Biden vs. Trump: Live Updates on Alabama, Texas and Maine Elections

Republicans are planning to move events outdoors at their convention in Jacksonville.

With coronavirus cases surging in Florida, Republicans are planning to move the three nights of their national convention taking place in the state from an indoor arena to an outdoor venue in Jacksonville, Maggie Haberman reports. It’s still unclear how many people will be allowed to attend the events, people familiar with the discussions said Tuesday.

Officials decided on Monday night to shift the events of Aug. 25, 26 and 27 out of the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena, where the indoor program was scheduled to take place, including Mr. Trump’s acceptance speech on the final night. The two outdoor options they’ve been examining are near the arena, the people familiar with the discussions said.

Mr. Trump often shifts positions, and officials emphasized that the plan could change.

The plan to move the activities outdoors was made after a meeting that Mr. Trump held with political advisers on Monday evening. It’s a change from what Mr. Trump had envisioned when he forced the Republican National Committee to abandon plans in Charlotte, N.C., because officials there refused to guarantee the type of pre-coronavirus event the president wanted, absent restrictions on mask-wearing and social distancing.

Ever since he was inaugurated, President Trump has made his ideological stranglehold on the Republican Party a defining element of his political identity. Whatever Mr. Trump believed became the party’s mantra, and whichever candidates he backed were almost certain to win contested primaries.

For months throughout the 2020 primary season, Mr. Trump bragged about his unbeaten record in Republican primaries. “64-0,” his campaign manager, Brad Parscale, tweeted on June 3. “That’s the record of federal candidates in primaries or special elections after they’ve been endorsed by @realdonaldtrump this cycle. Undefeated. Unprecedented.”

Since that tweet Trump-endorsed candidates have been on the losing side of four Republican primaries, falling short in Colorado, Kentucky, North Carolina and Virginia. Now Tuesday’s contests bring three more high-profile primary runoff contests that pit Mr. Trump against pillars of the local Republican Party.

The highest profile race is in Alabama, where Jeff Sessions, the former attorney general, is a long-shot to win back the Senate seat he held for 20 years. Mr. Trump, still embittered by Mr. Sessions’s decision to recuse himself from the Justice Department’s investigation into Russian election interference, endorsed Tommy Tuberville, the former Auburn University football coach.

A Sessions victory would represent a major black eye for Mr. Trump. There is no Republican primary candidate for whom he has campaigned harder this year than Mr. Tuberville. Along with the many tweets denouncing Mr. Sessions, Mr. Trump planned and then canceled an outdoor campaign rally with the former coach and did a Monday night phone call touting Mr. Tuberville.

In Texas, Mr. Trump endorsed in a pair of House contests to be decided Tuesday.

In the Panhandle, he’s backing Ronny Jackson, his former White House physician, against Josh Winegarner, a local lobbyist who is endorsed by Representative Mac Thornberry, who is retiring after 13 terms. The primary winner is certain to come to Congress — the district is among the most Republican in the country.

And in southwest Texas, the president backed Tony Gonzales, a former Navy cryptologist, against Raul Reyes, a former Air Force officer who has an endorsement from Senator Ted Cruz. Representative Will Hurd, who narrowly won re-election in 2018, chose to retire rather than compete in another race against Gina Ortiz Jones, a Democrat. Mr. Hurd also endorsed Mr. Gonzales.

Of course if there is any place where Mr. Trump might be nervous about an endorsement, it would be Alabama. It was there, in 2017, that he found himself on the losing side of the same Senate race twice: First, when Roy Moore defeated the appointed Senator Luther Strange in the primary to replace Mr. Sessions, and then again when Mr. Moore lost the general election to Doug Jones, a Democrat, who awaits the winner of the Tuberville-Sessions race.

Sara Gideon, the speaker of the State House of Representatives, is viewed as the front-runner against two progressives, Betsy Sweet, a lobbyist, and Bre Kidman, a lawyer.

Ms. Gideon has already raised $23 million, a record sum for a Maine race, thanks to donors nationally who see her as crucial to a Democratic takeover of the Senate. Ms. Gideon has staked out positions on health care and the environment in line with Joseph R. Biden Jr. Her two challengers, who champion more sweeping policies like “Medicare for all,” have struggled to raise money.

The nonpartisan Cook Political Report has rated the race a tossup, six years after Ms. Collins coasted to her fourth term with 69 percent of the vote. Although the senator is a moderate in her party who has long enjoyed bipartisan support in representing Maine in the Senate since 1997, her approval ratings have plummeted at home during the Trump administration.

Liberals, frustrated with what they see as an unwillingness to forcefully push back against Mr. Trump, were angered by her support for the 2017 Republican tax plan and her decisive vote to confirm Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

In a series of interviews earlier this month while traveling across the state for Fourth of July festivities, Ms. Collins acknowledged that Ms. Gideon’s war chest, coupled with the restrictions imposed by the pandemic, have made the race particularly challenging. Her campaign schedule has been limited to virtual meetings and fund-raisers and the few remaining outdoor events.

“That’s what’s frustrating to me in this pandemic, because I can do this in a rural area, at an outside event, but the vast majority of fairs and festivals in our state have been canceled,” Ms. Collins said. “I think that’s a huge loss for me because people know that I’m there because I want to be there, and it energizes me.”

Back in December, the Senate Democrats’ campaign arm waded into the Texas primary, endorsing M.J. Hegar over a field of candidates. Now Ms. Hegar, a former Air Force helicopter pilot who narrowly lost a 2018 bid for the House, faces a runoff against Royce West, a state legislator vying to become the first Black senator from Texas.

The winner will face Senator John Cornyn, a three-term incumbent who is the second-ranking Senate Republican and will be a heavy favorite in the general election. But Democrats are becoming more optimistic about Texas by the week, with Mr. Biden’s campaign announcing Tuesday that it is buying television airtime in the state. Still, Ms. Hegar or Mr. West would need a major increase in fund-raising to become competitive in November.

In Texas House races, Democratic voters will choose a candidate in the primary runoff in the state’s 24th Congressional District, which covers suburbs between Dallas and Fort Worth. It’s a longtime Republican stronghold that Democrats think they can flip in November.

The candidates are Kim Olson, 62, a white Air Force veteran, and Candace Valenzuela, 36, an Afro-Latina former school board member.

Ms. Olson has advertised her 25 years of military experience and how she was part of the first generation of female fighter pilots. Ms. Valenzuela has emphasized her difficult childhood — her family was poor, and she was homeless for a time — and her personal connections to the community. If elected she would be the first Afro-Latina member of Congress.

Ms. Olson was initially seen as the heavy favorite, and she finished more than 10 percentage points ahead of Ms. Valenzuela in the first round of voting in March. But Ms. Valenzuela has racked up prominent endorsements, including from Senators Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris and Cory Booker.

The winner will face the Republican nominee, Beth Van Duyne, for a House seat currently held by Kenny Marchant, a retiring Republican.

Another congressional runoff will unfold for Republicans in the 22nd District, which is expected to be competitive in November.

The district, which is in the Houston area and currently represented by the retiring Pete Olson, is home to a bitter race between Troy Nehls, the Fort Bend County sheriff, and Kathaleen Wall, a conservative activist. Mr. Nehls was far ahead of Ms. Wall in the first round of voting in March, but did not reach the 50 percent threshold needed to avoid a runoff.

Joe Biden will call for eliminating carbon emissions by 2035.

Mr. Biden will call for standards to eliminate carbon emissions from the electricity sector by 2035, according to multiple people familiar with plans the Democratic presidential nominee is expected to unveil on Tuesday.

In a speech in Wilmington, Del., Mr. Biden intends to set out a plan that significantly expands on his call last year to spend $1.7 trillion to dramatically reduce fossil fuel use across the United States economy before 2050, the people familiar with the announcement said, part of a broader energy and infrastructure plan as Mr. Biden sketches out an economic recovery blueprint.

It comes after weeks of task force meetings on climate change between Mr. Biden’s allies and supporters of his one-time rival, Senator Bernie Sanders.

One major element of the announcement will include charting a path to “zero carbon pollution” from the United States electricity sector by 2035.

“That’s a huge transition in a decade and a half,” said Paul Bledsoe, a strategic adviser at the Progressive Policy Institute, a Democratic research organization. But, he said, setting out near-term targets like a clean electricity standard ‘is important to instill a sense of urgency.”

According to the Energy Information Association, coal and natural gas still account for more than 60 percent of the United States electricity sector.

One person who has been working with the campaign said Mr. Biden, who led the implementation of the 2009 Recovery Act, is expected to make the case that a major investment in wind, solar, electric vehicle charging stations and other renewable energy deployment will help revive the economy in the wake of the coronavirus. Mr. Biden is also expected to link environmental advocacy to issues of racial justice.

News of Mr. Biden’s plan for the clean electricity standard was first reported by Bloomberg News.

Mr. Biden has long faced skepticism over the scope of his climate ambitions from environmental activists and other progressives, but he has ramped up his efforts to engage on the subject in recent months.

“Vice President Biden will outline how his plan will create the good-paying union jobs we need to build a resilient and sustainable infrastructure now and deliver an equitable clean energy future,” his campaign said on Monday.

At noon Tuesday, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is scheduled to hold a “virtual conversation” with Ohio chapters of the Federalist Society, a conservative legal group. On Thursday Ms. DeVos will appear at an event with Federalist Society members in Arizona. Last week Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia stopped in Florida, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross did a Texas event and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue went to Arizona.

It’s hardly unusual for an incumbent president to dispatch cabinet secretaries for official events in important states ahead of a re-election campaign. But as Mr. Trump seeks to pressure local governments to open schools amid the coronavirus pandemic, Ms. DeVos’s appearances are particularly notable.

For one, her Federalist Society appearances — she also spoke to Alabama chapters Monday ahead of the Senate primary runoff there — are closed to reporters. That’s left Democrats and local teachers’ unions with an unobstructed runway to bash her in the press. The head of Ohio’s largest teachers’ union referred to her call to reopen schools as “callous and clueless,” a quotation that was repurposed as a headline in the Columbus Dispatch.

She is also among the most unpopular figures in Mr. Trump’s government. No other cabinet secretary was regularly name-checked by Democratic presidential candidates in their stump speeches — pledges to replace her evoked nearly as much applause and enthusiasm as did promises to oust Mr. Trump. Limited polling of Trump administration officials has found more Americans strongly disapprove of Ms. DeVos than any other cabinet secretary.

All this comes as Ms. DeVos has become the latest new face of the Trump administration’s coronavirus response. She was dispatched to the Sunday cable news shows to defend and promote the president’s calls to reopen schools, which marked a stark departure from her decades of advocacy for local control of schools, as the Times’s Erica L. Green wrote yesterday.

“I think the go-to needs to be kids in school, in person, in the classroom,” Ms. DeVos said during a CNN interview Sunday. “Because we know for most kids, that’s the best environment for them.”

Yet while Ms. DeVos amplifies Mr. Trump’s calls to reopen schools, her appearances in Alabama, Arizona and Ohio this week, along with similar events in Louisiana and Kentucky earlier this month, have all been conducted online.

Biden cracks open a door to getting rid of the Senate filibuster.

Mr. Biden has opened the door at least slightly to getting rid of the Senate filibuster, a move that could be enormously consequential for his legislative agenda if he becomes president.

“It’s going to depend on how obstreperous they become,” Mr. Biden, referring to Republicans, said in an interview on Monday with several journalists, including David Leonhardt of The New York Times.

Because of the filibuster, a maneuver that allows senators to delay or block legislation, 60 votes are needed to pass most legislation in the Senate. Even if Democrats manage to take control of the chamber in November’s elections, they are almost certain to fall short of having 60 seats, meaning that a unified Republican minority could thwart Mr. Biden’s efforts to push through his agenda if he becomes president.

Mr. Biden, who served for 36 years as a senator from Delaware, noted that he has been a supporter of the filibuster and was optimistic about finding common ground with Republicans. “But I think you’re going to just have to take a look at it,” he added.

Senate Democrats are facing growing pressure from progressive activists and others to abolish the filibuster if they win a majority. In the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, several candidates called for its elimination, including Ms. Warren and Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Ind. Harry Reid, the Nevada Democrat and former Senate majority leader, has also called for ending the filibuster.

But Mr. Biden, who likes to talk about working with Republicans and the importance of consensus, has not embraced changing the Senate’s rules. In an interview with The Times’s editorial board in December, Mr. Biden said he did not support getting rid of the filibuster. Asked how he would advance any of his agenda with the 60-vote requirement still in place, he argued that “there’s a lot of things people agree on.”

Pennsylvania Democrats ask court to uphold rights to mail-in ballots.

PHILADELPHIA — Pennsylvania’s Democratic Party on Monday asked a state appeals court to affirm new election rules that expand the use of mail-in ballots in the November election, lining up against the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee in the latest partisan clash over how voting will be conducted during the pandemic.

Democrats say the Trump administration is trying to disenfranchise Pennsylvania’s voters, especially people of color, by trying to restrict mail-in voting, which was used by about 1.8 million people in the June 2 presidential primary election.

In late June, the Trump campaign, the R.N.C. and four members of Congress from western Pennsylvania sued the secretary of state, Kathy Boockvar, and county election boards in federal court, saying the state had inconsistently applied the new election laws during the primary and had violated the state and federal constitutions.

One of the laws allows most people to vote by mail without needing an excuse for why they can’t vote in person.

At a news conference on Monday, Sharif Street, a Democratic state senator, said the Trump administration and the R.N.C. were using their lawsuit to try to suppress voter turnout in Pennsylvania, a battleground state in the presidential election.

The Republicans, Mr. Street said, are aiming for changes that would allow the party to bring in poll watchers from outside a community; require that mail-in ballots not placed in “secrecy” envelopes be destroyed; and allow only one drop-off location per county for completed ballots, even in big cities like Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, where Democrats vote in large numbers.

“This is impacting communities of color disproportionately,” Mr. Street said. “For too long, people have been trying to take away our rights to vote, and we are here to make sure that the rights of Pennsylvanians to vote is not disenfranchised.”

The Trump campaign said Monday that the new laws would lead to fraud in mail-in voting. Mr. Trump has promoted baseless conspiracy theories that mail-in ballots are subject to fraud because they could be stolen from mail carriers, counterfeited or forged by his opponents inside and outside the United States.

In Massachusetts on Monday, several voters and voting rights organizations filed a lawsuit seeking to force the secretary of the commonwealth, William Galvin, to send mail-in ballot applications to voters by July 15, as required by a new state law. Mr. Galvin, a Democrat, has said he will not send the applications because he does not have the funding for it.

Reporting was contributed by Maggie Astor, Emily Cochrane, Reid J. Epstein, Lisa Friedman, Trip Gabriel, Katie Glueck, Maggie Haberman, Jon Hurdle, Thomas Kaplan, Jeremy W. Peters and Elaina Plott.




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