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WASHINGTON — It was the debate many Democrats had been waiting for.

The six candidates in Las Vegas on Wednesday wrestled over health care, taxes and climate change. But the central issue in the ferocious debate – the first to feature former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg – was less about policy and more about the direction of the Democratic Party and who can defeat President Donald Trump in November.

That argument began in the first few seconds, and never let up.

Bloomberg was on defense throughout the evening – the target for virtually every other candidate on stage – and had to answer for his previous positions on health care, policing policies that disproportionately affected black New Yorkers and his company’s treatment of its female employees.

Several other candidates, including former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts fought aggressively for time and the oxygen they need to give their campaign a boost and the sense that they still have a realistic chance of winning the nomination.

“I can’t think of a way to make it easier for Donald Trump to get reelected than listening to this conversation,” Bloomberg said during a fight over imposing higher taxes on the wealthy, which he said he opposes.

Bloomberg dismissed the liberals on stage in Trumpian terms: The country, he said, had tried “communism” and that it “just didn’t work.” 

Sen. Bernie Sanders fired back by arguing that beating Trump would require the largest voter turnout in history and Bloomberg can’t do that because of his past support for the controversial “stop-and-frisk” police strategy that had a disproportionate impact on black communities in New York.

Sanders said the policy, which Bloomberg apologized for again on Wednesday, “went after the African American and Latino people in an outrageous way.”

Sanders also relentlessly attacked Bloomberg’s wealth, describing it as part of an income inequality in the country that is “immoral.”

The debate came at an inflection point in the race for the Democratic nomination, as Bloomberg has seen his support rise as he has blanketed television airwaves with ads. Sanders and former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg both came out of Iowa and New Hampshire with strong finishes, and that put targets on their backs as well on Wednesday.

“This has been quite a debate,” Klobuchar summed up in her closing statement.

From the first moments of the debate, Bloomberg was on defense. He was attacked for not yet releasing his taxes, his early positions on Obamacare, his “stop and frisk” policing policies and, in one particularly poignant exchange, for his company’s record handling workplace complaints from female employees.

Bloomberg said his company, Bloomberg LP, had “no tolerance for the kind of behavior the Me Too movement has exposed.”

But Elizabeth Warren quickly pressed the former New York mayor on how many women who worked for him were subject to non-disclosure agreements and were unable to talk about harassment and abuse in the workplace. 

Warren said the women were being “muzzled” by Bloomberg and she encouraged him to release the women for those agreements on stage. 

“I hope you heard what his defense was: ‘I’ve been nice to some women,’” Warren said. “The mayor needs to stand on his record.”

Though his competition sought to put Bloomberg’s back against the wall, but the former Republican landed several blows of his own –describing Sanders and Warren as too left to beat Trump.

Not every moment was a brawl. Warren, at one point, came to Klobuchar’s defense about her recent failure to identify the president of Mexico in an interview

Klobuchar said she had “momentary forgetfulness.”

Buttigieg, who has frequently tussled with Klobuchar in previous debates, said Klobuchar is staking her candidacy on her Washington experience but failed to name Mexico’s president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, even though she serves on the Senate committee that oversees trade and border security.

“Are you trying to stay that I’m dumb? Are you mocking me?” Klobuchar asked Buttigieg. “People sometimes forget names.”

Warren jumped in to agree that forgetting a name happens to everyone and doesn’t by itself “indicate that you don’t understand what’s going on.”

The next debate takes place Feb. 25 in South Carolina, ahead of that state’s primary.

Biden’s closing remarks interrupted by immigration protesters

A group of protesters interrupted the former vice president’s closing remarks. Biden was able to keep his calm as the protesters chanted about the Obama administration deporting millions of people. 

“You deported three million people!” they yelled. 

The crowd booed and chanted “Joe” in response as the protesters were removed from the room.

Biden has been interrupted by protesters before, specifically over past administration’s mass deportation policies. 

– Savannah Behrmann

Sanders only candidate to say most delegates should mean automatic nomination

Sanders was the only candidate on stage who said the Democrat with the most delegates should automatically be the Democratic nominee if no candidate reaches a majority of delegates to secure the nomination.

“I think that the will of the people should prevail, yes,” said Sanders, who is leading most national polls.  

The crowded field of Democrats, including a muddled group of moderates seeking to challenge Sanders, has raised the possibility that no candidate will arrive at the Democratic National Convention with the needed 1,991 delegates.

“Whatever the rules of the Democratic Party are, they should be followed,” Bloomberg said.

“A convention working its will means that people have the delegates that are pledged to them and they keep those delegates until they come to the convention,” Warren said.

The moderator restated the question: The leading person with the delegates, should they be the nominee or not?

“No, let the process work its way out,” Biden said.

“Not necessarily,” Buttigieg said.

 “Let the process work,” Klobuchar said. 

— Joey Garrison

Biden: McConnell was ‘pain in the neck’ but I have been only candidate to beat him

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY., made his way onto the debate stage Wednesday night.

Biden declared that it’s not fair to say he’s friends with McConnell, who Biden called a “pain in the neck” during his vice president years and beyond. 

He also claimed that he was the only one on the stage that has beaten McConnell, and reiterated that he’s “been the object of his affection” regarding the impeachment trial.

Warren quickly brought up when Biden reportedly told McConnell: “Mitch, we want to see you come back” so they could work together.

Warren then asserted that it was not hitting McConnell harder that led to his re-election, which had consequences like him stealing “a Supreme Court seat from the Democrats.”

President Barack Obama had nominated Merrick Garland to succeed conservative Antonin Scalia, who had passed away.

McConnell immediately declared that there would be no appointment by Obama given that it was a presidential election year. At the time, McConnell’s decision created a furor among Democrats in Washington and across the nation.

As Warren kept talking about McConnell, Klobuchar blurted out “oh my god.” 

Savannah Behrmann

Buttigieg v. Klobuchar

Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar scrapped it up again, this time sparked by her record on immigration-related issues.

Buttigieg criticized Klobuchar for having voted to make English the nation’s official language.

“Do you know the message that sends?” he asked.

Buttigieg also said Klobuchar has been more supportive of Trump’s judicial nominees than any of the other senators who ran for president.

While defending her record, Klobuchar jabbed back.

“I wish everyone was as perfect as you, Pete,” she said.

Klobuchar also accused Buttigieg of not having “been in the arena,” doing the work but just having “memorized a bunch of talking points.”

Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, countered that leading a diverse city that had been facing ruin may not sound like an arena to some. But, “you don’t have to be in Washington to matter.”

Maureen Groppe

Sanders, Bloomberg take on capitalism and communism

Michael Bloomberg the billionaire and Bernie sanders the self-described ‘democratic socialist’ went after each other in what may be the sharpest fault line between the two frontrunners: their economic profiles.

Bloomberg gave a spirited defense of capitalism and essentially likened Sanders’ policies to communism.

“I’m not a communist, Mr. Bloomberg,” Sanders hit back at the former New York City mayor, calling it a “cheap shot.”

Bloomberg described himself as “lucky’ to have become a success and said “a good chunk of it” goes to paying taxes.

And a mayor, “I raised taxes.”

Sanders talked about how the richest Americans are benefitting from a form of “democratic socialism” that provides million in subsidies, so they can consolidate wealth while the poor are scrapping under a system of “rugged individualism” that shuts them out of economic opportunities.

Bloomberg said he worked hard to get what he has achieved but Sanders said he owes some of that success is due to the workers at his company that helped build his fortune.

Bloomberg then slammed Bloomberg as a millionaire who owns three homes.

Ledyard King

Buttigieg asked about past praise for Sanders

Pete Buttigieg, who criticized Bernie Sanders as too radical, was asked about the award-winning essay he wrote in high school praising Sanders as a “profile in courage” for calling himself a socialist.

Buttigieg was asked why the change of mind – and whether that puts him out of step with his own generation since many millennials are comfortable with socialism.

It’s true, Buttigieg said, winning a laugh from Sanders, that “I was into Bernie before he was cool.”

But, Buttigieg added, he’d never written that he agreed with Sanders’ policies. But at least he was straight forward about what he believed in.

Pivoting to an attack, Buttigieg said Sanders has been clear that taxes will go up to pay for his health care plan, Medicare for All.

Sanders countered that people’s overall costs would go down because they wouldn’t pay anything for their health care.

Buttigieg shot back that Sanders hasn’t explained where he would get all the money to make sure that’s true.

Maureen Groppe

Bloomberg, Sanders spar over taxes, billionaires

Bernie Sanders slammed Michael Bloomberg’s wealth in an extended debate over taxes and what he described as the “grotesque level of income and wealth inequality” in the United States.

“That’s wrong, that’s immoral,” Sanders said, noting that Bloomberg’s wealth vastly overshadows the earnings of virtually all Americans.

The back-and-forth was ostensibly over the nation’s tax code, and a desire from Sanders and Elizabeth Warren to raise taxes on the wealthy. Bloomberg said he was proud of the money he has earned – “I work very hard for it,” he said – and added that he strongly opposed the tax proposals supported by the liberal wing of the party.  

“I can’t think of a way to make it easier for Donald Trump to get reelected than listening to this conversation,” Bloomberg said in an exasperated voice. Bloomberg said the country had tried “communism” and that it “just didn’t work.”  

Mostly glossed over in the exchange: That Bloomberg has spent hundreds of millions of dollars of his own money to raise his profile in Super Tuesday states.

– John Fritze

Bloomberg asked about redlining

Joe Biden delivered a criticism of Mike Bloomberg but those unaware of his reference wouldn’t have known that’s what he was doing. It took the moderator to bring out the attack.

In a question about how his policies would affect small, minority-owned businesses, Biden brought up the discriminatory housing practice known as “redlining.”

It wasn’t redlining, but the greed of Wall Street, that caused the 2008 financial crisis, Biden said. That was an allusion to comments Bloomberg made in 2008 in which he said the crisis was started because banks were pressured to end redlining.

Asked by the moderator about that comment, Bloomberg called the idea that redlining caused the crisis exactly wrong. He added that he’s been on the record opposing redlining, a practice that is still going on in some places “and we’ve got to cut it out.”

Maureen Groppe

In promoting Green New Deal, Sanders calls climate change ‘moral issue’

Bernie Sanders defended his Green New Deal as the only real solution to the “existential threat” posed by climate change.

“This is a moral issue, my friends,” he said. “We have responsibility of making sure that the planet, we leave our children and grandchildren, as healthy and habitable.”

The plan, criticized by Republicans and moderate Democrats as a radical plan that would threaten the economy, has been a signature policy of Sanders and other progressives.

Most Democrats on the debate stage are not on board with the Green New deal though they support aggressive steps to reduce carbon emissions that lead to climate change, starting with the defeat of President Donald Trump who has questioned the science behind climate change and has called for expanded oil drilling and mining.

“Let’s be real. The deadline is not 2050. It’s not 2040. It’s not 2030. It’s 2020,” said former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg. “Because if we don’t elect a president who actually believes in climate science now We will never meet any of the scientific or policy deadlines” to combat global warming.

Ledyard King

Warren’s campaign said they had the best hour of fundraising

Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s campaign stated they had the “best hour of fundraising” of her campaign so far after the first hour of Wednesday’s debate.

The campaign says they have a goal to raise $7 million before Saturday’s Nevada caucuses.

During the halfway point, she was also the most tweeted about candidate.

Savannah Behrmann

Sanders: Bloomberg’s Republican past should not be forgotten

Michael Bloomberg’s policies targeting communities of color and his non-disclosure agreements with a number of women over potential harassment claims at his company are bad enough, according to Bernie Sanders.

But that’s not the only reason he’s a bad choice to take on Donald Trump in November, Sanders said.

The Vermont senator went after Bloomberg on his political past as a Republican who endorsed President George W. Bush in 2004 and gave a small fortune to Republican causes for years,

And, “maybe we can talk about a billionaire saying that we should not raise the minimum wage, or that we should cut Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid,” Sanders said.

Bloomberg switched to the GOP to run for mayor but later switched in the middle of his tenure to run as an independent. He became a Democrat in 2018 and started funding Democratic candidates and causes.

– Ledyard King

Warren comes to Klobuchar’s defense

A question to Amy Klobuchar about her failure to identify the president of Mexico in a recent interview led to a back-and-forth with Pete Buttigieg and Elizabeth Warren coming to her female colleague’s defense.

Klobuchar said she had “momentary forgetfulness” that doesn’t reflect what she knows about Mexico and how much she cares about it.

Buttigieg countered that Klobuchar is staking her candidacy on her Washington experience and she failed to name Mexico’s president when she’s on the Senate committee that oversees trade and border security

“Are you trying to stay that I’m dumb? Are you mocking me?” Klobuchar asked Buttigieg. “People sometimes forget names.”

Warren jumped in to agree that forgetting a name happens to everyone and doesn’t by itself “indicate that you don’t understand what’s going on.”

– Maureen Groppe

Bloomberg put back on heels over women in the workplace

Michael Bloomberg came under rapid fire from the rest of the field over his past comments about women and the way women have been treated at his company in an exchange that will almost certainly be seen as a key moment in the debate.

Bloomberg said his company, Bloomberg LP, had “no tolerance for the kind of behavior the Me Too movement has exposed.”

But Elizabeth Warren quickly followed up, pressing Bloomberg on how many women who worked for him were subject to non-disclosure agreements and unable to talk about harassment and abuse in the workplace.  

“I hope you heard what his defense was: ‘I’ve been nice to some women,’” Warren said. “The mayor needs to stand on his record.”

Warren – and then Joe Biden – urged Bloomberg to release women from the non-disclosure agreements on stage, which Bloomberg declined to do. Warren described the women as being “muzzled” by the NDAs.

“They decided, when they made an agreement, that they wanted to keep it quiet for everyone’s interest,” Bloomberg said.

– John Fritze

Klobuchar defends prosecutorial record

Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s prosecutorial record was questioned during Wednesday’s debate when moderators asked her why black voters should trust her given some of her past cases that have recently been drawn to light.

Specifically, Klobuchar had to defend her record regarding the case when an 11-year-old girl was killed by a stray bullet while doing homework at her dining room table in 2002. 

Klobuchar’s office put Tyesha Edwards’ alleged killer, a black teen at the time, behind bars for life.

New reports from the Associated Press show that Myon Burrell, the alleged killer, may have been wrongfully convicted.

Klobuchar said that all evidence from the case, old and new, should be reviewed. 

She also continued that she has to “earn” the vote of African American voters across the nation, but has done so in her community.

Savannah Behrmann

Bloomberg: ‘I’ve asked for forgiveness’ on stop-and-frisk

Michael Bloomberg, who has been on an apology tour for his controversial ‘Stop-and-Frisk’ policing program that targeted minority communities in high-crime neighborhoods in New York City, became defensive on the debate stage. 

Both Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren went after the former mayor, saying its efforts to go after community of colors proved to be a mistake that unfairly persecuted the city’s most vulnerable residents.

“The policy was abhorrent,” said Biden, who added that the program only stopped after President Barack Obama sent monitors to stop the program.

“When the mayor says that he apologized, listen closely to the apology,” Warren chimed in. “This isn’t about how it turned out, this is about what it was designed to do to begin with…. If you want to issue a real apology, then the apology has to start with the intent of the plan as it was put together and the willful ignorance day by day by day of admitting what was happening even as people protested in your own street.”

Bloomberg responded that the policy was already in place in some form before he became mayor and that the number of deaths per year in the city dropped from 650 to 300 due in part to Stop and Frisk.

But he said the city went overboard.

“I’ve asked for forgiveness, but the bottom line is that we stopped too many people,” he said. “But there is no great answer to a lot of problems and if we took off everybody that was wrong on this panel, everybody that was wrong on criminal justice at some time in the careers, nobody else would be up here.”

Ledyard King

Sanders, Bloomberg spar over heart health

A battle that broke out earlier this week on the campaign trail between Bernie Sanders and Michael Bloomberg over their heart health made an appearance on the debate stage. Sanders was asked whether his decision to withhold additional medical records despite suffering a heart attack in October undercut his vow for transparency.

Sanders noted that he had released some documents and tried to quickly shift attention to Bloomberg, who had two coronary stents placed in 2000 after a positive stress test. Bloomberg fired back that the operation was 20 years ago.

Sanders suggested that Bloomberg follow him around on the campaign trail for several days and “see how you’re doing compared to me.”

 – John Fritze

Candidates address attacks on Culinary Union members from ‘Bernie bros’

The candidates got heated over recent attacks from some of Sen. Bernie Sanders most vocal supports, known as “Bernie bros”

Pete Buttigieg claimed Sanders was “at war with the [Nevada’s] Culinary Union” after some of the Vermont Senator’s supporters reportedly threatened members for criticizing Sanders’ “Medicare for All” plan.

“We are all responsible for our supporters and need to step up,” he said, continuing that the attacks are a reflection of what Sanders leadership is drawing out of them. 

Sanders responded that his campaign has “have more union support than you have ever dreamed of” while addressing the “Bernie bros” attacks.

“If there are a few people who make ugly remarks, who attack union leaders, then I disown those people. They are not part of our movement,” he said. 

However, he said that this isn’t an issue specific to his campaign, telling the other candidates to look at the attacks members of his campaign have faced, especially those towards African American women. 

The Culinary Union represents 60,000 housekeepers, porters and bartenders working in Las Vegas casinos. At the top of the union’s presidential asks is to maintain the robust health care plans members have fought hard to negotiate and win. 

The union announced last week that it would not endorse a candidate ahead of the caucuses this Saturday. 

– Savannah Behrmann

Sanders defends Medicare for All

Sanders, asked if Nevada’s powerful Culinary Union’s criticism of his health care plan is correct, had a simple answer.

“No,” Sanders said.

The union fears workers that under Medicare for All they would have to give up their hard-fought health care benefits for coverage that might not be as good.

Sanders promised never to sign a bill that would give them worse benefits.

“We will only expand for them, for every union in America for the working class of this country,” Sanders said.

The union has circulated flyers saying Medicare for All would “end Culinary Healthcare” but chose not to endorse any of the candidates who offer an alternative approach.

Elizabeth Warren, who backs a version of Medicare for All, went after the more moderate plans of her competitors. She dismissed Pete Buttigieg’s “Medicare for all who want it” proposal as a powerpoint plan. Amy Klobuchar’s health care proposal, Warren sniffed, is nothing more than a post-it note.

Klobuchar said she took personal offense at that because “post-it notes were invented in my state.”

Maureen Groppe

Debate takes sharp turn, reflecting state of race

The first moments of the Democratic debate in Las Vegas have been far sharper than any other so far in the race of the Democratic nomination – for good reason.

Michael Bloomberg has hit Bernie Sanders as too liberal to win in the general election. Elizabeth Warren attacked Bloomberg and described Amy Klobuchar’s health care plan as a “Post-it note.” Pete Buttigieg called Sanders and Bloomberg the two most polarizing figures on the stage.

“Can I just say I take personal offense because Post-it notes were invited in my state,” joked Klobuchar, who represents Minnesota in the Senate.

“You don’t put your money on a number that’s not even on the wheel,” Klobuchar fired back on health care, arguing that the Medicare-for-All plans supported by Sanders and Warren were unrealistic.

The sharp elbows underscored the sea changes taking place in the presidential campaign, compounding the long-running divide in the party between the more centrist candidates like Joe Biden and Buttigieg and liberals like Sanders and Warren. Not only is Bloomberg rearranging that narrative with his first appearance on stage — and his momentum in polling — but the race has become more defined by Sanders’ narrow win in New Hampshire and his virtual tie with Buttigieg in Iowa.

That means several of the candidates – including Bloomberg and Sanders – are suddenly targets for the rest of the field. Others, including Biden and Klobuchar, are battling for a performance that would allow them to place in the Nevada caucuses this weekend.

– John Fritze

Warren: Democrats should not nominate Bloomberg because of racist, misogynistic actions

The first big shot at Michael Bloomberg came from Massachusetts  Sen. Elizabeth Warren who slammed the former New York City mayor.

Democrats should not nominate someone who is “hiding his tax returns of harassing women and of supporting racist policies like redlining and stop and frisk.” Or a ““billionaire who calls women fat broads and horseface lesbians.”

Warren, who is trailing in the polls, came out fiercely, saying it would be a mistake to nominate Bloomberg because “Democrats take a huge risk if we just substitute one billionaire for another.” a reference to Trump

Blomberg, who has apologized for the ‘Stop-and-Frisk’ policing policy that targeted neighborhoods of color in New York, emphasized his electability.

“I think we have two questions to face tonight. One is, who can beat Donald Trump. And number two, we can do the job as they get into the White House,” he said. “I would argue that I am the candidate that can do exactly most of those things. I’m a New Yorker, I know how to take on an arrogant con man like Donald Trump comes from New York.”

Ledyard king

Buttigieg goes after Sanders and Bloomberg

Pete Buttigieg, in his first chance at-bat, said the party is facing the prospect of the only candidates being left standing after Super Tuesday being Bernie Sanders and Mike Bloomberg – whom he called the two most polarizing figures on the stage.

Most Americans will feel left out if forced to choose between a socialist who thinks capitalism is the root of all evil and a billionaire who thinks money is the root of all power.

“Look, we shouldn’t have to choose between one candidate who wants to burn this party down and another candidate who wants to buy this party out,” Buttigieg said. “We can do better.”

Maureen Groppe

Bloomberg vows to take on ‘arrogant, con-man’ Trump

Michael Bloomberg, who has repeatedly taken fire from President Donald Trump since entering the race for the Democratic nomination, delivered some of it back to the president on the stage early in the debate.

Saying he was speaking as a “New Yorker,” Bloomberg said he knew how to “take on arrogant con man like Donald Trump.”

“I know how to run a complicated city, the biggest, most diverse city in this country,” Bloomberg said. “I’m a philanthropist who didn’t inherit his money, but made his money.”

In the early moments of a debate that started off far more feisty than the previous exchanges between the candidates, Bloomberg has been forced to both introduce his campaign and explain during the debate why he is best qualified to beat Trump, should he win the nomination.

-John Fritze

Sanders is given first chance to whack Bloomberg

The first question of the ninth debate was about former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who was making his first appearance on the stage.

Bernie Sanders, who is leading in the polls, was asked why he’s a better candidate to beat President Donald Trump than Bloomberg, who is pitching himself as a centrist.

Sanders said beating Trump will require the largest voter turnout in history and Bloomberg can’t do that because of his past support for the controversial “stop-and-frisk” police strategy.

Sanders that “went after the African American and Latino people in an outrageous way.”

By contrast, Sanders said, he’s bringing together people of all races and backgrounds around and agenda that works for all everyone and “not just the billionaire class.”

– Maureen Groppe

Bloomberg speaks, slams Sanders

Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg made his debut remarks in a Democratic debate by slamming Sen. Bernie Sanders, suggesting that the Vermont senator could not build a winning coalition to take on President Donald Trump.

Bloomberg said Sanders couldn’t win by basing his campaign largely on a health care plan that he said would force millions of Americans to switch off their private coverage.

“That’s just not a way that you go and start building a coalition,” Bloomberg said in his first remarks on the debate stage.

If Sanders wins the nomination, Bloomberg said, “We will have Donald Trump for another four years.”

– John Fritze

Mobile billboards in Vegas celebrate Trump 

LAS VEGAS – The Republican National Committee has bought a mobile billboard that will roam the Strip during tonight’s Democratic debate.

Rolling up and down Las Vegas Boulevard from 5-10 p.m., the board will attack Democrats and celebrate President Donald Trump.

A graphic on the billboard shows a chair being thrown at Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez. The image references the 2016 Nevada State Democratic Party convention, where Bernie Sanders supporters allegedly threw chairs.  

Another graphic touts Trump’s economic performance in the White House, showing the president in a thumbs-up pose.

The Republican National Committee has bought a mobile billboard that will roam the Strip during tonight’s Democratic debate.The Republican National Committee has bought a mobile billboard that will roam the Strip during tonight’s Democratic debate.
The Republican National Committee has bought a mobile billboard that will roam the Strip during tonight’s Democratic debate.

“President Trump has delivered to Nevada,” the sign reads, offering a list: “Record low unemployment rates… More than 125,000 jobs … A $1,300/year tax cut to Nevada workers and families.”

“President Trump has delivered for Silver State and Nevadans have no interest in a socialist agenda,” Trump Victory spokesman Keith Schipper said in a statement.

The mobile billboard even has a name: “DNC’s Big Rig.”

Ed Komenda 

Who is Obama’s best bud?

Do you have President Barack Obama on your debate bingo card?

He could be a popular topic given how often he’s come up lately in the Democrats’ nominating contest.

A lot of that is driven by ads from former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg touting Obama’s past praise for Bloomberg.

The ads are so convincing — and ubiquitous — that former Obama aides have said they’ve been asked when Obama endorsed Bloomberg. The ads have also annoyed some of those aides because Bloomberg didn’t endorse Obama in 2008 and gave what they saw as a sub-par endorsement in 2012.

“Welcome to the debates, Mike. We have a lot to catch up on about Barack Obama’s record,” tweeted former Vice President Joe Biden Wednesday.

The video that accompanied that tweet included Bloomberg’s past criticisms of Obama’s signature health care law and his record on climate change — among other clashes.

Pete Buttigieg, whose campaign has encouraged comparisons with Obama’s 2008 run, could bring up Obama with an attack on Bernie Sanders.

Buttigieg tweeted out Wednesday an article in The Atlantic about how close Sanders came to challenging Obama in the 2012 primary.

“Barack Obama was an excellent president,” Buttigieg tweeted. “What’s disappointing is that someone in this race would suggest otherwise.”

Maureen Groppe

Expect to hear more about Medicare for All

While there’s been no shortage of discussion about health care in the previous eight Democratic debates, expect it to come up again tonight.

That’s because Medicare for All may be the best chance the center-left Democrats have of slowing Bernie Sanders’ momentum in Nevada.

Sanders’ costly and controversial plan worries the powerful Culinary Union, the state’s largest labor organization. The union fears workers would have to give up their hard-fought health care benefits for coverage that might not be as good.

The union has circulated flyers saying Medicare for All would “end Culinary Healthcare” but chose not to endorse any of the candidates who offer an alternative approach.

Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar and Joe Biden will likely look for opportunities on stage to criticize Sanders’ plan and plug their proposals to improve health care coverage.

Expect Sanders to argue that Medicare for All would help unions by taking health care off the table during contract negotiations.

Meanwhile, a group comprised of major drugmakers, insurance companies and private hospitals, is saying a pox on both your houses.

Partnership for America’s Health Care Future launched a new ad around the debate that criticizes the approaches of both Sanders’ and the more moderate Democrats.  The ad says the proposals would result in higher taxes and lower-quality care.

Maureen Groppe 

Biden slips further in polls and among oddsmakers

Hours before the debate in Las Vegas, a new national poll is cutting into Joe Biden’s core argument that his electability and broad appeal makes him the Democratic presidential nominee best suited to defeat Donald Trump.

The former vice president’s support among “Democratic-leaning” registered voters dropped from 32% in the same Washington Post-ABC News poll conducted in January to 16% in the poll released Wednesday. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders now leads with 32% (up 9 points from January), with former New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg (14%) and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren (12%) nipping at Biden’s heels.

The poll was conducted from Feb. 14-17 of 408 Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters, and it has a margin of error of plus or minus 6 percentage points.

One Oddsmaker doesn’t think much of Biden’s chances to win the nomination either.

Bovada, an online sports gambling site, puts his odds at +775, meaning someone who bets $100 on the former vice president to win the nomination would receive a payout of $775. On Jan. 1, Biden was the favorite at +200.

Sanders is now the favorite at +125, (he was +350 on Jan. 1) with Bloomberg close behind at +200. Warren has plummeted from +450 to +6600, well behind 2016 nominee Hillary Clinton who comes in at +2000, the same as Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar.

Although Biden is not expected to do very well in Saturday’s Nevada Caucuses, one poll shows him leading the Feb. 29 South Carolina primary where he has invested time and resources truing to woo the state’s racially diverse electorate.

The poll, released by the University of Massachusetts Lowell’s Center for Public Opinion, found that 23% of likely voters in South Carolina’s Democratic primary support Biden compared to 21 percent for Sanders. Billionaire Tom Steyer, who will not be on Wednesday’s debate stage, is third with 13%.

The poll of 400 voters has an adjusted margin of error of plus or minus 7.5 percent.

Ledyard King

‘2020 The Musical’ 

LAS VEGAS –  Hours before the Democratic debate will unfold in a nearby Strip theater, Carol Dunitz stood outside Paris Las Vegas dressed like Uncle Sam.

She toted a sign with a message for passing tourists to see: “Dump the Trump in 2020.”

An Ann Arbor, Michigan, native with a doctorate in speech and theatre, Dunitz is the writer of “2020 The Musical,” a collection of 20 show tunes about dissecting political topics of the times: Global warming, reproductive rights and criminal justice reform among them.

Dunitz travels to all Democratic debates, promoting her musical and talking politics with anyone who cares to chat.

“Bloomberg or Sanders,” Dunitz said of her candidates, though her choice often changes.

Former New York City mayor has a chance, because “he’s more centrist,” Dunitz said. “That’s why the powers that be like him.”

– Ed Komenda 

Se Habla Español

While many candidates are running Spanish language ads in Nevada it’s unlikely you’ll hear much Spanish on stage tonight.

Pete Buttigieg is the only candidate left who speaks Spanish.

The first candidate to speak Spanish at a debate was former Rep. Beto O’Rourke who, at the first debate last June, answered a question about tax rates in Spanish. Former San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker also threw in some Spanish that night. Booker’s best bilingual performance came in September when he was asked whether more Americans should follow his vegan diet.

“First of all, I want to say, `no,’” Booker responded. “Actually, I want to translate that into Spanish. `No.’”

One of Buttigieg’s Nevada ads translates the phonetic pronunciation of his name – Boot-edge-edge – into Spanish: Bt-ech-ech.

Buttigieg’s uncommon last name is Maltese and his Nevada ads emphasize that he is the son of an immigrant.

Likewise, Bernie Sanders, whose father immigrated from Europe, reminds voters of his immigrant roots in one of his Nevada ads.

About three in ten Nevadans are Latinos and nearly two in ten residents are foreign-born, according to the U.S. Census.

Maureen Groppe 

Get ready for attacks on Bloomberg

There appears to be no shortage of beefs that other Democratic candidates have with former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Let’s start with the fact that Bloomberg didn’t become a Democrat until 2018.

“I don’t endorse Republicans,” former Vice President Joe Biden tweeted Wednesday in response to a Bloomberg video showing Biden’s past praise for the former mayor.

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren last week said Bloomberg “should not be the leader of our party” because of comments he made in 2008 about the financial crisis. Bloomberg said the crisis was started because banks were pressured to end the discriminatory housing practice known as “redlining.”

Warren and other Democrats have also accused Bloomberg of trying to buy the nomination through the unprecedented hundreds of millions of dollars he’s already spent. And she’s charged him with overseeing, as mayor, “a program that surveilled and tracked Muslim communities in mosques, restaurants, and even college campuses.”

Shortly before the debate, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders circulated a video of comments Bloomberg made in 2012 about decreasing benefits or raising the eligibility age of Medicare and Social Security.

“Let’s have some austerity for billionaires,” Sanders says at the end of the video.

Bloomberg, in his first appearance on the debate stage, could also get asked about:

  • His refusal to release women from confidentiality agreements they’ve signed relating to allegations of a hostile work environment at his company;
  • His past descriptions of transgender people as “he, she, or it” and dress-wearing men who enter girls’ locker rooms.
  • His past support for the controversial “stop-and-frisk” police strategy.

But Bloomberg isn’t shying from battle. His campaign has circulated a video criticizing the harassing “energy” of some of Sanders’ supporters. His aides are also warning that it’s almost too late for Democrats to coalesce behind an alternative to Sanders to stop him from getting the nomination.

– Maureen Groppe

As debate stage gets older, candidates tangle over health

Questions about age and health generally have rumbled below the surface as the candidates vie for the Democratic presidential nomination. Even when Bernie Sanders, 78, suffered a heart attack in October, his quick return to the campaign trail quieted any public concerns.

But when asked Tuesday during a CNN town hall whether he would provide more of his medical records, the Vermont senator demurred.

“I think we have released a detailed medical report, and I’m comfortable on what we have done,” he told moderator Anderson Cooper.

Wednesday’s debate crew is not only smaller (seven candidates in the last one versus six) and less ethnically diverse (no minorities this time) but older as well.

Gone are entrepreneur Andrew Yang, 45, and businessman Tom Steyer, 62. Arriving is former New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg, 78. That means four of the six candidates on stage (Bloomberg, Sanders, Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren) will be at least 70.

On Wednesday, Sanders’ national press secretary, Briahna Gray, told CNN that questions about the Vermont senator’s health were “reminiscent” of those raised about other candidates, “questioning where they’re from, aspects of their lineage, etc.” 

“None of the same concern is being demonstrated for Michael Bloomberg, who’s the same age as Bernie Sanders, who’s suffered heart attacks in the past,” she said.

In a statement, Bloomberg campaign manager Kevin Sheekey said it was an “absolute lie that Mike had heart attacks” and called Gray’s claim “completely false.”

Sheekey said Bloomberg, 78, had two coronary stents placed in 2000 after a positive stress test. Bloomberg released a letter from his doctor Stephen Sisson in December saying he was in “outstanding health” and in “great physical shape.” 

“There are no medical concerns, present or looming, that would prevent him from serving as President of the United States,” Sisson wrote. 

In a Twitter post Wednesday, Gray said she “misspoke” about Bloomberg having a heart attack and said Bloomberg “underwent the same stent procedure as Bernie.” 

Bloomberg’s heart procedure was a preventive measure, whereas Sanders’ was conducted after the candidate had a heart attack.

Ledyard King and Nicolas Wu

Democrats set to debate for ninth time but with one new face

WASHINGTON – Five familiar faces and one new one take the Democratic debate stage tonight in Las Vegas.

That should generate a lot of fireworks as the returning candidates, who feel like they’ve been put through the paces from the past eight debates and months of campaigning, get their first chance to test former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg. 

Bloomberg is making his first appearance, despite the fact that he is not on the ballot in Nevada, which caucuses Saturday.

But while Bloomberg is skipping the first four states to vote in Democrats’ presidential nominating contest, he is spending heavily across the country. 

That earned him enough support in polls to qualify for the debate after the Democratic National Committee last month changed the entry rules that had included donor requirements. Bloomberg, who has already spent more on advertising than President Barack Obama spent on ads during his entire 2012 re-election campaign, is self-funding his bid.

The next-richest Democrat in the contest, activist Tom Steyer, will not be in the debate. He failed to win at least one delegate in Iowa or New Hampshire or show support of 10 percent or more in four qualifying polls. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii also did not qualify.

The candidates getting their first chance to spar with Bloomberg are Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, former Vice President Joe Biden, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana. 

The two-hour debate begins at 9 p.m. ET. 

There are five moderators: NBC anchor Lester Holt, “Meet the Press” moderator Chuck Todd, NBC News Chief White House Correspondent Hallie Jackson, Noticias Telemundo Senior Correspondent Vanessa Hauc and Jon Ralston of The Nevada Independent.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Las Vegas Democratic debate could get fiery with Michael Bloomberg in

Bloomberg faces searing attacks at free-for-all Democratic debate in Las Vegas

LAS VEGAS — The Democratic presidential debate Wednesday night kicked off with fireworks, as every person on stage not named Mike Bloomberg attacked the former New York City mayor, who was participating in his first presidential face off.

The first hit at the NBC/MSNBC two-hour debate here came from frontrunner Bernie Sanders, who rippedBloomberg for his record as mayor. Bloomberg promptly hit back, telling the senator he cannot beat President Donald Trump.

Sanders slammed Bloomberg for the controversial “stop and frisk” policing policy his administration used, “which went after Latino and African American people in outrageous ways,” he said, adding that Bloomberg’s record “is not going to” increase voter turnout.

Bloomberg hit back immediately, saying, “I don’t think there’s any chance of the senator beating President Trump.”

“You don’t start out by saying I’ve got 160 million people, I’m going to take away the insurance plan they love,” Bloomberg added — a reference to Sanders’ “Medicare for All” proposal.

Download the NBC News app for breaking news and politics

Next to swing at Bloomberg was Elizabeth Warren, who took aim at the mayor’s past critical statements about women.

“I’d like to talk about who we’re running against. A billionaire who calls women ‘fat broads’ and ‘horse-faced lesbians,’ and, no, I’m not talking about Donald Trump,” Warren said. “I’m talking about Mayor Bloomberg.”

“Democrats are not going to win if we have a nominee who has a history of hiding his tax returns, of harassing women, and of supporting racist policies like redlining and stop and frisk,” she added. “Democrats take a huge risk if we just substitute one arrogant billionaire for another.”

Amy Klobuchar took her shot next.

“I’ve been told many times to wait my turn and to step aside,” she said. “And I’m not going to do that now, and I’m not going to do that because a campaign memo from Mayor Bloomberg said, this morning, that the only way we get a nominee is if we step aside for him,” she said.

“I think we need something different than Donald Trump. I don’t think you look at Donald Trump and say, we need somebody richer in the White House.”

Moments later, Pete Buttigieg offered his criticism for Bloomberg, but broadened it to also include Sanders.

“Let’s put someone forward who is actually a Democrat,” Buttigieg said. The remark was a reference to Sanders being a self-described “democratic socialist” and to Bloomberg having previously been a Republican and an independent.

“We shouldn’t have to choose between one candidate who wants to burn this party down and one who want to buy this party out,” Buttigieg said.”And most Americans don’t see where they fit if they’ve got to choose between a socialist who thinks that capitalism is the root of all evil, and a billionaire that thinks power, that money ought to be the root of all power.”

Feb. 20, 202001:31

After the opening round of Bloomberg bashing wrapped up, candidates turned their ire on one another

Warren helped kick off the free-for-all by ripping the health care proposals of two of her competitors.

“Mayor Buttigieg really has a slogan that was thought up by his consultants to paper over a thin version of a plan that would leave millions of people unable to afford their health care. It’s not a plan, it’s a PowerPoint,” Warren jabbed.

Klobuchar’s plan, she added, “is even less.”

“It’s like a Post-it note,” she said. “Insert plan here.”

Moments earlier, Buttigieg hit Sanders over the recent spat the senator’s supporters had with an influential union in Nevada.

“As a matter of fact, you’re the one who is at war with the Culinary Union right here in Las Vegas,” Buttigieg said.

Tensions between Sanders and Nevada’s powerful culinary union exploded last week after it publicly criticized his campaign’s push for “Medicare for All.” The union then said it had comer under “vicious” attacks from Sanders supporters.

Sanders put the topic right back in Buttigieg’s corner, retorting that, “We have more unions’ support than you have ever dreamed of.”

“We have the support of unions all across this country,” he said.

Buttigieg also attacked Sanders for not releasing enough information about his health, citing his October heart attack.

“Under President Obama the standard was that the president would release full medical records, do a physical and release the readout. I think that’s the standard that we should hold ourselves to as well,” he said.

Tensions between Buttigieg and Klobuchar — the two Midwesterners who have both geared their campaigns to appeal to centrist Democrats and disillusioned Republicans and who have lashed out at each other in increasingly personal ways also bubbled over, once again.

“You’re staking your candidacy on your Washington experience. You’re on the committee that oversees border security, you’re on the committee that does trade, you’re literally part of the committee that’s overseeing these things and were not able to speak to literally the first thing about the politics of the country to our south?

The criticism was a reference to Klobuchar, earlier this week, having not been able to recall the name of the president of Mexico.

“Are you trying to say that I’m dumb? Are you mocking me here, Pete?” Klobuchar replied.

The field, however, eventually returned to attacks on Bloomberg, with Warren taking the lead and hitting the ex-mayor once again on past comments he’s made about women. The Washington Post reported earlier this week that multiple women had alleged that Bloomberg made profane, sexist comments and that they had signed nondisclosure agreements about the comments.

That exchange prompted Warren to deliver, arguably, the most memorable lines of the evening.

“I hope you heard his defense. I’ve been nice to ‘some women.’ That just doesn’t cut it,” she said. Bloomberg was seen rolling his eyes while Warren spoke.

She then requested that Bloomberg, on the spot on national television, release the women making the allegations from their nondisclosure agreements and she demanded to know how many there were. Bloomberg repeatedly declined to answer.

Feb. 20, 202004:06

He also stumbled through his defense on the entire topic, saying that, “None of them accuse me of doing anything other than maybe they didn’t like a joke I told.”

He said that “there’s agreements between two parties that wanted to keep it quiet” and releasing the accusers from their nondisclosure agreements is “up to them.”

Warren then accused Bloomberg of having “muzzled” the women and compared the situation to Trump, who has also come under scrutiny for entering into nondisclosure agreements with women who had alleged suspect behavior.

“This is also a question about electability. We are not going to beat Donald Trump with a man who has, who knows how many, nondisclosure agreements and the drip, drip, drip of stories of women saying they have been harassed and discriminated against,” Warren said.

Biden used the moment to pile on Bloomberg, too.

“Let’s get something straight here, it’s easy. All the mayor has to do is say, ‘you are released from the nondisclosure agreement.’ Period,” Biden said. “If they want to…they should be able to release themselves. Say yes.”

Wednesday night’s debate came as several polls out this week have showed Bloomberg surging nationally into the runner-up position behind Sanders.

As a result, the two campaigns had increasingly painted the contest for the Democratic nomination as a two-man race.

But it has been Bloomberg more than anyone who, amid his rise in the polls, had faced blistering attacks, even before Wednesday night’s debate, including over “stop-and-frisk” and past comment’s he’d made about the LGBTQ community.

A senior Bloomberg campaign official told NBC News before the debate that they assumed that “everyone attacks us” on Wednesday night.

Live Updates From the Democratic Debate in Nevada

Photo: BRIDGET BENNETT/AFP via Getty Images

Democratic candidates took the stage Wednesday night at the Paris Theater in a final effort to make their case before Nevada caucuses on Saturday. Even before the debate began, the campaigns were taking shots at each other — dominated mostly by shots at the contest newcomer, Michael Bloomberg. In the early moments of the debate, the billionaire’s presence appeared to invigorate the other candidates. Below is everything you need to know about the ninth debate as it comes in.

Warren goes for Bloomberg from the jump

Aware of the opportunity for a big shot to boost her disappointing performances in New Hampshire and Nevada, the Massachusetts senator came for the new candidate immediately. Warren said that she lamented the presence of a billionaire in politics who has called women “fat broads and horse-faced lesbians,” informing the crowd she was talking about Michael Bloomberg, not the president. She added that the country is at a “huge risk of substituting one arrogant billionaire for another.”

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The Democratic candidates for president take the stage in Las Vegas for the latest debate. Follow along with our live blog. 

Bloomberg, Sanders spar over taxes, billionaires

Bernie Sanders slammed Michael Bloomberg’s wealth in an extended debate over taxes and what he described as the “grotesque level of income and wealth inequality” in the United States.

“That’s wrong, that’s immoral,” Sanders said, noting that Bloomberg’s wealth vastly overshadows the earnings of virtually all Americans.

The back-and-forth was ostensibly over the nation’s tax code, and a desire from Sanders and Elizabeth Warren to raise taxes on the wealthy. Bloomberg said he was proud of the money he has earned – “I work very hard for it,” he said – and added that he strongly opposed the tax proposals supported by the liberal wing of the party.  

“I can’t think of a way to make it easier for Donald Trump to get reelected than listening to this conversation,” Bloomberg said in an exasperated voice. Bloomberg said the country had tried “communism” and that it “just didn’t work.”  

Mostly glossed over in the exchange: That Bloomberg has spent hundreds of millions of dollars of his own money to raise his profile in Super Tuesday states.

– John Fritze

Bloomberg asked about redlining

Joe Biden delivered a criticism of Mike Bloomberg but those unaware of his reference wouldn’t have known that’s what he was doing. It took the moderator to bring out the attack.

In a question about how his policies would affect small, minority-owned businesses, Biden brought up the discriminatory housing practice known as “redlining.”

It wasn’t redlining, but the greed of Wall Street, that caused the 2008 financial crisis, Biden said. That was an allusion to comments Bloomberg made in 2008 in which he said the crisis was started because banks were pressured to end redlining.

Asked by the moderator about that comment, Bloomberg called the idea that redlining caused the crisis exactly wrong. He added that he’s been on the record opposing redlining, a practice that is still going on in some places “and we’ve got to cut it out.”

Maureen Groppe

In promoting Green New Deal, Sanders calls climate change ‘moral issue’

Bernie Sanders defended his Green New Deal as the only real solution to the “existential threat” posed by climate change.

“This is a moral issue, my friends,” he said. “We have responsibility of making sure that the planet, we leave our children and grandchildren, as healthy and habitable.”

The plan, criticized by Republicans and moderate Democrats as a radical plan that would threaten the economy, has been a signature policy of Sanders and other progressives.

Most Democrats on the debate stage are not on board with the Green New deal though they support aggressive steps to reduce carbon emissions that lead to climate change, starting with the defeat of President Donald Trump who has questioned the science behind climate change and has called for expanded oil drilling and mining.

“Let’s be real. The deadline is not 2050. It’s not 2040. It’s not 2030. It’s 2020,” said former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg. “Because if we don’t elect a president who actually believes in climate science now We will never meet any of the scientific or policy deadlines” to combat global warming.

Ledyard King

Warren’s campaign said they had the best hour of fundraising

Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s campaign stated they had the “best hour of fundraising” of her campaign so far after the first hour of Wednesday’s debate.

The campaign says they have a goal to raise $7 million before Saturday’s Nevada caucuses.

During the halfway point, she was also the most tweeted about candidate.

Savannah Behrmann

Sanders: Bloomberg’s Republican past should not be forgotten

Michael Bloomberg’s policies targeting communities of color and his non-disclosure agreements with a number of women over potential harassment claims at his company are bad enough, according to Bernie Sanders.

But that’s not the only reason he’s a bad choice to take on Donald Trump in November, Sanders said.

The Vermont senator went after Bloomberg on his political past as a Republican who endorsed President George W. Bush in 2004 and gave a small fortune to Republican causes for years,

And, “maybe we can talk about a billionaire saying that we should not raise the minimum wage, or that we should cut Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid,” Sanders said.

Bloomberg switched to the GOP to run for mayor but later switched in the middle of his tenure to run as an independent. He became a Democrat in 2018 and started funding Democratic candidates and causes.

– Ledyard King

Warren comes to Klobuchar’s defense

A question to Amy Klobuchar about her failure to identify the president of Mexico in a recent interview led to a back-and-forth with Pete Buttigieg and Elizabeth Warren coming to her female colleague’s defense.

Klobuchar said she had “momentary forgetfulness” that doesn’t reflect what she knows about Mexico and how much she cares about it.

Buttigieg countered that Klobuchar is staking her candidacy on her Washington experience and she failed to name Mexico’s president when she’s on the Senate committee that oversees trade and border security

“Are you trying to stay that I’m dumb? Are you mocking me?” Klobuchar asked Buttigieg. “People sometimes forget names.”

Warren jumped in to agree that forgetting a name happens to everyone and doesn’t by itself “indicate that you don’t understand what’s going on.”

– Maureen Groppe

Bloomberg put back on heels over women in the workplace

Michael Bloomberg came under rapid fire from the rest of the field over his past comments about women and the way women have been treated at his company in an exchange that will almost certainly be seen as a key moment in the debate.

Bloomberg said his company, Bloomberg LP, had “no tolerance for the kind of behavior the Me Too movement has exposed.”

But Elizabeth Warren quickly followed up, pressing Bloomberg on how many women who worked for him were subject to non-disclosure agreements and unable to talk about harassment and abuse in the workplace.  

“I hope you heard what his defense was: ‘I’ve been nice to some women,’” Warren said. “The mayor needs to stand on his record.”

Warren – and then Joe Biden – urged Bloomberg to release women from the non-disclosure agreements on stage, which Bloomberg declined to do. Warren described the women as being “muzzled” by the NDAs.

“They decided, when they made an agreement, that they wanted to keep it quiet for everyone’s interest,” Bloomberg said.

– John Fritze

Klobuchar defends prosecutorial record

Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s prosecutorial record was questioned during Wednesday’s debate when moderators asked her why black voters should trust her given some of her past cases that have recently been drawn to light.

Specifically, Klobuchar had to defend her record regarding the case when an 11-year-old girl was killed by a stray bullet while doing homework at her dining room table in 2002. 

Klobuchar’s office put Tyesha Edwards’ alleged killer, a black teen at the time, behind bars for life.

New reports from the Associated Press show that Myon Burrell, the alleged killer, may have been wrongfully convicted.

Klobuchar said that all evidence from the case, old and new, should be reviewed. 

She also continued that she has to “earn” the vote of African American voters across the nation, but has done so in her community.

Savannah Behrmann

Bloomberg: ‘I’ve asked for forgiveness’ on stop-and-frisk

Michael Bloomberg, who has been on an apology tour for his controversial ‘Stop-and-Frisk’ policing program that targeted minority communities in high-crime neighborhoods in New York City, became defensive on the debate stage. 

Both Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren went after the former mayor, saying its efforts to go after community of colors proved to be a mistake that unfairly persecuted the city’s most vulnerable residents.

“The policy was abhorrent,” said Biden, who added that the program only stopped after President Barack Obama sent monitors to stop the program.

“When the mayor says that he apologized, listen closely to the apology,” Warren chimed in. “This isn’t about how it turned out, this is about what it was designed to do to begin with…. If you want to issue a real apology, then the apology has to start with the intent of the plan as it was put together and the willful ignorance day by day by day of admitting what was happening even as people protested in your own street.”

Bloomberg responded that the policy was already in place in some form before he became mayor and that the number of deaths per year in the city dropped from 650 to 300 due in part to Stop and Frisk.

But he said the city went overboard.

“I’ve asked for forgiveness, but the bottom line is that we stopped too many people,” he said. “But there is no great answer to a lot of problems and if we took off everybody that was wrong on this panel, everybody that was wrong on criminal justice at some time in the careers, nobody else would be up here.”

Ledyard King

Sanders, Bloomberg spar over heart health

A battle that broke out earlier this week on the campaign trail between Bernie Sanders and Michael Bloomberg over their heart health made an appearance on the debate stage. Sanders was asked whether his decision to withhold additional medical records despite suffering a heart attack in October undercut his vow for transparency.

Sanders noted that he had released some documents and tried to quickly shift attention to Bloomberg, who had two coronary stents placed in 2000 after a positive stress test. Bloomberg fired back that the operation was 20 years ago.

Sanders suggested that Bloomberg follow him around on the campaign trail for several days and “see how you’re doing compared to me.”

 – John Fritze

Candidates address attacks on Culinary Union members from ‘Bernie bros’

The candidates got heated over recent attacks from some of Sen. Bernie Sanders most vocal supports, known as “Bernie bros”

Pete Buttigieg claimed Sanders was “at war with the [Nevada’s] Culinary Union” after some of the Vermont Senator’s supporters reportedly threatened members for criticizing Sanders’ “Medicare for All” plan.

“We are all responsible for our supporters and need to step up,” he said, continuing that the attacks are a reflection of what Sanders leadership is drawing out of them. 

Sanders responded that his campaign has “have more union support than you have ever dreamed of” while addressing the “Bernie bros” attacks.

“If there are a few people who make ugly remarks, who attack union leaders, then I disown those people. They are not part of our movement,” he said. 

However, he said that this isn’t an issue specific to his campaign, telling the other candidates to look at the attacks members of his campaign have faced, especially those towards African American women. 

The Culinary Union represents 60,000 housekeepers, porters and bartenders working in Las Vegas casinos. At the top of the union’s presidential asks is to maintain the robust health care plans members have fought hard to negotiate and win. 

The union announced last week that it would not endorse a candidate ahead of the caucuses this Saturday. 

– Savannah Behrmann

Sanders defends Medicare for All

Sanders, asked if Nevada’s powerful Culinary Union’s criticism of his health care plan is correct, had a simple answer.

“No,” Sanders said.

The union fears workers that under Medicare for All they would have to give up their hard-fought health care benefits for coverage that might not be as good.

Sanders promised never to sign a bill that would give them worse benefits.

“We will only expand for them, for every union in America for the working class of this country,” Sanders said.

The union has circulated flyers saying Medicare for All would “end Culinary Healthcare” but chose not to endorse any of the candidates who offer an alternative approach.

Elizabeth Warren, who backs a version of Medicare for All, went after the more moderate plans of her competitors. She dismissed Pete Buttigieg’s “Medicare for all who want it” proposal as a powerpoint plan. Amy Klobuchar’s health care proposal, Warren sniffed, is nothing more than a post-it note.

Klobuchar said she took personal offense at that because “post-it notes were invented in my state.”

Maureen Groppe

Debate takes sharp turn, reflecting state of race

The first moments of the Democratic debate in Las Vegas have been far sharper than any other so far in the race of the Democratic nomination – for good reason.

Michael Bloomberg has hit Bernie Sanders as too liberal to win in the general election. Elizabeth Warren attacked Bloomberg and described Amy Klobuchar’s health care plan as a “Post-it note.” Pete Buttigieg called Sanders and Bloomberg the two most polarizing figures on the stage.

“Can I just say I take personal offense because Post-it notes were invited in my state,” joked Klobuchar, who represents Minnesota in the Senate.

“You don’t put your money on a number that’s not even on the wheel,” Klobuchar fired back on health care, arguing that the Medicare-for-All plans supported by Sanders and Warren were unrealistic.

The sharp elbows underscored the sea changes taking place in the presidential campaign, compounding the long-running divide in the party between the more centrist candidates like Joe Biden and Buttigieg and liberals like Sanders and Warren. Not only is Bloomberg rearranging that narrative with his first appearance on stage — and his momentum in polling — but the race has become more defined by Sanders’ narrow win in New Hampshire and his virtual tie with Buttigieg in Iowa.

That means several of the candidates – including Bloomberg and Sanders – are suddenly targets for the rest of the field. Others, including Biden and Klobuchar, are battling for a performance that would allow them to place in the Nevada caucuses this weekend.

– John Fritze

Warren: Democrats should not nominate Bloomberg because of racist, misogynistic actions

The first big shot at Michael Bloomberg came from Massachusetts  Sen. Elizabeth Warren who slammed the former New York City mayor.

Democrats should not nominate someone who is “hiding his tax returns of harassing women and of supporting racist policies like redlining and stop and frisk.” Or a ““billionaire who calls women fat broads and horseface lesbians.”

Warren, who is trailing in the polls, came out fiercely, saying it would be a mistake to nominate Bloomberg because “Democrats take a huge risk if we just substitute one billionaire for another.” a reference to Trump

Blomberg, who has apologized for the ‘Stop-and-Frisk’ policing policy that targeted neighborhoods of color in New York, emphasized his electability.

“I think we have two questions to face tonight. One is, who can beat Donald Trump. And number two, we can do the job as they get into the White House,” he said. “I would argue that I am the candidate that can do exactly most of those things. I’m a New Yorker, I know how to take on an arrogant con man like Donald Trump comes from New York.”

Ledyard king

Buttigieg goes after Sanders and Bloomberg

Pete Buttigieg, in his first chance at-bat, said the party is facing the prospect of the only candidates being left standing after Super Tuesday being Bernie Sanders and Mike Bloomberg – whom he called the two most polarizing figures on the stage.

Most Americans will feel left out if forced to choose between a socialist who thinks capitalism is the root of all evil and a billionaire who thinks money is the root of all power.

“Look, we shouldn’t have to choose between one candidate who wants to burn this party down and another candidate who wants to buy this party out,” Buttigieg said. “We can do better.”

Maureen Groppe

Bloomberg vows to take on ‘arrogant, con-man’ Trump

Michael Bloomberg, who has repeatedly taken fire from President Donald Trump since entering the race for the Democratic nomination, delivered some of it back to the president on the stage early in the debate.

Saying he was speaking as a “New Yorker,” Bloomberg said he knew how to “take on arrogant con man like Donald Trump.”

“I know how to run a complicated city, the biggest, most diverse city in this country,” Bloomberg said. “I’m a philanthropist who didn’t inherit his money, but made his money.”

In the early moments of a debate that started off far more feisty than the previous exchanges between the candidates, Bloomberg has been forced to both introduce his campaign and explain during the debate why he is best qualified to beat Trump, should he win the nomination.

-John Fritze

Sanders is given first chance to whack Bloomberg

The first question of the ninth debate was about former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who was making his first appearance on the stage.

Bernie Sanders, who is leading in the polls, was asked why he’s a better candidate to beat President Donald Trump than Bloomberg, who is pitching himself as a centrist.

Sanders said beating Trump will require the largest voter turnout in history and Bloomberg can’t do that because of his past support for the controversial “stop-and-frisk” police strategy.

Sanders that “went after the African American and Latino people in an outrageous way.”

By contrast, Sanders said, he’s bringing together people of all races and backgrounds around and agenda that works for all everyone and “not just the billionaire class.”

– Maureen Groppe

Bloomberg speaks, slams Sanders

Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg made his debut remarks in a Democratic debate by slamming Sen. Bernie Sanders, suggesting that the Vermont senator could not build a winning coalition to take on President Donald Trump.

Bloomberg said Sanders couldn’t win by basing his campaign largely on a health care plan that he said would force millions of Americans to switch off their private coverage.

“That’s just not a way that you go and start building a coalition,” Bloomberg said in his first remarks on the debate stage.

If Sanders wins the nomination, Bloomberg said, “We will have Donald Trump for another four years.”

– John Fritze

Mobile billboards in Vegas celebrate Trump 

LAS VEGAS – The Republican National Committee has bought a mobile billboard that will roam the Strip during tonight’s Democratic debate.

Rolling up and down Las Vegas Boulevard from 5-10 p.m., the board will attack Democrats and celebrate President Donald Trump.

A graphic on the billboard shows a chair being thrown at Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez. The image references the 2016 Nevada State Democratic Party convention, where Bernie Sanders supporters allegedly threw chairs.  

Another graphic touts Trump’s economic performance in the White House, showing the president in a thumbs-up pose.

The Republican National Committee has bought a mobile billboard that will roam the Strip during tonight’s Democratic debate.The Republican National Committee has bought a mobile billboard that will roam the Strip during tonight’s Democratic debate.
The Republican National Committee has bought a mobile billboard that will roam the Strip during tonight’s Democratic debate.

“President Trump has delivered to Nevada,” the sign reads, offering a list: “Record low unemployment rates… More than 125,000 jobs … A $1,300/year tax cut to Nevada workers and families.”

“President Trump has delivered for Silver State and Nevadans have no interest in a socialist agenda,” Trump Victory spokesman Keith Schipper said in a statement.

The mobile billboard even has a name: “DNC’s Big Rig.”

Ed Komenda 

Who is Obama’s best bud?

Do you have President Barack Obama on your debate bingo card?

He could be a popular topic given how often he’s come up lately in the Democrats’ nominating contest.

A lot of that is driven by ads from former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg touting Obama’s past praise for Bloomberg.

The ads are so convincing — and ubiquitous — that former Obama aides have said they’ve been asked when Obama endorsed Bloomberg. The ads have also annoyed some of those aides because Bloomberg didn’t endorse Obama in 2008 and gave what they saw as a sub-par endorsement in 2012.

“Welcome to the debates, Mike. We have a lot to catch up on about Barack Obama’s record,” tweeted former Vice President Joe Biden Wednesday.

The video that accompanied that tweet included Bloomberg’s past criticisms of Obama’s signature health care law and his record on climate change — among other clashes.

Pete Buttigieg, whose campaign has encouraged comparisons with Obama’s 2008 run, could bring up Obama with an attack on Bernie Sanders.

Buttigieg tweeted out Wednesday an article in The Atlantic about how close Sanders came to challenging Obama in the 2012 primary.

“Barack Obama was an excellent president,” Buttigieg tweeted. “What’s disappointing is that someone in this race would suggest otherwise.”

Maureen Groppe

Expect to hear more about Medicare for All

While there’s been no shortage of discussion about health care in the previous eight Democratic debates, expect it to come up again tonight.

That’s because Medicare for All may be the best chance the center-left Democrats have of slowing Bernie Sanders’ momentum in Nevada.

Sanders’ costly and controversial plan worries the powerful Culinary Union, the state’s largest labor organization. The union fears workers would have to give up their hard-fought health care benefits for coverage that might not be as good.

The union has circulated flyers saying Medicare for All would “end Culinary Healthcare” but chose not to endorse any of the candidates who offer an alternative approach.

Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar and Joe Biden will likely look for opportunities on stage to criticize Sanders’ plan and plug their proposals to improve health care coverage.

Expect Sanders to argue that Medicare for All would help unions by taking health care off the table during contract negotiations.

Meanwhile, a group comprised of major drugmakers, insurance companies and private hospitals, is saying a pox on both your houses.

Partnership for America’s Health Care Future launched a new ad around the debate that criticizes the approaches of both Sanders’ and the more moderate Democrats.  The ad says the proposals would result in higher taxes and lower-quality care.

Maureen Groppe 

Biden slips further in polls and among oddsmakers

Hours before the debate in Las Vegas, a new national poll is cutting into Joe Biden’s core argument that his electability and broad appeal makes him the Democratic presidential nominee best suited to defeat Donald Trump.

The former vice president’s support among “Democratic-leaning” registered voters dropped from 32% in the same Washington Post-ABC News poll conducted in January to 16% in the poll released Wednesday. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders now leads with 32% (up 9 points from January), with former New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg (14%) and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren (12%) nipping at Biden’s heels.

The poll was conducted from Feb. 14-17 of 408 Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters, and it has a margin of error of plus or minus 6 percentage points.

One Oddsmaker doesn’t think much of Biden’s chances to win the nomination either.

Bovada, an online sports gambling site, puts his odds at +775, meaning someone who bets $100 on the former vice president to win the nomination would receive a payout of $775. On Jan. 1, Biden was the favorite at +200.

Sanders is now the favorite at +125, (he was +350 on Jan. 1) with Bloomberg close behind at +200. Warren has plummeted from +450 to +6600, well behind 2016 nominee Hillary Clinton who comes in at +2000, the same as Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar.

Although Biden is not expected to do very well in Saturday’s Nevada Caucuses, one poll shows him leading the Feb. 29 South Carolina primary where he has invested time and resources truing to woo the state’s racially diverse electorate.

The poll, released by the University of Massachusetts Lowell’s Center for Public Opinion, found that 23% of likely voters in South Carolina’s Democratic primary support Biden compared to 21 percent for Sanders. Billionaire Tom Steyer, who will not be on Wednesday’s debate stage, is third with 13%.

The poll of 400 voters has an adjusted margin of error of plus or minus 7.5 percent.

Ledyard King

‘2020 The Musical’ 

LAS VEGAS –  Hours before the Democratic debate will unfold in a nearby Strip theater, Carol Dunitz stood outside Paris Las Vegas dressed like Uncle Sam.

She toted a sign with a message for passing tourists to see: “Dump the Trump in 2020.”

An Ann Arbor, Michigan, native with a doctorate in speech and theatre, Dunitz is the writer of “2020 The Musical,” a collection of 20 show tunes about dissecting political topics of the times: Global warming, reproductive rights and criminal justice reform among them.

Dunitz travels to all Democratic debates, promoting her musical and talking politics with anyone who cares to chat.

“Bloomberg or Sanders,” Dunitz said of her candidates, though her choice often changes.

Former New York City mayor has a chance, because “he’s more centrist,” Dunitz said. “That’s why the powers that be like him.”

– Ed Komenda 

Se Habla Español

While many candidates are running Spanish language ads in Nevada it’s unlikely you’ll hear much Spanish on stage tonight.

Pete Buttigieg is the only candidate left who speaks Spanish.

The first candidate to speak Spanish at a debate was former Rep. Beto O’Rourke who, at the first debate last June, answered a question about tax rates in Spanish. Former San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker also threw in some Spanish that night. Booker’s best bilingual performance came in September when he was asked whether more Americans should follow his vegan diet.

“First of all, I want to say, `no,’” Booker responded. “Actually, I want to translate that into Spanish. `No.’”

One of Buttigieg’s Nevada ads translates the phonetic pronunciation of his name – Boot-edge-edge – into Spanish: Bt-ech-ech.

Buttigieg’s uncommon last name is Maltese and his Nevada ads emphasize that he is the son of an immigrant.

Likewise, Bernie Sanders, whose father immigrated from Europe, reminds voters of his immigrant roots in one of his Nevada ads.

About three in ten Nevadans are Latinos and nearly two in ten residents are foreign-born, according to the U.S. Census.

Maureen Groppe 

Get ready for attacks on Bloomberg

There appears to be no shortage of beefs that other Democratic candidates have with former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Let’s start with the fact that Bloomberg didn’t become a Democrat until 2018.

“I don’t endorse Republicans,” former Vice President Joe Biden tweeted Wednesday in response to a Bloomberg video showing Biden’s past praise for the former mayor.

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren last week said Bloomberg “should not be the leader of our party” because of comments he made in 2008 about the financial crisis. Bloomberg said the crisis was started because banks were pressured to end the discriminatory housing practice known as “redlining.”

Warren and other Democrats have also accused Bloomberg of trying to buy the nomination through the unprecedented hundreds of millions of dollars he’s already spent. And she’s charged him with overseeing, as mayor, “a program that surveilled and tracked Muslim communities in mosques, restaurants, and even college campuses.”

Shortly before the debate, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders circulated a video of comments Bloomberg made in 2012 about decreasing benefits or raising the eligibility age of Medicare and Social Security.

“Let’s have some austerity for billionaires,” Sanders says at the end of the video.

Bloomberg, in his first appearance on the debate stage, could also get asked about:

  • His refusal to release women from confidentiality agreements they’ve signed relating to allegations of a hostile work environment at his company;
  • His past descriptions of transgender people as “he, she, or it” and dress-wearing men who enter girls’ locker rooms.
  • His past support for the controversial “stop-and-frisk” police strategy.

But Bloomberg isn’t shying from battle. His campaign has circulated a video criticizing the harassing “energy” of some of Sanders’ supporters. His aides are also warning that it’s almost too late for Democrats to coalesce behind an alternative to Sanders to stop him from getting the nomination.

– Maureen Groppe

As debate stage gets older, candidates tangle over health

Questions about age and health generally have rumbled below the surface as the candidates vie for the Democratic presidential nomination. Even when Bernie Sanders, 78, suffered a heart attack in October, his quick return to the campaign trail quieted any public concerns.

But when asked Tuesday during a CNN town hall whether he would provide more of his medical records, the Vermont senator demurred.

“I think we have released a detailed medical report, and I’m comfortable on what we have done,” he told moderator Anderson Cooper.

Wednesday’s debate crew is not only smaller (seven candidates in the last one versus six) and less ethnically diverse (no minorities this time) but older as well.

Gone are entrepreneur Andrew Yang, 45, and businessman Tom Steyer, 62. Arriving is former New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg, 78. That means four of the six candidates on stage (Bloomberg, Sanders, Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren) will be at least 70.

On Wednesday, Sanders’ national press secretary, Briahna Gray, told CNN that questions about the Vermont senator’s health were “reminiscent” of those raised about other candidates, “questioning where they’re from, aspects of their lineage, etc.” 

“None of the same concern is being demonstrated for Michael Bloomberg, who’s the same age as Bernie Sanders, who’s suffered heart attacks in the past,” she said.

In a statement, Bloomberg campaign manager Kevin Sheekey said it was an “absolute lie that Mike had heart attacks” and called Gray’s claim “completely false.”

Sheekey said Bloomberg, 78, had two coronary stents placed in 2000 after a positive stress test. Bloomberg released a letter from his doctor Stephen Sisson in December saying he was in “outstanding health” and in “great physical shape.” 

“There are no medical concerns, present or looming, that would prevent him from serving as President of the United States,” Sisson wrote. 

In a Twitter post Wednesday, Gray said she “misspoke” about Bloomberg having a heart attack and said Bloomberg “underwent the same stent procedure as Bernie.” 

Bloomberg’s heart procedure was a preventive measure, whereas Sanders’ was conducted after the candidate had a heart attack.

Ledyard King and Nicolas Wu

Democrats set to debate for ninth time but with one new face

WASHINGTON – Five familiar faces and one new one take the Democratic debate stage tonight in Las Vegas.

That should generate a lot of fireworks as the returning candidates, who feel like they’ve been put through the paces from the past eight debates and months of campaigning, get their first chance to test former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg. 

Bloomberg is making his first appearance, despite the fact that he is not on the ballot in Nevada, which caucuses Saturday.

But while Bloomberg is skipping the first four states to vote in Democrats’ presidential nominating contest, he is spending heavily across the country. 

That earned him enough support in polls to qualify for the debate after the Democratic National Committee last month changed the entry rules that had included donor requirements. Bloomberg, who has already spent more on advertising than President Barack Obama spent on ads during his entire 2012 re-election campaign, is self-funding his bid.

The next-richest Democrat in the contest, activist Tom Steyer, will not be in the debate. He failed to win at least one delegate in Iowa or New Hampshire or show support of 10 percent or more in four qualifying polls. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii also did not qualify.

The candidates getting their first chance to spar with Bloomberg are Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, former Vice President Joe Biden, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana. 

The two-hour debate begins at 9 p.m. ET. 

There are five moderators: NBC anchor Lester Holt, “Meet the Press” moderator Chuck Todd, NBC News Chief White House Correspondent Hallie Jackson, Noticias Telemundo Senior Correspondent Vanessa Hauc and Jon Ralston of The Nevada Independent.

2020 candidates on the issues: A voter’s guide to where they stand on health care, gun control and more

Interactive guide: Who is running for president in 2020?

The calendar: When are the 2020 presidential election primaries?

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Las Vegas Democratic debate could get fiery with Michael Bloomberg in

Play about first African American priest in the US highlights current issues

PASADENA, Calif. (RNS) — Actor Jim Coleman stood at the front of a dimly lit stage and recounted the joys and hardships of being a black man of Catholic faith.

As the star of the play “Tolton: From Slave to Priest,” Coleman was portraying the life of the Rev. Augustus Tolton, the first known African American to serve as a Catholic priest in the United States.

The one-man multimedia performance, presented by Saint Luke Productions, toured several parishes in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles this month (Feb. 10-15), with a private showing on Feb. 18 at St. John’s Seminary in Camarillo. 

Tolton, born into a family of slaves in Missouri, escaped during the Civil War with his mother and siblings and settled in Illinois. His father had already escaped to join the Union army and his family later learned of his death.

In Illinois, Tolton, who had been baptized in his former owners’ Catholic faith, faced pushback from peers and parents while attending all-white Catholic parish schools, according to Tolton’s biography provided by the Archdiocese of Chicago.

Undeterred, Tolton pursued the priesthood, studying in Italy after U.S. seminaries refused to admit a black man. He was ordained at the age of 31 in 1886.

Father Augustus Tolton in 1887. Image courtesy of Creative Commons

In the play, Tolton refers to the U.S., as “foreign land” where, after “living in freedom for six years,” he returned on finishing seminary.

Tolton was sent to Chicago, where he helped oversee the construction of St. Monica’s Catholic Church, a black parish. Known as “Father Gus,” Tolton spent much of his career seeking help for the the poor in his black community.

In June 2019, Pope Francis officially declared that Tolton “lived a life of heroic virtue,” and the priest is now on the path for sainthood. His cause for canonization was opened by the Archdiocese of Chicago in 2010. 

In Pasadena, the seats were filled for a showing of “Tolton” at St. Andrew Catholic School on Feb. 12. Some cheered and others cried as the play demonstrated how Tolton’s faith helped him cope with the racism he encountered before he went to seminary.

“People need to see that their spiritual life can help give them the strength to persevere in troubling times,” said Edwina Clay, president of the Altadena/Pasadena Black Catholic Association, who said the play was still relevant.

The Archdiocese of Los Angeles, which hosts Masses in about 40 languages, has been lauded for its diversity, but in its more than 80-year history, only one U.S.-born black pastor has served in its parishes.

It’s a problem that spills down to the pews, Clay said.

“If young people don’t see folks who look like them, they don’t have any aspiration to be like them,” she said.

Black Catholics have made up a stable 3% of U.S. Catholic membership for decades, with significant numbers of African Americans in dioceses in Brooklyn, Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Baltimore, according to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. 

To Anderson Shaw, director of the African American Catholic Center for Evangelization, the play helps bring visibility to the black Catholic community in the U.S. “By having visibility, it allows us to have a voice,” Shaw said.

The play, Shaw said, is not simply a reaction to past injustices.

“One can get encouragement and inspiration from stories,” Shaw said. “Our intent is to inspire people to encourage them to lift themselves up when things get a little tough.”

Actor Jim Coleman. Photo courtesy of Saint Luke Productions

Shaw said the play was included in a pastoral plan that came out of a 2017 meeting of the National Black Catholic Congress that addressed the lack of African American priests.

In the pastoral plan the group pledged to stand against racism and to work on issues such as mass incarceration and domestic violence, Shaw said.

“You have people saying the church is not racist,” but, he said, if you ask parishioners if they have experienced racism in the church, “the answer is going to be yes.”

Local parish leaders and congregants need to do more to draw African Americans into the priesthood, Shaw said. There can be pastoral plans, Shaw said, but “the people in the pews don’t relate to that.”

As a sign of progress, Shaw pointed to the Rev. Jeffrey Harvey, an African American Vincentian priest, who is teaching homiletics — the art of preaching and delivering sermons — at St. John’s Seminary, where men are prepared for the priesthood in the Los Angeles archdiocese. 

African Americans are big on preachers, Shaw said. “If you ask them what was the most important part of the Mass, it’s the singing and preaching,” he said.

To have Harvey teaching L.A.’s next generation of priests how to preach is significant, he said.

Frisco’s Project Level young people are strapping up for a college tour

by Minister of Information JR Valrey

Project Level is a phenomenal arts and
entrepreneurship program for teens and young adults in San Francisco. It is
headquartered at the African American Art and Culture Complex at 762 Fulton in
the Fillmore district, and it was founded in 2012, by Richard “Big Rich”
Bougere and Danielle Barr. It is a vital resource for young people and Frisco’s
youth culture, and they always have some things happening. This year they are
planning a college tour where they will be visiting Howard University, among
other colleges on the East Coast. I sat down with Project Level co-founder Big
Rich to see what they were up to.

M.O.I. JR: What is Project Level? And how did
it start?

Big
Rich: Project Level is a non-profit youth organization that serves underserved
communities by teaching them how to create opportunities for themselves by
utilizing the arts and their own creative talents. Not only do we nurture and
support their craft but we also prepare them for the industry they wish to have
a career in. We are able to do this by equipping them with industry standard
equipment and exposing them to real life opportunities that correlate to their
passions.

M.O.I. JR: How and when did you get involved
with Project Level?

Big Rich: Danielle and myself founded Project
Level in 2012. I was blessed and lucky enough to have had a career in the music
industry that allowed me to establish a lasting legacy worldwide and especially
here in the Bay Area. During my time as an artist, I was able to create a lot
of significant relationships. My intentions were to retire and utilize the
relationships and resources I had made to help other artists operating as an
executive and CEO.

Danielle and I soon realized after trying our
hand in management that there were many obstacles for adult artists and that we
couldn’t help them the way we genuinely wanted to, so we went back to the
drawing board. We really wanted to give back to the community that gave so much
to us, so we decided that the best way to do that was to give everything we
have and pour it into the youth. We wanted to get to them as early as possible
to establish a foundation they could stand on for life.

M.O.I. JR: Since you and Danielle have been
running it, what have y’all been up to?

Big
Rich: We hit the ground running in 2012 and haven’t looked back since. We’ve
served over 1,000 youths since our inception and a majority of our staff is
made up of alumni – former students.

This
past summer we employed over 75 youth through Mayor London Breed’s initiative
Opportunities for All and created a hard copy (and digital version) original
magazine called “Anthem.” We’ve also had over five highly successful college
and career tours.

During
this time Danielle and I have been able to build and focus all of our resources
towards helping and empowering the youth. We continue to build relationships
with entities such as Airbnb, Poshmark, JYC, Parks and Rec, and many others to
open more doors for our students.

This past summer we employed over 75 youth through Mayor London Breed’s initiative Opportunities for All and created a hard copy (and digital version) original magazine called “Anthem.” We’ve also had over five highly successful college and career tours.

M.O.I. JR: What happened with Project Level
and Forever 21 last year? How did y’all work it out?

Big
Rich: Last year we had an unfortunate incident at Forever 21 where my wife
Danielle had been accused of stealing. It happened during the time when we
employed the 75 youth through OFA. I mentioned earlier that we were creating a
magazine and for this magazine we were doing a photo shoot for about 10 of our
students who were to be featured in the magazine.

So
the day before the shoot, we did what we had always done – and went shopping.
We did our normal runs through the Westfield Mall, and headed over to Forever
21 to finish up shopping. To make a long story short, the police were called
because the manager suspected us of stealing, specifically Danielle. The cops
approached Danielle and asked to search our bags. Of course we allowed them to search
all of our bags, because we’ve never been thieves or had any reason to steal.

The
officers cleared us of any wrongdoing and notified us that one of the staff
members had “seen” Danielle putting clothes in her bags that came from the
other stores. We explained to them that we had been comparing clothing items to
make sure everything matched. Once again, we’ve shopped at F21 many times
before, and as a collective we have spent thousands of dollars there.

We
take pride in our reputation, and even after being embarrassed publicly, we
still understood how someone could mistake Danielle taking clothes in and out
of the bag to compare them for stealing. All we wanted was for them to make
amends by simply apologizing.

The
manager on duty who called the police refused to even meet us face to face, let
alone apologize. We felt insulted and knew that we couldn’t stand for this type
of treatment. Danielle and I recorded the tail end of this ordeal and shared it
on our socials. We didn’t do it as a call of action because we intended to have
our lawyers handle it, but the public and our communities completely got behind
us and the posts went viral.

The
story got picked up by multiple news outlets and made it to the paper. After
receiving so much attention, Forever 21’s top brass reached out wanting to find
a resolution. With that, we met with their execs at City Hall and came to a
solution.

We
would join forces to create and release a full-blown capsule and that all
proceeds were to be donated to Project Level. We were given full control of
designing the clothes, marketing and the entire roll out. Not only that, but we
are to contribute to rewriting their training and policy on their racial
sensitivity training. We are glad to have taken a negative and turned it into a
positive that we were able to share with the community.

M.O.I. JR: As a provider of youth services,
why are programs like Project Level vital for the development of constructive
young people in the Bay Area?

Big Rich: They’re vital because of the simple
fact that the saying “it takes a village” has shown time and time again to be
absolutely true. At Project Level we provide those things that all kids need
and want whether they know it or not. Those things being family (support) and
opportunities (resources). With those then they are able to open and trust the
guidance you provide. Without that trust you can’t help develop these young
people.

M.O.I. JR: What are some of the projects that
Project Level is working on now?

Big Rich: As I mentioned earlier, we are all-hands-on-deck
with this Forever 21 collaboration still, but we do have artists that have
music projects that are due to be released. We also have students who plan on
releasing capsules for their own individual clothing brands. The film department
is working on a few short stories and documentaries. We have many other
projects that are in the wraps that we’ll be revealing soon, so stay tuned.

M.O.I. JR: Can you talk a little bit about the
Project Level College Tour that y’all are raising money for? What made y’all
pick the colleges you picked?

Big
Rich: So here at Project Level we like to be innovative in everything we do, so
from the beginning we decided that we weren’t going to do your traditional
college tour. We decided to do a college and career tour.

We
did our first one in 2013, and have done one every year since. We made sure to
put an emphasis on the career side because we know a majority of our entire
student population wanted a career utilizing their artistic gifts, so we made
sure we exposed them to the industry. This year we decided to go to the East
Coast and visit some historically Black colleges such as Howard. We chose our
colleges based on the arts and their history.

M.O.I. JR: What do you want the youth to get
out of the college tour?

Big
Rich: We want these kids coming away from the college tour knowing that they
have not only the ability but also the support to attend any school they visit.
We also want for them to be inspired by the professionals who have careers in
the industry they wish to thrive in. We want them to feel as if their futures
are in their hands.

M.O.I. JR: How could people donate? How could
people get in touch with you?

Big
Rich: If anyone out there wishes to donate, they can do so by following the
Project Level Page on Instagram, which is @ProjectLevel and clicking the link
in the bio. We also have a Project Level Venmo, which is @Project-level. I
myself can be reached by direct message via Instagram @Big.Rich and
@Industrymomma.

The People’s Minister of Information JR Valrey, journalist, author and
filmmaker, can be reached at
blockreportradio@gmail.com or on Facebook. And tune in to BlockReportTV on YouTube.

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GCSEN’s 2020 SOCIAL VENTURE BOOT CAMP AND SOCIAL VENTURE RESEARCH INSTITUTE AT WHEATON COLLEGE (MA) HAILED AS SUCCESS

GCSEN’s 2020 SOCIAL VENTURE BOOT CAMP AND SOCIAL VENTURE RESEARCH INSTITUTE AT WHEATON COLLEGE (MA) HAILED AS SUCCESS – African American News Today – EIN News

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Barbershops Targeted to Improve Health of Black Men

(HealthNewsDigest.com) – Black men with high blood pressure could benefit from a research study beginning this month to check their vitals while they are getting a haircut at a barbershop.

Previous research in Texas and California has shown barbershops can successfully support preventive medical care, leading Vanderbilt University Medical Center researchers to begin a pilot research clinical trial for black men, who are traditionally less likely than white men to have regular preventive checkups with their doctor.

“Hypertension is called a ‘silent killer’ because most people have no clue they have it until they have their blood pressure taken. There are no symptoms until the day they have their stroke or heart attack or develop kidney disease,” said David Harrison, MD, director of VUMC’s division of Clinical Pharmacology and principal investigator for the study.

“One of the main challenges we face is that people have to take off work, come see a doctor, deal with traffic and try to find parking — all of which are disruptive to their life — so they stop taking their medicine and coming for appointments. Meeting people where they are makes it easier for them to get their blood pressure checked and discuss their medications.”

The Vanderbilt study is a collaboration with the Cedars-Sinai Smidt Heart Institute in Los Angeles, as well as UCLA, CVS HealthNashvilleHealth and My Brother’s Keeper in Nashville.

“Initiatives like this harness the power of community to transform health,” said Sen. Bill Frist, MD, founder of NashvilleHealth. “The collaborative approach among Nashville’s academic, nonprofit, public health and business leaders will take innovative care directly to the patient in a trusted, accessible environment. These are the very unique health solutions that will change lives for the better.”

The new study is modeled after several pioneering studies led by the late hypertension specialist Ronald G. Victor, MD, who was the first to scientifically prove that hypertension health care provided in convenient neighborhood settings could have a positive impact on the black community, which has higher rates of hypertension, hypertension complications and death.

Victor’s most recent study, published in 2018 in The New England Journal of Medicine, showed 60% of participants across a network of 60 barbershops brought their high blood pressure into normal ranges within six months.

In Nashville, patrons from eight local barbershops who have uncontrolled hypertension will be invited to enroll in the study, where they will meet with a study pharmacist in the barbershop on a regular basis for six months. A study physician will also be available for patrons who require additional support.

Because barbers are often seen as mentors and have longstanding relationships with their regular patrons, researchers hope their advocacy for the project will lead to earlier identification of hypertension.

“The relationship between the barber and client lends a level of credence to endeavors of health and wellness that cannot be found anywhere else,” said Jarod Parrish, PharmD, the study’s pharmacist. “This model will help tear down barriers of entry for the African American community, such as the distrust in the health care system due to historical injustices, and will show that, when trusted, the health care system can deliver life-altering results.”

According to Jamal Stewart, owner of Masters Barbershop, one of the project’s eight participating Nashville barbershops, the project is important for helping to fill a gap in health care that affects many of his clients.

“I chose to participate in this project because I can see a true need for hypertension awareness,” said Stewart. “A considerable amount of people in our community are unaware of their condition. I am looking forward to the healing process by giving people a chance to educate themselves and the tools to combat hypertension.”

This research is supported by the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (grant UL1TR001881-03S2).

A serious conversation about mental health, autism, chronic diseases

by Renee P. Aldrich, For New Pittsburgh Courier

Not the blustery wind nor the residual dampness from the daylong rain of the previous day could keep away a crowd of more than 50 from engaging in a “Conversation about Health and Your Sense of Self.”

The Jan. 25 event was held at the Spartan Community Center in Hazelwood.

African Americans suffer disproportionately from most chronic diseases, such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. But mental illness is at the forefront of the disorders, of which African Americans are impacted in greater numbers than Caucasians.

During the event, a number of people came together to tackle the topic of mental illness. They included the Primary Health Care Service locations in Homewood, the Hill District and Hazelwood, East Liberty Health Center, Hillman Cancer Center and Matilda Theiss Center, to name a few. A panel discussion, moderated by Mario Brown, director of Health Sciences diversity programs at the University of Pittsburgh, featured a conversation with survivors like Rita Gregory (breast cancer), and Greg Tot (prostate cancer). Candace Bey, another panelist, shared her journey through childhood trauma, which led to a mental health diagnosis. Along with Beth Simon of the Hillman Cancer Center, each panelist gave an impassioned story of what they went through, what their fears were in dealing with their disease or diagnosis, and how they progressed through.

They encouraged the audience to face their personal fears, seek screenings, and be proactive in their own health care. Simon gave the audience an overview of indicators of colorectal cancer. She discussed screening guidelines, told audience members what the test consisted of and how important it was to find polyps (abnormal tissue growths) early before they can turn into cancer.

Additionally, there were special presentations on illnesses that don’t often get attention. Jamie Upshaw, of Autism Urban Connections Inc., shared how there are a lack of resources for African American families who had autistic children. She then revealed that her own son’s diagnosis was the impetus behind her push to start her own organization.

“When I was seeking answers, resources and help for my child and our family, and there was none, I knew I couldn’t be the only one, and I didn’t want any other family to go through what we went through, so I started my organization to be that link to resources for other families,” Upshaw said.

Terri Shields, of Jada House International, shared her battle with Lupus and how her denial almost kept her from getting the help she needed, thereby almost causing her death. Shields now is an advocate and strong proponent of understanding autoimmune diseases and managing systems to have a higher quality of life.

Johnnie Geathers, a mental health therapist at Familylinks, gave a stirring presentation about men and mental health. Sharing that the stigma around mental health was bad enough, it even had a deeper connotation for men. He said in his speech, “We need more Black male therapists, counselors, case managers and social workers in general. Men need to see other men in these fields, which can help create a comfort zone and allow them the freedom to seek the help they need.”

An essential highlight of the day was the keynote talk by Steven Evans, M.D., surgical oncologist at the Hillman Cancer Center. Dr. Evans’ talk was not a clinical overview of breast cancer, which is his specialty, nor was it a stream of statistics and pre-packaged information about the disease. Instead, it was a poignant discussion of how to move past the pain of a cancer diagnosis. With transparency and emotion, he talked of the loss of his wife to colorectal cancer. And with biblical references, he showed the audience that above all, it is faith that would carry them through either a diagnosis of their own, or that of a loved one.

“I stopped by today to encourage you and let you know that while a diagnosis of cancer can be and is a defining moment,” you are not to give up, he said. You’re to find your way through the dark moments.

Dr. Evans also talked about families having multiple cancer incidences, sharing that this is not uncommon.

Dr. Evans is known for singing to his patients prior to their surgery. On this day, he decided to conclude his talk by breaking out in song, bringing the audience to their feet.

Representatives from Softer Side Seminars, Jada House International, the Hazelwood Family Center, Center of Life, Autism Urban Connections and Fountain of Life Church collaborated to host the event.

(ABOUT THE TOP PHOTO: JAMIE UPSHAW started Autism Urban Connections Inc., after her son was diagnosed with autism.—Photo by Courier photographer Dayna Delgado)

Bites: Black Vines celebrates California’s black vintners; Calabash; Tacos Super Monilla

Black Vines founder Fern Stroud. Black Vines founder Fern Stroud.
Black Vines founder Fern Stroud. Photo: Black Vines

A TOAST TO DIVERSITY Black Vines founder Fern Stroud says her “life work is to bridge the gap between business, art and community,” and she’s been doing that for the last nine years with Black Vines, an annual festival she created to celebrate California’s black winemakers and vintners, artists and musicians. Stroud started the event in 2011 as a way to drive awareness and create publicity and demand for black wine professionals in a field dominated by mostly white and male winemakers, but Black Vines has also proven to be a fun gathering where like-minded individuals can connect over some great bottles of California wine. For the past eight years, Black Vines has taken place at various venues in Oakland; this year, on Sunday, it’ll make its first foray in Berkeley at Ciel Creative Space, where Mayor Jesse Arreguín will present Stroud with an official proclamation stating that Feb. 29, 2020 is Black Vines Day in the city.

Black Vines will feature tastings from Free Range Flower Winery (Oakland), Wachira Wines (Alameda), McBride Sisters (San Luis Obispo), Indigené Cellars (Paso Robles), Theopolis Vineyards (Yorkville), among many others. In addition, there’ll be hors d’oeuvres from L.A.-based Shef’s Catering, winemaker talks, and displays and performances by black artists and musicians. Proceeds from this year’s Black Vines will go to BlackFemaleProject.org, a non-profit that supports and amplifies the work of professional black women. 1-5 p.m. Admission is $70 and includes a keepsake glass; pre-registration is required. Venue information will be shared with registered guests.  

ALL STAR (CALA)BASH A new restaurant and marketplace is coming to Oakland that hopes to bring awareness and representation for three Bay Area chefs of color and the cuisines from their respective cultures. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Nigel Jones, the chef-owner behind Caribbean restaurants Kingston 11 in Oakland and Kaya in San Francisco, will be joined by Malaysian chef Azalina Eusope (of Azalina’s in San Francisco) and Iranian chef Hanif Sadr (of Komaaj, a Berkeley-based catering company that has had a standing pop-up at Cafenated in North Berkeley) to open Calabash.

Calabash will be located on the ground floor of the Alta Waverly housing development on Valdez and 23rd streets in Oakland. Diners at the restaurant will order off a single menu featuring Afro-Caribbean fare from Jones, Malaysian dishes from Eusope and Persian plates from Sadr, while the shoppers at the marketplace will purchase prepared foods from each chef to enjoy at home. An opening date has yet to be announced, but Jones and crew aim for Calabash to go live by September.

Tacos Super Monilla, a taco truck in Alameda.Tacos Super Monilla, a taco truck in Alameda.
It’s a bird, it’s a plane… it’s a new taco truck in Alameda! Photo: Tacos Super Monilla

MAKE IT SUPER Alameda’s got a new taco truck (with a superhero fisting a burrito emblazoned on it) that’s getting lots of love for its Mexico City-style eats. Eater reports that Tacos Super Monilla is the island’s first regular, non-pop-up taco truck. Run by husband-wife owners Ramon and Silvia Torres, Super Monilla specializes in regional street foods, like campechano (a taco that combines more than one type of meat, in this case, brisket and chorizo) and quesabirria (the au courant cheesy, crunchy dipped shredded beef tacos). Hours are noon to 10:30 p.m., Saturday and Sunday; 5:30-10:30 p.m., Monday. Tacos Super Monilla, 800 West Tower Ave. (near Ferry Point), Alameda

STILL A FEW SANDWICHES SHORT Fans of Kensington farmers market hawkers Picnic will be glad to hear the rotisserie, charcuterie and sausage business run by Albany locals Susannah Schnick and Leslie Nishiyama is just a few months shy of opening its first brick-and-mortar deli. When it opens, Picnic will offer take-out charcuterie (including their Good Food Award-winning chicken liver mousse), rotisserie chicken, sandwiches, salads and more, but locals will have to wait just a little longer. The space in the former Four Corners Café in Albany required a full build out, a process the two owners say they learned a lot from. Although construction has been going fairly smoothly, they still have a list of items to buy, and last permits and licenses to get squared away. To help them get to the finish line in time, Schnick and Nishiyama are crowdfunding on Kickstarter to raise $25,000 that will be used to buy equipment and supplies, and create an outdoor seating area. Picnic will be at at 862 San Pablo Ave., (at Solano), Albany

The former The Bird restaurant space is still vacant. The former The Bird restaurant space is still vacant.
The former The Bird restaurant space is still vacant and is once again on the market. Photo: Sarah Han

FAMILY TIES ENDED? In July, Nosh reported that Family Style, Inc. — the L.A.-based company that operates ghost kitchens for delivery-only pizza restaurants like DJ Steve Aoki’s Pizzaioki — would be taking over the corner restaurant at 2400 Telegraph Ave., a space last occupied by The Bird. At the time, Family Style’s regional manager Demetrius Rienzo told Nosh the business was still figuring out what brands they’d be offering from the location, as the company had just started adding new types of cuisines to their pizza-only line-up. More than six months later, the space is still closed and the restaurant is on the market yet again. We reached out to Rienzo for comment on why Family Style decided to pass on the Southside Berkeley space, but have not yet heard a response at time of publication.

MAI BANH MI, INTERRUPTED Reader Sean Rouse sent up a tip that North Oakland Vietnamese sandwich shop, Mai Banh Mi at 6601 Telegraph Ave., is temporarily closed for remodeling. A sign on the door and the business’ voicemail say the restaurant will reopen soon, but a date has yet to be shared.

CHEF STORIES Slow Food East Bay’s Cultural Food Traditions Project, a series celebrating immigrant and POC chefs and their food traditions, is nearing its end. Sunday’s dinner focused on cuisine from Bhutan and Myanmar, will be the last event before a final closing ceremony for the series in March. The event takes place from 5-8 p.m., and will include a dinner beautifully prepared by Burmese chef Pa Wah and Bhutanese chef Som Lacchi Rai featuring mohinga (Burmese fish noodle soup), tea leaf salad, mushroom curry soup, rice, dal and pickles. As with all of Slow Food East Bay’s Cultural Food Traditions dinners, the event also includes a talk by the chefs. In this case, both Wah and Rai were refugees who were forced to leave their home countries; they will share their personal stories about their experiences. Tickets are $45-$85; proceeds will be split with the event’s partner organization, Oakland Bloom. COLORS Restaurant at Restore Oakland, 1419 34th Ave. (at International Boulevard), Oakland

Fieldwork's Koalaty Time Westcoast Double IPA. Fieldwork's Koalaty Time Westcoast Double IPA.
Fieldwork’s Koalaty Time Double IPA. Photo: Fieldwork Brewing Co.

HELP FOR FRIENDS DOWN UNDER Berkeley’s Fieldwork Brewing Company recently announced it’s pledged $50,000 to the American Australian Association, a group helping support people and wildlife affected by the fires in Australia. In addition, Fieldwork also released a special beer this month to bring attention to the cause. Koalaty Time Double IPA is brewed with Australian hops Enigma, Galaxy and Vic Secret, and is available on draft and in 16 oz. cans at all Fieldwork Brewing locations. Fieldwork co-founder Barry Braden explains the reason for their involvement in a cause that’s so far from home: “Living in a region that’s also experienced its own devastation due to wildfires, it’s our duty to bring awareness for the need to help our Australian friends who have undergone catastrophic fires in recent months. Our donation is a small part in the efforts to support the communities affected by the Australian wildfires.” Fieldwork Brewing Co., 1160 Sixth St. (at Harrison Street), Berkeley

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment