Former Trump officials eye bids for political office

Source: The Hill | February 23, 2021 | Jonathan Easley

Former Trump administration officials are testing the waters for political office, underscoring the former president’s lasting influence on the Republican Party as it searches for a post-Trump identity.

Cliff Sims, the former deputy at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) who is close with several Trump family members, is seriously considering getting into the race to replace retiring Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.). Trump’s former ambassador to Slovenia, Lynda Blanchard, a top Trump donor, has already entered that primary as a “proud member of the MAGA movement.”

In Pennsylvania, where Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) is retiring, Trump’s Navy Secretary Kenneth Braithwaite and his ambassador to Denmark, Carla Sands, are both weighing bids.

Former acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell is being encouraged by Trump allies to run for governor of California if Gavin Newsom is recalled. Former White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders is already running for governor of Arkansas, where term-limited Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) has emerged as an outspoken Trump critic.

The jockeying is also playing out in House races, with Trump campaign adviser Katrina Pierson having been approached about running to replace the late Rep. Ron Wright (R-Texas) and former White House aide Max Miller is preparing a primary challenge against Rep. Anthony Gonzales (R-Ohio), who voted to impeach Trump.

Republicans say the maneuvering among Trump’s allies is indicative of the former president’s continuing popularity with grassroots conservatives who are eager for the next wave of leaders to take up his mantle.

“It’s still Trump’s party and he may actually have gained in popularity [with the GOP base] since impeachment,” said former Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Pa.). “Many Trump supporters felt everyone was against him from the beginning when he was coming down the elevator and it hasn’t stopped since he left office. If the Democratic goal was to disqualify him, they may have just made him larger.”

In deep-red Alabama, the race to replace Shelby could turn on which candidate is seen as the closest to Trump.

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