Republicans targeted by colleague, dark money
OKLAHOMA CITY — When voters booted a dozen Oklahoma Republican legislators from office in the state primary, the common thinking was that educators angry about classroom funding were behind the ousters.
But there were forces at work beyond just agitated teachers.
A top GOP House leader actively participated in a plan to take down several hardline members of his own caucus, a move that went far beyond what former President Ronald Reagan once called the 11th Commandment: Never to speak ill of a fellow Republican.
Meanwhile, a dark-money federal super PAC based in Alexandria, Virginia, spent nearly $750,000 launching a parallel attack against several of the same Republicans. The Conservative Alliance PAC, which can raise and spend unlimited sums of money without disclosing its individual donors, targeted several House Republicans with mailers, radio ads and other attack ads.
“They’ve gotten rid of us troublemakers who were holding the Republican principle line,” said Rep. George Faught, a 10-year Muskogee Republican targeted with a mailer that featured him with a long Pinocchio nose.
Conservative Alliance PAC also targeted Republican state legislators in primary elections in Ohio, where the PAC is being sued for defamation for some of its attacks.
In Oklahoma, Republicans have been steamrolling Democrats in elections for a decade, racking up super majorities in both legislative chambers and laying claim to the entire congressional delegation and every statewide elected office.
As a result, much of the state’s political wrangling takes place within the GOP, evident earlier this year when hardline conservatives like Faught in the state House thwarted GOP leadership’s plan for tax hikes to help fund teacher pay increases.
With a teacher walkout looming, Republican House leaders were forced to broker a compromise with Democrats to get the necessary votes, further exacerbating the rift within the GOP. Several anti-tax conservatives even joined an effort to roll back the tax hike that ultimately fell short.
Rep. Chris Kannady, a House floor leader who acknowledged helping launch the attack on his own colleagues, gave $2,000 to Stan May, a Republican from Broken Arrow running against Rep. Mike Ritze.
Ritze was defeated, along with seven other GOP incumbents who had voted against leadership’s plan to raise taxes on cigarettes, motor fuel and oil and gas production to help pay for a pay raise for teachers.
Ritze, a five-term incumbent best known for his anti-immigration rhetoric and personally financing a Ten Commandments monument at the Capitol, was among those targeted by Conservative Alliance PAC.
In one of the mailers, Republican state Rep. Josh West, an Army combat veteran, accused Ritze of wearing military medals he did not earn.
Republican gubernatorial candidate to release tax returns
SANTA FE — The Republican candidate for governor of New Mexico said he plans to make good on a promise to release his tax returns.
Congressman and gubernatorial candidate Steve Pearce told The Associated Press that he plans to make his 2017 tax returns available in mid-October. Absentee voting was set to begin Oct. 9 in the general election.
Pearce says his tax returns were delayed because of incomplete information from independent businesses that sought extensions.
Democratic gubernatorial nominee and U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham has publicly posted five years of tax returns that date back to her first year in Congress. Those returns show past income from a business that runs the state’s high-risk health insurance pool.
State Democratic Party Chairwoman Marg Elliston described Pearce’s plan to release one year of tax returns as “too little, too late.”
Pearce noted that he has provided details of his personal finances on congressional disclosure forms.
Political candidates in New Mexico are not required to release tax returns, and the practice has not been customary in past gubernatorial races.
Democrat challenger outraises GOP’s Kevin Yoder in congressional race
Kansas Democrat Sharice Davids outraised incumbent GOP Rep. Kevin Yoder by more than $1.6 million over the past three months, a strong sign of Democratic enthusiasm in a race that could determine which party controls the U.S. House of Representatives.
Davids, a lawyer and amateur mixed martial arts fighter, is Kansas’ first openly gay, Native American nominee for Congress.
She raised more than $2.7 million since the end of June, a total that appears to shatter records for a Democrat in the suburban Kansas City congressional district where she is challenging Yoder.
Yoder raised a hefty $1.1 million in the same quarter, a record for a Republican in the district. He has nearly $1.3 million cash on hand going into the final weeks of the campaign.
National Democrats targeted Yoder’s seat after Democrat Hillary Clinton narrowly won the district in 2016.
Recent public polls show Davids leading Yoder, a four-term incumbent, although Yoder’s internal polling shows him with a small lead.
Dennis Moore, the Democrat who represented the 3rd District before Yoder, never raised more than $2.4 million per election cycle, much less per fundraising quarter, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan campaign finance research group.
State officials tell tribes of election requirements
BISMARCK, North Dakota — North Dakota is going ahead with requiring residents to provide a street address in order to vote on Election Day, even though some American Indian tribes have argued in federal court that addresses sometimes aren’t assigned on reservations.
Secretary of State Al Jaeger’s office recently notified the state’s five tribes in an email describing North Dakota voter ID requirements. The email said obtaining a residential street address is a quick and no-cost process that can be done by notifying 911 coordinators in any of North Dakota’s 53 counties. A file containing a downloadable poster was attached to the email.
Elections officials sent the email hours after lawyers representing a group of Native Americans appealed their lawsuit to the U.S. Supreme Court, saying new voter ID requirements in place in North Dakota will lead to confusion during the upcoming election.
Street addresses aren’t always assigned on Native American reservations, so members of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa sued the state, alleging its ID requirements discriminated against Native Americans. A district court judge agreed in April.
American Indians in North Dakota tend to vote for Democrats and their vote is especially important this year, as Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp is in a close race with Republican Kevin Cramer that could help determine control of the Senate. Census data show American Indians make up only about 5 percent of North Dakota’s population, but tribal members’ strong support for Heitkamp played a big role in her election to the U.S. Senate in 2012 by fewer than 3,000 votes.
North Dakota has required voters to provide ID since 2004. Voters without an ID were allowed to sign an affidavit attesting to their eligibility to vote, but the GOP-controlled Legislature removed that provision in 2013 shortly after Heitkamp’s win.
Election official heading to county in Navajo voting suits
SALT LAKE CITY — The state of Utah will send an election official to a county dogged by allegations of discrimination against Navajo voters.
Elections Director Justin Lee said it’s a major step to ensure everything goes smoothly in the politically charged situation in San Juan County, which borders Arizona and New Mexico and overlaps with the Navajo Nation.
The county has redrawn its voting districts after a federal judge found they were illegally drawn based on race and been ordered to put a Navajo candidate back on the ballot after a judge found he was wrongly disqualified.
San Juan County officials have pushed back against the new voting districts and said the county clerk was mistaken in his handling of the candidate’s disqualification.
Federal election observers also monitored the polls there in 2016.