Two high-stakes elections that tested President Donald Trump’s clout and cost both parties millions of dollars were too close to call early Wednesday. Trump claimed victory in one nevertheless.
In battleground Ohio, the president took credit for Republican Troy Balderson’s performance, calling it “a great victory,” even though the contest could be headed to a recount. Democrats could also celebrate their showing in a district that has gone Republican for decades.
“We’re not stopping now,” Democrat Danny O’Connor told cheering supporters. He’ll reprise his campaign against Balderson from now through November’s general election.
In deep-red Kansas ′ Republican gubernatorial primary, the candidate Trump backed on the eve of the election, Secretary of State Kris Kobach, was neck and neck with current Republican Gov. Jeff Colyer.
The day’s races in five states, like many before them, tested the persistence of Trump’s fiery supporters and the momentum of the Democratic Party’s anti-Trump resistance.
The results were helping determine the political landscape — and Trump’s standing within his own party — as the GOP defends its House and Senate majorities this fall.
Voters are at the polls where President Donald Trump’s preferred congressional candidate — and his chief legislative achievement — are about to be tested in battleground Ohio in the season’s final high-stakes special election. (August 7)
In Kansas, Republicans were fighting among themselves in an unusual battle for governor in which the president sided with the incumbent’s challenger.
Should the polarizing Kobach win the primary, some Republican operatives fear he could lose the governorship to Democrats this fall. The race could become further disrupted if Kansas City-area businessman Greg Orman makes it onto the November ballot. He submitted petitions Monday with more than 10,000 signatures for what could become the most serious independent run for Kansas governor in decades.
Trump made his preference clear for Kobach.
“He is a fantastic guy who loves his State and our Country – he will be a GREAT Governor and has my full & total Endorsement! Strong on Crime, Border & Military,” the president tweeted on the eve of the election.
Republicans were hoping for Democratic discord in Kansas’ 3rd Congressional District, a suburban Kansas City district where several candidates were fighting for the chance to take on Republican Rep. Kevin Yoder in November.
The five-way Democratic primary featured labor lawyer Brent Welder, who campaigned recently with self-described democratic socialists Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and ascending political star, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a New York congressional candidate.
Also in the race: Native American attorney Sharice Davids and former school teacher Tom Niermann.
In Ohio, the script for the special election was somewhat familiar: An experienced Trump loyalist, Balderson, was fighting a strong challenge from O’Connor, a fresh-faced Democrat, in a congressional district held by the Republican Party for more than three decades. As voters were going to the polls, Trump said Balderson would make a “great congressman.”
The winner takes the seat previously held by Pat Tiberi, a nine-term incumbent who resigned to take a job with an Ohio business group.
Balderson and O’Connor will reprise their race in the general election in just three months. There were at least 3,367 provisional ballots left to be reviewed. That’s enough for O’Connor to potentially pick up enough to force a recount.
The Associated Press does not declare winners in races subject to an automatic recount.
In a special election season that featured nearly a dozen congressional contests, Democrats claimed just a handful of wins, but they may have cause for optimism this fall. In virtually every special election test dating back to the spring of 2017, Democratic candidates performed significantly better than their party in those same places two years earlier.
Trump won Ohio’s 12th Congressional District, for example, by more than 11 points in 2016; on Tuesday night, Balderson and O’Connor were separated by less than 1 point.
There are 79 House races this fall considered more competitive than the Ohio district — at least looking at Trump’s 2016 performance — according to data compiled by the Democrats’ national campaign committee.
Despite the deadlocked race, the specific Ohio returns suggest considerably higher Democratic enthusiasm less than 100 days before the midterms.
O’Connor’s total of nearly 100,000 votes far exceeded what the district’s former Republican congressman Pat Tiberi’s Democratic opponent got in 2014. Balderson’s total — just more than 101,500 votes — is barely two-thirds of Tiberi’s 2014 mark of about 150,000.
The two will face off again in November to see who holds the seat in 2019 and 2020.
“Over the next three months, I’m going to do everything I can to keep America great again, so that when we come back here in November — get ready, we gotta come back here in November — I have earned your vote for a second time,” Balderson told supporters.
It’s unclear how much Trump’s support helped or hurt Balderson. Described by campaign operatives as a “Whole Foods” district, the largely suburban region features a more affluent and educated voter base than the typical Trump stronghold.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a leading voice in the GOP’s shrinking anti-Trump wing, once represented the district in Congress.
At times, the race centered on Trump’s tax cuts as much as the candidates.
O’Connor and his Democratic allies railed against the tax plan, casting it as a giveaway for the rich that exacerbates federal deficits and threatens Medicare and Social Security. Balderson and his Republican allies have backed away from the tax plan in recent weeks, training their fire instead on top House Democrat Nancy Pelosi.
O’Connor dominated Balderson on the local airwaves. His campaign spent $2.25 million on advertising compared to Balderson’s $507,000, according to campaign tallies of ad spending. The Republican campaign arm and its allied super PAC were forced to pick up the slack, spending more than $4 million between them.
In Michigan, former state Rep. Rashida Tlaib is poised to become the first Muslim woman in Congress. She won the Democratic nomination to run unopposed in November.
And in suburban Seattle, three Democrats vied in a jungle primary for the seat held by another retiring Republican, Rep. Dave Reichert.
The field was set in two Senate contests as well.
In Missouri, Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill claimed her party’s nomination, while state Attorney General Josh Hawley will represent the GOP.
And in Michigan, Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow will take on military veteran and business executive John James, who won the Republican nomination. He would join Tim Scott of South Carolina as the only black Republican senators if he wins in November.
The transformation of Pullman Yard into a mixed-use development has taken another step forward with the selection of real estate development company JLL to lead the project under its adaptive reuse division lead by Rainey Shane.
Atomic Entertainment, which purchased the 27-acre site in the Kirkwood neighborhood last year, plans to turn the parcel of 13 freestanding buildings into film soundstages, a residential component, restaurants, retail, a boutique hotel and creative offices. The site, which has become a favorite filming location for movies like “The Hunger Games,” was originally built in 1904 as a fertilizer plant and later became a train repair facility for the Pullman Rail Company.
Shane is no stranger to big adaptive reuse projects: she was a development and construction manger for Ponce City Market.
“Our objective was to identify an expert in the marketplace who possessed the requisite skill set to handle a unique adaptive reuse project,” said Maureen Meulen, partner at Atomic Entertainment. “Rainey’s combined expertise in both commercial real estate development and the arts and entertainment industry made her the obvious choice for our team, and we’re pleased to work with JLL’s new team of adaptive reuse experts to bring our vision for Pullman Yards to life.”
Shane said developers like Atomic Entertainment, have adjusted their focus to include the preservation and revitalization of abandoned project sites.
“With so much existing building stock in Atlanta ripe for restoration, the establishment of a dedicated adaptive reuse team enables us to deliver the specialized knowledge needed to successfully restore these buildings while maintaining the city’s original character and historical integrity,” said Shane. “Breathing new life into an existing space is a challenging and rewarding experience, and I’m excited for the opportunity to lead this effort.”
President Donald Trump and European leaders pulled back from the brink of a trade war over autos Wednesday and agreed to open talks to tear down trade barriers between the United States and the European Union.
But the agreement was vague, the coming negotiations with Europe are sure to be contentious and the United States remains embroiled in major trade disputes with China and other trading partners.
In a hastily called Rose Garden appearance with Trump, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said the U.S. and the EU have agreed to hold off on new tariffs, suggesting that the United States will suspend plans to start taxing European auto imports — a move that would have marked a major escalation in trade tensions between the allies.
Trump also said the EU had agreed to buy “a lot of soybeans” and increase its imports of liquefied natural gas from the U.S. And the two agreed to resolve a dispute over U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum.
“It’s encouraging that they’re talking about freer trade rather than trade barriers and an escalating tariff war,” said Rufus Yerxa, president of the National Foreign Trade Council and a former U.S. trade official. But he said reaching a detailed trade agreement with the EU would likely prove difficult.
The tone was friendlier than it has been. During a recent European trip, Trump referred to the EU as a “foe, what they do to us in trade.” Juncker, after Trump imposed tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, said in March that “this is basically a stupid process, the fact that we have to do this. But we have to do it. We can also do stupid.”
On Wednesday, Trump and Juncker said they have agreed to work toward “zero tariffs” and “zero subsidies” on non-automotive goods.
Trump told reporters it was a “very big day for free and fair trade” and later tweeted a photo of himself and Juncker in an embrace, with Juncker kissing his cheek.
“Obviously the European Union, as represented by @JunckerEU and the United States, as represented by yours truly, love each other!” he wrote.
The president campaigned on a vow to get tough on trading partners he accuses of taking advantage of bad trade deals to run up huge trade surpluses with the U.S.
He has slapped taxes on imported steel and aluminum, saying they pose a threat to U.S. national security. The U.S. and EU are now working to resolve their differences over steel and aluminum — but the tariffs are still in place. And they would continue to hit U.S. trading partners like Canada, Mexico and Japan even if the U.S. and the EU cut a deal.
Whatever progress was achieved Wednesday could provide some relief for U.S. automakers. The escalating trade war and tariffs on steel and aluminum had put pressure on auto company earnings. General Motors had slashed its outlook, and shares of Ford Motor Co. and auto parts companies had fallen.
“Our biggest exposure, our biggest unmitigated exposure, is really steel and aluminum when you look at all of the commodities,” GM CEO Mary Barra said Wednesday.
Trump has also imposed tariffs on $34 billion of Chinese imports — a figure he has threatened to raise to $500 billion — in a dispute over Beijing’s aggressive drive to supplant U.S. technological dominance.
China has counterpunched with tariffs on American products, including soybeans and pork — a shot at Trump supporters in the U.S. heartland.
The EU is stepping in to ease some of U.S. farmers’ pain. Juncker said the EU “can import more soybeans from the U.S., and it will be done.”
Mary Lovely, a Syracuse University economist who studies trade, said, “The Chinese are not going to be buying our soybeans, so almost by musical chairs our soybeans are going to Europe.” The trouble is, China last year imported $12.3 billion in U.S. soybeans, the EU just $1.6 billion.
Trump’s announcement stunned lawmakers who arrived at the White House ready to unload concerns over the administration’s trade policies only to be quickly ushered into Rose Garden for what the chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee called “quite a startling” development.
“I think everybody sort of changed what they were going to say,” said Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan.
Lawmakers said they still needed to see details of the agreement with the EU as well as progress on the other deals. But they said the breakthrough announcement was a step in the right direction.
“We have more confidence in him now than we did before,” said Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Texas, the chairman of the House Agriculture Committee.
The White House announcement came as the Trump administration announced a final rule aimed at speeding up approval of applications for small-scale exports of liquefied natural gas. The Trump administration has made LNG exports a priority, arguing that they help the economy and enhance geopolitical stability in countries that purchase U.S. gas.
Juncker said the two sides also agreed to work together to reform the World Trade Organization, which Trump has vehemently criticized as being unfair to the U.S.
The biggest news from the Trump-Juncker meeting is that it appears to have delayed an impending trade war over autos. Trump had threatened to tax imported cars, trucks and auto parts, potentially targeting imports that last year totaled $335 billion.
The European Union had warned that it would retaliate with tariffs on products worth $20 billion if Trump put duties on cars and auto parts from Europe.
But the auto trade war with Europe is on hold while the U.S. and EU engage in further trade talks. Daniel Ikenson, director of trade studies at the libertarian Cato Institute, warned that the fight could flare up again if Trump grows impatient with Europe.
“Auto tariffs are looming unless the EU buys more U.S. stuff and does other things Trump demands,” he said.