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Lauren Witzke, a conservative activist dogged by allegations that she supports a far-right conspiracy theory, won the GOP Senate primary in Delaware on Tuesday, setting her up for an uphill fight against Sen. Chris CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsJoe and Jill Biden voting early in Delaware's primary GOP senators say coronavirus deal dead until after election Charities scramble to plug revenue holes during pandemic MORE (D) in November.

Witzke, a political newcomer, defeated attorney James DeMartino in the Tuesday contest by a roughly 14-point margin. The victory marked an upset over DeMartino, who had the backing of establishment Republicans in the race. 

Witzke has cast herself as a staunch conservative and loyal supporter of President TrumpDonald John TrumpDemocrats, advocates seethe over Florida voting rights ruling Russian jets identified in Trump campaign ad calling for support for the troops Democratic Senate candidate 'hesitant' to get COVID-19 vaccine if approved this year MORE, saying on her campaign website she is “unapologetically, America First.”

But she has also had to beat back allegations that she is a supporter of the QAnon conspiracy theory after tweeting one of its slogans and wearing a QAnon shirt. The unfounded theory posits that Trump is working with the military to break up a cabal made up of bureaucrats who run a child sex trafficking ring.

Witzke has distanced herself from the theory, saying earlier this year, “I certainly think it’s more hype than substance.”

Republicans have already had to answer for GOP candidates in other races who have supported the conspiracy theory, namely Marjorie Taylor Greene, a candidate in a deep-red Georgia House district who is all but guaranteed to join Congress next term. 

Witzke will face a steep uphill climb in the race against Coons, who handily won his primary Tuesday. Coons has served in the Senate since 2010 and comfortably won reelection in 2014 by about 14 points. The Cook Political Report, a nonpartisan election handicapper, rates the Senate race as "solid" Democratic.

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Amy Coney Barrett: Trump nominates conservative favourite for Supreme Court

US President Donald Trump has nominated Amy Coney Barrett, a favourite of social conservatives, to be the new Supreme Court justice.

The president announced his decision at the White House on Saturday, confirming US media reports about his selection.

Judge Barrett would replace liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died of cancer on 18 September.

Her nomination will spark a bitter Senate fight to get her confirmed as November's presidential election looms.

Supreme Court justices are nominated by the US president, but must be approved by the Senate.

If Judge Barrett is confirmed, conservative-leaning justices will hold a 6-3 majority on the US's highest court for the foreseeable future.

The 48-year-old would be the third justice appointed by this Republican president, after Neil Gorsuch in 2017 and Brett Kavanaugh in 2018.

  • Ginsburg becomes first US woman to lie in state
Media playback is unsupported on your device Media captionRuth Bader Ginsburg's personal trainer honours her with push-ups

The Supreme Court's nine justices serve lifetime appointments, and their rulings can shape public policy on everything from gun and voting rights to abortion and campaign finance long after the presidents who appoint them leave office.

In recent years, the court has expanded gay marriage to all 50 states, allowed for Mr Trump's travel ban on mainly Muslim countries to be put in place, and delayed a US plan to cut carbon emissions.

Tricky position for Democrats

Amy Coney Barrett has been on Donald Trump's shortlist for Supreme Court vacancies for some time, but the word was that she would be the most appropriate replacement for Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

As of last week, that was no longer a hypothetical scenario.

Even before Mr Trump reportedly settled on Judge Barrett as his pick, conservatives were rallying around the nominee, whoever it might be. And if they stick together, as all but two seem to be doing, her confirmation appears assured - whether it is before November's election or in a "lame duck" Senate session afterward.

The choice of Judge Barrett puts Democrats in a tricky position. They have to find a way of undermining support for the nominee without seeming to attack her Catholic faith or personal background - moves that could risk turning off some voters in November. They will seek to delay the proceedings as best they can, while keeping their focus on issues like healthcare and abortion, which could be at the centre of future legal battles with Justice Barrett on a conservative-dominated court.

Then they have to hope Judge Barrett, or the Republicans, make some kind of critical error. It is a tall order, but for the moment it is the only play they have.

Who is Amy Coney Barrett?

She is described as a devout Catholic who, according to a 2013 magazine article, said that "life begins at conception". This makes her a favourite among religious conservatives keen to overturn the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalised abortion nationwide.

Her links to a particularly conservative Christian faith group, People of Praise, have been much discussed in the US press. LGBT groups have pointed out that the group's network of schools have guidelines stating a belief that sexual relations should only happen between heterosexual married couples.

One such group, Human Rights Campaign, has voiced strong opposition to Judge Barrett's confirmation, declaring her an "absolute threat to LGBTQ rights".

She has repeatedly insisted her faith does not compromise her work.

Judge Barrett has also ruled in favour of President Trump's hardline immigration policies and expressed views in favour of expansive gun rights.

Conservatives hope she will help to invalidate Obamacare, the health insurance programme that was introduced by President Trump's democratic predecessor, Barack Obama.

Some 20 million Americans could lose their health coverage if the court overturns the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Democrats have rallied support over this issue, but it is thought unlikely that the Supreme Court will rule on the ACA before the 3 November election.

Nominated by Mr Trump to the Chicago-based 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, Judge Barrett was confirmed by the Senate in a 55-43 vote in October 2017 after a tough process. She was one of the names the president considered to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy in 2017.

After graduating from Notre Dame University Law School in Indiana, she clerked for the late Justice Antonin Scalia, who died in 2016. She served as a legal scholar at Notre Dame for around 15 years.

Born in New Orleans, she is married to a former federal prosecutor in South Bend, Indiana, and together they have seven children.

Two of them were adopted from Haiti and their youngest biological child has Down Syndrome.

Battle over Supreme Court Image copyright Getty Images
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Will Judge Barrett be confirmed?

The White House has begun contacting Republican Senate offices to schedule meetings with the nominee next week, two sources familiar with the planning told CBS.

The courtesy calls are expected to start on Wednesday. The nominee will then be grilled by the Senate Judiciary Committee - on which 22 Republicans and Democrats sit.

The hearings usually last between three and five days. Afterwards committee members will vote on whether to send the nomination to the full Senate. If they do, all 100 senators will vote to confirm or reject her.

Republicans hold a slim majority of 53 senators in the chamber, but they already seem to have the 51 votes they need to get Judge Barrett confirmed.

Media playback is unsupported on your device Media captionJustice Ruth Bader Ginsburg remembered

Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has vowed to hold a confirmation vote before the White House election on 3 November.

Barring a surprise, Democrats seem to have few procedural options to prevent her gliding through the Senate to the Supreme Court bench.

Media playback is unsupported on your device Media caption2016 v 2020: What Republicans said about choosing a Supreme Court justice in an election year Why is the nomination controversial?

Since Ginsburg's death, Republican senators have been accused of hypocrisy for pressing ahead with a Supreme Court nomination during an election year.

In 2016, Mr McConnell refused to hold hearings for Democratic President Barack Obama's nominee for the court, Merrick Garland.

The nomination, which came 237 days before the election, was successfully blocked because Republicans held the Senate and argued the decision should be made outside of an election year.

With 39 days before the 2020 election, Democrats now say the Republicans should stand by their earlier position and let voters decide.

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden said Mr Trump's efforts to appoint a justice were an "abuse of power".

A Reuters/Ipsos opinion survey conducted after Ginsburg's death found that 62% of US adults thought the vacancy should be filled by the presidential election winner, while 23% disagreed and the rest said they were not sure.

Related Topics
  • US Supreme Court
  • US election 2020
  • United States Senate
  • Donald Trump
  • United States

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