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Pro-GOP group places billboards near closed schools where Dem races are at stake in 2022

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A pro-Republican group in a dozen congressional districts controlled by Democrats is putting up advertisements targeting the issue of reopening schools during the coronavirus pandemic, Fox News reported Thursday.

On Thursday, the American Action Network (AAN) is unveiling a new issue advocacy campaign that calls for House lawmakers to support the safe reopening of U.S. schools, Fox News reported. The advertisements, which were first shared with Fox News, will appear in 12 districts represented by Democrats viewed as possibly weak in the 2022 midterm elections and who voted recently against the Reopen Schools Act sponsored by Rep. Ashley Hinson (R-Iowa).

The legislation would have provided full federal funding to schools that reopen for in-person learning during the pandemic and punished those that stay closed.

President Joe Biden’s administration, amid the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, has been pushing for schools to reopen soon, though teachers unions in major cities across the country have been fighting aggressively against this, calling for more protections and more vaccination of teachers. This has put Biden, seen by many as an ally of unions, in an awkward position as Republicans turn up the heat against him and Democrats for the slow march toward school reopenings and continued closures.

“Kids are falling behind, yet liberals in Congress seem not to care,” AAN president Dan Conston charged in a statement.

“[E]ven though the science shows it’s safe for children to return to school, teachers unions continue to keep students locked out of their classrooms,” Conston said, citing studies such as one from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicating that, when mask-wearing and social-distancing policies are practiced, the risk of COVID-19 spreading in schools remains low.

RELATED: CDC Director: Vaccinating teachers ‘not a prerequisite’ for safely reopening schools

“Liberals in Congress — awash in teacher union cash — are picking the unions over America’s kids,” he added. “Our children have fell behind enough, it’s time Congress supported safely reopening schools now.”

Across the country, several teachers unions are demanding more COVID-19 testing, vaccinations, and other protection measures before returning to in-person learning. The CDC is expected to publish new and more detailed guidance later this week on reopening schools, according to Fox News.

Part of the new AAN campaign features billboards nearby shut-down schools in the districts of Democratic Reps. Andy Kim (N.J.), Susan Wild (Pa.), and Elaine Luria (Va.). Moreover, this trio and nine other House Democrats will also be hit with digital advertisements in their districts and what the AAN calls “grassroots phone calls to their district offices,” according to Fox News.

The other nine others are Reps. Josh Harder (Calif.), Cheri Bustos of (Ill.), Haley Stevens (Mich.), Chris Pappas (N.H.), Tom Malinowski (N.J.), Matt Cartwright (Pa.), Education and Labor Committee chair Bobby Scott (Va.), Abigail Spanberger (Va.), and Ron Kind (Wis.), Fox News reported.

The AAN, a nonprofit advocacy group founded in 2010 along with its sister organization, the Congressional Leadership Fund (CLF), raised more than $215 million during the 2020 election cycle, according to Fox News. The latter was the largest spender among outside organizations supporting House Republicans, and the AAN spent millions advocating for conservative policies in Washington, D.C., as Fox News pointed out.

In order to retake the Democrat-controlled House in 2022, Republicans only need to flip five seats. In the 2018 midterms, Democrats ended eight years of GOP control in the lower chamber, however, Republicans surprised pollsters in 2020 by eating away at the Democratic majority. A phenomenon that has often repeated itself in contemporary politics is that the party in control of the White House typically loses House seats during the first midterm elections of the new administration.

You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.

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Cuomo says he’ll ‘fully cooperate’ with NY AG’s review of sexual harassment claims

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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said Wednesday that he will “fully cooperate” with the state attorney general’s independent review into sexual harassment allegations made against the currently scandal-ridden governor, saying, “I fully support a woman’s right to come forward.”

Last Wednesday, Lindsey Boylan, who served in his administration for over three years, accused Cuomo of suggesting to her on a 2017 flight that they play strip poker, inappropriate touching, and kissing her on the lips without her consent.

RELATED: ‘Let’s play strip poker’: Fmr. Cuomo aide accuses NY governor of sexual harassment

Following Boylan’s accusations, 25-year-old Charlotte Bennett alleged the governor indicated interest in having an affair with her while she was serving in his administration as a health policy adviser. In a Saturday New York Times report, Bennett told the newspaper that Cuomo asked her if she had “ever been with an older man,” adding that “age doesn’t matter” in relationships.

At Wednesday’s press briefing, the Empire State governor addressed the accusations leveled against him over the past seven days by three women and New York Attorney General Letitia James’ (D) independent review into those claims, which she announced on Monday was formally proceeding.

RELATED: De Blasio ‘sickened’ by Cuomo sexual harassment claims

“As you probably know, the attorney general is doing an independent review, and I will fully cooperate with that review,” Cuomo said at the beginning of his statement. “Now, the lawyers say I shouldn’t say anything when you have a pending review until that review is over. I understand that, I’m a lawyer, too. But, I want New Yorkers to hear from me directly on this.”

“First, I fully support a woman’s right to come forward,” the governor began. “And I think it should be encouraged in every way. I now understand that I acted in a way that made people feel uncomfortable. It was unintentional and I truly and deeply apologize for it. I feel awful about it, and frankly I am embarrassed by it, and that’s not easy to say. But that’s the truth.”

This echoes what Cuomo said in a Sunday statement about the allegations, in which he stated he “may have been insensitive” during his tenure but charged his accusers of misinterpreting his actions, saying, “I acknowledge some of the things I have said have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation… I am truly sorry about that.”

RELATED: Cuomo responds to sexual harassment claims, saying he ‘may have been insensitive’

During his Wednesday remarks, Cuomo iterated “I never touched anyone inappropriately,” repeated that sentence, then said “I never knew at the time that I was making anyone feel uncomfortable” and repeated that one too.

“And I certainly never, ever meant to offend anyone or hurt anyone or cause anyone any pain. That is the last thing I would ever want to do,” he continued. “I ask the people of this state to wait for the facts from the attorney general’s report before forming an opinion. Get the facts, please, before forming an opinion.”

“I also want you to know that I have learned from what has been an incredibly difficult situation for me as well as other people, and I’ve learned an important lesson,” the governor said at the end of his statement. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry for whatever pain I caused anyone, I never intended it, and I will be the better for this experience.”

Amid Boylan and Bennett’s allegations, another report of Cuomo sexually harassing a woman has cropped up. On Monday, a woman named Anna Ruch accused the governor of placing his hands on her cheeks—without her consent—at a 2019 wedding reception and asking if he could kiss her. A photograph of the two together at the event has also been circulating on social media.

RELATED: ‘Eat the whole sausage: Gov. Cuomo in hot water for resurfaced video

Asked at Wednesday’s briefing about the pictures that have resurfaced of him being touchy with people, particularly that of him and Ruch, the governor claimed that it is his way of greeting people.

“I understand the opinion of—and feelings of—Ms. Ruch,” Cuomo said. “You can find hundreds of pictures of me making the same gesture with hundreds of people—women, children, men, etc. You can go find hundreds of pictures of me kissing people. […] It is my usual and customary way of greeting.”

Moreover, the governor said that his father, former Gov. Mario Cuomo, would do the same thing.

“By the way, it was my father’s way of greeting people,” Cuomo said, explaining, “You’re the governor of the state, you want people to feel comfortable, you want to reach out to them.”

He also mentioned that he kisses and hugs legislators and noted that at an event in Queens the other day he hugged pastors and state assembly members.

Furthermore, the governor said that his intent “doesn’t matter,” saying, “What it matters is if anybody was offended by it.”

“But if they were offended by it, then it was wrong,” he added, going on to say that if they were offended or hurt by it, he apologizes.

MORE ON CUOMO: NY dem says state legislature is ‘inching toward’ Cuomo impeachment probe

You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.

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