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Red State Democrats Start to Line Up Against Kavanaugh

Donnelly, Nelson, Tester announce opposition to Trump’s Supreme Court nominee

Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., will vote against Trump’s Supreme Court nominee. (Sarah Silbiger/CQ Roll Call)
Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., will vote against Trump’s Supreme Court nominee. (Sarah Silbiger/CQ Roll Call)

Updated 1:27 p.m. | Three Democratic senators running for re-election in states that President Donald Trump won in 2016 announced Friday they will not support his Supreme Court nominee, Judge Bredtt Kavanaugh. 

Two of them, Sens. Joe Donnelly of Indiana and Jon Tester of Montana, represent states Trump won by double digits. Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida, whose state Trump carried by 1 point, also announced on Twitter he would vote against confirming Kavanaugh. 

Both Donnelly and Tester cited concerns over allegations that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted Christine Blasey Ford when they were in high school. Both Kavanaugh and Ford testified Thursday before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Ford said she was “100 percent” certain it was Kavanaugh who assaulted her, while Kavanaugh vehemently denied the allegation. 

All three senators are among the most vulnerable Senate incumbents, given the partisan nature of their home states. 

Donnelly was one of three Senate Democrats who supported Trump’s first high court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, but said he could not support Kavanaugh absent an FBI investigation into allegations of sexual assault that have been levied at the judge.

Watch: Arrested Protesters Chant ‘We Believe Christine’ Outside Kavanaugh Hearing Room

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“The allegations made against Judge Kavanaugh are disturbing and credible,” Donnelly said in a statement. “In the interest of getting as much information as possible, I believe the allegations should be investigated by the FBI.”

“I have deep reservations about Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination to this lifetime position and, as I stated, we have been unable to get all the information necessary regarding this nomination, despite my best efforts,” Donnelly said. “Only 113 people have ever served on the Supreme Court, and I believe that we must do our level best to protect its sanctity.”

Donnelly faces Republican businessman and former state Rep. Mike Braun in November in a state Trump carried by 19 points in 2016. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the race a Toss-up.

Braun called Donnelly’s decision to vote against Kavanaugh a “grave mistake” and accused the incumbent of being “more concerned with standing with his liberal Democrat leaders than standing for Hoosiers.”

“I continue to strongly support Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court,” the GOP nominee said.

Tester cited a handful of other concerns about Kavanaugh, including his defense of the so-called PATRIOT Act, his views on money in politics, and “who he believes is in charge of making personal health decisions.” The Montana Democrat also said he had “deep concerns” about the sexual assault allegations, and that he could not discuss his concerns with Kavanaugh in person because Kavanaugh “couldn’t find time” to meet with him. 

Tester’s opponent, GOP state auditor Matt Rosendale, said it was not surprising that Tester would oppose Kavanaugh, given that he opposed Gorsuch and supported President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominees. 

“Time and time again, Tester stands with [Senate Minority Leader] Chuck Schumer and Washington Democrats over the people of Montana,” Rosendale said in a statement. Inside Elections rates the Montana Senate race Tilts Democratic.

Nelson faces Florida GOP Gov. Rick Nelson in another high-profile race that Inside Elections rates a Toss-up.

Last week Missouri Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill announced she would oppose Kavanaugh because of his views on campaign finance. She is running in a Toss-up Senate race in a state Trump won by 19 points. McCaskill faces Republican Attorney General Josh Hawley, a former Supreme Court clerk, who has made the court vacancy a central tenet of his campaign

Other Democratic senators representing states that Trump won who have already announced their opposition to Kavanaugh include Wisconsin’s Tammy Baldwin, Ohio’s Sherrod Brown, Pennsylvania’s Bob Casey and Michigan’s Debbie Stabenow

Two other Democrats — Sen. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota — are yet to announce their positions on the nomination. Both voted to confirm Gorsuch to the Supreme Court last year. 

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