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Donald Trump adviser Roger Stone involved in hit-and-run

Longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone says a car he was riding in this week in Florida was struck by a hit-and-run driver.

In a statement to The Associated Press, Stone described the incident as “suspicious,” coming as he is under scrutiny for his communication with the Russian-linked hacker Guccifer 2.0.

Stone tweeted that he was uninjured in the crash except for blurry vision in his right eye.

Stone says the car he was riding in was “T-boned” by a large, gray four-door car with a tinted windshield.

The Broward Sheriff’s Office says the driver the vehicle did not stop or make any attempt to exchange information. Police says Stone was a passenger in a car driven by John P. Kakanis, 29, of Hallandale Beach, Florida.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

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Winners and losers in Donald Trump’s first budget plan

Military spending would get the biggest boost in President Donald Trump’s proposed budget. Environmental programs, medical research, Amtrak and an array of international and cultural programs — from Africa to Appalachia — would take big hits, among the many parts of the government he’d put on a crash diet.

The budget proposal out Thursday is a White House wish list; it’ll be up to Congress to decide where money goes. If Trump gets his way, there will be more losers than winners among government departments and programs.

Some programs would tread water: WIC grants — money to states for health care and nutrition for low-income women, infants and children — are one example. Monday for states grants for water infrastructure projects would be held level as well.

Some others would lose everything: Trump proposes to eliminate money for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the national endowments for the arts and the humanities and more than a dozen other independent agencies financed by the government.

A sampling:

WINNERS

—The Pentagon. Trump proposes a 10 percent increase in the massive defense budget, adding $52 billion in military spending in one year top expand personnel, equipment and capability. Another $2 billion would go to nuclear weapons.

—Veterans Affairs. Up 5.9 percent. That’s an additional $4.4 billion, driven by ever-growing health care costs.

—Homeland Security. Up 6.8 percent. That’s $2.8 billion more. Most of the increase, $2.6 billion, would be to help kick-start Trump’s promised border wall. The president has repeatedly said Mexico would pay for the wall; Mexican officials are adamant that they won’t. Trump also wants an extra $1.5 billion for more immigration jails and deportations, and $314 million to hire 1,500 immigration enforcement and border patrol agents.

—The National Nuclear Security Administration, which oversees the maintenance and safety of the nuclear arsenal and its research labs. The agency would grow by 11.3 percent, or $1.4 billion, so that it takes up more than half the Energy Department’s budget, which would shrink overall.

—Opioid prevention and treatment: a proposed $500 million increase in the Health and Human Services Department to counter the epidemic and more money for the Justice Department to combat the problem.

—School choice: $1.4 billion more to expand school choice programs, bringing spending in that area to $20 billion, even as the Education Department’s overall budget would be cut by $9 billion, or 13 percent.

LOSERS:

—EPA, facing a 31.4 percent cut, or $2.6 billion. The plan would cut 3,200 jobs at the agency, eliminate a new plan for tighter regulations on power plants, and “zero out” programs to clean up the Great Lakes and the Chesapeake Bay.

—Health and Human Services, facing the largest cut in dollar terms: $12.6 billion, or 16.2 percent. The plan would cut $5.8 billion from the nearly $32 billion National Institutes of Health, the nation’s premier medical research agency, bringing its total to $25.9 billion. It’s not clear what research on diseases or disorders would lose the most money, although the budget plan specifically calls for elimination of a division that focuses on global health. Already, the NIH’s budget hasn’t kept pace with inflation over the last decade, making it dramatically harder for scientists around the country to win money for research projects into potential new treatments or better understanding of disease.

—State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development. Down 28 percent, or $10 billion. Foreign aid would be reduced, as would money to the U.N. and to multilateral development banks including the World Bank. Some foreign military grants would be shifted to loans.

—Labor Department. A more than 20 percent cut, or $2.5 billion. To be eliminated: a $434 million program that has helped more than 1 million people 55 and older find jobs, according to the department. The blueprint says the Senior Community Service Employment Program is inefficient and unproven.

—Agriculture Department. A nearly 21 percent cut, or $4.7 billion, achieved in part by cutting land acquisition in the National Forest System, rural water infrastructure and statistical capabilities at the department. Trump also proposes reduced staff in county USDA offices, an idea that fell flat in Congress when President Barack Obama proposed a similar reduction.

—Transportation Department. Trump proposes a cut of nearly 13 percent, or $2.4 billion. Amtrak, local transit agencies, and rural communities that depend on federal subsidies to obtain scheduled airline service would take the brunt. Trump would eliminate subsidies for Amtrak long-distance train routes, which would most likely mean the end of those routes since they are generally not profitable. Money for the Federal Transit Administration grant program for new light rail and subway construction would be eliminated except for multi-year projects the government has already committed to help fund.

—Internal Revenue Service: After years of cuts, the IRS budget would be cut again — by $239 million from this year’s spending levels. The IRS budget is down about $1 billion from its height in 2010. Since then, the agency has lost more than 17,000 employees. As a result, the chances of getting audited have rarely been so low.

—Commerce Department. A 16 percent or $1.5 billion cut. The plan would eliminate more than $250 million in National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration grants, including a program that helps coastal communities adapt to climate change, deal with invasive species and maintain healthy water and fisheries. Also on the chopping block: the Economic Development Administration, which provides federal dollars to foster job creation and attract private investment; and the Minority Business Development Agency, which is dedicated to helping minority-owned business get off the ground and grow. The Trump administration says the two agencies duplicate work done elsewhere.

—School programs: The plan would eliminate a $1.2 billion initiative that supports before- and after-school programs as well as summer programs.

—Independent agencies supported by tax dollars. If Trump prevails, a hefty contingent of entities would lose all federal money and be shut. Among them, the public broadcasting corporation, the Appalachian Regional Commission, the Chemical Safety Board, the United States Institute of Peace, the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Corporation for National Community Service and the African Development Foundation. That foundation was established by Congress and provides seed money and other support to enterprises in some 20 countries on that continent.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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House GOP health bill facing fresh House committee test

The White House and Republican leaders are talking to rank-and-file lawmakers about revising the GOP health care overhaul, hoping to keep a rebellion by conservatives and moderates from snowballing and imperiling the party’s showpiece legislation.

Four days after a congressional report projected the bill would pry coverage from millions of voters, signs of fraying GOP support for the legislation were showing. The measure would strike down much of former President Barack Obama‘s 2010 overhaul and reduce the federal role, including financing, for health care consumers and is opposed uniformly by Democrats.

In a fresh test of Republicans’ willingness to embrace the legislation, the House Budget Committee was considering the measure Thursday. Republicans expressed confidence the bill would be approved, but the vote could be tight. The panel can’t make significant changes but was expected to endorse non-binding, suggested changes to nail down votes.

The bill would eliminate the tax penalty that pressures people to buy coverage and the federal subsidies that let millions afford it, replacing them with tax credits that are bigger for older people. It would cut Medicaid, repeal the law’s tax increases on higher earning Americans and require 30 percent higher premiums for consumers who let coverage lapse.

Overt GOP opposition grew after the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projected Monday that the legislation would push 24 million Americans off coverage in a decade and shift out-of-pocket costs toward lower income, older people. Obama’s law has provided coverage to around 20 million additional people

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., told reporters Wednesday that leaders could now make “some necessary improvements and refinements” to the legislation. But he declined to commit to bringing the measure to the House floor next week, a schedule Republican leaders have repeatedly said they intended to keep.

At a late rally in Nashville Wednesday, President Donald Trump said: “We’re going to arbitrate, we’re all going to get together, we’re going to get something done.”

Vice President Mike Pence met with House GOP lawmakers and pressed them to unite behind the legislation.

“‘It’s our job to get it out of here and get it to the Senate,'” Pence told Republicans, according to Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Fla. That would let Trump pressure “Democrats in these red states to come on board,'” Ross said, referring to Republican-leaning states where Democratic senators face re-election next year.

But insurgents still abound.

Conservatives want to end Obama’s expansion of Medicaid to 11 million additional low-income people next year, not 2020 as the bill proposes. They say a GOP proposed tax credit to help people pay medical costs is too generous, and they want to terminate all of Obama’s insurance requirements, including mandatory coverage of specified services like drug counseling.

Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., head of the hard-line conservative House Freedom Caucus, continued pushing for changes. He claimed at least 21 members of his group would oppose the measure as written; the bill would fail if 22 Republicans join all Democrats in opposing it.

But underscoring the push-pull problem GOP leaders face in winning votes, moderates feel the tax credits are too stingy, especially for low earners and older people. They oppose accelerating the phase-out of the Medicaid expansion and are unhappy with long-term cuts the measure would inflict on the entire program.

Terminating the Medicaid expansion in 2020 and not 2018 “is sacrosanct to me,” said moderate Rep. Tom MacArthur, R-N.J.

In a new complication, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, said the measure lacked the votes to pass in the Senate, where Republicans hold a precarious 52-48 majority. That left House members angry over being asked to take a politically risky vote for legislation likely to be altered.

Moderates “don’t like the idea of taking a vote in the House that may go nowhere in the Senate,” said Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Pa.

Amid the maneuvering, a federal report said more than 12 million people have signed up for coverage this year under the very statute that Republicans want to repeal. That figure underscored the potential political impact of the GOP’s next move.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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Rick Scott wants repeal but stays quiet on GOP health plan

Gov. Rick Scott, who urged President Donald Trump to move quickly on a health care plan, is sidestepping questions on a Republican health care bill that has set off an intense reaction in Washington.

But Scott is also so far refusing to endorse the measure crafted by top GOP legislators in the U.S. House as a replacement to President Barack Obama‘s health care law. Instead he said Tuesday, “I’m encouraged that there’s a real good conservation going on up in D.C.”

“I know there’s a debate about all the numbers, I’m going to continue to work on getting a good bill,” said Scott, who also met with House Speaker Paul Ryan last week to discuss the health care legislation.

Scott would not answer specific questions on the new study by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office that estimates the GOP plan would increase the ranks of the uninsured by 14 million people next year alone, and 24 million over a decade. He is also refusing to delve into the possible impact the bill may have on Florida’s Medicaid program, which relies on billions in federal aid each year.

Scott’s reluctance to get into the debate over the legislation is a marked departure from just a few weeks ago where he was openly calling on Trump and Republican leaders to act. He has constantly called “Obamacare a mess” yet he has refused to say what should happen to the millions who are getting coverage under the plan. Nearly 2 million Floridians enrolled this year for health insurance coverage through the federal health care exchange.

Scott, who was first elected to office in 2010, launched his political career amid the initial wave of opposition to the Obama overhaul. The former health care executive launched a group called Conservatives for Patient Rights that ran television ads against the law.

During his first term in office, Scott made a dramatic turnaround and threw his support behind expanding Medicaid that was a key element of the Obama overhaul. But after he was re-elected he abandoned that stance.

Florida has never drawn down the federal money available for Medicaid expansion due to strong opposition from Republicans in the Florida House including House Speaker Richard Corcoran.

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CDC: Don’t donate sperm in 3 Florida counties due to Zika

Men from three Florida counties shouldn’t donate sperm because of a small risk of spreading Zika, U.S. health officials said Monday.

The guidance had previously applied to Miami-Dade County, the only place in Florida where there’s evidence mosquitoes spread the virus. But infections were reported in people in South Florida who couldn’t clearly be linked to Miami-Dade.

On Monday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the advice should extend to two counties north of Miami — Broward and Palm Beach. The recommendation applies to men who lived or traveled in those counties since June 15.

Zika is mainly spread by mosquito bites, but it can also be spread through sex. People can be infected without getting sick, and the virus can remain in semen for months.

There is no evidence of a pregnant woman being infected by Zika through a sperm donation, and such a risk is considered low, CDC officials said. Infection during pregnancy can lead to severe brain-related birth defects.

The Food and Drug Administration regulates sperm donations, and previously advised sperm banks they shouldn’t accept donors if they had been diagnosed with Zika or had been to an area with widespread Zika within the past six months. Sperm banks should consider the CDC’s new advice discouraging donations from men in the three counties, an FDA spokeswoman said.

There are 12 sperm donor banks in the three South Florida counties, CDC officials said. While blood donations can be tested for Zika, there’s not a good test for semen, according to the FDA.

The last case of mosquito transmission of Zika in Florida was in December. But officials think it’s possible the bugs will start spreading it again this summer. Some 221 people got Zika from mosquitoes in the continental U.S. last year, most in the Miami area. There were six cases in Texas.

There’s no evidence that mosquitoes in Broward or Palm Beach were spreading it, said Dr. Denise Jamieson, who is leading CDC’s Zika emergency efforts. She said officials suspect the local infections occurred in Miami-Dade.

“A lot of times people may not realize when they crossed the county line,” she said.

Since a large outbreak in Brazil, would-be moms and their sex partners have been told to avoid travel to Zika areas, use condoms or abstain from sex.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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Congress’ analyst: Millions to lose coverage under GOP bill

Fourteen million Americans would lose coverage next year under House Republican legislation remaking the nation’s health care system, and the number would balloon to 24 million by 2026, Congress’ budget analysts projected Monday. Their report deals a stiff blow to a GOP drive already under fire from both parties and large segments of the medical industry.

The Congressional Budget Office report undercuts a central argument President Donald Trump and Republicans have cited for swiftly rolling back the 2010 health care overhaul: that the insurance markets created under that statute are “a disaster” and about to implode. The congressional experts said that largely would not be the case, that the market for individual policies “would probably be stable in most areas under either current law or the (GOP) legislation.”

The report also flies in the face of Trump’s talk of “insurance for everybody,” which he stated in January. He has since embraced a less expansive goal — to “increase access” — advanced by House Speaker Paul Ryan and other Republicans.

Health secretary Tom Price told reporters at the White House the report was “simply wrong” and that he disagreed “strenuously,” saying it omitted the impact of additional GOP legislation and regulatory changes that the Trump administration plans for the future.

Still, the budget office’s estimates provide a detailed, credible appraisal of the Republican effort to unravel former President Barack Obama‘s 2010 overhaul. The office has a four-decade history of even-handedness and is currently headed by an appointee recommended by Price when he was a congressman. Trump has repeatedly attacked the agency’s credibility, citing its significant underestimate of the number of people who would buy insurance on state and federal exchanges under “Obamacare.”

On the plus side for Republicans, the budget office said the GOP measure would reduce federal deficits by $337 billion over the coming decade. That’s largely because it would cut the federal-state Medicaid program for low-income Americans and eliminate subsidies that Obama’s law provides to millions of people who buy coverage.

It also said that while the legislation would push premiums upward before 2020 by an average of 15 to 20 percent compared to current law, premiums would move lower after that. By 2026, average premiums for individuals would be 10 percent lower than under Obama’s statute, it said.

The GOP bill would obliterate the tax penalties Obama’s law imposes on people who don’t buy coverage, and it would eliminate the federal subsidies reflecting peoples’ income and premium costs for millions.

It instead would provide tax credits based largely on recipients’ ages, let insurers charge more for older people and boost premiums for those who let coverage lapse. It would phase out Obama’s expansion of Medicaid to 11 million additional low earners, cap federal spending for the entire program, repeal taxes the statute imposes and halt federal payments to Planned Parenthood for a year.

Administration officials took strong issue with the budget office’s projections of lost coverage.

“We believe that our plan will cover more individuals and at a lower cost and give them the choices that they want,” Price said.

And House Speaker Ryan said in a statement the GOP legislation “is not about forcing people to buy expensive, one-size-fits-all coverage. It is about giving people more choices and better access to a plan they want and can afford.” In fact, on the Fox News Channel, he said the CBO report “exceeded my expectations.”

Not in a good way, Democrats said. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York said the projections show “just how empty the president’s promises, that everyone will be covered and costs will go down, have been..”

“I hope they would pull the bill. It’s really the only decent thing to do,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California.

The American Medical Association, which has opposed the Republican bill because it would reduce coverage, said the report shows the legislation would cause “unacceptable” consequences. “

Two House committees approved the legislation last week, and Ryan wants to bring it to the full House next week. Though many Republicans back the bill, conservatives say it doesn’t go far enough in repealing Obama’s law while moderates whose states used the statute to expand Medicaid don’t want people losing coverage.

GOP leaders hope the Senate will consider the measure before breaking for an early April recess. Opposition from both ends of the Republican spectrum in that chamber suggests senators might demand significant changes.

The budget office attributed projected increases in uninsured Americans to the GOP bill’s elimination of tax penalties for people who don’t buy insurance, to reduced federal subsidies for many people who buy policies and to the reductions in Medicaid.

By 2026, the office estimated, a total of 52 million people would lack insurance, including 28 million expected to lack coverage under Obama’s statute.

Even though Republican tax credits would be less generous than those under Obama’s law, the combination of those credits and other changes to lower premiums would attract enough healthy people to stabilize markets under the new plan, the report said.

The budget office sees federal spending on Medicaid declining by $880 billion over the coming decade — about 25 percent lower than current projections. That would push about 14 million low-income people off the federal-state program.

Though average premiums are ultimately expected to fall, that would vary for people of different ages because compared to Obama’s law Republicans would let older people be charged more.

The report estimates that individuals’ out-of-pocket costs under the GOP bill “would tend to be higher than those anticipated under current law.” That runs counter to another claim from the president, that his health care plan would offer “much lower deductibles.”

CBO had predicted that 23 million people would be enrolled under Obama’s law, but the number proved to be about 12 million — largely because CBO overestimated the extent to which the individual mandate would prompt them to buy coverage.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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Lawyers: Airport shooting suspect ill but legally competent

Lawyers for the Alaska man charged in a Florida airport shooting rampage say he’s definitely mentally ill but is also competent to stand trial.

The attorneys say in court papers that 26-year-old Esteban Santiago of Anchorage, Alaska has been diagnosed with schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder. He’s accused in the Jan. 6 shooting that killed five and wounded six at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.

Santiago’s lawyers say he is taking an anti-psychotic drug and is able to communicate clearly, understand legal issues and is cooperative with jail staff. They say he is not disoriented or delusional.

A hearing is set for Wednesday on Santiago’s mental condition. He previously told the FBI he acted under government mind control, then claimed inspiration by the Islamic State extremist group.

Trial is set Oct. 2.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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Florida deputy pulls two jet skiers from water as cruise ship rushes toward them

A Port Canaveral harbor pilot and a sheriff’s deputy teamed up to rescue two spring breakers on a jet ski as a Carnival Cruise ship moved toward them.

A cruise ship passenger captured the rescue on video as Brevard County Sheriff’s Deputy Taner Primmer pulled the women to safety.

A Canaveral Pilots Association statement says Capt. Doug Brown spotted them while navigating the Carnival Magic out of the port and alerted Primmer. As he approached in a marine patrol boat, one woman fell off the jet ski. It flipped as she tried to get back on, sending both women into the water.

With the ship approaching, Primmer pulled them out and steered his boat away.

Area news outlets identified them as 19-year-old Skylar Penpasuglia and 20-year-old Allison Garrett of Princeton, West Virginia.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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Fueled by Donald Trump opponents, Rachel Maddow’s popularity rises

Rachel Maddow can trace the mood of her audience by looking at the ratings.

Her MSNBC show’s viewership sank like a stone in the weeks following Donald Trump‘s election, as depressed liberals avoided politics, and bottomed out over the holidays. Slowly, they re-emerged, becoming active and interested again. Maddow’s audience has grown to the point where February was her show’s most-watched month since its 2008 launch.

Maddow has emerged as the favorite cable news host for presidential resistors in the opening days of the Trump administration, just as Fox News Channel’s Sean Hannity is one for supporters or Keith Olbermann was the go-to television host for liberals in George W. Bush‘s second term. Trump fascination has helped cable news programs across the political spectrum defy the traditional post-presidential election slump, few as dramatically as Maddow’s.

Her show’s average audience of 2.3 million in February doubled its viewership over February 2016, in the midst of the presidential primaries, the Nielsen company said.

“I’m grateful for it,” Maddow said one recent afternoon. “It is nice for me that it is happening at a time when I feel we are doing some of our best work.”

Those two things — ratings success and Maddow’s pride in the work — don’t always intersect.

“We’re making aggressive editorial decisions in terms of how far we’re willing to get off of everyone else’s news cycle,” she said, “but it’s paying off because the news cycle more often than not is catching up with us after we do something.”

Maddow has decided to cover the Trump administration like a silent movie, so the show could pay more attention to what is being done rather than what is being said. The central focus is on connect-the-dots reporting about Trump’s business interests and dealings with Russia.

Her show is a news cousin to HBO host John Oliver‘s “Last Week Tonight” in its willingness to dive into complex subjects that don’t seem television-friendly, and follow the stories down different alleys. Maddow sounds long-winded when it doesn’t work. When it does, it’s like an absorbing novel stuffed with characters.

“It’s not like I am a teacher who is trying to extend the attention span of the American news viewer,” said Maddow, a Rhodes scholar. “I have no goal of trying to privilege complexity. It just so happens that I tend to think in 17-minute bursts.”

Maddow said she and her staff try to break news, like reporting on a Department of Homeland Security report on Trump’s immigration policy, and she was aggressive in bringing the Flint, Michigan, water crisis to a national audience. More often than not, she sees her role as explaining how things work. The program spent considerable time last week on a New Yorker magazine piece about foreign investments by Trump’s real estate company.

She’s determined not to get lost in the noise, particularly since she believes Trump is skillful at distracting the media with a new story — even an unflattering one — when he doesn’t like the attention being paid to another.

“I pray for the day when the most important thing about the Trump administration is that the president said something inappropriate on Twitter,” she said. “There are bigger and more valuable stories to be chasing than that.”

When some news organizations were upset at being barred from an informal press briefing held by White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer two weeks ago, Maddow understood why. But the story didn’t really interest her. Since she doesn’t trust much of what the administration says, Maddow wondered what these reporters were really missing by not being there.

“Her approach to reality and the president’s couldn’t be further apart,” said Jeff Cohen, an Ithaca University professor and liberal activist.

During busy news periods, “certain voices cut through,” said NBC News Chairman Andrew Lack. “And her work is so consistently strong. She doesn’t disappoint, and she’s got a work ethic that is consistently off the charts. … She is a very original and unique voice.”

While Maddow delivers opinion pieces instead of straight news, they are well-informed, he said. Lack doesn’t see Maddow as a voice of the resistance.

Neither does she.

“People want to draft me as an activist all the time, ascribe that role to me,” she said. “I’m not. The reason I know I’m not is that I stopped doing that in order to be the person who explained the news and delivered the news instead. It’s a very clear line to me.”

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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Five special elections for House may send message about 2018 midterm contests

The postelection dominoes of President Donald Trump‘s administration picks and a California Democratic appointment have created five openings in the House, and that means five special elections in the coming months.

It will take some Democratic upsets for this trial heat for 2018 to dent GOP control of the House, where Republicans have a 237-193 edge.

Republicans are defending four GOP-leaning seats. Democrats are protecting territory in a liberal California district. Republicans say that puts pressure on Democrats to prove they can capitalize on widespread opposition to Trump. Democrats counter that it’s merely a free opportunity to pick up a seat, maybe two, ahead of next year’s midterm elections.

A look at the five congressional contests:

GEORGIA’S 6th CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT

This wealthy district spanning many of Atlanta’s northern suburbs has elected former Speaker Newt Gingrich, Sen. Johnny Isakson and current Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, all Republicans. But Democrats believe they have a shot, based on Trump’s underperformance and the early fundraising success of a 30-year-old former congressional staffer, Jon Ossoff.

Price won 68 percent of the vote in November, while Trump only edged Democrat Hillary Clinton, 48-47 percent.

Ossoff is trying to thread the needle, condemning Trump and highlighting the oversight role of Congress, yet styling himself as a business-friendly centrist. “I believe voters are tired of the partisanship and ready for something fresh,” he says, convinced he can win GOP-leaning moderates.

Television airwaves in this expensive market already are filled with Ossoff ads criticizing Trump and also a Republican super PAC ad criticizing the upstart Democrat, a clear sign Republicans aren’t taking any chances.

Ossoff’s path depends on advancing to a June 20 runoff from an April 18 “jungle primary” that will have more than a dozen candidates from both parties on the same ballot. In the likely event that no one captures a majority in April, the top two vote-getters, regardless of party, move on. Republicans say Ossoff, even if he advances, won’t stand up against one of several Republican candidates who are well-regarded in the district.

___

MONTANA’S AT-LARGE CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT

Republican multimillionaire Greg Gionforte will try again to win over Montana voters after losing the 2016 governor’s race. This time, he’s talking up Trump.

“This election will be a referendum on Donald Trump and this administration,” Gianforte said after last week’s GOP nominating convention. Gianforte won 46 percent of the vote in November against Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock, double digits behind Trump’s 57 percent.

Gionforte will face musician and political newcomer Rob Quist, also chosen by a state party convention. Quist, a Democrat, already is the target of attack ads from the Congressional Leadership Fund, the same Republican super PAC that has been going after Ossoff in Georgia.

The winner of a May 25 special election will succeed Ryan Zinke, who now leads Trump’s Interior Department. Zinke won re-election with 56 percent of the vote before being tapped for the Cabinet post.

Montanans lean conservative, but they are willing to elect Democrats. Bullock, now in his second term, succeeded two-term Democratic Gov. Brian Schweitzer, and Jon Tester is in his second Senate term. Still, Montana’s single House seat has been in GOP hands since 1997.

Gionforte can self-finance his campaign, having made a fortune when Oracle paid $1.8 billion to acquire the technology firm he started. Quist has backing from Schweitzer, who remains popular in the state.

____

KANSAS’ 4th CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT

This reliably Republican district anchored by Wichita has an April 11 special election to pick a successor to Mike Pompeo, now Trump’s CIA director. In a party nominating convention, Republicans tapped state Treasurer Ron Estes, who twice won huge margins statewide and held local office in Wichita for years before that.

Democrats, also in a convention, chose Wichita attorney Jim Thompson. Democrats took Thompson’s long odds over the former state treasurer whom Estes defeated in 2010. Republicans have held the seat since their 1994 sweep.

___

SOUTH CAROLINA’s 5th CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT

The seat opened up when Trump tapped tea party lawmaker Mick Mulvaney to head the Office of Management and Budget.

Candidates for May 2 party primaries can officially qualify only after March 13, but several Republicans are in. Among them: state legislative leader Tommy Pope and former state Republican Party Chairman Chad Connelly, who spent the last several years coordinating the national GOP’s outreach to evangelicals. So far, two Democrats are in the race: Archie Parnell, a Goldman Sachs senior adviser, and Alexis Frank, an Army veteran who is now a student.

The rapidly growing district includes the suburbs on the southern edge of Charlotte, North Carolina, and the college town Rock Hill, a profile that had South Carolina Democrats quietly hopeful they could threaten Mulvaney in November. But he won easy re-election.

___

CALIFORNIA’s 34th CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT

This Los Angeles County district is the most lopsided of the special-election contests. Clinton swamped Trump here. The opening came when Gov. Jerry Brown elevated Rep. Xavier Beccera to state attorney general, replacing Kamala Harris, who ascended to the U.S. Senate. The district’s liberal leanings likely mean two Democrats — out of 19 who qualified — will advance from an April 4 jungle primary to a June 6 general election.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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