Here’s Where the Key Senate Candidates Stand on Brett Kavanaugh
Candidates in the most crucial Senate races around the country have made their opinions known before a final vote on Saturday afternoon.
As Judge Kavanaugh hurtles towards a likely confirmation, with a vote set to take place on Saturday, all of the Senators on the fence have voiced how they intend to vote.
Following Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) announcing, in a lengthy floor speech, her decision to vote for Kavanaugh, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) said he too would support the nomination despite reservations, “given the serious accusations.” As Collins spoke, a crowdfunding effort for a prospective opponent in 2020 reached $2 million.
Across the key Senate battlegrounds, where Democrats face a difficult map including ten incumbents up for re-election in states that President Trump easily won in 2016, candidates have also staked public positions on the nomination.
Here is where things stand as of Friday:
Republican Senate candidate Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) has voiced his support for Kavanaugh’s nomination, even going so far as to call Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s accusation of assault “even more absurd” than Anita Hill’s accusation against Justice Clarence Thomas.
“But what if 36 years of a record where there's nothing like that again—but instead there’s a record of a perfect gentleman, of an intellect, of a stellar judge, a guy who’s been in front of what, he’s had 300 cases in front of him and hasn't had a misstep,” Cramer said. “Even if it’s all true, does it disqualify him? It certainly means that he did something really bad 36 years ago. But does it disqualify him from the Supreme Court?”
On Thursday, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), viewed as the most vulnerable incumbent Senate Democrat in the country, said that she would not be voting for him, expressing concern about Kavanaugh’s conduct during a hearing last week as well as Dr. Ford’s testimony.
“It took great courage and also came at great personal cost,” Heitkamp said in a statement. “She had nothing to gain and everything to lose by coming forward with her deeply personal story,” she added, noting that she has since heard from other survivors in the state sharing their stories of sexual assault.
Incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) announced that he would vote no on Kavanaugh in late September. Republican Governor Rick Scott, who is challenging Nelson disagreed saying that Kavanaugh should be confirmed despite Ford's testimony.
“I don’t know what happened 36 years ago in suburban Maryland," he said in a statement. "The truth is that none of us really know. So, I have to go with what I do know – Judge Kavanaugh has been a fair and brilliant Judge, one of our nation’s very best. He should be confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court.”
Incumbent Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-IN), one of three Democrats to vote to confirm Justice Neil Gorsuch, announced last week that he would not support Kavanaugh.
“I have deep reservations about Judge Kavanaugh's nomination to this lifetime position and, as I stated, we have been unable to get all the information necessary regarding this nomination, despite my best efforts,” Donnelly wrote in a statement. “Only 113 people have ever served on the Supreme Court, and I believe that we must do our level best to protect its sanctity.” He added: “While I would gladly welcome the opportunity to work with President Trump on a new nominee for this critically important position, if Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination comes before the full Senate vote under these circumstances, I will oppose it.”
His Republican challenger Mike Braun said he believed both Ford and Kavanaugh's testimony but was committed to backing Kavanaugh.
"I think hers is built on a very sketchy case of – anything that severe in any other type of proceeding would have to be corroborated, and I don't think it would get [to] the first base," Braun said of Ford's testimony. "That doesn't diminish, you know, her point of view."
Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) said that he would be voting no on Kavanaugh, citing a number of factors including dark money, the PATRIOT Act, health care and the assault allegation. His Republican opponent Matt Rosendale supports Kavanaugh's nomination and hit Tester on his opposition in a recent ad, equating it to Tester raising concerns about Admiral Ronny Jackson's failed appointment as Secretary of Veterans Affairs.
Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) was one of the earliest Democrats in a red state to announce her opposition to the nomination saying “He has revealed his bias against limits on campaign donations which places him completely out of the mainstream of this nation. He wrote, ‘And I have heard very few people say that limits on contributions to candidates are unconstitutional although I for one tend to think those limits have some constitutional problems.” She also called Ford’s allegation “troubling.”
Republican Attorney General Josh Hawley, her Senate challenger, has adamantly been in favor of Kavanaugh even calling for a special counsel probe into the way in which Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) handled Dr. Ford’s allegation against him.
Rep. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) is opposed to the Kavanaugh opposition and hit incumbent Sen. Dean Heller (D-NV) over his decision to advance the nomination on Friday.
“The fact that Senator Heller still doesn’t have a single reservation about confirming Judge Kavanaugh and even dismissed credible allegations of sexual assault against him as nothing more than ‘a little hiccup’ in the confirmation process shows that he’s clearly out of touch with Nevadans and never had any intention of being an independent voice on this Supreme Court nominee," she said in a statement. "Voters will hold Senator Heller accountable for becoming just another rubber stamp for President Trump’s nominees and his reckless agenda in Washington.”
In this open seat race to replace retiring Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), said that she "could not support" the nomination citing in part the lack of transparency in the FBI investigation. Rep. Martha McSally (R-AZ), who has discussed being sexually abused in high school, said: “At this point, based on what I know, unless there’s some new revelations in the FBI investigation, I would vote for Brett Kavanaugh."
Phil Bredesen, the former Democratic governor of the state, who is running a surprisingly competitive campaign to replace retiring Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), announced on Friday that he would support Kavanaugh, despite reservations about the process.
“Presidents have the right to appoint justices who share their values--elections have consequences,” he said in a statement. “I believe a Senator’s responsibility to ‘advise and consent’ is not a license to indulge in partisanship, but should focus on the qualifications of the nominee, their ethics and their temperament.
“I believed that Judge Kavanaugh initially met this test, and I was prepared to say ‘yes’ to his nomination prior to Dr. Ford’s coming forward. While the subsequent events make it a much closer call, and I am missing key pieces of information that a sitting Senator has, I’m still a ‘yes.'
“Dr. Ford is a heroine, and has brought forcefully into the national conversation the many barriers women face in reporting and dealing with sexual harassment and assault. I was disgusted by the treatment she received at the hands of the Senate and am determined to help bring about a fairer and far more respectful treatment of these issues.”
Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), his Republican challenger has hit Bredesen for his lack of clarity on his choice prior to Friday. Even after he announced his decision, Blackburn said in a statement: “His campaign is bought and paid for by Chuck Schumer and national Democrats, including Michael Bloomberg. He put off an answer on Judge Kavanaugh for 88 days, under Chuck Schumer’s direction to stay neutral as long as you can. The contrast on these issues could not be more clear.”
Incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) has voiced his approval for Kavanaugh while his challenger Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-TX) was critical of him in a recent debate and called for Ford’s allegation to be investigated by the FBI (which it briefly was).