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National Govt & Politics
Conflicting signs with 3 weeks to Election Day
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Conflicting signs with 3 weeks to Election Day

Conflicting signs with 3 weeks to Election Day
Photo Credit: Jamie Dupree

Conflicting signs with 3 weeks to Election Day

From Culpeper, Virginia -

In a microcosm of the battle being fought nationally for control of the U.S. House, Rep. Dave Brat (R-VA) sparred at a debate here Monday night with his Democratic challenger, Abigail Spanberger, one of many races which national Democrats hope will fall their way three weeks from today, and enable them to take charge of at least one half of Capitol Hill.

Arguing against the election of Spanberger, a former CIA agent, Brat used the debate to repeatedly invoke one name as he made the case for the GOP in November.

"A vote for my opponent will be a vote for the Nancy Pelosi liberal agenda," Brat said, repeatedly rattling off Pelosi's name over 20 times during the 90 minute face off.

"You are running against me," Spanberger retorted at one point, "certainly not Nancy Pelosi," drawing cheers from her supporters in the debate audience.

Brat wasn't the only Republican using that debate line, as down in Florida on Monday night, the GOP was deriding Democratic candidate Lauren Baer as a "Clinton crony and Pelosi puppet."

In Virginia, Brat followed the GOP playbook being used in other House races, accusing Spanberger of supporting open borders, sanctuary cities, and a budget busting liberal agenda, all of which she rejected, as Spanberger tried to appeal to more moderate voters.

The Brat-Spanberger race is one of many mainly GOP House seats considered to be toss ups at this point in time, just three weeks out from Election Day.

Here are more items to look at as the clock ticks down on the 2018 campaign:

1. Conventional political wisdom looks at a split decision. More and more, the political experts in Washington see a campaign outcome in November that favors Democrats winning control of the U.S. House, while Republicans keep control of the U.S. Senate. Democrats need a net gain of 23 seats to take charge of the House, while the GOP could possible expand its 51-49 edge in the Senate. The wild card could more independent voters who swung in favor of President Trump in 2016, and how many of them swing back to help a Democratic candidate for Congress in 2018. The House is not a lock for the Democrats by any means with three weeks to go.

2. Trump trying to boost the GOP with late rallies.After four campaign rallies last week which were designed mainly to help Republican House members in Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Iowa, President Trump will go out west at the end of this week in a bid to keep the Senate in Republican hands this November. The President will first be holding a rally for GOP Senate candidate Matt Rosendale in Montana on Thursday, doing the same mission on Friday for a Rep. Martha McSally (R-AZ), who is running for Senate in Arizona, then trying to bolster the incumbent GOP Sen. Dean Heller in Nevada on Saturday, with a rally in Houston to help Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) the following Monday. The polls have definitely improved for the GOP in the Senate in the last two weeks, and the President will see if he can shift that more to the Republican side in coming days.

3. Dems worry about easy pickup of GOP seat in Florida. This was supposed to be simple for the Democrats. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) is not running for re-election. Her district voted for Hillary Clinton by 20 points. And yet the Democratic candidate - former Clinton Cabinet aide Donna Shalala - is struggling in the polls. These are the type of seats that Democrats need to grab if they are going to insure that they flip the House of Representatives in the November mid-terms. Two things could be at work here - it's a district with a lot of Cuban-Americans, and, Shalala is a transplant, having been the head of the University of Miami at one point. Could the old Clinton ties be an issue as well? Something to wonder about.

4. Debate moments in the final weeks. Sometimes it doesn't take much to impact a race for Congress these days, as social media will reinforce gaffes or highlight positive campaign moments for candidates. This weekend, at a debate involving incumbent Rep. Dan Donovan (R-NY) - a more moderate Republican who holds a seat in Staten Island and part of Brooklyn - Donovan jabbed at his main Democratic opponent, Max Rose, for not living in the district for much of his life. "I'm sorry I didn't move here sooner," Rose replied defiantly. "I was too busy defending my country in Afghanistan," he said to cheers from supporters. I'm not saying that exchange is going to doom Donovan, but it's one of those moments - that if the GOP incumbent loses - people might look back and say, that attack did not work out well.

5. Republicans play the "terrorism" card in some races. Already under a federal indictment for misuse of campaign funding, Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) was circulating a letter signed by three retired Marine officers, who claim his opponent, Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar "represents a national security risk," claiming his family has been 'heavily involved major terrorist operations and massacres." Campa-Najjar, who is a Christian, not a Muslim, fired back on Monday. "The truth? Hunter is a security risk. He’d fail a FBI background check today." It's not the only race where the terrorism issue has come up, as Republicans and outside GOP groups use it to darkly portray the backgrounds of certain Democratic candidates.

6. A new digital age for vote watching. All sorts of watchdogs are digging through the data as early voting has already started in some states, looking for any signs of voting access problems. One cropped up in recent days in Gwinnett County, Georgia, as ballots were being rejected from black and Asian voters at higher rates than whites. Georgia is already a battleground with an ongoing dispute over the issue of 'exact match' for names on early ballots. This one in Gwinnett County seems to stem from how people fill in their birth date, and whether the county is interpreting state law correctly on that data point.

7. To believe the polls or not believe the polls. It's hard to talk about the 2018 elections without someone yelling about whether the polls were accurate in 2016, and before that. And people do have a point about some of those polling miscues. The errors can skew how we perceive what's going on in a race. But right now in the battle for control of the House, it's clear from the polls that many more Republican seats in Congress are in play than those controlled by the Democrats. How many of those seats actually flip is another issue entirely - but when you look at lists like this one from Real Clear Politics, which aggregates polling results, it is quickly apparent that the GOP is playing defense in the House.

8. Which polls does the President believe? At a rally in Pennsylvania last week, the President bluntly said that when he looks at the polls about the 2018 election, he only puts stock in ones that show good news for the GOP. That argument actually has some GOP strategists concerned, worried that some Republican voters will think the polls are indeed 'fake news,' and that the media is trying to ignore a Republican edge in the campaign. "I believe in polls, only the ones that have us up, because they're the only honest ones," the President said to laughter from supporters. "Other than that, they're the fake news polls," Mr. Trump added, pointing to the press corps, and drawing boos from the crowd.

With three weeks left, either major party has a lot to gain - or lose - in the final days of the campaign.

Read More

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  • The wife of a Missouri Ku Klux Klan leader was sentenced to life in prison Friday after admitting she fatally shot her husband two years ago, cleaned up the crime scene with her son’s help and then disposed of the body. Malissa Ann Ancona, 46, of Leadwood, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, tampering with evidence and abandonment of a corpse in the death of 51-year-old Frank Ancona Jr., according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Frank Ancona was the imperial wizard of the Traditionalist American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, the newspaper reported.  Her son, Paul Jinkerson Jr., 26, of Belgrade, faces the same charges as his mother, the newspaper reported.  “I fired both shots that killed my husband,” Malissa Ancona told the judge, according to the Post-Dispatch.  Eric Barnhart, the attorney representing Jinkerson, told the newspaper he expects Malissa Ancona’s admission to help his client at his trial, set to begin May 6.  >> Read more trending news St. Francois County prosecutor Melissa Gilliam asked Malissa Ancona to clarify her role in her husband’s death, the Post-Dispatch said. She told Gilliam her son was involved in the aftermath -- cleaning blood from the bedroom walls, getting rid of bloody bedding and dumping Frank Ancona’s body about 20 miles away near Belgrade -- but that she acted alone in the shooting.  Malissa Ancona initially reported her husband missing, but later told police her son fatally shot her husband while he slept on Feb. 9, 2017. According to the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, Frank Ancona’s car was found abandoned in a remote part of the county by a U.S. Forest Service employee.   The Riverfront Times reported that a pile of burned clothes was found nearby.  Frank Ancona’s body was found two days after the slaying on the bank of the Big River, the Sheriff’s Office reported. He had been shot twice in the head, once with a 9 mm handgun and once with a shotgun, according to The New York Times.  A family who went to the river on a fishing trip made the gruesome discovery.  Frank Ancona’s father, Frank Ancona Sr., told the judge Friday that he had to identify the body of his only son, who he said had “no face left” after the murder. According to the Post-Dispatch, the defendant’s former father-in-law described her as a “terrible wife” and a “piece of (expletive).” He often asked his son, “Why, why do you stay with her?” the grieving father told the judge. According to Malissa Ancona’s Facebook page, the couple was married since 2010.  Ancona Jr. had decided to leave the marriage prior to his death, authorities said. Malissa Ancona told investigators upon her arrest that her son killed his stepfather after he requested a divorce.  The Riverfront Times reported that investigators found bloody clothes at Jinkerson’s home, as well as blood in his car. 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That time, both were in the Impala, the newspaper reported.  When a search warrant was executed at the Ancona home, investigators found blood on the bedroom ceiling and soaked into the couple’s mattress, the Riverfront Times said.  The guns used in the attack were found in the river near Frank Ancona’s body and in a pond in St. Francois County -- where Malissa Ancona said they would be.  Malissa Ancona maintained that Jinkerson pulled the trigger -- and agreed to testify against her son -- until last September, when she wrote a letter to Judge Wendy Wexler Horn in which she confessed to the slaying. According to the Post-Dispatch, Malissa Ancona wrote that she wanted to “let the court know now that he did not pull the trigger, (I DiD).” She wrote that she was “under the influence” when she spoke to detectives following her husband’s death. The Riverfront Times reported that Malissa Ancona was addicted to prescription pain pills.  Frank Ancona’s ex-wife, Kellie Ancona, described him as “very, very kindhearted” and a good father and grandfather. His daughter, Carolyn Ancona, wept when talking about her father.  “He didn’t deserve this. No one deserves this,” she said, according to the Post-Dispatch.  Before his death, Frank Ancona led a branch of the Ku Klux Klan that the Southern Poverty Law Center has defined as a hate group. As of last year, the Traditionalist American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan still had chapters in Florida and South Dakota, the SPLC website says.  The Post-Dispatch reported that a since-suspended Twitter account in Malissa Ancona’s name contained links to the Klan group and described her as a member.  According to a 2014 federal court filing, Frank Ancona described the group as “comprised of white Christian patriots, people who care about their nation and their race.” He and his group had sued the small city of Desloge, Missouri, after city officials tried to keep the group members from handing out leaflets to drivers stopped at intersections. The Klan group was represented by the ACLU of Missouri.  “We do not commit acts of violence, and we believe in perpetuating our race,” Frank Ancona said in his description. “We believe in having children and grandchildren, white ones․ We believe in the Constitution as it was originally written by our forefathers that founded this nation.” Frank Ancona told the New York Times in an interview published a week before he was slain that he had been a Klan member for more than 30 years. He said he formed the Traditionalist American Knights in 2009.  He and his group made news in the days before his death because of fliers the group distributed overnight in neighborhoods in Maine. He told the New York Times he did not understand why anyone was afraid of the Klan.  “If you follow the doctrine of the Klan, it is a positive Christian organization that brings benefits to people,” Frank Ancona told the newspaper. “I don’t focus on the negative history.” During the 2014 protests following the fatal police shooting of Ferguson teen Michael Brown, however, Frank Ancona and his group passed out leaflets in which they vowed to use lethal force against protesters. The fliers, one of which was obtained by MSNBC, read, “Attention: To the terrorists masquerading as ‘peaceful protesters! You have awakened a sleeping giant.” As Missouri awaited a grand jury decision on whether the officer who killed Brown, Darren Wilson, would be criminally charged, Frank Ancona told MSNBC’s Chris Hayes that the Klan would not tolerate violence during the protests.  “It’s a bit ironic for you to talk about how bad violence is when you’re telling people that you’re going to arm yourself and shoot,” Hayes responded. “You’re advising people of what the law is for being able to shoot someone. That seems, I think, to everyone seeing this like incitement. 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There’s remedies under the law.” Around that same time frame, Frank Ancona sat down for an interview with a member of the hacker group Anonymous, which later claimed to have hacked Ancona’s Klan group’s files and released what it said was his personal information.  In his New York Times interview the week before he was killed, Frank Ancona said the only part of the Klan doctrine he believed people might see as a negative was the group’s policy against the mixing of races.  “We need to preserve the white race because we are the ones who keep civilization civilized,” he said. 
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  • Sanford Police arrested a carjacking suspect who tried “hiding” in a lake early Monday morning. On Facebook, the department said at around 1:45 a.m., officers were called about a carjacking near the intersection of Country Club Drive and Jefferson Boulevard. The suspect, later identified as Monterrious Burton, jumped into a truck and tried to drive away.  The owner had been working on the truck and was still inside when Burton jumped in.  Police said Burton tried pulling the owner out the truck.  The two of them started fighting when the owner’s wife tried to help him.  Burton hit her and then ran away. When officers arrived, Burton ran to a lake where the K9 unit tracked him.  His shoes were found in the water.  The K9 Athos then located Burton, who was “hiding” under the water.  He surrendered and was taken into custody without incident. Sanford Police released a video of the K9 tracking Burton to the lake and giving himself up: (Facebook post) (Tweet)

Washington Insider

  • Monday brought yet another annual warning from the trustees in charge of America's major government retirement programs that action is needed by Congress to alter the financial trajectory of Social Security and Medicare, otherwise those programs will face a financial shortfall which could require dramatic cuts in benefits in the future. 'Medicare still faces a substantial financial shortfall that will need to be addressed with further legislation,' the Medicare trustees wrote in their annual report. 'The Trustees recommend that lawmakers address the projected trust fund shortfalls in a timely way in order to phase in necessary changes,' the Social Security report states. The bottom line is not new - neither Medicare nor Social Security has enough money to indefinitely keep paying current benefits to the millions of Americans who use those two programs. 'Social Security will pay out more than it takes in next year and every year going forward,' said Michael Peterson, head of the Peterson Foundation, a federal budget watchdog group. 'That’s the definition of unsustainable.' 'Medicare will go insolvent in 2026, Social Security in 2035,' said Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX). 'Refusing to address this will cause automatic cuts to these programs.' If Social Security were to reach that point of insolvency - and Congress did nothing about it - then the latest estimate is that benefits would be paid out at only 77 percent, a 23 percent reduction. Medicare and Social Security are not dealt with on a yearly basis by the Congress in terms of the budget - as they are on automatic pilot, unless lawmakers proactively take action to change the amount paid out in benefits, or brought in from revenues. 'Implementing changes sooner rather than later would allow more generations to share in the needed revenue increases or reductions in scheduled benefits,' the Social Security report noted. Like many fiscal situations within the federal budget, there are three fairly basic ways to deal with Medicare and Social Security: 1) Reduce the amount spent by the programs in terms of benefits. 2) Increase the amount of tax revenues brought in for the programs. 3) A combination of 1) and 2). One option which has drawn some attention in recent years on the Social Security side is forcing more wealthy income earners to pay a larger share of payroll taxes into the system, in order to help bring in more revenues. Currently, the Social Security payroll tax ends once an individual earns $132,9000 in 2019 - that amount is indexed, and creeps up each year. One plan would have it phase out at the current level, and then kick back in at a higher level of income, like $500,000 or $1 million, in order to bring in more revenues.. But votes on matters like expanding the payroll tax to bring in more resources to pay benefits - or raising the retirement age, slowing the yearly increase in Social Security benefits, or making some Medicare recipients pay more for health care - those type of proposals are considered politically toxic by many, too easily demagogued by both parties. “This report highlights the need for serious-minded legislators to partner with the Administration on commonsense, bipartisan reforms that will lower costs and eliminate fraud and abuse, preserving the program for future generations,” the White House said in a statement. But while politicians on all sides say the right things, there has not been a serious legislative effort on the matter in years. 'Why wait to until drastic changes are needed to avert insolvency in these programs?' asked Shai Akabas of the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington. 'The time for action is now.