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Washington incumbents face outsider challenges - what to watch in politics this week

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Here are the top trends and people to watch in politics this week:

  • With nine weeks to go to the midterms, Trump's travel schedule focuses on Senate map
  • More Washington incumbents – Rep. Michael Capuano (MA-7), Rep. Richard Neal (MA-1) and Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) – face primary challenges from Washington outsiders – Ayanna Pressley, Tahirah Amatul-Wadud, and Kerri Evelyn Harris
  • Two openly gay candidates run for Senate in Delaware, making history
  • Diverse group of Democrats fight for nomination in Massachusetts' open third district

Nine weeks until midterms – Trump's campaign schedule picks up 

Although much of the attention this week will be focused on Capitol Hill to see Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court confirmation hearing and top social media executives testify before Congress, this week also marks the unofficial beginning of the general campaign season. 

There are nine weeks to go until the midterms, and most of the primaries have now been decided, with the exception of Massachusetts on Tuesday, Delaware on Thursday, and New Hampshire and Rhode Island's primaries and the New York gubernatorial primary election the following week.

At the end of August, White House officials promised President Trump would keep an ambitious midterm travel schedule this fall, announcing visits to North Dakota, South Dakota, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, Kentucky and Tennessee. On Friday, Mr. Trump added another stop to the list – Texas – tweeting, "I will be doing a major rally for Senator Ted Cruz in October. I'm picking the biggest stadium in Texas we can find."

Most of the stops are in heavily Republican states that Trump won in 2016, including Missouri, Montana, and North Dakota, where incumbent Democrats Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri, Jon Tester, D-Montana, and Heidi Heitkamp, D-North Dakota, are up for re-election. He'll also be dropping in on states where Republican Senate candidates face formidable Democratic challengers: Phil Bredesen in Tennessee, Jacky Rosen in Nevada, and Beto O'Rourke in Texas.

For now, Mr. Trump's midterm schedule is more focused on the Senate map than the House map, where Republicans across the country are fighting to hold onto seats in suburban, affluent, and highly educated districts. Now that the primaries are over, the president's rhetoric and presence on the campaign trail could hurt congressional Republicans more than it could help them in these districts.

CBS News Battleground Tracker poll in late August found that Democrats have a slight edge in the fight for control of the House in 2018, bolstered in large part by support from women. In battleground districts that will decide control of the House – most of which are currently held by Republicans – by a 12-point margin, women say they plan to vote for a Democratic candidate. According to the poll, most women voters don't think President Trump is doing a good job. Most women also disapprove of the way he's handling issues that affect women, too. Democrats say so in in strong numbers, but majorities of independent and moderate women also give the president negative marks on overall job performance and his handling of issues impacting women.  

More Washington incumbents face primary challenges from Washington outsiders

This has been a year of political upsets and uprising against Washington insiders and the D.C. establishment. First-time candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez had a surprise victory over Rep. Joe Crowley in New York in the Democratic primaries. Businessman Mike Braun defeated Reps. Todd Rokita and Luke Messer to become the Republican candidate for Senate in Indiana. Rep. Mark Sanford, R-South Carolina, was defeated by state legislator Katie Arrington, and Rep. Robert Pittenger, R-North Carolina, lost the nomination to pastor Mark Harris. This week, more Washington outsiders are hoping they have the same luck.


In Massachusetts' 7th District, which includes much of Boston and its suburbs and is the only district in Massachusetts that is home to more non-whites than whites, Democratic incumbent Rep. Michael Capuano, who was first  elected 20 years ago, faces a primary challenge from Boston City Councilor-At-Large Ayanna Pressley, who was the first black woman to serve on the City Council. The 10-term Congressman has received endorsements from many Democratic leaders, including Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, the Congressional Black Caucus, Rep. John Lewis, and Rep. Joe Kennedy III. 

Meanwhile, Pressley has received the endorsements of Ocasio-Cortez, as well as Boston's two major newspapers, the Boston Globe and the Boston Herald. Although the two are both progressives who are more or less ideologically aligned, Pressley is running to bring an outsider's change to Washington. Massachusetts has never elected a black person to the House of Representatives. Pressley recently told the New York Times, "I'm not running to keep things as they are. I'm running to change them."

In Massachusetts' 1st District, 30-year incumbent Richard Neal faces a primary challenge from 44-year-old political newcomer Tahirah Amatul-Wadud, a Muslim, African-American civil rights attorney.  Amatul-Wadud, a progressive, says she was encouraged by Ocasio-Cortez' political upset in New York, telling the AP,  "It sent a message to all of our volunteers, voters and supporters that winning is very possible."


Meanwhile in Delaware, 71-year-old incumbent Democratic Sen. Tom Carper faces a primary challenge from 38-year-old Kerri Evelyn Harris, a political rookie, U.S. Air Force veteran, and political activist. Carper, who is known for his bipartisan and centrist approach to governing, is backed by former Vice President Joe Biden, the state party, the Delaware AFL-CIO and the Delaware State Education Association. 

Harris, who embraces a more progressive agenda, has the backing of Ocasio-Cortez, who campaigned alongside Harris at two rallies on Friday.

Two openly gay Senate candidates are running in Delaware, making history 

For the first time in Delaware's history, two openly gay candidates are running for statewide office. Per the Delaware News Journal: "Two of the major party candidates for U.S. Senate this year are openly gay – a record for Delaware that comes five years after the state first legalized gay marriage. The candidacies of Democrat Kerri Harris and Republican Gene Truono are the latest sign that the slate of candidates for statewide office is growing more diverse, even as those contenders struggle to win elections here. Incumbent Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, a Democrat, became both the first woman and the first African-American to win Delaware's lone House seat in 2016 – nearly 50 years after New York voters elected Shirley Chisholm the first black woman ever elected to the U.S. House. Yet no black, Hispanic, Asian-American or openly gay candidate in Delaware has ever been elected U.S. senator, governor, attorney general, Senate president or House speaker."

Diversity among Democrats fighting for MA-3 seat

Incumbent Democrat Rep. Niki Tsongas' decision not to run for re-election left Massachusetts' Third District wide open, and now ten diverse candidates are vying for the Democratic nomination this Tuesday. Five men and five women are running: Jeffrey Ballinger, Alexandra Chandler, Beej Das, Rufus Gifford, Leonard Golder, Daniel Koh, Barbara L'Italien, Juana Matias, Bopha Malone and Lori Trahan. 

Bopha Malone is a Cambodian born woman who was a refugee and came to the U.S. when she was nine. Rufus Gifford, the former ambassador to Denmark, is gay. If elected, Beej Das could be the first Indian American from Massachusetts to serve in the House. Alexandra Chandler is the first openly transgender candidate running for Congress in Massachusetts, and if elected, she would be the first transgender member in Congress. According to the Boston Globe, "Chandler says she intends to put another voice to the ballot measure that asks voters whether to keep the state's anti-discrimination law on transgender rights on the books."

What to know about the primaries this week:

There are two primaries this week: Massachusetts on Tuesday, September 4, and Delaware on Thursday, September 6.

House primaries

The Democrats need to flip 23 Republican-held districts to take control of the House of Representatives this fall, and CBS News does not rate any of the House districts with primaries this week as competitive in November.

Senate primaries

Delaware and Massachusetts each have one Senate primary election this week.

In Massachusetts, incumbent Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren is widely expected to win re-election this fall. When asked about speculation that she's eyeing a presidential run in 2020, Warren sidesteps the question by saying she's focused on her Senate re-election this November. On the Republican side, state Rep. Geoff Diehl, who was endorsed by the Massachusetts Republican Party, leads in fundraising from July-August 15 among his challengers, Beth Lindstrom and John Kingston.

In Delaware, incumbent Democratic Sen. Tom Carper faces a primary challenge from political rookie and progressive-candidate Kerri Evelyn Harris. On the Republican side, former PayPal executive Eugene Truono is facing off against Sussex County Councilman Rob Arlett. Truono,  a fiscal conservative, is the first openly gay and married candidate to run for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate in Delaware's history. Arlett, who chaired Trump's 2016 Delaware campaign, is an outspoken social conservative who opposes abortion and gay marriage.

Gubernatorial primaries

Massachusetts holds gubernatorial primaries on Tuesday. Incumbent Republican Gov. Charlie Baker is widely expected to win his primary but faces an opponent on the right, Scott Lively, a controversial pastor who founded a LGBT hate group and wrote a book that said gay men were responsible for the Holocaust. Lively ran for governor in 2014 and lost. He is also pro-guns and pro-Trump. 

Baker is a moderate who is one of the most popular governors in the U.S. He has raised $8 million and has proven to be an appealing choice for independent voters. Baker signed one bill that bans discrimination against transgender individuals and another that protects abortion rights. Baker has expressed criticism of both Republican efforts to repeal and replace the ACA and of President Trump's immigration plans.  

The two candidates in the Democratic primary are Jay Gonzalez and Robert Massie, both of whom carry relatively low name recognition outside of liberal activist groups. Gonzalez has the backing of the Massachusetts Democratic Party and was Gov. Deval Patrick's secretary of administration and finance. Massie has been an activist for four decades.

At an event, Gonzalez noted that he and Massie, who was a Bernie Sanders supporter in 2016, don't differ that much on policy saying, "I honestly couldn't tell you where we differ on policy. We both are offering a very ambitious, progressive agenda." Both the candidates want to see transportation reform, the expansion of renewable energy and a single-payer health care program.

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