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2020 Election

McConnell, Schumer to lead, but Senate majority uncertain

By LISA MASCARO AP Congressional Correspondent
WASHINGTON (AP) — Senators chose party leaders Tuesday with few changes at the top, but it’s unclear who will be the majority leader in the new Congress with no party having secured control of the Senate until a January runoff election in Georgia.
Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., won another term as Republican leader, his office said, cementing his role as the longest-serving GOP leader in U.S. history. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. won his party’s support to stay on leading the Democrats, according to a Democrat granted anonymity to discuss the closed-door balloting.
None of the leaders were being challenged in Tuesday’s private party elections, with their entire leadership teams set to be reinstated.
But it’s still to be determined whether McConnell will retain his role as majority leader or cede it to Schumer as the final races for the U.S. Senate play out.
Last week’s elections left the chamber split, 48-48, heading into the new Congress next year. Republicans brushed back Democratic challengers in several states, but failed to lock down the seats needed to retain their majority.
Races for two seats in Georgia heading to a Jan. 5 runoff are swiftly becoming a showdown over control of the chamber. The state is closely divided, with Democrats making gains on Republicans, fueled by a surge of new voters. But no Democrat has been elected senator in some 20 years.
Two other seats in North Carolina and Alaska remain too early to call. In North Carolina, Sen. Thom Tillis is trying to fend off Democratic challenger Cal Cunningham in a tight race. Alaska GOP Sen. Dan Sullivan is favored for another term against Al Gross, an independent running as a Democrat.
Even if Republicans secure the final two races where ballots are still being counted in North Carolina and Alaska, they would still fall short of the 51 seats needed.
The math has become more challenging for McConnell because the vice president of the party holding the White House casts the tie-breaking vote in the Senate. Next year that would be Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. That means 50 seats for Democrats would result in control over the chamber. But Republicans would need 51 seats to cement their hold on power.
The stakes are high for all sides, with strategists expecting an eye-popping $500 million could be spent on the Georgia runoff elections in the weeks ahead.
GOP Sen. Kelly Loeffler will face Rafael Warnock, a Black pastor from the church where Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. preached. And Republican Sen. David Perdue, a top Trump ally, will face Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff.
A Democratic majority in the Senate, the party that also controls the House would give the party a firm grasp on power in Washington. Biden would have latitude over nominees, including for his Cabinet, and a chance to push major portions of his legislative agenda through Congress. If Democrats fall short, McConnell could wield the power to check Biden’s ambitions.
The Democratic leadership team includes Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., as whip; Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., assistant leader, and several others, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., keeping leadership roles. Democrats added Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Sen. Catherine Cortez-Masto, D-Nev., to the leadership team.
The Republican leadership team is set to include Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., as whip; with Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., and others holding other leadership roles.

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2020 Election

Trump campaign sues to block Pennsylvania election result

By MARK SCOLFORO and MARC LEVY Associated Press
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — President Donald Trump’s campaign launched a lawsuit to stop the certification of the election results in Pennsylvania, suing Monday as counties continued to sort through provisional ballots and mail-in ballots nearly a week after the election in the battleground state.
The Associated Press on Saturday called the presidential contest for former Vice President Joe Biden, after determining that the remaining ballots left to be counted in Pennsylvania would not allow Trump to catch up.
But Trump’s campaign filed litigation in federal court over Pennsylvania’s presidential election, saying registered Democratic voters were treated more favorably than Republican voters. Trump has refused to concede.
“The election is not over,” the Trump campaign’s general counsel, Matthew Morgan, said in a news conference in Washington, D.C.
The 85-page lawsuit itself contained no evidence of voter fraud, other than a smattering of allegations, such as an election worker in Chester County altering “over-voted” ballots by changing votes that had been marked for Trump to another candidate.
A spokesperson for Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said Trump’s campaign was trying to “disenfranchise the record number of people who voted against him” while Pennsylvania’s attorney general, Democrat Josh Shapiro, called the Trump campaign’s latest lawsuit meritless.
The lawsuit asks the court to prevent the state, Philadelphia and six counties from certifying the results of the election. It also seeks to block them from counting mail-in ballots that weren’t witnessed by a Trump campaign representative when they were processed or counting ballots cast by voters who were given an opportunity to fix mail-in ballots that were going to be disqualified for a technicality.
It accuses Allegheny County and Philadelphia — where Trump was badly beaten in unofficial election returns — of receiving and processing 682,479 mail-in and absentee ballots without review by political parties and candidates.
The office of Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, said in a statement Monday that ballot watchers from all parties have observers throughout the process and that “any insinuation otherwise is a lie.”
An Allegheny County spokesperson declined comment, saying officials were reviewing the lawsuit. Philadelphia city officials said there is no evidence to support Trump campaign allegations and that the city has fully complied with the law.
The lawsuit also charges that “Democratic-heavy counties” violated the law by identifying mail-in ballots before Election Day that had defects — such as lacking an inner “secrecy envelope” or lacking a voter’s signature on the outside envelope — so that the voter could fix it and ensure that their vote would count.
A similar claim by Republicans was dismissed in a state court Friday. Democratic voters submitted almost three times as many ballots by mail as Republicans.
Morgan called the new lawsuit “step one of a process.”
“We are very close to the automatic recount statute in Pennsylvania and this lawsuit itself could change that or swing that small discrepancy,” Morgan said.
Wolf has accused Republicans of seeking to undermine confidence in the election results.
“Pennsylvania is going to fight every single attempt to disenfranchise voters,” his office said in a statement Monday. “We will protect this election and the democratic process. Pennsylvania will count every vote, and we will protect the count of every vote.”
Courts have thus far rejected Republican demands in Pennsylvania and other battleground states to throw out ballots or stop vote counting.
All told, counties in Pennsylvania have tallied more than 6.7 million ballots, or about 74% turnout.
On Monday, Biden’s lead in the state stood at about 45,000 votes, fueled by big wins in Philadelphia, Allegheny County and Philadelphia’s four heavily populated suburban counties. That is larger than the 44,292-vote margin of Trump’s victory in Pennsylvania in 2016.
More than 2.6 million mail-in ballots were reported received by counties, and there has been no report by state or county election officials of fraud or any other problem with the accuracy of the count.
Republicans in the state Legislature and congressional delegation have echoed complaints about how the state managed the election, calling for the resignation of Wolf’s top elections official and an audit of the election.
On Monday, Trump tweeted, “Pennsylvania prevented us from watching much of the Ballot count. Unthinkable and illegal in this country.”
However, Republican lawyers acknowledged in court last week that they had certified observers watching mail-in ballots being processed in Philadelphia.
Some of the pending litigation filed by Republicans challenges a state court order to count mail-in ballots that arrived in a three-day period after polls closed. Ballots cannot be counted if there is proof they were mailed after polls closed.
On Monday, 10 Republican state attorneys general filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court to support a challenge to the state court order.
Pennsylvania election officials have not yet provided a statewide tally of the total of late-arriving ballots. Still, based on estimates from a number of counties, the total may not exceed 10,000.
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Follow Marc Levy on Twitter at www.twitter.com/timelywriter. Follow Mark Scolforo on Twitter at www.twitter.com/houseofbuddy.

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2020 Election

Kentucky AG joins lawsuit in Pennsylvania election case

By BRUCE SCHREINER Associated Press
FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky’s Republican attorney general joined in a lawsuit Monday challenging mail-in ballots in Pennsylvania, saying what happens elsewhere in a presidential election matters to Kentuckians.
Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear criticized Daniel Cameron’s involvement, saying that “not recognizing the peaceful transition of power is un-American.”
“I have real concerns of using Kentucky dollars and Kentucky lawyers … to challenge a result in a different state,” Beshear said at a news conference. “It creates at least the appearance of: Your guy didn’t win, and therefore you’re going to use government resources to attack it.”
Cameron signed onto an amicus brief in a GOP lawsuit in a case revolving around mail-in ballots.
“While this did not occur in Kentucky, what happens in other states during a presidential election matters to Kentuckians because we are electing our president and vice president,” Cameron said.
Cameron, a Trump supporter, said his interest in the case “is not about courts dictating who wins or loses, but about transparency and rule of law issues.” It will be hard for some people to accept the results “if they think issues like these go unexplored,” he said.
Trump easily carried Kentucky in the election.
Beshear noted that as Kentucky’s attorney general in 2016 when Trump was narrowly elected president, he accepted the results.
“If there’s an issue in a Pennsylvania election, then let Pennsylvania officials deal with it,” Beshear said.

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2020 Election

Trump election challenge not same as 2000 Florida recount

By CURT ANDERSON AP Legal Affairs Writer
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Twenty years ago, in a different time and under far different circumstances than today, it took five weeks of Florida recounts and court battles before Republican George W. Bush prevailed over Democrat Al Gore by 537 votes.
Today’s attempts by President Donald Trump and GOP allies to get unproven claims of fraud and voting irregularities into court in multiple states face a much steeper climb, legal and political experts say.
“There’s not a lot of similarities,” said attorney Barry Richard, who represented Bush in the 2000 saga. “In 2000, there was clearly a problem with the defective ballots. Nobody was claiming fraud or improprieties. It was all about how we made sure everybody’s vote counted.”
The Florida recount demanded by the Gore campaign famously centered on problems with outmoded punch-card ballots with canvassers trying to figure out a voter’s intent amid ballots with “hanging chads” and “dimpled chads” on the cards. The case wound up in the U.S. Supreme Court, which halted the recount and handed the presidency to Bush.
The Trump campaign, on the other hand, is filing multiple lawsuits in at least five states in which Democrat Joe Biden is ahead by tens of thousands of votes — a far cry from the mere hundreds of votes involved in 2000 in Florida.
“The most important difference in my mind is that Florida in 2000 was much closer than any of the states in 2020,” said Aubrey Jewett, a University of Central Florida political science professor who has written about the 2000 recount.
“Only about 2000 votes separated Bush from Gore in the initial results out of more than 6 million cast. Mathematically, it was entirely possible that a recount might overturn the results,” he said. “The margins even in the closest states are much larger this time around.”
Still, some Republicans point to the 2000 recount fight, which involved multiple court rulings, as justification for Trump to exhaust all legal means to contest what the president views as fraud in this year’s election.
“Twenty years ago, when Florida came down to a very thin margin, we saw Vice President Gore exhaust the legal system and wait to concede until December,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said in a floor speech Monday.
“If any major irregularities occurred this time, of a magnitude that would affect the outcome, then every single American should want them to be brought to light,” McConnell added.
Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida repeated in an online video Tuesday what many others in the GOP are saying; Trump has every right to contest the election and take action in the courts.
“One way this election is going to be widely accepted, which is what we need, is through the post-election process,” Rubio said. “Both Democrats and Republicans have used these laws themselves.”
A question that is far from clear is whether Trump’s lawsuits make sufficient claims for any of the cases to reach the U.S. Supreme Court, where his recent appointment of Justice Amy Coney Barrett gave conservatives a 6-3 majority.
Back in 2000, the Supreme Court decided that because Florida counties tallied ballots in different ways a statewide recount sought by Gore would violate voters’ rights under the Constitution’s equal protection clause.
Gore remembers the sense of finality when that ruling came down Dec. 12 of that year. He conceded to Bush a day later.
“There is no intermediate step between a final Supreme Court decision and violent revolution. And the Supreme Court interprets the laws. They issued an opinion. And to run the risk of violence in the streets without any change in the outcome seemed to me to be not in the best interests of the country,” Gore said in an NBC interview after Election Day this year.
Trump has hinted, and allies have backed him up, that he will never concede. Yet it’s a tall order for any of Trump’s legal claims to survive scrutiny in any court, much less make it to the Supreme Court, said Richard, the former Bush lawyer.
“I have read everything. I have looked at all the claims. None of them raise anything,” Richard said. “None of them have any credible evidence. It has to affect enough votes to change the result of the election.”
So far, Trump has filed challenges or recount demands in Pennsylvania, Arizona, Georgia, Michigan and Nevada. More may be coming.
Again, the Florida election debacle was quite different, Jewett said.
“Ïn 2000 in Florida there was quite a bit of evidence from the beginning that ballot design, mismarking ballots, and the different technologies used actually did have an impact on the voting,” he said.
“In 2000, Florida was the only state that was contested and neither candidate had 270 (electoral votes) without Florida,” Jewett said. “This time around Biden is over the 270 threshold and Trump would need to see a change in results in multiple states to claim victory.”

Categories
2020 Election

Barr tells DOJ to probe election fraud claims if they exist

By MICHAEL BALSAMO Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — Attorney General William Barr has authorized federal prosecutors across the U.S. to pursue “substantial allegations” of voting irregularities, if they exist, before the 2020 presidential election is certified, despite no evidence of widespread fraud.
Barr’s action comes days after Democrat Joe Biden defeated President Donald Trump and raises the prospect that Trump will use the Justice Department to try to challenge the outcome. It gives prosecutors the ability to go around longstanding Justice Department policy that normally would prohibit such overt actions before the election is certified.
Trump has not conceded the election and is instead claiming without evidence that there has been a widespread, multi-state conspiracy by Democrats to skew the vote tally in Biden’s favor.
Biden holds a sizable lead in multiple battleground states and there has been no indication of enough improperly counted or illegally cast votes that would shift the outcome. In fact, election officials from both political parties have publicly stated the election went well, though there have been minor issues that are typical in elections, including voting machines breaking and ballots that were miscast and lost.
In a memo to U.S. attorneys, obtained by The Associated Press, Barr wrote that investigations “may be conducted if there are clear and apparently-credible allegations of irregularities that, if true, could potentially impact the outcome of a federal election in an individual State.”
He said any allegations that would “clearly not impact the outcome of a federal election” should be delayed until after those elections are certified and prosecutors should likely open so-called preliminary inquiries, which would allow investigators and prosecutors to see if there is evidence that would allow them to take further investigative measures.
Barr does not identify any specific instances of purported fraud in the memo.
“While it is imperative that credible allegations be addressed in a timely and effective manner, it is equally imperative that Department personnel exercise appropriate caution and maintain the Department’s absolute commitment to fairness, neutrality and non-partisanship,” Barr wrote.
States have until Dec. 8 to resolve election disputes, including recounts and court contests over the results. Members of the Electoral College meet Dec. 14 to finalize the outcome.
On Monday night, the Justice Department’s top prosecutor for election crimes, Richard Pilger, said he would step down from that post in response to the attorney general’s memo, according to an email he sent to colleagues and obtained by the AP. He is still expected to remain as an attorney within the Justice Department’s criminal division.
Barr, a loyal ally of President Donald Trump, helped broadcast Trump’s claims of voter fraud before the election, attacking mail-in voting as prone to undue influence and coercion, despite multiple studies debunking the notion of pervasive voter fraud in general and in the vote-by-mail process.
Generally, Justice Department policy is “not to conduct overt investigations, including interviews with individual voters, until after the outcome of the election allegedly affected by the fraud is certified.”
But Barr argues in the memo that concerns such acts could inadvertently impact an election are minimized once voting has concluded and that, in some cases, investigations could not be delayed until the election is certified.
A Justice Department official said Barr had not been asked by Trump, anyone else at the White House or any lawmakers to issue the memo. The official could not discuss the matter publicly and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.
Barr was in Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office on Capitol Hill on Monday afternoon and refused to answer questions from reporters when he left. Earlier Monday, McConnell threw his support behind Trump after a period of post-election silence.
Biden campaign attorney Bob Bauer said in a statement that it is “deeply unfortunate that Attorney General Barr chose to issue a memorandum that will only fuel the ‘specious, speculative, fanciful or far-fetched claims’ he professes to guard against.”
“Those are the very kind of claims that the president and his lawyers are making unsuccessfully every day, as their lawsuits are laughed out of one court after another,” Bauer said. “But, in the end, American democracy is stronger than any clumsy and cynical partisan political scheme.”

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2020 Election

Biden wins White House, vowing new direction for divided US

By JONATHAN LEMIRE and ZEKE MILLER Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — Democrat Joe Biden defeated President Donald Trump to become the 46th president of the United States on Saturday, positioning himself to lead a nation gripped by historic pandemic and a confluence of economic and social turmoil.
His victory came after more than three days of uncertainty as election officials sorted through a surge of mail-in votes that delayed the processing of some ballots. Biden crossed 270 Electoral College votes with a win in Pennsylvania.
Biden, 77, staked his candidacy less on any distinctive political ideology than on galvanizing a broad coalition of voters around the notion that Trump posed an existential threat to American democracy. The strategy proved effective, resulting in pivotal victories in Michigan and Wisconsin as well as Pennsylvania, onetime Democratic bastions that had flipped to Trump in 2016.
Biden was on track to win the national popular vote by more than 4 million, a margin that could grow as ballots continue to be counted.
Trump seized on delays in processing the vote in some states to falsely allege voter fraud and argue that his rival was trying to seize power — an extraordinary charge by a sitting president trying to sow doubt about a bedrock democratic process.
As the vote count played out, Biden tried to ease tensions and project an image of presidential leadership, hitting notes of unity that were seemingly aimed at cooling the temperature of a heated, divided nation.
“We have to remember the purpose of our politics isn’t total unrelenting, unending warfare,” Biden said Friday night in Delaware. “No, the purpose of our politics, the work of our nation, isn’t to fan the flames of conflict, but to solve problems, to guarantee justice, to give everybody a fair shot.”
Kamala Harris also made history as the first Black woman to become vice president, an achievement that comes as the U.S. faces a reckoning on racial justice. The California senator, who is also the first person of South Asian descent elected to the vice presidency, will become the highest-ranking woman ever to serve in government, four years after Trump defeated Hillary Clinton.
Trump is the first incumbent president to lose reelection since Republican George H.W. Bush in 1992. It was unclear whether Trump would publicly concede.
Americans showed deep interest in the presidential race. A record 103 million voted early this year, opting to avoid waiting in long lines at polling locations during a pandemic. With counting continuing in some states, Biden had already received more than 74 million votes, more than any presidential candidate before him.
More than 236,000 Americans have died during the coronavirus pandemic, nearly 10 million have been infected and millions of jobs have been lost. The final days of the campaign played out against the backdrop of a surge in confirmed cases in nearly every state, including battlegrounds such as Wisconsin that swung to Biden.
The pandemic will soon be Biden’s to tame, and he campaigned pledging a big government response, akin to what Franklin D. Roosevelt oversaw with the New Deal during the Depression of the 1930s. But Senate Republicans fought back several Democratic challengers and looked to retain a fragile majority that could serve as a check on such Biden ambition.
The 2020 campaign was a referendum on Trump’s handling of the pandemic, which has shuttered schools across the nation, disrupted businesses and raised questions about the feasibility of family gatherings heading into the holidays.
The fast spread of the coronavirus transformed political rallies from standard campaign fare to gatherings that were potential public health emergencies. It also contributed to an unprecedented shift to voting early and by mail and prompted Biden to dramatically scale back his travel and events to comply with restrictions. Trump defied calls for caution and ultimately contracted the disease himself. He was saddled throughout the year by negative assessments from the public of his handling of the pandemic.
Biden also drew a sharp contrast to Trump through a summer of unrest over the police killings of Black Americans including Breonna Taylor in Kentucky and George Floyd in Minneapolis. Their deaths sparked the largest racial protest movement since the civil rights era. Biden responded by acknowledging the racism that pervades American life, while Trump emphasized his support of police and pivoted to a “law and order” message that resonated with his largely white base.
The president’s most ardent backers never wavered and may remain loyal to him and his supporters in Congress after Trump has departed the White House.
The third president to be impeached, though acquitted in the Senate, Trump will leave office having left an indelible imprint in a tenure defined by the shattering of White House norms and a day-to-day whirlwind of turnover, partisan divide and the ever-present threat via his Twitter account.
Biden, born in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and raised in Delaware, was one of the youngest candidates ever elected to the Senate. Before he took office, his wife and daughter were killed, and his two sons badly injured in a 1972 car crash.
Commuting every night on a train from Washington back to Wilmington, Biden fashioned an everyman political persona to go along with powerful Senate positions, including chairman of the Senate Judiciary and Foreign Relations Committees. Some aspects of his record drew critical scrutiny from fellow Democrats, including his support for the 1994 crime bill, his vote for the 2003 Iraq War and his management of the Clarence Thomas’ Supreme Court hearings.
Biden’s 1988 presidential campaign was done in by plagiarism allegations, and his next bid in 2008 ended quietly. But later that year, he was tapped to be Barack Obama’s running mate and he became an influential vice president, steering the administration’s outreach to both Capitol Hill and Iraq.
While his reputation was burnished by his time in office and his deep friendship with Obama, Biden stood aside for Clinton and opted not to run in 2016 after his adult son Beau died of brain cancer the year before.
Trump’s tenure pushed Biden to make one more run as he declared that “the very soul of the nation is at stake.”
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Associated Press writer Jill Colvin contributed to this report.

Categories
2020 Election

Harris becomes first Black woman, South Asian elected VP

By KATHLEEN RONAYNE Associated Press
Kamala Harris made history Saturday as the first Black woman elected as vice president of the United States, shattering barriers that have kept men — almost all of them white — entrenched at the highest levels of American politics for more than two centuries.
The 56-year-old California senator, also the first person of South Asian descent elected to the vice presidency, represents the multiculturalism that defines America but is largely absent from Washington’s power centers. Her Black identity has allowed her to speak in personal terms in a year of reckoning over police brutality and systemic racism. As the highest-ranking woman ever elected in American government, her victory gives hope to women who were devastated by Hillary Clinton’s defeat four years ago.
Harris has been a rising star in Democratic politics for much of the last two decades, serving as San Francisco’s district attorney and California’s attorney general before becoming a U.S. senator. After Harris ended her own 2020 Democratic presidential campaign, Joe Biden tapped her as his running mate. They will be sworn in as president and vice president on Jan. 20.
Biden’s running mate selection carried added significance because he will be the oldest president ever inaugurated, at 78, and hasn’t committed to seeking a second term in 2024.
Harris often framed her candidacy as part of the legacy — often undervalued — of pioneering Black women who came before her, including educator Mary McLeod Bethune, civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer and Rep. Shirley Chisholm, the first Black candidate to seek a major party’s presidential nomination, in 1972.
“We’re not often taught their stories,” Harris said in August as she accepted her party’s vice presidential nomination. “But as Americans, we all stand on their shoulders.”
That history was on Sara Twyman’s mind recently as she watched Harris campaign in Las Vegas and wore a sweatshirt featuring the senator’s name alongside Chisholm.
“It’s high time that a woman gets to the highest levels of our government,” said Twyman, who is 35 and Black.
Despite the excitement surrounding Harris, she and Biden face steep challenges, including deepening racial tensions in the U.S. in the wake of a pandemic that has taken a disproportionate toll on people of color and a series of police killings of Black Americans. Harris’ past work as a prosecutor has prompted skepticism among progressives and young voters who are looking to her to back sweeping institutional change over incremental reforms in policing, drug policy and more.
Jessica Byrd, who leads the Movement for Black Lives’ Electoral Justice Project and The Frontline, a multiracial coalition effort to galvanize voters, said she plans to engage in the rigorous organizing work needed to push Harris and Biden toward more progressive policies.
“I deeply believe in the power of Black women’s leadership, even when all of our politics don’t align,” Byrd said. “I want us to be committed to the idea that representation is exciting and it’s worthy of celebration and also that we have millions of Black women who deserve a fair shot.”
Harris is the second Black woman elected to the Senate. Her colleague, Sen. Cory Booker, who is also Black, said her very presence makes the institution “more accessible to more people” and suggested she would accomplish the same with the vice presidency.
Harris was born in 1964 to two parents active in the civil rights movement. Shyamala Gopalan, from India, and Donald Harris, from Jamaica, met at the University of California, Berkeley, then a hotbed of 1960s activism. They divorced when Harris and her sister were girls, and Harris was raised by her late mother, whom she considers the most important influence in her life.
Kamala is Sanskrit for “lotus flower,” and Harris gave nods to her Indian heritage throughout the campaign, including with a callout to her “chitthis,” a Tamil word for a maternal aunt, in her first speech as Biden’s running mate. When Georgia Sen. David Perdue mocked her name in an October rally, the hashtag #MyNameIs took off on Twitter, with South Asians sharing the meanings behind their names.
The mocking of her name by Republicans, including Trump, was just one of the attacks Harris faced. Trump and his allies sought to brand her as radical and a socialist despite her more centrist record, an effort aimed at making people uncomfortable about the prospect of a Black woman in leadership. She was the target of online disinformation laced with racism and sexism about her qualifications to serve as president.
Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal of Washington said Harris’ power comes not just from her life experience but also from the people she already represents. California is the nation’s most populous and one of its most diverse states; nearly 40% of people are Latino and 15% are Asian. In Congress, Harris and Jayapal have teamed up on bills to ensure legal representation for Muslims targeted by Trump’s 2017 travel ban and to extend rights to domestic workers.
“That’s the kind of policy that also happens when you have voices like ours at the table,” said Jayapal, who in 2016 was the first South Asian woman elected to the U.S. House. Harris won election to the Senate that same year.
Harris’ mother raised her daughters with the understanding the world would see them as Black women, Harris has said, and that is how she describes herself today.
She attended Howard University, one of the nation’s historically Black colleges and universities, and pledged Alpha Kappa Alpha, the nation’s first sorority created by and for Black women. She campaigned regularly at HBCUs and tried to address the concerns of young Black men and women eager for strong efforts to dismantle systemic racism.
Her victory could usher more Black women and people of color into politics.
San Francisco Mayor London Breed, who considers Harris a mentor, views Harris’ success through the lens of her own identity as the granddaughter of a sharecropper.
“African Americans are not far removed from slavery and the horrors of racism in this country, and we’re still feeling the impacts of that with how we’re treated and what’s happening around this racial uprising,” she said. Harris’ candidacy “instills a lot of pride and a lot of hope and a lot of excitement in what is possible.”
Harris is married to a Jewish man, Doug Emhoff, whose children from a previous marriage call her “Momala.” The excitement about her candidacy extends to women across races.
Friends Sarah Lane and Kelli Hodge, each with three daughters, brought all six girls to a Harris rally in Phoenix in the race’s closing days. “This car is full of little girls who dream big. Go Kamala!” read a sign taped on the car’s trunk.
Lane, a 41-year-old attorney who is of Hispanic and Asian heritage, volunteered for Biden and Harris, her first time ever working for a political campaign. Asked why she brought her daughters, ages 6, 9 and 11, to see Harris, she answered, “I want my girls to see what women can do.”
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Associated Press writer Kat Stafford in Detroit contributed to this report.

Categories
2020 Election

Joe Biden: Stumbles, tragedies and, now, delayed triumph

By BILL BARROW Associated Press
Days before he left the White House in 2017, President Barack Obama surprised Joe Biden with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, declaring his septuagenarian, white-haired lieutenant “the best vice president America’s ever had,” a “lion of American history.”
The tribute marked the presumed end of a long public life that put Biden in the orbit of the Oval Office for 45 years — yet, through a combination of family and personal tragedy, his own political missteps and sheer bad timing, had never allowed him to sit behind the Resolute Desk himself.
It turns out the pinnacle would not elude Biden after all. His moment just hadn’t yet arrived.
Joseph Robinette Biden Jr., 77, was elected Saturday as the 46th president of the United States, defeating President Donald Trump in an election that played out against the backdrop of a pandemic, its economic fallout and a national reckoning on racism. He becomes the oldest president-elect and brings with him a history-making vice president-elect in Kamala Harris, the first Black woman and person of South Asian descent to serve in the nation’s second-highest office.
There are no sure paths to a post held by only 44 men in more than two centuries, but Biden’s is among the most unlikely — even for a man who had aspired to the job for more than three decades, twice running unsuccessfully and passing on a third bid to try to succeed Obama four years ago.
The president-elect’s allies, though, say it is that delayed, circuitous route that prepared him for 2020, when he could finally offer himself not just as another senator or governor with 10-point plans and outsize ambition. Instead, from launch on April 25, 2019, Biden sold himself as the experienced, empathetic elder statesman particularly suited to defeat a “dangerous” and “divisive” president and then “restore the soul of the nation” in Trump’s wake.
“A lot of people dismissed it,” said Karen Finney, a top aide to nominee Hillary Clinton in 2016. “But when I saw his opening speech, talking about the fight for the soul of the country, I said, ‘He gets it.’ That’s what a president does. A president looks around the country and understands what’s happening.”
“Biden met the moment,” she said.
His victory, though, did not come with the usual trappings. He did not bring along a clear Democratic Senate majority, and several Democratic House candidates lost, raising the prospect of a closely divided government likely to test his promise of bipartisanship. State legislatures also did not flip even as Biden was winning the popular vote by about 5 percentage points.
Biden first joined a Democratic primary race shaped by nearly two dozen rivals — most considerably younger — already deep into an ideological fight over issues from universal health care to taxation of billionaires. Biden took an open lane, settling where he spent his 36 years as a Delaware senator: a mainstream liberal with an establishment, deal-making core. But his visceral, emotional appeal transcended party identity.
When he warned that reelecting Trump “would forever alter the character” of America, Biden was drawing on life and political experience to tell his fellow Democrats they were having a premature debate. In his estimate, they were arguing over where the metaphorical train should go when, in fact, the train was — and remains — off the rails.
Biden was the presumed front-runner he hadn’t been in 1987, when his first White House bid ended embarrassingly with a plagiarized speech; or in 2008, when he was trounced in the Iowa caucuses by Obama and others; or even in 2016, when the combination of his son Beau’s death in 2015 and Obama’s behind-the-scenes support for Clinton forced him to pass on the race.
Yet Biden was a wobbly 2020 favorite. He was well-regarded, even beloved as his party’s “Uncle Joe,” a loyal deputy to Obama, but he faced a river of criticism as too old, too moderate, too white, too wistful, too senatorial.
He was not the same figure who’d first gone to Iowa in the 1988 cycle as a young star in his party, a gifted orator whose booming speeches could fill a room while at the same time making a connection with the legacies of the Democratic coalition Franklin Roosevelt built.
Though he eventually built out a policy agenda for an ambitious presidency, there was no signature proposal for a grand program like “Medicare for All.” Biden emphasized more personal traits.
His empathy — traced to a debilitating childhood stutter, a 1972 car crash that killed his first wife and infant daughter weeks after his election to the Senate, and then Beau’s death as an adult — wasn’t something he could easily marshal on a crowded debate stage.
Recalling decades on Capitol Hill meant reminiscing about the days of a Senate that still included old Southern segregationists, and it invited scrutiny of his votes for criminal justice laws, trade and tax deals, and war resolutions that are anathema to younger Democrats.
Talking so much about his family played into Trump’s efforts to sully Joe Biden and son Hunter as corrupt. Even Biden’s umbrage about Trump’s racist rhetoric highlighted that he was also a white establishment figure, vying to lead a party whose energy comes from women, Black and Latino voters and young people.
When the nominating process started, Biden lost badly in both Iowa and New Hampshire, inviting talk about how he might make a graceful exit from the race.
He found emphatic redemption, powered by Black voters so vital to any Democratic candidate, by winning the South Carolina primary and resetting the race in his favor. That victory sent a message to Democratic voters in key states that Biden could build a winning coalition.
“I endorsed Joe Biden as soon as he announced because I thought he was the only candidate who would ever win” battleground states, said Gwen Graham, a former Florida congresswoman and 2018 candidate for governor. Graham, whose father served with Biden in the Senate, cited the president-elect’s “centrism and experience” as primary reasons, but added another trait she said was critical in the era of Trump.
“Joe Biden is just a fundamentally decent man,” she said.
House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, the highest-ranking Black member of Congress and South Carolina’s most influential Democrat, leaned on the same assessment when he made his seminal endorsement in February, days ahead of what would become Biden’s first primary victory in 32 years of presidential campaigns.
“We know Joe,” Clyburn said with emotion. “But most importantly, Joe knows us.”
It’s an open question whether the bond Biden formed first with Black voters and then with moderate white Democrats would have expanded into a general election victory if the COVID-19 pandemic — and Trump’s repeated dismissal of its economic and health threats — hadn’t come to dominate 2020. And it’s certain the president-elect now faces a different challenge as he seeks to turn his November coalition into a governing alliance.
But it’s not debatable that Biden’s core pitch, rooted in his political and personal biography, was the same when he launched his campaign in the spring of 2019 as it was when he won the South Carolina primary in February 2020 and as he closed out his campaign against Trump.
Obama, awarding that rare civilian honor to a man he said in 2017 was headed to life as a private citizen, had one thing right: “He’s nowhere close to finished.”

Categories
2020 Election National News

Biden wins White House, vowing new direction for divided US

WASHINGTON (AP) — Democrat Joe Biden defeated President Donald Trump to become the 46th president of the United States on Saturday, positioning himself to lead a nation gripped by historic pandemic and a confluence of economic and social turmoil.
His victory came after more than three days of uncertainty as election officials sorted through a surge of mail-in votes that delayed the processing of some ballots. Biden crossed 270 Electoral College votes with a win in Pennsylvania.
Biden, 77, staked his candidacy less on any distinctive political ideology than on galvanizing a broad coalition of voters around the notion that Trump posed an existential threat to American democracy. The strategy proved effective, resulting in pivotal victories in Michigan and Wisconsin as well as Pennsylvania, onetime Democratic bastions that had flipped to Trump in 2016.
Biden was on track to win the national popular vote by more than 4 million, a margin that could grow as ballots continue to be counted.
Trump seized on delays in processing the vote in some states to falsely allege voter fraud and argue that his rival was trying to seize power — an extraordinary charge by a sitting president trying to sow doubt about a bedrock democratic process.
As the vote count played out, Biden tried to ease tensions and project an image of presidential leadership, hitting notes of unity that were seemingly aimed at cooling the temperature of a heated, divided nation.
“We have to remember the purpose of our politics isn’t total unrelenting, unending warfare,” Biden said Friday night in Delaware. “No, the purpose of our politics, the work of our nation, isn’t to fan the flames of conflict, but to solve problems, to guarantee justice, to give everybody a fair shot.”
Kamala Harris also made history as the first Black woman to become vice president, an achievement that comes as the U.S. faces a reckoning on racial justice. The California senator, who is also the first person of South Asian descent elected to the vice presidency, will become the highest-ranking woman ever to serve in government, four years after Trump defeated Hillary Clinton.
Trump is the first incumbent president to lose reelection since Republican George H.W. Bush in 1992. It was unclear whether Trump would publicly concede.
Americans showed deep interest in the presidential race. A record 103 million voted early this year, opting to avoid waiting in long lines at polling locations during a pandemic. With counting continuing in some states, Biden had already received more than 74 million votes, more than any presidential candidate before him.
More than 236,000 Americans have died during the coronavirus pandemic, nearly 10 million have been infected and millions of jobs have been lost. The final days of the campaign played out against the backdrop of a surge in confirmed cases in nearly every state, including battlegrounds such as Wisconsin that swung to Biden.
The pandemic will soon be Biden’s to tame, and he campaigned pledging a big government response, akin to what Franklin D. Roosevelt oversaw with the New Deal during the Depression of the 1930s. But Senate Republicans fought back several Democratic challengers and looked to retain a fragile majority that could serve as a check on such Biden ambition.
The 2020 campaign was a referendum on Trump’s handling of the pandemic, which has shuttered schools across the nation, disrupted businesses and raised questions about the feasibility of family gatherings heading into the holidays.
The fast spread of the coronavirus transformed political rallies from standard campaign fare to gatherings that were potential public health emergencies. It also contributed to an unprecedented shift to voting early and by mail and prompted Biden to dramatically scale back his travel and events to comply with restrictions. Trump defied calls for caution and ultimately contracted the disease himself. He was saddled throughout the year by negative assessments from the public of his handling of the pandemic.
Biden also drew a sharp contrast to Trump through a summer of unrest over the police killings of Black Americans including Breonna Taylor in Kentucky and George Floyd in Minneapolis. Their deaths sparked the largest racial protest movement since the civil rights era. Biden responded by acknowledging the racism that pervades American life, while Trump emphasized his support of police and pivoted to a “law and order” message that resonated with his largely white base.
The president’s most ardent backers never wavered and may remain loyal to him and his supporters in Congress after Trump has departed the White House.
The third president to be impeached, though acquitted in the Senate, Trump will leave office having left an indelible imprint in a tenure defined by the shattering of White House norms and a day-to-day whirlwind of turnover, partisan divide and the ever-present threat via his Twitter account.
Biden, born in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and raised in Delaware, was one of the youngest candidates ever elected to the Senate. Before he took office, his wife and daughter were killed, and his two sons badly injured in a 1972 car crash.
Commuting every night on a train from Washington back to Wilmington, Biden fashioned an everyman political persona to go along with powerful Senate positions, including chairman of the Senate Judiciary and Foreign Relations Committees. Some aspects of his record drew critical scrutiny from fellow Democrats, including his support for the 1994 crime bill, his vote for the 2003 Iraq War and his management of the Clarence Thomas’ Supreme Court hearings.
Biden’s 1988 presidential campaign was done in by plagiarism allegations, and his next bid in 2008 ended quietly. But later that year, he was tapped to be Barack Obama’s running mate and he became an influential vice president, steering the administration’s outreach to both Capitol Hill and Iraq.
While his reputation was burnished by his time in office and his deep friendship with Obama, Biden stood aside for Clinton and opted not to run in 2016 after his adult son Beau died of brain cancer the year before.
Trump’s tenure pushed Biden to make one more run as he declared that “the very soul of the nation is at stake.”

Categories
2020 Election

Suspended animation: Count drags on as Biden nears victory

By JONATHAN LEMIRE, ZEKE MILLER, JILL COLVIN and WILL WEISSERT Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — Four days after the election, the U.S. presidential race hovered in suspended animation Saturday as the long, exacting work of counting votes brought Democrat Joe Biden ever closer to a victory over President Donald Trump.
The delay in producing a verdict can be attributed to high turnout, a massive number of mail-in ballots and slim margins between the candidates. Biden held leads in Pennsylvania, Nevada and Georgia, putting him in an ever-stronger position to capture the 270 Electoral College votes needed to take the White House.
There was intense focus on Pennsylvania, where Biden led Trump by more than 28,000 votes, and Nevada, where Biden was up by about 22,000. The prolonged wait added to the anxiety of a nation facing historic challenges, including the surging coronavirus pandemic and deep political polarization.
When Biden addressed the nation Friday night near his home in Wilmington, Delaware, he acknowledged the sluggish pace of the count “can be numbing.” But he added: “Never forget the tallies aren’t just numbers: They represent votes and voters.”
He expressed confidence that victory ultimately would be his. “The numbers tell us a clear and convincing story: We’re going to win this race,” the former vice president said.
Standing alongside running mate Kamala Harris, Biden wasn’t able to give the acceptance speech at that time that his aides had hoped. But he hit notes of unity, seemingly aimed at cooling the temperature of a heated, divided nation.
“We have to remember the purpose of our politics isn’t total unrelenting, unending warfare,” he said. “No, the purpose of our politics, the work of our nation, isn’t to fan the flames of conflict, but to solve problems, to guarantee justice, to give everybody a fair shot.”
Trump took to Twitter and remained out of sight as the results gradually expanded Biden’s lead in must-win Pennsylvania. On Saturday, Trump repeated baseless allegations of election fraud and illegal voting.
Trump’s campaign was mostly quiet. It was a dramatic difference from earlier in the week, when officials vocally projected confidence and held news conferences announcing litigation in key states. But his inner circle was touched once again by the coronavirus.
Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, contracted the virus, according to two senior White House officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss private matters. Several other members of the White House staff and Trump’s campaign team also tested positive.
Trump’s handling of the pandemic has been the defining issue of the campaign. The president, first lady Melania Trump and several other people in Trump’s orbit have fallen ill and recovered.
A few states remained in play in the race: Georgia and North Carolina were still too early to call, along with Pennsylvania and Nevada. In all four states the margins between Trump and Biden were too narrow and the number of ballots left to be counted too great for The Associated Press to declare a winner.
The uncertainty left Americans across the nation glued to their TVs and smartphones, checking for updates to a vote count that, for many, appeared to inch along.
The delays — and the reasons — varied from state to state. In Pennsylvania, officials were not allowed to begin processing mail-in ballots until Election Day under state law. In Nevada, there were a number of provisional ballots cast by voters who registered on Election Day, and officials had to verify their eligibility. Recounts could be triggered in both Pennsylvania and Georgia.
With his path to reelection appearing to greatly narrow, Trump was testing how far he could go in using the trappings of presidential power to undermine confidence in the vote.
Trump did claim that he won late on Election Night. He also tweeted that he had “such a big lead in all of these states late into election night, only to see the leads miraculously disappear as the days went by,” although it was well known that votes cast before Tuesday were still being legally counted.
Pro-Trump protesters — some openly carrying rifles and handguns — rallied outside vote-tabulation centers in a few cities Friday, responding to Trump’s groundless accusations that the Democrats were trying to “steal” the White House. Roughly 100 Trump supporters gathered for a third straight day in front of the elections center in Phoenix, where hundreds of workers were processing and counting ballots.
Maryland GOP Gov. Larry Hogan, a potential presidential hopeful who has often criticized Trump, said there was “no defense” for Trump comments “undermining our Democratic process. America is counting the votes, and we must respect the results as we always have before.”
But others who are rumored to be considering a White House run of their own in four years aligned themselves with the incumbent, including Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., who tweeted support for Trump’s claims, writing that “If last 24 hours have made anything clear, it’s that we need new election integrity laws NOW.”
Election officials in the battleground states of Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Nevada — both Republican and Democrat — have all said they saw no widespread voting irregularities or major instances of fraud or illegal activity.
Even Trump’s own administration has pushed back at the claims of widespread voter fraud and illegal voting, without mentioning that Trump was the one making the allegations. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, which oversees U.S. election security, also noted local election offices have detection measures that “make it highly difficult to commit fraud through counterfeit ballots.”
Trump’s campaign has engaged in a flurry of legal activity across the battleground states.
On Friday evening, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito approved a GOP request ordering county boards to comply with Pennsylvania state guidance to keep the late ballots separate from those received before or on Election Day. Alito, however, did not direct election officials to stop counting the ballots, as the Republicans had also sought.
But judges in Michigan, Georgia and Pennsylvania quickly swatted down other legal action. A federal judge who was asked to stop vote counts in Philadelphia instead forced the two sides to reach an agreement without an order over the number of observers allowed.
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Weissert reported from Wilmington, Delaware. Associated Press writers Colleen Long, Brian Slodysko and Alexandra Jaffe contributed to this report.