| AspenTimes.com

Biden leads the pack in funds raised in Aspen area

Pitkin County residents have poured $138,412 into the campaign coffers of active presidential candidates since Jan. 1, with Joe Biden well ahead of the pack.

An Aspen Times review of Federal Election Commission records shows Biden has raised $67,390 this year from Pitkin County’s five ZIP codes considered the campaign donors’ full-time residences. Those figures for Biden, as well as other presidential hopefuls, do not include donations from those who aren’t full-time Aspen residents and attended campaign fundraisers or donated to presidential campaigns in the Aspen area this year.

The former vice president and his wife, Jill, visited a private Aspen residence in August for a fundraiser charging $1,000 to $2,800 to attend. The event was held at the Northstar Drive home of Jane and Marc Nathanson, who founded Falcon Cable and sold it for $3.7 billion in 1999.

Sen. Michael Bennet also has stumped in Aspen this year, including a town hall-style meeting in August at the Pitkin County Library hosted by the Pitkin County Democrats. Polls show Bennet with about 1% support, but the $27,056 he’s raised this year in Pitkin County put him second to Biden in the local fundraising arena among presidential candidates.

Bennet and Biden are seeking the Democratic nomination to run against President Donald Trump, the Republican incumbent, in 2020.

Democratic candidates have set their sights on the Feb. 3 Iowa Caucus, which can bolster some campaigns and crush others.

Howard Wallach, president of the Pitkin County Democrats, said the monetary support coming in locally, with the election one year away, “says people are desperate to change the occupants of the White House. They’re desperate, and they’re serious.”

In its most recent poll Nov. 8, The New York Times showed Biden with 26% support, ahead of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (20%), Sen. Bernie Sanders (17%) and Pete Buttigieg (8%).

Biden is the only one of those four who have made fundraising stops in the Aspen area this year.

Yet other Democrats seeking their party’s bid have campaigned in the area this year, including Sen. Cory Booker and Kamala Harris. Billionaire Tom Steyer also was in Snowmass Village in August for the American Renewable Energy Day summit.

New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, and former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper also made presidential fundraising stops in Aspen this year before dropping out of the race. Hickenlooper currently is seeking the Democratic nomination to run for U.S. Senate.

Sanders might not have a strong showing in Pitkin County when it comes to dollars raised, but he has generated the most individual contributions so far — 89. Yet 55 of those donations came from one individual, including 48 contributions for one buck each. Sanders has prided himself on small donations, and recently reported that 84% of his contributions were $200 or less, according to publicintegrity.org.

The number of separate contributions also helped candidates meet one of the minimum thresholds set by the Democratic National Committee in its first two debates in the summer.

Trump has raised $2,407 so far this year from Pitkin County residents, while Vice President Mike Pence visited Aspen on July 22 for a private event held at the downtown Caribou Club. The event was a fundraiser for the Republican National Committee and the re-election of President Trump.

Aspen’s primary ZIP code, 81611, can be lucrative for candidates. In 2018, 81611 accounted for $3.15 million in donations to federal candidates, political action committees and other political funds, an amount that was 29 times more what the average ZIP code generated, according to opensecrets.org.

The Federal Election Commission’s limit for contributions is $2,800 per individual per federal election in 2019-20. The FEC, which oversees campaign finance law in national elections, also requires individual donors, either themselves or through their political party, to report the contributions.

rcarroll@aspentimes.com

John Hickenlooper urged to swap White House bid for Senate run

DENVER — John Hickenlooper has rebuffed entreaties from his campaign staff to drop his White House bid and consider running for a Senate seat in Colorado, insisting he still has a path to win the Democratic presidential nomination, Democrats said Tuesday.

The former two-term Colorado governor is struggling to break through a crowded field of Democratic presidential candidates. He’s in the bottom tier of polling, hasn’t generated significant fundraising and is at risk of being eliminated from the fall debates.

But that’s not persuading Hickenlooper to become the first person to bow out of the largest Democratic presidential field in modern history. He insists he still has a chance, a belief that triggered the departure of four top aides, ranging from his campaign manager to his digital director.

The discussion about exiting the race was described by a Democrat familiar with the situation who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal strategy. Politico first reported the conversations.

Hickenlooper on Monday night announced he hired a new campaign manager, M.E. Smith, a well-regarded operative who worked on Hickenlooper’s successful reelection in 2014 and last year ran Sen. Bob Casey’s winning campaign in Pennsylvania.

Smith was expected to run an outside group on Hickenlooper’s behalf funded by his financial backers. She’ll now be responsible for the entire campaign.

On Tuesday, Hickenlooper told MSNBC: “We felt that it was the right time for a change.”

Hickenlooper’s campaign manager Brad Komar, national finance director Dan Sorenson and digital director John Schueler have all left the campaign, and spokeswoman Lauren Hitt said she will be departing in the coming weeks.

According to people who have spoken to him, Hickenlooper still believes the race could break his way. He’s watching whether former Vice President Joe Biden’s stumbles at last week’s debate might provide an opening to play a more dominant role as a leader of the party’s moderate wing.

Hickenlooper thinks he could shine during the next Democratic presidential debate in Detroit later this month. That could help him generate a swell of small-dollar donors who could push him over his greatest obstacle: the Democratic National Committee’s requirement that candidates receive donations from 130,000 people to make the stage of the third debate.

“Hard but doable,” said Alan Salazar, a veteran Democratic strategist in Denver who was once Hickenlooper’s gubernatorial chief of staff but does not work for his presidential bid. “He is one of the best networkers I have ever known, so it’s probably a challenge he wants to take on.”

It won’t be easy for Hickenlooper. People familiar with the issue said his presidential bid, which has been active since March, has only 13,000 donors, one-tenth of the number needed to make the third debate. He was relatively quiet during the first debate, and acknowledged Tuesday that he was not a great debater.

“I’m not a former prosecutor, I don’t go after the other candidates,” Hickenlooper said on MSNBC in an apparent reference to California Sen. Kamala Harris, who dominated the debate.

The Senate race may not be an attractive or feasible option, either. Washington Democrats wooed Hickenlooper to challenge Sen. Cory Gardner, widely seen as the most vulnerable Republican senator, rather than run for president in 2020. Hickenlooper, however, has repeatedly said he wouldn’t be interested in becoming a legislator.

“If the Senate is so good, how come all those senators are trying to get out?” Hickenlooper asked during a question-and-answer session at the National Press Club last month, referring to the half-dozen senators running for president.

There may not be room for him in the Senate race. A dozen Democrats have already announced challenges to Gardner. Two announced this week that they raised more than $1 million in the past quarter, more than Hickenlooper is thought to have raised for his presidential bid over the same period.

Hickenlooper has tried to establish himself as a leading moderate in the race, repeatedly warning Democrats that they risk being tagged as socialists by tacking too far to the left. He’s tried to tout his unusual profile as a former businessman — Hickenlooper became rich founding a series of brewpubs — and governor of a swing state. But Democratic voters have appeared uninterested in his message, or at least the messenger.

On MSNBC, Hickenlooper admitted: “I’m not always the perfect spokesperson for my own ideas.” But he also quoted his mother, who was twice widowed before she was 40: “You never quit.”

Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet enters Democratic field for president

DENVER (AP) — U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado jumped into the packed Democratic presidential primary on Thursday, announcing a 2020 campaign that had been stalled while he was treated for prostate cancer.

Bennet, a former head of Denver Public Schools who has carved out a reputation as a policy-oriented moderate, made his announcement on CBS’ “CBS This Morning,” saying the country faces two “enormous challenges,” among others: “One is the lack of economic mobility and opportunity for most Americans, and the other is the need to restore integrity to our government.”

“I think we need to do both of those things,” he said.

The son of a former ambassador to India and a Yale law school graduate who worked in the Clinton administration, Bennet worked for Republican billionaire Phil Anschutz when he moved to Colorado in the late 1990s. But when he re-entered public life, he did so as a Democrat, serving as chief of staff to then-Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper. Hickenlooper went on to become Colorado governor and now is also competing for the Democratic presidential nomination.

The presence of two moderate Coloradans who started their political careers in Denver City Hall reflects how crowded the Democratic presidential field has become. Bennet’s understated style and distaste for the sound bites required in a political campaign have usually led to speculation that he’d seek a Cabinet position rather than try to become the next president. But he began moving to assemble a presidential bid late last year and planned an announcement in April. He had to pause after being diagnosed with prostate cancer this spring.

Bennet, 54, told Colorado journalist Mike Littwin that he’d resume the campaign if he was treated successfully but that he wanted to make a point by disclosing his medical condition.

“I don’t want to be hysterical, but if it was left in me undetected, it could kill me,” Bennet said. “It won’t because I have insurance and decent medical care. The idea that the richest country in the world hasn’t figured out how to have universal health care is beyond embarrassing. It’s devastating.”

Bennet has been a vocal opponent in the Democratic Party of the push for single-payer health care championed by Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, another 2020 presidential candidate. Instead, Bennet proposes letting consumers buy into Medicare through insurance exchanges, arguing that that will be a more efficient and realistic path to universal coverage. Likewise, Bennet has pushed back against arguments by some other presidential hopefuls that Democrats should respond to Republican tactics by expanding the size of the Supreme Court, saying the party needs to avoid the same scorched-earth tactics that, he says, its main rival employs.

Indeed, in a 4-minute launch video released Thursday morning, Bennet positioned himself as a truth teller willing to level with voters.

“I’m not going to pretend free college is the answer,” he said. “I’m not gonna say there’s a simple solution to a problem if I don’t believe there is one.”

Despite his professorial reputation, Bennet has shown an ability to be a tough campaigner. Appointed in 2009, Bennet won his first election in 2010 by pounding his Republican rival for opposing abortion rights and comparing homosexuality to alcoholism, eking out a narrow win in an otherwise disastrous year for Bennet’s party. Four years later, Bennet chaired the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, a position that put him in contact with a network of national donors who also can help fund a presidential campaign.

Bennet gained internet fame this year when he blasted Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas for backing a bill to pay Coast Guard members during the partial government shutdown but not reopen the government. Bennet said Cruz once led a 16-day government shutdown in a failed bid to derail funding for the Affordable Care Act at a time when Colorado was experiencing catastrophic flooding, delaying relief efforts.

“When the senator from Texas shut this government down in 2013, my state was flooded,” Bennet shouted. “People were killed. People’s houses were destroyed. Their small businesses were destroyed, forever.”

Bennet accused Cruz of crying “crocodile tears” this time around.

Cruz responded on the Senate floor by saying Bennet “spent a great deal of time yelling” and “attacking me personally.”

“I think we should discuss issues and substance and facts and not simply scream and yell at each other,” Cruz said.

Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper joins 2020 presidential race

DENVER (AP) — Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said on Monday he’s running for president, casting himself as a can-do uniter who’s used to overcoming adversity and accomplishing liberal goals in a politically divided state.

“I’m running for president because we need dreamers in Washington, but we also need to get things done,” Hickenlooper, 67, said in a video announcing his campaign. “I’ve proven again and again I can bring people together to produce the progressive change Washington has failed to deliver.”

He becomes the second governor to enter the sprawling field, after Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced last week, and is trying to cast himself as a pragmatist who can also take on President Donald Trump. Though as governor Hickenlooper prided himself for staying above partisan fights, he has argued his record as a former governor and big-city mayor distinguishes him from a broad field of Democratic presidential aspirants who are backing ambitious liberal plans on health care, taxes and the climate.

Hickenlooper has hedged on supporting Democratic rallying cries like Medicare for All and the Green New Deal to combat climate change. He once worked as a geologist for a petroleum company and was roundly criticized for telling a congressional panel he drank fracking fluid while arguing for the safety of the energy extraction technique.

It was after Hickenlooper was laid off from his geologist position during the energy bust of the 1980s that he inadvertently started on his road to politics. He opened a brewpub in a then-desolate stretch of downtown Denver that unexpectedly took off. That enabled Hickenlooper to become wealthy by building a mini-empire of restaurants and bars. It also led to him making a quixotic run for Denver mayor in 1993. Campaign ads featured Hickenlooper feeding quarters into parking meters to protest the city’s charging for Sunday parking downtown. He won handily.

As mayor, Hickenlooper helped persuade dozens of suburban cities, sometimes led by Republicans, to back a tax hike to fund a light-rail network. He was filmed diving out of an airplane to advocate for a statewide ballot measure to suspend an anti-tax measure passed in the 1990s and allow the state budget to grow. When he ran for governor in 2010, he featured an ad of himself fully dressed, walking into a shower to scrub off negative attacks.

It’s all part of Hickenlooper’s quirky political image — he vows not to run attack ads and has frequently made fun of his tendency to misspeak and wander off political message.

Hickenlooper was supported by some Republicans as governor. His first term was marked by a series of disasters and tragedies, some of which he alluded to in his launch video — record wildfires and floods, the assassination of his own prison chief by a member of a white supremacist prison gang and the 2012 Aurora theater shooting, which killed 12. After that attack and the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting massacre in Connecticut months later, Hickenlooper called for gun control legislation and signed bills requiring universal background checks and limiting magazine capacity to 15 rounds.

“We’re a purple state that got universal background checks passed,” he told ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Monday, stressing how he can “bring people together on the other side and actually get stuff done.”

Hickenlooper backed civil unions for gay couples and signed a law providing them in Colorado in 2013, before the U.S. Supreme Court legalized gay marriage. He announced in 2013 that he opposed the death penalty and refused to execute a quadruple-murderer who was on death row. And, as he prepared to leave office and was openly mulling a presidential bid, he ordered the state to adopt California’s low-emission vehicle standards to fight climate change.

The last move was widely seen as shoring up an area that has long created tension for Hickenlooper — his relationship with the energy industry. Groups opposed to the expansion of energy exploration into Denver’s suburbs often complained that Hickenlooper was too close to the oil and gas business, which remains a powerful force in Colorado politics.

As governor, Hickenlooper opposed ballot measures to limit drilling in populated areas. Hickenlooper’s successor, Democratic Gov. Jared Polis, has been more critical of the industry. Last week, Polis announced he’d pursue a wide range of new policies that would limit energy exploration.

Another potential vulnerability for Hickenlooper is money. As a former governor, he can’t recycle donations from prior campaigns into a presidential account, as can the many U.S. Senators in the field. Hickenlooper’s political committee raised $1 million during the first two months of the year, in contrast to senators such as Kamala Harris of California, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who raised more than that amount in the 24 hours after they announced their campaigns.

Still, Hillary Clinton vetted Hickenlooper as a possible running mate in 2016, and Democrats have spoken about his potential national appeal for years. In his launch video, Hickenlooper says, following images of Trump: “As a skinny kid with Coke bottle glasses and a funny last name, I’ve stood up to my fair share of bullies.”

Hickenlooper is expected to focus heavily on Iowa, where many Coloradans come from and a state where his low-key, genial approach could be potent. In previous trips he’s emphasized his record and how he can bring warring parties together. During a January swing he stopped by a Des Moines brewpub where a customer asked him how he’d win the primary of “who hates Trump the most?”

Hickenlooper responded by rattling off his governing accomplishments.

“Everyone yells at Trump, he will win,” Hickenlooper said. “You have to laugh at him and joke along and say: ‘Hey, this is what I did.'”

Outdoor retailers group claims first foray into elections a success

DENVER — An outdoor industry retailers group says its first venture into electoral politics was a success.

The political director of the Outdoor Industry Association, Alex Boian, said Thursday the group endorsed 23 candidates for the U.S. Senate, the U.S. House or governor in the mid-term elections, and 20 won.

The association also made campaign contributions through its political action committee but the amounts weren’t immediately available.

Fifteen of the candidates the group endorsed were Democrats and eight were Republicans.

Boian says President Donald Trump’s decision to shrink the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah helped spur the association to jump into politics.

The association says its industry generates $887 billion a year and is responsible for 7.6 million jobs nationwide.

Democrats knock holes in Republican wall of state control

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The Republican wall that has stood in state capitols for much of the past decade now has a few holes in it.

Democrats flipped control of seven gubernatorial offices, marking their greatest gains in several decades, and picked up hundreds of state legislative seats in Tuesday’s first midterm elections of President Donald Trump’s tenure.

Yet those victories didn’t quite reach the lofty goals of an anticipated blue wave, leaving both major parties with reason for hope on Wednesday as they look ahead to another pivotal battle in 2020.

Some of the biggest wins for Democrats came in the Midwest, where Republicans had virtually wiped them out in prior elections. Democrats defeated Republican Govs. Scott Walker in Wisconsin and Bruce Rauner in Illinois while picking up open seats previously held by Republican governors in Michigan and Kansas.

Democrats also flipped control of governors’ offices being vacated by Republicans in Maine, Nevada and New Mexico.

The Democratic Governors Association said it was their greatest number of pickups since 1982, the first midterm election of Republican President Ronald Reagan. The Democratic group’s chairman, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, called it “a broad-based win” and a historically big rejection of the president’s party.

“For those who were troubled by the results of 2016 in the Midwest, we have proved that the Democrats can run and win,” Inslee said.

Yet Republicans held on to the governor’s office in other key swing states targeted by Democrats, including Florida, Ohio and Iowa. Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp also was leading in Georgia’s gubernatorial race, though Democrat Stacey Abrams held out hope that absentee and the provisional ballots remaining to be counted could push Kemp’s percentage below 50 percent and force a runoff.

Republicans entered Tuesday’s election controlling 33 governors’ offices and two-thirds of the 99 state legislative chambers. The Democratic gubernatorial victories will push that closer to an even split. But Republicans will still control at least three-fifths of the state legislative chambers, even after Democrats flipped about a half-dozen chambers.

The gubernatorial and legislative gains appeared to give Democrats new trifectas of power in Colorado, Illinois, Maine, Nevada, New Mexico and New York. Democrats also broke up existing Republican trifectas in Kansas, Michigan, New Hampshire and Wisconsin.

Democrats ended a Republican legislative supermajority in North Carolina, making it harder for the GOP to override vetoes by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper.

Yet even after Tuesday’s victories, Democrats still will have full control of the governor’s office and legislature in about one-third fewer states than Republicans.

The Democratic gains amount to a mere “ripple” in Republican legislative control, said Matt Walter, president of the Republican State Leadership Committee.

“It is not a wave, and I would say it’s a far cry short of what they should have done” during a midterm election in which Republicans had to defend far more seats, Walter said.

During the first midterm election of Democratic President Barack Obama’s tenure in 2010, Republicans picked up about 725 state legislative seats while flipping control of 21 chambers. Republicans then used that enhanced power in many states to redraw legislative districts to their favor after the 2010 Census.

Tuesday’s shift of about a half-dozen chambers for Democrats is well below the average of 12 chamber changes per election cycle dating back 1900, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Whereas “Obama’s first midterm was a wipeout for Democrats,” the Republican losses Tuesday are “relatively modest,” said NCSL elections analyst Tim Storey.

That’s partly because Democrats are still “running on mostly Republican-drawn maps,” he said.

Both Democrats and Republicans were trying to put themselves in a strong position for the elections in two years, which will determine which party will have the upper hand in redrawing congressional and state legislative districts after the 2020 Census. But that jostling for power will matter less in some states as a result of Tuesday’s elections.

Voters in Colorado, Michigan and Missouri approved ballot measures overhauling the redistricting process in ways that are intended to reduce the likelihood of partisan gerrymandering by either major party. The Colorado and Michigan measures set up independent commissions to handle the task instead of leaving it to lawmakers and the governor.

The Missouri measure keeps in place an existing bipartisan commission for state legislative districts but creates a new position of nonpartisan state demographer to draft maps that prioritize “partisan fairness” and “competitiveness.”

States setting early turnout records ahead of Election Day

ATLANTA (AP) — More than 30 million Americans have cast early ballots ahead of Tuesday’s midterm elections, eclipsing the 2014 early totals nationally and suggesting a high overall turnout for contests that could define the final two years of President Donald Trump’s term.

At least 28 states have surpassed their 2014 early votes. And perhaps even more indicative of the unusual enthusiasm this midterm cycle, some states are approaching their early turnout from the 2016 presidential election.

Here’s a look at some highlights:

MASSIVE TURNOUT

The 30.6 million ballots includes data from 48 states, with several of those still collecting absentee ballots and welcoming in-person early voters. The total early vote in 2014 was 28.3 million in an election where more than 83 million Americans voted. That was a low turnout (about 36 percent) even by usual standards of a midterm, when there’s an expected drop off from presidential elections.

Forecasters aren’t predicting that overall turnout this year will hit 2016 levels (137.5 million; more than 60 percent of the electorate), but Democratic and Republican analysts, along with independent political scientists, say turnout could approach 50 percent, levels not seen for a midterm since the turbulent 1960s.

BOOMS IN STATES NOT USED TO EXCITING MIDTERMS

It’s one thing to see Virginia more than doubling its 2014 early turnout. Voters there showed their intensity last year in their governor’s race, with record absentee ballot requests and returns and a solid turnout for both parties.

But then there’s Tennessee. The state has settled firmly into Republican-dominated territory. In 2014, there wasn’t a single statewide race that received national attention or a truly competitive House election.

But with an open Senate seat thanks to the retirement of Republican Bob Corker, voters are more than eager this year. Through Thursday, early turnout was 217 percent of what it was in 2014. It’s even approaching early turnout from 2016, at more than 80 percent of that presidential-year mark.

Several other states with competitive Senate or governor’s races — Texas, Nevada, Georgia, among others — are nearing double the 2014 early totals.

DEMOCRATS EDGING REPUBLICANS NATIONALLY

In states that require party registration, Democrats have cast 41 percent of the early ballots, compared to 36 percent for Republicans. Party strategists on both sides say they are far exceeding their usual numbers in key locales — urban strongholds for Democrats and more rural counties for Republicans.

A word of caution from prognosticators: The party analysis isn’t always an indicator of final outcomes. There are crossover voters, even in this hyperpartisan era. And there are independents and third-party voters, as well. For the record, those latter groups account for about 23 percent of the ballots in party registration states.

For the scorekeepers, though, Virginia, among the states that doesn’t have party registration, is replicating its 2017 voting boom — and Democrats swept the top offices last year even amid strong GOP turnout.

YOUNG VOTERS IN FLORIDA

Trends in Florida’s early voting suggest a surge in young voters, a group that historically has low turnout in midterm cycles.

Of the 124,000 Floridians aged 18 to 29 who had voted in person at early polling stations as of Thursday, nearly a third did not vote in the presidential election in 2016, according to analysis by University of Florida political science professor Daniel Smith. About half of those new voters were newly registered.

“There are newly energized voters who sat out in 2016, or have registered since then, who are turning out. There’s no question about that,” Smith said.

In contrast, for people 65 and older who had voted early and in person, about 7 percent didn’t vote in 2016.

NEW VOTERS IN GEORGIA

It cannot be said enough: It’s the voters who don’t often participate in midterms who can make the big difference. There’s plenty of evidence that both major parties’ bases are enthusiastic, but a frequent Election Day voter being so excited that they vote early doesn’t change the math.

So candidates like Democrat Stacey Abrams and Republican Brian Kemp in the Georgia governor’s race are keeping their eye on how many non-2014 voters have cast ballots.

An analysis by Georgia-based data analyst Ryan Anderson finds that 36 percent of the 1.8 million early votes in Georgia are new voters. If that held through Election Day, it would be a huge number. Abrams’ campaign believes it would benefit them, though Republicans nationally note that President Donald Trump brought many new voters to the polls in 2016 — and those voters are still “new” midterm voters.

That said, at least in Georgia, the racial and gender breakdown of the new voters bodes well for Abrams, who is trying to spike turnout among nonwhites, women and millennials.

Anderson’s analysis finds that barely more than half of the new voters are white in a state where the GOP wants the white share of the electorate to be push toward the mid-60s. Among the other findings: new female voters outnumber men by more than 70,000.

The bright spot for Kemp: More than half of early votes come from voters over 65 (though that total includes all races), and there is intense turnout in many of the state’s most conservative areas beyond metro Atlanta.

America’s gender, racial divides on display in House races

WASHINGTON (AP) — Perhaps nowhere is the choice facing voters next Tuesday more vividly on display than in the battle for control of the U.S. House. Democrats are fielding more women and minority candidates than ever, while Republicans are trying to hold their majority with mostly white men.

The disparity highlights a trend that has been amplified under President Donald Trump, with the two parties increasingly polarized along gender and racial lines as much as by issues. The result is that, in an election season playing out against the backdrop of bomb threats, violence and a charged immigration debate, the parties are presenting voters starkly different pictures of American leadership.

Democrats have nominated more than 180 female candidates for the House, which sets a record. But while voters could send more than 100 of them to victory, Republicans could have fewer women than now in their ranks next year due to retirements and tough races, according to election analysts. Overall, nearly 9 in 10 House Republicans will be white men when the new Congress convenes in January.

The racial divide is even starker. House Republicans now count just over a dozen minority members, a number that’s not expected to change much after the election. The lack of minorities in the conference comes into sharp visual focus when House Republicans gather in a large group, as they did last December when they celebrated the passage of tax cuts with Trump at the White House.

Meanwhile, African-American, Latino and Asian-American lawmakers make up almost half the House Democratic caucus. And for the first time, less than half the Democratic candidates for the House are white men, and the Democrats are poised to send the first Native American and Muslim-American women to the House. It’s what the Reflective Democracy Campaign calls a “historic shift.”

After Tuesday’s election, it’s likely that 87 percent of Republicans in the House will be white men, compared to just 37 percent for Democrats, said David Wasserman, who analyzes races for the Cook Political Report.

Marc Hetherington, a professor of political science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said the trend began long before this year’s election. “There’s a relatively easy explanation — the Republican Party over the past 20 years has become the party of white men,” he said. At the same time, “Democrats have come to be seen as the party of minorities.”

Political scientists have been debating whether Congress’ low approval rating — now 21 percent — has something to do with lawmakers not seeming to reflect the country they represent, said Matt Barreto, a professor at UCLA who is also a pollster working to mobilize Latino voters this cycle. Overall, while the House is closer to reflecting the makeup of the country, which is still majority white, the representation is lopsided between the parties.

“Everyone wants a representative from their community to stand up for their issues,” Barreto said. For the House, he said, “It’s the entire point: They’re representatives.”

Democrats need a net gain of 23 seats to win back the House in the election on Tuesday. Enthusiasm has seemed to be on their side, especially in fundraising, but it’s unclear if that energy will be enough to win districts that swung to Trump in 2016 or have traditionally favored Republicans.

The outcome could hinge on the suburbs, where Democrats are hoping that a voter backlash against Trump and GOP policies will help carry their candidates to victory.

One closely watched race is outside of Richmond, Virginia, where Republican Rep. Dave Brat, a one-time tea party favorite, is facing a stiff challenge from political newcomer Abigail Spanberger, a former CIA operative.

Brat was campaigning over the weekend at the Innsbrook Pumpkin Palooza, pausing to watch a pumpkin catapult as he mingled with voters. Trump supporter Jen Dodge from nearby Glen Ellen said she’s all for bringing more diversity to Congress. But as an employment recruiter, she said she also wants the best candidate for the job. And she said she appreciates what the president and the Republican Congress have done for the economy, especially by passing tax cuts.

“We really need people in the Congress who are going to speak the best for the people,” she said. Brat, she said, “does what he says he’s going to do.”

Down the road at a community forum with Spanberger, optometrist Lisa Bennett said she wants lawmakers who listen to voters.

“American people are frustrated,” she said, recalling the protesters who confronted senators on Capitol Hill over Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court. “You shouldn’t have to stand in an elevator and yell at your representative.”

The diversity gap between the parties has been growing since the civil rights battles of the 1960s, when white voters shifted toward Republicans and the party’s support from African-Americans plummeted.

Republicans set out to attract more votes from minorities and particularly Latinos after their election losses in 2012, but Trump turned that political strategy on its head in 2016, showing they could win by pulling white voters away from Democrats. Now the president’s coalition is being put to the test.

After conducting a poll of 72 competitive House districts, the Cook Political Report and LSU Manship School said this year’s election “feels like 2010, in reverse.” Almost half of Americans, 49 percent “feel frustrated” about Trump’s presidency. That’s the same share who said they felt frustrated about President Barack Obama during that year’s midterm elections, when Democrats lost the majority in a wave election fueled by conservative newcomers eager to confront the White House.

Thousands of Native voters in North Dakota getting free IDs

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Efforts by American Indian tribes in North Dakota to provide free identification with street addresses to thousands of members in advance of Tuesday’s election are cutting into the number of Native Americans who could potentially be turned away at the polls for lack of a proper ID under recently tightened state rules.

The free programs launched with the help of groups including the Lakota People’s Law Project and the Four Directions nonprofit so far have provided more than 2,000 voters on four reservations with the proper credentials. The effort to ensure a strong Native American vote comes amid uproar over what some believe is an attempt to suppress their votes.

“We’re at our best in crisis,” said Phyllis Young, an organizer on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation for the Lakota People’s Law Project, adding that the issue “is only making us more aware of our rights, more energized, and more likely to vote this November.”

Stricter voter ID rules are taking effect after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling earlier this month allowed the state to continue requiring street addresses, as opposed to other addresses such as post office boxes. Street addresses have never been important in the Native American culture, and many tribal members aren’t aware of their address, don’t have a provable one because they’re homeless or stay with friends or relatives, or can’t afford to get an updated ID with a street address assigned through the statewide 911 system.

A federal lawsuit filed Tuesday by the Spirit Lake Sioux also alleges that the 911 system on reservations is “characterized by disarray, errors, confusion, and missing or conflicting addresses.” It seeks to have the residential address requirement ruled unconstitutional as it applies to Native American voters, and asks for an emergency order while the lawsuit proceeds barring the state from enforcing the requirement on Native Americans on or near reservations or who are at risk of disenfranchisement.

The nonprofit Brennan Center for Justice notes the lawsuit seeks a more limited injunction, something an appeals court indicated in an earlier lawsuit might be a more successful tactic.

State officials say not requiring street addresses could lead to people voting in the wrong district and to fraud.

The Supreme Court ruling in a lawsuit filed by Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa members in 2016 sent tribes scrambling to make sure tribal members’ voices will be heard , especially in the high profile U.S. Senate race between Republican U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer and Democratic incumbent Heidi Heitkamp.

Changes to North Dakota’s voter ID laws came just months after Heitkamp’s win by fewer than 3,000 votes with the help of Native Americans in 2012, though Republicans say that had nothing to do with updates aimed at guarding against voter fraud. American Indians make up about 5 percent of North Dakota’s population.

The Turtle Mountain Chippewa, Standing Rock Sioux, Spirit Lake Sioux and Three Affiliated Tribes all have launched programs to provide free IDs with street address to tribal members in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling.

As of Tuesday, the programs had provided 1,050 IDs on the Turtle Mountain Reservation, more than 380 on the Spirit Lake Sioux Reservation and 440 on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. The Three Affiliated Tribes had provided only 140, but the program had just been launched the day before.

The total of more than 2,000 IDs is approaching half of the roughly 5,000 Native Americans that U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland has said don’t possess a qualifying voter ID under state rules. He based the figure on research by UCLA and University of New Mexico professors who have been expert witnesses in several voter ID cases across the country.

Tribes believe the number is much higher, perhaps even double the judge’s estimate, though they base it in part on anecdotal evidence. They plan to continue issuing free IDs through Election Day, including stationing people at the polls to help those without qualifying ID on at least two of the four reservations.

The effort is largely being financed through donations. The Native American Rights Fund has given the four tribes a total of $50,000, and a GoFundMe site set up by the Standing Rock Sioux had raised more than $200,000 from more than 4,300 donors as of mid-day Wednesday.

Alexis Davis, 19, chairwoman of the Turtle Mountain Youth Council, has an ID with a residential street address but said many of her friends do not. The voter ID issue has made them more resolved to be a part of the election process, she said.

“It’s like, oh you want to make this harder for me? Oh, you want to take away my rights?” she said. “It’s like, no, now I’m going to fight that, and I’m going to be more resilient, and I’m going to make sure that I’m going to go vote.”

Rare drop in NRA election spending as gun-limit groups rise

WASHINGTON (AP) — The National Rifle Association — long seen as a kingmaker in Republican politics — is taking a lower profile in this year’s high-stakes midterm campaign, a sign of the shifting dynamics of the gun debate as the GOP fights to maintain its grip on Congress.

The NRA has put $11 million into midterm races this year — less than half what it spent four years ago in a campaign that gave Republicans full control of Congress. This year’s totals are also far below the $54 million the group spent in 2016 on both the presidential and congressional races.

The shift comes as spending to support tougher gun control measures has surged. Everytown for Gun Safety, a group founded by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, pledged $30 million for this year’s election, and has continued to put new money into competitive races in the final days. A political action committee formed by Gabby Giffords, the former congresswoman wounded in a shooting, is spending nearly $5 million.

It’s the first time under current campaign finance laws that the NRA might be outspent by gun control groups, though the organization often ramps up spending late in the campaign. That money won’t show up in federal financial reports until after Election Day.

It all underscore a changing political landscape on guns after a series of election year mass shootings, including the February massacre at a Parkland, Florida, high school that left 17 people dead, and Saturday’s deadly attack at a Pittsburgh synagogue.

“The politics of guns has changed,” said Jim Kessler, the senior vice president for policy at Third Way, a centrist think tank. “The groups supporting more gun safety restrictions are smarter than in the past and have more resources, both in terms of people and money, than in the past.”

With polls showing that the majority of Americans now support at least some tightening of gun laws, the issue is no longer taboo in swing districts, particularly the suburban areas that could determine which party controls the House next year. Everytown and Giffords’ group are on the air in competitive districts in Texas, Virginia, Kansas and elsewhere.

After the Pittsburgh shooting, a Bloomberg aide said Everytown bought another $700,000 in advertisements aimed at ousting Rep. Mike Coffman, a vulnerable Republican who represents a suburban Denver district — a significant sum to spend on a single House race in one week.

The group has also spent about $4 million in the Atlanta suburbs to back Democrat and gun control advocate Lucy McBath, whose son was shot and killed in 2012.

Despite the public polling, there are no guarantees that sending more pro-gun control lawmakers to Washington would result in tougher legislation. Modest measures have repeatedly been blocked in Congress, even as Americans have grown more supportive of steps like banning assault weapons and tightening background checks.

Bloomberg, who is weighing a run for president as a Democrat in 2020, promises to keep up the pressure on lawmakers and candidates he’s backing if they end up on Capitol Hill.

“I’ve put an awful lot of my money and an awful lot of my time into this,” he said in an interview with The Associated Press. “I’m not going to forget it. I’m not going to walk away.”

He continued: “The nice thing about the House, it may be a stupidly designed system but if they don’t do what they said they were going to do, you get another crack at deciding to support them or somebody else two years from now.”

An NRA spokeswoman would not comment on the group’s election spending compared to organizations pushing for stricter gun laws.

Bloomberg, who is spending $120 million on the midterms, has helped pro-gun control groups level a playing field long dominated by the NRA.

The organization was riding high after the 2016 election, with a strong supporter in the White House and Republicans in charge of both the House and Senate.

But 2018 has proved to be a tumultuous year for the NRA, which has been faced with boycotts from parts of corporate America in the wake of mass shootings and an investigation into what federal authorities allege were covert Russian agents seeking to influence the 2016 election to benefit Trump by courting NRA officials and funneling money through the group.

Publicly, the NRA has portrayed itself as being in financial distress because of deep-pocketed liberal opposition to guns and what it calls the mainstream media “spewing toxic lies” about the group. Over the summer, the organization raised its annual dues fees from $40 to $45 — the second increase in two years.

NRA watchers dismiss the notion that the organization is in trouble and say it’s more of a ploy to energize its ardent supporters, which in turn could help bring in more donations.

“It’s in the NRA’s interests to exaggerate how much trouble it’s in,” said Robert J. Spitzer, chairman of political science at the State University of New York at Cortland and an expert on guns and the Second Amendment.

Indeed, the group’s political fundraising is up this year compared to the last midterm election. According to data provided by an NRA official, the group’s Political Victory Fund has raised more than $12 million this year compared to nearly $11 million at this same point in the 2014 midterms.

While the NRA is not pumping the same levels of money into this year’s elections, it still has much at its disposal to try to sway campaigns: its NRATV media arm, social media and an ability to mobilize its millions of members to get them to the polls.

The NRA’s membership rolls and finances are not public, but the organization has said it has about 6 million in its ranks. Those who closely watch the group believe its membership is closer to 4 million.

Both the NRA and groups such as Everytown can also quietly influence elections with money that doesn’t have to be reported in publicly available campaign finance reports.