 26 points in 2016, winning 92 of 95 counties. But Democratic candidate and former governor Phil Bredesen is still well-regarded in the state, and one early poll has shown him with the lead. 

Corker, who has at times been an ally and a thorn in the side of the president, has donated to Blackburn's campaign but has also said he will not campaign against Bredesen. 

"I worked very closely with him for years, and he was a very good mayor, very good governor, very good businessperson and look, I'm not going to campaign against someone who, you know, I've been a friend with and worked with," he said Wednesday. 

Andrew Rafferty

Republicans blitz 'High Five Heidi' Heitkamp on day marking iconic celebratory gesture

Only in politics can National High Five Day be seen as a chance to go after a top 2018 target.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee used the occasion Thursday to blast incumbent Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp for greeting Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer during a failed vote to advance legislation that would ban nearly all abortions after 20 weeks.

“While today is National High Five Day, Senator Heidi Heitkamp celebrated back in March when she gave a big high five to her DC boss, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, after voting against North Dakotans,” the NRSC claims.  (The vote and high five in question actually took place in January, not March.)

But a thorough fact check from Politifact of the interaction — that takes into account the definition of a high five — ruled the pair engaged in “an awkward hand waving-turned-holding” and not a celebratory hand slap.  And the greeting, which staffers for both Democrats said was NOT a high five, happened before the final vote count.

The North Dakotan is one of ten Democratic senators up for re-election in states Trump won in 2016. She is a top target for the NRSC, which in March dubbed her "High Five Heidi" in an ad slamming her for the abortion vote, support for Obamacare, and vote against tax cuts.

 

New third party candidate could be a headache for Rauner in IL-GOV

Things were already looking tricky for Bruce Rauner, the Illinois Republican governor who barely avoided losing his March 20 primary to conservative challenger Jeanne Ives. 

But this news isn't going to make life any easier for Rauner in his attempts to ward off Democratic candidate (and billionaire) J.B. Pritzker: there could be a third candidate in the race, who says he'll run as a Conservative Party candidate. 

From the Chicago Tribune: 

Sen. Sam McCann of Plainview announced he’ll run under a new Conservative Party label and criticized Rauner in a video for helping Chicago Democrats control the state.

In a statement, McCann said “the Republican Party under Rauner was unrecognizable to me.”

(snip)

But it could be difficult for McCann to get his name onto the November ballot. He needs the valid signatures of 25,000 voters who did not already sign or circulate candidacy petitions for the March primary. Normally, candidates file twice the number of signatures just to be safe.

In a statement, the Rauner campaign called McCann "the worst kind of political opportunist." 

"McCann’s unethical record speaks for itself: he failed to pay his taxes, racked up massive debts, lied about serving in the Marine Corps, and used his campaign account as a personal piggy bank, even buying himself an SUV," said Rauner communications director Will Allison. “Public service should not be for personal gain and Sam McCann's new ‘campaign’ is just a thinly veiled attempt to profit off of politics."

Carrie Dann

A look at the ads in AZ-8

With Arizona's Eighth Congressional District special election coming up in less than a week, here's a look at some of the ads running in the lead-up to the contest. 

The race — which has been a surprisingly competitive contest in a traditional conservative stronghold — pits Republican state Sen. Debbie Lesko against Democrat Hiral Tipirneni, a physician. The winner will replace Trent Franks, who resigned amid an investigation into sexual harassment allegations after an aide said he tried to pressure her into carrying his child. 

Ads from Lesko and the NRCC have largely focused on immigration, saying Tipirneni "would make you pay for illegal immigrant health care" and that Democrats in Washington would "block border security" and "force taxpayers to fund health care for illegals." (A robo-call from Trump himself reportedly also includes the suggestion that "illegal immigrants will pour right over your border" if Democrats win the House.) 

Tipirneni, on the other hand, has painted Lesko as a "politician" and "more of the same," also referencing her record on taxes. 

And she has taken some heat for an ad that — among other things — references a potential FEC violation involving a Lesko campaign transfer as "a federal investigation into illegal money laundering." The Arizona Republic called that "linguistic license" in a fact check that accused the Democrat of "stretching the truth."