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Tough GOP race for Shelby seat in Alabama closes with flurry

HOMEWOOD, Ala. (AP) — Republican Senate hopefuls made last-minute pitches to primary voters Monday in the tight race for the GOP nomination for seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Richard Shelby.

The three leading candidates in Tuesday’s primary — U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks, former Shelby aide Katie Britt and veteran Mike Durant — concentrated their efforts in Republican strongholds in north Alabama, attempting to sway undecided primary voters and combat a flurry of negative attack ads in the race.

The fractured field increases the chances the primary will go to a June 21 runoff, which will be required unless a single candidate captures more than 50% of the vote.

Brooks planned a rally in Huntsville with Texas Sen. Ted Cruz as he seeks to overcome former President Donald Trump‘s harsh criticisms and decision to rescind his endorsement.

Durant, running on his status as a military veteran and business owner without political experience, received a folded U.S. flag from supporter Ashlie Combs during a stop at a barbecue restaurant in the Birmingham suburb of Homewood.

“I’m in it the for the right reason. I’m in it to serve,” Durant said. “I’m not in it because I’ve aspired to be this my whole life. In fact, I don’t like politics. But we need people like me in Washington.”

Before leading the Business Council of Alabama, Britt served as chief of staff to Shelby, one the Senate’s most senior members and a traditional Republican known for his ability to bring home federal projects and funding to his home state.

Brooks sought a resurgence after a war of words with Trump, who has not endorsed another candidate since withdrawing his backing in March after their relationship soured.

Trump cited Brooks’ languishing performance and accused the conservative congressman of going “woke” for saying it was time to move on from the 2020 presidential outcome and focus on upcoming elections. Brooks said Trump was trying to get him to illegally rescind the election.

Brooks, a six-term congressman from north Alabama, is banking on his long history with Alabama voters to overcome his feud with Trump.

“If you’re a conservative Republican I would submit to you that I’m the only proven conservative in this race. With me there is no rolling the dice to determine how I’m going to go on major public policy issues,” Brooks said at an earlier campaign event, urging people to look up his ratings from the National Rifle Association, Heritage Action and other groups.

Britt planned an afternoon event in Cullman. Before leading the Business Council of Alabama, Britt served as chief of staff to Shelby, one the Senate’s most senior members and a traditional Republican known for his ability to bring home federal projects and funding to his home state.

Britt said while her experience would allow he to “hit the ground running” she would bring a fresh perspective to Washington.

“People want new blood, they want fresh blood. They want something different in the United States Senate. They want that from the top down,” Britt said in an earlier interview with The Associated Press.

Lillie Boddie of Florence, small business owner Karla M. Dupriest of Mobile and Jake Schafer also are on the ballot.

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Next New York lieutenant governor to be sworn in Wednesday

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — U.S. Rep. Antonio Delgado will be sworn in Wednesday as New York’s next lieutenant governor, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced.

Hochul said Monday she will issue a proclamation for a special election to fill her fellow Democrat’s seat in upstate New York once he resigns. It remains unclear when that will be.

Once a seat becomes vacant, the governor has 10 days to announce a special election held 70 to 80 days later, according to state law.

Hochul said the special election will line up with the Aug. 23 primary for congressional and state Senate seats.

Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, a Democrat, has been fulfilling the duties of lieutenant governor since the April 12 resignation of Brian Benjamin, who has proclaimed his innocence following his arrest in a federal corruption investigation.

Delgado has said he wants to leave his seat in Congress to take on the largely ceremonial role of lieutenant governor so he can fight for Hochul’s agenda and serve as a liaison between New Yorkers and local, state and federal partners.

The Rhodes Scholar and Harvard Law School graduate was first elected in 2018 as the first upstate New Yorker of color to Congress on campaign promises of universal access to Medicare and eliminating tax loopholes for the rich.

Hochul and Delgado have both faced criticism for leaving open a congressional seat at a time when Democrats are fighting to maintain their U.S. House majority and after state courts stuck down new political maps that Democrats had drawn to cement comfortable majorities for years to come.

Hochul tapped Delgado days after the state’s Court of Appeals rejected the congressional maps in a majority opinion that largely agreed with Republican voters who argued the district boundaries were unconstitutionally gerrymandered.

That decision struck down maps that would have reshaped Delgado’s swing 19th Congressional District into a safely Democratic district sweeping from the Hudson Valley up to Albany and west to Binghamton and Utica.

An upstate judge approved a final set of maps that creates an even more vast 19th Congressional District that stretches to Ithaca, in the Finger Lakes wine and tourism region. About 52% of voters in the newly crafted district voted for President Joe Biden in 2020, down from 52% in the Democrats’ failed maps.

Democrat Pat Ryan, who came in second to Delgado in the 2018 Democratic primary for the district, has said he’ll run to succeed him.

Republican candidates Brandon Buccola and Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro are also running for the 19th District seat.

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U.S. Republicans join Democrats in backing NATO expansion despite rising nationalism

By Patricia Zengerle

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Democratic and Republican U.S. Senate leaders introduced a resolution on Monday backing Sweden and Finland’s bids to join NATO, underscoring support for expanding the alliance despite growing nationalism in the Republican party.

It will take a two-thirds majority in the 100-member Senate to approve the expansion of the alliance, requiring “yes” votes from at least 17 Republicans along with every Democrat.

Many U.S. Republicans have been following the lead of former President Donald Trump – the party’s leader – toward more nationalist foreign policy. Trump accused NATO allies of not spending enough on their own defense and excessively burdening the United States.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has prompted Finland and Sweden to apply to join NATO.

In the Senate, 11 Republicans voted “no” last week against legislation providing $40 billion to help Ukraine, with some saying they wanted the funds director to Americans.

Last month, 63 Republican members of the House of Representatives, nearly one-third of the full caucus, opposed a bill reaffirming U.S. support for NATO.

The top Senate Republican, Mitch McConnell, and Jim Risch, the top Republican on the foreign relations panel, joined Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and committee chairman Bob Menendez and other senators in introducing the resolution.

“We fully support their application to become NATO members and are looking forward to their swift ascension in the coming months,” Menendez said in a statement.

McConnell referred to Finland and Sweden as “strong countries with formidable military capabilities” and said in his statement, “both nations’ robust defense funding means their accession would meaningfully bolster our pursuit of greater burden-sharing across the alliance. I fully support the Senate providing its advice and consent as quickly as possible.”

(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; editing by Grant McCool)

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