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GOP Donor Les Wexner Announces Departure From Republican Party After Obama Visit

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The L Brands CEO had previously condemned Donald Trump’s response to Charlottesville in a speech to employees.

Ohio billionaire and longtime Republican donor Les Wexner says he is officially done with the party, and was prompted to leave after former President Barack Obama visited the state.

Wexner, the CEO of retail conglomerate L Brands, which owns Victoria’s Secret and Bath & Body Works, announced at a leadership summit in Columbus on Thursday that he “won’t support this nonsense in the Republican Party” anymore, The Columbus Dispatch reported.

The announcement, made at a panel discussion, came the same day Obama visited Columbus before heading to a rally in Cleveland to support Democrat Richard Cordray’s run for governor. 

“I was struck by the genuineness of the man; his candor, humility and empathy for others,” Wexner said of Obama.

Wexner said he’s been telling lawmakers that he is now an independent.

“I just decided I’m no longer a Republican,” he said.

Last year, following a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, Wexner condemned the racists in a speech to his employees. He said Trump’s tepid response to the violence ― in which a white supremacist killed counterprotester Heather Heyer ― made him feel “dirty” and “ashamed,” the Dispatch reported.

In a speech in Illinois earlier this month, Obama also called out Trump’s lukewarm response to the violence, in which the current president said there were “very fine people” on both sides.

“How hard is it to say Nazis are bad?” Obama said.

Wexner has long donated to Republican causes, including cutting a check to Jeb Bush for $500,000 in 2015 during Bush’s presidential run. The billionaire philanthropist has also donated $2.8 million to With Honor, a super PAC that endorses both Republican and Democratic candidates. 

During the panel discussion Thursday, former Columbus Mayor Michael B. Coleman praised Wexner for standing up to his former party, the Dispatch reported. 

Lindsey Graham Doesn’t Deny Brett Kavanaugh Could Spur Roe V. Wade Reversal

“There’s a process to overturn a precedent, and I think he understands that process,” the GOP senator said.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on Sunday did little to calm abortion rights advocates who fear Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court would lead to the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

Graham, who opposes abortion rights, said he believed President Donald Trump’s pick for the high court understands the process for reversing a precedent like the one established by the court’s Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, which made abortion legal in all 50 states.

“Here’s what I hope [Kavanuagh] will do: If there’s a case before him that challenges Roe v. Wade that he would listen to both sides of the story, apply a test to overturn precedent,” Graham said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“The bottom line here is there’s a process to overturn a precedent, and I think he understands that process, he will apply it,” he continued. “If it were up to me, states would make these decisions ― not the Supreme Court. But it is a long-held precedent of the court. It will be challenged over time, and I hope he will give it a fair hearing.”

The Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday will hold its first confirmation hearing with Kavanaugh, Trump’s second nominee for the Supreme Court.

Democratic lawmakers have spoken out against the nomination of Kavanaugh, a conservative circuit judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. If confirmed, Kavanaugh would likely shift the Supreme Court further to the right, giving its conservative faction a five-vote majority.

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), as well as Sens. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), have expressed concerns that Trump may have picked Kavanaugh as a way to shield himself from special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Kavanaugh has argued that presidents should be exempt from civil suits, criminal investigations and criminal prosecutions. 

“Should a president be allowed to appoint somebody who’s already made it clear that he would give immunity to him should anything come before the Supreme Court?” Booker asked in an interview with Business Insider in July. “So this is a stunning thing to me that is so shocking that we’re going to have to allow this to happen.”

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Arizona Will Have A Chance To Elect Its First Latino Governor In Decades

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Democrat David Garcia, an education expert and veteran, faces a tough contest against GOP Gov. Doug Ducey.

David Garcia, an Army veteran and education expert, won the Democratic nomination on Tuesday to challenge Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, giving him a chance to become the state’s first Latino chief executive in more than 40 years.

Garcia’s main competition in his party’s primary was Steve Farley, a state legislator. But operatives in both parties had long expected Garcia to triumph, and Republican groups have already spent millions of dollars attacking him, mostly on the issue of immigration.

The general election will pit Ducey’s well-funded re-election bid ― he and the Republican Governors Association have already reserved more than $9 million worth of airtime for the race, and he’s a longtime favorite of the Koch political network ― against grassroots anger over the state’s public schools.

Strategists in both parties agree Ducey, the former CEO of Coldstone Creamery, was in a strong position to win a second four-year term until teachers went on strike this spring. Teacher pay in Arizona has been among the lowest in the U.S., and, along with better pay, the educators sought increased classroom funding.

“People are really pissed about public education in the state, and that crosses party lines,” one Democratic strategist told HuffPost, speaking on condition of anonymity. “But there’s no universe that exists where we’re going to have anything close to parity with [Ducey] on spending.”

Garcia ― backed by the National Education Association, Latino Victory Fund, VoteVets and a host of other progressive groups ― is expected to try to mobilize Latino turnout in the state. Latino voters, like other minority groups, typically have lower turnout rates during midterm elections. 

Garcia’s signature issue will be education. That focus will include stressing his support for two education-related referenda ― one that would hike taxes on those making more than $250,000 a year to fund higher teacher pay, the other that would reverse an expansive school voucher law passed by the state legislature.

If he wins, Garcia will be the first Latino elected statewide in Arizona since Raúl Castro ― no relation to the ruling family of Cuba ― in 1974. Castro resigned from the office in 1977 to serve as the U.S. ambassador to Argentina.

Garcia ran for state superintendent of schools in 2014, narrowly losing in a Republican wave year. At the time, he had the backing of business groups and was seen as a centrist. But this year, he has tacked to the left, calling for the abolishment of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency and the establishment of Medicare-for-all. 

His embrace of left-wing policies could hurt him in November. Republicans have already begun attacking him as a supporter of open borders, arguing his policies will lead to more crime. 

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