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ATLANTA (AP) — Democrats in the conservative Deep South are looking to recapture some old political magic in the 2014 elections.
 
President Barack Obama's party is running candidates with familiar names, like Carter and Nunn in Georgia, in hopes of rebuilding clout where Republicans rule. Given their recent political struggles in the region, some Democrats say they have nothing to lose.
 
"We need known quantities while we continue to build our bench for the future," said Georgia Democratic Chairman DuBose Porter, a failed candidate for governor in 2010. "This gives us a short game and a long game."
 
The candidates are carefully managing their family connections and their own political histories — a tactic that reflects the risk of looking like a party of the past and the sheer difficulty of winning in the face of widespread disdain for Obama and his signature health care law.
 
Southern Democratic Party leaders counter that it's still their best shot to restore an old majority coalition: blacks, urban liberals and just enough whites from small towns and rural areas. That would mean remixes and retreads successfully luring voters who have trended Republican or stayed home in recent years while the GOP built a virtual monopoly on statewide offices.
 
In Georgia, Democratic hopes are pinned on new generations of old political families. In South Carolina, Alabama and Mississippi former officials and a previously unsuccessful candidate are waging comebacks.
 
Georgia's likely lineup for November looks a lot like the 1970s, when governor-turned-president Jimmy Carter and Sen. Sam Nunn towered over the state's politics. This year, it's Michelle Nunn, a nonprofit executive in Atlanta, making her political debut by running for her father's old job in Washington. Jason Carter, who toddled around the White House Rose Garden and Oval Office when his grandfather was president, already serves in the Georgia Senate, but he's making his first statewide bid by running for Republican Gov. Nathan Deal's seat.
 
In South Carolina, state Sen. Vincent Sheheen is trying to unseat Republican Nikki Haley four years after she beat him by 60,000 votes, a margin of 4.4 percent.
 
Mississippi Democrats, meanwhile, hope former Rep. Travis Childers can knock off the winner of a potentially bruising Senate Republican primary between Sen. Thad Cochran and tea party challenger Chris McDaniel, a state lawmaker.
 
"We're losing elections because Democrats stay home and we're not persuading independents," Mississippi Democratic Chairman Rickey Cole said. "In a statewide race, we have to look to our known prospects first to get those folks back."
 
And in Alabama, where Republicans hold every statewide federal, executive and judicial office, Democrats are turning to former congressman and state legislator Parker Griffith to take on popular Republican Gov. Robert Bentley, even though Griffith has switched parties multiple times.
 
Georgia Democrats say the races are an opportunity to prove what they've claimed for years, that demographic shifts in the growing state will loosen the GOP's grip and make it a battleground — including in the 2016 presidential election — alongside Virginia and North Carolina.
 
So far the Democratic candidates have tried to steer their campaigns away from the past, despite their familiar names.
 
Carter's campaign biography calls him a "ninth-generation Georgian," but alludes to his 89-year-old grandfather only with a notation of the grandson serving as a Carter Center trustee. When Jason Carter first ran for state senator in 2010, he didn't tap his family connection publicly until days before the election; he and Jimmy Carter knocked on doors together in Carter's district, just east of downtown Atlanta and the former president's library and international humanitarian center. The candidate rarely mentions his grandfather in public remarks, instead using campaign stops and Senate floor speeches to draw contrasts with Deal on education and other issues.
 
Nunn, who is on leave of absence as CEO of former President George H.W. Bush's Points of Light Foundation, is far more likely to emphasize her ties to the first family of Republican politics than to mention her 75-year-old father. It was the elder Nunn — not his daughter — who appeared publicly with Vice President Joe Biden when he came to Atlanta this month to raise money for Senate Democratic candidates.
 
After she filed papers to be on the June primary ballot, the younger Nunn bristled at questions about never holding office and capitalizing on her name. She trumpets her first-timer status as a benefit: "I don't believe career politicians are the answer."
 
But Porter argues that well-known names allow a targeted appeal other Democrats might not have.
 
"Michelle and Jason can raise money and energize young people in their own right," Porter said, adding that as professionals with school-age children — Carter is an Atlanta attorney — they can appeal to others like them, including independents and Republicans in the populous Atlanta suburbs.
 
"Beyond that," Porter said, "their last names get other folks to take a closer look. It provides voters a comfort level they might not otherwise have."
 
It's those "other folks" — older, conservative whites outside metropolitan areas — who've been increasingly hard for Democrats to reach.
 
Sheheen notes often that he grew up in the same town where he now practices law. His father and uncle were active in state government, though they weren't household names. The home county that sends him to the Legislature opted for Mitt Romney over Obama in 2012 by 18 percentage points, well ahead of Romney's 10-point margin statewide.
 
Sheheen supports expanding the Medicaid insurance program under Obama's health care law, something that appeals to core Democrats, including black voters who make up more than 30 percent of the electorate. But he couches it in terms of local economies — healthy workers, financially stable community hospitals — in an effort to target more pragmatic Romney voters.
 
The outreach is more complicated for Childers in Mississippi and Griffith in Alabama. In Congress, both voted against Obama's health care overhaul but were unable to hold their congressional seats in the 2010 Republican tide.
 
Childers, then a longtime county clerk, won a 2008 special House election and months later was re-elected with 55 percent of the vote, well ahead of Obama's 37 percent in the district.
 
Griffith won his seat with 52 percent, which was 14 percentage points ahead of Obama.
Published in National News
Thursday, 31 October 2013 02:35

After unity, Obama faces Democratic pushback

   WASHINGTON (AP) — Just two weeks after President Barack Obama saw his Democratic Party put up an unyielding front against Republicans, his coalition is showing signs of stress.

   From health care to spying to pending budget deals, many congressional Democrats are challenging the administration and pushing for measures that the White House has not embraced.

   Some Democrats are seeking to extend the enrollment period for new health care exchanges. Others want to place restraints on National Security Administration surveillance capabilities. Still others are standing tough against any budget deal that uses long-term reductions in major benefit programs to offset immediate cuts in defense.

   Though focused on disparate issues, the Democrats' anxieties are connected by timing and stand out all the more when contrasted with the remarkable unity the party displayed during the recent showdown over the partial government shutdown and the confrontation over raising the nation's borrowing limit.

   "That moment was always going to be fleeting," said Matt Bennett, who worked in the Clinton White House and who regularly consults with Obama aides. "The White House, every White House, understands that these folks, driven either by principle or the demands of the politics of their state, have to put daylight between themselves and the president on occasion."

   Obama and the Democrats emerged from the debt and shutdown clash with what they wanted: a reopened government, a higher debt ceiling and a Republican Party reeling in the depths of public opinion polls.

   But within days, attention turned to the problem-riddled launch of the 3-year-old health care law's enrollment stage and revelations that the U.S. had been secretly monitoring the communications of as many as 35 allied leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel. And with new budget talks underway, Democratic Party liberals reiterated demands that Obama not agree to changes that reduce Social Security or Medicare benefits even in the improbable event Republicans agree to increase budget revenues.

   The fraying on the Democratic Party edges is hardly unraveling Obama's support and it pales when compared to the upheaval within the Republican Party as it distances itself from the tactics of tea party conservatives. But the pushback from Democrats comes as Obama is trying to draw renewed attention to his agenda, including passage of an immigration overhaul, his jobs initiatives and the benefits of his health care law.

   The computer troubles that befell the start of health insurance sign-ups have caused the greatest anxiety. Republicans pounced on the difficulties as evidence of deeper flaws in the law. But Democrats, even as they defended the policy, also demanded answers in the face of questions from their constituents.

   "The fact is that the administration really failed these Americans," Rep. Allyson Schwartz, D-Pa., told Medicare chief Marilyn Tavenner at a hearing this week. "So going forward there can be just no more excuses."

   In the Senate, 10 Democrats signed on to a letter seeking an unspecified extension of the enrollment period, which ends March 31. "As you continue to fix problems with the website and the enrollment process, it is critical that the administration be open to modifications that provide greater flexibility for the American people seeking to access health insurance," Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., wrote.

   Another Democratic senator, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, has called for a one-year delay in the requirement that virtually all Americans have health insurance or pay a fine.

   Democrats who have talked to White House officials in recent days describe them as rattled by the health care blunders. But they say they are confident that the troubled website used for enrollment will be corrected and fully operational by the end of November.

   The spying revelations also have created some tensions between the administration and Democrats. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee and until now a staunch supporter of the NSA's surveillance, called for a "total review of all intelligence programs" following the Merkel reports.

   She said that when it came to the NSA collecting intelligence on the leaders of allies such as France, Spain, Mexico and Germany, "Let me state unequivocally: I am totally opposed."

   With Congress renewing budget talks Wednesday, liberals have been outspoken in their insistence that Democrats vigorously resist efforts to reduce long-term deficits with savings in Social Security or Medicare. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, an independent who usually votes with Democrats, has been the most outspoken, saying he fears a budget deal will contain a proposal in Obama's budget to reduce cost-of-living adjustments for Social Security and other benefit programs.

   Obama, however, has proposed that remedy only if Republicans agree to raise tax revenue, a bargain that most in the GOP firmly oppose. Moreover, leaders from both parties as well as White House officials have signaled that budget talks are looking for a small budget deal, not the type of "grand bargain" that would embrace such a revenue-for-benefit-cuts deal.

Published in National News

   KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Former Missouri Congressman Ike Skelton, a champion of the military who served 17 terms in the U.S. House before losing a re-election bid in 2010, has died. He was 81.

   Skelton died Monday at Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington, Va., surrounded by family and friends, including longtime colleague Russell Orban.

   The cause was not immediately released, but Orban says Skelton entered the hospital a week earlier with a cough. Oban confirmed Skelton's death to The Associated Press.

   The Lexington, Mo., native was a Democrat and former chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.

   Skelton lost to Republican Vicky Hartzler in 2010 in western Missouri's 4th Congressional District. He then joined the law firm of Kansas City-based Husch Blackwell, working in its offices in Kansas City and Washington.

 
Published in Local News
Tuesday, 09 April 2013 01:26

Zweifel won't run for MO Governor in 2016

   Missouri Treasurer Clint Zweifel is ruling out a run for governor in 2016.  

   Zweifel, a Democrat, is prohibited by term limits from seeking a third term as treasurer.

   He had been mentioned along with Democratic Attorney General Chris Koster as a potential successor to Democratic Governor Jay Nixon.  

   But Zweifel campaign manager Mike Pridmore said Monday that the state treasurer will not run for governor in 2016 because he want's to spend more time with his family. 

Published in Local News

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