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Judge restores New York Democratic presidential primary

May 06, 2020

NEW YORK (AP) — The New York Democratic presidential primary must take place June 23 because canceling it would be unconstitutional and deprive withdrawn presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Andrew Yang of proper representation at the Democratic convention, a judge ruled Tuesday.

U.S. District Judge Analisa Torres in Manhattan ruled after lawyers for Sanders and Yang argued Monday that they otherwise would be harmed irreparably. The judge said there was enough time before the primary to plan how to carry it out safely. She acknowledged that the reason it was canceled — to prevent the spread of COVID-19 — was an important state interest but said she was unconvinced it justified infringing rights, especially since every voter can use an absentee ballot. She noted that no other state had canceled its primary.

Torres wrote that removing presidential contenders from the primary ballot deprived them of votes for the Democratic Party’s nomination. She said it also diminished the delegates’ influence on the party’s platform and their ability to react to unexpected convention developments.

It also “deprived Democratic voters of the opportunity to elect delegates who could push their point of view in that forum,” she said. “The loss of these First Amendment rights is a heavy hardship.” The Democratic members of the State’s Board of Elections voted last week to cancel the presidential primary even though New York still planned to hold its congressional and state-level primaries June 23.

They cited fears the coronavirus could spread among an extra 1.5 million voters who would show up for an election in which former Vice President Joe Biden already has been endorsed by the major candidates he had faced.

The fact that the primary was going to occur on June 23 anyway because of other contested races, including a number of congressional primaries, led Torres to question on Monday why the primary wasn’t canceled entirely if safety was such a concern.

Asked for reaction, New York state Democratic party chair Jay Jacobs said: “We are reviewing it.” Jacobs had called holding the primary “unnecessary” with the suspension of Sanders’ campaign and said reduced turnout could reduce the need for many poll workers.

State board of elections spokesman John Conklin said: “No comment at this time. Our lawyers are reviewing the decision.” Biden’s campaign declined to comment. The campaign has kept its distance from the situation, not wanting to become embroiled in a new fight over nearly 300 delegates to the summer convention and saying the campaign didn’t ask for the primary to be scrapped.

Biden became the presumptive nominee when Bernie Sanders suspended his campaign last month, but Sanders had made clear that he wanted to continue collecting delegates from remaining primaries, including in New York, to maximize his influence over the party platform and other decisions at the Democratic convention this summer.

Biden’s campaign did not want to be seen as stepping on Sanders’ efforts to do that in a state like New York, where the Vermont senator maintains a significant following. Sanders’ allies celebrated the ruling.

“Credit to Andrew Yang and all the grassroots groups that have been carrying on the fight for democracy in New York,” said Larry Cohen, who chairs Our Revolution, the grassroots organization spun out of Sanders’ 2016 White House bid. “Vote by mail is the answer to the pandemic,” Cohen continued, “not canceling the presidential primary when more than 80% of democrats have other elections the same day.”

Sanders’ representatives, in a statement forwarded by attorney Arthur Schwartz, who argued before Torres, called the decision “an extraordinary victory for the democratic process here in New York, a state much in need of something to cheer about.”

Attorney Jeff Kurzon, representing Yang and Congressional candidate Jonathan Herzog, said he was thankful that the judge upheld the laws and protected the right to vote. “We are fired up and up and ready to go vote on June 23!,” he wrote in an email.

Associated Press Writer Bill Barrow reported from Atlanta and Marina Villeneuve reported from Albany.

Joe Biden picks vetting team as he searches for running mate

April 30, 2020

WASHINGTON (AP) — Joe Biden announced Thursday the four co-chairs of his vice presidential vetting team, starting the search for his running mate in earnest. Former Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd, Delaware Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Apple executive and longtime Biden aide Cynthia Hogan will serve as co-chairs on the committee.

They’ll work with vetting teams led by former White House counsel Bob Bauer, campaign general counsel Dana Remus and former homeland security adviser Lisa Monaco to evaluate Biden’s options and collect information on each candidate to help him make his decision.

“Selecting a vice presidential candidate is one of the most important decisions in a presidential campaign and no one knows this more than Joe Biden,” Biden campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon said in a statement. “These four co-chairs reflect the strength and diversity of our party, and will provide tremendous insight and expertise to what will be a rigorous selection and vetting process.”

Biden, a former vice president himself, has committed to picking a woman and has told donors his team is thinking about naming his running mate far in advance of the August Democratic convention. Biden has offered some hints about his thinking. He frequently says he’s looking for someone who’s “simpatico with where I want to take the country.” He’s also said he can easily name 12 to 15 women who meet his criteria but would likely seriously consider from six to 11 candidates. Biden has given no indication of whether he’ll look to the Senate, where he spent six terms, to governors or elsewhere.

Those believed to be potential picks include some of Biden’s former primary opponents, such as Sens. Kamala Harris of California and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, as well as some women outside Washington, including Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams.

Biden looks to placate Sanders by letting him keep delegates

April 18, 2020

WASHINGTON (AP) — Seeking to avoid the bitter feelings that marred the 2016 Democratic convention, Joe Biden’s campaign is angling to allow Bernie Sanders to keep some of the delegates he would otherwise forfeit by dropping out of the presidential race.

Under a strict application of party rules, Sanders should lose about a third of the delegates he’s won in primaries and caucuses as the process moves ahead and states select the actual people who will attend the Democratic National Convention. The rules say those delegates should be Biden supporters, as he is the only candidate still actively seeking the party’s nomination.

Quiet talks between the two campaigns center on allowing Sanders to keep some of his delegates, essentially a goodwill gesture from a presumptive nominee seeking to court Sanders’ progressive supporters and unite the party. It is not yet settled how many.

“We feel strongly that it is in the best interest of the party to ensure that the Sanders campaign receives statewide delegates to reflect the work that they have done to contribute to the movement that will beat Donald Trump this fall,” said a Biden official, who wasn’t authorized to discuss private negotiations publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity. “We are in discussion with them now on how to best accomplish that.”

Sanders’ campaign declined to comment on the talks. “Nothing to add from us,” said Sanders spokesman Mike Casca. In some ways, the delegate count is a moot point. While he has yet to formally win the 1,991 delegates needed to claim the Democratic nomination on the first ballot at the party convention, Biden is the Democrat’s presumptive nominee. All of his rivals — including Sanders — have endorsed him after ending their own campaigns.

But with the nomination essentially decided, who has how many delegates takes on a new meaning. In 2016, rowdy Sanders supporters booed some speakers and any mention of nominee Hillary Clinton at the party’s Philadelphia convention. The disruptions were so embarrassing to the party that Sanders pleaded with his supporters not to stage protests on the floor.

By claiming the delegates that ought to belong to him under party rules, Biden could cut down on the number of Sanders’ backers — some of whom have been slow to embrace the former vice president — who could stage a replay of that divide. Instead, he’s decided to try to attract Sanders’ supporters rather than silence them.

For his part, Sanders wants as many delegates as possible to help shape the party’s platform and get Biden and the Democratic Party to embrace his democratic socialist agenda. It is not unusual for rival presidential campaigns to negotiate over delegates once the nominating contest is over. In 2008, Clinton and Barack Obama fought over how to divvy up delegates from disputed primaries in Michigan and Florida. Clinton won both states. However, the states had violated party rules by holding their primaries too early in the calendar and were therefore to be stripped of all their delegates.

Clinton’s supporters were furious over the outcome, which saw Obama getting delegates from both states even though he wasn’t even on the ballot in Michigan. But at the national convention that summer, it was Clinton who made the motion during the roll call vote to nominate Obama by acclimation.

Democratic candidates win convention delegates based on their share of the vote in the party’s primaries and caucuses. To date, Biden leads Sanders 1,293 to 937. Nearly two-thirds of delegates are won based on results in individual congressional districts and they stay with the candidates all the way to the convention.

It’s the other third of delegates — won based on statewide results — that are at issue. To keep these delegates, candidates must still be running for president when the people who will serve as convention delegates are selected, usually at state party conventions, according to the party’s delegate selection rules.

Those rules say Biden should get 346 delegates won by Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Mike Bloomberg, Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar. Sanders’ delegate count would fall to 628. Most states have yet to select the people who will attend the convention as delegates, and The Associated Press has not yet updated its delegate count to reflect the shift in delegates from Biden to Sanders that should take place under party rules. But some states, including Colorado, have updated their delegate counts based on those rules.

Sanders won the Colorado primary on March 3 and took the most delegates from the state. But after he quit the race, the state party announced that Biden — the only candidate left — will end up with the most delegates from Colorado.

Biden will take 34 delegates from Colorado to the Milwaukee convention, including all those awarded statewide. Sanders, meanwhile, will get 16, with Bloomberg getting nine and Warren eight.

Associated Press writer Will Weissert contributed to this report.

Stephen Ohlemacher is The AP’s Election Decision Editor.

Biden, DNC ink fundraising deal as he widens party influence

April 24, 2020

Additionally, longtime Democratic power player Mary Beth Cahill will take over management of the DNC, replacing Seema Nanda as chief executive officer under party chairman Tom Perez. Cahill, who managed John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign, already has been a quiet force during Perez’s tenure, leading Democrats’ primary debate process and helping plan the summer convention, among other tasks.

DNC officials and Biden campaign aides confirmed the arrangements Friday. “Our goal is to ensure that we put Joe Biden in the best position possible to beat Donald Trump, and this joint fundraising agreement allows us to do just that,” Cahill said in a statement Friday. “The DNC has built an organization that has proven it can win up and down the ballot, and that is exactly what we will do in November.”

Democrats have lagged Republicans in fundraising throughout the 2020 presidential cycle, with President Donald Trump having spent months raising huge sums for his reelection campaign and the party. The Republican National Committee ended the first quarter of 2020 with almost $250 million stockpiled, between four and five times as much as Biden and the national Democrats.

That gap could put increasing pressure on the kinds of donors who can max out to the party and the nominee under the new agreement. The fundraising partnership is a routine pact between a nominee and the national party, but it’s gotten Democrats in trouble before. Ahead of the 2016 election, the party entered into a deal with candidate Hillary Clinton well before she secured the nomination. When details emerged, it became a touchstone for Bernie Sanders’ supporters, who alleged that party leaders stacked the deck for the former secretary of state against the insurgent Sanders campaign.

Perez deliberately held off on such a deal this year to help bolster his claims of an impartial process as Sanders again found himself as the last rival standing against the eventual presumptive nominee. In fact, former candidate Kamala Harris, a California senator and potential vice presidential pick, launched a joint DNC agreement earlier this month, while the party was still in talks with the Biden campaign after Sanders ended his bid.

Biden’s deal does not yet include state parties, but DNC officials said those negotiations are ongoing. The idea is that the money from top donors can be distributed among Biden’s campaign, national party operations such as boosting the voter file that candidates use to contact potential supporters, and state parties’ coordinated campaigns that are designed to turn out Democratic voters for the entire ticket.

Nominees typically take over operations of the national party, even if indirectly. Biden’s campaign manager, Jen O’Malley Dillon, is a former top DNC staffer. And Cahill, given her experience with Kerry in 2004, is familiar with the dynamics between a nominee and the party.

O’Malley Dillon called Cahill’s experience “invaluable” and said she’s “thrilled to have her as a partner.” Biden’s campaign has been mostly circumspect about his involvement in the party, especially when it comes to planning the nominating convention.

Perez said Thursday he expects an in-person convention, but Biden and party officials have left open the possibility that some or all of the proceedings will be virtual. Biden’s campaign and Sanders’ representatives also continue to negotiate over various policy ideas and the distribution of 4,700 or so convention delegates. Those private talks are intended to stave off the kind of public disputes that marred the run-up to the 2016 convention and hampered Clinton’s fall campaign because of bitterness among some Sanders supporters.

Biden woos skeptical Sanders backers on health, college debt

April 10, 2020

WASHINGTON (AP) — Joe Biden attempted to lure progressives to his presidential campaign on Thursday with promises to expand Medicare and forgive college debt. The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee backed lowering the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 60 while also pledging to cancel student debt for many low- and middle-income borrowers.

The moves came a day after progressive leader Bernie Sanders ended his presidential campaign, leaving the relatively centrist Biden as the Democrat who will challenge President Donald Trump. With Sanders out of the race, it’s critically important for Biden to bridge the party’s ideological divide so Democrats can go into the fall unified against Trump.

“Senator Sanders and his supporters can take pride in their work in laying the groundwork for these ideas,” Biden wrote in an online post announcing what he called “two important steps we can take to help ease the economic burden on working people.”

Biden’s campaign is at a critical juncture at the outset of the general election. If he gives too much to progressives, he could be portrayed as too far left, an argument the Trump campaign is already trying to make. But if he doesn’t bring Democrats together, he risks going into the fall with the same vulnerabilities as Hillary Clinton in 2016.

The Trump campaign jumped on Biden’s policy announcements Thursday. Deputy Communications Director Ali Pardo said Biden is “now running on a big government liberal agenda” and suggested Republicans would tie him to Sanders’ policies at every turn.

“When faced with the choice of President Trump’s record of accomplishment or Biden’s far-left agenda, the choice for voters is clear,” she said. Neither of the proposals Biden released Thursday goes as far as Sanders has suggested in the past. And progressives made clear they weren’t ready to rally behind Biden, even if he’s the last Democrat standing to take on Trump.

“We can try all we want to use our leverage as a movement but, at the end of the day, I wouldn’t expect anything coming from the establishment, the Biden campaign or the Democratic National Committee as a way to bring in the base,” said Nomiki Konst, who worked on Democratic Party reforms on Sanders’ behalf. “I think they want power — and I think they want money.”

Biden has set limits on how far he’ll go to please progressives. He’s not embracing Medicare for All universal health insurance and the sweeping Green New Deal to combat climate change. He has, however, backed an overhaul of bankruptcy laws proposed by Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, the other leading progressive, who ended her presidential bid last month.

RoseAnn DeMoro, a close friend of Sanders and former head of the National Nurses United union, predicted Biden would appease Sanders supporters on labor and environmental issues — but said she’s unsure it’ll be enough.

“The calculation is, this base has nowhere to go but Biden because of Trump,” she said. “But if history teaches anything, a lot of the base sat it out last time.” DeMoro noted that, after 2016, many Sanders supporters knew he would try again for the presidency four years later. That seems unlikely going forward, potentially raising the profile of rising-star congressional progressives such as New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who endorsed Sanders, and Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna Pressley, who was a Warren backer.

Though he’s suspended his campaign, Sanders’ name will remain on the ballot in states that have not yet weighed in on the primary. He said Wednesday he still wants to collect delegates to influence the party platform.

Sanders and Warren have also notably stopped short of endorsing Biden. Maurice Mitchell, national director of the Working Families Party, which backed Warren before shifting its support to Sanders when she dropped out, said Biden’s goal is to rebuild the Obama coalition, which spanned generations, races and education levels. But he said Biden won’t be able to do that without attracting the support of “young people committed to real, progressive change” who were most enthusiastic about Sanders.

“The question is, will Joe Biden increase voter turnout, be able achieve significant levels of voter enthusiasm, be able to achieve significant levels of individual volunteerism and small dollar donations and the type of enthusiastic voter to voter communication?” Mitchell asked.

He added the answer: It “can’t be done simply through rhetorical flourishes.” Jennifer Epps-Addison, co-executive director of the Center for Popular Democracy Action, which endorsed Sanders, said progressives “are a real constituency” that Biden “will have to earn the votes of.”

“’Vote blue no matter what’ is absolutely not a winning electoral strategy,” Epps-Addison said. “Biden has some real negatives.” The movement’s next leaders might focus on building bridges with moderates, however, rather than burning them — an approach Warren and Ocasio-Cortez have more closely adopted than some top Sanders supporters.

“Progressives have done a very effective job of moving the mainstream of the party in a more progressive direction,” said Sean McElwee, founder of Data for Progress, a data and messaging organization. “Many people in the Democratic Party have progressive sensibilities, and the way you win them over is you build relationships.”

Biden aides, meanwhile, began outreach to Sanders’ camp to discuss policy weeks before the senator suspended his campaign. That included meeting with progressive leaders from at least two groups, the Sunrise Movement and March for Our Lives, who co-signed a letter Wednesday making certain demands of Biden if he hopes to win them over.

The former vice president himself also has had conversations with some of his former rivals — the kind of direct interactions that preceded his adopting Warren’s bankruptcy proposals. Larry Cohen, chairman of Our Revolution, the offshoot of Sanders’ 2016 campaign, said he’d like to see the same kind of moves on other core issues for progressives. That could mean, instead of Biden building his “public option” health insurance plan as something only individuals can buy into, he could structure it so employers could buy in with their employees.

Whatever the outcome, Cohen argued that activist groups must stay aligned to maintain leverage. “The grassroots,” he said, “has to reach out together.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders wins California primary

MARCH 12, 2020

By Danielle Haynes

March 12 (UPI) — Sen. Bernie Sanders won the biggest Super Tuesday prize — California — news outlets projected Thursday.

More than a week after Californians participated in the state’s Democratic primary, a final count of mail-in votes and provisional ballots gave Sanders, I-Vt., the win. Both CNN and NBC News called the race in his favor, with 34.3 percent of the vote, or about 184 delegates.

Former Vice President Joe Biden won 27.6 percent — good for an estimated 144 delegates. The remaining 81 delegates are unallocated, some going toward candidates who’ve since dropped out of the race, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., who got 13.2 percent of the vote and former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg who got 12.9 percent.

California is one of four states Sanders won on March 10, compared to Biden’s nine. This primary season, Biden has 864 pledged delegates and Sanders has 711.

The two candidates will next face each other Sunday during a debate at CNN’s Washington, D.C. The Democratic National Committee announced Thursday it won’t have a live audience for the event as a precautionary measure due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The next primaries are scheduled for Tuesday in Arizona, Florida, Illinois and Ohio.

Source: United Press International (UPI).


Biden has another big primary night, wins 4 more states

March 11, 2020

WASHINGTON (AP) — Joe Biden decisively won Michigan’s Democratic presidential primary on Tuesday, seizing a key battleground state that helped propel Bernie Sanders’ insurgent candidacy four years ago. The former vice president’s victory there, as well as in Missouri, Mississippi and Idaho, dealt a serious blow to Sanders and substantially widened Biden’s path to the nomination.

Biden again showed strength with working-class voters and African Americans, who are vital to winning the Democratic nomination. Sanders’ narrow hopes for good news rested on North Dakota and Washington state. Washington’s primary was too early to call, and because all votes there are cast by mail or by dropping them off in a ballot box, many ballots were marked for candidates who have since dropped out of the race.

The six-state contest marked the first time voters weighed in on the primary since it effectively narrowed to a two-person race between Sanders and Biden. And the first four states on Tuesday went to Biden, a dramatic reversal for a campaign that appeared on the brink of collapse just two weeks ago. Now it is Sanders, whose candidacy was ascendant so recently, who must contemplate a path forward.

Addressing supporters in Philadelphia, Biden noted that many had “declared that this candidacy was dead” only days ago, but “now we’re very much alive.” He also asked Sanders supporters to back him going forward.

“We need you, we want you, and there’s a place in our campaign for each of you. I want to thank Bernie Sanders and his supporters for their tireless energy and their passion,” Biden said. “We share a common goal, and together we’ll beat Donald Trump.”

It marked a high point for the former vice president’s staff. They sipped beer and broke into an impromptu dance party after his speech, which was held close to his Philadelphia headquarters. Even as the contours of the race came into shape, however, new uncertainty was sparked by fears of the spreading coronavirus. Both candidates abruptly canceled rallies in Ohio that were scheduled for Tuesday night. That set the stage for Biden’s remarks in Philadelphia, while Sanders flew home to Vermont and didn’t plan to address the public.

Sanders’ campaign also said all future events would be decided on a case-by-case basis given public health concerns, while Biden called off a scheduled upcoming Florida stop. Still, the former vice president said Tuesday night that he’d be announcing plans to combat the coronavirus later this week.

The Democratic National Committee also said that Sunday’s debate between Sanders and Biden would be conducted without an audience. Among former White House hopefuls and leaders of powerful liberal groups, however, Biden’s momentum is now undeniable.

Bradley Beychok, president and co-founder of American Bridge 21st Century, a liberal super PAC, said his group “will be ALL IN to elect @JoeBiden as our next president.” The organization is spending millions of dollars trying to win over people who backed President Donald Trump in key states in 2016.

Guy Cecil, chairman of the flagship Democratic outside political organization Priorities USA, tweeted: “The math is now clear. Joe Biden is going to be the Democratic nominee for President and @prioritiesUSA is going to do everything we can to help him defeat Donald Trump in November.”

There were other major warning signs for Sanders on Tuesday. He again struggled to win support from black voters. About 70% of Mississippi’s Democratic primary voters were African American, and 86% of them supported Biden, according to an AP VoteCast survey of the electorate.

After Sanders upset Hillary Clinton in Michigan four years ago, his loss there Tuesday was particularly sobering. It undermined his argument that he could appeal to working-class voters and that he could expand the electorate with new young voters.

One of the few bright notes for Sanders was his strength among young voters, but even that has a downside because they didn’t turn out enough to keep him competitive. Sanders won 72% of those under 30 in Missouri and 65% in Michigan, according to AP VoteCast. The senator was also about even with Biden among voters ages 30 to 44.

“There’s no sugarcoating it. Tonight’s a tough night,” New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, one of Sanders’ highest-profile supporters, said on Instagram. “Tonight’s a tough night for the movement overall. Tonight’s a tough night electorally.”

Another top Sanders backer, Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar, tweeted: “Yes we are a family, united in restoring our democracy and committed to defeating Trump, but that doesn’t mean we should stop fighting for the candidate that best represents our policy priorities in this Primary.”

According to an Associated Press analysis, Biden had picked up at least 153 new delegates: 53 in Michigan, 40 in Missouri, 29 in Mississippi, five in North Dakota, 17 in Washington and nine in Idaho on Tuesday. Sanders got 89: 35 in Michigan, 23 in Missouri, two in Mississippi, seven in Idaho, five in North Dakota and 17 in Washington.

Although six states voted, Michigan — with its 125 delegates — got most of the attention. Trump won the state by only 10,704 votes during the general election, his closest margin of victory among Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Those states gave Trump the narrow edge in the 2016 Electoral College after Clinton won the popular vote.

Sanders has vowed not to drop out regardless of Tuesday’s results and frequently railed against the “Democratic establishment” that he says has aligned against him. In addition to the powerful groups now siding with Biden, the former vice president has picked up the endorsements of many of his former presidential rivals, including Sen. Kamala Harris, Sen. Cory Booker and, as of Tuesday, entrepreneur Andrew Yang. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, sometimes mentioned as a possible vice presidential choice, also endorsed Biden and campaigned with him ahead of Tuesday’s primary.

Biden also gave a nod to all his former competitors, saying, “We’re bringing this party together.” “That’s what we have to do,” he said. Not every Democrat was lining up behind Biden, though. Michigan Rep. Debbie Dingell, who represents a sprawling district from the college town of Ann Arbor to the Detroit suburbs, said Tuesday that she’s staying neutral.

“I remember what it was like four years ago and the vitriol and the anger, the people mad at each other the whole election cycle. We can’t afford that,” Dingell said. “It’s about getting out and voting in November.”

Like Sanders, Biden has no public events scheduled for Wednesday. And though he’s celebrating a growing delegate lead, he’s still confronting voters who question his positions, which include a gun control plan that reinstates an assault weapons ban and includes a voluntary buyback program for assault weapons.

That issue was at the center of a testy exchange with a worker while Biden was rallying earlier Tuesday in Detroit. The man accused him of “actively trying to end our Second Amendment right.” Biden shot back, “You’re full of shit,” but went on to say that while he supports the Second Amendment, “Do you need 100 rounds?”

Associated Press writers Mike Householder in Detroit and Seth Borenstein in Washington contributed to this report.

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