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The blitz comes as DeSantis draws widespread interest from Republican Party donors eyeing the next generation of party leaders, who have praised him for his anti-coronavirus lockdown policies and his combativeness toward the media. With the prospect of a Donald Trump comeback bid still uncertain, many contributors scoping out the party’s bench are flooding DeSantis with five-, six-, and even seven-figure checks for his 2022 campaign in Florida.

DeSantis’ cross-country fundraising swing draws parallels to former President George W. Bush, who courted donors outside his home state in the run-up to his 1998 reelection race. Bush received financial support for his gubernatorial campaign and, crucially, developed the national finance network that became a foundation of his presidential bid two years later.

“DeSantis is very smart to use his reelection and his national ascendancy to travel the country, raising money and building a network that could serve him well in 2022 and beyond,” said Scott Jennings, a former top Bush political adviser. “Circumstances are coming together for him quite nicely, and his operation appears agile enough to understand it all and take advantage of it.”

DeSantis allies say he’s focused solely on the 2022 contest and, if anything, finds talk of a 2024 run an unwelcome distraction. DeSantis faces the hurdle of running for reelection in a perennial swing state he won by only a fraction of a percentage point in 2018, and senior Republicans view him as one of the party’s most vulnerable incumbent governors up for election next year. The race has drawn a pair of potentially formidable Democratic candidates: state Agricultural Commissioner Nikki Fried and Rep. Charlie Crist, who is seeking a comeback after serving as a Republican more than a decade ago. Crist later switched parties.

Bush, by contrast, had the luxury of running for reelection in a state he had already won comfortably. When he ran again in 1998, he received more than two-thirds of the vote.

But Republican givers are treating DeSantis as a national figure. Invitations to Thursday’s fundraiser, which is being co-hosted by former San Diego County GOP Chairman Tony Krvaric and real estate investor Cathy Herrick, dub DeSantis as “America’s Governor.” Attendees are being asked to pony up as much as $100,000.

“The interest is sky-high and we expect a very successful visit,” Krvaric said in a text message.

DeSantis’ recent out-of-state fundraising travels have taken him to Lexington, Ky., where former U.N. ambassador and GOP megadonor Kelly Craft hosted a reception and dinner that drew around $300,000 for the governor’s reelection effort.

Craft, one of the party’s most sought-after contributors and a likely future candidate for governor of Kentucky herself, noted that many of the attendees had second homes in Florida. She said there was a desire to hear DeSantis talk about how he’d handled the pandemic.

“I just felt he was a perfect fit to come into Kentucky, especially with the group that we had. A lot of the folks have places in Florida and the reception was amazing,” said Craft. “This is a guy who has a national name but at the same time is focused on Floridians.”

DeSantis also raised money in Pennsylvania last month, and he attended a series of donor events in Texas, including one hosted by venture capitalist Joe Lonsdale and another by Kent Hance, a former congressman and past chancellor of the Texas Tech University System.

“We put together a 40-person lunch with six days’ notice and raised $80,000. The interest and demand were absolutely off the charts,” said Matt Mackowiak, a Texas-based Republican strategist and fundraiser who co-hosted another event.

The list of major out-of-state donors to DeSantis this year includes Chicago hedge fund manager Ken Griffin, who cut a $5 million check, and Boston-based private equity investor John Childs, who gave $250,000. Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus, who resides in Atlanta, chipped in another $250,000.

It’s unclear whether DeSantis’ national fundraising travels will extend into 2022, as the election draws closer and the demands of a swing-state campaign intensify.

After crisscrossing the country in the summer and fall of 1997, Bush’s out-of-state fundraising tapered off in 1998, when he focused on campaigning in Texas. By the time the dust had settled on the 1998 race, Bush had cultivated a national network of donors that included Florida real estate developer Mel Sembler, Arizona auto dealer Jim Click, and Massachusetts technology executive Richard Egan. Some of the national donors who bankrolled Bush’s 1998 effort would ultimately become members of the “Pioneer” program that bundled large sums for Bush’s successful 2000 presidential campaign.

DeSantis isn’t the only governor cultivating a national donor base. South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, who is also up for reelection next year, has been traveling beyond the confines of her small state. Noem, who has raised money in such states as Tennessee, Texas and Florida, has received financial support from the likes of California-based donors Richard and Stacy Kofoed, both of whom were major Trump backers. The governor is being shepherded around the country by former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski.

Should they run in 2024, however, DeSantis and Noem may confront other Republicans who have more established donor bases. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who developed a wide network of contributors during his 2016 presidential bid, earlier this year held a donor retreat where the prospect of a national campaign was a subject of discussion, according to a person familiar with the event. Cruz also has a large base of small dollar givers; during the first three months of the year he raised over $5 million, more than any other Republican senator.

But being forced to run for reelection next year may turn out to be a blessing for DeSantis, giving him entrée to benefactors who see good reason to cut checks. Other would-be presidential contenders who aren’t running in the midterm elections, such as former Vice President Mike Pence and ex-U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley, are seeking out other ways to remain relevant, such as throwing themselves into congressional races.

“Some of the other candidates don’t have 2022 reelections,” said Jennings, “so they are in the phantom zone to some degree until Trump decides what he’s going to do.”


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Nevada meltdown gives Iowa hope of saving first-in-the-nation fame

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The chair of the Nevada Democratic Party, Judith Whitmer, blasted the move as an “insurgency within our own party.”

Watching the Nevada fireworks explode from halfway across the country, Iowa Democrats glimpsed a flicker of hope. As the national party considers the 2024 calendar, Iowa — in comparison to Nevada — might not look so bad anymore. And that might assist their efforts to save their cherished place in the early state pecking order.

“Putting on one of these is a mammoth undertaking,” said Dave Nagle, a former congressman and former Iowa state Democratic Party chair. “And you can’t have the organizers in open warfare with each other.”

He said, “That’s never happened in our state.”

Or as Scott Brennan, an Iowa DNC member and a former state party chair, put it, “Their internal issues certainly create challenges that make it hard to see them moving forward successfully.”

Nevada’s bid for an earlier nominating contest was never grounded in the cohesiveness of the state party. Rather, it was a response to widespread complaints within the Democratic Party about the lack of diversity in Iowa and New Hampshire, two heavily white states. The technological issues that marred the Iowa caucuses last year — so severe the Associated Press was never able to call a winner — only added to Democrats’ complaints about the state.

But Democrats in Nevada are making a run on Iowa in terms of dysfunction.

This week, leaders of the Democratic Party in Washoe County, which includes Reno, moved to undercut the state party ahead of the midterm elections, voting to run the state’s 2022 coordinated campaign out of the county instead. The extraordinary move — which included statements of support from Sisolak, Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, Democratic state lawmakers, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the Democratic Governors Association — came after a slate of Bernie Sanders allies endorsed by the local chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America won control of the state party, a blow to former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s vaunted organizing machine in the swing state.

Whitmer called the uprising “ill-advised and undemocratic.”

Even in the fractious world of state party politics, that’s an uncommon level of animosity to put on display — especially with Democratic National Committee members who will decide the nominating calendar as early as next year all watching.

And that’s just the Democrats.

Nevada Republicans may be in even worse shape, with state and local party officials in Las Vegas feuding over a faction of pro-Trump activists, including some with ties to the Proud Boys, trying to take over the local party in Las Vegas’ Clark County. And Republicans don’t even want to change the traditional nominating calendar at all.

Earlier this week, the state Republican Party chairs in all four early nominating states — Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina — issued a statement calling for the existing calendar to be preserved.

“I think if Nevada can’t get its s–t together, that disqualifies them,” said Michael Ceraso, a Democratic strategist who organized fundraisers for Jaime Harrison, now the DNC chair, during his unsuccessful South Carolina Senate campaign last year. “If a state can’t work together, how are they going to operate a primary?”

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At an event in Las Vegas on Friday, Sisolak signed legislation changing Nevada’s caucus system to a presidential primary and moving the contest to the first Tuesday in February, ahead of Iowa and New Hampshire. A cheer went up when Sisolak said Nevada was claiming “the first-in-the-nation presidential primary.”

Nevada — or some other state — may still unseat Iowa. The effort in Nevada has been championed by Reid, who remains influential in national party politics. Regardless of the contretemps within the state party, one prominent Democratic Party official said, “Harry Reid is still Harry Reid.”

Reid said Friday in an interview that infighting in the state party is “exaggerated,” and “the mere fact that somebody took over the state party, it happens all the time.”

“Nevada’s that kind of a state,” he said. “I’ve been to state party meetings where fist fights broke out, so we’re used to a little intrigue.”

Reid said he doubted the DNC would penalize Nevada for any of its internal machinations as it considers the 2024 calendar. In addition, the state — not political parties — will run the primary, relying less on the organizational strength of any party apparatus. Molly Forgey, a former state party staffer who now serves as spokesperson for the coordinated campaign run through Washoe County, said “the reasons we’ve expressed why we deserve to be first still remain,” including the state’s diversity and geographic foothold in the West.

Even Ray Buckley, chair of the New Hampshire Democratic Party, said Friday that “whatever internally is happening in any state party, I don’t think has a significant influence” on how the calendar is set. He said he’s confident New Hampshire will “retain our historic spot.”

His confidence is based on years of successfully defending the state’s privileged position. New Hampshire and Iowa have long fought off efforts by other states to leapfrog them. New Hampshire’s secretary of state, Bill Gardner, has said he will follow a state law that requires New Hampshire to hold its primary at least seven days before any “similar election” in another state. And Nagle said that, if necessary, Iowa will hold its caucuses ahead of the 2024 election “in July of 2023 if we have to.”

For Iowans hoping to stave off another challenge to their first-in-the-nation status, the meltdown in Nevada is not a panacea. But even if it raises just a small level of doubt about Nevada in national Democrats’ minds, it could prove helpful to Iowa’s cause.

Asked if the infighting might affect Nevada’s bid to move forward in the process, Jeff Link, an Iowa-based Democratic consultant, said, “Sure. Everything must align to make a big change.”


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Opinion | The Republican Case for Federal LGBT Rights

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For the national Republican Party, this issue gives us the chance to do some good, win back millions of voters we’ve alienated, and move on to other important areas where we still have the moral high ground.

Some Republican operatives think they’re better off continuing to fight on this front of the culture war, and plenty of Democratic operatives think the same. The partisan vote in the House reflects an unwillingness—on both sides—to negotiate. But gay and trans rights are no longer the wedge issue they were in the early aughts. Times have changed, and Republicans’ best bet now is to reach a negotiated peace with the other side.

Democrats know the current version of the Equality Act could never pass in the Senate in its current form. And it might seem that in the current environment, common ground is out of reach. But senators of both parties have no chance of portraying themselves as reasonable unless they make a good-faith effort to reach a deal. Democrats cannot clear this hurdle unless they deal fairly with Republicans like Susan Collins or Lisa Murkowski, as well as conservative Democrat Joe Manchin. As for Republicans, they need to be willing to back an alternative rather than just saying “no.”

For religious conservatives, and by extension the Republicans who represent many of them, the problem with the current bill is that it appears to threaten their religious freedom and fails to adequately grapple with First Amendment concerns. They cannot support legislation that would imperil their operations, including the vital social services they provide in underserved communities around the country.

Several states have enacted laws similar to the Equality Act in recent years, but always with religious liberty protections. For instance, Rhode Island has a robust anti-discrimination law with reasonable protections for religious groups. These protections ensure that Catholic Social Services—and any other religious groups—can continue to provide valuable services in the state.

Similarly, Utah’s success in passing anti-discrimination legislation offers a path forward. Although its state government is controlled by Republicans at every level, Utah has some of the strongest protections for gay and trans people in the nation. In 2015, with the support of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and state LGBTQ leaders, Utah’s Republican legislature passed a comprehensive non-discrimination bill with reasonable protections for religious organizations.

I worked on the campaign to pass it, and found that Republicans were far more open to gay rights if a bill simply respected these protections, and Democrats were able to get behind it as well. It was a fair outcome that both sides liked. As a result, the law has enjoyed widespread support among the public. The people of Utah are tied with Vermont for the second-highest rates of support for LGBTQ non-discrimination protections.

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In Congress, instead of working toward such a deal, many Democrats grandstand and posture, insisting—wrongly—that they can pass the Equality Act as currently written. Rep. David Cicilline of Rhode Island, for instance, has never complained about the religious exemptions in his own state’s anti-discrimination laws, yet for some reason he draws a line in the sand at the federal level, denouncing any effort to provide similar exemptions in the Equality Act. Meanwhile, most Republicans complain about these missing provisions without offering their support for a bill that included such guarantees.

Utah should serve as a blueprint for both Democrats and Republicans in the Senate. The Fairness for All Act, an alternative version of the Equality Act, draws from the popular Utah law. Senate Republicans should introduce this bill and use its language to amend the Equality Act.

Support by Republican lawmakers for these types of changes would deliver a broader win to religious conservatives as well: Perhaps surprisingly, the best and possibly only way to achieve robust religious-freedom protections nationwide is by agreeing to LGBTQ non-discrimination protections, codifying an expansion of civil rights for religion alongside protections for sex, sexual orientation and gender identity.

This move would also help Republicans gain back some of the ground they lost with voters over the past several years. Public opinion polling shows that support for LGBTQ civil rights continues to climb, particularly in more educated, suburban districts.

With public support at sky-high levels, a version of the Equality Act will pass eventually. The question is: Which version? And will Republicans take the opportunity to shape it?

Religious conservatives should seize this chance now to influence the process before the culture shifts even more decidedly against them on LGBTQ issues. By making peace on this issue, religious conservatives could get the legal protections they want while also showing themselves to be decent and reasonable people—winning them political goodwill for any future disagreements that might emerge, and allowing lawmakers to move on to pressing issues like the crushing federal debt, defeating coronavirus, unaccompanied minors at the border, human rights abuses by the Chinese Communist Party, crumbling infrastructure and energy independence.

Responsible legislation is within reach, but you can’t win if you don’t play. Reaching a settlement on these issues is better for people of faith, better for LGBTQ people, and better for the country. Republicans should sit down with Democrats and insist on a deal that works for both sides. Common ground is possible.


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Teen who recorded George Floyd’s murder awarded Pulitzer special citation

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Darnella Frazier, the teenager who recorded George Floyd’s murder in Minneapolis last year, received a Pulitzer Prize special citation on Friday for her work capturing the video that launched a nationwide reckoning on racial issues and policing in America.

The video, in which she recorded then-police officer Derek Chauvin pinning Floyd to the ground with a knee on his neck, circulated widely on social media, sparking protests over police violence committed against Black Americans. Frazier was 17 years old when she recorded the video.

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The Pulitzer Prize Board honored Frazier on Friday “for courageously recording the murder of George Floyd, a video that spurred protests against police brutality around the world, highlighting the crucial role of citizens in journalists’ quest for truth and justice.” Previous winners of Pulitzer special citations and awards include Ida B. Wells, Aretha Franklin and Bob Dylan.


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