Stephanie Akin

Trump campaign: Rep. Joaquin Castro inciting violence by publicizing donors
Julián Castro’s twin brother tweeted names of Trump donors in aftermath of mass shootings

President Donald Trump’s campaign, under fire for depictions of Latin American immigrants that were apparently appropriated by the accused mass shooter in El Paso, Texas, blasted back at Rep. Joaquin Castro on Tuesday for posting some names of the president’s campaign contributors on Twitter. 

“Democrats want to talk about inciting violence? This naming of private citizens and their employers is reckless and irresponsible,” Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh said in a statement. “He is endangering the safety of people he is supposed to be representing.”

Ben Sasse, one of the Senate’s last remaining Republican Trump critics, to seek reelection
Nebraska senator has already drawn a primary challenger in his bid for a second term

Ben Sasse, who has publicly grappled with ambivalence about the Senate, the Republican Party and President Donald Trump, ended months of speculation about his plans with the announcement that he will run again for his Nebraska Senate seat. 

“What’s at stake in 2020 is a choice between civics and socialism,” he said Monday at the Millard airport, outside of Omaha, where he was introduced by a string of state GOP leaders.  

Biden on criminal justice: After working the middle, criticism from the left
Along with mandatory minimums, laws included ‘assault’ rifle ban and domestic violence penalties

Former Vice President Joe Biden’s record as a senator who crafted tough-on-crime laws in the 1980s and the 1990s will likely make him a target on the presidential debate stage Wednesday night, as Democratic opponents seek to paint him as out of touch.

But as with many aspects of his 36-year record in the Senate, work that put Biden squarely in the center of his party on criminal justice now poses a problem as he tries to to attract voters seeking younger, more diverse leaders.

The next Joe Crowley? Not us, these high-profile Democrats say
List of progressive primary challengers keeps growing

Democrats in Congress who have been living for months with the threat of primary challenges are getting their first sense of actual danger, with a string of progressive candidates announcing campaigns in recent weeks against some of the most entrenched and high-profile members.

Targets include House Ways and Means Chairman Richard E. Neal, who has represented Western Massachusetts since 1989. His challenger, Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse, launched a much-anticipated campaign Monday.

Letters in Amy McGrath campaign launch video were postmarked the same day
Three-minute video announcing challenge to McConnell was titled ‘The Letter’ about her own unanswered plea

Kentucky Senate candidate Amy McGrath’s three-minute campaign launch  video retells her personal story of getting no answer to letters to members of Congress, then features four Kentuckians writing to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for help with personal crises.

The video implies that McConnell never responded, but it appears the letters were sent Tuesday, the same day that McGrath announced her bid for the Democratic nomination to challenge him. 

Pete Buttigieg, youngest of 2020 hopefuls, was unwilling to wait his turn in 2010 too
Bid for Indiana state treasurer did not attract red-state voters, but provided a ‘crash course’

This is the third installment in “Battle Tested,” a series analyzing early campaigns of some Democrats seeking the 2020 presidential nomination. Earlier pieces focused on Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s campaign for a New York seat in the House in 2006 and Sen. Cory Booker’s 2002 bid for mayor of Newark, New Jersey.

A decade before he seemingly came out of nowhere at age 37 to become a top-tier candidate in the crowded race for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, Pete Buttigieg stood at a podium in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and told state party leaders he was not going to wait his turn.

Amy McGrath will try to deny Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell another term
Former Marine pilot drew national attention in failed 2018 bid against Rep. Andy Barr

Amy McGrath, a retired Marine fighter pilot whose unsuccessful 2018 House campaign attracted national attention, will challenge Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for his Kentucky Senate seat, she announced Tuesday.

The highly anticipated announcement keys up what is likely to be one of the most closely watched and well-funded matchups of the 2020 congressional campaign cycle, although even Democratic supporters have acknowledged that McGrath faces long odds to unseat one of the most powerful members of the GOP.

Citing disappointing fundraising and polls, Rep. Eric Swalwell ends presidential campaign
39-year-old who challenged Biden to ‘pass the torch’ has potential in House leadership

Ending his bid for the presidential nomination Monday, Rep. Eric Swalwell said he will seek another term in the House by campaigning to end gun violence, fight climate change, and address student loan debt, the same issues he hoped would make him the favorite millennial in a crowded Democratic field.

The 39-year-old will also return to an appointed position in the House leadership as co-chair of the Steering and Policy Committee, which could help him advance whenever Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Majority Whip James E. Clyburn retire. Pelosi and Clyburn will be 80 and Hoyer 81 after the next election.

After court defeat on redistricting, Democrats look to state courts and legislative races
Supreme Court said it would not police political gerrymandering, left battles to the states

Democrats on Thursday seized on a Supreme Court decision they called a “green light” for partisan gerrymandering, pledging to redouble their efforts to win control of state governments, judicial appointments and the U.S. Senate.

In fundraising appeals and calls to action, Democratic politicians and aligned groups outlined a series of moves they said would become the next stage of the battle over political maps, largely drawn by Republican-controlled legislatures in the past decade, that have entrenched GOP control of elected offices.

FEC fines Florida-based company for illegal contribution to support Rick Scott's 2018 campaign
Ring Power Corp. violated ban on campaign contributions from federal contractors

The Federal Election Commission fined a Florida company for making an illegal campaign contribution to support Florida Sen. Rick Scott's 2018 campaign, according to documents obtained by Roll Call Tuesday. 

The $9,500 fine levied against Ring Power Corp., which sells and leases industrial machinery, represents a rare penalty for a company found to have violated a 75-year-old ban on campaign contributions from federal contractors.

More men with babies are running for president, but few face questions about parenting
Male candidates with young children and working spouses could challenge traditional assumptions about caregivers

When a mother with babies or preschoolers runs for office, the question inevitably arises: Who will take care of her kids while she is on the campaign trail?

But in a year when 23 Democrats are vying for their party’s presidential nomination, it’s the men who have children ages 5 or younger — enough to fill a small day care center. They are rarely asked about parenting, however, a review of their television interviews found.

Silently, Buttigieg joins protest at White House against Trump policies
Democratic presidential candidate in listen-only mode at ‘Repairers of the Breach’ rally

It’s a rare thing for a presidential candidate to keep his mouth shut at a campaign appearance. But that’s what Pete Buttigieg did, resolutely, during a 45-minute stop at a Washington, D.C. march Wednesday.

Buttigieg was not planning to speak at the event, a rally in front of the White House held by a group called Repairers of the Breach, organizers said.

PAC seeking campaign finance reform launches $50,000 ad targeting Mitch McConnell
Digital ad is first from Democratically aligned End Citizens United group

The Democratically-aligned group End Citizens United on Tuesday launched a $50,000 digital advertising campaign aimed at unseating Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in Kentucky — before McConnell even has a credible challenger.

The ad, End Citizens United’s first independent expenditure of the 2020 cycle, highlights McConnell’s work to block campaign finance reform measures in Washington. 

The fight for intern pay moves to 2020 campaigns
Eight presidential candidates have committed to paying interns, raising hopes that down-ballot candidates will follow

It’s early enough in the 2020 campaign season that many candidates haven’t hired any interns.

But if the early months of the crowded presidential race are any indication, one thing is already clear: More of those offers will come with an actual paycheck. 

Marijuana legalization goes mainstream with first-ever forum in Capitol complex
Event highlights growing bipartisan support for banking, farming, medical and social justice bills

The cannabis industry investors, business owners and legalization advocates had met before to discuss the legal and regulatory headaches of operating in a world that’s licensed and regulated by states but illegal under federal law.

But what made those at Tuesday’s gathering describe it as a public relations milestone was the location: inside the Capitol complex.

Republican group launches PAC to increase GOP diversity
Catalyst PAC will promote non-white, LGBTQ, or religious or ethnic minority candidates

Republicans seeking to increase their party’s diversity in Congress and challenge a media portrayal of the conservative movement as “bigoted” launched a PAC on Monday to support candidates “as diverse as our nation.”

That’s the goal that Catalyst PAC describes on a website soliciting contributions to support candidates who “look a little different from what’s thought of as the ‘traditional’ Republican.”

Supreme Court requests response from Ohio and Michigan gerrymander challengers
Justices give challengers a week to respond to requests from GOP state officials to stop court-ordered redrawing of district lines

The Supreme Court on Monday gave the challengers of congressional maps in Ohio and Michigan until May 20 to respond to requests from state officials to stop court-ordered redrawing of district lines. Lower courts found the maps were partisan gerrymanders, an issue the high court is now considering in two other cases.

Republican lawmakers and officials in both states had argued that they did not have enough time to comply with recent federal court mandates to redraw their districts by June 14 in Ohio and Aug. 1 in Michigan.

Who’s afraid of political gerrymandering?
Political Theater Podcast, Episode 71

Political gerrymandering is losing friends fast, at least in the courts. Ohio and Michigan recently got smacked by federal judges for rigging the maps in favor of Republicans. At the same time, the Supreme Court could decide next month whether Maryland and North Carolina drew unconstitutional gerrymandered maps to favor Democrats and Republicans, respectively.  Why all the interest all of a sudden in such an esoteric part of politics? CQ Roll Call campaign reporters Simone Pathé and Stephanie Akin are our guides through the maze of maps on the latest Political Theater podcast. 

More GOP women want to run for the House. But why now?
Female Republicans are stepping up to run earlier than last cycle

Stephanie Bice is a Republican from a deeply conservative state that’s only sent three women to Congress. But the election of a record-breaking number of female freshmen to the House in 2018, all but one of them Democrats, helped her decide to run for the chamber herself.

“It was a signal to all women that politics isn’t just … a man’s world,” said the Oklahoma state senator, who recently announced her candidacy for the 5th District. “It shows that women have as much of an ability to win these seats. We just need to field the candidates.”

Early strike: Progressive groups unite behind Lipinski foe in Illinois
Backing for Marie Newman comes amid tension with Democratic leaders trying to protect incumbents

Several abortion rights and progressive groups announced on Monday they are endorsing Marie Newman’s bid to oust Illinois Rep. Daniel Lipinski in next year’s primary, an unusually early and coordinated strike against one of the of the most moderate Democrats in Congress. 

The endorsements, from EMILY’s List, NARAL Pro-Choice America, Planned Parenthood, MoveOn, and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, are among the first from major national organizations for the 2020 primaries.