- - Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Obama campaign is running its first Spanish-language television ads aimed at rallying support among Hispanics, an increasingly important voting bloc.

The four television spots each feature an Obama supporter talking about the president’s education policies, including improving Head Start centers that serve more than 362,000 Hispanic children and increasing funding for Pell Grants to help nearly 2 million Hispanic students pay for college.

The ads will air in Colorado, Nevada and Florida, political battleground states with growing Hispanic populations. The campaign says the promotions are the first in a series of Spanish-language ads.

The campaign also announced a wider appeal to Hispanics on Wednesday, launching “Latinos for Obama.” The effort is aimed at increasing Hispanic voter registration and helping Hispanics volunteer for the Obama campaign.

STATE DEPARTMENT

TransCanada submits new route for Keystone pipeline

The company planning the disputed Keystone XL oil pipeline has proposed a new route through Nebraska that avoids the state’s environmentally sensitive Sandhills region.

Calgary-based TransCanada submitted a series of proposed routes — including a preferred alternative — late Wednesday to Nebraska environmental officials.

The state has become a focus of concern for the 1,700-mile pipeline, which would carry oil from Canada to the Texas Gulf Coast. President Obama blocked the pipeline earlier this year, citing uncertainty over the Nebraska route, which would travel above an aquifer that provides water to eight states.

Details of the preferred route were not immediately available. A spokesman for the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality said officials hope to post the full proposal on the Internet as soon as Thursday.

A spokeswoman for the State Department said U.S. officials had not received notification of a new route. State Department approval is needed because the $7 billion pipeline would cross a U.S. border.

FLORIDA

Republican lawmaker won’t face state charges

MIAMI — U.S. Rep. David Rivera won’t be charged with a state crime in Florida after a year-plus investigation of the Republican’s finances, law enforcement officials said Wednesday.

A 16-page memo released by Miami-Dade County State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle concluded that law enforcement officials “have exhausted all active criminal investigative avenues” and closed the case despite lingering questions.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement last year identified “potential ethical violations” by Mr. Rivera, including that he as a state representative sought to hide a $1 million contract with a Florida gambling company. It also said he used campaign funds to pay for Florida House of Representatives activities already reimbursed by the state.

Although state prosecutors found no criminal violations, Mr. Rivera still faces a federal probe.

NORTH CAROLINA

Edwards criminal trial judge recuses self from hearing

GREENSBORO — The judge overseeing John Edwards’ criminal trial Wednesday recused herself from considering whether to quash a subpoena issued to a former speechwriter for the two-time presidential candidate.

Mr. Edwards’ lawyers are seeking an extensive list of documents from Wendy Button, a 2008 campaign staffer expected to testify for the prosecution.

U.S. District Court Judge Catherine C. Eagles said Wednesday that her husband is a former law partner of one of the lawyers representing Ms. Button. Another judge will hold a hearing Friday in Greensboro to determine whether Ms. Button must comply with the subpoena.

Judge Eagles will still oversee the trial, which is expected to last at least six weeks. Jury selection is under way, with opening statements scheduled for Monday.

ARIZONA

GOP hopeful Kelly to face Giffords ex-aide in race

PHOENIX — Voters in southern Arizona’s 8th Congressional District on Tuesday night chose Republican Jesse Kelly to face Gabrielle Giffords’ former aide Ron Barber in a special election to replace the wounded ex-congresswoman.

Mr. Kelly had about 38 percent of the vote and the margin was enough for the Associated Press to declare him the winner in the race. He defeated three other GOP candidates — state Sen. Frank Antenori; retired U.S. Air Force pilot and political newcomer Martha McSally; and Tucson businessman and longtime sports broadcaster Dave Sitton.

Mr. Antenori and Ms. McSally both conceded before final results were available.

Ms. Giffords tapped Mr. Barber as her preferred replacement, and he drew strong financial support and no challengers in the Democratic primary.

Mr. Kelly is a businessman and tea party favorite who nearly unseated Ms. Giffords in 2010.

Mr. Barber and Mr. Kelly will face off in the special general election on June 12. That winner will hold the seat until Ms. Giffords’ term expires at the end of 2012. The race for the full term for the renumbered District 2 begins with an August primary.

Ms. Giffords resigned from her seat on Jan. 25, slightly more than a year after she was shot at a constituent meet-and-greet event in Tucson. Six people were killed and 13 others were wounded including Mr. Barber and Ms. Giffords.

The 8th District spans parts of Tucson and its suburbs, some of Pinal and Santa Cruz counties and all of Cochise County.

All four Republicans in the race embraced strong conservative issues like enhanced border security before immigration reform, repeal of federal health care legislation and cuts to the size of federal government and of federal regulations. That may be an issue for Mr. Kelly because Mr. Barber embraces Ms. Giffords’ moderate Democratic positions, which can be a draw to the independents who decide the general elections in the district.

The 8th District has nearly 425,000 registered voters with 159,000 Republicans, 134,000 Democrats and 128,000 independents.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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