At the Races: Trump State Organizers Start Running

Challengers target blue-state lawmakers

Corey Stewart, who last year chaired President Donald Trump’s campaign in Virginia and ran for governor unsuccessfully this year, is running for the Senate seat of Democrat Tim Kaine. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images file photo)
Corey Stewart, who last year chaired President Donald Trump’s campaign in Virginia and ran for governor unsuccessfully this year, is running for the Senate seat of Democrat Tim Kaine. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images file photo)
Posted July 14, 2017 at 5:04am

Two men who chaired President Donald Trump’s campaigns in states he lost last year are jumping into Senate races there. 

Corey Stewart Running for Senate in Virginia

Corey Stewart, former chairman of President Donald Trump’s campaign in Virginia, on Thursday became the first Republican to announce a challenge to Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine, Hillary Clinton’s running mate last year.

Stewart ran for the GOP nod for governor earlier this year, losing a closer-than-expected primary to former Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie by just 1 point.

Stewart, the at-large chairman of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors, ran a provocative gubernatorial campaign, opposing efforts to remove Confederate monuments in Virginia and embracing the Confederate flag.

“I don’t see it as a symbol of hate at all,” he said in February, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Stewart chaired Trump’s campaign in Virginia until he was fired for protesting outside the RNC headquarters in Washington last fall.

Kaine, a onetime Virginia governor, is in his first term as a senator. He won election in 2012 by nearly 6 points.

Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the race Likely Democratic.

— Simone Pathé

Warren Challenger to Launch Full-Time Campaign

A conservative Massachusetts state representative said he’ll officially launch his challenge to Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren full-time in August.

State Rep. Geoff Diehl, who co-chaired President Donald Trump’s campaign in the state, told the Boston Herald on Wednesday that he will begin campaigning full-time on Aug. 1.

The Whitman Republican has long been a foe of Warren’s, making stops across the Bay State while mocking her for traveling across the country to promote her book. Diehl’s campaign website says he “has promised to be a full time Senator not a part-time author.”

Diehl seems to be replicating some of Trump’s campaign slogans, with a section on his website titled “Put Massachusetts First.” The description says Diehl will “travel the Commonwealth to work with you and make Massachusetts great again.”

Also running for the Republican nomination is Shiva Ayyadurai, a Cambridge technology entrepreneur. 

Warren’s re-election campaign said the Democrat raised more than $3.4 million during the second quarter of the year, which ended June 30. This was lower than the first quarter period, when she brought in $5.2 million, but still gives her an overwhelming financial advantage over any challenger.

Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the race Solid Democratic.

— Kyle Stewart

FEC Votes to Allow Campaign Cash for Security

The Federal Election Commission on Thursday approved by voice vote a request to allow House members to use campaign contributions for certain types of security.

The action by the five commission members follows the shooting at a Republican baseball practice last month, in which House Majority Whip Steve Scalise was wounded, along with four others. 

The final guidance by the FEC permits lawmakers to use campaign funds for “nonstructural” security systems, which would include installation and monitoring costs for cameras, sensors and “removable security devices” at their homes.

That is a change from the draft proposed by the FEC ahead of the vote, which said that members could use campaign contributions to install or upgrade residential security systems but did not specify eligible expenditures.

The FEC said campaign cash should not be used to make upgrades or to add security systems meant to increase the value of a home. Threats to members have to be assessed by the Capitol Police.

House Sergeant-at-Arms Paul D. Irving requested the FEC guidance after Scalise, a Louisiana Republican, was among those shot on June 13.

Irving outlined a “new daily threat environment” facing lawmakers, citing U.S. Capitol Police’s investigation of 902 threatening communications received by lawmakers in 2016 and 950 threats investigated in just the first six months of 2017. He reiterated those statistics in his testimony to the FEC on Thursday.

“There are some members in particular who have had very specific threats made upon them and their family and are understandably increasingly fearful,” Rep. Kevin Yoder, R-Kan., chairman of the Legislative Branch Appropriations Subcommittee, told CQ Roll Call.

Until the FEC’s decision on Thursday, members could only use campaign funds for security after the FEC granted permission on a case-by-case, threat-specific basis. Former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was allowed to upgrade security at her home after the Arizona Democrat was was shot and severely wounded at a 2011 event for constituents in Tucson.

Katherine Tully-McManus

Wagner Gets Two Democratic Challengers

After passing on a Senate run next year, Missouri Rep. Ann Wagner has seen at least two Democratic challengers get into the 2018 race for her seat.

Wagner’s challengers include suburban St. Louis lawyer Cort VanOstran, and lawyer Kelli Dunaway, The Associated Press reported.

Wagner announced last week that she would not challenge Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill. Her decision came amid speculation that the state’s Republican Attorney General Josh Hawley could be a potential challenger to the state’s senior senator.

Despite bypassing a Senate run, Wagner still has a large campaign war chest. Between January and March of this year, she raised more than $804,000 and had $2.7 million in cash on hand.

Wagner, currently serving her third term in Congress, won re-election last fall comfortably, 59 percent to 38 percent, over her Democratic challenger in Missouri’s 2nd District. 

Both of VanOstran and Dunaway cited Wagner’s recent vote to replace the 2010 health care law as a reason for their jumping into the race.

Several other Democrats are reported to be considering a challenge to Wagner, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. They include: St. Louis School Board member Bill Haas, who lost a race for the 2nd District in 2008; Mark Osmack, 35, an Army veteran who served two tours in Afghanistan; and Sam Gladney, 33, a lawyer an Army Iraq War veteran.

Democrats had targeted Wagner’s seat while she was considering a run for Senate. VanOstran told the Post-Dispatch he had talked to New Mexico Rep. Ben Ray Luján, the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, about the race.

— Eric Garcia