Multiple women eyeing 2020 hands Dems ‘wonderful challenge’
By ELANA SCHOR and JUANA SUMMERS
Saturday, January 19
WASHINGTON (AP) — Advocates for gender equality are reckoning with what one called a “wonderful challenge” — four or more women running for president in 2020.
For many activists, that means a Democratic field more reflective of a party that counts women as a crucial voting bloc. But the prospect of multiple women seeking the White House also presents obstacles, with no single female candidate holding a claim to women’s votes to the degree Hillary Clinton did in 2016. The women’s vote, and groups that provide financial and grassroots support, could split. Looming over it all is persistent gender bias and the question of whether Americans are ready to elect a female president.
“We do realize there’s still sexism in this country, and what we’re trying to do is change minds. I think this country is more than ready for this to happen, I really do,” said EMILY’s List President Stephanie Schriock, whose group aids the campaigns of Democratic women supporting abortion rights up and down the ballot. “But that doesn’t make it easy.”
For now, many women are basking in the success of the 2018 midterms, which sent a historically diverse class to Congress. Demonstrators were gathering in cities nationwide Saturday for events tied to the third annual Women’s March.
And in the nascent days of the Democratic primary, leaders of many advocacy organizations are thrilled that so many women are seeking the presidency. They’re not, however, ready to back any particular candidate.
EMILY’s List, which spent $37 million on House races in 2018 and was a pivotal Clinton ally, is “not currently endorsing any candidate for the Democratic nomination for president” in 2020, Schriock said. She demurred when asked if that strategy would change, noting the field is only now taking shape.
A wait-and-see approach works for now, but groups that actively bolster female candidates could face pressure to align with specific campaigns as the primary goes on.
Deirdre Schifeling, executive director of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, said only that the group’s estimated 12 million backers are dedicated to defeating President Donald Trump and that she looks forward to working with “all candidates” in the primary.
NARAL Pro-Choice America President Ilyse Hogue said that the abortion rights group has made no firm decision about whether to eventually back one or more Democratic hopefuls and that “we see it as a plus, not a minus, if we haven’t endorsed by the Iowa caucus” because it means that members see multiple candidates supporting their goals.
Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren last month became the first Democratic woman to launch a presidential exploratory effort, joined shortly afterward by New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard. Sens. Kamala Harris of California and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota also are eyeing their own efforts in a Democratic primary that could draw dozens of entrants.
Among that top tier of female candidates, Gillibrand is particularly vocal in invoking her gender as a driver of her campaign. She put women’s priorities and perspective at the forefront of her launch this week, vowing to fight for children across the country with the same tenacity with which she fights for her own young sons. She’s highlighted her work in Washington on behalf of sexual misconduct victims, including her push to address harassment and assault in the military, as well as to reform the way that Congress handles harassment.
Gillibrand is also one of the few prominent 2020 Democrats planning to attend a Women’s March event this year, amid anti-Semitism charges that have plagued the event’s national leadership team. But the senator, who’s personally boosted female candidates through her Off the Sidelines political action committee, said the controversy wouldn’t disrupt her commitment to the march’s broader mission.
Gillibrand “strongly condemns anti-Semitism from anyone, in all forms,” communications director Meredith Kelly said, but she “will not turn her back on the thousands of Iowa women who are joining this locally organized march to advocate for the issues that deeply impact them and their families.”
While Warren’s campaign has so far emphasized racial and economic inequity more than gender, pundits are already speculating about her and Gillibrand’s “likability” — a reminder, for some influential women, of the uneven playing field that Clinton faced challenging Trump.
Democratic Sen. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii recalled “all kinds of strange attitudes that come out” when women seek executive office and called for “more attention paid” to gender bias given the historic success of female candidates in 2018.
The presence of several women in the presidential field, activists and analysts say, hopefully can make it easier to identify and shut down sexism.
“Because there are so many women running, it doesn’t totally inoculate women from sexism, but it does provide some guardrails,” said Shaunna Thomas, executive director of Ultraviolet, a group advocating for gender equality throughout American life.
Kelly Dittmar, a scholar at the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, said, “The fact that we’re willing to call it out, that’s where the progress is. We have to just be realistic that racism and sexism within our institutions are really deep-seated.”
Dittmar also pointed to the political advantages of nominating a woman or person of color “in terms of appealing to particular constituencies who haven’t seen themselves represented in the presidency, who haven’t felt like the Democratic Party is speaking to them.”
And activists representing those constituencies are already making plans to press female candidates on the issues, and not just on more traditionally gender-linked topics such as expanded child care access and abortion rights. Jennifer Epps-Addison, co-executive director of the Center for Popular Democracy, said her group wants to “hear more” from Gillibrand and Harris about criminal justice, for example.
Cecile Richards, who led Planned Parenthood for 12 years, predicted that the high-profile female Democratic candidates would push their male counterparts to work harder to appeal to female voters.
“What do the men who are running for office have to offer women?” Richards asked. “Right now, women have a lot of candidates they can look at who look a lot more like them, who have been on the front lines of their issues for a long, long time.”
Gillibrand, in Iowa, highlights family, children issues
By THOMAS BEAUMONT
Saturday, January 19
SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) — New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is meeting Iowa Democrats on her first foray into the early presidential testing ground, and defending her role in bringing down former Sen. Al Franken.
Gillibrand continues her first trip Saturday to the leadoff caucus state since announcing the formation of an exploratory committee to seek the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.
On Friday, she met with voters in Sioux City, including activists who asked her about role as the first Democrat to publicly call for Franken’s ouster. The Minnesota Democrat resigned amid allegations he had groped several women.
Gillibrand said she had “to stand up for what’s right, especially when it’s hard.”
Gillibrand was traveling from western to central Iowa, with various stops.
Federal government shutdown affecting families in Central Ohio
Lawmaker says she’s committed to connecting constituents with resources they need during unprecedented federal government shutdown
State Representative Allison Russo
COLUMBUS— State Rep. Allison Russo (D-Upper Arlington) today (Jan. 18) announced that she is committed to helping alleviate the strain this unprecedented federal government shutdown is putting on families in her district.
“This irresponsible shutdown is putting undue pressure on our state and local agencies, which have been forced to compensate for this White House’s dereliction of duty,” said Russo. “Thousands of federal workers and contractors here in Ohio have already missed one paycheck and cannot afford to miss another. I urge the Trump Administration and Congress to reopen the government immediately and stop playing political chess with people’s livelihoods.”
Thousands of federal workers and contractors are reportedly furloughed in Ohio as the shutdown moves into its 28th day today. Recent reports show nearly 700 federal workers in Ohio have filed for unemployment compensation due to the federal government shutdown. Government retirement programs have received thousands of requests for hardship withdrawals, with furloughed workers being forced to borrow from their future savings just to pay the bills. These numbers are expected to rise as families face increasingly dire financial situations.
Additionally, SNAP and HUD benefits for thousands of Ohio seniors and families are also in jeopardy. If the federal government does not open soon, state and local officials will need to make tough decisions to ensure Ohio’s children, families, and economy are protected from bearing the brunt of Washington’s dysfunction.
Rep. Russo is ready and willing to work with the DeWine administration to find solutions that give hard-working Ohio families and businesses the certainty and security they deserve during this federal shutdown. Any constituent impacted by the shutdown should not hesitate to contact her office at email@example.com or 614-466-8012, and staff will work to connect them with resources available to furloughed workers.
Attorney: New racist threats at GM plant where nooses found
By JOHN SEEWER
Thursday, January 17
TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) — Workers who sued General Motors after nooses and racist graffiti were found at its largest U.S. transmission plant nearly two years ago are still facing racial harassment, their attorney said Thursday.
Just this week, one of the workers found a monkey doll and a racist drawing near his work station, said attorney Michelle Vocht.
The harassment has been ramping up since December — including threatening and racist messages left on restroom and factory walls and near machines where the employees work — after workers began speaking out publicly, she said.
Nine workers sued GM last April, saying the company didn’t do enough to stop racial harassment that stretched over four years and included the discovery of five nooses in the spring of 2017.
The Ohio Civil Rights Commission said last year its investigation found GM seemed indifferent to the racial harassment and that its minimal steps didn’t end the problems. The automaker disputed the findings.
GM said Thursday it is taking the matter seriously and has taken several steps to address harassment at the plant, including mandatory training. It also said it’s continuing to investigate but has not yet identified those responsible.
“Discrimination and harassment are not acceptable and in stark contrast to how we expect people to show up at work. We treat any reported incident with sensitivity and urgency, and are committed to providing an environment that is safe, open and inclusive,” the company said in a statement.
The latest racist messages, Vocht said, show that GM still is falling short when it comes to protecting the workers and needs to increase security.
“They say they’re working on it, but it’s still occurring,” she said. “One would think GM would take stringent, remedial measures to address this problem.”
The racist notes apparently are being left by more than one person, based on the handwriting, and are being found in a few departments, not the entire plant, Vocht said.
In the federal lawsuit filed last year, workers described finding three nooses attached to the plant ceiling in March 2017 and then two more nooses in the following months.
Nazi symbols and “whites only” were written in the plant’s restrooms and white workers would call black employees racist names, the lawsuit said.
It detailed a long list of other instances of racial harassment and discrimination, saying they had created a hostile work environment.
Trump, Pelosi feud heats up again
By CATHERINE LUCEY, MATTHEW LEE, ZEKE MILLER and LISA MASCARO
Friday, January 18
WASHINGTON (AP) — She imperiled his State of the Union address. He denied her a plane to visit troops abroad.
The shutdown battle between President Donald Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is playing out as a surreal game of constitutional brinkmanship, with both flexing political powers from opposite ends of Pennsylvania Avenue as the negotiations to end the monthlong partial government shutdown remain stalled.
In dramatic fashion, Trump issued a letter to Pelosi on Thursday, just before she and other lawmakers were set to depart on the previously undisclosed trip to Afghanistan and Brussels. Trump belittled the trip as a “public relations event” — even though he had just made a similar warzone stop — and said it would be best if Pelosi remained in Washington to negotiate to reopen the government.
“Obviously, if you would like to make your journey by flying commercial, that would certainly be your prerogative,” wrote Trump, who had been smarting since Pelosi, the day before, called on him to postpone his Jan. 29 State of the Union address due to the shutdown.
Denying military aircraft to a senior lawmaker — let alone the speaker, who is second in line to the White House, traveling to a combat region — is very rare. Lawmakers were caught off guard. A bus to ferry the legislators to their departure idled outside the Capitol on Thursday afternoon.
The political tit-for-tat between Trump and Pelosi laid bare how the government-wide crisis has devolved into an intensely pointed clash between two leaders determined to prevail. It took place as hundreds of thousands of federal workers go without pay and Washington’s routine protocols — a president’s speech to Congress, a lawmaker’s official trip — became collateral damage.
Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill said the speaker planned to travel to Afghanistan and Brussels to thank service members and obtain briefings on national security and intelligence “from those on the front lines.” He noted Trump had traveled to Iraq during the shutdown, which began Dec. 22, and said a Republican-led congressional trip also had taken place.
Trump’s move was the latest example of his extraordinary willingness to tether U.S. government resources to his political needs. He has publicly urged the Justice Department to investigate political opponents and threatened to cut disaster aid to Puerto Rico amid a spat with the island territory’s leaders.
Some Republicans expressed frustration. Sen. Lindsey Graham tweeted, “One sophomoric response does not deserve another.” He called Pelosi’s State of the Union move “very irresponsible and blatantly political” but said Trump’s reaction was “also inappropriate.”
While there were few signs of progress Thursday, Vice President Mike Pence and senior adviser Jared Kushner dashed to the Capitol late in the day for a meeting with Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. And the State Department instructed all U.S. diplomats in Washington and elsewhere to return to work next week with pay, saying it had found money for their salaries at least temporarily.
For security reasons, Pelosi would normally make such a trip on a military aircraft supplied by the Pentagon. According to a defense official, Pelosi did request Defense Department support for overseas travel and it was initially approved. The official wasn’t authorized to speak by name about the matter, so spoke on condition of anonymity.
The official said the president does have the authority to cancel the use of military aircraft.
Rep. Adam Schiff of California slammed Trump for revealing the closely held travel plans.
“I think the president’s decision to disclose a trip the speaker’s making to a war zone was completely and utterly irresponsible in every way,” Schiff said.
Trump’s trip to Iraq after Christmas was not disclosed in advance for security reasons.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump wanted Pelosi to stay in Washington before Tuesday, a deadline to prepare the next round of paychecks for federal workers.
“We want to keep her in Washington,” Sanders said. “The president wants her here to negotiate.”
The White House also canceled plans for a presidential delegation to travel to an economic forum in Switzerland next week, citing the shutdown. And they said future congressional trips would be postponed until the shutdown is resolved, though it was not immediately clear if any such travel — which often is not disclosed in advance — was coming up.
Trump was taken by surprise by Pelosi’s move to postpone his address and told one adviser it was the sort of disruptive move he would make himself, according to a Republican who is in frequent contact with the White House and was not authorized to speak publicly about private conversations.
While he maintained a public silence, Trump grew weary of how Pelosi’s move was being received on cable TV and reiterated fears that he was being outmaneuvered in the public eye. Trump was delighted at the idea of canceling Pelosi’s trip, believing the focus on the resources needed would highlight her hypocrisy for cancelling his speech, according to the Republican.
Trump has still not said how he will handle Pelosi’s attempt to have him postpone his State of the Union address until the government is reopened so workers can be paid for providing security for the grand Washington tradition.
Pelosi told reporters earlier Thursday: “Let’s get a date when government is open. Let’s pay the employees. Maybe he thinks it’s OK not to pay people who do work. I don’t.”
Trump declined to address the stalemate over the speech during a visit Thursday to the Pentagon, simply promising that the nation will have “powerful, strong border security.”
Pelosi reiterated she is willing to negotiate money for border security once the government is reopened, but she said Democrats remain opposed to Trump’s long-promised wall.
“I’m not for a wall,” Pelosi said twice, mouthing the statement a third time for effect.
The shutdown, the longest ever, entered its 28th day on Friday. The previous longest was 21 days in 1995-96, under President Bill Clinton.
In a notice to staff, the State Department said it can pay most of its employees beginning Sunday or Monday for their next pay period. They will not be paid for time worked since the shutdown began until the situation is resolved, said the notice.
The new White House travel ban did not extend to the first family.
About two hours after Trump grounded Pelosi and her delegation, an Air Force-modified Boeing 757 took off from Joint Base Andrews outside Washington with the call sign “Executive One Foxtrot,” reserved for the first family when the president is not traveling with them. It landed just before 7 p.m. at Palm Beach International Airport, less than 2 miles (3 kilometers) from the president’s private club.
A White House spokesperson did not answer questions about the flight.
For AP’s complete coverage of the U.S. government shutdown: https://apnews.com/GovernmentShutdown
Associated Press writers Jon Lemire, Matthew Daly, Mary Clare Jalonick and Lolita C. Baldor contributed to this report.
McConnell’s maneuvers take backseat to Trump in shutdown
By LISA MASCARO and ADAM BEAM
Friday, January 18
WASHINGTON (AP) — One of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s guiding principles is: “There’s no education in the second kick of a mule.”
Now, deep into a government shutdown he cautioned President Donald Trump against, McConnell is not about to let himself be kicked again.
The Republican leader has been conspicuously deferential to Trump since the shutdown began. He’s waiting on the president and Democrats to make a deal to end it. The result is an unusually inactive profile for the GOP leader who’s often the behind-the-scenes architect of intricate legislative maneuvers to resolve bitter partisan stalemates.
Democrats complain publicly — and some Republicans grumble privately — that the Senate is not fulfilling its role as a co-equal branch of government, a legislative check on the executive. They worry about ordinary Americans facing hardship waiting for a resolution to the standoff over Trump’s demand for money to build the border wall with Mexico.
But the Kentucky Republican, who is up for re-election in 2020 in a state where Trump tends to be more popular than he is, sees no other choice than to stand back and let the president who took the country into the shutdown decide how he wants to get out of it.
McConnell said the “solution to the problem” is for the president, who he reminds is the only one who can sign a bill into law, to reach an agreement with Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer. “There’s no way around that,” he told reporters this week.
Democrats wonder whatever happened to the mastermind of earlier legislative logjams. After all, the 30-year veteran of the Senate devised the way out of a debt ceiling crisis when tea party Republicans challenged then-President Obama; he brokered the deal with then-Vice President Joe Biden to avert the so-called “fiscal cliff.”
“A few years ago, Leader McConnell remarked, ‘Remember me? I’m the guy that gets us out of shutdowns,’” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, unearthing an interview McConnell did some years ago. “Well, Leader McConnell, now’s the time…. allow a vote on legislation and reopen the government.”
McConnell has plenty of solutions at the ready, allies say. But he sees no value in trying to execute a deal that Trump may not ultimately endorse. It’s not only a waste of time, in his view, it potentially exposes Republican senators up for re-election in 2020, including himself, as sideways to Trump’s wishes.
“Everyone is demanding that McConnell ‘do something.’ What?” asked GOP strategist Scott Jennings, a longtime McConnell ally. “What is McConnell — or anyone else — going to tell Trump? Hey man, give up on the wall? That’s crazy.”
Jennings said rather than being seen as weak leader, the opposite is true: McConnell is showing strength by protecting Republicans from taking votes on bills that put them or the president on the spot as they try to force Democrats’ hand.
“He’s not going to undercut the president of his own party,” he said.
No sense being on the other side twice. Days before the shutdown, McConnell started executing the plan Republicans had largely agreed upon.
The strategy was simple: Give Trump a runway to take the case to the American people — including during his State of the Union address — before the next round of voting in February, according Republicans familiar with the plan.
All systems were go until the morning of final passage, but Trump opposed it.
McConnell was frustrated. “He wasn’t very happy about it to say the least,” said retiring GOP Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas. “He’s a very crafty individual… very strategic… Mitch, if something doesn’t work, he finds a way to make it work.”
But this time, McConnell is not providing the way out. Yes, he’s appearing at White House negotiating sessions. His staff meets for bipartisan talks with others. McConnell talks most every day to by phone to Trump. Asked about the senator’s role during the shutdown, the president heaped on praise: “He’s really been fantastic.”
Yet the leader, who was required to sit still as a child battling polio, is nothing if not a patient person. And so he waits.
Not all Republicans embrace the strategy. Some are growing anxious that Senate is essentially idle while hundreds of thousands of federal employees go without pay, wreaking havoc on their households and putting the broader economy at risk.
“Right now, it’s the Senate that really isn’t doing anything, I think we should do something,” said Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., who is trying to build support for his bill to pay federal employees, including TSA airport security screeners, who are forced to work without paychecks.
“I’m very sympathetic with the fact that we do need the president to sign something — so what’s the point of bringing something up that’s DOA — but we certainly can show some leadership here,” he said. “We could bring that up for votes.”
As #MitchShutdown billboards dot the Kentucky countryside, McConnell, who will likely want Trump by his side as he runs for re-election, has given no indication he’s feeling the heat.
He’s likely more interested in voters like Mike Bickers of Lexington, a 65-year-old retired sales rep for Coca-Cola.
“I don’t want Mitch McConnell to cave on this,” Bickers said. “I want him to stick to his guns.”
Trump won Kentucky in 2016 with nearly 63 percent of the vote, some 400,000 more votes than McConnell in his last Senate election. In 2018 Kentucky voters again embraced Trump in re-electing GOP Rep. Andy Barr, the congressman who was in a tight race until Trump visited, beginning a surge in Barr’s favor.
McConnell’s approval ratings, both nationally and in Kentucky, have never been high. But he has consistently been re-elected by running disciplined, well-funded campaigns.
One of the #MitchShutdown billboards is in Owensboro in western Kentucky, once a Democratic stronghold. Now its Republican mayor, Tom Watson, says he and many of the city’s voters are happy to see McConnell and Trump “totally agree on something” over the border wall.
“Senator McConnell,” said Watson, “I believe, is doing exactly what the Senate is supposed to do.”
Mascaro reported from Washington and Beam reported from Frankfort, Kentucky.
Follow on Twitter at https://twitter.com/lisamascaro and https://twitter.com/adambeam
For AP’s complete coverage of the U.S. government shutdown: https://apnews.com/GovernmentShutdown
Crawley to serve on state prison oversight committee
Columbus lawmaker tapped for Correctional Institution Inspection Committee
State Representative Erica C. Crawley
COLUMBUS— The Ohio House Democratic Caucus today (Jan. 18) announced the recent appointment of Rep. Erica C. Crawley (D-Columbus) to the bipartisan Correctional Institution Inspection Committee (CIIC), the state’s prison oversight body that leads investigations into the management and operation of Ohio’s 31 prisons, including three youth facilities and one federal institution.
“Taxpayers deserve a strong independent check on the use of their money at state corrections centers,” said Crawley, who previously served with Cuyahoga County Job & Family Servicesand holds a degree in criminology with a focus on juvenile delinquency from Cleveland State University. “The majority of people who enter these facilities will ultimately come home, and it’s up to the state to ensure they have the skills and tools they need to be successful when they reenter society. I look forward to help making sure that’s our focus.”
For over 30 years, the CIIC has examined inmate complaints and alleged state misconduct at Ohio’s prisons, issuing recommendations, responding to public inquiries and evaluating programs and management of taxpayer-funded correctional facilities. To read the latest inspection reports or to submit a complaint visit http://www.ciic.state.oh.us/