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Trump allies struggle to win Republican primary battles

Is Donald Trump’s endorsement all it’s cracked up to be?

The answer hangs in the balance in Pennsylvania, where the celebrity physician Mehmet Oz is defending a razor-thin lead over hedge fund CEO David McCormick. A recount is due June 7 in the primary race, which saw Trump endorse Oz despite claims from his opponents that he’s an out-of-state transplant with a history of less-than-conservative views.

Oz and McCormick hope to face off against Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, who won the Democratic nomination for the state’s open Senate seat this month.

The Pennsylvania race is one of several testing grounds for the strength of Trump’s endorsement.

While the ex-president is banned from major social media networks, he continues to exert a powerful influence over GOP politics. A March poll by Morning Consult found more than three-fourths of Pennsylvania Republicans view Trump favorably, a larger share than any other major GOP politician pollsters named.

Trump also endorsed state Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Adams, who won the Republican nomination for governor. The nod came at the last minute, however, after Mastriano was already ahead in polls.

The former president has had mixed success elsewhere. He backed J.D. Vance — a writer who spent much of Trump’s presidency criticizing him — in a successful run for an Ohio U.S. Senate seat.

But his attempt to unseat Republican Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp failed miserably this week, with the GOP governor easily beating a Trump-aligned challenger. Other Republican governors feel increasingly comfortable to challenge the former president, as the New York Times reported this week from a conference.

“The president was on this campaign of vengeance,” a Republican Party official told the newspaper, describing the attitude at a gathering of GOP officials.

In Pennsylvania, the Senate primary is set for a decision in the coming days. Trump, meanwhile, has encouraged his allies to follow his lead in declaring victory.

“Dr. Oz should declare victory,” he said on his Truth Social online platform as the votes were first being counted.

Child killings raise anger, resignation

The massacre of elementary-school children and their teachers in Uvalde, Texas, has drawn disgust and outrage across the country — but there’s little chance of any changed gun laws in the immediate aftermath, senators acknowledged.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., vowed this week to press a vote on bills to require background checks for gun purchases or to “flag” potentially dangerous buyers. But nothing was expected before Memorial Day.

Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., joined colleagues in pleading for action, although the Democrats in control of Congress can’t pass laws unless they change agreed-upon Senate customs.

“We’re supposed to just get used to this, I guess. That seems to be the response here in Washington,” Casey said.

“Right here, we could vote this week on a background check bill, and it would be supported overwhelmingly,” he added.

Lawmaker wants ammo ID check

Days before the massacre in Texas, a state legislator in Harrisburg pushed for a plan to require identification for ammunition purchases.

State Sen. John Kane, D-Chester, said he wants a law that would require would-be ammo buyers to show a photo ID card. Under state law, it’s illegal to sell ammunition to someone you believe to be under 18 or 21, depending on the ammunition type.

But, as Kane pointed out, there’s no requirement that sellers check ID to confirm their suspicions. Kane’s proposal would change that.

“Gun violence is prevalent in America and its web of impact spreads to reach everyone, including children,” he said in a memo last week.

Bill would ban school sexuality talk

A central Pennsylvania lawmaker said this week that she plans to introduce a bill that would ban teaching on gender and sexual identity, while requiring schools to tell parents when their kids use mental health services.

State Rep. Stephanie Borowicz, R-Clinton, said her planned bill will ” reinforce parents’ rights to make decisions regarding the education and upbringing of their children.” While Borowicz provided limited details, a memo suggests it could be similar to laws that have driven school protests in GOP-controlled states.

Borowicz said her bill would ban discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity through fifth grade, although “gender identity” is a broad term. She said she also aims to make schools adopt procedures to tell parents when “there is a change in services from the school regarding a child’s mental, emotional or physical health or well-being.”

Similar laws have been introduced or passed in states like Florida and Georgia, where opponents have labeled them “don’t say gay” laws — so called because they effectively deter teachers from discussing sexual orientation even at higher grade levels.

Borowicz’s memo to colleagues represents just part of a broad legislative push to ensure students don’t push gender and sexual boundaries. A GOP bill that would ban transgender women from competing in women’s sports passed a state Senate committee this week, a few weeks after it passed the House.

While comparable bills have passed into law in red states, Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf has so far threatened vetoes against bills that would restrict transgender students and athletes.

Ryan Brown covers statewide politics for Ogden Newspapers. He can be reached at rbrown@altoonamirror.com.

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