Kavanaugh Conf Spills Into Gov Races

(AP) -- The controversy over sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh spilled into governor's races across the country as the woman at the center of the claims told her story to a riveted nation.

The already highly charged contests became even more so after psychology professor Christine Blasey Ford gave her emotional but steady recounting of a sexual assault she says happened while she and Kavanaugh were teenagers. Later, an emotional and emphatic Kavanaugh denied it.

Her testimony and whether Kavanaugh's nomination should move forward became flashpoints in governor's races from New Hampshire to Oregon.

One Republican facing re-election this November, New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, called Ford's allegations serious and said they should be fully investigated.

Through a campaign spokesman, Sununu said the Senate "should think carefully about the next steps in this process."

But his Democratic challenger Molly Kelly, said Sununu should go further and call for President Donald Trump to withdraw Kavanaugh's nomination.

"Sununu's latest statement is not enough," Kelly said in a statement. "And he owes the women of New Hampshire an apology."

It was similar in Oregon, where Republican challenger Knute Buehler called for an FBI investigation into Ford's charges while Democratic Gov. Kate Brown said Kavanaugh's nomination should be rejected.

In a Twitter message, Brown called the federal judge "a threat to women's rights in our nation."

Governors have no official role in how the U.S. Senate should handle Brett Kavanaugh's appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court, but their voices could add pressure to senators trying to decide how to vote.

In Illinois, Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner said earlier this month that there should be an investigation and the allegations, if true, should disqualify Kavanaugh. He did not specify whether he thought the Senate inquiry was sufficient or whether the FBI should investigate, as Democrats have asked.

Rauner's spokesman said the governor was traveling Thursday and did not watch Ford's testimony.

His Democratic challenger, J.B. Pritzker, criticized Rauner's response.

The governor, he said Thursday, "continues to support Trump and this troubling nominee. I've opposed Kavanaugh from day one because he poses a grave threat to Roe v. Wade, the Affordable Care Act, and critical consumer and environmental protections."

The allegations resonate deeply in Maryland, where Kavanaugh and Ford attended separate private prep schools. Ford says the assault took place at a gathering in a Maryland suburb of Washington, D.C.

Through a spokeswoman, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said Kavanaugh's nomination should not proceed without a full investigation of the allegations. A week earlier, Hogan had rejected a Democratic state senator's call for Maryland state police to investigate Ford's story.

Hogan's opponent in the November election, Democrat Ben Jealous, said Kavanaugh should not be confirmed.

"The women who have come forward should have the freedom to pursue legal remedy, and our leaders have the obligation to do everything they can to end this epidemic of sexual violence," he said in a statement.

Some other Republican governors and candidates for the office stopped short of calling for a full investigation. Others, including Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey and Connecticut's Republican candidate, Bob Stefanowski, avoided the question by saying Kavanaugh's confirmation was not an issue for governors to decide.

Stefanowski drew groans at a debate on Wednesday, the day before Ford's testimony, when he responded to a question on the confirmation by saying, "I'm going to pass on that. That's a federal issue."

On Thursday, he issued a statement saying the Senate committee should "fully consider" Ford's and Kavanaugh's testimony before proceeding. His Democratic opponent, Ned Lamont, criticized those responses.

"His silence is deafening," Lamont said. "The voters of Connecticut deserve to know where candidates for governor --- who are running to appoint Connecticut's cabinet officials and Supreme Court Justices --- stand on Brett Kavanaugh."

(KA)