Jill Biden’s path from reluctant politico to possible FLOTUS

By ALEXANDRA JAFFE | Associated Press

WILMINGTON, Del. — Jill Biden is a prankster.

It’s the first thing most of her friends and former aides say when asked about her character. She once sneaked into a close aide’s birthday party dressed as catering staff and surprised him with a drink. She has dressed up as the Grinch to toy with colleagues during Christmas. And she likes to put on a red wig with a bob to pop up unnoticed at events or make her husband, Joe Biden, laugh.

That sense of humor has helped Joe Biden navigate decades in public life that have been marked by achievements, defeats and considerable personal loss. As she prepares to speak Tuesday at the Democratic National Convention, those who have worked closely with Jill Biden say her warmth will appeal to Americans confronting tough times of their own.

“She has a very good sense of, especially in these times, that bringing a little smile, some joy, some levity into moments is important,” said Courtney O’Donnell, who served as Jill Biden’s communications director during her husband’s first term as vice president.

Jill Biden married the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee in 1977, more than four years after his first wife and young daughter were killed in a car accident. She helped raise his surviving sons, Beau and Hunter, before giving birth to daughter Ashley in 1981.

As Joe Biden commuted from Delaware to Washington while serving as a senator, Jill Biden built a career as a teacher, ultimately earning two master’s degrees and then a doctorate in education from the University of Delaware in 2007.

Along the way, former coworkers say, Jill Biden, 69, became one of her husband’s most valuable political advisers, someone whose opinion was paramount in most of his biggest decisions, both political and personal. She was skeptical of his 1988 presidential campaign, but pushed him to run again in 2008, according to her memoir.

After Joe Biden became the presumptive nominee this year, she played a prominent role in auditioning many of the vice presidential candidates, appearing with them at various events. During a recent interview on CBS, Jill Biden acknowledged that she and her husband “talked about the different woman candidates.”

“But it’s gotta be Joe’s decision,” she added.

But those who know Jill Biden best say she’s slightly perplexed at being called one of her husband’s most significant “advisers,” insisting that her relationship with her husband is far deeper and more nuanced than such a label would suggest.

“He’s got plenty of political advisers. That’s not what she is,” said Cathy Russell, who was Jill Biden’s chief of staff during the Obama administration and is now a vice chair on the campaign. “She is his spouse, and she loves him and she talks to him about all sorts of things, but she has a unique role, and it’s not being a political adviser. That’s not her thing.”

Jill Biden does remain one of her husband’s closest confidantes — particularly now, at a time when both Bidens are largely confined to their Wilmington home due to the coronavirus pandemic. Aides say the Bidens often pass each other in the halls during the day as they head from a briefing to a virtual event to a fundraiser.

“They see each other a lot, but there’s a lot of passing and crossing each other. In the evening they try to sit together and just kind of regroup and chat about things,” Russell said. “They’ve got grandkids and kids and two dogs. They’ve got family and lives that are sort of spinning around them, and I think they just try to always find time for each other.”

A self-described introvert, Jill Biden was initially a reluctant political wife. In her memoir, she writes of giving her first political speech and having no desire to “give any speeches, anytime, anywhere — just the thought of doing so made me so nervous I felt sick.”

But after eight years as the vice president’s wife and then giving speeches and appearing at events after her husband left office, Jill Biden has become one of her husband’s most prominent surrogates. She has appeared in virtual events in more than 17 cities since May, and is one one of the campaign’s primary surrogates to Latino voters, headlining town halls and holding frequent calls with members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

In one week this month, Jill Biden appeared at everything from a science-focused fundraiser to an event with Joe Biden’s faith coalition to one focused on LGBTQ youth, speaking with emotion and fluency about her husband’s plans for each constituency.

She’s also one of his most protective surrogates, a quality she writes about in her memoir — and one that was on full display during a Super Tuesday speech Joe Biden gave in March when a handful of protesters rushed the stage. Jill moved between the protesters and her husband, pushing a protester away.

But the resistance to being called an “adviser” on Biden’s team reflects Jill Biden’s persistent and successful efforts to carve out her own career and identity independent of her husband’s political ambitions, something she prioritized even during his time in the Senate.

“They lived in Delaware always, through all those Senate campaigns, and she had her own life. She was raising her children, she was teaching, she was going to school at night at different times,” said Russell. “She was never a part of the Washington scene. That political life just wasn’t her life.”

Jill Biden continued to teach at a community college while her husband was vice president, against the advice of multiple aides at the time.

“Being a teacher is not what I do but who I am,” she wrote in her memoir, and described “scrambling into a cocktail dress and heels” in the bathroom at her school to make it to a White House reception, or grading papers on Air Force Two, with relish.

Indeed, she has said she plans to continue teaching if she becomes first lady.

As longtime friend and teaching colleague Mary Doody described it, the classroom offers Jill Biden a bit of an escape.

“When you’re in a classroom, for an hour and a half or two hours or however long you’re with those students, it’s just you and them, and you build this rapport. It’s like you build a little family,” Doody said. “And I think that’s why it’s so important for her to teach.”

Aides say she’ll continue to advocate for many of the same issues she championed as the vice president’s wife if she returns to the White House as first lady. During her eight years in the Obama administration, she focused on military spouses and families, advocated for community colleges and sought to raise awareness around breast cancer prevention.

All the while, Doody notes, Jill Biden is known for being impeccably dressed, always offering up a good book recommendation, writing small notes or sending flowers to friends, family and staff who need a pick me up, and making sure to get to all her grandkids’ sports games. Doody expects her to continue it all.

“If I could figure out how she does all that, I would have a really good secret to share,” Doody said.

Powered by WPeMatico

These O.C. parents have a message for Gov. Newsom, teachers’ unions: ‘Open up the schools.’

A pro-charter school group brought some 75 parents, teachers and a couple of Orange County Board of Education members together Tuesday evening to rally for the reopening of schools that were closed because of coronavirus concerns.

Parents, they said, should be making the choice of whether their children learn on campus or online.

“Open up the schools,” the crowd briefly chanted.

  • Jeff Barke, right, leads a rally outside the Santa Ana Educators Association office in Santa Ana on Tuesday, August 4, 2020. The rally calling for the reopening of schools was organized by the California Policy Center’s “Parent Union.” (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Cecilia Iglesias, left, and Orange County Board of Education member Mari Barke, right, join others outside the Santa Ana Educators Association office during a ‘reopen the schools’ rally in Santa Ana on Tuesday, August 4, 2020. The rally was organized by the California Policy Center’s Parent Union, a pro-charter school group. Iglesias, a former Santa Ana councilwoman and school board member, works for the center and organized the meeting with Barke’s help. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Sound
    The gallery will resume inseconds
  • Rhonda Furin, center, joins others during a reopen the schools rally outside the Santa Ana Educators Association in Santa Ana on Tuesday, August 4, 2020. The rally was organized by a group called “Parent Union.” It’s a pro-charter school group under the libertarian California Policy Center. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • A man holds up a sign during a ‘reopen the schools’ rally outside the Santa Ana Educators Association office in Santa Ana on Tuesday, August 4, 2020. The rally was organized by a“Parent Union.” (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • About 75 protesters gathered outside the Santa Ana Educators Association office for a ‘reopen the schools’ rally in Santa Ana on Tuesday, August 4, 2020. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Cecilia Iglesias protests outside the Santa Ana Educators Association office during a reopen the schools rally in Santa Ana on Tuesday, August 4, 2020. Iglesias, a former Santa Ana councilwoman and former School Board member, organized the rally as the head of the “Parent Union,” a pro-charter school group under the libertarian California Policy Center. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Jeff Barke, a physician who advocates for the reopening of schools without social distancing or face masks, leads a ‘reopen the schools’ rally outside the Santa Ana Educators Association office in Santa Ana on Tuesday, August 4, 2020. The rally was organized by the California Police Center’s Parent Union group, a pro-charter group that said parents should have the choice of whether their children can return to campus for in-person learning or continue with online education. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Protestors gather outside the Santa Ana Educators Association for a reopen the schools rally in Santa Ana on Tuesday, August 4, 2020. The rally was organized by the California Policy Center’s “Parent Union.” (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Jeff Barke, right, leads a rally outside the Santa Ana Educators Association office in Santa Ana on Tuesday, August 4, 2020. The rally calling for the reopening of schools was organized by the California Policy Center’s “Parent Union.” (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

of

Expand

Flanked by American flags and punctuated with religious references and prayer, the rally was organized by the Orange County-based California Policy Center’s “Parent Union,” which pointedly chose to host its event in front of the offices of the Santa Ana teachers’ union.

“That’s why we’re here,” said Jeff Barke, an Orange County physician who regularly advocates for reopening schools without face masks or social distancing but mentioned neither safety precaution during the rally. Instead, he and others focused attention on teacher unions, which have advocated for resuming school online for now.

“We’re here to let them know we’re sick and tired of the schools being closed. It’s not based on science. It’s not based on statistics. It’s not based on facts. It’s based on union power. “

Barbara Pearson, president of the Santa Ana teachers’ union – the Santa Ana Educators’ Association – called the protest “another desperate grab for attention in their struggle to stay relevant.

“It has nothing to do with the reopening of schools or the students of Santa Ana.  Governor Newsom made the decision to close schools, not the unions.  Our priority is the safety of staff and students,” Pearson wrote in an e-mail Tuesday night.

On July 17, Newsom ordered that all public and private schools in counties seeing a spike in coronavirus cases could not reopen for in-person learning in the new academic year. That affected all of Orange County’s schools, except for those elementary schools that are applying for a waiver. (State officials unveiled the waiver application process Monday night; it’s likely to impact mostly private and parochial schools.)

During the rally Tuesday, a few teachers spoke about the detrimental effects of online learning on all students, but especially those who need special services. Students have regressed academically since schools shut down mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic, they noted. And many who are in vulnerable situations, some speakers said, have been made even more vulnerable, exposing them to abuse and even suicide, because they don’t have their safe haven – school – to turn to.

Mari Barke, an elected member of the Orange County Board of Education and Jeff Barke’s wife, told the crowd, to “keep fighting” to reopen schools.

“Parents are in the best position to make decisions for their children,” Mari Barke said.

Last week, her board voted to file a lawsuit against Newsom to force a reopening of schools. Fellow Trustee Ken Williams also addressed the crowd, invoking God and talking about “the fight for the children.”

The rally was organized by Cecilia Iglesias, a former Santa Ana councilwoman and former School Board member who works for the California Policy Center, a libertarian think tank that focuses on issues like pension reform and charter schools. The Center runs four chapters of the Parent Union in Southern California. Iglesias said she hopes to hold similar rallies in other counties.

“Our call is a call to action, to let parents choose,” Iglesias said prior to the rally. “We’re suggesting: open up the schools, following safety guidelines, and give parents the choice.”

Read more about These O.C. parents have a message for Gov. Newsom, teachers’ unions: ‘Open up the schools.’ This post was shared via Orange County Register’s RSS Feed

Powered by WPeMatico

Homeland Security brings armored vehicle to Santa Ana in a firearms case, congressman alarmed

Department of Homeland Security agents came to Santa Ana on Wednesday with an armored vehicle to serve a search warrant, and were not conducting activities related to immigration enforcement, officials said.

Congressman Lou Correa, a Santa Ana Democrat, said on social media “this incident is very concerning and alarming to me.” Correa added, “My office and I are investigating this incident.”

Earlier today, DHS’s Homeland Security Investigations unit conducted an operation in our community. My office and I are investigating this incident. pic.twitter.com/sDxSGGXP6I

— Rep. Lou Correa (@RepLouCorrea) June 25, 2020

The incident took place at the 1300 block of Center Dr., Santa Ana Police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna said. It was conducted by a Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) response team, which is a branch of the DHS but is not affiliated with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, ICE spokeswoman Lori Haley said. They came to Santa Ana serve a warrant regarding a firearms-related investigation.

“HSI is the investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security and is a vital U.S. asset in combating criminal organizations illegally exploiting America’s travel, trade, financial and immigration systems,” Haley said in an email. “As with other law enforcement agencies whose mission is to protect public safety, specially trained SRT (Special Response Team) agents may be deployed in high-risk situations or under hazardous conditions.”

The agency investigates a broad range of crimes including weapons and gun smuggling, human trafficking, transnational gang activity, international theft. HSI also works on immigration fraud, but that was not the focus of its operation in Santa Ana on Wednesday, Haley said.

She declined specify what agents had been searching for, if anything had been seized or if anyone had been detained, citing an ongoing investigation.

Read more about Homeland Security brings armored vehicle to Santa Ana in a firearms case, congressman alarmed This post was shared via Orange County Register’s RSS Feed

Powered by WPeMatico

Senate passes $2.2 trillion coronavirus rescue package on unanimous vote

By ANDREW TAYLOR and LISA MASCARO

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate late Wednesday passed an unparalleled $2.2 trillion economic rescue package steering aid to businesses, workers and health care systems engulfed by the coronavirus pandemic.

The unanimous vote came despite misgivings on both sides about whether it goes too far or not far enough and capped days of difficult negotiations as Washington confronted a national challenge unlike it has ever faced.

The 880-page measure is the largest economic relief bill in U.S. history. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., appeared somber and exhausted as he announced the vote — and he released senators from Washington until April 20, though he promised to recall them if needed.

“The legislation now before us now is historic because it is meant to match a historic crisis,”said Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. “Our health care system is not prepared to care for the sick. Our workers are without work. Our businesses cannot do business. Our factories lie idle. The gears of the American economy have ground to a halt.”

The package is intended as relief for an economy spiraling into recession or worse and a nation facing a grim toll from an infection that’s killed nearly 20,000 people worldwide. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, asked how long the aid would keep the economy afloat, said: “We’ve anticipated three months. Hopefully, we won’t need this for three months.”

Underscoring the effort’s sheer magnitude, the bill finances a response with a price tag that equals half the size of the entire $4 trillion annual federal budget.

Insistently optimistic, President Donald Trump said of the greatest public-health emergency in anyone’s lifetime, “I don’t think its going to end up being such a rough patch” and anticipated the economy soaring “like a rocket ship” when it’s over.

The drive by leaders to speed the bill through the Senate was slowed as four conservative Republican senators from states who economies are dominated by low-wage jobs demanded changes, saying the legislation as written might give workers like store clerks incentives to stay on unemployment instead of returning return to their jobs since they may earn more money if they’re laid off than if they’re working. They settled for a failed vote to modify the provision.

Other objections floated in from New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has become a prominent Democrat on the national scene as the country battles the pandemic. Cuomo, whose state has seen more deaths from the pandemic than any other, said, “I’m telling you, these numbers don’t work.”

Ardent liberals like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez were restless as well, but top Washington Democrats assured them that a additional coronavirus legislation will follow this spring and signaled that delaying the pending measure would be foolish.

The sprawling measure is the third coronavirus response bill produced by Congress and by far the largest. It builds on efforts focused on vaccines and emergency response, sick and family medical leave for workers, and food aid.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., swung behind the bipartisan agreement, saying it “takes us a long way down the road in meeting the needs of the American people.”

Senate passage delivered the legislation to the Democratic-controlled House, which will most likely pass it Friday. House members are scattered around the country and the timetable for votes in that chamber was unclear.

House Democratic and Republican leaders have hoped to clear the measure for Trump’s signature by a voice vote without having to call lawmakers back to Washington.

The package would give direct payments to most Americans, expand unemployment benefits and provide a $367 billion program for small businesses to keep making payroll while workers are forced to stay home.

It includes a controversial, heavily negotiated $500 billion program for guaranteed, subsidized loans to larger industries, including airlines. Hospitals would get significant help as well.

Six days of arduous talks produced the bill, creating tensions among Congress’ top leaders, who each took care to tend to party politics as they maneuvered and battled over crafting the legislation. But failure is not an option, nor is starting over, which permitted both sides to include their priorities.

“That Washington drama does not matter any more,” McConnell said. “The Senate is going to stand together, act together, and pass this historic relief package today.”

The bill would provide one-time direct payments to Americans of $1,200 per adult making up to $75,000 a year, and $2,400 to a married couple making up to $150,000, with $500 payments per child.

A huge cash infusion for hospitals expecting a flood of COVID-19 patients grew during the talks to an estimated $130 billion. Another $45 billion would fund additional relief through the Federal Emergency Management Agency for local response efforts and community services.

Democrats said the package would help replace the salaries of furloughed workers for four months, rather than the three months first proposed. Furloughed workers would get whatever amount a state usually provides for unemployment, plus a $600 per week add-on, with gig workers like Uber drivers covered for the first time.

Businesses controlled by members of Congress and top administration officials — including Trump and his immediate family members — would be ineligible for the bill’s business assistance.

Schumer boasted of negotiating wins for transit systems, hospitals and cash-hungry state governments that were cemented after Democrats blocked the measure in votes held Sunday and Monday.

But Cuomo said the Senate package would send less than $4 billion to New York, far short of his estimate that the crisis will cost his state up to $15 billion over the next year. More than 280 New Yorkers have died from the virus, a death toll more than double that of any other state.

Still, Pelosi said the need for more money for New York is “no reason to stop the step we are taking.”

Pelosi was a force behind $400 million in grants to states to expand voting by mail and other steps that Democrats billed as making voting safer but Republican critics called political opportunism. The package also contains $15.5 billion more for a surge in demand for food stamps as part of a massive $330 billion title for agency operations.

Republicans won inclusion of an “employee retention” tax credit that’s estimated to provide $50 billion to companies that retain employees on payroll and cover 50% of workers’ paycheck up to $10,000. Companies would also be able to defer payment of the 6.2% Social Security payroll tax.

A companion appropriations package ballooned as well, growing from a $46 billion White House proposal to $330 billion, which dwarfs earlier disasters — including Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy combined.

Europe is enacting its own economic recovery packages, with huge amounts of credit guarantees, government spending and other support.

Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, has agreed to commit over 1 trillion euros ($1.1 trillion) in fiscal stimulus and support — roughly 30% of that nation’s entire annual output. France, Spain and Italy have launched similar programs.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death.

In the United States, more than 55,000 people have been sickened and more than 1,000 have died.

Associated Press writers Matthew Daly, Alan Fram, Mary Clare Jalonick, Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar and Padmananda Rama contributed to this report.

Read more about Senate passes $2.2 trillion coronavirus rescue package on unanimous vote This post was shared via Orange County Register’s RSS Feed

Powered by WPeMatico

Sanders faces brunt of the attacks at South Carolina debate

By STEVE PEOPLES, MEG KINNARD and AAMER MADHANI

CHARLESTON, S.C. — Democrats unleashed a roaring assault against Bernie Sanders and seized on Mike Bloomberg’s past with women in the workplace during a contentious debate that tested the strength of the two men at the center of the party’s presidential nomination fight.

As the undeniable Democratic front-runner, Sanders faced the brunt of the attacks for much of the night, and for one of the few times, fellow progressive Elizabeth Warren was among the critics. The Massachusetts senator pressed the case that she could execute ideas that the Vermont senator could only talk about.

“Bernie and I agree on a lot of things,” she said. “But I think I would make a better president than Bernie.”

A group of moderates, meanwhile, fought to emerge as the chief Sanders alternative.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, who is seeking a strong win in South Carolina to keep his campaign afloat, argued only he has the experience to lead in the world. Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar repeatedly contended that she alone could win the votes of battleground state moderates. And former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg pointed to Sanders’ self-described democratic socialism and his recent comments expressing admiration for Cuban dictator Fidel Castro’s push for education.

“I am not looking forward to a scenario where it comes down to Donald Trump with his nostalgia for the social order of the 1950s and Bernie Sanders with a nostalgia for the revolutionary politics of the 1960s,” Buttigieg declared.

But the moderates did little to draw separation among themselves, a dynamic that has so far only benefited the Vermont senator. Sanders fought back throughout the night, pointing to polls that showed him beating the Republican president and noting all the recent attention he’s gotten: “I’m hearing my name mentioned a little bit tonight. I wonder why.”

Trump, who returned to Washington early Wednesday after a two-day trip to India, responded to a reporter’s shouted question about whether he’d seen the debate: “I did,” he said while stepping into a car. “Not too good, not too good.”

The intensity of Tuesday’s forum, with candidates repeatedly shouting over each other, reflected the reality that the Democrats’ establishment wing is quickly running out of time to stop Sanders’ rise. Even some critics, Bloomberg among them, conceded that Sanders could build an insurmountable delegate lead as soon as next week.

The 10th debate of the 2020 primary season, sponsored by CBS and the Congressional Black Caucus Institute, was just four days before South Carolina’s first-in-the-South primary and one week before more than a dozen states vote on Super Tuesday. The Democratic White House hopefuls will not stand side by side on the debate stage again until the middle of March. That made Tuesday’s debate likely the last chance for some candidates to save themselves and alter the trajectory of the nomination fight.

Though Sanders was at the center of the attacks, the night was actually something of a high point in his political career. After spending nearly three decades as an agitator who delighted in tearing into his party’s establishment, that very party establishment was suddenly fighting to take him down, a clear sign of his rising status as the leading candidate for the nomination.

Bloomberg also faced sustained attacks that gave him an opportunity to redeem himself after a bad debate debut one week earlier. Warren cut hard at his record as a businessman, bringing up reports of one particular allegation that he told a pregnant employee “to kill it,” a reference to the woman’s unborn child. Bloomberg fiercely denied the allegation, but acknowledged he sometimes made comments that were inappropriate.

Bloomberg “cannot earn the trust of the core of the Democratic Party,” Warren said. “He is the riskiest candidate standing on this stage.”

But Bloomberg will likely remain a force in the contest even as other candidates may quickly face tough choices about the sustainability of their campaigns. Bloomberg has already spent more than $500 million on a national advertising campaign, and his fortune ensures he will remain a factor at least through Super Tuesday.

From the earliest moments of the debate, Bloomberg sought to portray a clear contrast with Sanders. He said Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin agree that Sanders would be the best outcome for the Democrats.

“Vladimir Putin thinks Donald Trump should be president of the United States and that’s why Russia is helping you get elected so you lose to him,” the former New York mayor said.

Last week, Sanders acknowledged that he’d be been briefed by intelligence officials who said that Russia is attempting to interfere in the elections to benefit him. He responded to Bloomberg on Tuesday with a direct statement for Putin: “Hey, Mr. Putin, if I’m president of the United States, trust me you’re not going to interfere in any more American elections.’”

But the skepticism for Sanders was a constant.

Buttigieg raised concerns that a Sanders nomination would cost Democrats the House and make it harder to retake the Senate.

“We’re not going to win these critical, critical House and Senate races if people in those races have to explain why the nominee of the Democratic Party is telling people to look at the bright side of the Castro regime,” Buttigieg said.

And Bloomberg said Sanders wouldn’t be able to build a winning coalition that includes Republicans unhappy with Trump’s performance in the White House.

“Can anyone in this room imagine moderate Republican going over and voting for him,” he said. “You have to do that or you can’t win.”

Warren, who raised questions about Sanders’ electability earlier in the night, intercepted that criticism, arguing that a “progressive agenda is popular.”

The South Carolina contest offers the first real look at the influence African American voters play in the Democrats’ presidential nomination process. Biden is trying to make a big impression in in the state, where he was long viewed as the unquestioned front-runner because of his support from black voters. But heading into Saturday’s primary after three consecutive underwhelming finishes, there were signs that the former vice president’s African American support may be slipping.

One reason: Tom Steyer. The billionaire activist has been pouring money into African American outreach, which threatens to peel away some of the support Biden badly needs.

Steyer noted Tuesday that he was the only candidate on stage who supported reparations for descendants of slaves.

Bloomberg, who for years defended New York’s stop-and-frisk policing policy that a federal court struck down, made an overt appeal to the nation’s black voters.

“I know that if I were black, my success would have been a lot harder to achieve,” he said. “That’s a fact that we’ve got to do something about.”

The attacks against Sanders did not slow as the night went on.

He was forced to defend his position on Israel, having condemned the American ally for its treatment of Palestinians.

“Sadly, tragically in Israel, through Bibi Netanyahu, you have a reactionary racist, who is now running that country,” said Sanders. who would be the country’s first Jewish president. He added: “What you cannot ignore is the suffering of the Palestinian people.”

And Biden slammed Sanders for his record on gun control, seizing on the Vermont senator’s support of the 2005 Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, legislation that protects gun manufacturers and sellers from laws that attempt to hold them liable for dealing firearms that end up in the hand of criminals.

“My friend to my right, and others, have in fact also given in to gun manufacturers absolute immunity,” said Biden. “Imagine if I stood here and said, ‘We give immunity to drug companies. We give immunity to tobacco companies.’

“That has caused carnage on our streets. “

Sanders proudly highlighted his “D minus” rating from the pro-gun organization. And just last week, several gun control advocates who survived the Parkland, Florida, school shooting endorsed him.

Moving forward from the fiery debate, there are questions about the Democratic Party’s ability to unify behind a nominee .

Klobuchar perhaps summed up her party’s challenge best: “If we spend the next 10 months tearing our party apart, Donald Trump is going to spend the next four years tearing this country apart.”

 

Powered by WPeMatico

Sanders edges Buttigieg in New Hampshire, giving Democrats 2 front-runners

By STEVE PEOPLES, KATHLEEN RONAYNE and HUNTER WOODALL

MANCHESTER, N.H.) — Bernie Sanders won New Hampshire’s presidential primary, edging moderate rival Pete Buttigieg and scoring the first clear victory in the Democratic Party’s chaotic 2020 nomination fight.

In his Tuesday night win, the 78-year-old Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist, beat back a strong challenge from the 38-year-old former mayor of South Bend, Indiana. The dueling Democrats represent different generations, see divergent paths to the nomination and embrace conflicting visions of America’s future.

As Sanders and Buttigieg celebrated, Amy Klobuchar scored an unexpected third-place finish that gives her a road out of New Hampshire as the primary season moves on to the string of state-by-state contests that lie ahead.

Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden posted disappointing fourth and fifth place finishes respectively and were on track to finish with zero delegates from the state.

The New Hampshire vote gives new clarity to a Democratic contest shaping up to be a battle between two men separated by four decades in age and clashing political ideologies. Sanders is a leading progressive voice, having spent decades demanding substantial government intervention in health care and other sectors of the economy. Buttigieg has pressed for more incremental change, preferring to give Americans the option of retaining their private health insurance while appealing to Republicans and independents who may be dissatisfied with Trump.

Their disparate temperaments were on display Tuesday as they spoke before cheering supporters.

“We are gonna win because we have the agenda that speaks to the needs of working people across this country,” Sanders declared. “This victory here is the beginning of the end for Donald Trump.”

Buttigieg struck an optimistic tone: “Thanks to you, a campaign that some said shouldn’t be here at all has shown that we are here to stay.”

Both men have strength heading into the next phase of the campaign, yet they face very different political challenges.

While Warren made clear she will remain in the race, Sanders, well-financed and with an ardent army of supporters, has cemented his status as the clear leader of the progressive wing of the party.

Meanwhile, Buttigieg must prove he can attract support from voters of color who are critical to winning the nomination. And unlike Sanders, he still has multiple rivals in his own ideological wing of the party to contend with. They include Klobuchar, whose standout debate performance led to a late surge in New Hampshire and a growing national following. While deeply wounded, Biden promises strength in upcoming South Carolina. And though former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg was not on Tuesday’s ballot, he looms next month when the contest reaches states offering hundreds of delegates.

After a chaotic beginning to primary voting last week in Iowa, Democrats hoped New Hampshire would help give shape to their urgent quest to pick someone to take on Trump in November. At least two candidates dropped out in the wake of weak finishes Tuesday night: moderate Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet and political newcomer Andrew Yang, who attracted a small but loyal following over the past year and was one of just three candidates of color left in the race.

The struggling candidates still in the race sought to minimize the latest results.

Warren, who spent months as a Democratic front-runner, offered an optimistic outlook as she faced cheering supporters: “Our campaign is built for the long haul, and we are just getting started.”

Having already predicted he would “take a hit” in New Hampshire after a distant fourth-place finish in Iowa, Biden essentially ceded the state. He traveled to South Carolina Tuesday as he bet his candidacy on a strong showing there later this month boosted by support from black voters.

Still, history suggests that the first-in-the-nation primary will have enormous influence shaping the 2020 race. In the modern era, no Democrat has ever become the party’s general election nominee without finishing first or second in New Hampshire.

Sanders and Buttigieg were on track to win the same number of New Hampshire delegates with most of the vote tallied, with Klobuchar a few behind. Warren, Biden and the rest of the field were shut out, failing to reach the 15% threshold needed for delegates.

The AP allocated nine delegates each to Sanders and Buttigieg and six to Klobuchar.

The action was on the Democratic side, but Trump easily won New Hampshire’s Republican primary. He was facing token opposition from former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld.

With most of the vote in, Trump already had amassed more votes in the New Hampshire primary than any incumbent president in history. His vote share was approaching the modern historical high for an incumbent president, 86.43% set by Ronald Reagan in 1984. Weld received about 9% of the vote of New Hampshire Republicans.

The political spotlight quickly shifts to Nevada, where Democrats will hold caucuses on Feb. 22. But several candidates, including Warren and Sanders, plan to visit other states in the coming days that vote on Super Tuesday, signaling they are in the race for the long haul.

Peoples reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Seth Borenstein and Zeke Miller in Washington, Will Weissert, Holly Ramer and Thomas Beaumont contributed from New Hampshire.

Powered by WPeMatico

In embarrassing twist, Democrats have no Iowa caucus results

By STEVE PEOPLES, THOMAS BEAUMONT and ALEXANDRA JAFFE

DES MOINES, Iowa  — Democratic party officials in Iowa worked furiously Tuesday to deliver the delayed results of their first-in-the-nation caucus, as frustrated presidential candidates claimed momentum and plowed ahead in their quest for the White House.

Technology problems and reporting “inconsistencies” kept Iowa Democratic Party officials from releasing results from Monday’s caucus, the much-hyped kickoff to the 2020 primary. It was an embarrassing twist after months of promoting the contest as a chance for Democrats to find some clarity in a jumbled field with no clear front-runner.

Instead, caucus day ended with no winner, no official results and many fresh questions about whether Iowa can retain its coveted “first” status.

State party officials said final results would be released later Tuesday and offered assurances that the problem was not a result of “a hack or an intrusion.” Officials were conducting quality checks and verifying results, prioritizing the integrity of the results, the party said in a statement.

The statement came after tens of thousands of voters spent hours Monday night sorting through a field of nearly a dozen candidates who had spent much of the previous year fighting to win the opening contest of the 2020 campaign and, ultimately, the opportunity to take on President Donald Trump this fall.

The candidates didn’t wait for the party to resolve its issues before claiming, if not victory, progress and moving on to next-up New Hampshire.

“It looks like it’s going to be a long night, but we’re feeling good,” former Vice President Joe Biden said, suggesting the final results would “be close.”

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders said he had “a good feeling we’re going to be doing very, very well here in Iowa” once results were posted. “Today marks the beginning of the end for Donald Trump,” he predicted.

“Listen, it’s too close to call,” Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren said. “The road won’t be easy. But we are built for the long haul.”

And Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, was most certain.

“So we don’t know all the results, but we know by the time it’s all said and done, Iowa, you have shocked the nation,” he said. “By all indications, we are going on to New Hampshire victorious.”

Democrats faced the possibility that whatever numbers they ultimately released would be questioned. And beyond 2020, critics began wondering aloud whether the Iowa caucuses, a complicated set of political meetings staged in a state that is whiter and older than the Democratic Party, are a tradition whose time had passed.

The party has tried to accommodate critics, this year by promising to report three different data points about voters’ preferences, presumably improving transparency. But the new system created new headaches.

State party spokeswoman Mandy McClure said it had “found inconsistencies in the reporting of three sets of results,” forcing officials to try to verify results with “underlying data” and the paper trail.

Some of the trouble stemmed from issues with a new mobile app developed to report results to the party. Caucus organizers reported problems downloading the app and other glitches.

Des Moines County Democratic Chair Tom Courtney said the new app created “a mess.” As a result, Courtney said precinct leaders were phoning in results to the state party headquarters, which was too busy to answer their calls in some cases.

Organizers were still looking for missing results several hours after voting concluded.

Shortly before 2 a.m., the state party was making plans to dispatch people to the homes of precinct captains who hadn’t reported their numbers. That’s according to a state party official in the room who was not authorized to share internal discussions publicly.

Earlier in the night, Iowa Democrats across the state cast their votes, balancing a strong preference for fundamental change with an overwhelming desire to defeat Trump. At least four high-profile candidates vied for the lead in a contest that offered the opening test of who and what the party stands for in the turbulent age of Trump.

It’s just the first in a primary season that will span all 50 states and several U.S. territories, ending at the party’s national convention in mid-July.

For Democrats, the moment was thick with promise for a party that has seized major gains in states since Trump won the White House in 2016. But instead of clear optimism, a growing cloud of uncertainty and intraparty resentment hung over the election as the prospect of an unclear result raised fears of a long and divisive primary fight in the months ahead.

One unsurprising development: Trump won the Republican caucus, a largely symbolic victory given that he faced no significant opposition.

The president eagerly seized on the Democrats’ problems.

“The Democrat Caucus is an unmitigated disaster,” Trump tweeted early Tuesday. “Nothing works, just like they ran the Country.” He added: “The only person that can claim a very big victory in Iowa last night is ‘Trump.’”

Pre-caucus polls suggested Sanders entered the night with a narrow lead, but any of the top four candidates — Sanders, Biden, Warren and Buttigieg — was positioned to score a victory. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who represents neighboring Minnesota, was also claiming momentum, while outsider candidates including entrepreneur Andrew Yang, billionaire activist Tom Steyer and Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard could be factors.

“We know one thing: We are punching above our weight,” Klobuchar said late Monday, promising to keep fighting in New Hampshire.

New voters played a significant role in shaping Iowa’s election.

About one-quarter of all voters reported that they were caucusing for the first time, according to AP VoteCast, a survey of voters who said they planned to take part in Monday’s Democratic caucuses. The first-timers were slightly more likely to support Sanders, Warren or Buttigieg, compared with other candidates.

At the same time, VoteCast found that roughly two-thirds of caucusgoers said supporting a candidate who would fundamentally change how the system in Washington works was important to their vote. That compared to about a third of caucusgoers who said it was more important to support a candidate who would restore the political system to how it was before Trump’s election in 2016.

Not surprisingly, nearly every Iowa Democrat said the ability to beat Trump was an important quality for a presidential nominee. VoteCast found that measure outranked others as the most important quality for a nominee.

The 2020 fight has already played out over myriad distractions, particularly congressional Democrats’ push to impeach Trump, which has often overshadowed the primary and effectively pinned several leading candidates to Washington at the pinnacle of the early campaign season.

Meanwhile, ultrabillionaire Mike Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York City, is running a parallel campaign that ignored Iowa as he prepares to pounce on any perceived weaknesses in the field come March.

The amalgam of oddities was building toward what could be a murky Iowa finale before the race pivoted quickly to New Hampshire, which votes Feb. 11.

For the first time, the Iowa Democratic Party planned to report three sets of results: a tally of caucusgoers’ initial candidate preference; vote totals from the “final alignment” after supporters of lower-ranking candidates were able to make a second choice; and the total number of State Delegate Equivalents each candidate receives.

There is no guarantee that all three will show the same winner when they’re ultimately released.

The Associated Press will declare a winner based on the number of state delegates each candidate wins, which has been the traditional standard.

 

Powered by WPeMatico

Rep. Harley Rouda endorses Mike Bloomberg for president

Rep. Harley Rouda is endorsing billionaire Mike Bloomberg as Democratic candidate for president, citing the former New York City mayor’s business experience and track record fighting climate change.

“He has the ability to not only beat Donald Trump but, more importantly, to bring our country together, and restore America to its place as the leader of the free world,” Rouda said in a statement slated to go public Friday.

Bloomberg gave at least $4 million to support Rouda, D-Laguna Beach, in 2018 when he flipped Orange County’s coastal 48th District to blue for the first time.

Rouda told Politico that he liked what he heard Thursday when the billionaire businessman — who’s been a Democrat, a Republican and an independent in the past — sold himself as a centrist during closed-door meetings on Capitol Hill.

Republicans still have a 6.4 percentage point voter registration advantage in Rouda’s district. While the congressman has been vocal about climate change issues, and voted to impeach Trump, the former Republican also has spoken out against the Democratic party going too far to the left.

“Like myself, Mike Bloomberg believes in smart capitalism coupled with good government,” Rouda said.

“He’s a legendary businessman who also ran one of the nation’s largest and most complex cities, a city with a population larger than 39 states. He’s met payrolls, knows how to balance budgets, and understands the intricacies of our economy.”

Bloomberg entered the presidential race late, but has already poured more than $100 million into TV ads and adding hundreds of staffers across the county.

Bloomberg said he’s honored to have Rouda’s support, which comes less than two weeks after the media magnate opened his first California campaign office in Riverside. Rouda is the third Democratic House member to endorse Bloomberg this week, joining Florida Rep. Stephanie Murphy and New York Rep. Max Rose.

When asked Jan. 7 who he was backing for president, Rouda would only say that he was supporting “whoever can beat President Trump.”

The next morning, news leaked that Rouda was billed with Rep. Lou Correa, D-Anaheim, and others to co-host a private fundraiser in Irvine for former Vice President Joe Biden. Correa formally endorsed Biden in August and joined his campaign trail last week.

But neither Rouda nor Correa showed up to the Biden fundraiser in Shady Canyon on Jan. 9, since they were stuck voting in Washington, D.C.

Rep. Katie Porter, D-Irvine, has been stumping for Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren since she became a co-chair of the senator’s campaign in the fall.

The other four local House representatives haven’t endorsed anyone for president, with Reps. Mike Levin, D-San Juan Capistrano, and Linda Sanchez, D-Whittier, saying they likely won’t back anyone before the March 3 primary.

Read more about Rep. Harley Rouda endorses Mike Bloomberg for president This post was shared via Orange County Register’s RSS Feed

Powered by WPeMatico

Orange County GOP asks embattled Assemblyman Bill Brough to bow out of 2020 election

The Republican Party of Orange County on Monday night called for GOP Assemblyman Bill Brough to bow out of the 2020 race for California’s 73rd Assembly District and retire from office when his current term ends.

Brough, R-Dana Point, is facing allegations of sexual assault and an investigation by state ethics officials over his use of campaign funds. He has repeatedly denied wrongdoing in both cases, accusing the women who’ve filed harassment complaints against him of being motivated by politics.

But in executive session during the OCGOP’s monthly Central Committee Meeting, elected members overwhelmingly voted to approve a resolution opposing Brough’s re-election “based on the totality of the circumstances and allegations surrounding the Assemblyman.”

A source who was present in the closed door meeting tells the Register that only Brough and one or two other members voted against the resolution. When it passed, the source said Brough stormed out of the meeting.

The assemblyman, who’s serving his third representing AD-73, didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment on Monday night’s vote.

It was during the OCGOP’s June meeting that Supervisor Lisa Bartlett first publicly accused Brough of sexually harassing her during an event eight years earlier when the pair were serving on the Dana Point City Council.

Three other women then also came forward to accuse Brough of making unwanted sexual advances in the past, though two of the women chose to remain anonymous out of fear of retaliation. But Brough outed those women in a mass email sent to OCGOP members Aug. 16. In the email, Brough again denied the women’s claims, insisting they were all retaliating against him for action he’s taken to try to control escalating costs for Orange County’s toll road projects.

“One thing I learned over the years is when you kick the beehive the bees come out,” he wrote.

In a joint statement released Monday night, Brough accusers Bartlett, Heather Baez and Jenniffer Rodriguez said they decided to speak out to defend themselves and correct the record.

“Bill Brough’s sexual misconduct and predatorial behavior has already caused each of us great pain and anxiety. As if that was not enough, now he is using his position of power to shame and intimidate us. Unfortunately for Bill, his actions have given us more resolve than ever to stand up against his bullying tactics and tell people the truth about his behavior.”

Baez, who’s been a staffer for state legislators and worked for local government agencies, said she filed a sexual harassment complaint against Brough with the state assembly in 2017. She said Brough has made “repeated and unwanted advances” for years, “including inviting me to drinks, dinners, an overnight hotel stay, and an extremely offensive and non-consensual physical contact.” Baez denies that her accusations are politically motivated, insisting she stayed quiet before because she didn’t want the incidents to interfere with her job.

Rodriguez refuted Brough’s claim in his mass email to OCGOP members that he only met her “once in 2015.”

During that meeting, Rodriguez alleges Brough said, “‘I have been watching you for a long time and wondering why you weren’t married.’ He even described a dress he had seen me wearing at a previous event. He then went on to tell me that he was ‘on the Elections Committee’ and could help me out if I went home with him.” When Rodriguez told Brough that she was disgusted by his proposition, she says “he sat there and smiled.” Rodriguez said she immediately called her boss to help get her out of the situation, then told various coworkers and elected officials about the incident.

Patricia Wenskunas, founder of the Irvine-based non-profit Crime Survivors, was guest speaker at Monday’s OCGOP Central Committee Meeting. She gave an impassioned defense of Brough’s accusers.

“It is long past time that he is held accountable for his actions and treatment of these women,” Wenskunas said in a statement. “He should resign immediately.”

The Central Committee stopped short of calling for Brough to resign, instead encouraging him not to seek reelection.

Assemblyman Steven Choi, R-Irvine, was one of the only people to speak in defense of Brough, according to a source who was present. Choi didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment sent to his chief of staff.

In August, the Register reported that Brough spent roughly $35,000 in campaign funds over the first six months of the year on travel, hotels, food, clothing and sports tickets. The state announced the next day that it was already investigating an ethics complaint that claims Brough spent roughly $200,000 in campaign funds on personal expenses over the past four years.

Brough issued a brief statement in response stating that he’d been cleared by past audits, though one state audit did lead to a written warning from ethics officials.

In the wake of those reports, the influential conservative group the Lincoln Club of Orange County last week rescinded its previous endorsement of Brough’s 2020 candidacy. And the grassroots group the Orange County Congress of Republicans announced it was endorsing GOP challenger Ed Sachs.

Brough is also facing competition from Republicans Laurie Davies and Melanie Eustice along with Democratic challenger Scott Rhinehart.

Read more about Orange County GOP asks embattled Assemblyman Bill Brough to bow out of 2020 election This post was shared via Orange County Register’s RSS Feed

Powered by WPeMatico

Trump crosses into North Korea, shakes hands with Kim in history-making event in the DMZ

President Donald Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un shook hands across the border at the Korean Demilitarized Zone in an historic photo-op as Trump seeks to make a legacy-defining nuclear deal with the North.

It happened late Saturday, California time.

  • President Donald Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, left of Trump arrive to talk to troops at the Korean Demilitarized Zone at Camp Bonifas in South Korea, Sunday, June 30, 2019. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

  • President Donald Trump talks to troops at the Korean Demilitarized Zone at Camp Bonifas in South Korea, Sunday, June 30, 2019. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

  • Sound
    The gallery will resume inseconds
  • President Donald Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, left, walk up to view North Korea from the Korean Demilitarized Zone from Observation Post Ouellette at Camp Bonifas in South Korea, Sunday, June 30, 2019. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

  • President Donald Trump talks to troops at the Korean Demilitarized Zone at Camp Bonifas in South Korea, Sunday, June 30, 2019. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

  • President Donald Trump walks up to view North Korea from the Korean Demilitarized Zone from Observation Post Ouellette at Camp Bonifas in South Korea, Sunday, June 30, 2019. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

of

Expand

It is the third time the two leaders have met, and the first since a failed summit on the North’s nuclear program in Vietnam earlier this year. Trump briefly crossed the border into North Korea after greeting Kim.

There are as yet no indications of a breakthrough in the stalled negotiations to end the North’s nuclear program.

Trump was joined by South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who praised Trump for deciding to meet with Kim. He called it “a bold decision”

Peering into North Korea from Observation Post Ouellette before the meeting with Kim, Trump was briefed on the North’s extensive artillery across the border that threatens the 35 million residents of Seoul, just over two dozen miles away. “All accessible by what they have in the mountains,” Trump said.

Trump claimed to reporters that, after his first meeting with Kim last year, “all of the danger went away.”

Trump and Moon greeted several dozen U.S. and South Korean troops guarding the Demilitarized Zone. Trump shook hands with the troops and received a gift of a golf jacket from the joint command. “You’re doing a fantastic job,” Trump told service members. “We’re with you all the way.”

The president departed Seoul aboard the Marine One presidential helicopter shortly after Moon announced Sunday, alongside Trump, that Kim had accepted Trump’s invitation to meet at the heavily fortified site at the Korean border village of Panmunjom.

Trump told reporters before departing that he looked forward to seeing Kim and to “shake hands quickly and say hello.”

The meeting between Trump and Kim marked yet another historic first in the yearlong rapprochement between the U.S. and North Korea, which technically are still at war. It also marked the return of face-to-face contact between the leaders since negotiations to end the North’s nuclear program broke down during a summit in Vietnam in February.

Moon praised the two leaders for “being so brave” to hold the meeting and said, “I hope President Trump will go down in history as the president who achieves peace on Korean Peninsula.”

Powered by WPeMatico