Pelosi plays to women, McCarthy seeks Trump’s nod in bids for…

WASHINGTON – Intent on becoming House speaker, Democrat Nancy Pelosi is playing to a potentially historic class of newly elected Democratic women while Republican Kevin McCarthy is tacking right to win over the one man who could settle any GOP leadership fight – President Trump.

Both lawmakers are assuming the role of speaker-in-waiting as candidates nationwide battle for the House majority, moving aggressively to consolidate power and plot their first steps if their party wins control in next month’s midterm elections.

The two Californians are not only raising millions of dollars and campaigning for candidates as they work to claim Congress’s ultimate gavel next year. They are also quietly working to overcome internal challenges amid an uncertain political landscape that won’t be settled until Election Day – or weeks afterward if key races remain unresolved.

For Pelosi, extending a 16-year stretch as the top House Democratic leader – and retaking the speaker’s gavel after eight years in the minority – means underscoring her groundbreaking status as the first female speaker and casting herself as the lone woman in Washington leadership ready to battle Trump.

“You can’t let the opposite party choose the leader of your party,” Pelosi said at a Harvard University event this week, dismissing the relentless GOP attacks on her that have caused dozens of Democrats to keep their distance.

“And I say it especially to women, because they think women are going to run away from a fight . . . But you can’t do that. You believe in what you have to offer. Know your power,” she added, suggesting the criticism smacks of sexism.

McCarthy, the House majority leader, has tried to beef up his right flank by focusing on an issue crucial to Trump – immigration, in particular, his proposed U.S.-Mexico border wall. McCarthy, 53, faces an open challenge from Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, a founder of the hard-right House Freedom Caucus, in his bid to succeed Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., who is retiring.

Earlier this month, McCarthy introduced a bill to fully fund the wall at a cost of $23.4 billion and promised to bring it up for a vote after the election. “I believe we can get this done. … That’s why we will fight for it,” McCarthy recently said on Fox News.

Outwardly, Pelosi and McCarthy are expressing confidence ahead of the Nov. 6 elections after a campaign where Democrats have long seen an enthusiasm and financial advantage but there are recent signs of a GOP rebound.

Behind the scenes, both leaders feel increasingly confident that they will maintain the reins of power should their respective party comfortably prevail in the midterms. But a razor-thin majority on either side could upend their well-laid plans.

If the GOP manages to hold the majority, it will almost certainly be severely diminished from the current 23-seat margin, according to strategists from both parties. That could give leverage to Jordan, or another spoiler with a small bloc of support, who could deny McCarthy a majority in a floor vote for speaker. Trump could avert that outcome by making clear he prefers the man he calls “my Kevin.”

Marc Short, Trump’s former legislative affairs director, said he did not expect Trump to take any overt role in the leadership fight.

“The president has expressed his fondness for Jordan and the way that Jordan defends him,” Short said. “But it’s hard to find any member of any leadership that has been more loyal to the president than Kevin.”

Trump has been following the leadership race. While visiting North Carolina for a late August fundraiser for GOP Rep. Ted Budd, Trump brought up the duel between Jordan and McCarthy in a discussion with a group of lawmakers.

“What do you think of Jim?” Trump asked Rep. Patrick McHenry, according to people with knowledge of the conversation. McHenry – a top GOP vote-counter – told Trump that Jordan could not get 60 votes, and Trump seemed surprised.

Jordan has not undertaken the typical route to House leadership of traveling widely to raise money and building backslapping relationships with colleagues. Instead, he has spent much of October in Washington, questioning FBI and Justice Department officials behind closed doors and making almost daily appearances on Fox News to discuss those agencies’ alleged abuses.

Even if Jordan fails to garner enough support, as most Republicans expect, he could sideline McCarthy and allow another Republican – such as Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., who has undertaken a grueling fundraising and travel schedule of his own – to emerge as top leader.

The numbers are as big a threat to Pelosi, with nearly a dozen sitting Democratic lawmakers expressing opposition. The larger question, aides say, is how the Democratic candidates who have distanced themselves from Pelosi will proceed if elected.

Traditionally, members of a party are expected to unite on the House floor behind whomever prevails in an internal caucus vote. In 2017, for instance, only five Democrats opposed Pelosi on the floor after 63 voted against her in the caucus’s secret ballot. Her critics say things could be different this time given how Republicans have made Pelosi a central figure in scores of races.

But while dozens of Democratic candidates have called for new leadership, only about a dozen have either said categorically that they will not vote for her on the floor or have aired TV ads opposing her. Most of those candidates are running in long-shot races, meaning if they win, Democrats could have a big enough majority that she might not need their votes.

“Any time you make a campaign promise on an issue of significance then go back on it, that would be perilous territory to be in – especially right out of the gate,” said Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, who unsuccessfully challenged Pelosi after the 2016 elections.

No Democrat has openly challenged Pelosi for the top spot, and her opposition within the Democratic caucus is only loosely organized.But even some of her allies have pushed for a shake-up.

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus, for instance, want an African-American Democrat closer to the pinnacle of power. Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., a former CBC chairman who currently holds the No. 3 Democratic leadership post, said he has “made myself available” for speaker if Pelosi falters, but he said he did not anticipate that coming to pass.

“Cooler heads,” he said, “will prevail.”

Still,Pelosi has left little to chance – moving quickly last month, for instance, to quash a proposed rules change that could weaken her grip on power. Meanwhile, she has asserted herself on the national stage in recent weeks, openly discussing what initiatives Democrats would pursue in the majority, including campaign finance reform legislation, expanded background checks for gun buyers, new health care protections, and aggressive oversight of the Trump administration.

More quietly, she has met or spoken privately over the past months with nearly every Democratic primary winner – heartland moderates and left-wing insurgents alike. She huddled in late July in San Francisco with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the hard-left candidate who unseated No. 4 Democratic leader Rep. Joseph Crowley, D-N.Y., a Pelosi ally, in a June primary.

Since then, she has campaigned with Democratic candidates from California to Minnesota to Florida and left no doubt that she intends to remain as the top party leader.

“That sends a message of strength. That sends a message of unity. That sends a message that we have to get this thing done,” said Nadeam Elshami, a former top aide to Pelosi. “That’s one. But, two, never underestimate what two, three, four, five steps [ahead] she has in her head.”

In her conversations with Democrats, Pelosi has typically not asked for their votes or even mentioned the next leadership race, according to several candidates and aides familiar with the conversations. She has, they said, encouraged them to do whatever it takes to return Democrats to the majority. As Pelosi has put it in recent appearances, “Just win, baby.”

Some of Pelosi’s allies have been more aggressive. Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., said she has lobbied female candidates on her behalf, emphasizing Pelosi’s role as a political pathbreaker.

For both Pelosi and McCarthy, the case for the speaker’s gavel starts with dollars. Pelosi announced a record fundraising haul, including $30 million for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Already this month, McCarthy has campaigned for nearly two dozen Republican candidates in tight races and sent more than $7 million to party committees and individual campaigns.

A dinner McCarthy co-hosted last month with Vice President Mike Pence at Trump’s downtown Washington hotel raised $15 million for the National Republican Congressional Committee and Protect the House, a McCarthy-sponsored joint committee that injects national donors’ dollars straight into the campaigns of embattled GOP incumbents.

Some of those incumbents are conservatives who balked at McCarthy’s last run for the speakership, in 2015. Now McCarthy is wooing them with not only campaign checks but floor votes on hard-line policy measures.

Before the House left Washington in late September, McCarthy scheduled a vote on a resolution disapproving of allowing undocumented immigrants the right to vote, as some local jurisdictions have pursued. This month, McCarthy announced – in an exclusive delivered to conservative Breitbart News – that he would set a vote to fully fund the border wall after the election.

– The Post’s Josh Dawsey, Gabriel Pogrund and Cat Zakrzewski contributed to this report.

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Video: Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi plans to run for speaker if Democrats retake the House in 2019, even as many non-incumbent Democrats oppose her candidacy.(JM Rieger/The Washington Post)

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Everything You Need To Know About The U.S. Midterm Elections

The next important test of Donald Trump’s presidency is fast approaching. On Nov. 6, Americans will head to the polls to pass judgment on the most divisive, unwieldy and bombastic administration in recent history, and much — from health care to climate change, the judiciary, immigration policy, and, dare we say, even the soul of the nation — is on the line. Here’s everything you need to know about the biggest political story in the U.S. since Trump won the Oval Office.
From Ghomeshi To Weinstein: The More Women Share Their Stories, The More Powerful We BecomeFrom Ghomeshi To Weinstein: The More Women Share Their Stories, The More Powerful We Become

Why does America even have midterm elections?

Under its Constitution, the U.S. holds elections every two years featuring races up and down the ballot, from many mayorships to 36 state governorships, every seat in the House of Congress (where members serve for two years) and one third of all seats in the Senate (where they serve for six). Midterm elections have the power to shift political control across the country. The presidency, which is decided every four years, is unaffected.

So Trump’s not on the ballot?

No, but he’s sure campaigning like it. And he’s definitely still the biggest political story of the election: Will voters want to preserve his power by maintaining the Republicans’ control of Congress? Or will they rein him in?

The second-biggest story is undeniably the political rise of women. The so-called “pink wave” means a record number of women are running for some level of office this cycle (Emily’s list, which recruits pro-choice Democratic women, says it’s signed up a whopping 42,000 women to run for office). In the House and Senate races, a record 262 women are still in the running. But it’s also a hugely partisan trend. Among those 262 candidates, only 60 are Republicans. That’s resulted in an incredible fact: According to The Cook Political Report, the most-common match-up in competitive House races on Nov. 6 will be between a Democratic woman and a Republican man. Talk about a face-off.

Other major issues in the election are likely to be health care, immigration and the opioid epidemic. Voters in Florida will also have the chance to make civil rights history by giving back the right to vote to an estimated 1.5 million former felons, a disproportionate number of whom are Black (each state has its own laws around how being convicted of a crime affects your right to vote).

And, as always, turnout will be key. Republicans often have an edge in midterm elections, thanks to a base that turns out even without the glitz of choosing a new president, but there are signs that this election might feel more like a presidential ticket to Americans — a pure judgement on Trump — and if that brings new voters to the polls, Democrats could benefit.

So do we know who’s going to win the U.S. midterm elections?

Obviously you shouldn’t count your chickens (cough, Hillary Clinton), but all signs point to at least one significant Democratic victory in Washington: taking control of the House away from Republicans. On the other hand, Republicans are increasingly looking like they’ll maintain control of the Senate, the body that brought us the Kavanaugh hearings. And they might even have Brett Kavanaugh himself to thank for that. Republican outrage over his Supreme Court confirmation battle seems to have fired up the party’s base, including Republican women, despite outraging liberals.

Almost as dramatic as the national races, though, are a few key races for governor that could change the face of the South.

Why are these gubernatorial races so significant?

Stacey Abrams in Georgia, Andrew Gillum in Florida and Ben Jealous in Maryland are all African-American Democrats running for governor, which is notable because it’s rare for a major party to nominate a Black candidate for governor. And, if they each win, that would bring the grand total of Black governors in any state in U.S. history up to five. Along with Texas Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke, Abrams and Gilliam in particular are seen as evidence of a new, unapologetically progressive Democratic strategy in the South — a region where Republicans seem not just to dominate politics, but own them outright.

Pundits will also be watching whether Trump-esque Republican candidates, such as Brian Kemp in Georgia,  do well in these midterms by emulating the president. They’ll also monitor the fate of other potential history-makers like Christine Hallquist, the first transgender candidate for governor, who’s running for the Democrats in Vermont, and Paulette Jordan, who’s running to become the first Native American governor, and how the rising left-wing of the Democratic party, signified by the likes of Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, will shift Democratic politics.

What does all this mean for Trump?

Potentially, a lot. Much of his agenda will become a lot harder to achieve if Democrats control the House (Trump, the famed deal-maker, doesn’t exactly have a sterling record of passing new bills even with his party’s stranglehold on Washington).

House Democrats could also begin possible impeachment proceedings against the president — a move that would be embarrassing but wouldn’t necessarily force him from office — and they could push for more investigations into his campaign’s ties to Russia.

On the other hand, he’d have two years to blame “obstructionist Dems” — who actually have the power to obstruct — for any failures leading up to his 2020 re-election bid.

And for Democrats?

The midterms are the big test for the so-called resistance — the chance to see whether a groundswell of grassroots activism in reaction to Trump will translate into votes and real political power. In state-level races, major Democratic wins could give the party a chance to fight back against gerrymandering in Republican states that have given the latter a deep structural advantage.

Do the midterm election results really matter for Canada?

Actually, yes. A Democratic House could thwart Trump’s new trade deals with Mexico and Canada, undoing months of painful negotiations and leaving trade relationships in limbo. The election outcome can also impact global markets. And, given Trump’s deep unpopularity here, the midterm results might hint at just how much more we’ve got to endure.

In bid for House speaker, Pelosi plays to women, McCarthy seeks Trump’s nod

October 19 at 1:32 PM

Intent on becoming House speaker, Nancy Pelosi is playing to a potentially historic class of newly elected Democratic women while Republican Kevin McCarthy is tacking right to win over the one man who could settle any GOP leadership fight — President Trump.

Both lawmakers are assuming the role of speaker-in-waiting as candidates nationwide battle for the House majority, moving aggressively to consolidate power and plot their first steps if their party wins control in next month’s midterm elections.

The two Californians are not only raising millions of dollars and campaigning for candidates as they work to claim Congress’s ultimate gavel next year. They are also quietly working to overcome internal challenges amid an uncertain political landscape that will not be settled until Election Day — or weeks afterward if key races remain unresolved.

For Pelosi, extending a 16-year stretch as the top House Democratic leader — and retaking the speaker’s gavel after eight years in the minority — would mean underscoring her groundbreaking status as the first female speaker and casting herself as the lone woman in Washington leadership ready to battle Trump.

“You can’t let the opposite party choose the leader of your party,” Pelosi said at a Harvard University event this week, dismissing the relentless GOP attacks on her that have prompted dozens of Democrats to keep their distance.

“And I say it especially to women, because they think women are going to run away from a fight,” she said, suggesting the criticism smacks of sexism. “But you can’t do that,” she added. “You believe in what you have to offer. Know your power.”

McCarthy, the Republican House majority leader, has tried to beef up his right flank by focusing on an issue crucial to Trump — immigration, and in particular his proposed U.S.-Mexico border wall. McCarthy, 53, faces an open challenge from Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), a founder of the hard-right House Freedom Caucus, in his bid to succeed Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), who is leaving office.

Earlier this month, McCarthy introduced a bill to fully fund the wall at a cost of $23.4 billion and promised to bring it up for a vote after the election. “I believe we can get this done,” McCarthy recently said on Fox News, adding, “That’s why we will fight for it.”

Outwardly, Pelosi and McCarthy are expressing confidence ahead of the Nov. 6 elections, in a campaign season with Democrats seeing an enthusiasm and financial advantage but with recent signs of a GOP rebound.

Behind the scenes, both leaders feel increasingly confident that they will maintain the reins of power should their respective party comfortably prevail in the midterms. But a razor-thin majority on either side could upend their well-laid plans.


House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), left, at a news conference with House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) at the Capitol last month. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

If the GOP manages to hold the majority, it will almost certainly be severely diminished from the current 23-seat margin, according to strategists from both parties. That could give leverage to Jordan, or another spoiler with a small bloc of support, who could deny McCarthy a majority in a floor vote for speaker. Trump could avert that outcome by making clear he prefers the man he calls “my Kevin.”

Marc Short, Trump’s former legislative-affairs director, said he did not expect Trump to take any overt role in the leadership fight.

“The president has expressed his fondness for Jordan and the way that Jordan defends him,” Short said. “But it’s hard to find any member of any leadership that has been more loyal to the president than Kevin.”

Trump has been following the leadership race. While visiting North Carolina for a late-August fundraiser for Rep. Ted Budd (R), Trump brought up the duel between Jordan and McCarthy in a discussion with a group of lawmakers.

“What do you think of Jim?” Trump asked Rep. Patrick T. McHenry (R-N.C.), according to people with knowledge of the conversation. McHenry — a top GOP vote-counter — told Trump that Jordan could not get 60 votes, and Trump seemed surprised. Trump has since repeated the figure to others, the people said.

Jordan has not undertaken the typical route to House leadership of traveling widely to raise money and building backslapping relationships with colleagues. Instead, he has spent much of October in Washington, questioning FBI and Justice Department officials behind closed doors and making almost daily appearances on Fox News to discuss alleged abuses by those agencies.

Even if Jordan fails to garner enough support, as most Republicans expect, he could sideline McCarthy and allow another Republican — such as Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), who has undertaken a grueling fundraising and travel schedule of his own — to emerge as top leader.

The numbers are as big a threat to the 78-year-old Pelosi, with nearly a dozen sitting Democratic lawmakers expressing opposition. The larger question, aides say, is how the Democratic candidates who have distanced themselves from Pelosi will proceed if elected.

Traditionally, members of a party are expected to unite on the House floor behind whomever prevails in an internal caucus vote. In 2017, for instance, only four Democrats opposed Pelosi on the floor after 63 voted against her in the caucus’s secret ballot. Her critics say things could be different this time, given how Republicans have made Pelosi a central figure in scores of races.

But while dozens of Democratic candidates have called for new leadership, only about a dozen have said categorically that they will not vote for her on the floor or aired TV ads opposing her. Most of those candidates are running in long-shot races, meaning if they win, Democrats could have a big-enough majority that she might not need their votes.

“Any time you make a campaign promise on an issue of significance then go back on it, that would be perilous territory to be in — especially right out of the gate,” said Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), who unsuccessfully challenged Pelosi after the 2016 elections.

No Democrat has openly challenged Pelosi for the top spot this time, and her opposition within the Democratic caucus is only loosely organized. But even some of her allies have pushed for a shake-up.

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus, for instance, want an African American Democrat closer to the pinnacle of power. Rep. James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.), a former CBC chairman who holds the No. 3 Democratic leadership post, said he has “made myself available” for speaker if Pelosi falters, but he said he did not anticipate that coming to pass.

“Cooler heads will prevail,” he said.

Still, Pelosi has left little to chance, moving quickly last month, for instance, to quash a proposed rules change that could weaken her grip on power. Meanwhile, she has asserted herself on the national stage in recent weeks, openly discussing what initiatives Democrats would pursue in the majority, including campaign finance legislation, expanded background checks for gun buyers, new health-care protections and aggressive oversight of the Trump administration.

More quietly, she has met or spoken privately with nearly every Democratic primary winner over the past months — heartland moderates and left-wing insurgents alike. She huddled in late July in San Francisco with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the hard-left candidate who unseated Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.), the No. 4 Democratic leader and a Pelosi ally, in a June primary.

Since then, she has campaigned with Democratic candidates from California to Minnesota to Florida and left no doubt that she intends to remain as the top party leader.

“That sends a message of strength. That sends a message of unity. That sends a message that we have to get this thing done,” said Nadeam Elshami, a former top aide to Pelosi. “That’s one. But, two, never underestimate what two, three, four, five steps [ahead] she has in her head.”

In her conversations with Democrats, Pelosi has typically not asked for their votes or even mentioned the next leadership race, according to several candidates and aides familiar with the conversations. She has, they said, encouraged them to do whatever it takes to return Democrats to the majority. As Pelosi has put it in recent appearances, “Just win, baby.”

Some of Pelosi’s allies have been more aggressive. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) said she has lobbied female candidates on her behalf, emphasizing Pelosi’s role as a political pathbreaker.

For Pelosi and McCarthy, the case for the speaker’s gavel starts with dollars. Pelosi announced a record fundraising haul, including $30 million for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Already this month, McCarthy has campaigned for nearly two dozen Republican candidates in tight races and sent more than $7 million to party committees and individual campaigns.

A dinner McCarthy co-hosted last month with Vice President Pence at Trump’s downtown Washington hotel raised $15 million for the National Republican Congressional Committee and Protect the House, a McCarthy-sponsored joint committee that injects national donors’ dollars straight into the campaigns of embattled GOP incumbents.

Some of those incumbents are conservatives who balked at McCarthy’s last run for the speakership, in 2015. Now McCarthy is wooing them not only with campaign checks but floor votes on hard-line policy measures.

Before the House left Washington in late September, McCarthy scheduled a vote on a resolution disapproving of efforts such as those some local jurisdictions have pursued to allow undocumented immigrants the right to vote. This month, McCarthy announced — in an exclusive delivered to the conservative Breitbart media outlet — that he would set a vote to fully fund the border wall after the election.

Josh Dawsey, Gabriel Pogrund and Cat Zakrzewski contributed to this report.

Groups work to energize black voters in key midterm contests


Voters wait in line for up to two hours for early voting Thursday at the Cobb County West Park Government Center in Marietta, Ga. Early voting in Georgia started on Monday. (Jessica McGowan/Getty Images) (Jessica Mcgowan/Getty Images)
October 19 at 9:58 AM

BlackPAC, which helped to boost turnout among black voters for crucial Democratic victories in Virginia and Alabama, will spend $8 million to mobilize African Americans for key midterm contests for the Senate, House and governorships.

The group will use direct mail and radio ads to bump up support for Democratic Senate candidates in Tennessee, Missouri, Florida, Indiana and Nevada, as well as for Stacey Abrams, who is in a close race against Republican Brian Kemp for Georgia governor. BlackPAC, which was started in 2016 to mobilize black voters to “dismantle structural racism” at the ballot box, will also try to rally progressive voters in congressional districts identified as potential Democratic pickups.

Separately, the nonpartisan Black Progressive Action Coalition, a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization that is affiliated with BlackPAC, will team up with local advocacy groups to knock on doors and talk to voters about issues important to black communities, including ballot measures to restore voting rights for people with felony convictions in Florida and criminal justice changes in Ohio.

Adrianne Shropshire, executive director of BlackPAC, said the goal is to maintain the high level of participation that black voters showed in Virginia’s governor’s and lieutenant governor’s race, as well as in the special election in Alabama, where Democrats claimed a Senate seat for the first time in a quarter century.

“What we know from both research and the conversations is that black voters, and not just in this election cycle, but the last one as well, is black voters are deeply concerned about the crisis the country is facing,” Shropshire said. “They are deeply concerned about the rise in racism we’re seeing and are deeply concerned about this administration and the direction that the Republican Congress is taking the country in.”

But voters also say they don’t think they aren’t getting information about the candidates who are running.

“What we heard in our focus groups recently is that people don’t know a lot about their candidates, and they’re not necessarily getting that information from the TV ads because what they are getting is negative ads that are not providing them with the kind of understanding” of how candidates will address the issues important to them, Shropshire said. “They don’t just want to just vote against something … They want to be clear about what they’re getting in their elected officials.”

Although candidates such as Abrams — who is hoping to become the country’s first black female governor — and Florida Democrat Andrew Gillum — who, if elected, would be that state’s first black governor — have generated excitement and national media coverage, other crucial statewide races have not. Increased turnout among African Americans, who are the Democratic Party’s most reliable voters, could make the difference in some close races.

In Tennessee, former Democratic governor Phil Bredesen, who is running for the U.S. Senate, is tied in the polls with the Republican nominee, Rep. Marsha Blackburn. And in Ohio, Democrat Richard Cordray, a former Obama administration official, is in a tight race for governor against Republican Mike DeWine, a former senator.

Shropshire said BlackPAC chose to focus on races that would “help redirect the country.” She said Senate races were a top priority “because of the dangerous reshaping of the federal courts.” The group focused on governor’s races in which candidates offered solutions to help residents who lacked health care, access to jobs and other economic support. BlackPAC will rally support for select congressional contests, including backing two Democratic women who are trying to unseat Republican congressmen — Katie Hill in California’s 25th District and Lauren Underwood in Illinois’ 14th District.

Local activists trying to encourage African Americans to cast their votes over issues are also getting help from the Black Progressive Action Coalition. One such organization is Stand Up for Ohio, a coalition of church, labor, community and civil rights groups that is supporting Issue 1, a ballot initiative that would help reduce the state’s prison population through sentencing restructuring for nonviolent drug offenders. It also calls for money saved from lowering prison costs to be spent on drug treatment.

DaMareo Cooper, executive director of Stand Up for Ohio, said the decade-old group had been working on educating the public about issues such as education and jobs. In the course of that work, organizers came to understand how much communities of color were disproportionately affected by criminal justice policies. Among its early successes was changing laws and policies in municipalities and state agencies to no longer allow the question of felony conviction on initial job applications.

Cooper said that after seeing how the overwhelming turnout among black voters helped Barack Obama win the presidency in 2008 and 2012, “It got us to thinking, ‘What can we really do to make real structural change?’”

In 2016 the group helped inform and mobilize voters in support of initiatives for universal pre-K in Cincinnati and Dayton.

This year, Stand Up Ohio is focusing on Issue 1, as well as choosing elected leaders for statewide offices whose decisions will affect health care, education and jobs.

“At this decisive time in our state’s politics, we look forward to redoubling our organizing efforts to reach and educate more voters than ever,” Cooper said.

Shropshire said Issue 1 presents “an important opportunity to have a conversation about how to deal with mass incarceration at moment when the federal government is not engaged on issues of criminal justice reform.”

Health care, party independence are major themes in McCaskill-Hawley Senate debate

Democratic U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill and her GOP rival, Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley, sparred over how they would improve health care in an hour-long debate Thursday night that featured familiar themes.

Hawley said McCaskill adheres to the Democratic party stance and has, over 12 years, moved away from the views of her state, which went for President Donald Trump by 19 points. McCaskill emphasized her independence, someone who will work with “anyone, anytime” to address the state’s needs.

Afterward, both candidates were optimistic they had achieved their goals in the debate. Both said their policy differences were clear.

Hawley cited their differing views on the EPA, a border wall and tax cuts.

“It’s between what the people voted for in 2016 and the party-line liberal agenda that Senator McCaskill has supported over and over,” he said.

McCaskill said, “I’m proud of my accomplishments. I think he’s trying to convince the voters I’ve been there too long. I hope they’ll look at my website, ClaireMcCaskill.com, and the more than 100 things I’ve gotten done.”

Listen to the full McCaskill-Hawley debate:

Health care – the contest’s top topic – took a sizable chunk of the debate’s time. But neither candidate broke new ground.

Hawley said he’s sticking with his involvement in a federal lawsuit that would do away with the Affordable Care Act, including its provisions requiring insurance companies to cover people with pre-existing conditions without raising their premiums.

Hawley said he is committed to still protecting people with pre-existing conditions, and cited his young son’s chronic hip and joint problem as an example.

“I think we should repeal and replace,’’ Hawley said, contending that the ACA is unaffordable and unworkable.

He said there were various alternate ways to cover pre-existing conditions: “Will McCaskill support any plan that isn’t Obamacare?”

“What we see from the Democrats is a full-throated defense of Obamacare,” Hawley said.

READ: Missouri’s U.S. Senate race casts spotlight on health care, pre-existing conditions

McCaskill noted that, so far, the Republicans controlling Congress have yet to come up with a way to protect pre-existing conditions and have instead focused solely on trying to repeal the ACA — also known as Obamacare.

“You don’t go to court without a backup,” McCaskill said. “I am more than happy to work with anyone.”

Hawley accused McCaskill of cutting more than $700 billion from Medicare, because that cut is part of the ACA. She countered that the $700 billion is actually a cut in insurance companies’ profits and is used to pay for the ACA’s mandates for free health screenings, such as mammograms and colonoscopies.

If the ACA is repealed, she said, Medicare recipients also lose some drug coverage, because the ACA got rid of the “doughnut hole,’’ where recipients had to pay the total costs of their drugs until they hit a certain level of spending.

READ: Hawley banks on conservative policies, and Trump, to get the win over McCaskill

READ: Urban, rural and everywhere in between, McCaskill casts wide net in re-election bid

Neither Hawley nor McCaskill said they believed that safety-net programs such as Medicare or Social Security were the main driver of the deficit, which rose nearly 17 percent in fiscal year 2018 and is expected to grow to $1 trillion. And both pledged that they would not make cuts to those programs. But they disagreed sharply on what caused the spike.

“I would start with Obamacare,” Hawley said. “It’s going to cost over $2 trillion more over the next decade. It has proven to be outrageously expensive for federal taxpayers — but worse, it has proven to be outrageously expensive for the families of Missouri.”

McCaskill laid the blame squarely at the feet of the Republican tax plan Congress approved in 2017

“It was supposed to pay for itself,” she said. “Revenues are down, and wages are stagnant. In fact, wages are 1.8 percent lower in this country than they were a year ago. That is also one of our big problems. We should not be adding to the deficit in a strong economy that we are right now.”

While most of the questions focused on domestic policy, both candidates were asked how the U.S. should respond to the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a contributing columnist for the Washington Post. Khashoggi has not been seen since Oct. 2, when he walked into the Saudi embassy in Turkey to get needed paperwork for his upcoming wedding. Leaked intelligence information suggests he was killed by Saudi intelligence officers, possibly at the order of the country’s ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Trump has faced harsh criticism for what some perceive as his soft response to Khashoggi’s disappearance.

McCaskill said that “everything has to be on the table,” including sanctions against Saudi rulers, if it can be proven bin Salman was involved.

“We are a beacon to the world when it comes to our democracy and our values,” McCaskill said. “I do not think we can abandon our place on top of the hill, telling the rest of the world that we appreciate freedom of the press, and we believe in human rights and democracy, and then look the other way because it might cause problems in terms of some kinds of financial transactions.”

Hawley said he supported Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s demand for an investigation to determine the facts.

“If indeed the Saudi government has been involved in any way in the death of this journalist, then I think that all options do need to be on the table, and the consequences need to be severe,” Hawley said. He added that he agreed with Trump’s pursuit of “a policy of strength abroad, confronting those who have attempted to harm this country, confronting those who have attempted to rip off this country.”

A question from Maria Watson of Arnold focused on a concern for residents across Missouri: gun violence.

Watson recalled being at the emergency room with her son last year when hospital officials called a Code Silver, meaning an active shooter. “I was trying to figure out how to barricade the door and hide my son,” Watson said. “I am frustrated and angry when I see calls for common-sense laws to address gun violence met with powerful resistance from the gun lobby, followed by inaction from our elected leaders. If elected, what will you do about this epidemic?”

Hawley pledged his support for expanding background checks to include a person’s mental-health records.

“You look at many of the terrible atrocities that have been committed in recent months, oftentimes — I think most times — the perpetrator unfortunately has some sort of mental-health issue in their background that maybe local law enforcement knew about, but the folks that sold the firearms didn’t, or the federal agents didn’t.”

He blasted McCaskill for voting against a proposal to include those checks because it wasn’t what her party supported.

“I support universal background checks,” McCaskill countered. “We came very close to passing it. The National Rifle Association was working as hard as it possibly could to stop universal background checks. I support banning bump stocks. You would think after Las Vegas that would be so easy for us to get done. But no, there are way too many people, including most of the Republicans, who are afraid of the NRA. The NRA is very much in Josh Hawley’s corner, because they believe he will toe their line.”

North St. Louis County resident Tyale McNary asked both candidates what they would do help bridge the divide between African-Americans and law enforcement. That issue has been especially vital in the St. Louis region four years after Michael Brown’s shooting death set off waves of protest in and around Ferguson.

McCaskill cited her experience as Jackson County prosecutor of implementing “community policing.”

“This is all about people in the community feeling that the police are working in their best interest — and the police understanding that the vast majority need nothing more than protection from them,” McCaskill said. “And that’s how we rebuild this. We can do it again if we can get the right resources into community policing. And the federal government can help with that.”

Hawley cited his role in altering how racial-profiling statistics are tracked in Missouri cities. He said his bedrock principle is that “every person and every community in this state deserves the fair and equal protection of the rule of law.”

“We’ve made some important changes to that report to get information that will help us understand,” Hawley said. “And taking steps like that where we promote this dialogue between law enforcement and local communities is critical.”

McCaskill noted a recent report from Hawley’s office showed an uptick in racial profiling. She criticized Hawley for not being more publicly forceful about those findings. Hawley responded that he worked with community stakeholders — rather than engage in “grandstanding” or “rushing to a microphone.”

Neither candidate really answered a question from Brentwood resident Tim Rudolph, who wanted to know what they would do to both protect the climate and ensure that corporations were not unfairly burdened by regulations.

“Climate change is real, it’s time we trust our scientists, it’s time we accept some reasonable regulations to keep our waters clean and our air pollution free, and obviously, turning to our alternative fuels is very important,” McCaskill said, although she did not specify what types of regulations she would support.

Hawley used the question to knock McCaskill again for being out of touch with the needs of Missouri businesses, especially farmers.

“Climate change is an important topic, of course,” he said. “I’m sure the climate is changing and that humans are contributing to it; we should look at science and see what the outcomes can be be, and what we can do. But I am very concerned about environmental regulations coming from the EPA and elsewhere that choke off our family farms. The regulations are all out of proportion, and it’s a danger, and Senator McCaskill has supported those EPA regulations.”

Missouri voters in August struck down the state’s so-called right-to-work law, which would have barred unions and employers from requiring workers to pay dues as a condition of employment. It’s unclear whether the Republican-controlled Missouri General Assembly will try to approve the law again.

Hawley was asked if he would support a federal right-to-work law after the August statewide vote. He said he wasn’t familiar with that proposal, adding “I think the people of Missouri have been pretty clear and had the chance to vote on it.”

“The margin was pretty overwhelming. And what the people say is what goes,” Hawley said. “I will support what the people of my state support.”

McCaskill accused Hawley of dodging the question, pointing out that a major donor to his 2016 attorney general campaign, Joplin businessman David Humphreys, is a stout right-to-work supporter. She emphasized that she is opposed to the policy.

“I don’t think he wants to say anything different from the president, because he’s worried what happens when he says something different from the president,” McCaskill said.

Hawley has made no secret about tying his campaign to Trump. Whether Missourians are still supportive of the president could be a pivotal factor in who prevails in the Nov. 6 election.

Both candidates were asked about whether they supported Trump’s push for a physical wall separating the border between Mexico and the United States. McCaskill said that border-security personnel have been asking for better technology — and better lateral roads to do their jobs.

She went onto say that there’s some legal problems with building barriers — including litigation over taking farm land.

“So, it is not as easy just saying sea to shining sea wall,” McCaskill said. “Some places, we do need more wall. And I’m more than happy to support that.”

Hawley said he emphatically supports funding and building a border wall.

“She has mocked President Trump for wanting to build a wall,” Hawley said. “I think we need a wall. I think we need to secure our border. It’s a basic rule-of-law issue. I’m a law-enforcement agent. We need to actually enforce the laws of this country.”

McCaskill responded, in part, that she’s received the endorsement of the union that represents border-patrol agents.

Aimee Geary, a 39-year-old paralegal from St. Louis who was in the outdoor audience watching the debate in the Public Media Commons in St. Louis, said she came into the debate knowing she will support McCaskill in November and she was pleased with her performance.

Geary said she was hoping McCaskill would throw a few more punches at Hawley, but she thought “she kept it on the high, so it was very good.”

Overall, Geary said the debate was what she expected.

She said she walked away from the debate with her opinion unchanged.

“I feel like she definitely has my best interest at heart.”

Nick Cummings, 18, came to watch the debate from St. Charles, where he’s a high-school student at Francis Howell Central High School and a volunteer in a Hawley campaign office.

He was wearing a Hawley shirt under his Kansas City Chiefs jacket. Cummings said he thought the debate was “pretty even on both sides; I didn’t think there was a clear winner.”

He also said he felt like people are familiar with the pros and cons of both candidates, so “it was just another way to get everything on the table.”

Cummings said nothing that he heard in tonight’s debate altered his opinion of either candidate, because “generally a lot of what was said tonight I already knew.”

Jacob Wilson was a member of the pre-selected audience inside the debate. Wilson is a 32-year-old resident of Tower Grove South and the Missouri director of the Campus Election Engagement Project, a non-partisan student-engagement group.

Wilson said he came into tonight’s debate eager to hear how the candidates would “position and present themselves to younger voters.”

He said he has “a pretty clear idea of who I’m going to be supporting in November,” but declined to indicate which candidate that will be.

Wilson said he “was a little bit disappointed that there were no questions asked about the cost of higher education” and there weren’t a lot of questions “geared towards younger people.”

The race is critical to the efforts of both parties to control of the Senate — the nonpartisan Cook Political Report rates the race a toss-up — something confirmed by the amount of money pouring in and out of the contest.

Hawley heads into the final 18 days of the election with slightly more cash on hand than McCaskill, although she was able to outraise him significantly. McCaskill has also spent more money on the race — mostly on TV ads.

Outside groups are spending far more than either candidate. The nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics’ latest tally says outside spending in the contest has reached just over $52 million, a total that does not include money spent by so-called “dark-money’’ groups, which do not have to identify their donors.

The race has been close since the beginning of the year, when a Republican poll put Hawley up by four points. Real Clear Politics’ polling data now has the race at a statistical dead heat.

St. Louis Public Radio, along with the Nine Network of Public Media and 5 On Your Side, sponsored the debate. McCaskill and Hawley are scheduled to debate in Kansas City Oct. 25.

Listen: Closing remarks from McCaskill

Listen: Closing remarks from Hawley

Reporters Abigail Censky, Jason Rosenbaum and Jo Mannies contributed to this story.

Follow Rachel on Twitter: @rlippmann

Booker stirs South Carolina Democrats in pre-midterm debut

ORANGEBURG, S.C. (AP) — Cory Booker had hundreds of Democratic activists nodding, applauding and eventually roaring — complete with a sermon-style call-and-response — as he entertained the Orangeburg County party barbecue to put the exclamation point on his first day in South Carolina as a potential presidential contender.

The New Jersey senator’s two-day swing to the South’s first primary state is ostensibly about the upcoming midterm elections. But Booker’s visit — like California Sen. Kamala Harris’s trip to follow on Friday — is heavy with the overtones of a looming Democratic free-for-all as the party looks for a leader to take on President Donald Trump in 2020.

“Excellent job, hit all the points: health care, prejudice, young people killing each other, all of it,” said Nathaniel McFadden, 59, after Booker’s spent 15 minutes on stage at the Orangeburg County Democratic Party’s annual gala.

Johnny Spells, a 60-year-old local businessman, went higher with his praise. “He reminds me of a young Barack Obama. And write this down: He’s the next president of the United States.”

There’s a long way to go before Spells can know whether he’s prescient or just smitten. Booker said himself he won’t decide his next move until after the Nov. 6 midterms.

To be sure, Booker is just one of several potential White House contenders swarming South Carolina. Besides Harris, former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg was in Columbia earlier Thursday. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who sought the Democratic nomination in 2016, has Saturday stops scheduled. Former Vice President Joe Biden was here last weekend.

But whether Democrats nominate Booker or someone else, South Carolina will be key. It’s the first state, and the only one of the first four to cast primary or caucus ballots, to feature a significant number of black voters. South Carolina went heavily for Obama in 2008 and for Hillary Clinton in 2016, previewing Southern sweeps that propelled each to the nomination.

“We know how important we have become,” said state Rep. Jerry Govan, a local representative and incoming chairman of the state’s legislative Black Caucus.

Govan said the influence gives South Carolina Democrats the freedom to be choosy. “We’re doing the senator a favor here,” Govan said, pointing out the nearly 1,000 party activists gathered in Orangeburg.

Booker seemed to know as much Thursday, taking every opportunity to connect his experience with the voters in front of him.

“I was raised in the black church,” he told overwhelmingly black audiences in Orangeburg and at previous stops — one across town at South Carolina State University, another at Columbia’s Allen University. Both are historically black schools.

As he often does, he freely quoted African-American luminaries from Martin Luther King Jr. to poet Maya Angelou and writer Langston Hughes.

He recounted being mayor of Newark, New Jersey, “a majority black city,” and noted he’s “the only senator in Washington, D.C., who still lives in a majority black neighborhood.” Booker is one of three black senators. The other two: Harris, who will appear Friday in South Carolina, and Tim Scott of South Carolina.

Booker, 49, also leaned heavily on his lineage, mentioning grandparents from Louisiana and Alabama. At the barbecue, he recalled his father humorously. The man wasn’t just poor as a child, Booker explained. He was “po’ — p.o. … couldn’t afford the other two letters.” Another Booker household mantra: “Boy, don’t walk around here like you hit a triple. You were born on third base.”

Margaret Frazier, sat in the front row, steps from the flatbed where Booker held court. “That’s just what we need to take out the president,” she said afterward, arguing that Booker can mix aggressiveness with charm.

Speaking earlier to students, Booker detailed how his father became the first man in his family to break from generations of poverty that stretched back to slavery. He wove that story into a litany of national blights, from the wealth gap between whites and black and escalating college costs for everyone to mass incarcerations and the infant mortality rate.

“If America hasn’t broken your heart, you don’t love her enough,” he said in Columbia, painting a dire-yet-hopeful image of a country still trying to reach its potential.

He didn’t necessarily place blame where his partisan audience might expect. “Republicans didn’t do this to us; we did it to ourselves,” by not voting in strong enough numbers.

Randall Washington, a 20-year-old student in Orangeburg who asked Booker about barriers facing young black children, stopped short of saying he’d back Booker for president but said he was struck by Booker’s outlook: “It’s important to me to have someone who understands our experience, and he’s lived it.”

Not every Democrat who heard Booker on Thursday is ready to jump on board.

Govan, who initially backed Biden in 2008 before he joined Obama’s ticket, said Booker’s ability to fire up the base is obvious.

“But I’m not sure we can base this party in the Northeast and on the West Coast and win,” he said. “We’ve got to win in places like the South, and that takes more than black and brown and liberal.”

___

Follow Barrow on Twitter at https://twitter.com/BillBarrowAP.

Radio ad in Arkansas suggests ‘lynching’ if Democrats win

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – A Republican congressman in central Arkansas and his challenger on Thursday condemned a political action committee’s radio ad that suggests white Democrats will lynch black Americans if they win the midterm election next month.

GOP Rep. French Hill criticized the ad from Black Americans for the President’s Agenda, which invokes the accusation that Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted a woman when he was a teenager. A woman in the ad says that “white Democrats will be lynching black folk again.”

“I’m voting to keep Congressman French Hill and the Republicans because we have to protect our men and boys,” the woman in the ad says. “We can’t afford to let white Democrats take us back to bad old days of race verdicts, life sentences and lynchings when a white girl screams rape.”

Hill, who represents the 2nd District covering Little Rock and seven central Arkansas counties, blasted the ad.

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FILE - This combination of 2018 file photos shows Arkansas Congressional candidates, Democrat Clarke Tucker, left, and Republican U.S. Rep. French Hill. Tucker and Hill condemned a political action committee’s radio ad that suggests white Democrats will lynch black Americans if they win the midterm election next month. (AP Photos/File)

FILE РThis combination of 2018 file photos shows Arkansas Congressional candidates, Democrat Clarke Tucker, left, and Republican U.S. Rep. French Hill. Tucker and Hill condemned a political action committee’s radio ad that suggests white Democrats will lynch black Americans if they win the midterm election next month. (AP Photos/File)

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – A Republican congressman in central Arkansas and his challenger on Thursday condemned a political action committee’s radio ad that suggests white Democrats will lynch black Americans if they win the midterm election next month.

GOP Rep. French Hill criticized the ad from Black Americans for the President’s Agenda, which invokes the accusation that Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted a woman when he was a teenager. A woman in the ad says that “white Democrats will be lynching black folk again.”

“I’m voting to keep Congressman French Hill and the Republicans because we have to protect our men and boys,” the woman in the ad says. “We can’t afford to let white Democrats take us back to bad old days of race verdicts, life sentences and lynchings when a white girl screams rape.”

Hill, who represents the 2nd District covering Little Rock and seven central Arkansas counties, blasted the ad.

“I condemn this outrageous ad in the strongest terms,” he said in a statement. “There’s no place in Arkansas for this nonsense.”

Vernon Robinson, the PAC’s co-founder and treasurer, said the ad has been running in Little Rock. He said the ad is part of a $50,000 buy that includes a similar spot running on stations in Missouri, where Republican Josh Hawley is trying to unseat Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill. The group had not co-ordinated the ad with Hill or spoken to his campaign about it, Robinson said.

Robinson did not immediately respond to an email Thursday night from The Associated Press asking if the group planned to pull the ad.

Clarke Tucker, the Democratic state legislator trying to unseat Hill, also condemned the ad.

“Congressman Hill and his allies will have to live with the kind of campaign they’re running. This radio ad is disgraceful and has no place in our society,” Tucker said in a statement. “We won’t let these shameful tactics distract us from why we’re running, to stand up for the people in Central Arkansas on the critical issues in our lives, not just health care and good-paying jobs but also having some basic decency in our political process.”

The North Carolina-based PAC was formed earlier this year and this week reported having about $52,507 cash on hand and $62,769 in debt. The group has spent about $30,000 in recent weeks on ad buys in Arkansas and Missouri races, according to Federal Election Commission records.

Arkansas hasn’t sent a Democrat to the U.S. House since 2010, but Tucker is mounting a surprisingly competitive bid to unseat the two-term Hill. Democrats are relying on a heavy turnout in Little Rock and its surrounding county, which is about 37 per cent black and 6 per cent Hispanic.


Associated Press Writer Brian Slodysko in Indianapolis contributed to this report


Follow Andrew DeMillo on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ademillo

Radio ad in Arkansas suggest ‘lynching’ if Dems win

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A Republican congressman in central Arkansas and his challenger on Thursday condemned a political action committee’s radio ad that suggests white Democrats will lynch black Americans if they win the midterm election next month.

GOP Rep. French Hill criticized the ad from Black Americans for the President’s Agenda, which invokes the accusation that Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted a woman when he was a teenager. A woman in the ad says that “white Democrats will be lynching black folk again.”

“I’m voting to keep Congressman French Hill and the Republicans because we have to protect our men and boys,” the woman in the ad says. “We can’t afford to let white Democrats take us back to bad old days of race verdicts, life sentences and lynchings when a white girl screams rape.”

Hill, who represents the 2nd District covering Little Rock and seven central Arkansas counties, blasted the ad.

“I condemn this outrageous ad in the strongest terms,” he said in a statement. “There’s no place in Arkansas for this nonsense.”

Vernon Robinson, the PAC’s co-founder and treasurer, said the ad has been running in Little Rock. He said the ad is part of a $50,000 buy that includes a similar spot running on stations in Missouri, where Republican Josh Hawley is trying to unseat Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill. The group had not coordinated the ad with Hill or spoken to his campaign about it, Robinson said.

Robinson did not immediately respond to an email Thursday night from The Associated Press asking if the group planned to pull the ad.

Clarke Tucker, the Democratic state legislator trying to unseat Hill, also condemned the ad.

“Congressman Hill and his allies will have to live with the kind of campaign they’re running. This radio ad is disgraceful and has no place in our society,” Tucker said in a statement. “We won’t let these shameful tactics distract us from why we’re running, to stand up for the people in Central Arkansas on the critical issues in our lives, not just health care and good-paying jobs but also having some basic decency in our political process.”

The North Carolina-based PAC was formed earlier this year and this week reported having about $52,507 cash on hand and $62,769 in debt. The group has spent about $30,000 in recent weeks on ad buys in Arkansas and Missouri races, according to Federal Election Commission records.

Arkansas hasn’t sent a Democrat to the U.S. House since 2010, but Tucker is mounting a surprisingly competitive bid to unseat the two-term Hill. Democrats are relying on a heavy turnout in Little Rock and its surrounding county, which is about 37 percent black and 6 percent Hispanic.

___

Associated Press Writer Brian Slodysko in Indianapolis contributed to this report

___

Follow Andrew DeMillo on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ademillo

Should Protesters have to pay Fees?

FILE - In this April 29, 2017, file photo, demonstrators sit on the ground along Pennsylvania Ave. in front of the White House in Washington. The National Park Service is exploring the question of whether it should recoup from protest organizers the cost of providing law enforcement and other support services for demonstrations held in the nation's capital. The proposed rule also could place new limits on spontaneous demonstrations and shrink a significant portion of the White House sidewalk accessible to the public. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)

FILE – In this April 29, 2017, file photo, demonstrators sit on the ground along Pennsylvania Ave. in front of the White House in Washington. The National Park Service is exploring the question of whether it should recoup from protest organizers the cost of providing law enforcement and other support services for demonstrations held in the nation’s capital. The proposed rule also could place new limits on spontaneous demonstrations and shrink a significant portion of the White House sidewalk accessible to the public. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)

Officials broach idea of charging for National Mall protests

By KEVIN FREKING

Associated Press

Sunday, October 14

WASHINGTON (AP) — The National Park Service is exploring whether to require protest organizers to pay for the cost of providing law enforcement and other support services for demonstrations held in the nation’s capital.

The proposed rule also could shrink a significant portion of the sidewalk outside the White House that is accessible to pedestrians, leaving a five-foot wide sliver. The public has until the close of Monday to comment on the proposal.

More than 7,600 comments have been submitted so far, the vast majority in opposition, including many who consider it an effort by the Trump administration to deter some of the major protests that have marked his presidency.

“Requiring these burdensome fees will dissuade Americans from demonstrating,” wrote Gayle Copeland of San Antonio, Texas. “This new rule is not reflective of American values or history to peacefully protest.”

The National Park Service issues about 750 permits a year for demonstrations within the National Mall and at nearby parks. The agency said its proposed rule is designed to provide greater clarity about how and where demonstration can occur in a manner that protects historically important public land.

There have been several large demonstrations on or near the National Mall since President Donald Trump assumed office. The Women’s March in January 2017 brought protesters from throughout the country to Washington, and that has been followed by protests of the president’s actions on climate change and guns, to name a few.

National Park Service Spokesman Brent Everitt said the agency will always support the First Amendment right of free speech and assembly. But citing an event preceding the Trump presidency, he noted that the cost of providing law enforcement and other support services for Occupy DC in 2012 came to about $480,000. The protesters sought to bring attention to social and economic inequality in the wake of the financial crisis and set up a makeshift tent camp that raised health concerns.

“We want to know the public’s views on whether this is an appropriate expenditure of National Park Service funds, or whether we should also attempt to recover costs for supporting these kinds of events if the group seeking the permit for the event has the ability to cover those costs,” Everitt said.

Everitt said the National Park Service is not recommending charging a fee for demonstrations, but raising the question of whether it should.

The ACLU’s chapter in the District of Columbia said many of the changes the National Park Service is considering would be unconstitutional if adopted. Arthur Spitzer, the group’s legal co-director, said that if cost recovery requirements had been in effect in 1963, the historic march featuring the Rev. Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech probably couldn’t have happened.

“The National Park Service cannot seek to balance its budget on the backs of people seeking to exercise their constitutional rights,” Spitzer said.

Spitzer said the ACLU’s Washington chapter supports some of the changes the administration is considering, such as adding to the list of areas where large numbers of people can demonstrate in the nation’s capital without permits. It says these venues are often more convenient for demonstrators and have plenty of room to accommodate hundreds of people without disruption.

Spitzer said a proposal to shrink pedestrian access in front of the White House along Pennsylvania Avenue would violate a court order. He said it’s also inconsistent with the Secret Service’s plans to install a taller, stronger fence with special anti-climbing features. The new fence is designed to allow the public access to the historic site while also meeting modern-day security standards. Under the proposed rule, about 80 percent of the White House sidewalk would be closed off, leaving a five-foot portion for “pedestrian access.”

A spokeswoman for the National Park Service said the proposed change to the sidewalk came at the request of the Secret Service.

Associated Press news researcher Monika Mathur contributed to this report.

Opinion: Happy Deficit Day

By Antony Davies and James R. Harrigan

InsideSources.com

Imagine that the federal government received all the money it was destined to collect for the entire year on January 1. This year, that pile of cash would total $3.3 trillion. Now imagine that the government spent all the money it was destined to spend for the year at a constant daily rate. It would spend $11 billion a day. The problem is that all that spending comes to a total of $4.2 trillion, which is a lot more than the $3.3 trillion the government collected. With $3.3 trillion in hand and bleeding cash at the rate of $11 billion per day, the government runs out of money well before the year is over.

This year, the money runs out on October 19. That’s Deficit Day.

Starting on October 20, every dollar the federal government spends goes on its credit card. And who gets stuck with that bill? Not the politicians who spent the money, but the taxpayers. And not just current taxpayers, but generations of taxpayers yet unborn.

The closer the federal government comes to balancing its budget, the further toward December 31 Deficit Day falls. This year’s Deficit Day is the earliest since 2013. Putting aside the four years immediately following the Great Recession when the federal government spent at a prodigious rate, even by its own standards, the last time Deficit Day fell this early was 1992, when it came on October 15.

But why does government borrowing matter? Every dollar the government borrows today creates interest expense every year into the future. Currently, the government pays 2.5 percentinterest on its $21.6 trillion debt. That’s more than half a trillion dollars in interest each year, or around three-quarters of the entire U.S. defense budget. Each day earlier that Deficit Day falls increases annual interest payments by almost $300 million — every year into the future. And that’s at the current historically low interest rates.

One of the rarely noted problems of such gargantuan debt is that the federal government is running out of places to borrow to feed its voracious appetite. In order, those who have lent money to the federal government are: U.S. people and companies (32 percent of the debt); the Social Security trust fund (almost 15 percent); other U.S. government entities (almost 15 percent); foreign people, companies and governments (28 percent); and the Federal Reserve (almost 10 percent).

Since 2009, foreigners and the Social Security trust fund have been cutting back on their lending. U.S. citizens and companies are lending slightly more. But, the amount the Federal Reserve lends to the government has more than quadrupled.

This is the shape of things to come. Our government has borrowed so much money that there aren’t many places left on the planet where it can borrow more. As trillion-dollar deficits become routine and as Social Security surpluses turn into shortfalls, the Federal Reserve, the so-called “lender of last resort,” will become the lender of only resort.

And that’s where we set ourselves up for true disaster.

Today, interest on the debt costs more than four times the Department of Education and Homeland Security budgets combined. Based on Congressional Budget Office projections, within five years the amount our government spends on interest will equal the entire defense budget. Within seven years, it will equal the entire non-defense discretionary budget.

As the CBO has a solid track-record for producing optimistic projections, the reality is likely worse. The truth is that there will come a day when it is literally impossible to keep up with the payments. Responsible people call that bankruptcy. Politicians, unfortunately, call it business as usual.

Happy Deficit Day.

ABOUT THE WRITERS

Antony Davies is associate professor of economics at Duquesne University. James R. Harrigan teaches in the department of Political Economy and Moral Science at the University of Arizona. They host the weekly podcast Words & Numbers. They wrote this for InsideSources.com.

Bloomberg’s New Hampshire event fuels White House bid talk

By PAUL STEINHAUSER

Associated Press

Sunday, October 14

NASHUA, N.H. (AP) — A quick stop by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Saturday in the state that holds the first primary in the race for the White House is sparking more speculation about a possible White House bid by the billionaire media company founder and gun safety advocate.

Bloomberg was the main attraction at the get-out-the-vote rally for six candidates running for New Hampshire’s state House of Representatives. The event was organized by Moms Demand Action, an arm of Bloomberg’s Everytown for Gun Safety organization set up after the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings.

Bloomberg’s trip came just days after he re-registered as a Democrat after years as a Republican and an independent. Asked by The Associated Press if he has any timetable for deciding on a presidential bid, he said “right now I’m focused on November 6, plain and simple.”

But he added that after the midterm elections, “we’ll see what happens down the road.”

Speaking in front of dozens of Moms Demand Action activists, many of them wearing the group’s red T-shirts, Bloomberg told the crowd “together, Moms Demand and Everytown have landed some big punches against the NRA. We haven’t knocked them out yet, not by a longshot, but we’ve got them on the ropes. And while we’re getting stronger and stronger every day, they’re getting weaker.”

He also thanked gun safety activists in New Hampshire for helping to defeat earlier this year in the Statehouse “two bad bills that would have forced colleges to allow guns on campus and punish cities and towns for enacting strong guns laws. You did that. You did stop them.”

Bloomberg, who’s spent millions of his own money this year to help elect Democrats in the midterms, said “we’ve got to send a message to elected officials. Vote for commonsense gun laws or we will throw you out.”

Prior to the event at Nashua City Hall, Bloomberg met with the city’s longtime major, Jim Donchess, who’s a member of Bloomberg’s Mayors Against Illegal Guns group. He also met with Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig, a supporter of tighter gun restrictions, and the six state legislative candidates who were endorsed by Moms Demand Action.

While November’s election and the issue of guns were the focus of Bloomberg’s visit to the Granite State, the trip fueled speculation that the 76-year-old former three-term New York City mayor is serious about a 2020 presidential run. Bloomberg mulled, but decided against White House runs in 2008 and 2016.

Asked if the party he left nearly two decades ago has become increasingly liberal, he said “I don’t know that it’s moved further left. I think that’s conventional wisdom by some people.”

Instead, Bloomberg argued that “there are an awful lot of other people who say if you talk to Democrats, they’re much more centrist than people understand.”

Donchess told The Associated Press that if Bloomberg ultimately decides on running for the Democratic presidential nomination, he may fare well in New Hampshire thanks to his advocacy on gun safety.

Keeping it real: Democrats push candidates to be authentic

By KEN THOMAS

Associated Press

Monday, October 15

WASHINGTON (AP) — Beto O’Rourke’s response to a question during a Houston town hall meeting this past summer lasted only four minutes. But for some Democrats it said everything. It was authentic.

In an exchange that quickly went viral, the Democrat congressman and Senate hopeful was asked whether he found NFL players who knelt during the national anthem to be disrespectful. A passionate O’Rourke told the room of Texans, not necessarily a sympathetic crowd, that he could “think of nothing more American than to peacefully stand up, or take a knee, for your rights.”

Clips of his answer were viewed millions of times online, generating buzz in O’Rourke’s uphill battle against Republican Sen. Ted Cruz.

For national Democrats, it was the type of moment that epitomized a common buzzword in Democratic circles — “authenticity” — and the push to present candidates in a more open, unvarnished manner offering a window to their values.

One of the widely accepted lessons from Democrat Hillary Clinton’s loss in 2016 to Republican Donald Trump was that voters gravitate toward candidates they perceive as real, even if flawed. They’re drawn to politicians willing to deliver unexpected candor.

“I don’t think politicians give voters enough credit for the fact that people want to know who you are, what you stand for and what your values are,” said Karen Finney, a Democratic strategist. “Even if they disagree with you, if they think you’re coming from a principled position, they can respect that.”

In an effort to deliver that authenticity this election season, the party has tried to assemble a group of candidates with nontraditional backgrounds. They’ve recruited veterans, women and politicians with diverse histories. They’ve encouraged them to talk openly about their lives in ads and to make casual, unscripted social media posts.

There’s no hiding that some of this effort borrows from the man Democrats are hungry to beat.

Trump’s fans often say they admired his candor and willingness to defy political conventions. Another model is Bernie Sanders’ campaign against Clinton for the nomination, which was marked by the Vermont senator’s unwillingness to play the part of a slick, poll-driven candidate as he railed against income inequality. Clinton was often described as too careful, rehearsed and robotic.

The push also coincides as the #MeToo movement has demanded greater accountability, and social media allows a candidate such as O’Rourke to draw thousands of Twitter views of his speeches from behind the wheel of his pickup truck.

His campaign announced a record $38.1 million raised during the past three months.

Democrats who may consider a White House run in 2020 are watching closely. They’ve become more accessible in the months before the formal start of that campaign.

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren has released a decade worth of tax returns, held frequent town hall meetings and started engaging with journalists for Senate hallway interviews after shunning them in the past.

In one notable move, Warren cooperated with an exhaustive Boston Globe investigation during the summer. The paper found that the senator’s career as a law professor was not helped by her assertions that she has a Native American heritage.

Other senators who are potential 2020 contenders, including Kamala Harris of California, Cory Booker of New Jersey and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, displayed a visceral reaction to the Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh and tried to delay the proceedings during the then-judge’s first appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Harris later staged a walk out before a key vote as senators considered allegations of sexual assault made against Kavanaugh.

“We are at a point in this country where there is greater distrust of politics and political institutions than at any point in modern history,” said Jesse Ferguson, a Democratic strategist and veteran of presidential and congressional campaigns. “If you can’t show what you’re doing and why you’re doing it, nobody will believe you will actually do it.”

In less contentious settings, potential candidates such as Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper are pointing to their unusual backgrounds to vouch for their every-man appeal. Hickenlooper notes that he was laid off from his job as a geologist during the 1980s, a period that led him to open a Denver brew pub. He later became the city’s mayor.

“I was out of work for almost two years and you see a different person in the mirror,” Hickenlooper said at a recent Brookings Institution event alongside Gov. John Kasich, R-Ohio, as he pointed to the need for skills development.

The emphasis on authenticity has been a hallmark of a number of Democratic candidates this year who are pledging to challenge status-quo politics.

Kentucky congressional candidate Amy McGrath, for example, has drawn nearly 1.9 million views on YouTube for an ad that describes her path to becoming a combat pilot in the Marines and her pledge to protect health care.

The South Dakota’s race for governor features Billie Sutton, a state senator and former rodeo star who was paralyzed from the waist down more than a decade ago after he was thrown from his horse at a North Dakota rodeo. Sutton, an underdog against Rep. Kristi Noem, a Republican backed by Trump, says the injuries were a turning point in his decision to enter public service.

OPINION: Our American character and you the voter

By Tom H. Hastings

When we speak of people from a particular identity group—ethnicity, nationality, regional group, state, town, or one of many others—we often essentialize, that is, generalize. Sometimes that’s fair, sometimes not. Of course, it’s always inaccurate unless it’s stated as a tendency, not an absolute, and unless it’s offered as a viewpoint, not proven fact.

What are we to think about our character, as Americans? How do we square the following observations?

· Donald Trump occupies the White House, busily alienating allies and befriending dictators, pulling out of any international agreements that keep the peace or protect the planet, and appoints top officials who operate with stunning head-in-the-sand obduracy in those arenas.

· Like Hitler’s Sturmabteilung, the Proud Boys support Trump and routinely engage in violence at his rallies and in the streets of our cities, targeting immigrants, gays, and Muslims.

· Republicans rule the Senate, the House, and the Supremes.

· Republicans use endless dirty tricks and chicanery to gain and remain in power. I mean, is it fathomable that Brian Kemp, the Republican Secretary of State in Georgia is the official responsible for overseeing the elections and he’s at the top of the ticket, running for governor, and sitting on 53,000 voter registrations, overwhelmingly from African Americans, and his opponent is also African American, Stacey Abrams? This is buck-naked overt racial voter suppression.

· And in Texas, same game, Republicans have tried and often seriously succeeded in suppressing African American voters, always by lowdown tactics such as switching address requirements at the last minute and effectively stealing the franchise from thousands of black college students, as they just tried on the students at black university Prairie View A&M.

· Merrick Garland. I mean, cripes. Could Republican Mitch McConnell be more unethical? Dubious.

With the exception of the last minute victory for democracy in Waller County, when the glare of publicity forced officials to allow the Prairie View A&M students to vote, we Americans have allowed all these travesties and many more to stand, all the while wondering if public protest is OK or not, and debating how demure we need to be in the face of the ruination of the first modern democracy, our American experiment.

We can take the first steps back from the ledge very soon, on November 6, election day, if we might like to regain our balance, our democracy, our power as citizens. From local races to ballot initiatives to statewide offices to our federal elected officials, we will either continue our trend away from a strong democracy—one which protects the rights of the minorities with as much vigor as it bows to the decisions of the majority—or we will begin to roll back the poor policy decisions of the past two years (more if we consider the anti-democratic measures of the Republican Senate in the past several years).

It is up to us. No one can vote for you and your vote matters—we have seen many elections decided by just a few votes and several decided by a single vote. You are important.

Dr. Tom H. Hastings is PeaceVoice Director and on occasion an expert witness for the defense in court.

FILE – In this April 29, 2017, file photo, demonstrators sit on the ground along Pennsylvania Ave. in front of the White House in Washington. The National Park Service is exploring the question of whether it should recoup from protest organizers the cost of providing law enforcement and other support services for demonstrations held in the nation’s capital. The proposed rule also could place new limits on spontaneous demonstrations and shrink a significant portion of the White House sidewalk accessible to the public. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)



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Experts Say DC is the most Dangerous Place to Give Birth

By Micha Green, AFRO Washington, D.C. Editor, [email protected]

Access to suitable health care and hospitals is already an issue of disparity in communities of color in several United States cities, yet according to a recent WUSA9 report, it’s an even bigger problem in the District of Columbia for women seeking maternity wards.

On Oct. 18, WUSA9 released a long-form news package about the racial disparities in access to maternity wards in D.C.  How in the nation’s capital are women of color struggling to seek care and birth their babies?  Turn east of the river to Wards 7 and 8- both of which are 90 percent Black according to the U.S. Census.

D.C. is said to have the largest racial disparity in access to maternity wards. (Courtesy Photo: Black Mamas Alliance)

“When you look at communities in Wards 7 and 8, right, that are designed to have less than,” Aza Nedhari, one of the founders of Mamatoto Village, said.  Mamatoto is a community organization that assists mothers. “There are two sides of the river. You’re walking across a bridge that has two different realities.”

“You have one community that has the highest rate of, well, everything! Poverty, high school drops outs, teen parents, single parent homes, the lowest indicators of wellbeing,” Nedhari told WUSA 9. “You contrast that to [the other side of] the river, where their well-being is 93 percent, where the median income is six figures, where there is generally two-parent households. Where they have a Trader Joe’s in their community, compared to the bodega that is across the river.”

Recently two maternity wards closed that were at least closer to Wards 7 and 8.  In August 2017, the maternity ward at United Medical Center in Southeast closed, leaving no obstetrics ward east of the river.  Then, in October of that year Providence Hospital closed their maternity ward.

“Now no labor and delivery services exist on the east side of the city, leaving “a maternity care desert,” the D.C. chapter of the American College of Nurse-Midwives­ said, according to The Washington Post.

Yet even before the closing of those hospitals, young women such as Tanazia Matthews, the main character in the WUSA9 package, was 15 and pregnant when she had to find out the hard way about the city’s maternity desert.

“I lived in Southeast, D.C. off of Morris Road and I commuted to Northwest, Washington, D.C., for the simple fact that in D.C. we don’t have out of pay healthcare.  So I had to travel to Washington Hospital Center, which was the next closest hospital to my home,” she said.

“So my commute was probably about 45 minutes to an hour on a good day,” she said.

“No woman should have to commute an hour and a half or more to access healthcare but that’s what we find in the District,” Elizabeth Dawes Gaye said.  There are really a number of challenges and barriers that Black women are overcoming in accessing care in the District.”

The Centers for Disease Control reported that 700 women in the United Stands die from childbirth and over half are preventable.  According to WUSA9, for every 13 White women, 44 Black women die from pregnancy related issues.

While some reports from the District’s Department of Health determine the District to be eighth and ninth in the country for a maternal health crisis, according to WUSA9, other research said the nation’s capital is actually the worst in the United States.

In D.C.’s African-American community 17 of the 18 women who died from pregnancy related causes from 2012 to 2016 were Black.  The other woman was Hispanic.

Community organizations are working to bring maternal healthcare in maternity deserts. Howard University is partnering with United Health Care to open an East of the River Health Center in 2019.

In Ward 8 city officials hope to build a hospital with a maternity ward run by George Washington University Hospital in 2023.

Then there are people like Matthews, who despite being pregnant at 15, finished at the top of her class, graduated from Trinity Washington University, and now works at a program for teen mothers called Healthy Babies Project.  Matthews is now an example for the young women she helps.

“Sometimes I don’t realize how much of an impact I have. Until we’re like in meetings and they’re like, who is your role model and they’re like ‘Miss Tanazia!’ And I’m like ‘Aww, me, really?’” she told WUSA9. “But it feels good to know that I’m giving back and even though I’m so young, girls my age or younger than me still look up to me and they’re like you have something going here, you have a goal and you know what you want to do and I don’t mind helping people get there.”