sunny.png
Saturday May 8th, 2021 5:39PM

Texas special election poses test for anti-Trump Republicans

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

MANSFIELD, Texas (AP) — Adam Kinzinger came to Texas this week to hunt unicorns.

The Illinois congressman was looking for Republicans who, like him, see former President Donald Trump as a scourge on their party and a threat to democracy. Kinzinger met privately with one sympathetic Republican, former President George W. Bush, on his first day in the state. And on the second, he had lunch with Michael Wood, the only openly anti-Trump Republican competing on Saturday in a crowded special election for a seat in Congress.

Kinzinger, a 43-year-old Air Force pilot who flew missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, is positioning himself as a leading antagonist to Trump in a party that is largely refusing to move on from the former president. The congressman's nascent political organization, Country First, has endorsed every House Republican who voted to impeach Trump for inciting the deadly Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol. And as Kinzinger eyes a potential run for higher office himself, he came to Texas to test how many other Republicans share his outlook.

Kinzinger’s hope lies in Wood, another fresh-faced combat veteran, who is fighting to stand out in a field of 23. If none of the candidates on Saturday’s ballot earns 50% of the vote, the top two will compete in a runoff election later in the spring.

“The Trump thing, it’s got nowhere to go but down. It’s not growing,” Kinzinger said during his lunch with Wood at the Fork in the Road cafe in the Dallas suburbs. “But it took a lot of time for the Republican Party to be what it is today. It may take a lot of time to bring it back.”

The contest to replace Republican Rep. Ron Wright, who died of COVID-19 in February, has gone virtually unnoticed outside this north Texas district. But it offers a window into the forces tearing at the fabric of today's GOP. There are 10 Republicans among 23 candidates on the ballot, and with the exception of Wood, they are all desperate to win over Trump and his supporters.

Republican Brian Harrison, former chief of staff of the Department of Health and Human Services, has played up his role in the Trump administration. So, too, has Sery Kim, who worked in the Small Business Administration and directly implored Trump for his endorsement during an appearance on Newsmax, where she gave out her phone number. Dan Rodimer, a former professional wrestler, has flashed the endorsement Trump gave him last year during a failed run for a congressional seat in Nevada. His new slogan: “Make America Texas Again.”

Trump waited until five days before Election Day to give his formal endorsement to the congressman's widow, Susan Wright, who is widely seen as a favorite.

Trump’s team scoffed at Wood’s chances and Kinzinger’s broader ambitions.

In his campaign to reject Trumpism, the Illinois congressman is outmatched by every measurable metric. Polls suggest that as many as 8 in 10 Republicans continue to support Trump. And while Kinzinger’s political team celebrated raising $2.2 million last quarter, Trump’s political operation is sitting on at least $85 million.

When asked about Kinzinger, Trump spokesperson Jason Miller dismissed him as “a future MSNBC contributor.”

Yet Wood has also drawn financial and moral support from a handful of other Trump critics in Congress, including Reps. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo.; David Valadao, R-Calif.; and Peter Meijer, R-Mich. Like Kinzinger, all three voted to impeach Trump.

Kinzinger said he was drawn to Wood by the 34-year-old former Marine infantry officer's political courage. Wood has been booed at Republican campaign events for saying that the GOP has devolved into a “cult of personality.” The first line of campaign literature he hands to voters declares, “The Republican Party has lost its way..."

In an interview, Wood, who earned two Purple Hearts for his service in Afghanistan and now runs a small business, compared Trump to a “less intelligent, lazy and disorganized” autocrat like Roman emperor Julius Caesar. He warned that freedom itself is at risk if Trump and what he stands for aren't soundly rejected.

“I don’t want to go to Congress if I have to lick Donald Trump’s boots to get there," he said.

Still, Kinzinger knows more than most just how difficult it will be to persuade Republican voters anywhere — never mind Texas — to turn against Trump. The congressman’s political operation recently commissioned polling that found the most sympathetic voters are what one aide called “unicorns” — Republicans who are moderate politically, don’t regularly watch Fox News, reject conspiracy theories and are highly educated.

It's a pool of voters Kinzinger needs to grow if his effort will be successful in Texas and beyond as he eyes an aggressive role in the 2022 midterms.

Wood estimated that such voters may represent as many as 35% of those who decide Saturday's special election. Sympathetic strategists suggest the number is probably much lower.

That's not to say there aren't warning signs for Trump and his supporters.

Trump won the north Texas district by double digits in 2016, but by just 3 points last fall, reflecting the trend of Texas’ booming suburbs shifting to purple and, in some places, outright blue.

But outside the Mansfield Municipal Courthouse this week, there was little sign of support for Wood among the Republicans waiting in line to cast early ballots. One said Wood was betraying his country; another called him an embarrassment.

“There’s no such thing as an anti-Trump Republican. He should find another party,” said 71-year-old white retiree Gordon Powell of Mansfield. “I doubt that he could run for dog catcher as a Republican and get elected around here.”

Yvette Williams, a 54-year-old African American transplant from California, said she’d consider Wood if she didn't vote for a Democrat. She applauded his effort regardless.

“I’m like, ‘Who in the Republican Party can stand up to Trump?’ It takes one person to make a difference,” she said.

For their part, there are 10 Democrats running in the special election. But after high expectations and heavy spending failed to produce a single significant victory last year, the national party is largely steering clear of the race.

And while many rank-and-file Texas Republicans remain loyal to Trump, Kinzinger has won the respect of one of Texas' most prominent Republican officials.

Kinzinger and his wife met privately with former President Bush and former first lady Laura Bush for roughly an hour Monday evening at Bush’s office at Southern Methodist University. Kinzinger said they discussed foreign policy, the support among evangelical Christians for Trump and shared concerns about the direction of the party.

“He’s obviously, as he’s expressed, concerned with where we’re at and knows it’s a slog to kind of bring it back,” Kinzinger said of Bush. “But it’s like, if you don’t fight, it’s done.”

A Bush spokesperson declined to comment on the meeting.

Meanwhile, Wood said it's past time for more people in his party's leadership to stand up to Trump publicly.

“I hope that, win or lose, I at least show the rest of the country there are people willing to stand up and say these things. Frankly, I’m a little upset it's someone like me who's saying them. It should be shouted from the rooftop by leaders in the House, Republicans in Senate, Republicans across the country.”

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Online National News, Top General short headlines, AP Online Headlines - Washington, AP Online Congress News, AP Elections, General Election News, General Presidential Election News, AP Elections - Political Conventions, AP Elections - Campaigns
© Copyright 2021 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Biden's agenda: What can pass and what faces steep odds
President Joe Biden laid out a long list of policy priorities in his speech to Congress, and some are more politically plausible than others
12:38AM ( 4 minutes ago )
Pentagon preparing for Taliban attacks during US withdrawal
The Pentagon is preparing for the possibility of Taliban attacks on U.S. and coalition forces during a withdrawal from Afghanistan
12:35AM ( 7 minutes ago )
NFL draft: No suspense as 3 QBs dominate early picks
Quarterbacks and just about anyone from national champion Alabama headlined the NFL draft
12:35AM ( 7 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Disneyland opening highlights California's COVID turnaround
Disneyland is reopening after a 13-month closure
12:09AM ( 33 minutes ago )
Stampede at Israeli religious festival kills nearly 40
An Israeli rescue service says nearly 40 people have been killed in a stampede at a popular religious festival in northern Israel
11:48PM ( 54 minutes ago )
Israeli medic: Nearly 40 people killed in stampede
The director of an Israeli ambulance service confirms nearly 40 people have died in a stampede at a religious festival in northern Israel
11:13PM ( 1 hour ago )
AP National News
Dozens injured in stampede at big Israeli religious festival
More than 100 people were injured, dozens critically, in a stampede at a Jewish religious gathering in northern Israel attended by tens of thousands of people
10:07PM ( 2 hours ago )
Biden sells economic plan in GA, calls for rich to pay more
President Joe Biden has taken his pitch to Georgia for $4 trillion in spending to rebuild America’s aged infrastructure and vastly expand the government social safety net
9:59PM ( 2 hours ago )
Biden pitches tax plan in Georgia: Right that rich pay more
President Joe Biden has taken his pitch to Georgia for $4 trillion in spending to rebuild America’s aged infrastructure and vastly expand the government social safety net
7:26PM ( 5 hours ago )
AP Online National News
Eying 2024, Pence makes 1st speech since leaving office
In his first public address since the end of the Trump administration, former Vice President Mike Pence put down a marker for a potential return to elected office, telling an audience in early-voting South Carolina that he plans to use the coming months “pushing back on the liberal agenda” he says is wrong for the country
10:13PM ( 2 hours ago )
The Latest: Wash. state alters vaccine system as demand ebbs
Washington state is changing the way it allocates coronavirus vaccine as demand for the shots declines in some places
9:30PM ( 3 hours ago )
In 1st post-office speech, Pence lays down marker for 2024
In his first public address since the end of the Trump administration, former Vice President Mike Pence put down a marker for a potential return to elected office, telling an audience in early-voting South Carolina that he plans to use the coming months “pushing back on the liberal agenda” he says is wrong for the country
9:10PM ( 3 hours ago )
AP Online Headlines - Washington
The Latest: Brazil's COVID-19 death toll tops 400,000
Brazil has become the second country to officially top 400,000 COVID-19 deaths, losing another 100,000 lives in just one month, as some health experts warn there may be gruesome days ahead when the Southern Hemisphere enters winter
6:04PM ( 6 hours ago )
The Latest: Pfizer to ship vaccine in smaller packages
Pfizer says it will soon start shipping its two-dose COVID-19 vaccine in smaller packages meant to better suit U.S. clinics, pharmacies and other medical providers in remote and rural areas
5:34PM ( 7 hours ago )
Idaho lawmaker accused of rape resigns after ethics ruling
An Idaho lawmaker accused of rape by a 19-year-old legislative intern has resigned after an ethics committee found he should be formally censured
5:09PM ( 7 hours ago )
AP Online Congress News
Abbas delays Palestinian elections; Hamas slams 'coup'
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has announced the postponement of the first elections planned in 15 years, citing a dispute with Israel over voting in east Jerusalem
7:05PM ( 5 hours ago )
EXPLAINER: What to know about the Giuliani investigation
A long-running federal investigation into Rudy Giuliani’s dealings in Ukraine has moved back into public view after federal agents seized electronic devices from the former New York mayor
1:57PM ( 10 hours ago )
Feds raid Giuliani's home, office, escalating criminal probe
Former President Donald Trump is defending Rudy Giuliani, his longtime personal lawyer, after federal investigators executed search warrants at Giuliani’s Manhattan residence and office
11:05AM ( 13 hours ago )
AP Elections
Russian minister: US-Russia ties worse than during Cold War
Russia’s top diplomat says his country's relations with the United States are even worse now than during Cold War times because of a lack of mutual respect
11:36AM ( 1 day ago )
Russian FM: US-Russia ties worse than during Cold War
Russia’s top diplomat says that the relations with the United States are now even worse than during the Cold War times because of a lack of mutual respect
7:18AM ( 1 day ago )
Judge has doubts on voter privacy in Arizona recount
A judge hearing a challenge to voter privacy policies during the Republican-controlled Arizona Senate’s recount of 2.1 million 2020 election ballots says he is not convinced voter secrecy is being upheld
9:19PM ( 2 days ago )
General Election News
Moldova's president calls early election for July 11
Moldova’s Constitutional Court has canceled a state of emergency introduced to combat COVID-19 infections, enabling President Maia Sandu to dissolve parliament and call for an early election on July 11
3:05PM ( 1 day ago )
Somalia's president drops bid for extended term after chaos
Somalia’s president has bowed to growing opposition to his extended stay in office
6:53PM ( 2 days ago )
Brazil Senate starts potentially damaging probe of president
Brazil’s Senate has began an inquiry into the government’s management of the COVID-19 pandemic
4:22PM ( 2 days ago )
General Presidential Election News
Caitlyn Jenner says she will run for governor of California
Republican Caitlyn Jenner says she will run for governor of California
10:33AM ( 6 days ago )
GOP White House hopefuls move forward as Trump considers run
Donald Trump ended his presidency with such a firm grip on Republican voters that party leaders fretted he would freeze the field of potential 2024 candidates and delay their preparations as he considered another run
10:32AM ( 1 week ago )
'Hillbilly' to Capitol Hill? Author eyes Senate bid in Ohio
“Hillbilly Elegy” author J
2:40PM ( 1 week ago )
AP Elections - Political Conventions
UK watchdog steps up probe into Johnson's apartment refurb
Britain’s political spending watchdog is scaling up an investigation into Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s finances
8:19AM ( 1 day ago )
Immigration groups launch $50 million effort for citizenship
A coalition of immigration advocacy groups is launching a $50 million effort aimed at defending President Joe Biden on immigration and pressuring lawmakers from both parties to pass a pathway to citizenship
6:00AM ( 1 day ago )
Where's Caitlyn? So far, Jenner's campaign is virtual
Caitlyn Jenner announced her candidacy for California governor last week but has yet to speak publicly about her campaign
7:06PM ( 2 days ago )
AP Elections - Campaigns
Biden's agenda: What can pass and what faces steep odds
President Joe Biden laid out a long list of policy priorities in his speech to Congress, and some are more politically plausible than others
12:38AM ( 4 minutes ago )
Pentagon preparing for Taliban attacks during US withdrawal
The Pentagon is preparing for the possibility of Taliban attacks on U.S. and coalition forces during a withdrawal from Afghanistan
12:35AM ( 7 minutes ago )
NFL draft: No suspense as 3 QBs dominate early picks
Quarterbacks and just about anyone from national champion Alabama headlined the NFL draft
12:35AM ( 7 minutes ago )
Social equity in marijuana industry still largely pipe dream
As marijuana legalization proliferates in the U.S., social equity has been a selling point
12:33AM ( 9 minutes ago )
All aboard! Biden to help Amtrak mark 50 years on the rails
President Joe Biden is set to help the nation's passenger rail system celebrate 50 years of service
12:24AM ( 18 minutes ago )