Primary Source: U.S. Senate races taking shape

  • John P. Gregg. Copyright (c) Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 7/10/2019 10:15:36 PM

With all the focus on the 2020 presidential campaign — and President Donald Trump’s unique ability to draw so much media attention — it’s worth noting that there will be some major U.S. Senate races next year, and they are already taking shape.

Republicans currently hold a 53-47 advantage over Democrats (including independent Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Angus King of Maine), and 22 GOP seats are up next year, to just 12 now held by Democrats.

One of them, however, is the Alabama seat Sen. Doug Jones, a Democrat, was lucky to win in a 2017 special election over conservative crank Roy Moore.

The race Democrats across the country will be watching, although it’s uphill, is the challenge by Kentucky Democrat Amy McGrath against Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. McGrath, who announced her campaign earlier this week, refers to herself as a retired Marine fighter pilot and mother of three. A U.S. Naval Academy graduate, McGrath flew 89 combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

She’s off to a fast fundraising start, with her campaign announcing on Wednesday that it had raised $2.5 million in the first 24 hours, with an average online donation of just over $36.

But McGrath is also running in a red state that backed Trump with 62.5% of the vote in 2016, to just 32.7% for Hillary Clinton. And McGrath also ran and lost, albeit narrowly, in a 2018 U.S. House race against a Republican incumbent.

Closer to home, U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, the veteran Maine Republican who cast a key vote in favor of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, is facing a challenge from Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon, which also will draw national attention. Gideon, a Democrat, raised more than $1 million in about a week after announcing her candidacy last month.

And in New Hampshire, of course, U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, a two-term Democrat, is already facing a Republican challenge from retired Army Gen. Don Bolduc, and former GOP House Speaker Bill O’Brien, a divisive conservative, is expected to soon enter the race.

Shaheen has made McConnell a foil in her fundraising, with her campaign writing last week that “Mitch McConnell is blocking every single Democratic priority in the Senate,” including House-passed bills for universal background checks on gun sales, elections safeguards and expanded protections for patients with preexisting conditions.

On the trail

There are no immediate campaign stops planned for the Upper Valley this weekend, but it’s going to be busy across New Hampshire. Former Vice President Joe Biden, U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, U.S. Sen. Cory Booker and former Texas U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke are all slated to be in the state.

Booker this week announced endorsements from six New Hampshire lawmakers, including state Rep. Lee Oxenham Walker, D-Plainfield.

“Our leaders must take threats to the environment and the climate crisis very seriously. Cory understands this. His environmental justice plan would protect our precious natural resources, keep PFAS out of our water, and strengthen critical EPA protections,” Walker said in a statement released by the Booker campaign.

Last week, U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., made a campaign stop at the Claremont Soup Kitchen as part of an extensive tour through the Granite State. She helped wash produce and cut tomatoes at the soup kitchen and noted the importance of such community-based programs.

The Washington Post Sunday magazine has an insightful article on Gillibrand’s candidacy, which has struggled to gain support, with the subhead: “In 2019, it’s unforgivable for a presidential candidate to be boring. Maybe that’s our loss.”

Dartmouth news

■After 15 years as the director of Dartmouth’s Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy, economics professor Andrew Samwick is returning full-time to teaching and research. Among his accomplishments at the Rockefeller Center was establishing a Policy Research Shop, whereby Dartmouth students provide nonpartisan research on issues for understaffed committees and lawmakers in Concord and Montpelier.

Samwick, who has taught at Dartmouth for 25 years, plans to focus his research on such topics as risk-sharing through college financing arrangements and “pay for success” programs in public finance, where nonprofits and private investors who provide social services are paid only if they meet certain outcomes, such as higher graduation rates or lower recidivism for former prison inmates, he said.

■The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Dartmouth begins its “Critical Thinking for the Preservation of Our Democracy” summer lecture series on Thursday with a session on freedom of speech. Other topics this summer will range from gun rights to freedom of the press to individual privacy. Among the panelists coming to Hanover for the series are Yale Law School Professor Akhil Reed Amar and ProPublica President Richard Tofel.

■The Hanover Planning Board has set a date to review Dartmouth’s revised plans for its Center for Engineering and Computer Science after workers placed a deep hole for the $200 million project 10 feet closer to West Wheelock Street than intended.

The hearing is scheduled for July 23 at 7:30 p.m. at Town Hall in Hanover.

John P. Gregg can be reached at jgregg@vnews.com.




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