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By ALAN FRAM, Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — In a suburban Houston congressional district that backed President Donald Trump in 2016, a twice-elected Republican sheriff is battling a Democrat who's the son of an immigrant from India. To Democrats, that smells like an opportunity.

Things are flipped in central New York, where freshman Democratic Rep.

Anthony Brindisi faces the Republican he ousted two years ago from a district near Syracuse that includes smaller cities like Binghamton and Utica. Trump won there easily, and Republicans say his place atop the ticket will help propel Claudia Tenney back to Congress.

The tale of two districts 1,600 miles apart spotlights that many pivotal House races hinge on suburban voters. While some like Brindisi's have a more rural, blue collar feel than the diverse, better educated one outside Houston, an overriding factor will be how Trump is viewed in the district.

And that's a problem for the GOP.

Two years after a 40-seat surge fueled by wins in the suburbs hoisted Democrats to House control, Republican hopes of recapturing the majority have buckled along with Trump's approval ratings. Some worry that the party will lose seats, an agonizing letdown from their one-time dream of retaking control by gaining 17 seats.

“My fear for Republicans is there are simply not enough rural voters to offset the losses they’ve suffered in the suburbs these last few years,” said former Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Pa., a Trump critic. “It’s certainly possible the Democrats could pick up more than a few seats.”

Democrats boast an ever-expanding target list that includes a half-dozen Republican seats in Texas plus others outside Atlanta, Cincinnati, Los Angeles and Phoenix. They hope to win in traditionally red strongholds like Alaska, Indiana, Missouri, Nebraska and rural Virginia, while toppling New Jersey Rep. Jeff Van Drew, who defected to the GOP last year.

“We're still on offense,” said Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., who leads House Democrats' campaign organization. She didn't predict how many seats her party would win.

Republicans have opportunities too, including in small town areas in central California, Iowa, Minnesota, New Mexico and Virginia. They're spending money on suburban seats they've previously lost in Georgia, Minnesota and Texas, plus others in Salt Lake City, Oklahoma City, New York City's Staten Island and Charleston, South Carolina.

Spokesman Bob Salera of the National Republican Congressional Committee, the House GOP’s political arm, said Republicans will gain seats because progressives' proposals on policing and health care will be “totally toxic among suburban voters.”

But Democrats are fortifying their chances with a money-raising bonanza. Since January 2019, all 29 Democrats in House districts Trump carried in 2016 have banked more money than their GOP challengers, usually by multiples. The same is true for all but two of the 24 other Democrats in seats Republicans said they'd pursue aggressively this year.

“That's testament to the environment," said GOP pollster Jon McHenry, citing the presidential race's impact on down-ballot contests. “And it's a wake-up call."

Further bolstering Democrats is repulsion among educated voters over Trump's racially inflammatory tirades, his mishandling of the coronavirus pandemi c and crippled economy, and the fact that many suburbs are growing more diverse.

All that could prove telling in the Houston-area district where Democrat Sri Preston Kulkarni is battling GOP Sheriff Troy Nehls.

The suburban district has been trending away from Republicans as it becomes wealthier and more diverse, with Trump's 8-point victory there well below 2012 GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney's 25-point win. The district has so many minorities that Kulkarni’s campaign literature is in 21 languages.

Houston has also seen a major virus resurgence. “It's the greatest failure of leadership in American history,” Kulkarni said of Trump's pandemic response.

The American-born Kulkarni left college temporarily when his father was dying of cancer to help provide care and to aid the family's struggle with medical bills. He wields the story as a cautionary tale as Democrats make health care their top issue during a pandemic in which Republicans want the Supreme Court to overturn former President Barack Obama's health care law.

A former foreign service officer, Kulkarni lost a 2018 bid for the seat to GOP Rep. Pete Olson, who chose to retire after that close call. Outspent last time, Kulkarni has raised five times what Nehls has collected.

Nehls served two decades in the Army Reserve and is sheriff of Fort Bend County, which dominates the congressional district. He's emphasized his “proven independent brand" as a sheriff used to “building bridges" with “diverse communities," said campaign spokesman Nick Maddux.

Yet Nehls hasn't hid his support for Trump, attending when the president visited Texas recently. He's shared Trump's disdain for protective masks, writing that a local mandatory mask order “looks more like a communist dictatorship than a free Republic.” In a digital ad early this year, the announcer boasted that as sheriff, Nehls “locked up over 2,500 criminal illegal immigrants."

Brindisi's upstate New York district was struggling economically before the virus hit, and many expect Trump's populist and nationalist appeals to help the president carry it again. Brindisi defeated Tenney in 2018 by 2 percentage points, and Trump carried the district by 16 points two years earlier.

Tenney said she's focusing on her accomplishments during her two years in Congress, including backing the GOP's huge 2017 tax cuts. And she's attacking Brindisi for falsely posing as a moderate, citing his support for Trump's impeachment.

“If you just drive around and look what’s going on, it’s Trump country,” said Tenney, adding that Trump’s popularity should prove “a big help” to her.

Brindisi said the district doesn't need a “controversial” representative. Among other things, Tenney once asserted that many shooters in mass slayings are Democrats.

Brindisi's first TV ad highlights language he inserted into a larger bill requiring the military to buy stainless steel flatware domestically. The last U.S. producer of those items happens to be in his district.

“Regardless of who's at the top of the ballot, I think that I can stand on my own two feet,” said Brindisi. What matters, he said, is having a representative who “shows up and gets the job done."

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Miami : They seek to obtain freedom for Eduardo Arocena Telemundo Miami (51)

Humberto Aguilar, who defends the cause of Eduardo Arocena says that “he is very bad, he has 2 or 3 years left to live.”

The next hearing before a panel of the prison bureau could be the last chance Eduardo Arocena has to be released.

“He can’t see anymore, he can’t walk,” says Aguilar.

Tried and sentenced to two life sentences for terrorism, intimidation and murder against people and entities linked to the Castro regime almost four decades ago, Arocena is serving his sentence in a prison for sick prisoners in Minnesota.

“I impersonated the prison, they told me he was waiting for me, we want to get him out of here now.”

Humberto Aguilar, who represented him at the beginning of his legal battle, has resumed his defense, although today he does not practice as a lawyer, according to him, at the request of the Catholic Church.

“Our project is to free him, let him die with his family”

Aguilar affirms that Arocena no longer faces an extradition request to Cuba, but he fears a reaction from the Havana regime, preventing the departure of a man who some call a terrorist and others a fighter for the freedom of Cuba.

“That they go to the United Nations, or to the Security Council and make a complaint or restart extradition to Cuba”

Every day, he says, he writes to the White House and Florida senators to intercede for his release from prison.

Senator Marco Rubio’s office sent us a statement in this regard, in which he says that “Rubio has been in contact with Arocena’s family since 2012, but that, due to the privacy regulations of the Senate, he is not authorized to disclose more details ”.

Finding support, even within organizations in historic exile, Aguilar says, has been difficult.

Johny López de la Cruz, president of the 2506 brigade says that “we as an organization cannot do that kind of thing.” However, he told us that, individually, he recognizes Arocena’s courage in confronting Castro’s tyranny.

“35 years after being in jail, now that he is ill at a very advanced age, I believe that for humanitarian reasons they should give it to him.”

For his part, Aguilar, who is trying to recover the lawyer’s license he lost in the 1990s in Miami after going to prison on charges related to money laundering and drug importation, says he is not worried about being the target of criticism.

Arocena, whose health is delicate, has no contact with her family in Miami, only with people who handle her case

“They are looking for a place for him to stay because the family has no way to take care of him and I have spoken with the nuncio to help him find a place,” says Aguilar.

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