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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Voters will head to the polls Tuesday in Arizona's 8th Congressional District, a deep red district where a solid performance by the Democrat would be yet another sign of the party's growing strength ahead of a contentious and competitive midterm election in November.

The race, triggered by the resignation of GOP Rep. Trent Franks last year, pits Democrat and cancer research advocate Hiral Tiperneni against Republican former state senator Debbie Lesko.

President Trump won the suburban district, which lies to the northwest of Phoenix and was once the home base for Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, by 21 points in the 2016 presidential election and the population in the district is older than most, with a median age of 43 according to U.S. Census Bureau data.

The average median age for congressional districts in Arizona is 38, and the 8th Congressional District is the 2nd oldest in a state with a significant retiree population.

Tuesday night's results will again give both parties another benchmark of political standing leading up to the midterms. Even a Democratic loss by single digits will cause anxiety among Republicans already convinced that their House majority is in deep trouble.

Democrats have not invested heavily in the race, but Republicans are hoping to avoid another electoral embarrassment after Democrat Conor Lamb's upset victory in Pennsylvania's 18th Congressional District last month, and the consistent over-performing by Democrats in special elections since the beginning of the Trump presidency.

Tiperneni has outpaced Lesko in campaign fundraising by over $100,000, but outside groups have invested heavily in the Republican in recent days. The Republican National Committee (RNC), National Republican Campaign Committee (NRCC) and the Congressional Leadership Fund (CLF) have poured over $1.3 million into the race since the primary, according to FEC filings.

One GOP strategist called the Republican spending in the race an “education campaign” to remind voters the special election was taking place.

The move is likely a counter to the Democratic enthusiasm that has manifested in other recent special elections.

Indications from early vote data show that Republicans still maintain a strong advantage in the district.

As of Friday last week, 151,532 early votes have been cast in the district. According to data from the Arizona Secretary of State's office nearly half of the early votes cast have come from Republicans, and over half of early votes have been cast by voters over the age of 65. In the February primary election, a total of 116,732 ballots were cast according to the official canvas results from the Secretary of State's office, indicating a slight uptick in turnout in a race where the large majority of votes will be cast early.

The candidates

Republican Debbie Lesko, 59, is a former state senator and before that was a state representative. Lesko stepped down from the statehouse in January to focus on the special election.

She got her start in politics with the local GOP about 20 years, becoming as a district chairwoman and eventually running for the statehouse. She spent about 10 years as a volunteer for the party before she ran for public office, joining the state house in 2008.

The Peoria, Arizona resident is a former hearing officer in North Valley. Lesko left an abusive husband 25 years ago, remarried and has three children and two grandchildren.

She has endorsed the president’s idea of a border wall and has called for the repeal of Obamacare.

Lesko is endorsed by Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, former Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, GOP Reps. Paul Gosar, Andy Biggs and David Schweikert, the US Chamber of Commerce and the Susan B. Anthony List. She defeated former state senator Steve Montenegro in the February GOP primary for the special election.

Democrat Hiral Tiperneni, 50, is a former emergency room doctor who currently works as a cancer research advocate. She was born in Mumbai, India and her family immigrated to the U.S. when she was just three years old. According to her campaign website, she was inspired to enter the medical field after a childhood illness. She met her husband, Dr. Kishore Tiperneni, during her first year of medical school at Northeast Ohio Medical University.

Tiperneni lost both her mother and nephew to cancer, and because of her medical background has made healthcare a central plank of her campaign. Tiperneni has never run for or held political office before, but told a local Arizona TV station that she first started having conversations about running for Congress the day after Donald Trump was elected President.

Tiperneni was endorsed by EMILY’s List, former AZ Congresswoman Woman Gabby Giffords (including her anti-gun violence PAC), and End Citizens United. Tiperneni defeated LGBTQ activist Brianna Westbrook in the Democratic primary with nearly 60 percent of the vote.

The money race

Tiperneni has out-fundraised Lesko by roughly $130,000 throughout the entire election cycle. Through April 21st, Tiperneni has raised $848,485, while Lesko has raised $718,504.

However that trend has changed since the primary. After the primary through April 17th, Tiperneni has raised $276,503, while Lesko has brought in $413,194.

Since after the primary, outside groups have spent a total of $1.7 million on the special election, overwhelming in favor of Lesko.

A total of $1,358,199 of that has been spent by pro-Lesko groups such as the Republican National Committee (RNC), National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), Congressional Leadership Fund (CLF) and the House Freedom Fund.

That number dwarfs outside spending in support of Tiperneni, where groups have spent just over $330,000. Tiperneni got a boost in recent days from the Working Families Party PAC, which rolled out $200,000 worth of television ads in support of the Democrat last week.

The early vote

According to early vote data from the Arizona Secretary of State’s office, a total of 151,532 ballots have been counted as of April 19.

Of those ballots, Republicans hold a clear advantage over Democrats in terms of vote by party registration. Of those over 140,000 ballots, 48.6 percent have been cast by Republicans, 27.7 percent were cast by Democrats, and 23.2 percent were cast by Independents.

In another good sign for Republicans, 56.6 percent of early ballots cast in the election so far have come from voters ages 65 and older, a voting bloc that usually skews in their favor.

The median age among voters that have cast their ballots early in this election is 67, and the early vote is 53.6 percent female.

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Jason Andrew/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) --  After a run of negative headlines, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt is headed to Capitol Hill this week for two congressional hearings, where his performance under tough questioning from Democrats and Republicans could play a role in his future in the administration.

The hearings are about the EPA's budget, but they also offer lawmakers an opportunity to ask about other concerns including allegations that the agency has been misusing taxpayer dollars.

The renewed wave of criticism directed at Pruitt followed a report by ABC News that he'd been living in a condo owned by the wife of a prominent lobbyist. Pressure grew after media reports showed Pruitt circumvented the White House to grant pay raises to several staffers. And there have been new questions about his spending on travel and an around-the-clock security detail.

"It's an important hearing for him particularly under the various clouds he’s under at the moment," said Myron Ebell, the director of the Competitive Energy Institute’s Center for Energy and the Environment, who led the Trump EPA transition team.

Pruitt is also facing new headlines this week about a previously undisclosed meeting with the lobbyist, J. Steven Hart, in July of 2017 when he was living in a condo co-owned by Hart's wife, who's also a lobbyist, raising questions about previous statements both Hart and Pruitt have made about their dealings.

The embattled agency chief, the former attorney general of Oklahoma, has denied wrongdoing.

His spending and possible ethics violations are the subjects of 10 separate investigations, after the EPA's inspector general informed Congress last week that it would review his use of agency security for personal trips. In recent weeks, roughly 170 Democrats have called for his resignation, and he drew sharp comments from some Republicans, including four who joined in calls for his dismissal.

Ahead of the hearings, Democrats have raised fresh questions about the agency's decision to spend more than $43,000 to install a "secure phone booth" and conduct a sweep for listening devices in Pruitt's office, claiming that EPA documents indicate that the sweep and booth did not meet government security standards.

"He's very articulate, he knows what his agenda is, so I don't think the questions about policy will be particularly challenging for him," Ebell said. "The questions about his personal conduct will be something Democrats will focus on.

"If there are more accusations that come out, he is vulnerable."

Throughout, Pruitt has maintained public support from President Donald Trump. But the White House has launched its own review of his actions on granting raises to several top aides who moved with him from Oklahoma. Press secretary Sarah Sanders deflected several questions about Pruitt on Monday, and credited the agency chief's success in walking back regulations.

"We're reviewing some of those allegations," Sanders said. "However, Administrator Pruitt has done a good job of implementing the president's policies, particularly on deregulation, making the United States less energy-dependent, and becoming more energy-independent. Those are good things."

Pruitt's travel has been a particularly sore spot with some in the White House. He made repeated trips to his home state of Oklahoma in his first few months as administrator. After the EPA's internal watchdog agreed to look into those trips in August and the president fired former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price for the cost of his travel the next month, questions about Pruitt's travel attracted even more attention.

The EPA inspector general is also expected to release reports about Pruitt's official travel for all of 2017 and his security detail, which the agency says was increased to 24-7 protection in response to increased threats against Pruitt. Those inquiries are expected to look at Pruitt's frequent use of first-class flights recommended by his security detail and whether the agency followed all proper procedures.

There are signs the lingering questions about his spending are wearing on Republicans.

Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., chairman of the House Oversight Committee, has asked for documents and records regarding Pruitt's travel and security costs, and for interviews with at least five of Pruitt's top aides. That request came not long after top Democrats on the committee said they have reviewed internal EPA documents that question whether Pruitt's security detail exaggerated the threats against him to justify expenses like the first-class flights.

In a recent interview with Fox News, Gowdy was skeptical of the EPA argument that Pruitt has flown first class on work trips because of security threats.

Pruitt told reporters he would direct his staff to book him on more coach flights.

"The notion that I've got to fly first class because I don't want people to be mean to me, you need to go into another line of work if you don't want people to be mean to you. Like maybe a monk, where you don't come in contact with anyone," he said.

Republican staff on the House Energy and Commerce Committee have also been in contact with the EPA regarding Pruitt's controversial spending.

"I certainly think he has a responsibility to answer significant questions that have been raised and I do not think he has done so," Rep. Leonard Lance, R-N.J., said.

Kevin Chmielewski, Pruitt's former deputy chief of staff, has met with congressional investigators in the House and Senate, after claiming Pruitt retaliated against him for questioning his travel spending.

On Friday, law firm Williams & Jensen indicated in a new filing that Hart lobbied the EPA in early 2018 on behalf of Smithfield Foods. Ryan Williams, a spokesman for Hart, said the lobbyist, along with former Smithfield vice president Dennis Treacy, met earlier with Pruitt -- in 2017 -- in a personal capacity.

Hart and Smithfield Foods denied that any lobbying took place.

"I assisted a friend who served on the Chesapeake Bay Commission, and this is inaccurately being tied to Smithfield Foods. I was not paid for this assistance and any suggestion that I lobbied for Smithfield Foods is inaccurate," Hart said in a statement.

A spokesman for Williams & Jensen said an "independent review of the firm's lobbying activity in advance of the quarterly filing deadline concluded that Mr. Hart had lobbying contact with the Environmental Protection Agency in the first quarter of 2018. The firm has filed the requisite disclosure forms required by law accordingly."

The firm is in the process of reviewing its 2017 lobbying disclosures.

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Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- It's Tuesday, April 24, 2018. Here are some of the stories we're talking about on ABC News' new daily podcast, "Start Here."

1. Star-studded state visit

Washington was star-struck yesterday as French President Emmanuel Macron and the first lady of France, Brigitte Macron, took a stroll around the monuments of D.C.

They arrived at the White House for their second visit, but for the first time since taking office, President Donald Trump will treat his guests to a full state dinner. And then later this week, he'll receive arguably the most powerful person in Europe, German Prime Minister Angela Merkel.

But for all the pomp and circumstance, both leaders are bringing deadly serious agendas. ABC News chief foreign correspondent Terry Moran says they will both attempt to convince Trump to stay in the Iran nuclear deal.

2. Carnage in Canada

In Canada yesterday, Toronto was playing host to the G7 Leaders Summit. Secretaries of state, foreign ministers and huge security details all gathered as some of the world's top diplomats got together.

But then, a van barreled down a busy sidewalk for nearly a mile and a half -- mowing down dozens of pedestrians. The police have named the suspect, but they haven't said much about his motive or the circumstances surrounding his apparent rampage.

ABC's Tom Llamas in Toronto says a police officer remained calm to take down the suspect alive.

3. Spotlight on Arizona's 8th

There have been two big trends in Congress over the last year: lawmakers resigning after making inappropriate comments to women and special elections occurring in districts that voted overwhelmingly for Trump in 2016.

Both of these trends have collided in Arizona. Former Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., resigned in December after talking to his female staffers about carrying a child for him and his wife. And with Franks gone, two candidates are fighting it out for his seat amid high tensions in both parties.

Who will win tonight and what does it all mean for the midterms? ABC News political director Rick Klein predicts what will happen in Arizona's 8th Congressional District.

 4. Confirmation controversy

One of Trump’s cabinet nominees may have seen his confirmation prospects mortally wounded.

Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson, the military doctor who serves as the president's personal physician, had been nominated to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs. And a lot of people were wondering if he can run a government department.

Now, ABC’s Meridith McGraw says new allegations about his professional conduct raised by ABC News sources on Capitol Hill and at the White House could ultimately derail his confirmation hearing.

5. Shift in succession

You've seen the pictures: William and Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, in the doorway of St. Mary's Hospital i London, presenting their new baby boy to the cameras yesterday.

Even though she might not know it yet, this moment was a big one for royal sibling Charlotte, too. That's because for the very first time in the history of the monarchy, she's not being passed over by her younger brother.

ABC’s James Longman says a new law from Parliament about the line of succession to the throne has flipped the script on hundreds of years of tradition.

"Start Here" is a daily ABC News podcast hosted by Brad Mielke featuring original reporting on stories that are driving the national conversation. Listen for free at Apple Podcasts -- also available on TuneIn, Spotify, Stitcher, Google Play Music, iHeartRadio and the ABC News app.

Follow @StartHereABC on social for exclusive content, show updates and more: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram.

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Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Former Cambridge Analytica staffer Christopher Wylie will meet with Democrats on Capitol Hill this week to discuss the company's collection of personal information from as many as 87 million Facebook accounts.

Wylie, who left the data firm in 2014, will meet with Democratic lawmakers and staff on the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday and Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee on Wednesday, following a recent appearance before British Parliament. Democrats say Republican committee members and staffers were invited to attend but declined.

Republican aides on both committees did not respond to ABC News' request for comment.

In interviews with ABC News and other outlets, Wylie has criticized his former company's use of Facebook data and its work for Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign.

The New York Times and Observer in London first reported that Cambridge Analytica had scraped data from the profiles of Facebook users and their friends using an application created by Russian-American researcher Aleksandr Kogan.

Cambridge Analytica and the Trump campaign have said the data obtained at that time was not used as part of that work the data firm did on behalf of the campaign. The company said it deleted the data at Facebook's request and never shared it with another party.

Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg recently appeared before Congress and acknowledged that Facebook was too slow to address concerns about third-party groups obtaining data without permission, and said Kogan improperly obtained data.

Kogan previously told ABC News that Wylie initially asked him to retool his application to give Cambridge Analytica access to the data from millions of Facebook users, and that lawyers with Cambridge Analytica's parent company said the app would not violate Facebook's rules.

The company, which has been suspended by Facebook, has blamed Kogan for violating Facebook's terms.

Appearing on "Good Morning America" on Monday, Kogan said he regretted his role in the scandal, but called Zuckerberg’s comments "misleading."

"The idea that this was a hack," Kogan said, "is flat-out wrong."

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Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Newly raised concerns about the professional conduct of Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson as a military doctor threaten to delay, or possibly derail, his nomination to be secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, sources on Capitol Hill and at the White House tell ABC News.

The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee planned to hold a confirmation hearing for Jackson on Wednesday. Sources say that hearing could now be in doubt.

Jackson, who is currently President Donald Trump's personal White House physician, has also faced questions about his limited management experience and overall qualification to head the second-largest agency in the federal government.

"I've been in leadership school for 23 years now, and I've been able to rise to the level of an admiral, a flag officer in the Navy. I didn't just stumble into that," Jackson said this month in an interview with his hometown newspaper, the Lubbock (Texas) Avalanche-Journal. "I think I've got what it takes, and you know, I don't buy into that argument at all."

Trump nominated Jackson last month after he fired his first VA secretary, David Shulkin, amid allegations Shulkin misused taxpayer funds and faced growing tension with other senior Trump staff.

Veterans groups last month were cautious in their judgment after Jackson was nominated by Trump. The Veterans of Foreign Wars were just one group which was critical of the nomination and said it was unsure of Jackson's qualifications.

"The VFW will be closely monitoring the Senate confirmation process, because what Dr. Jackson’s bio does not reflect is any experience working with the VA or with veterans, or managing any organization of size, much less one as multifaceted as the Department of Veterans Affairs," VFW Director of Communications Joe Davis said in a statement.

The conservative group Concerned Veterans for America expressed more optimism, saying in a statement, "We are hopeful that this change will end the recent distractions at the VA and put the focus back on advancing policy."

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(WASHINGTON) -- A last-minute switch to "yes" by Kentucky Republican Rand Paul gave CIA Director Mike Pompeo enough votes to get a favorable recommendation from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Monday, letting him avoid becoming the first secretary of state nominee in the nation's history to be rejected in committee.

The committee split along party lines 11-9 -- with Democrat Chris Coons switching his "no" vote to "present."

That resolved a last-minute snag that developed when Republican Johnny Isakson was delayed giving the eulogy at his best friend's funeral. But in a rare show of bipartisanship, Coons switched his vote to "present" allowing the vote to proceed.

Earlier, Paul explained his vote switch in a statement just before the vote took place.

“I just finished speaking to President Trump, after speaking to him several times today. I also met with and spoke to Director Pompeo," Paul said.

 “After calling continuously for weeks for Director Pompeo to support President Trump’s belief that the Iraq war was a mistake, and that it is time to leave Afghanistan, today I received confirmation that Director Pompeo agrees with President Trump. “President Trump believes that Iraq was a mistake, that regime change has destabilized the region, and that we must end our involvement with Afghanistan," Paul's statement continued.

“Having received assurances from President Trump and Director Pompeo that he agrees with the President on these important issues, I have decided to support his nomination to be our next Secretary of State,” he said.

Until Monday afternoon Paul said he would vote "no" over objections to Pompeo’s foreign policy stances.

At just about the same time as Paul announced he'd vote "yes," Trump, taking part in a tree planting ceremony with French President Emmanuel Macron told reporters, "I heard Rand Paul went yes.. he’s a good man. I said he’d never let us down. He’s a good man."

Never before has a secretary of state nominee received an unfavorable recommendation from the Foreign Relations Committee, according to information provided by the Senate Historical Office.

“We have found no case of a Secretary of State nominee receiving other than a favorable report by the Committee on Foreign Relations,” the Historical Office confirmed in an e-mail.

Pompeo, who is still facing unprecedented opposition to his becoming the nation's top diplomat, will get a vote before the full Senate as soon as this week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced Monday.

But with many Democrats who just last year voted to confirm him as CIA director now publicly opposing him as the next secretary of state, Pompeo’s confirmation, while now likely, is much closer than his predecessors.

 Even with Paul changing his vote, with GOP Sen. John McCain battling brain cancer at home in Arizona, Republicans need help from Democrats to push Pompeo’s confirmation through the full Senate.

Three Democrats up for re-election this year from states Trump handily won in the 2016 presidential election -- Sens. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Joe Donnelly of Indiana -- have announced they will support Pompeo.

As long as more Republicans don't defect, and with at least three Democrats now on board, Pompeo could become the next head of the State Department.

It is very unusual for a secretary of state nominee to face such opposition.

Past secretaries of state, including Condoleezza Rice, John Kerry, and Hillary Clinton have breezed through their respective confirmations.

“I realize we’re in an atmosphere now where that is just not going to be the case,” Sen. Bob Corker, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee said last week on the Senate floor. “I realize my Democratic friends in many cases feel like that in supporting Pompeo, it's a proxy for support of the Trump administration policies, which many of them abhor. I understand that.”

“I hope that the members on the other side of the aisle that have not yet said how they are going to vote will think about the circumstances that we’re in today and feel like that they can support a highly qualified Secretary of State,” Corker went on.

The White House applauded the committee approval late Monday and said they "look forward to the full Senate confirming him in the coming days."

"With Secretary of State-designate Mike Pompeo's favorable report from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the American people are one step closer to having their top diplomat in place at a critical time in our history," the White House said in its statement. "Under President Donald J. Trump's leadership, the United States is on a path toward a safer, more prosperous future."

Last year, Pompeo had little trouble clinching the confirmation to be the director of the CIA. He received a favorable recommendation from the Senate’s Select Committee on Intelligence, and he was confirmed by the full Senate in a 66-32 vote.

The votes against Rex Tillerson, 56-43, made Senate history when he was confirmed as secretary of state last year.

It’s possible Pompeo will beat that record.

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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Mitt Romney's loss at the Utah state party convention on Saturday is the latest example of an even bigger problem for Republicans – the conservative influence in key Senate primaries and the nasty fights that could hamper GOP attempts to have a strong majority in the upper chamber next year.

The enthusiasm on the right has, in some past contests, led to a more conservative general election candidate who failed to win in November.

Republicans cite those examples off the top of their heads: Christine O’Donnell in Delaware who will forever be identified with a 2010 ad in which she declared “I’m not a witch”; Todd Atkin in Missouri who in 2012 said victims of "legitimate rape" very rarely become pregnant; and Roy Moore in Alabama’s December special election, who vehemently denied multiple allegations of sexual misconduct.

“Getting the right candidate out of the primary often makes the difference between winning and losing the general election. It’s absolutely critical,” said GOP strategist Whit Ayres.

The most dedicated voters on both sides – the more conservative and the more liberal – tend to vote in primary elections, especially in the midterms, which can skew the results in competitive contests.

“The machine is empowered” in midterms, said associate professor Thomas Whalen, an expert on political parties at Boston University.

“Republican voters now are older and whiter – that’s what they’re skewing. Increasingly kind of more rural and country – non-urban,” he added. “They are reliable. They will go to the polls.”

And those voters, who helped put Donald Trump into office, tend to veer right when it comes to picking their nominee.

It’s a problem on the mind of Republicans as they look to bolster their razor-thin majority in the Senate amid growing concerns Democrats could retake the House.

With a two-seat majority and Sen. John McCain battling cancer in Arizona, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell needs all the votes he can get.

And, if the Senate is expected to serve as a counterbalance to a potential Democratically-controlled House next year, the pressure is on the party to perform in November.

The GOP leader has overseen some close Senate votes in the past few weeks: Jim Bridenstine was narrowly confirmed to be the next National Aeronautics and Space Administration administrator after Republican Sen. Jeff Flake held back his consent before finally voting yes.

And when Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky declared he was a “no” on secretary of state nominee Mike Pompeo, McConnell needed a Democrat to help him get Pompeo over the line. He lucked out and got two and then Paul decided to support Pompeo, but the next vote may not turn out as well for the GOP.

Fortunately for McConnell and the party, the math for 2018 favors the GOP. Republicans are only defending eight seats this cycle to the Democrats’ 24 and 10 of those Democratic contests are in states Donald Trump won in 2016.

But the key for the GOP will be getting the right candidate, especially in red states like West Virginia and Arizona, which have competitive GOP primaries in the coming months.

“The map has broken out for them but they just have to make sure the primaries break out for them as well,” said GOP strategist Ford O’Connell.

Romney, who has criticized Trump in the past, was forced into a June 26 primary with state Rep. Mike Kennedy, who was the preferred candidate of the conservative delegates who made up the convention.

While Romney is expected to prevail in November, there are some other contests where the winner of the primary may not be the party’s strongest option in the general election.

Republicans are closely watching West Virginia’s May 8 Republican race, where outside spending groups have already spent $1.4 million in the GOP primary contest, according to Federal Election Commission reports.

Former coal mine executive Don Blankenship was the CEO of Massey Energy Company when 29 miners were killed in the Upper Big Branch Mine disaster in 2010. He was convicted of a felony in the aftermath and was released from last year. He’s battling against Rep. Evan Jenkins and state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey.

“One of the strongest Republican candidates spent time in jail,” Ayres noted.

If Blankenship wins the nomination, Republicans fear Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, who is seen as vulnerable this year, could have an easier chance at re-election than a different nominee, several GOP strategists said.

In Arizona, Joe Arpaio, who calls himself "America's Toughest Sheriff,” is competing against fellow conservative Kelli Ward and Rep. Martha McSally. The loud and boisterous Arpaio was convicted of contempt of court in July 2017 and pardoned by Trump a month later.

And Ward had a controversial moment of her own when, after McCain announced he was battling brain cancer, she suggested he resign as quickly as possible and the governor appoint her to his seat.

“The good thing in Arizona is that it appears the two favorites of the base seem to be canceling each other out but that does not mean Martha McSally is going to have an easy time winning the nomination,” O’Connell said.

McSally is seen as the best chance to defeat Rep. Kyrsten Sinema in November and hold onto to retiring GOP Sen. Jeff Flake’s seat.

Then there’s Indiana, which is having one of the nastiest GOP primary contests in recent history where all three candidates are slinging mud at one another.

Rep. Todd Rokita and Rep. Luke Messer have particularly hit each other hard with unfavorable stories coming out about each of them: Rokita’s use of a personal driver and Messer’s past DUIs.

Meanwhile, businessman Mike Braun is outspending them both to raise his name ID. There are some fears the battle between Messer and Rokita could result in Braun receiving the nomination to battle Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly in November.

“That’s the kind of the primary that no matter who comes out of it, they may carry a good deal of damage because of the primary,” Ayres said.

The other primaries that could see bitter battles brew include the one for the Mississippi special Senate election where conservative Chris McDaniel is challenging appointed Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, who used to be a Democrat before she switched parties in 2010.

And then there’s the battle to take on Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin in November. State Sen. Leah Vukmir is backed by more establishment types like former White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus while conservatives like Kevin Nicholson, who got $1 million in support from John Bolton’s super PAC.

“You have a chance of not only keeping the Senate but making major gains depending on who the party nominates in a lot of these contests. So in a lot of ways the Republicans chances of holding the United States’ Senate depends solely on who those folks nominate,” O’Connell noted.

“The map has broken out for them but they just have to make sure the primaries break out for them as well.”

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Kean Collection/Archive Photos/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- More than two centuries after his death, Alexander Hamilton is finally getting a law degree.

Douglas Hamilton, the fifth-great-grandson of the nation's first treasury secretary, will be accepting the honorary degree from Albany Law School at the school's May 18 graduation ceremony.

"We use degrees to recognize achievements, and he was an outstanding lawyer," Douglas Hamilton, 67, told ABC News. "He never graduated from college, and he taught himself the law."

Hamilton practiced and studied law in the Albany area, said Douglas Hamilton, who lives outside of Columbus, Ohio.

"Alexander Hamilton's ties to the Albany area are significant," Alicia Ouellette, president and dean of Albany Law School, said in a statement. "He wrote Federalist #1 while traveling between Albany and New York City."

"By conferring this degree," she added, "we are acknowledging his impact on the Capital Region and New York's legal community."

Hamilton wrote the majority of the Federalist Papers and served as colonel to George Washington during the Revolutionary War.

"You can understand how proud we are that we have an ancestor that played such a significant role in a lot of things," Douglas Hamilton said.

Hamilton also married Elizabeth Schuyler in Albany, where his in-laws lived. Hamilton would stay with the Schuyler family when his legal work brought him to New York's high courts in the state capital. He was admitted to the bar by 1783.

"Laws have changed so much since Hamilton was around," added Douglas Hamilton, who said he's excited to talk with members of Albany Law School's graduating class about their legal pursuits. "Having an ancestor that was instrumental in creating the law, making sure that it survives is the most important thing. The young people are the future and they are going to set the direction for our country."

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Brett Coomer - Pool/Getty Images(HOUSTON) -- Former President George H.W. Bush has been hospitalized just a week after his wife, Barbara Bush, died.

"President Bush was admitted to the Houston Methodist Hospital [Sunday] morning after contracting an infection that spread to his blood," the former president's office said in a statement Monday night. "He is responding to treatment and appears to be recovering."

Barbara Bush died last Tuesday at the age of 92, passing away shortly after deciding to forgo further medical treatments for her failing health.

George H.W. Bush was by her side as she died. He was "broken-hearted to lose his beloved Barbara, his wife of 73 years," according to a statement from Jean Becker, chief of staff at the former president's office. "He held her hand all day today and was at her side when she left this good earth."

In January 2017, George H.W. Bush and his wife were hospitalized at the same time. She was being treated for bronchitis and the nation's 41st president was being treated for pneumonia.

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Thomas Lohnes/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- French president Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte arrived at the White House Monday evening to the pomp and circumstance typical of a state visit, the choreography of which he is expected to balance against a delicate diplomatic effort to persuade President Donald Trump to remain in the Iran nuclear deal.

Macron, along with German Chancellor Angela Merkel are making back-to-back visits with the president this week in a last-minute lobbying push to prevent the president from potentially sabotaging the agreement.

While Trump turned on a major charm offensive with lavish pageantry as soon as the Macrons touched down in Washington for Trump's first state visit, it's unclear if that will result in any movement in his commitment not to sign an upcoming May 12 waiver of sanctions against Iran without significant changes implemented by Congress.

In an interview over the weekend on CBS' "Face the Nation," Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif warned that if the sanctions are implemented against Iran's economy, then the country would be forced to consider a number of "not pleasant" options.

"We have put a number of options for ourselves," Zarif said. "And those options are ready, including options that would involve resuming at much greater speed our nuclear activities."

Macron separately appeared on Fox News over the weekend where he said the president runs the risk of Iran rebooting its nuclear program in a manner comparable to North Korea's own activity which over the past year has thrown the region to the brink of crisis.

"I don't have any plan B for nuclear against Iran," Macron said. "That's why I just want to say, on nuclear, let's preserve a framework because it's better than a North Korean type of situation."

The intricacies of the Iran deal seemed far from the agenda Monday evening, with the Macrons pulling up a White House north driveway lined with military members and flags of every state. The Trumps greeted them at the entrance to the West Wing, Macron trying to give the president the standard French double air-kiss while Trump appeared to try to make conversation.

The foursome then made their way to the South Lawn, where the two leaders ceremoniously planted a sapling, a gift from the Macrons, that according to the first lady's office was grown in Belleau Wood, the site of a landmark battle during World War I in which more than 9,000 American Marines perished.

As they posed with the tree, shovels in hand, President Trump could be heard responding to a pool reporter's repeated shouts of "Pompeo?" by thanking Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who hours earlier had announced that he would drop his opposition and vote in favor of CIA director Mike Pompeo to become secretary of state, despite his concerns about Pompeo's positions on U.S. involvement in foreign wars.

"He never let me down," Trump said of Paul over the drone of the Marine One presidential helicopter, which then whisked the leaders and their spouses to George Washington's Mount Vernon plantation in nearby Virginia for a private dinner.

Before they departed the White House, the president gave the Macrons a tour of the Oval Office, which Macron then posted on his Facebook page. Trump can be heard on the video expressing disbelief that the French president had not previously visited the Oval Office. He also showed off the office's Resolute Desk, noting that it was the same desk John F. Kennedy, Jr., peered out of in an iconic photo with his father, President John F. Kennedy.

The president also noted the secure phone which he pointed out he uses to call Macron.

"It’s supposed to be the latest and greatest but who knows nowadays?" Trump said.

After his two days of meetings with President Trump, Macron will have the opportunity to make a similar pitch on the Iran deal to lawmakers as he makes an address to a joint meeting of Congress on Wednesday.

Even as both U.S. and French officials say there's no expectation that a final decision will be reached on the Iran deal during the visit, Macron's own lobbying effort will soon be followed up on with a one-day visit by Merkel on Friday.

Merkel and Trump have clashed on issues such as trade and the United States' plans to move its Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, so it's unclear what additional pressure she might be able to put on President Trump to back away from his commitment the last time he signed off on the Iran sanctions waiver.

Merkel said in a recent interview with an Israeli TV channel that she understood the concerns from the U.S. and Israel regarding the agreement but that she would push vigorously for the continuation of the accord.

"We believe it's better to have this agreement, even if it is not perfect, than to have no agreement," Merkel said. "We will continue to discuss this, but Germany will watch very closely to ensure that this agreement will be fulfilled."

In January, President Trump delivered remarks announcing he would not sign a waiver of sanctions for Iran if Congress did not pass new legislation including series of "fixes" to the nuclear deal, but ahead of the May 12 deadline there's no real indication that any such legislation could pass in time.

"This is a last chance," Trump said. "In the absence of such an agreement, the United States will not again waive sanctions in order to stay in the Iran nuclear deal. And if at any time I judge that such an agreement is not within reach, I will withdraw from the deal immediately."

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Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- In her first press briefing since President Donald Trump returned from a week in Palm Beach, Fla., press secretary Sarah Sanders Monday addressed a head-scratching tweet about immigration policy from the president last week, as several reporters tried to figure out what he meant.

Several reporters asked what Trump meant by “breeding concept” in relation to sanctuary cities, which limit their cooperation with federal immigration enforcement efforts.

“The president has recognized that this is a major problem, and a lot of people, even in California, want to see the issue of sanctuary cities addressed and the president is doing what he can to do that,” Sanders explained.

But a reporter noted that the term “breeding” evokes animals procreating – a notion that Sanders appeared to reject.

“I'm not going to begin to think what you think,” she said, adding that while the word “breeding” can mean “a lot of things,” the president was talking about what she called a growing problem in California and other states with so-called sanctuary cities.

“I don't have anything else to add,” Sanders said.

“HARD TO CLOSE THE DOOR” ON POTENTIAL PARDON FOR MICHAEL COHEN

Sanders gave a less-than-categorical response when asked whether or not President Trump would pardon his longtime adviser Michael Cohen as a way potentially to block him from cooperating with federal officials investigating him.

“It’s hard to close a door on something that hasn't taken place,” she said during the briefing.

Earlier Monday, Sanders was asked about the president’s weekend tweet dismissing the notion that Cohen might “flip” on him.

Sanders denied the president was suggesting that there might be wrongdoing on the president’s part that Cohen could actually reveal if he were to cooperate with federal investigators.

“No, I don't think the president has anything to hide,” Sanders said. “I think he’s been quite clear on that.”

NO SANCTIONS RELIEF FOR NORTH KOREA WITHOUT 'ACTIONS' TO DENUCLEARIZE

ABC’s Jonathan Karl pressed Sanders over whether the president, ahead of his potential sit-down with Kim Jong Un, would accept anything short of “complete denuclearization” before the lifting of any sanctions against North Korea.

“Certainly no sanctions lifted until we see concrete actions taken by North Korea to denuclearize,” Sanders said.

Sanders also sought to explain the president’s tweet over the weekend claiming North Korea “agreed to denuclearization” while the U.S. has given up nothing. She referred to a recent statement from South Korean President Moon who spoke of North Korea recently expressing “a will for complete denuclearization.”

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Carsten Koall/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel will make back-to-back visits with President Donald Trump this week in a last-minute lobbying push to prevent the president from potentially sabotaging the Iran nuclear deal.

Even while President Trump is set to turn on a major charm offensive with lavish pageantry as he hosts his first state visit, it's unclear if that will result in any movement in his commitment not to sign an upcoming May 12 waiver of sanctions against Iran without significant changes implemented by Congress.

In an interview over the weekend on CBS' Face the Nation, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif warned that if the sanctions are implemented against Iran's economy, then the country would be forced to consider a number of "not pleasant" options.

"We have put a number of options for ourselves," Zarif said. "And those options are ready, including options that would involve resuming at much greater speed our nuclear activities."

Macron separately appeared on Fox News over the weekend where he said the president runs the risk of Iran rebooting its nuclear program in a manner comparable to North Korea's own activity which over the past year has thrown the region to the brink of crisis.

"I don't have any plan B for nuclear against Iran," Macron said. "That's why I just want to say, on nuclear, let's preserve a framework because it's better than a North Korean type of situation."

After his two days of meetings with President Trump, Macron will have the opportunity to make a similar pitch to lawmakers as he makes an address to a joint meeting of Congress on Wednesday.

Even as both U.S. and French officials say there's no expectation that a final decision will be reached on the Iran deal during the visit, Macron's own lobbying effort will soon be followed up on with a one-day visit by Merkel on Friday.

Merkel and Trump have clashed on issues such as trade and the United States' plans to move its Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, so it's unclear what additional pressure she might be able to put on President Trump to back away from his commitment the last time he signed off on the Iran sanctions waiver.

Merkel said in a recent interview with an Israeli TV channel that she understood the concerns from the U.S. and Israel regarding the agreement but that she would push vigorously for the continuation of the accord.

"We believe it's better to have this agreement, even if it is not perfect, than to have no agreement," Merkel said. "We will continue to discuss this, but Germany will watch very closely to ensure that this agreement will be fulfilled."

In January, President Trump delivered remarks announcing he would not sign a waiver of sanctions for Iran if Congress did not pass new legislation including series of "fixes" to the nuclear deal, but ahead of the May 12 deadline there's no real indication that any such legislation could pass in time.

"This is a last chance," Trump said. "In the absence of such an agreement, the United States will not again waive sanctions in order to stay in the Iran nuclear deal. And if at any time I judge that such an agreement is not within reach, I will withdraw from the deal immediately."

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ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- French President Emmanuel Macron is arriving Monday in Washington for the first state visit of a foreign leader since President Donald Trump took office.

For the 40-year-old Frenchman, the three-day trip is an opportunity to demonstrate the strong relationship between France and the United States, but also to discuss the topics on which the two allies diverge.

“Strong, deep, old and solid,” Nicholas Dungan, senior fellow at the Atlantic Council and a professor at Paris-based institute Sciences Po, said, describing the relationship between the United States and its oldest ally.

This U.S. invitation is perceived by the Elysée Palace – the French White House -- as an opportunity to “celebrate 250 years of friendship between our two countries.”

Macron and Trump displayed their warm ties during last year’s Bastille Day celebrations in Paris.

“They are getting along,” senior research fellow Marie-Cécile Naves of the French institute of International and Strategic Relations said, “especially if you compare to Trump’s relationship with other foreign leaders.”

The French and U.S. presidents recently proved their capacity to act together by striking the chemical facilities of the Assad regime in Syria during a military operation alongside the United Kingdom.

There are also topics of disagreement, most notably the Iran nuclear deal, the Paris Climate Accord and trade. Such issues will be discussed during the visit, according to the Elysée Palace.

Trump is due to decide in the coming weeks whether to pull out of the Iran nuclear agreement.

What kind of progress France makes on this issue during the state visit remains to be seen. “We will develop our arguments and try to convince, but we do not expect to make diplomatic breakthroughs,” the Elysée Palace said.

The French delegation is being cautious on the Iran agreement, senior research fellow Naves said, but “Emmanuel Macron still hopes to persuade Trump to remain in the deal; it would be a big diplomatic victory for the French president.”

The state visit will also be an opportunity for Macron to introduce himself to the U.S. people. He will address -- in English -- a joint session of Congress Wednesday.

“He will send a message of friendship, respect and affection toward the American nation,” the Elysee Palace said.

Macron will host a town hall with George Washington University students the same day, allowing him to reach a younger U.S. audience.

“Emmanuel Macron has characteristics that are more classically American than French,” the Atlantic Council’s Dungan said.

“He is professional, rigorous and understands the value of work.”

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Win McNamee/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump’s trade representative racked up a hefty bill on the purchase and subsequent return of a new desk for his office, emails reviewed by ABC News show.


According to emails and receipts obtained by a government watchdog group, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer’s office replaced his original desk, returned the replacement and then bought a new one -- racking up nearly $4,000 on the purchases and associated shipping costs.

American Oversight, a watchdog group largely staffed by former Barack Obama administration officials that has been pushing for records on multiple appointed official across several government agencies, obtained dozens of emails over a five-week period between between June 2017 and July 2017 showing Lighthizer and his staffers discussing furniture options. Much of the correspondence was conducted on Lighthizer’s personal email account.

"There's a troubling pattern of Trump appointees spending lavishly on themselves and wasting time and taxpayer money on things like luxury furniture,” American Oversight’s executive director, Austin Evers, told ABC News.

Earlier this week, the New York Post and CNBC reported that Lightizer’s office spent nearly $1 million to furnish two offices near the White House. Lighthizer’s office blamed the expenses on the previous administration.

“The furniture purchases are the culmination of a longtime, planned project that began under the Obama Administration to replace two-decade-old furniture,” Lighthizer’s office said in a statement to the New York Post.

After months of delays, Lighthizer was confirmed by the Senate in May 2017, and it wasn’t long before he apparently decided that he didn’t like the desk that came with his office.

Emails show that after weeks of debate, Lighthizer purchased an executive flame mahogany desk with a leather top on July 11 for $2,700 plus $575 in shipping fees after directing his staff to expedite shipping of the desk for an additional cost.

Upon arrival, Lighthizer was “thrilled” with his new desk, an aide wrote in an email. That thrill, however, appeared to be short lived.

“The part where ones [sic] legs go under the center drawer is not finished and would ruin suit pants. Horrible,” Lighthizer wrote from his personal email account the next day. The desk “is not functional. Drawers are too hard to open close [sic].”

Lighthizer appeared eager to replace the replacement.

“He called me this morning,” an aide wrote shortly thereafter. “He wants to return the desk.”

The search began anew. Aides quickly identified a new desk – a $2,900 Chippendale mahogany desk with a modesty panel -- from the same New Jersey vendor. Lighthizer reviewed and approved the purchase, again from his personal account, this time with a caveat: “If it is a real desk made in England with drawers that work and underside that is finished.”

Aides embarked on negotiating new shipping fees, and the new desk arrived on July 27.

All told, after purchasing and expediting the shipping of the first desk, returning it, and then purchasing and shipping the second desk, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative had spent nearly $4,000 on the desk alone, even though the Government Accountability Office prohibits cabinet secretaries from spending more than $5,000 on all office redecorations without requesting permission from Congress.

In a statement to ABC News, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative said "the cost of the returned desk was fully refunded and the [$300] cost for shipping the first desk back to the seller was completely covered by Ambassador Lighthizer using personal funds." Emails between aides indicate the expedited shipping cost for the first desk was not refunded.

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative did not respond to other questions regarding its decision to replace the desks or whether they exceeded the $5,000 spending limit.

An additional $858 spent to appoint the desk with the U.S. Office of the Trade Representative seal and another $830 for the unrelated installation of two paintings in his office would appear to put Lighthizer over the limit, but it is not clear if Congress was notified.

“In the Trump administration, the tone is set at the top," a spokesperson for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), a government accountability and ethics watchdog, told ABC News. "From Scott Pruitt to Ben Carson, department heads in this administration have shown their affinity for spending lavishly on their work spaces. Cabinet secretaries with these excessive tastes have not been held to account.”

American Oversight's executive director Evers added that Lighthizer’s use of personal email for official government correspondence “raises real questions” about his conduct.

"While an antique desk order might not seem like a big deal, if Robert Lighthizer is using personal email for work matters, it raises real questions about whether he is conducting other government business on his private email accounts."

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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- In a nod to history and the special relationship between the United States and one of the nation's oldest allies, President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump will host French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife for a rare private dinner at George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate.

“The setting will serve as a beautiful reminder of France’s unique status as America’s very first ally going all the way back to the American Revolution,” said White House press secretary Sarah Sanders.

The 18th-century home of America’s first president and founding father was specifically chosen as a backdrop for the first dinner of the first state visit of Trump’s administration. Last July, the Macrons hosted the Trumps for a dinner above Paris inside its most famous landmark, the Eiffel Tower.

“President Trump is eager to host the Macrons for this special event, as he remembers fondly the dinner the couples shared together in the Eiffel Tower on the eve of Bastille Day last July,” said a senior administration official.

In addition to dinner, the Macrons and Trumps will receive a tour of the grounds from Mount Vernon Regent Sarah Coulson and Mount Vernon President Doug Bradburn, and visit the gravesite of George Washington.

“Our crews have been working around the clock to freshen up the estate in preparation for the visit,” said Melissa Wood, spokeswoman for the Mount Vernon estate.

The grounds will close at 1 p.m. on Monday afternoon in anticipation of the event.

Over the years, Mount Vernon has been the host site for visits from foreign dignitaries such as Winston Churchill, Charles de Gaulle and former French President Nicholas Sarkozy.

In 1961, first lady Jacqueline Kennedy planned the first White House state dinner outside of Washington, D.C., in honor of President Mohammad Ayub Khan of Pakistan and his daughter, Naseem Akhtar Aurangzeb. Four boats transported guests up the Potomac River to a tent, decorated by Tiffany’s, on the sprawling grounds of Mount Vernon.

The White House has remained tight-lipped about specific details of the visit, but like Kennedy, Melania Trump “was involved in every aspect of the planning of the state visit,” her press secretary, Stephanie Grisham, told ABC News.

The estate holds particular symbolism for the United States and France, as Washington welcomed his close friend and Frenchman Marquis de Lafayette to his estate three years after fighting alongside each other in the Revolutionary War.

After fighting for the United States, Lafayette went on to serve an important role in the French Revolution. In 1790, as a symbol of his appreciation for the United States and shared democratic ideals, Lafayette sent Washington the key to Bastille prison, which remains on display at Mount Vernon more than 200 years later.

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WJTN News Headlines for Apr. 24, 2018

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