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Former state Democratic Party chair hits Graham for his about-face on Donald Trump
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com
COLUMBIA, South Carolina (CFP) — Former South Carolina Democratic chair Jaime Harrison has entered the state’s 2020 U.S. Senate race with a pledge to bring “the spirit of helping” back to politics — and withering criticism of incumbent Lindsey Graham for his about-face embrace of Donald Trump.
Harrison, 43, a Columbia lawyer who serves as associate chair of the Democratic National Committee, unveiled his bid May 28 on MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show,” where he called Graham “a political windsock” who over the last two years has gone from Trump critic to Trump booster.
“I used to think that this was a guy who was a statesman, a guy who could stand above the fray and help solve the issues,” Harrison said. “He’s a chameleon who has changed his colors.”
Although South Carolina hasn’t elected a Democrat to the Senate since 1998, Harrison said he believes the party “is on the verge of a renaissance in the South,” pointing to recent gubernatorial races in Georgia and Florida, in which African American Democrats narrowly lost, and the party’s pickup of a U.S. House seat in the Palmetto State in 2018.
Harrison, a former aide to House Minority Whip Jim Clyburn, was the first African American elected to chair the state party in 2013. After four years in that role, he ran unsuccessfully for national DNC chair and was appointed as an associate chairman after Tom Perez won the position.
In an announcement video posted to his campaign website, Harrison contrasts Graham’s assessment of Trump during the 2016 campaign as a “kook,” “crazy” and a “race baiting, xenophobic religious bigot” with later comments that Graham is “all in” with Trump and the president “deserves the Nobel Peace Prize and then some.”
In the video, Harrison calls Graham “a guy who will say anything to stay in office.”
“Lindsey Graham can’t lead us in any direction because he has traded his moral compass for petty political gain,” Harrison said.
The Graham campaign didn’t immediately fire back. But the state GOP chair, Drew McKissick accused Democrats in a statement of “attacking Senator Graham for standing up for conservative values and refusing to give in to the liberal smear campaign against Justice Brett Kavanaugh.”
He said Harrison and the other Democrat in the race, Gloria Tinubu, “hope to extract revenge by rallying liberals across America to their cause, but they are going to learn the hard way that South Carolinians appreciate the leadership that Lindsey Graham has brought to the issues they care about.”
Tinubu, an economics professor and former state legislator in Georgia, announced her candidacy in April.
Graham, 63, is seeking a fourth term in 2020. He has posted double-digit wins in all three of his previous campaigns.
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Northam’s amended narrative comes after growing number of Democrats pressure him to step down
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com
RICHMOND (CFP) — A day after saying he was “deeply sorry” for a photo on his medical school yearbook page in which two men are shown wearing racist costumes, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam now says he believes he is not pictured in the photo and will not resign.
But while addressing reporters Saturday with his political career hanging by a thread, Northam admitted to another incident that could compound his difficulties — that he darkened his face with shoe polish to impersonate Michael Jackson in a dance contest in 1984, the same year the offensive photo was published.
After the news conference, during which the governor offered a frequently disjointed narrative under questioning from reporters, his political position deteriorated further.
“I cannot condone the actions from his past that, at the very least, suggest a comfort with Virginia’s darker history of white supremacy, racial stereotyping, and intimidation,” said Fairfax, who is African American. “At this critical and defining moment in the history of Virginia and this nation, we need leaders with the ability to unite and help us rise to the better angels of our nature.”
The Democratic governor said his initial statement on Friday — made after the photo appeared on a conservative website, Big League Politics — was an apology directed at people who were offended by the photo, not an admission that he had participated in it.
“When my staff showed the photo in question yesterday, I was seeing it for the first time,” Northam said the news conference in the Executive Mansion, standing next to his wife, Pam. “When I was confronted with these images yesterday, I was appalled that they appeared on my page. But I believe now and then that I am not either of the people in this photo.”
“I stand by my statement of apology to the many Virginians who were hurt by seeing this content,” he said. “It is disgusting. It is offensive. It is racist. And it was my responsibility to recognize and prevent it from being published in the first place.”
The photo was published in a yearbook for students at Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk, from which Northam graduated in 1984.
The yearbook page is headlined with Northam’s name and contains two pictures of him, along with a third photo in which one man is wearing blackface and another is dressed in Ku Klux Klan regalia.
Northam said that after looking more closely at the photo and talking to his medical school classmates overnight, he does not believe he is the man in blackface and that “there is no way I have ever been” in a KKK uniform.
He also said he had no recollection of attending the party where the photo was taken.
The governor conceded that he understands “that many people will find this difficult to believe.”
Northam has come under intense pressure to resign, not only from Republicans but from within his own party. But he said he would stay as governor and try to repair relationships with those offended by the photo.
“If I were to listen to the voices calling on my to resign my office today, I could spare myself from the difficult path that lies ahead. I could avoid an honest conversation about harmful actions from my past,” he said. “I cannot in good conscience chose the path that would be easier for me in an effort to duck my responsibility to reconcile.”
However, Northam indicated he might revisit the issue of resignation if the controversy affected his ability to serve as governor.
The lengthening list of Democrats calling for Northam to step aside includes his predecessor as governor, Terry McAuliffe; Tom Perez, chair of the Democratic National Committee; and six Democrats seeking the party’s 2020 presidential nomination, including U.S. Senators Kamala Harris and Cory Booker, both African Americans.
During the news conference, Northam said in 1984, while an Army doctor in San Antonio, he “darkened” his face with shoe polish while impersonating Michael Jackson in a dance contest, which he said he won because he could moonwalk.
He said he recalled the episode years later while talking about blackface with an African-American aide, which made him realize how offensive his conduct had been.
“In the time and place where I grew up, many actions that we rightfully recognized as abhorrent today were commonplace,” he said.
Northam — who ran for state office four times without anyone making the yearbook photo an issue — also said “there was an agenda involved” with whomever provided the yearbook page to Big League Politics, although he declined to speculate on a possible motive.
The website did not reveal the source of the photo.
The photo’s release came amid a firestorm of criticism aimed at Northam over comments he made in support of a bill easing restrictions on late-term abortions, which led conservative critics to accuse him of endorsing infanticide.
Describing a late-term abortion procedure, Northam said, “so in this particular example if a mother is in labor, I can tell you exactly what would happen, the infant would be delivered. The infant would be kept comfortable. The infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired, and then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother.”
Northam, 59, grew up on a farm on Virginia’s southeastern shore. After graduating from medical school, he served as a physician in the Army before entering private practice as a pediatric neurologist.
He was elected as governor in 2017, after serving a term as lieutenant governor and six years in the Virginia Senate.
Fairfax, 39, an attorney from the Washington D.C. suburbs, was elected lieutenant governor in 2017, after making an unsuccessful run for attorney general in 2013.
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Florida congresswoman heckled by Bernie Sanders supporters at Florida delegation caucus
♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor
PHILADELPHIA (CFP) — Under fire for leaked internal emails containing critical comments about Bernie Sanders and his presidential campaign, U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida is stepping down as chair of the Democratic National Committee.
And after a raucous protest by Sanders supporters at a morning meeting of the Florida caucus, Wasserman Schultz abandoned plans to gavel in the first session of the Democratic National Convention July 25.
She told her hometown newspaper, the South Florida Sun Sentinel, that she canceled her appearance “in the interest of making sure that we can start the Democratic convention on a high note.”
The DNC had already decided to replace Wasserman Schultz as the permanent convention chair, a position normally filled by the party chair if the House Speaker is of the other party.
In a statement issued on the eve of the convention announcing her departure as DNC chair, Wasserman Schultz had said that she would open and close the convention and “address our delegates about the stakes involved in this election, not only for Democrats but for all Americans.”
She also said she would campaign for Hillary Clinton in the fall, whom she called “a friend I have always believed in and know will make a great president.”
The controversy over the emails generated an ugly scene at the Florida caucus meeting Monday morning, where Wasserman Schultz was heckled by Sanders supporters.
“So I can see there’s a little bit of interest in my being here, and I appreciate that interest,” she told the crowd as she struggled to be heard over the protestors.
When they would not stop, Wasserman Schultz finally fired back:
“We know that the voices in this room that are standing up and being disruptive — we know that that’s not the Florida that we know.”
Wasserman Schultz, who was Clinton’s campaign co-chair during her unsuccessful run for president in 2008, was appointed as head of the DNC in 2011 by President Obama.
Throughout the 2016 presidential campaign, Sanders supporters complained that the DNC, under Wasserman Schultz’s direction, was showing favoritism toward Clinton in their intra-party tussle.
The internal emails, leaked by Wikileaks, added fuel to those complaints, with documents showing Wasserman Schultz questioning Sanders’ Democratic bona fides and criticizing some of his top campaign operatives.
The leaked emails also showed DNC officials — though not Wasserman Schultz — discussing whether to question Sanders about being an atheist.
Her contentious relationship with the Sanders campaign has spilled over in her race for re-election in Florida’s 23rd District, where she is being challenged in the Democratic primary by Sanders supporter Tim Canova, who has raised more than $2 million in an effort to unseat her.
The district takes in southern Broward County and Miami Beach.
Sanders also says he’ll replace Florida congresswoman as head of the Democratic National Committee
“Clearly, I favor her opponent,” Sanders said in an interview on CNN’s State of the Union, which aired May 22. “His views are much closer to mine than to Wasserman Schultz’s.”
Sanders also said that if he wins the White House, he will replace her as head of the DNC.
In response, Wasserman Schultz released a statement saying that even though Sanders is now backing Canova, “I remain, as I have been from the beginning, neutral in the presidential Democratic primary.”
Sanders and his supporters have been highly critical of the DNC chair for what they see as her tilt toward his rival, Hillary Clinton, including scheduling debates on weekends when audiences were small in order to blunt his populist appeal.
Wasserman Schultz has been officially neutral in the 2016 campaign. However, in 2008, she was the national co-chair of Clinton’s unsuccessful presidential campaign, and the two women have had a long association.
Canova, 56, is a law professor and Sanders supporter from Hollywood making his first bid for elected office in the 23rd District, which takes in southern Broward County and Miami Beach.
His campaign has raised more than $1 million to challenge Wasserman Schultz, although she has outpaced him in fundraising. She has also been endorsed by President Obama.
In the presidential primary back in March, Clinton pummeled Sanders by more than 30 points in Broward County, which does not bode well for Canova’s chances in a similar proxy fight with Wassserman Schultz.
Still, the primary challenge is proving something of a headache for the DNC chair, with South Florida media noting an uptick in her campaigning for what had been considered an unassailable seat. This is the first time in her 12-year congressional career that she has faced primary competition.