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Houck Arrest ‘Just the Beginning,’ Pro-Life Protesters Warn

Supporters of anti-abortion activist Mark Houck, taken by FBI agents from his Bucks County home last month, turned out Friday outside the U.S. Attorney’s office to protest his arrest and warn the public:

Houck’s arrest was just the beginning of the Biden administration’s targeting of pro-life Americans.

Houck, 48, of Kinternsville, was charged with violating the federal Freedom of Access of Clinic Entrances Act (FACE) regarding an October 2021 incident outside a Planned Parenthood clinic in Philadelphia. Despite local authorities declining to prosecute, and a private legal action that was also rejected, the Department of Justice chose to arrest Houck and pursue the case.

On Sept. 23, numerous armed FBI agents stormed the Houck’s home, frightening his seven children and wife, Ryan-Marie, even though his lawyers had informed the Department of Justice he was willing to turn himself in, said Peter Breen with the Thomas More Society who represents Houck.

Ashley Garecht, who has prayed outside the clinic in the past, told the 100 or so people who gathered Friday, “Mark has stood in front of that facility for years. He has prayed and counseled often in the face of vile harassment…Sadly this storyline fits all too well in Philadelphia.”

And, she noted, they were just a block away from where President Joe Biden gave his controversial speech about American extremism. Bathed in blood-red lighting and with Marines behind him, Biden spoke ominously about “MAGA forces”  that he called a threat to “the very foundations of our republic” and who are actively working to “undermine democracy itself.” Garecht pointed out Biden included prof-lifers in his remarks as well.

“President Biden made his intentions toward the pro-life community crustal clear in his alarming and malevolent speech in front of Independence Hall,” Garecht said. “Shame on him.”

 

 

In a video message released by the Thomas More Society, Breen echoed the message that Houck’s arrest is part of a larger agenda.

“Right here, right now, this is the first big case from the [Biden administration] DOJ,” Breen said. “Let’s beat the DOJ, beat them soundly in a public case that everyone’s following. And then Lord willing, you’ll have Merrick Garland, the Attorney General of the United States, called in front of Congress, to answer those tough questions: Why did you put the health family in such danger? Why are you prosecuting this peaceful man for what is at worst, a local matter at best to local matter?

“And I hope that at that point we will be finished with our trial and we’ll have gotten a not guilty verdict.”

Prominent anti-abortion activist and Fox commentator Kathy Barnette, a candidate in the GOP U.S. Senate primary earlier this year, told the crowd she thought long and hard about whether she should speak because it might lead to the government targeting her.

“What does it say about a nation who would look at the most innocent people and say, ‘You don’t matter. You don’t count?’ And then weaponize the government to intimidate those who understand that that is a life,” Barnette said.

“It is going to cost us from this point forward to say there is such a thing as truth. And I am going to stand and not cower. Ten years ago it would not have cost us what it will cost now,” she added.

Speaker after speaker called on the crowd to pray and at the end of the hour-long protest, most of those present kneeled on the hard sidewalk and prayed the “Our Father.”  Some of the speakers also told the protesters to be sure to vote in November.

Houck’s mother-in-law, Kathleen McCarthy, who also lives in Bucks County, came to the protest, along with some of Ryan-Marie’s eleven siblings.

Asked by Delaware Valley Journal how the Houck family is handling events, McCarthy said, “I will tell you God’s grace is always sufficient. They are trying to bring back what they have built all their married life, a home filled with peace, strength, and grace. And one day at a time.”

Talk radio Host Dom Giordano reminded the crowd Houck is represented by Brian J. McMonagle, “the number one defense attorney in Philadelphia.” And while this case is about the Houck family, Giordano said he hopes the “FBI agents who don’t agree with this stuff do everything in their power to slow down this weaponization against average Americans exercising their rights.”

Giordano noted the irony of Houck’s home “being raided by the FBI with that amount of force while violence and criminal behavior in Philadelphia is out of control.

“In a way, Mark Houck is doing a service not just for those potential kids at the abortion clinic. He’s doing a service for every one of us here.”

Among the protesters was Terrisa Bukovinac carrying a sign that said she is atheist, progressive, and anti-abortion. A Washington, D.C. resident, she started the nonprofit Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising after heading a similar group in San Francisco.

Many Democrats agree that some restrictions are needed on late-term abortion, she said. “There is a lot of common ground.”

And protester Liz Madden of Radnor said she felt compelled to protest after that township passed an ordinance forbidding police to investigate abortion providers, which could result in another Kermit Gosnell, she said, referring to the infamous Philadelphia abortion provider now serving 30 years in prison for serial murder.

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Lawyer: Arrest of Bucks County Pro-Lifer Meant to Intimidate

Sen. Pat Toomey joined the chorus of lawmakers who signed a sharply critical letter to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland and FBI Director Christopher Wray over the unorthodox arrest of a prominent Bucks County pro-life advocate. And his attorney says the entire operation is designed to intimidate pro-life Americans into silence.

Mark Houck, 48, of Kintnersville, was charged with violating the federal Freedom of Access of Clinic Entrances Act (FACE) regarding an October 2021 incident outside an abortion clinic in Philadelphia. Philadelphia police and the district attorney’s office had declined to charge Houck at the time. A private legal action by the pro-abortion activist was dismissed in July.

Houck pleaded not guilty to the federal charges this past week. If convicted, he faces up to a maximum of 11 years in prison, three years of supervised release, and fines of up to $350,000, according to a Department of Justice statement.

Houck has been represented by the Thomas More Society, a public interest law firm, which has been in contact with the FBI since he received a “target letter” in May. Houck’s attorneys informed the DOJ he would voluntarily appear in court. But according to the family’s account, a contingent of heavily-armed FBI agents showed up at Houck’s home last week pointing guns at his family, including young children.

“Given their cooperation with federal law enforcement, the family did not expect to be awakened at 7 a.m. with reportedly over 20 FBI agents surrounding their home wearing armor-plated tactical vests, ballistic helmets, and holding ballistic shields and long guns,” Toomey and his fellow senators wrote.

“The Houck family’s account of the FBI coming to their family home to arrest Mark Houck, who was already cooperating with law enforcement, is concerning,” said Toomey (R-Pa.) via Twitter.

Peter Breen, vice president and senior counsel for Thomas More, told DVJournal the letter from Toomey and the other senators was very “pointed,” asking why the FBI did not use a de-escalation plan Garland had put into place earlier this year.

“Just three years ago, I won a FACE case on similar facts in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. On that basis, they have no case against Mark Houck,” said Breen. “And his case, not involving a Mafia boss, he’s got a men’s ministry. (Houck is) what you might call an evangelist, a Catholic speaker.”

“He does not have a criminal history of any sort and when a distinguished former federal prosecutor says, ‘I will bring my client in,’ and even if they wanted to make a show of arresting him, you would not send more than a couple of agents, and those agents would not be dragging him out at gunpoint.

“They would be knocking on the door, presenting an arrest warrant, letting him get his effects and, in a dignified way, say goodbye to his family for the day, then go downtown. Under no circumstances do you send at least 20 federal agents and apparently state law enforcement as well, with shields, long guns, helmets, and the like,” said Breen.

The Thomas More Society has brought in well-known Philadelphia lawyer Brian McMonagle to defend Houck.

According to Ryan-Marie Houck, 15 law enforcement vehicles were on their front lawn.

“Can you even imagine? What if their 6-year-old had gone out with a toy gun because he saw his daddy taken away? What would have happened?” asked Breen. Mark Houck is “not a threat,” he said.

Breen believes the raid was orchestrated out of DOJ headquarters in Washington, not Philadelphia.

Asked whether it would have a chilling effect on people’s rights to freedom of religion and speech, Breen said, “Well, the only reason for a show of force like this was to send a message to people of faith, pro-life people, in an intimidating way. So that’s how I received it. We see that as an intimidation message. If you exercise your First Amendment rights, there could be a bunch of federal agents at your door.”

And Houck was not someone involved in national politics. He was an ordinary person, Breen pointed out.

“If Mark Houck was such a danger to the community, why did it take a year to go and pick him up?” asked Breen.

The alleged victim approached Houck and his then 12-year-old son while praying in front of an abortion clinic. That man “harassed” the boy, and “an altercation ensued,” Breen said.

Breen said the incident had no connection to the FACE Act because Houck was not blocking the entrance to the abortion clinic or stopping anyone from getting an abortion.

“None of that happened here,” said Breen. “This is an intimidation tactic, a meritless case, and we are going to stand up firmly against it.”

“Maybe the Justice Department thought they could roll one individual pro-lifer…but we are going to make sure he has the most vigorous defense that can be mounted,” said Breen.

“We are very grateful that the senators and congress members are looking to assist,” he said. “They are also asking the question, ‘What in the world is going on with this raid? Why are you prosecuting this guy? It’s a local matter.”

The DVJournal asked area Congress members and candidates for Congress whether they plan to sign the Houck letter.

Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Bucks) did not respond. Nor did Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (D-Delaware/Philadelphia), or Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-Montgomery County).

“As one of the most bipartisan members of Congress, Rep. Houlahan is constantly looking for opportunities to work across the aisle to deliver real progress for her community, not partisan talking points,” said Aubrey Stuber, communications director for (Chrissy) Houlahan (D-Chester/Berks). “The letter was never even circulated to our legislative staff for consideration, a sign that it was intended to be a partisan exercise. So while Rep. Houlahan takes oversight of our federal agencies very seriously, this letter demonstrates a lack of collaboration and bipartisanship.”

Dean’s Republican opponent, Christian Nascimento, said, “My understanding was that the local authorities either dismissed or did not pursue charges in this case. If that is true, then the DOJ should explain why the federal government felt the need to get involved, and on what evidence.”

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In Wake of Dobbs Decision, Abortion Politics Heats Up in Harrisburg

Activists on both sides of the abortion issue are fighting in Harrisburg over the legal future of the controversial procedure, and they’re both  leveling accusations of “extremism” to make their case.

Supporters of legal abortion point to a proposed amendment to the state constitution from abortion opponents, “providing that there is no right to abortion or funding for an abortion.” The resolution, condemned as “extreme” by its opponents, passed the GOP-controlled legislature last week.

In order for it to take effect, it must pass again in the next legislative session, and then voters must approve it in a referendum, possibly in 2023.

Gov. Tom Wolf (D) has jumped into the fray, issuing an executive order that the state would refuse to honor any warrant from another state for a person charged with a criminal violation involving reproduction. The order also protects healthcare professionals. Wolf stated in a press release he has vetoed three abortion-related bills.

Pro-life organizations called Wolf’s actions “extreme.”

“With his vetoes on these pro-life bills, Gov. Wolf brags about his support of late-term abortion, as well as his support for ripping babies apart limb by limb, aborting babies that have Down syndrome, and putting women with ectopic pregnancies at more risk,” said Dan Bartkowiak, director of communications for Pennsylvania Family Institute. “This is an appalling display of extreme pro-abortion politics that are out of touch with Pennsylvania families. Sadly, this has come to be expected from a governor that is a former volunteer for Planned Parenthood and has received significant campaign contributions from the abortion industry.”

Marlene Downing, deputy director for Pennsylvania for the Susan B. Anthony List, said, “The majority of Pennsylvanians who are pro-abortion do not want the restrictions already in place to go away.” These include the 24-week limit and preventing minors from undergoing the procedure without parental consent.

“Hopefully, the constitutional amendment will be passed,” she said. The amendment would not ban abortion in Pennsylvania, but it would help prevent current limits on abortion from being removed by a future legislature, she said.

Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania Advocates Executive Director Signe Espinoza took the opposite position. She said in a statement the legislature has “taken a significant step toward forcing their radical anti-abortion agenda into the Pennsylvania Constitution.” She complained the process was rushed and the vote taken “under the cover of darkness.”

“Anti-abortion legislators have advanced a bill that will take rights out of our constitution. The bill can pass again in January, be on the 2023 primary ballot, and lead to abortion bans by this time next summer.

“This is the most expedited timeline possible, and we know that these extremists have been planning for this since they stacked the United States Supreme Court with the sole goal of overturning Roe v Wade. This process was not transparent, and that was intentional by a far-right majority dead-set on advancing a fringe ideology,” Espinoza said.

The group plans to take “accountability actions” with legislative leaders and also unveil digital billboards, a spokeswoman said.

Downing said the Susan B. Anthony List has been going door-to-door throughout the state, passing out pro-life literature. Some 225,000 households had been reached by early July, she said. Their volunteers also speak with people about their pro-life message when someone is at home.

The literature attacks Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Lt. Gov. John Fetterman and gubernatorial candidate Attorney General Josh Shapiro as “too extreme on abortion.”

“Fetterman opposes all limits on abortion and even defends late-term abortion and taxpayer-funded abortion and denying babies who survive abortion life-saving medical care,” the brochure said.

“Shapiro is a pro-abortion activist who opposes all limits on abortion,” it continued. “Shapiro supports abortion on demand up to the moment of birth, all at taxpayer expense.”

Ironically, both the Fetterman and Shapiro campaigns are running attack ads on television against Dr. Mehmet Oz and Sen. Doug Mastriano, the Republicans running for senator and governor, that call them “extreme” for their pro-life positions.

“We are just educating people about candidates who are extreme on abortion,” said Downing, who is also on the board of the Pro-Life Union Pennsylvania. “Our goal is to talk to Pennsylvanians.” Most residents are “not against abortion or for abortion. They like restrictions on it, that middle ground…We’re talking to all the voters we can.”

 

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Would Barnette’s Pro-Life Views Help or Hurt Her in November?

With Kathy Barnette now in second place in two recent polls of Pennsylvania Republican voters for the U.S. Senate race, would her strict, no exceptions stand on abortion be a hindrance in the general election?

Both Dr. Mehmet Oz, who is in the lead, and Dave McCormick, the hedge fund CEO who is in third place, are also pro-life but would make an exception for the life of the mother.

And at the other end of the spectrum, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, who is the likely Democratic nominee, wants to guarantee a woman’s right to choose all the way through the ninth month of pregnancy. Indeed, Fetterman has called the right to an abortion “sacred” and would do away with the Senate filibuster to pass a pro-abortion law.

“Let’s be clear: The right to an abortion is sacred,” Fetterman tweeted. “Democrats have to act quickly – get rid of the filibuster to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act + finally codify Roe into law. We cannot afford to wait.”

Abortion has dominated the headlines lately because of a leaked draft of a pending U.S. Supreme Court decision that would likely overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that found women had a right to an abortion. If the high court does reverse Roe, it would throw the issue back to the state legislatures to decide.

 

Temple University Political Science Department Chair Robin Kolodny said that the polls’ margin of error shows a “statistical dead heat” between Barnette, Oz, and McCormick.

A Real Clear Politics has Oz at 25, Barnette at 23, and McCormick at 22. A Trafalgar Group poll shows Oz at 24.5, Barnette at 23.2, and McCormick at 21.6.

“As with so much in elections, the winner will be the one who mobilizes best over the next week. This is generally a lot harder in midterm years,” said Kolodny.

“However, since she has been campaigning with (gubernatorial candidate) Doug Mastriano and his lead is much more commanding, that could help her,” said Kolodny. “I don’t think her stance on abortion is going to be that much different from the Republican nominee’s position, so I don’t think this would be a particular concern in the fall campaign should she get the nomination. Whatever candidate gets the nomination should expect everything in their record to be fair game. We know less about Barnette than the other two front runners, so who knows?”

“If Barnette was to win the nomination her position on abortion would be a drag on her chances,” said Christopher Borick, professor of political science and director of Muhlenberg College’s Institute of Public Opinion. “In terms of public opinion, her abortion stance is not shared by a large majority of voters in Pennsylvania. The issue could tip a portion of swing voters away from her, and bring some Democratic-leaning voters to the polls who otherwise may not be energized in this cycle.”

Barnette’s life story is the basis of her pro-life beliefs.

Her mother was 11 years old when she was raped leading to Barnette’s birth.

“I’m the byproduct of rape,” Barnette tweeted. “My mother was 11 when I was conceived. In the world the left desires, I would never have been born. We need leaders with a steady hand to direct our nation through these difficult discussions.”

And this, Pennsylvania political insiders tell DVJournal, is the wildcard. “How does Fetterman attack her on abortion when she has a personal story like that,” one political operative who declined to speak on the record said. “She’s a Black woman who has the abortion issue as part of her biography. Fetterman’s a big, bald White guy who’s already got an issue with Black voters. How does he handle this in a debate without looking bad?”

In 2013, Fetterman chased a Black jogger and pulled a shotgun, mistakenly believing the man had been involved in a shooting.

Tom Stevens, president of the Pro-Life Union of Greater Philadelphia, also believes her views will help Barnette in the general election.

“It will help, rather than hurt Kathy Barnette in the general election,” Stevens said.  “Most of Pennsylvania does not believe that abortion is ‘sacred,’ although many think abortion should be limited but legal.   Kathy is a strong candidate, and as people vote on the other issues, her platform will carry her.”
Kathy’s own story of having a mom who was raped and despite it kept her pregnancy and gave birth to Kathy is a testament to the power of pro life conviction in the face of extremely difficult circumstances.  Kathy has said that if she had been aborted, her own children would not have been born, and all her achievements would not have been reached.

Barnette, an author and Fox News commentator, has talked extensively about her life from a childhood of poverty, serving 10 years in the Army Reserve, completing college, and then working in finance.

A Huntingdon Valley resident, she is married with two children. In 2020, Barnette ran for Congress against incumbent Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-Montgomery).

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PA Gubernatorial and Senate Candidates Weigh In on Leaked SCOTUS Opinion

Various Pennsylvania candidates for the U.S. Senate and governor responded to the pending Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v Wade leaked to the press Monday evening.

Adding to the mix, President Joe Biden also weighed in Tuesday, calling the right to an abortion “fundamental.”

Pennsylvania voters face a stark choice between the positions of the Republican candidates and those of the Democrats. Not surprisingly, Republicans staked out pro-life stances, and Democrats argued for a woman’s right to choose. Indeed, Democratic Attorney General Josh Shapiro, who is running for governor, has been airing ads touting his pledge to protect a woman’s right to an abortion. If elected, Shapiro promised to veto any anti-abortion bills that come to him from the legislature.

And if the leaked draft holds true, the states will have a larger role in determining abortion law. Here are comments from some of the Republicans who are running for governor:

“Once the repeal of Roe v. Wade is official, I am calling on the General Assembly to hold a vote on the Heartbeat Bill (that stops abortion once a baby’s heartbeat can be detected). The time is now for action to protect the rights of the unborn,” state Sen. Douglas Mastriano (R-Franklin) posted on Facebook.

Bill McSwain said via Twitter: “If true, this is, of course, the correct decision, both constitutionally and morally. But this leak is an outrageous attack on the court.”

Charlie Gerow told the Delaware Valley Journal, “I am praying that the leaked document is, in fact, the final decision of the court. It would allow the American people, through their elected representatives, to enact new laws protecting unborn children and honoring women. If Roe is overturned, our job will be to work with the legislature to build consensus and pass the strongest protections for unborn children and women.”

Lou Barletta said, “If this turns out to be accurate, it will be a long-awaited victory for unborn children. In the time since Roe v. Wade was handed down in 1973, tens of millions of babies have been killed, and all through the decades, the pro-life movement has fought to get to this point. If this draft ruling is indicative of the final majority opinion, it will save untold millions of innocent lives in the future. As I have made clear, I will not prejudge or predict what kinds of legislation may come before me, but I will be a pro-life governor, and I will sign pro-life legislation.”

And Dave White mentioned his disabled son, saying, “If (the) report is accurate, it is both a moment of joy and simultaneously one of great sadness. With joy for the millions of innocent lives that will now be spared, but with sorrow for the tens of millions who were never given a chance to laugh or to love. The loss to our society and our humanity that 50 years of Roe has stained our nation with will never be erased, but … I am encouraged that the Supreme Court appears prepared to overturn the injustice that was perpetrated through the Roe v. Wade decision.”

“Every day, I see the grace of God through the eyes of my son, Brian,” he added. “For 33 years, Brian’s life has been our family’s greatest blessing, and it is Brian’s love that drives me to be a better husband, a better father, and a better governor for all Pennsylvanians.”

White said he would be the best candidate to defeat “unabashedly pro-abortion Shapiro.”

And Montgomery County Commissioner Joe Gale said, “In this era of fake news, I pray that the revelation of Roe v. Wade’s reversal is true. Abortion is an atrocity and a stain on our nation. The United States Supreme Court’s 1973 decision legalizing the murder of the innocent unborn was not only unconstitutional but morally reprehensible. If and when Roe v. Wade is overturned and the issue of abortion is returned to the states, as the Republican governor of Pennsylvania I will fight to ensure every life in the womb is protected from the moment of conception.”

Sen. Pro Tempore Jake Corman said, “I am pro-life and have supported extending protections to the unborn since I first ran for office. While I will wait for the formal opinion rather than a leaked draft, you can rest assured that I will sign pro-life legislation that respects life and protects the innocent.  A Corman administration would move swiftly to work with the legislature to craft pro-life legislation that accomplishes these goals.”

Some Senate candidates also commented.

“The court is right. Roe was wrongly decided. Abortion laws should be left up to the American people and their elected representatives. I look forward to supporting pro-life legislation that saves innocent lives in the U.S. Senate,” said Dr. Mehmet Oz, a Republican.

Republican Dave McCormick called the leak, “What an earth-shattering breach of trust that is further evidence of an assault on our institutions.” If the high court overturns Roe v. Wade, he said, “This would be a huge step forward and a huge victory for the protection of life…This is an issue on the campaign trail. It’s already been a flashpoint,” adding that he is pro-life.

“If you’ve heard my story, you know how grateful I am for the decision my grandparents made to support my very young mother and allow me to live rather than be aborted,” said GOP candidate Kathy Barnette. “My life matters. All lives matter and I value all life, from conception until natural death,” Barnette said. “Every one of us was created with a purpose and I am greatly encouraged to see that our nation is prepared to engage in the long-overdue discussion about when life begins and when constitutional protections come full force.”

However, she decried the leak and said those responsible must be “held accountable.”

And Republican Jeff Bartos said in a tweet: “If this is authentic, the Supreme Court and the DOJ must investigate this leak immediately and hold the responsible person(s) accountable. Roe was wrongly decided. The court now has the opportunity to follow the constitution and allow the states to protect the unborn.”

Former Ambassador Carla Sands said, “If Roe v. Wade is overturned, the American people and their elected representatives could then enact measures to uphold and protect the sanctity of all human life. This development underscores the need to elect a U.S. Senator who is truly and unequivocally pro-life. In the U.S. Senate, I would vote in favor of sensible legislation with the goal of saving unborn human lives.”

As for the Democrats running for Senate, state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta tweeted, “Just last week I stood up in the face of fierce opposition and defended the need to expand the court and begin the hard process of rebuilding public trust in this critical institution.”

In a statement, Kenyatta added, “This is a sad day for our nation. Make no mistake, we arrived at this moment because Mitch McConnell shamelessly packed the Supreme Court with radical right-wing extremists. That is why, as your next senator from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, I will fight to expand the Supreme Court to reflect the will of the people and to restore the balance of justice in America. And as we figure out how to navigate this painful moment I encourage everyone to be gentle with themselves. I know how deeply held the right to choose is for each of us, especially to the women leading my team. On the debate stage last week, I stood in the face of fierce opposition from my primary opponents on the matter of restoring balance to the Supreme Court and I will proudly do the same as your nominee and as your senator.”

John Fetterman said in two tweets: “Let’s be clear: The right to an abortion is sacred. Democrats have to act quickly – get rid of the filibuster to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act + finally codify Roe into law. We cannot afford to wait.” And, “We cannot afford to wait. Send me to Washington, and I’ll be that 51st vote to codify abortion rights into law.”

Also on Twitter, Congressman Conor Lamb said, “If Dems lose in PA, Congress may never save Roe. Poor women will suffer most. I voted to put Roe into law, I’m endorsed by @NationalNOW, & I’ve voted 100% pro-choice while winning in GOP districts. That’s my record. If I’m your nominee I’ll give you the campaign you deserve.”

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