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Chamber-backed Democrats embrace endorsements in final stretch

Chamber-backed Democrats embrace endorsements in final stretch
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Almost two dozen House Democrats are embracing their recent endorsements by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, as their GOP challengers ramp up criticisms of the pro-business lobbying group that has also drawn the ire of the Trump administration.

Many of the first-year Democratic lawmakers, who flipped Republican seats in 2018, have welcomed the group’s endorsement by putting out press releases and tweeting about the support.

Rep. Joe CunninghamJoseph CunninghamMichigan Republican isolating after positive coronavirus test Chamber-backed Democrats embrace endorsements in final stretch GOP Rep. Mike Bost tests positive for COVID-19 MORE (D-S.C.) said he was honored and “will continue to support policies that create jobs, promote growth, and reignite our economy.”

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Two years ago, the Chamber endorsed Cunningham’s opponent, Republican Katie Arrington, in a district President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump admin to announce coronavirus vaccine will be covered under Medicare, Medicaid: report Election officials say they're getting suspicious emails that may be part of malicious attack on voting: report McConnell tees up Trump judicial pick following Supreme Court vote MORE won by more than 13 percentage points in 2016.

Rep. Abigail SpanbergerAbigail Davis SpanbergerDuring pandemic, 'telehealth' emerging as important lifeline to connect patients with caregivers Chamber-backed Democrats embrace endorsements in final stretch Spanberger's GOP challenger raises over .8 million in third quarter MORE (D-Va.) said she is “proud to be on the side of our region’s small and medium-sized businesses” and citied her support for the United States-Mexico-Canada (USMCA) trade agreement and for the Paycheck Protection Program.

The Chamber’s endorsements are determined by a lawmaker’s scorecard, which measures how often their congressional votes align with the Chamber’s priorities. Many of the endorsements stemmed from support for the USMCA, a measure the Chamber spent heavily on during the 116th Congress.

But the group’s decision last month to reward 23 first-term Democrats with endorsements was quickly bashed by Republicans, with President Trump reportedly asking CEO Tom Donohue if they were a “done deal.” First-term House Republicans earned just a few more endorsements, at 29.

Some observers have argued that the Democratic endorsements are a sign that the Chamber doesn’t see Republicans winning back the House in November, a view shared by political handicappers.

Still, GOP challengers looking to unseat the two dozen Democratic incumbents have blasted the Chamber, which traditionally supports Republican candidates, for backing their opponents.

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 “Either the U.S. Chamber isn’t doing its homework, or it has some explaining to do to its Kansas City members,” a spokesman for businesswoman Amanda Adkins, who is running against Rep. Sharice DavidsSharice DavidsChamber-backed Democrats embrace endorsements in final stretch Female lawmakers, officials call for more women at all levels of government to improve equity Trump asked Chamber of Commerce to reconsider Democratic endorsements: report MORE (D-Kan.), said in a statement, according to the Kansas City Star. “Kansas City families can’t afford Sharice Davids’ radical, tax-and-spend agenda.”

Davids's race with Adkins is listed as a “likely Democrat” by the Cook Political Report.

Genevieve Collins, a businesswoman challenging Rep. Colin Allred (D-Texas), said the Chamber has “completely lost its way.”

“When I speak to business owners large and small here in the 32nd district, they don’t care about an endorsement from the disconnected and bloated D.C. special interest U.S. Chamber,” Collins said, the Dallas Morning News reported.

Allred's race with Collins is also listed as “likely Democrat” by Cook.

Former Rep. Scott TaylorScott William TaylorChamber-backed Democrats embrace endorsements in final stretch Bottom line Bottom line MORE (R-Va.), who is looking to unseat Rep. Elaine LuriaElaine Goodman LuriaHouse lawmakers call for continued assistance to Lebanon On The Money: Sides tiptoe towards a COVID deal, but breakthrough appears distant | Expiring benefits raise stakes of stimulus talks | Stocks fade with eyes on Capitol Democrat urges IRS to quickly process Gold Star families' refund requests MORE (D-Va.), condemned the endorsement.

“The U.S. Chamber, without asking for input from the Hampton Roads or Virginia Chambers, graded Elaine and other liberal Democrats on a curve and gave them participation trophies. The reality of Luria’s actual voting record is anti-business and would harm our economy and reduce our jobs,” he said in a statement.

Luria represents a district Trump won by 3 points. Her race with Taylor is listed as a toss-up by the Cook Political Report.

Seven of the 23 Democrats who received endorsements are competing in races deemed a "Toss Up" by the nonpartisan Cook Political Report.

Twenty of the 23 flipped GOP seats in 2018, and 13 represent districts that Trump won in 2016.

Neil Bradley, Chamber executive vice president and chief policy officer, defended the endorsements.

“For the last 108 years, the role of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has been to advance the priorities of the business community and our members,” he told The Hill on Friday. “In the political arena, the Chamber will continue to endorse candidates from both sides of the aisle with a proven track record and vision to support public policy that will bolster economic growth.”

In the same month that the Chamber unveiled its endorsements, it also forced out its top political adviser, Scott Reed, saying that an internal review found that he breached confidentiality, distorted, withheld information from leadership and leaked internal information to the press.

“Our decision is not based on a disagreement over political strategy but rather it is the result of Reed's actions,” a spokesman said at the time.

The controversy surrounding the endorsements also puts local chambers in a tough spot.

Oklahoma Chamber CEO Chad Warmington questioned the endorsement of Rep. Kendra HornKendra Suzanne HornBiden's oil stance jars Democrats in tough races Biden: 'I would transition from the oil industry' Energized by polls, House Democrats push deeper into GOP territory MORE (D-Okla.), saying her record is not pro-business.

“I question how the U.S. Chamber could endorse a candidate who consistently voted against the largest industry in Oklahoma, employing over 90,000 workers throughout the state. That is hardly a pro-business record,” Warmington said, the Oklahoman reported.

More recently, the U.S. Chamber has not only endorsed more Republicans, it’s also started running ads in their support.

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Just this week, the Chamber endorsed Republican House challengers Chele Farley, who is running to unseat Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), and Jeanne Ives, challenger to Rep. Sean CastenSean CastenChamber-backed Democrats embrace endorsements in final stretch The Hill's Campaign Report: Buzz builds around Warren for VP Gun control group rolls out House endorsements MORE (D-Ill.). It also endorsed former White House physician Ronny Jackson in Texas, and endorsed ex-Rep. Darrell IssaDarrell Edward IssaChamber-backed Democrats embrace endorsements in final stretch Ex-RNC, Trump fundraiser Elliott Broidy charged in covert lobbying scheme DCCC reserves new ad buys in competitive districts, adds new members to 'Red to Blue' program MORE in California this week.

The group launched ads this week for Republican Sens. Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstBiden to campaign in Iowa for first time since winning nomination The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Trump, Biden search for undecided voters in final stretch Biden seeks to close any path for Trump win in race's final days MORE (Iowa) and Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsHouse Judiciary Republicans mockingly tweet 'Happy Birthday' to Hillary Clinton after Barrett confirmation Barrett sworn in as Supreme Court justice by Thomas Roberts to administer judicial oath to Barrett Tuesday MORE (Maine), who are both considered vulnerable Republicans.

But, the Chamber has still taken fire from traditional GOP allies, notably House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyRocky Mountain National Park closed due to expanding Colorado wildfire Trump is out of touch with Republican voters on climate change The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Goldman Sachs - Iran, Russia election bombshell; final Prez debate tonight MORE (R-Calif.). McCarthy said he didn't want the Chamber’s endorsement “because they have sold out.”

McCarthy is seeking reelection in a reliably red district.

As the 2020 campaign enters the final stretch, House Democrats seeking a second term are more than happy to tout the Chamber’s support.

Rep. Andy Kim (D-N.J.) said he is “grateful” for the endorsement, which came two years after the group backed his predecessor, ex-Rep. Tom MacArthurThomas (Tom) Charles MacArthurChamber-backed Democrats embrace endorsements in final stretch Republican David Richter wins NJ primary in race to challenge Rep. Andy Kim What to watch in New Jersey's primaries on Tuesday MORE (R-N.J.). Kim represents a district Trump won by 6 points in 2016.

For Rep. Dean PhillipsDean PhillipsIf we want change, young people have to do more than protest Pelosi and Trump go a full year without speaking Chamber-backed Democrats embrace endorsements in final stretch MORE (Minn.), the endorsement gave him another opportunity to talk up bipartisanship in the final leg of his reelection bid. 

“As one of the few entrepreneurs in Congress, I’m especially grateful to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for their endorsement,” Phillips said in a statement.