AFP Action backs 5 GOP House candidates in primaries

“Electing strong candidates to Congress is critical to advancing good policies that will improve the lives of all Americans,” AFP Action Director Nathan Nascimento said in a statement. “AFP Action is mobilizing our grassroots network from coast to coast to help the strongest candidates win their 2024 primaries — and go on to win in the general election.”

AFP Action is adding to its endorsement list Pennsylvania GOP challengers Ryan Mackenzie, of the 7th district, and Rob Mercuri, of the 17th, as well as second-time candidate Tom Barrett, who is running in a Michigan open seat currently held by Rep. Elissa Slotkinand Craig Riedel in Ohio’s 9th district. Those four seats are currently occupied by Democrats and considered top targets for Republicans.

The group is also backing Riley Moore in West Virginia’s 2nd district, a safe Republican seat where the primary winner will almost certainly win the general election.

“AFP Action is proud to back these policy champions in their House races to help provide the new leadership and fresh ideas our country needs to move forward,” Nascimento said.

Republicans are worried about candidate quality next year. The largest GOP super PAC, Congressional Leadership Fund, shared a similar sentiment in a letter to donors last month. CLF President Dan Conston wrote that Pennsylvania Democratic Reps. Susan Wild and Matt Cartwright “only won because of top-of-ticket drag from Doug Mastriano,” who was the GOP’s nominee for governor and a supporter of former President Donald Trump’s election denial claims.

AFP Action boasts a rolodex of millions of Republican voters, and Nascimento said the organization has reached out to 4.3 million potential GOP primary voters already this election cycle in battleground states. It also has deep pockets, which allowed it to spend almost $80 million in 2022. So far this cycle, the group has raised almost just as much, according to Open Secretsand it says it aims to bring more people into the GOP primary voting process.

AFP Action has also endorsed candidates in key Senate races, including Sam Brown in Nevada and Dave McCormick, who is set to announce his Pennsylvania campaign Thursday.

In the last midterm cycle, Americans for Prosperity Action said its campaign arm and non-profit knocked on a combined 7 million doors and sent more than 100 million mailers to voters across the county.

Despite legal woes, Trump ‘still in charge’ at Republican primaries: Analysts

Trump rode that momentum and doubled down on the narrative with every indictment that he is a victim of political persecution.

“Trump also transformed the electorate of the Republican party into much more of a working class party with a lot of opposition to the centralised state in Washington,” Lipson added.

“The fact that he is being prosecuted by precisely that state, looks as if it ratifies so many of the things that he said negatively about the current US government.”


Despite Trump’s notable absence at the first Republican debate, where eight presidential hopefuls took the stage in heated exchanges, the former president remains the top choice for registered Republican voters.

Recent polls have shown that his support actually grew despite the indictments, with a more-than-comfortable 20-point lead over his closest rival, Florida governor Ron DeSantis.

While Trump may still be riding high on popularity, Lipson said continued legal troubles may prompt some supporters to start examining the cases, or may cause fatigue set in.

“It’s uncertain whether voters will slowly take into account all of these mounting legal troubles,” he said.

“Over time, these (charges) may take a toll on Trump, both personally and politically, as voters begin to assess whether some of the charges are actually true.”

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Presidential primaries have seen dramatic comebacks. Could DeSantis ’24 be next?

GOP presidential candidate Ron DeSantis speaks during a campaign event at Olde Boston’s Restaurant & Pub in Fort Dodge, Iowa on July 14.

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GOP presidential candidate Ron DeSantis speaks during a campaign event at Olde Boston’s Restaurant & Pub in Fort Dodge, Iowa on July 14.

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Ron DeSantis was involved in a traffic accident while in Chattanooga, Tenn., this week raising money for his presidential bid. The candidate was not injured, which may have been the single best piece of news the campaign has had in a while.

The other kind of news for the Florida Republican seemed to be everywhere and all at once. His campaign announced it was shedding a third of its staff and “retooling” its fundraising amid reports of donor desertion. The Associated Press referred to the campaign as “stalled,” Rich Lowry of National Review used the words “faltering” and “diminished” in a piece for Politico. The Wall Street Journal editorial page, often a cheerleader for the governor, noted “the headlines say [the campaign] is in an unrecoverable dive.”

The media critiques went beyond DeSantis’ problems with staffing and fundraising to question his performance on the stump. Stories told of DeSantis “scolding” students at one event for wearing masks and snapping at reporters at a news conference.

Most troubling of all may have been DeSantis’ problems with messaging. He has defended his administration’s new Florida history curriculum, which alludes to “benefits” that enslaved people may have derived from their life in bondage – such as blacksmithing skills. That drew a rebuke from rival candidate Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, who’s Black, who said there had been no “silver lining in slavery.”

DeSantis may have been expected to stand by his state’s curriculum changes, but it was harder to understand why he reached for controversy by saying he might appoint Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. as head of the FDA or the CDC. Kennedy, a Democrat, is also a candidate for president, and famous as a vaccine conspiracy theorist, harshly critical of the scientists who lead the federal health agencies.

Most candidates would not consider either slavery or RFK Jr. an issue to emphasize, much less the hill they would choose to die on.

Perceptions prompt comparison to former presidential hopeful Rick Perry

Perceptions of DeSantis have changed greatly since he won reelection in November 2022 by 20 points. In January he was seen as the foremost threat to Donald Trump for the 2024 Republican nomination, trailing the former president by just two percentage points in the average of national polls. As of this week, that gap has widened to 37 percentage points. DeSantis poll numbers have fallen by more than half as other candidates have entered the fray and taken a share. And that trendline has prompted comparisons to the recent history of another Sun Belt governor who had his eyes on the White House, Rick Perry of Texas.

A dozen years ago, Perry entered the GOP lists for the 2012 nomination against incumbent President Barack Obama. Having been elected and reelected in the nation’s second most populous state, Perry had a gaudy list of endorsements and wealthy backers. His TV ads were impressive.

But Perry’s in-person campaigning did not match expectations. After the first candidate debates of 2007 the buzz was all about his lackluster performances. Vowing to fight on, Perry pointed to a November debate where he hoped to turn things around. That was when he pledged to eliminate three cabinet level departments of the federal government if elected – Education, Commerce … and he could not remember the third. After a fumbling pause he said: “Oops.”

Needless to say, things did not get better after that. Crushed in the 2012 Iowa caucuses, Perry all but ignored New Hampshire to concentrate on South Carolina. But when his poll numbers there also sagged, he dropped out. In 2016, having just retired as the longest-tenured governor in Texas history, he tried again. But in a field of more than 15 candidates dominated by Trump, Perry barely registered. He dropped out before the Iowa caucuses.

Needless to say, no candidate for president wants to be compared to Rick Perry. But on Fox News on June 28, DeSantis told a Fox News host he would eliminate the same three departments as Perry — Education, Commerce and, as Perry had eventually remembered, Energy (which wound up being the department where Perry served as secretary under Trump). DeSantis threw in the IRS, too, which gave him a longer list than Perry’s.

Throughout the agonizing train wreck that was the Perry campaign, the candidate seemed unable to understand that the persona and priorities that had lifted him to such success in Texas were not working the same on the national stage.

Can this campaign be saved?

DeSantis’ campaign has reached the point where some observers wonder if it’s too late to turn his fortunes around. They note that Trump’s growing advantage over DeSantis in polls has been driven less by improving numbers for Trump than by deteriorating support for the Floridian.

But there are positives in this picture for the Florida governor. First, it is early — or at least relatively early — in the campaign season. The first voting activity leading to actual delegates being chosen does not happen until January 15, when Iowa holds its caucuses. That gives DeSantis and other candidates still seeking traction more than five months to find it. If the right formula can be found, there is time to follow it.

Second, the field is in some senses still unsettled. While half the Republican electorate may be satisfied with Trump, there is still the other half. And if the ever-mounting legal woes of the former president finally begin to erode the bedrock of his support, it may be possible for a single strong challenger to consolidate the opposition.

Third, there are beacons of hope for troubled candidates in recent presidential campaign history. By choosing to call the latest phase of his effort an “insurgency,” DeSantis has acknowledged that he is battling the odds. Of course, when he adopted the campaign motto “The Great American Comeback,” he was not expecting it to apply to his campaign.

Democratic presidential hopeful Bill Clinton of Arkansas raises his fist for the crowd before speaking to supporters at a campaign party at the Merrimack Inn in Merrimack, N.H., on Feb. 18, 1992.

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Democratic presidential hopeful Bill Clinton of Arkansas raises his fist for the crowd before speaking to supporters at a campaign party at the Merrimack Inn in Merrimack, N.H., on Feb. 18, 1992.

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The term “comeback” has long been associated with the first presidential push of a young Arkansas governor named Bill Clinton. Then 45, Clinton was seeking the Democratic nomination against the sitting president George H.W. Bush in 1992. Bush had been so popular following the success of the Persian Gulf War in 1991 that many ambitious Democrats in Washington thought it better to wait for the 1996 cycle to run. Clinton looked strong in the preliminary phase of the campaign but was on the ropes as the primaries began, battered by two potentially fatal blows.

Newspaper stories had highlighted steps he took to avoid the draft during the Vietnam War, and in a woman he had known in Arkansas named Gennifer Flowers told a supermarket tabloid the two had had a years-long affair. She repeated her story in a televised news conference.

Clinton stumbled to a distant third-place showing in the Iowa caucuses (won by a favorite son candidate, Tom Harkin) and fell far behind in New Hampshire. But on that state’s primary night in February, Clinton in second place had closed the gap to single digits and won half the available delegates.

He went on TV to thank New Hampshire for making “Bill Clinton the comeback kid.” The national media coverage largely followed that line, much to the distress of the primary’s first-place winner, Sen. Paul Tsongas of neighboring Massachusetts. A few weeks later, on Super Tuesday, Clinton won most of the big state primaries, many of them in the South, and the lion’s share of the delegates. He was soon cruising to the nomination.

McCain turned his ship around

More directly comparable to DeSantis’ situation, and closer to his political home, was the turnaround achieved 16 years later by the campaign of Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain. A former POW in Vietnam who had made many friends in his time in the Senate, McCain was well known for his spirited “Straight Talk Express” campaign challenging George W. Bush for the GOP nomination in 2000. McCain came up short that time, but his profile was elevated in the Senate and he retained much of his appeal for independents.

In this Jan. 1, 2008, file photo, presidential hopeful Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., center, and his wife, Cindy, in Tilton, N.H.

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In this Jan. 1, 2008, file photo, presidential hopeful Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., center, and his wife, Cindy, in Tilton, N.H.

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But when it came to running another campaign, McCain quickly ran aground. The national agenda had changed over the two terms of the second President Bush, which included the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks and subsequent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The man who had been New York City mayor during those attacks, Rudy Giuliani, was now running for president as “America’s Mayor” and leading in national polls for a time.

Other notables in the field in 2007 included Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (now a senator from Utah) and Mike Huckabee, a former governor of Arkansas. McCain’s standing in Iowa had suffered with his opposition to ethanol subsidies and he trailed Romney in polling in New Hampshire.

In the summer of 2007, with his early money drying up and fundraising slowed, McCain saw many news accounts of his flagging campaign. Some were ready to write him off. But that July he revamped his campaign from top to bottom and let go some longtime aides, including close friends, to begin anew. He seemed ready to do whatever it took, including altering his positions on key issues such as immigration.

By the time the campaign reached the voters in January 2008, the McCain operation had righted itself. After conceding Iowa to his rivals, McCain stormed back into contention with a smashing win in New Hampshire that netted him most of the delegates at stake.

As for one-time front-runner Giuliani, he had decided he did not need to go hard at Iowa and New Hampshire and concentrated instead on the late January primary in Florida. Giuliani finished third there, winning no delegates, and withdrew from the race the next day.

The following week brought Super Tuesday and a favorable mix of states for McCain, who won nine states to Romney’s seven and Huckabee’s five and pocketed most of the delegates. Romney then left the race and urged the other candidates and the party to unite behind McCain.

At such times in the past, struggling campaigns have rescued themselves with the right moves and a dose of luck. At other times, it has taken major missteps by front-running candidates to open the door. In DeSantis’ case, it might well require both.

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Councilman Ari Kagan wins NYC Council’s 47th District GOP primary

Unofficial vote tallies Tuesday night show Republican City Councilman Ari Kagan is likely victorious in the primary contest for District 47.

Kagan received over 75% first-choice selections with over 98% of the scanners reporting under the Big Apple’s ranked-choice voting system.

“Southern Brooklyn Republican voters sent an unmistakable message today — it’s time for change. I am incredibly grateful to everyone who supported my campaign. Our message of strong support for NYPD, merit-based education, lower taxes and focus on quality of life concerns resonated across Southern Brooklyn,” he said in a text to The Post, declaring victory.

He faced primary challenges from GOP candidates Anna Belfiore-Delfaus and Avery Pereira, who each received roughly 12% of the vote, according to early results from the City Board of Elections.

Mom and former public school teacher Belfiore-Delfaus was endorsed by GOP City Councilwoman Inna Vernikov, while Pereira is a special education teacher within the city’s Department of Education, according to his LinkedIn page.

District 47 covers parts of southern Brooklyn, including the neighborhoods of Bay Ridge, Coney Island and Sea Gate.

Kagan is a former journalist who grew up in Belarus under Soviet rule before emigrating to the US. 

Republican City Councilman Ari Kagan has won the primary election for his District 47 seat.
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Kagan posing after voting in the primary election.

He was first elected to the council in 2021, succeeding longtime Brooklyn Democrat Mark Treyger who is now employed by the city Department of Education. 

Kagan was also a Democrat until he switched his party affiliation late last year, previously telling The Post he made the move after becoming disillusioned by the party’s trend toward the left and soft-on-crime policies. 

Sources also said he was unhappy with the new district lines borne of the council’s redistricting process, which split up parts of his old district.

Kagan’s challenger Anna Belfiore-Delfaus speaks at a rally on June 14, 2023.
Helayne Seidman

Kagan was given a smaller office without windows after switching from Democrat to Republican.
Gabriella Bass

Kagan was later punished by City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams (D-Queens) for the move — he was kicked off several committees and even forced to move into a smaller government office.

His victory means he’ll face off against his City Council colleague, Democratic Finance Chair Justin Brannan, in the November general election. Parts of the pols’ old districts were combined into the new 47th thanks to redistricting.

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City Council primaries testing progressives’ stranglehold of NYC

On Tuesday, the entire city council is up for re-election in party primary races.

Only a few districts enjoy robustly contested races — and one of them is Lower Manhattan, from Wall Street to Chinatown.

It’s a rare opportunity to assess whether moderates can wrest control of local politics from far-left progressives.

Usually, council members are elected every four years, along with the mayor. This time, thanks to redistricting, council members face the voters just two years after their recent election.

That’s good, because voters have a chance to look at prospective lawmakers without being overwhelmed by a larger mayoral race.

But it’s also bad, in that not many people are paying attention, and turnout might not exceed single digits.

One place where voters have a motive to pay attention is District 1.

The tip of Manhattan up to Houston Street (with a couple of sections carved out for other candidates) has endured traumatic upheaval.

Just take the news from the past week.

Tuesday, an e-bike battery fire in Chinatown killed four elderly tenants living above a repair shop.

A day later, an assailant stabbed a 35-year-old man to death in Washington Square Park in the middle of the afternoon, undeterred by pre-summer crowds. (The park, in the old district, is slightly north of the new district, but still a key recreation area for district voters.)

These five deaths were all failures of progressive ideology.

Progressives have refused to properly regulate deadly e-bike batteries, as they’re afraid doing so will hurt poor workers.

They’ve also refused to support a crackdown on drug sales and use in the park.

The numbers illustrate the change in downtown’s fortunes: Felony crime in the three police precincts that overlay the district, though down since last year, remains 22% higher than in 2019.

In addition to big crimes, the district is plagued by hundreds of illegal marijuana stores, plus retail theft that is forcing legitimate businesses to close: Misdemeanor larceny (as reported) is up by nearly two-thirds since before the pandemic.

Then, there are the things the city wants to purposely do to the district, chief among them, build the world’s tallest municipal jail, as part of the de Blasio-era four-borough jails program.

The district’s current councilman, Christopher Marte, is a first-termer who diligently subscribes to the progressive playbook.

Marte supports progressive policies like closing down Rikers Island.
Gina M Randazzo/ZUMA Press Wire

Even as most Manhattan council members have dropped out of the council’s progressive caucus, repelled by its defund-the-NYPD stance, Marte has remained.

In a recent NY1 debate, when asked whether the NYPD should enforce the city’s no-smoking — including no-pot-smoking — laws in Washington Square Park, Marte couldn’t give a straight answer, saying “I think it’s working.”

And he opposes a high-rise jail downtown — only because he opposes all jails.

He wants to close Rikers without providing an alternative.

Contrast these positions with those of Susan Lee, a former paralegal and grant-application writer who has the most straightforward common-sense answer on the jail: Rebuild Rikers as a modern jail complex.

District 1 Democratic candidate Susan Lee has proposed “reimagining” Rikers instead of closing it.

“Breaking up Rikers into four borough-based jails isn’t going to solve the culture” of failure at Rikers, she says. She wants to “rebuild” and “reimagine” Rikers, with dedicated mental facilities and a training program for inmates to equip them for reentry into society.

She’s also clear on quality-of-life issues, telling me that, although people worry about serious crime, what most upsets them is deterioration in quality of life.

When she talks about smoke shops and e-bikes riding on sidewalks, she gets a flood of responses, with voters saying “the quality of life has deteriorated so much that they compare it to the 1980s.”

Lee was crystal-clear in her debate answer on a law against lighting up in Washington Square Park: “It needs to be enforced.”

Ursila Jung is also running against Marte as a moderate Democrat in District 1.
Twitter / Ursila Jung

As was the third candidate in the race, Ursila Jung.

Jung, a public-school parent, mostly focuses on retaining school choice, but she, too, had the obvious answer on non-stop smoking in Washington Square Park: As parents, “we need to enforce it 100%,” she said.

Lee and Jung both want more NYPD foot patrols, to deter shoplifting and hate crimes.

With two alternatives to ideological progressivism, this race will serve as a test of the ranked-choice voting system.

Jung and Lee have cross-endorsed each other, meaning that as voters rank their choices in order of preference, they’d like voters to pick each other ahead of Marte. 

With the risk reduced of two moderate candidates cancelling each other out reduced in this way, the election will mostly serve as a test of whether voters are paying attention.

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