The Note: Democratic primary candidates with compelling backstories make their mark

The Note: Democratic primary candidates with compelling backstories make their mark

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The TAKE with Rick Klein

If biography can be political destiny, Democrats have fresh reasons to like their outlook for the fall.

When they’re done sorting through the damage of bruised egos and upset activists, and of establishment misfires and downright whiffs, consider the batch of candidates Democrats added to their ranks in Tuesday’s primaries.

A former Marine fighter pilot and mother of three is the nominee for a House seat in Kentucky. A former Air Force intelligence officer and the daughter of a Filipina-American immigrant got the Democratic nod for a top-target House seat in Texas.

Georgia’s race for governor will feature a candidate who would be the first black woman to be governor of any state. In that primary, Stacey Abrams beat another woman named Stacey while locking down the endorsement of both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.

These are all red states, but they’re also majority-making spots on the map. Democratic primary voters are going with bold personalities, often instead of more conventional options – in an era that’s proving to be anything but conventional.

The RUNDOWN with MaryAlice Parks

The winning batch of Democrats moving on to general elections undeniably look different than in years past. There are fresh faces in the party, without question.

But are there new ideas uniting them this cycle?

Most of the ads strike more of a ‘return to party basics’ tone and focus on personal backstories and overall leadership qualifications. So many of these Democrats have been emphasizing that new to politics, while keeping pocketbook issues front and center: wages, jobs, health care, public school funding.

Sure, on the last two, the party as a whole has shifted and is offering bolder ideas all around, but it is interesting that no one, stand out policy issue seems to have emerged as the pivotal platform for all Democratic voters this year.

The races feel more local, with questions of authenticity, character and trust at the forefront.

It seems to be working.

Amy McGrathLt. Colonel Amy McGrath stands beside an F/A-18 in Virginia Beach, Va., where she was part of a squadron in 2007. McGrath, running as a Democrat for a House seat in Kentucky, was the first woman to fly an F/A-18 in combat for the Marine Corps.

Look at the blue energy in the Bluegrass State. Marine Corp fighter pilot Amy McGrath might have beat her Democratic opponent, but the party won the evening in general. The Democrats saw a huge uptick of party voters across the rural parts of the district.

In 2016, a presidential year, Democratic primary voter turnout was 79,211. This year it was 100,418.

The TIP with Esther Castillejo

For more than a year, grassroots groups gathered every Tuesday morning in front of the office of Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., in the Golden state's 49th congressional district.

Bloomberg via Getty ImagesRepresentative Darrell Issa, questions General Motors CEO Dan Akerson during a House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee hearing on the safety of GM's Volt electric vehicle in Washington, Jan. 25, 2012.

They picketed, they chanted, they even brought an inflatable chicken in President Trump's likeness to protest the congressman's agenda — leading the way in fueling Democratic hopes of a blue wave in this traditional Republican bastion in Southern California.

Many credit the weekly rallies and their efforts with driving Issa into retirement — and now, two weeks before the state's primaries, the leaders of those rallies and key grassroots groups have decided to endorse Democrat Mike Levin — an environmental lawyer and political newcomer — in the crowded top-two primary race.

It's the most significant endorsement to date, as the state party's endorsement process failed to declare a winner during its convention in February, and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has not elevated candidates to their "Red to Blue" program — the closest equivalent to an endorsement.

"I was truly undecided until last week," said rally organizer Ellen Montanari in a statement Tuesday, the reality in a race where four Democrats are running against eight Republicans and four third-party candidates.

"We decided to endorse a candidate who we believe will fight the most effective fight in the November election, and who will best represent us in Congress," she said of the five-hour meeting where, along with fellow organizers, she decided to back Levin.

The 49th Congressional District is a hot seat Democrats are desperately trying to win in their way to take control of the House. It's one where candidates on all sides are jockeying for name recognition in a primary where the top two vote-getters will move on to the general election, regardless of party — and where Democrats still risk getting shut out of the vote by a flood of Republican contenders.


President Donald Trump hosts a roundtable discussion on immigration at 2 p.m. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo appears before the House Foreign Affairs Committee for a budget-related hearing at 9 a.m. Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort appears at the U.S. District Court for a hearing at 9:30 a.m. Executives of USA Swimming, the U.S. Olympic Committee, USA Gymnastics, USA Volleyball, USA Taekwondo and others testify before the House Energy and Commerce regarding the Olympic community’s ability to protect athletes from sexual abuse at 10 a.m. House Democrats hold Gun Task Force forum with Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, high school student leaders and others at 2 p.m.


“I never expected this to happen but I know that in light of all my experiences, to not to do anything is a tragedy in itself.” – Lucy McBath, a Democratic candidate in Georgia's 6th Congressional District in an interview with ABC News.

Lucy McBath for CongressLucy McBath, a Democratic candidate for Georgia's 6th District, with her son, Jordan Davis in this undated file photo.


Southern primary showdowns featured candidates with strong backstories. Voters in Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, and Texas headed to the polls on Tuesday in a Southern batch of primaries that could help give Democrats insight into whether they should focus on winning over independents or galvanizing the base. (Halimah Abdullah, John Verhovek and Nataly Pak)

Trump raises doubts North Korea summit will happen in June. President Trump appeared to raise doubts Tuesday that his upcoming historic summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will take place as previously planned on June 12. (Alexander Mallin)

Trump enters talks with Moon amid uncertainty over North Korea summit. Just three weeks before a planned summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, President Donald Trump is hosting South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in on Tuesday for talks as they work to assess whether North Korea’s commitment to rid itself of its nuclear program is genuine. (Katherine Faulders)

'If they had spies in my campaign, that would be a disgrace to this country': Trump. President Donald Trump continued to fuel GOP accusations that an informant was embedded in his presidential campaign for political purposes, saying Tuesday that “a lot of people are saying” there were spies. (Karen Travers and Jordyn Phelps)

'To not do anything is a tragedy': Mom who lost son to gun violence runs for Congress. As the nation watched Friday's high school shooting unfold in Texas – the sixth since the attack in Parkland, Fla. – Lucy McBath was on the campaign trail in Georgia. (Cheyenne Haslett)

DHS secretary 'not aware' Putin tried to help Trump win 2016 election. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen raised eyebrows Tuesday when she told reporters on Capitol Hill that she is "not aware" of a conclusion by the U.S. intelligence community that Russian President Vladimir Putin sought to help Donald Trump win the 2016 presidential election. (Justin Fishel and Jeffrey Cook)

White House pushes back on report that Trump's cell phones not secure. The White House is forcefully pushing back on a report that asserts that President Trump's cell phones are not equipped with sufficiently advanced security features and that the president has resisted efforts to swap out the phones as frequently as they should be. (Jordyn Phelps)

House conservatives want second special counsel to investigate alleged DOJ 'misconduct'. A group of House Republicans called Tuesday for the appointment of a second special counsel to investigate concerns about the Department of Justice and FBI, just days after Trump first called for an investigation into whether his campaign was “infiltrated or surveilled” for by an alleged FBI informant. (Benjamin Siegel)

Lawmakers concerned Trump giving up too much in negotiations with China over ZTE. As the Trump administration tries to sell its rapidly-evolving trade deal with China to Congress, members of both parties are not convinced it’s in the best interest of the United States. (Ali Rogin)

The Washington Post reports on a political group founded by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., parting with its employee who tweeted about "illegal immigrants."

POLITICO reports on House passing a Trump-backed drug bill.

The Note is a daily ABC News feature that highlights the key political moments of the day ahead. Please check back tomorrow for the latest.

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