Nunes's 2018 Dem challenger launches voting rights group

Andrew Janz, the Democrat who unsuccessfully ran against Rep. Devin NunesDevin Gerald NunesWe've lost sight of the real scandal Twitter won't disclose who's running parody accounts being sued by Devin Nunes Nunes campaign drops lawsuit against constituents who accused him of being a 'fake farmer' MORE (R-Calif.) in 2018, is launching a new voting rights group to combat voter suppression and expand access to voting.

Janz, a county prosecutor, founded the Voter Protection Project, which will focus on passing voting rights laws through state ballot initiatives ahead of the 2020 elections, particularly in possible presidential swing states like Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Missouri, Nevada and Ohio.

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The Voter Protection Project will also work to defeat lawmakers “who have championed voter suppression." The group is a hybrid political action committee, which allows it to raise unlimited money to independently back candidates as well as directly raise a limited amount for candidates — by operating separate accounts.

Janz said in an interview that his group will focus on a number of voting related issues like expanding same-day voter registration and early voting as well as taking on voter ID laws. He said that his group is different from other voting rights groups because they tend to be more focused on legal battles.

He instead wants to be more directly engaged in elections and ramp up involvement in federal races in the 2020 cycle.

“What I learned in my race is that you can’t begin to address the structural problems with our elections during the middle of a campaign. You need to take care of those things before the campaign starts,” Janz told The Hill.

“Even though this goal is ambitious, I think we can do it given what I had done in my congressional race,” he continued, adding that he wants to also “play independently” in campaigns through TV and radio advertising specifically targeting “area that are disenfranchised.”

Janz garnered national attention in his congressional run against Nunes, raising nearly $10 million in his underdog bid. California’s 22nd District is a GOP stronghold that Trump carried by nearly 10 points in 2016. Nunes ultimately won reelection last November by less than 6 points.

Nunes, a loyal Trump ally and former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, made waves in 2017 over his handling of the committee’s investigation into Russia’s election interference, which has now concluded.

Janz plans to rely on his small-dollar donor network that powered his congressional bid as he seeks to build out the Voter Protection Project. He said he hopes to be fully staffed and operational by early spring.

The California Democrat identified the disputed House race in North Carolina’s 9th District as his first priority — if a new election is called.

Republican Mark HarrisMark HarrisThe Hill's Campaign Report: Democrats clash over future of party in heated debate Why my American Indian tribe voted Republican in NC's special election North Carolina race raises 2020 red flags for Republicans, Democrats MORE leads Democrat Dan McCready by 905 votes in the race, but the state elections board refused to certify the results as it investigates an alleged absentee ballot fraud scheme.

When it comes to his political future, Janz said he’s considering another run against Nunes, though he expects to make a decision closer to 2020.

“I’m absolutely considering that,” Janz said. “I’m not taking that off the table.”