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3 Republicans vie for chance to deny Sen. Warren second term

August 28, 2018
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FILE - In this Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2018 file photo, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., speaks during a town hall style gathering in Woburn, Mass. Warren keeps popping up on short lists of possible 2020 Democratic presidential contenders, but will first face a Republican challenger as she seeks re-election in November. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File)

BOSTON (AP) — U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren keeps popping up on short lists of possible 2020 Democratic presidential contenders, but three Republicans in her home state are hoping to short-circuit any White House dreams she might have.

State Rep. Geoff Diehl, business executive John Kingston and Beth Lindstrom — a cabinet official under former Massachusetts Republican Gov. Mitt Romney — are vying for the chance to go head-to-head with Warren in November as she seeks re-election to a second term.

The three, battling it out in the state’s Sept. 4 primary, hope to use Warren’s national profile against her, saying she’s become too divisive and is ignoring the needs of Massachusetts residents. Warren is unopposed in the Democratic primary.

Warren routinely spars with President Donald Trump on Twitter, is a standard-bearer in the resistance to the Republican administration and last week released 10 years of tax returns — a move seen as another possible step to a presidential bid. Trump has refused to release his tax returns.

“She hasn’t stopped campaigning,” said Lindstrom. “I think she cares more about her Twitter followers than about her constituents back in Massachusetts.”

It’s a line of attack echoed by Warren’s other Republican challengers.

“People know that she’s done nothing for Massachusetts,” Kingston said. “God bless her if she wants to run for president, then go run for president and don’t pretend that you’re not.”

Diehl said “it feels like since the day she was elected she put us in the rearview mirror.”

Warren, 69, repeatedly has said she’s not running for president, but she continues to position herself as a national leader in the Democratic Party.

There are other areas where the three GOP challengers agree.

Each has praised Trump’s decision to nominate Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court and has criticized Warren’s opposition as a liberal knee-jerk reaction. They’ve also voiced support for the tax plan approved by Congress and signed by Trump. Warren has described the measure as a “tax giveaway to giant corporations and the super-rich.”

Most recently, the Republicans have condemned Warren’s comments on the death in Iowa of 20-year-old Mollie Tibbetts and the suspect charged with first-degree murder — a native of Mexico suspected of being in the U.S. illegally. Warren had expressed sympathy for the young woman’s family but added: “But one of the things we have to remember is we need an immigration system that is effective, that focuses on where real problems are.” Warren said she met mothers separated from their children at the border, and “we need immigration laws that focus on people who pose a real threat.”

Kingston called Warren’s remarks “outrageously insensitive,” saying she’s “more worried about illegal immigrants and open borders than the safety of American citizens.”

Lindstrom and Diehl also slammed Warren’s remarks and said she should back off calls to abolish Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the federal agency also known as ICE.

Whatever vulnerabilities Warren may bring to her re-election bid, any Republican faces tough odds in Massachusetts — a state where GOP voters make up less than 11 percent of the electorate and where Trump is so unpopular, Republican Gov. Charlie Baker couldn’t bring himself to vote for him in 2016.

For Warren’s GOP opponents, the biggest elephant in the room may be Trump himself.

Of the three, Diehl has the closest ties to the president: In 2016, he co-chaired Trump’s 2016 Massachusetts campaign. He is quick to note the state gave Trump one of his biggest early primary vote totals.

“By supporting the president, I give Massachusetts a seat at the table, not just in a Republican-controlled Senate but also with a White House where it’s going to be very important for Massachusetts to have a voice,” said Diehl, 49.

Lindstrom, 56, and Kingston, 52, have been more reluctant to fully embrace the president.

Lindstrom, who helped elect former Republican U.S. Sen. Scott Brown to the Senate, said her support for Trump depends on the issue.

“I will be with him when it’s right for the people of Massachusetts, but I don’t work for the president,” Lindstrom said. She said her biggest concerns are Trump’s tone, temperament and use of Twitter.

Kingston held up Baker as the kind of moderate Republican he would model.

“I’ll be able to work with the administration when it’s actually doing good things for Massachusetts and not stand in line when it’s not,” said Kingston. “That’s distinguished from Sen. Warren, who is against everything.”

All three have also said they wouldn’t use the term “Pocahontas” to refer to Warren. Trump has repeatedly used it to denigrate Warren’s claims of Native American heritage.

Warren, who won her Senate seat by defeating Brown in 2012, has by far the biggest campaign bankroll with more than $15.6 million in her account as of June 30.

That’s compared to $2.6 million for Kingston, who has loaned his campaign nearly $4.7 million, and Lindstrom, who loaned her campaign $200,000 and ended June with $79,000. Diehl had $235,091 in his account.

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