TIME Immigration

Obama Eyes Major Immigration Move

Barack Obama, Joe Biden
President Barack Obama, accompanied by Vice President Joe Biden, speaks about immigration reform on June 30, 2014, in the White House Rose Garden in Washington. Manuel Balce Ceneta—AP

The President may be preparing to provide temporary legal status to millions of undocumented immigrants

When President Obama issues executive orders on immigration in coming weeks, pro-reform activists are expecting something dramatic: temporary relief from deportation and work authorization for perhaps several million undocumented immigrants. If the activists are right, the sweeping move would upend a contentious policy fight and carry broad political consequences.

The activists met privately with the President and his aides June 30 at the White House, and say in that meeting Obama suggested he will act before the November midterm elections. They hope his decision will offer relief to a significant percentage of the estimated 11.7 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. “He seems resolute that he’s going to go big and go soon,” says Frank Sharry, executive director of the pro-reform group America’s Voice.

Exactly what Obama plans to do is a closely held secret. But following the meeting with the activists, Obama declared his intention to use his executive authority to reform parts of a broken immigration system that has cleaved families and hobbled the economy. After being informed by Speaker John Boehner that the Republican-controlled House would not vote on a comprehensive overhaul of U.S. immigration law this year, the President announced in a fiery speech that he was preparing “to do what Congress refuses to do, and fix as much of our immigration system as we can.”

Obama has been cautious about preempting Congress. But its failure to act has changed his thinking. The recent meeting “was really the first time we had heard from the administration that they are looking at” expanding a program to provide temporary relief from deportations and work authorization for undocumented immigrants, says Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center.

The White House won’t comment on how many undocumented immigrants could be affected. “I don’t want to put a number on it,” says a senior White House official, who says Obama’s timeline to act before the mid-term elections remains in place.

Obama has a broad menu of options at his disposal, but there are two major sets of changes he can order. The first is to provide affirmative relief from deportation to one or more groups of people. Under this mechanism, individuals identified as “low-priority” threats can come forward to seek temporary protection from deportation and work authorization. In 2012, the administration created a program, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), that allowed eligible young unauthorized immigrants to apply for a two-year reprieve from deportation and a work permit.

The most aggressive option in this category would be expanding deferred action to anyone who could have gained legal status under the bipartisan bill that passed the Senate in June 2013. According to a Congressional Budget Office analysis, the Senate bill would have covered up to 8 million undocumented immigrants. It is unlikely that Obama goes that far. But even more modest steps could provide relief to a population numbering in the seven figures. “You can get to big numbers very quickly,” says Marshall Fitz, director of immigration policy at the Center for American Progress, a progressive think tank.

One plausible option would be to expand DACA to include some family members of those already eligible. Says a Congressional aide: “While there are several options to provide temporary deportation relief, we expect an expansion of the DACA program to other groups of individuals to be the most clear opportunity.”

It’s hard to pin down how many people this would cover; it would depend on how the administration crafts the order. But the numbers are substantial. According to the CBO, there are an estimated 4.7 million undocumented parents with a minor child living in the U.S., and 3.8 million whose children are citizens. Around 1.5 million undocumented immigrants are married to a U.S. citizen or lawful resident, but have been unable to gain legal status themselves.

Obama could also decide to grant protections for specific employment categories, such as the 1 million or so undocumented immigrants working in the agricultural sector, or to ease the visa restrictions hindering the recruitment of high-skilled foreign workers to Silicon Valley. Either move would please centrist and conservative business lobbies, who have joined with the left to press for comprehensive reform, and might help temper the blowback.

The second bucket of changes Obama is considering are more modest enforcement reforms. Jeh Johnson, Obama’s Secretary of Homeland Security, is deep into a review of the administration’s enforcement practices, and it is likely Obama will order some changes to immigration enforcement priorities. But if these tweaks are the extent of the changes, it would be a blow to activists expecting more. “That’s crumbs off the table compared to the meal we’d be expecting,” says Sharry.

Until now, Obama has frustrated immigration-reform activists by insisting he has little latitude to fix a broken system on his own. To a large extent, he’s right. Any relief the President provides would be fleeting; it’s up to Congress to find a permanent solution by rewriting the law. Deferring deportations does not confer a green card. It only offers a temporary fix.

But legal experts say Obama does have the authority to take the kinds of executive action he is thought to be considering. “As a purely legal matter, the President does have wide discretion when it comes to immigration,” says Stephen Yale-Loehr, an immigration scholar at Cornell University Law School. “Just as DACA was within the purview of the president’s executive authority on immigration, so too would expanding DACA fall within the president’s inherent immigration authority.” According to a recent report by the Center for American Progress, categorical grants of affirmative relief to non-citizens have been made 21 times since 1976, by six different presidents.

Even if Obama is on firm footing from a legal standpoint, he would be wading into political quicksand. Republicans would assail him for extending mass “amnesty” to undocumented immigrants at a moment when the southern border faces an unresolved child-migration crisis. Immigration would become a signal topic in the fall elections, and given that Obama’s handling of the issue has slipped to just 31%, that wouldn’t necessarily favor the President’s party. It would likely damage vulnerable Democratic incumbents in red states, including several whose re-election could determine control of the Senate. And Congress’s incipient failure to reach an agreement on an emergency supplemental bill to address the border crisis muddies the waters even further.

At the same time, Obama will be pilloried by Republicans no matter what he does. Despite the short-term political consequences, in the long run a bold stroke could help cement the Democratic Party’s ties with the vital and fast-growing Hispanic voting bloc. And it would be a legacy for Obama, a cautious chief executive whose presidency has largely been shaped by events outside his control. In the case of immigration, he has the capacity to ease the pain felt by millions with the stroke of a pen.

“There are two ways this could go,” says Fitz of the Center for American Progress. Obama will be remembered as either “the deporter-in-chief, or the great emancipator. Those are the two potential legacies.”

With reporting by Alex Rogers and Zeke J. Miller/Washington

TIME 2014 elections

Dems Latch on to Hobby Lobby in Election Year Push

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Was,. is joined by Sen. Mark Udall, D-Col,. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid D-Nev., and Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., at a news conference following a procedural vote on S.2578, the "Protect Women's Heath From Cooperate Interference Act of 2014," July 16, 2014 in Washington, DC.
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Was,. is joined by Sen. Mark Udall, D-Col,. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid D-Nev., and Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., at a news conference following a procedural vote on S.2578, the "Protect Women's Heath From Cooperate Interference Act of 2014," July 16, 2014 in Washington, DC. Kevin Dietsch—UPI/Landov

Democrats are using Hobby Lobby to get women to the polls in 2014

Senate Democrats tried and failed Wednesday to pass a legislative fix to last month’s Hobby Lobby decision at the Supreme Court. The bill would have forced all employers to offer all types of available contraception, and it was proposed after the court ruled Hobby Lobby, as an employer with religious beliefs, had a right not to pay for its female employees to receive four kinds of contraception the family owners believed to cause abortions.

The vote, which failed to overcome a GOP filibuster 56-43, was a political one, as there was no chance that House Republicans would have passed the measure. But it did what it was designed to do: highlight to female voters what Democrats say is a coordinated GOP push to take contraception away from women.

“I sincerely hope our Republican colleagues will join us and allow us to proceed to debate on this important bill,” Senator Patty Murray, a Washington Democrat who sponsored the bill, said on the Senate floor before the vote. “I’d like to remind them that women across the country are watching—and I think they will be very interested in seeing who is on their side.”

Democrats are hoping to turn out unmarried women—a reliably Democratic group but one that doesn’t always vote in midterm elections—this November in a bid to save the Senate from falling to Republican control. To that end, they have focused on a women’s economic agenda. On Wednesday, House Democrats unveiled a “middle class jumpstart agenda” that would raise the minimum wage, which disproportionately effects women, and limit executive compensation over $1 million.

Republicans, still smarting from the loss of two Senate seats in the 2012 elections due to inopportune comments about rape uttered by two of their candidates, have made a concerted effort this year to keep their candidates in line. They’re also pushing back on the legislative front. This week, Senator Deb Fischer, a Nebraska Republican, introduced a family leave bill that competes with Democratic initiatives aimed at helping women and families get more flexibility at the workplace. And House GOP women are looking at legislation of their own in the coming weeks on equal pay and other work issues.

Fischer, along with Senator Kelly Ayotte, a New Hampshire Republican, inked an op-ed in Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal pushing back on the Democratic efforts around the Hobby Lobby decision.

“In the days since the Supreme Court’s June 30 Burwell v. Hobby Lobby decision, we have been troubled by those who seem eager to misrepresent both the facts of the case and the impact of its ruling on women—all to divide Americans and score political points in a tough election year,” they wrote. “Americans believe strongly that we should be able to practice our religion without undue interference from the government. It’s a fundamental conviction that goes to the very core of our character—and dates back to the founding of our nation. The Supreme Court’s decision in the Hobby Lobby case, which protects rights of conscience, reaffirmed our centuries-old tradition of religious liberty.”

Still, Republican women aren’t unified on the issue. Republican Senators Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Maine’s Susan Collins—who make up half of the GOP’s female Senate population—voted with the Democrats on Wednesday to end their colleagues’ filibuster. And polls show a majority of Americans were against the Hobby Lobby ruling and that women are trending Democratic in this election. But the question remains for Democrats: will their efforts get women to the polls?

TIME 2014 Election

The U.S. Chamber Of Commerce Is Saving the GOP Establishment at Ballot Box

Tom Donohue
U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Tom Donohue speaks during a news conference at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington on July 9, 2014. Evan Vucci—AP

Business group has been major force in 2014 races

On the day after New Jersey and Virginia’s gubernatorial elections last fall, Mitch McConnell showed up at a board meeting of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce with another race on his mind. He announced that the day’s most consequential contest had been neither Chris Christie’s victory nor Ken Cuccinelli’s defeat. Instead, the Senate minority leader explained, it had been a GOP primary in South Alabama.

The Chamber had shelled out about $200,000 in the sleepy district on the Mississippi border to rescue a mainstream candidate who was struggling to fend off a Tea Party firebrand. The race had emerged as a test of whether the GOP could thwart a conservative insurgency that threatened to swallow it. Backed by the Chamber’s money and muscle, the establishment candidate eked out a victory. If it wasn’t for you, McConnell told the audience, according to two people present, it wouldn’t have happened.

The visit was both a token of institutional gratitude and a sign of things to come. Since last fall, the Chamber has cemented itself as the GOP Establishment’s heaviest hitter in the fight to reclaim the party from Tea Party zealotry. It has forked over about $15 million to boost business-friendly candidates in 2014 elections, more than any other Republican group. And it has amassed an undefeated record in nearly a dozen races so far, including key victories over candidates backed by the national outfits that powered the shutdown.

The Chamber’s formula has been simple. It has spent heavily in key races, worked with local partners who know the issues, and tapped celebrity endorsements to lift chosen candidates. “We’re looking for ways to break through,” says Scott Reed, the Chamber’s chief political strategist.

The business lobby’s involvement in GOP primary campaigns is something new, a shift sparked by frustration with conservative groups who supported the nomination of lackluster candidates and a succession of reckless fights. “For us, it was a different approach to take a big risk early in Alabama,” says Rob Engstrom, the Chamber’s national political director. “That could have had a disastrous effect.” From there, the Chamber has triumphed around the country, from a House race in Idaho against a candidate backed by the powerful Club for Growth to a Senate primary in Georgia whose field included two Tea Party favorites that could have tipped the general election to a Democrat.

Money has been a major ingredient. The Chamber poured $2.5 million into the Georgia primary, helping to usher its candidate, GOP Rep. Jack Kingston, into the runoff later this month. It spent some $500,000 on a single ad in the Idaho House GOP primary pitting Rep. Mike Simpson, a top ally of House Speaker John Boehner, against a Club-backed candidate. In all, the Chamber could spend up to $60 million in the 2014 cycle.

When needed, the group has brought in national figures to close the deal. In Simpson’s race in Idaho, that meant enlisting Mitt Romney, whose favorability rating in the district approaches 90%. In Florida, it meant a testimonial from popular former Gov. Jeb Bush.

Perhaps the best example of this approach came in last month in Mississippi. Strategists with the Chamber scrambled to find an edge after incumbent Sen. Thad Cochran was narrowly defeated in the Republican primary, barely squeaking into a runoff three weeks later against a conservative insurgent with momentum. Cochran’s ouster would have been vindication for national Tea Party groups and a boon to their fundraising efforts. As the Establishment fretted that the race was lost, the Chamber called a Hail Mary for a Magnolia State superstar.

On June 19, former University of Southern Mississippi quarterback and NFL MVP Brett Favre endorsed Cochran in a direct-to-camera television ad. “I’ve learned through football that strong leadership makes the difference between winning and losing,” Favre, sporting a salt-and-pepper beard, explained in the 30-second commercial. “Mississippi can win big with Thad Cochran.”

The ad went viral online, and in the final week of the race the Chamber spent $100,000 per day to air it across the state. The air cover helped Cochran eke out a win five days later by a little over 7,000 votes. As it happens, the original plan called for even more local firepower. The Chamber had hoped to team Favre with New York Giants QB Eli Manning, a former Ole Miss star, before Republican strategist Ari Fleischer, who advises NFL teams and players, nixed the idea. (Manning “is not political,” Fleischer wrote in an email to TIME. “It had nothing to do with the NFL.”)

Despite the electoral success, the Chamber has continued to struggle in the GOP-controlled house, where conservatives have been frustrating the group’s agenda on immigration reform and reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank. Some Democrats have seized on these setbacks, encouraging the Chamber to switch sides. Though officially nonpartisan, the number of Democrats endorsed by the Chamber has plunged from about three dozen in 2008 to just three only six years later.

“From the Export-Import bank to tax extenders to immigration reform, Democrats and business are on the same side on a range of issues,” Sen. Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, said in a statement to TIME. “The Tea Party has dragged the Republican Party so far to the right that business is now closer to mainstream Democrats than Republicans.”

Not as the Chamber sees it, however. “We might have a common view with them on Ex-Im,” says Engstrom, “but the Democratic Party has fundamentally walked away from us on the issues.”

TIME 2014 Election

Chris McDaniel Wants a Do-Over in Mississippi

McDaniel delivers a concession speech in Hattiesburg
Tea Party candidate Chris McDaniel delivers a concession speech in Hattiesburg, Miss., on June 24, 2014. Jonathan Bachman—Reuters

Alleges rampant voter fraud tipped the election to incumbent Thad Cochran

The Republican Senate primary race in Mississippi ended last month — but the drama is only beginning.

The state Republican Party on Monday officially certified incumbent Senator Thad Cochran’s narrow victory over Tea Party challenger Chris McDaniel in the June 24 runoff vote. But McDaniel is still refusing to concede, alleging that rampant voter fraud tipped the race to the incumbent and threatening to launch a rare legal challenge with the goal of a political do-over: rerunning the race.

“The allegations of criminal misconduct against the Cochran campaign and his close associates continue to mount,” McDaniel, a conservative state senator, said in a statement July 8. “Mississippians deserve a full accounting of the unbecoming tactics the Cochran campaign used in their attempt to drive ineligible voters to the polls in June.”

At the heart of the controversy is the McDaniel campaign’s claim that Cochran’s team enlisted ineligible Democrats to boost the vulnerable incumbent, whose narrow loss in the original June 3 primary prompted the runoff. According to the state party, the certified election results indicate Cochran squeaked through by a margin of 7,667 votes out of a total 382,197 ballots cast.

The Cochran campaign was frank about its strategy of courting Democrats to pad Cochran’s support. And there’s evidence the strategy worked. According to a New York Times analysis, Cochran’s vote totals leaped from the primary to the runoff in Democratic counties that overwhelmingly supported President Barack Obama. And Cochran racked up big margins in places like Hinds County, one of the state’s most liberal precincts.

The question is how many of those votes were valid. Mississippi law doesn’t prohibit voters from crossing the aisle to support a candidate in a different party. But it forbids doing so for voters who already cast ballots in their own party’s primary. That means Democrats who voted in their June 3 primary couldn’t legally cast ballots in the Republican runoff.

Cataloging crossover votes is the responsibility of individual counties, according to Pamela Weaver, a spokeswoman with the Mississippi secretary of state’s office. So it may be some time before the matter is settled. “We’re meticulously documenting all of the evidence of illegal crossover votes, of which there is an abundance — many, many thousands,” said Noel Fritsch, McDaniel’s spokesman.

In the meantime, the challenger is using the pent-up fury of the conservative movement to replenish his coffers. A fundraising solicitation splashed across the front of his campaign website claims: “Democrats steal the Mississippi runoff.” But McDaniel’s campaign has yet to offer hard evidence to support those allegations. It says it has been blocked from reviewing poll logs by uncooperative circuit clerks.

To Cochran’s team, the explosive claims are a textbook case of a sore loser looking to use the stakes of the election to retire campaign debt. McDaniel loaned his campaign $100,100 before the primary. It’s unclear whether the money raised for a possible legal challenge will go toward the debt.

But the fight doesn’t look likely to abate anytime soon.

TIME 2014 elections

Hedge Fund Billionaire Helps Swing Primary For Pro-Gay Republican

Richard Hanna
Representative Richard Hanna, a Republican from New York and chairman of the Subcommittee on Contracting and Workforce, questions Anne Ferro, administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), not pictured, during a House Small Business Subcommittee hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, Nov. 21, 2013. Andrew Harrer—Bloomberg/Getty Images

American Unity PAC plays a decisive role in New York GOP primary.

The decisive issue in the contested NY-22 primary that concluded Tuesday was the one hardly anyone talked about: gay marriage.

In the weeks leading up to the vote, the race between challenger Claudia Tenney and incumbent Rep. Richard Hanna had taken on the nationwide Tea Party vs. establishment narrative, with Tenney trying to claim she was following in the footsteps of David Brat, the professor who slew House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in this month’s stunner. But the race had been won months before, thanks to Hanna’s support for gay marriage.

American Unity PAC, a super PAC devoted to defending Republican candidates who support gay marriage founded by hedge fund executive Paul Singer, had long ago decided on backing the two-term incumbent, a member of the LGBT equality caucus and a backer of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. Recognizing that Hanna was vulnerable, the group spent over $500,000 on paid television and radio ads, more than everyone else in the race combined, part of a more than $700,000 overall investment. But not a single ad mentioned gay marriage.

Defending one of four Republican lawmakers supportive of same marriage was the toughest test yet for the group, which was founded in 2012, but also an example of how super PACs work to influence races. A strategist for American Unity PAC discussed the group’s long-term plans to defeat Tenney, centering on driving up her negatives by casting her as soft on jobs and tax issues, ignoring her more conservative stances on social issues including gay marriage and abortion because it wouldn’t have helped them in the district.

“We needed to understand her vulnerabilities and also Richard’s vulnerabilities,” Jeff Cook-McCormac, the group’s senior advisor told TIME. “We found that her votes on tax policy weren’t in line with a majority of Republicans in Albany,” he continued. “She had refused to support the budget, which had included tax relief for the middle class.”

That formed the first attack, beginning on television and radio, backed by robocalls and five separate direct mail pieces.

The group then moved to attack Tenney for voting against a $1.5 billion Nano Tech project that was projected to bring in 1,500 jobs. A television ad was backed by radio, robocalls, and direct mail.

The suggestion that Tenney wasn’t conservative enough for the district struck Tenney supporters as rich. She was endorsed by the Conservative Party, and objected to the legislation on spending grounds. But for American Unity PAC, that was besides the point. They had found her weakness. “We knew we had to drive up her negatives and give people a reason why she wasn’t a good candidate before she could catch on,” Cook-McCormac said.

Cantor’s defeat was exactly the type of catalyzing event the group feared. Tenney now had a chance to nationalize the race, bringing the type of attention they knew would tighten the race.“The narrative that every candidate was trying to build after Brat was that they were the next thing, Cook-McCormac said. “She was saying I’m catching up. We knew we needed to undercut her narrative. That not only is she not catching up, she’s falling farther behind.” The group commissioned another poll showing Tenney falling further behind, and released it to a local reporter.

The super PAC is convinced that it kept national attention off the race for a crucial few days, and that by the time Tea Party groups started investing, it was already too late.

When Tenney became a cause célèbre for the conservative grassroots two weeks ago and Rick Santorum, Sean Hannity and Tea Party groups rushed to back her after the Brat race, American Unity PAC was ready. It had recruited Rudy Giuliani, who polls showed was popular in the district, to endorse Hanna in an ad, ending their spending campaign on a positive note.

Even with all of that, the race was still closer than they would have liked. An internal poll the weekend before the election showed Hanna up 8 points. By election day it was down to six.

“If we hadn’t done the initial investment earlier on, it would have been a different outcome,” Cook-McCormac said. The final margin was just 52.8 percent to 47.2 percent—just 1,632 votes.

Now the pro-gay marriage Republican group is moving on to the next races. It is already preparing to back incumbents like Sen. Susan Collins and Rep. Ileanna Ros Lehtinen, as well as candidates in favor of gay marriage such as Bob Dold in Illinois, Richard Tissei in Massachusetts, and Carl DeMaio in California. “The ability for anti-gay politicians to use this as a wedge issue has evaporated over the last couple of years,” Cook-McCormac said. “What candidates now know is that there’s a network of donors who have their back and are willing to go to bat for them.

TIME 2014 Election

Rock the Vote Is Back to Fire Up Millennials

The dream of the 90s is alive in politics

A Clinton may be headed to the White House, everybody’s talking about Pearl Jam’s latest video — and now Rock The Vote has relaunched with a brand new leadership and mission, as if we needed any further proof that the 1990s are back in vogue.

The non-profit devoted to engaging young people with the democratic process through technology and pop culture, relaunched Monday with new directors, a revamped digital presence and its most ambitious registration goals ever ahead of the 2014 mid term elections.

First founded in 1990, the organization became a household name during the 1992 elections, when it was considered a motivating factor in getting Generation X’ers to the polls. Turnout among voters aged 18-24 spiked that year.

This year, Rock The Vote plans to register 1.5 million people to vote, including 400,000 young people and 100,000 Latino voters across 15 states with large Latino populations. It is also vowing to closely follow laws that affect the youth vote, such as the proof-of-citizenship laws in Arizona and Kansas that the organization is challenging in court.

Rock the Vote is in particular targeting the more than 86 million millennials living in the U.S. A recent poll from Harvard University’s Institute of Politics found that less than a quarter of 18- to 29-year-olds say they “definitely be voting.”

“With 12,000 Americans turning 18 each day, we cannot afford to have young people sit out the political process when so much is at stake for their future,” said Ashley Spillane, Rock the Vote’s new president, in a statement.

TIME 2014 Election

Koch Foundation Gives $25 Million to United Negro College Fund

Michael Lomax
Michael Lomax, president of the United Negro College Fund, is interviewed in Washington, Thursday, June 5, 2014. Jacquelyn Martin—AP

The sizeable gift from the lightning rod conservative group is the fifth largest the UNCF has ever received

The conservative Koch family announced a $25 million grant Friday to the United Negro College Fund, one of the largest the group has ever received and a high-profile overture from the lightning rod conservative activists.

“We are enormously grateful to Koch Industries and the Charles Koch Foundation for their long-standing support of UNCF and for helping to create new opportunities for earned success and a better future for our students,” said Dr. Michael Lomax, the President and CEO of UNCF. The gift builds on more than $1.5 million given to UNCF since 1995 by Koch and Georgia-Pacific, which Koch acquired in 2005.

The UNCF provides scholarships and institutional support to black Americans and America’s historically black colleges, which were particularly hard hit by the economic downturn. The Kochs have been vilified by Democrats in recent years for their large-scale support of conservative and libertarian organizations that spend big in elections. The Koch brothers are spending millions of dollars in elections around the country with a particular focus on winning the U.S. Senate for the GOP, prompting Senate Majority Leader Democrat Harry Reid to jibe Republicans for being “addicted to Koch.”

“Increasing well-being by helping people improve their lives has long been our focus,” said Chairman and CEO of Koch Industries Charles Koch in a statement. “Our partnership with UNCF will provide promising students with new educational opportunities that will help them reach their full potential.”

From the $25 million gift, $18.5 million will go to provide scholarships to students while $6.5 million will go toward “general support” of historically black colleges.

TIME 2014 elections

Clay Aiken Holds Slim Lead in North Carolina Democratic Primary

Clay Aiken
Clay Aiken speaks to supporters during an election night watch party in Holly Springs, N.C., Tuesday, May 6, 2014. Gerry Broome—AP

The American Idol runner-up is ahead by just 372 votes, with all precincts reporting, but the race has still not been called

Former American Idol contestant Clay Aiken was ahead in the North Carolina Democratic congressional primary by a slim margin Wednesday morning. The former singer led his opponent, former state Commerce Secretary Keith Crisco, by only 372 votes with all precincts reporting, making the race too close to call according to the Associated Press.

As things stand, Aiken has the 40 percent necessary to win, but has been unable to declare victory.

Aiken and Crisco both hold 40 percent on the vote. Whoever wins will face incumbent Republican U.S. Renee Ellmers in November. Ellmers won by a wide margin in 2010 when she was elected during the Tea Party wave.

[AP]

 

 

TIME 2014 elections

GOP Primary Season Begins With Tea Party Defeat

N.C. House Speaker Thom Tillis, left, talks with voter Donald Parrott of Charlotte outside Precinct 75 at Holy Covenant UCC in Charlotte, N.C., on May 6, 2014 Jeff Siner—The Charlotte Observer/AP

Establishment Republicans won a key primary victory in North Carolina on Tuesday, pitting a moderate against Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan this fall

North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis overcame Tea Party opposition Tuesday to nab the GOP nomination for the Senate race, winning a key battle for establishment Republicans as the party seeks to win a majority in the Senate.

Tillis will be running against Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan, a vulnerable first-term incumbent in a purple state that has been at the center of the national debate over the president’s health care law.

In Tuesday’s primary, Tillis fended off a Tea Party-backed libertarian and a Baptist pastor, and was endorsed by establishment groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Right to Life Committee, and GOP moderates such as former presidential candidate Mitt Romney. By winning the race with a solid 48 percent of the vote, Tillis avoided a costly runoff that could have weakened Republicans in the race against Hagan, the Associated Press reports.

Other races Tuesday handed Republican incumbents victories as well. First-term Rep. David Joyce of Ohio overcame a Tea Party rival with heavy Chamber of Commerce support, while GOP Rep. Susan Brooks of Indiana fended off a challenge from the right.

In the marquee North Carolina contest, the conservative advocacy group Americans for Prosperity, backed by the billionaire Koch brothers, has run about $7 million worth of television ads against Hagan for supporting the healthcare law.

[AP]

 

TIME Immigration

Immigration Activists Try to Ramp up Pressure on Obama Again

U.S. President Barack Obama delivers remarks from the Brady Press Room at the White House in Washington, D.C., on April 17, 2014.
President Barack Obama delivers remarks from the Brady Press Room at the White House in Washington, D.C., on April 17, 2014. Jim Watson—AFP/Getty Images

With 10 months passed since the Senate passed comprehensive immigration reform, with the House unlikely to follow before midterm elections, activists are calling on President Obama to exercise executive authority on deportations

For months now, the pattern has been the same. Immigration activists, frustrated with inaction, latch onto some small glimmer of hope: a new campaign to pressure the powerful, or an approving remark by someone who can break the legislative stalemate. Each time the prospect of progress fades as quickly as it appeared.

In the 10 months since the Senate passed a comprehensive reform of U.S. immigration law, it has become abundantly clear that the GOP-controlled House won’t follow suit before November’s midterm elections. A report last week that House Speaker John Boehner was “hellbent” on passing an immigration overhaul in 2014 was swiftly shot down by his spokesman. “Nothing has changed,” said the spokesman, Brendan Buck.

With reform stalled in the House, immigration reformers have once again ratcheted up pressure on President Barack Obama. They hope to convince Obama to take executive action to slow the tide of deportations.

A memo released Monday by the AFL-CIO outlines the steps it believes the Obama Administration can take to ease the impact of immigration enforcement on immigrant families. The memo comes as Jeh Johnson, Obama’s new secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, conducts a review of the Administration’s enforcement policies. The document calls for DHS to take four concrete steps: granting work permits to certain undocumented immigrants; reclaiming federal authority over enforcement policy from the states; reforming the removal process; and protecting undocumented workers who file workplace grievances. (Read the full memo here.)

Obama has repeatedly resisted calls for him to use executive authority. He says he lacks the discretion to make the changes activists have sought—an argument that many top Democrats reject. “The only way to truly fix it is through congressional action. We have already tried to take as many administrative steps as we could,” Obama said in a news conference last week.

But with House Republicans refusing to budge, proponents of reform on both sides of the aisle have warned that Obama will act if Congress won’t. Exercising executive authority to ease deportations, the top concern of Hispanic groups, could help mend fraying ties with Latino voters and nudge them toward the polls before November elections that look grim for Democrats. Obama has made a similar move in the past: In the summer of 2012, with his reelection hanging in the balance, Obama signed an order that granted relief from deportations for certain young adults who had been brought to the U.S. illegally as children.

“I’m convinced that if we don’t get it done by the August break, the president, who is feeling a lot of pressure from having not done anything on immigration reform, will feel that he has to act through executive action,” Florida Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart told the Washington Post last week.

Obama is staying coy about his intentions. “We’re going to review it one more time,” Obama said last week of the DHS review, “to see if there’s more that we can do to make it more consistent with common sense and more consistent with I think the attitudes of the American people, which is we shouldn’t be in the business necessarily of tearing families apart who otherwise are law-abiding.”

For activists still searching for signs of hope, the answer seemed to contain a warning to Republicans: Help fix the broken immigration system, or the President will do it without you.

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