Monday News: 2018, the year of the Women


119 FEMALE CANDIDATES RUN FOR GENERAL ASSEMBLY SEATS: There may be more people running for the General Assembly this year than ever before. Every seat has competition, and Democrats feel so good about their chance to break the Republican super-majority that they've widened their target list to include dozens of legislative seats. There are also more women running. The League of Women Voters of North Carolina said this week that, the last time there was a General Assembly primary without a presidential election in 2014, 24 women ran for the legislature. This year, 119 women are on the ballot in state House and Senate races, the league said. Several Republican districts that don't look competitive on paper not only have a Democratic challenge set for November but a primary to name that challenger. Contested races aren't just a chance to win, they're a chance to force the other side to spend time and money. “It was a concerted strategy," Democratic Party spokesman Robert Howard said.

BOB STEINBURG UNDER ATTACK FOR HIS SUPPORT OF WIND ENERGY: In House District 1 in northeastern North Carolina, Republican Rep. Bob Steinburg chose not to run again so that he could instead run for the area's state Senate seat. That Senate seat was previously held by a different Republican, Sen. Bill Cook, who is retiring. And although Steinburg is a current legislator, several of the most prominent legislative leaders in his party are actively supporting Steinburg's challenger in the Republican primary, real estate agent Clark Twiddy. Although offshore drilling hasn't been a prominent issue in that primary, other energy development issues have. Steinburg has said he thinks support for Twiddy by one GOP leader, Republican Senate Majority Leader Harry Brown, stems from Steinburg's support for wind energy development; Brown had proposed a moratorium on such development. There are several wind projects in the district.

IN THE AGE OF TRUMP, THE GOP LACKS EFFECTIVE CHEERLEADERS FOR 2018 MID-TERMS: Republicans don’t just suffer an enthusiasm gap this year. They also have the weighty problem of finding a headliner who can close it. Republicans are already facing a spate of congressional retirements, an energized progressive base, a polarizing president from their own party and mounting frustrations from moderate suburbanites who are historically a core GOP constituency. A lack of surrogates who can convince those Republicans to stay in the fold — and turn out in November — adds another potentially deadly challenge to the GOP landscape this year. “You may have stumbled on a major problem we have not addressed,” said one Republican operative involved in midterms, struggling to name any surrogates who might perform well in moderate suburban districts. “It’s not obvious, is it? It’s not obvious.”

TRUMP NOSES INTO WEST VIRGINIA'S GOP SENATE PRIMARY RACE: Former coal executive Don Blankenship has accused McConnell of creating jobs for "China people" and charges that the senator's "China family" has given him millions of dollars. McConnell's wife is Trump's transportation secretary, Elaine Chao, who was born in Taiwan. Trump urged West Virginia voters to reject Blankenship, predicting the former coal company executive would lose the general election as Republican Roy Moore did in Alabama after allegations of sexual misconduct came to light. Trump tweets on Monday: "To the great people of West Virginia we have, together, a really great chance to keep making a big difference. Problem is, Don Blankenship, currently running for Senate, can't win the General Election in your State...No way! Remember Alabama. Vote Rep. Jenkins or A.G. Morrisey!"

TRUMP'S CONTROVERSIAL CIA NOMINEE OFFERS TO DROP OUT OVER TORTURE ISSUES: Gina Haspel, President Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the Central Intelligence Agency, offered to withdraw her nomination, two senior administration officials said Sunday, amid concerns that a debate over a harsh interrogation program would tarnish her reputation and that of the CIA. White House aides on Friday sought out additional details about Haspel’s involvement in the CIA’s now-defunct program of detaining and brutally interrogating terror suspects after 9/11 as they prepared her for Wednesday’s confirmation hearing. This is when she offered to withdraw, the officials said. They said Haspel, who is the acting director of the CIA, was reassured that her nomination was still on track and will not withdraw. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. The news was first reported Sunday by The Washington Post. Haspel, who would be the first woman to lead the CIA, is the first career operations officer to be nominated to lead the agency in decades. She served almost entirely undercover and much of her record is classified.