Transgender woman sues over ‘false personation’ arrest

NEW YORK (AP) — A transgender woman is suing New York City and the police officers she says charged her with “false personation” after she provided them with both her previous and current names.
Linda Dominguez says in her lawsuit filed Tuesday that she was placed in pink handcuffs and mocked by the officers after she was arrested in April 2018 for walking through a Bronx park when it was closed for the night.
Dominguez says she gave the officers both her current name and the male first name she used before she legally changed her name to Linda. She says the false personation charge was “bogus.”
Criminal charges against Dominguez were dismissed in August.
A police spokeswoman says the department can’t comment on the lawsuit. She says the department is committed to serving the LGBTQ community with sensitivity.

White supremacist pleads guilty to sword killing

By JIM MUSTIAN, Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) — A white supremacist pleaded guilty Wednesday to killing a black man with a sword as part of an attack that authorities said was intended to incite a race war in the United States.
James Jackson admitted to fatally stabbing 66-year-old Timothy Caughman in March 2017 after stalking a number of black men in New York City.
Jackson, who is white, told police he traveled from Baltimore to carry out the attack because New York is the media capital of the world. He said the slaying had been practice for further assaults on black people.
Jackson, 30, faces life in prison when he is sentenced Feb. 13 after pleading guilty to six counts, including murder and a hate crime charge.
He spoke in a calm and collected manner as Judge Laura Ward questioned him in Manhattan criminal court, saying “that’s true” when asked whether he was armed with a sword and two knives when he began hunting black people on the streets of Midtown.
The plea came several weeks after Ward ruled that jurors would hear Jackson’s detailed confession if the case had gone to trial. Jackson’s attorneys said he pleaded guilty against their advice, aware he would face a mandatory life sentence.
Caughman, who was remembered as a gentleman and a good neighbor, was alone and collecting bottles for recycling when he was attacked from behind with a sword. He staggered, bleeding, into a police station and died at a hospital.
“This was more than a murder case,” Cyrus Vance, the Manhattan district attorney, said outside the courtroom. “This was a case of terrorism, just as any Islamic jihadist who has come to New York City and sought to kill New Yorkers in an effort to interrupt and destabilize our way of life.”
Jackson is from Baltimore and a veteran who served in Afghanistan. Family friends said previously that the allegations were out of line with how he was raised, in a tolerant and liberal middle-class family.
In a 2017 jailhouse interview with the Daily News, Jackson said he intended the stabbing as “a practice run” in a mission to deter interracial relationships.
He said he would rather have killed “a young thug” or “a successful older black man with blondes … people you see in Midtown. These younger guys that put white girls on the wrong path.”

Alec Baldwin taking anger class in parking dispute plea deal

By MICHAEL R. SISAK, Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) — Days after appearing as President Donald Trump in a “Deal or No Deal” parody on “Saturday Night Live,” Alec Baldwin took a deal of his own Wednesday, agreeing to attend an anger management class to resolve a criminal case stemming from a skirmish over a parking spot.
Baldwin, who was accused of striking another driver in the face during the dispute last fall outside his New York City home, pleaded guilty to harassment and will have his case record sealed once he completes the one-day class. The charge is a violation, the lowest level of offense.
A misdemeanor attempted assault charge was dropped.
Prosecutors offered the compromise after reviewing video of the incident, looking at medical records and talking with the victim and witnesses, Assistant District Attorney Ryan Lipes said. The 60-year-old Baldwin, who’s had various scrapes with the law over the years, has a clean criminal record, Lipes said.
Baldwin — in a sport coat, black top and black framed glasses — only spoke a few words during the brief court hearing, mostly answering short questions from the judge.
The Manhattan prosecutor’s office declined comment.
Baldwin and his lawyer didn’t comment outside court, but the actor wasn’t shy on Twitter, where he criticized the media for staking out his courtroom when there were more serious cases elsewhere in the building and for misreporting the allegations against him.
“The press reported that I punched someone. That is untrue, and that is a serious charge. A man was punched in NY recently and died,” Baldwin tweeted, along with a link to a news article about a fatal bar fight in Queens last November.
“Nothing that resembles justice ever enters or leaves any courtroom in this country,” he added.
Baldwin was accused of trying to punch another driver during a Nov. 2 argument over a parking spot in front of his Manhattan apartment building.
Police said Baldwin claimed he had a family member holding the spot for him as he attempted to park his black Cadillac Escalade when a man driving a black Saab station wagon pulled up and took it.
Police said the men were arguing and pushed each other before Baldwin, got more aggressive. The driver of the station wagon told police that Baldwin hit him with his hand — but wasn’t sure if it was a punch or a slap.
Baldwin told a police officer that the other driver “stole my spot,” used a vulgarity to describe him, and acknowledged pushing him, prosecutors said in court papers.
Baldwin’s lawyer, Alan Abramson, maintained that the former “30 Rock” actor would be vindicated by “incontrovertible video evidence.”
Baldwin said on Twitter after Wednesday’s hearing that there were three security cameras outside his building and that the punch “didn’t happen.”
No video was shown in court.
Baldwin, who got booted off a flight in 2011 for refusing to put his cellphone away, was playing with his phone while waiting for Wednesday’s hearing to start — but he didn’t argue when court officers announced that phones had to be turned off and out of sight.
As it was, the second-floor courtroom was already noisy — with the beeping sound of inmate-transport buses backing up outside, providing a constant, if not annoying, soundtrack for his appearance.
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Follow Sisak at twitter.com/mikesisak

Environmental conservation kicks off state budget hearings

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — A top Cuomo administration official says New York state’s environment is being threatened by Donald Trump’s policies.
Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos testified during a state budget hearing Wednesday in Albany that the Republican president’s roll backs of environmental rules are an “unprecedented assault on the environment.”
Seggos was the opening witness for the first of 13 public hearings scheduled by the Assembly and Senate on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s state budget proposal for the next fiscal year.
The third-term Democrat last week released a $175 billion spending plan for the fiscal year that begins April 1.
Among Cuomo’s environmental conservation proposals: banning plastic bags given to store customers and expanding the state’s bottle bill to include sports drinks and other containers currently not required to have a 5-cent deposit.

Witness: El Chapo’s wife was in on plans for prison escape

NEW YORK (AP) — A witness at the U.S. trial of the Mexican drug lord known as El Chapo has implicated the kingpin’s wife in his 2015 prison escape.
Damaso Lopez Nunez told the jury Emma Coronel Aispuro was in on the plan that resulted in Joaquin Guzman escaping through a mile-long (1.6 kilometer-long) tunnel dug to the shower in his cell.
Lopez testified Wednesday that the spouse of Joaquin Guzman helped him trade messages with his sons before the infamous breakout. Aispuro was in the courtroom, but had no immediate reaction.
Guzman was recaptured in 2016 and sent to the U.S. to face drug trafficking charges that his lawyers say are being fabricated by cooperators like Lopez.

Frigid air, high winds sweep the Northeast; at least 7 dead

By HOLLY RAMER, Associated Press
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Falling temperatures replaced the weekend’s falling snow Monday as bitter cold and gusty winds swept across the eastern United States.
The National Weather Service had forecast that temperatures would be more than 20 degrees below normal across the Northeast, with wind gusts up to 30 mph (48 kph) and wind chills approaching minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 40 degrees Celsius) in northern New York and Vermont.
Those wind gusts caused flight disruptions at LaGuardia Airport in New York City on Monday and FlightAware reported hundreds of delayed flights. And after a few weather-related delays Sunday, Amtrak restored all scheduled service Monday.
Atop the Northeast’s highest mountain, the temperature fell to minus 23 degrees (minus 31 Celsius) Monday morning and dropped to minus 31 (minus 35 Celsius) later in the afternoon, according to the Facebook page for Mount Washington Observatory, in New Hampshire. Wind chills were hovering around minus 80 (minus 62 Celsius).
In New York, Coast Guard crews moved quickly to rescue a 21-year-old man left stranded on an island in the Navensink River after his small boat broke down. The Coast Guard said two members waded through 34-degree (1 Celsius) water to bring the man to safety. The air temperature was 7 degrees (minus 14 Celsius) with 30 mph wind.
The weather contributed to multiple deaths over the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend.
In suburban Chicago, the temperature was about 14 degrees (minus 10 Celsius) Sunday when a 12-year-old girl died after a snow fort collapsed on her. Police in Arlington Heights, Illinois, said Esther Jung had been playing with another girl outside Rothem Church. Their families began looking for them about an hour later and found them under the snow. The younger girl survived.
In Connecticut, a utility company subcontractor died Sunday after being struck by a falling tree while working on a power line in Middletown. Thousands of homes and businesses in Connecticut remained without power Monday afternoon as temperatures dropped below zero in some locations.
“This is a reminder of the danger these men and women face on our behalf,” Gov. Ned Lamont said in a tweet. “While many are still out there working today, please join me in acknowledging them and sending our thoughts to this person’s family.”
In Kansas, a snowplow driver was killed when the plow drove onto the shoulder of a road and rolled over, throwing him under the vehicle. It wasn’t clear why the driver had moved to the shoulder from the roadway.
At least four people have died after shoveling snow.
In Wisconsin, the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s Office said a 59-year-old man and a 91-year-old man collapsed and died Sunday in separate incidents after removing snow. In upstate New York, 70-year-old Frank Demasi died Monday after collapsing with a heart attack while shoveling snow. And in southwest Michigan, a man in charge of transportation at a school district also died while shoveling snow. Portage district officials said Mike Westbrook died Saturday from a heart attack.
Another storm system is already developing over the Rockies that could blanket the same region with more snow by the end of the week.
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This story has been corrected to show the Connecticut town is Middletown, not Middleton.

King events draw potential Democratic presidential hopefuls

By ELANA SCHOR and MEG KINNARD, Associated Press
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — As Americans commemorated Martin Luther King Jr., Democratic presidential hopefuls fanned out across the country to honor the civil rights leader and make themselves heard on the national stage.
Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., used the holiday to launch a presidential campaign that, if successful, would make her the first woman and the second black candidate to become president. Former Vice President Joe Biden accepted responsibility for his part in the passage of 1980s legislation that toughened sentences for crack cocaine possession, “a big mistake” because of its damage to the black community.
In a fiery speech in Harlem, New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand lashed out at President Donald Trump for inspiring “hate and darkness.” South Carolina, a critical early-voting state in the Democratic primary, hosted two senators expected to seek the White House in 2020: Cory Booker of New Jersey and Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
Billionaire businessman Michael Bloomberg assailed gun violence in remarks at a Washington breakfast celebrating King’s life. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren denounced what she called the systematic suppression of black voters.
While the Democratic field for 2020 is only beginning to take shape, the year that would have marked King’s 90th birthday gives the party’s prominent members a valuable opportunity to address race and draw a contrast between their own views and those of Trump, whose approach to questions of racial justice has sparked criticism from multiple minority groups since he took office.
What Democratic contenders, both those officially in the race and those still mulling campaigns, said Monday while celebrating the King holiday:
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JOE BIDEN
Biden atoned for his role in the passage of a crime bill that imposed stiffer sentences on those convicted of crack cocaine possession — a law that has disproportionately affected the black community.
Biden said he hasn’t “always gotten things right,” but has “always tried.” He also spoke about his support for efforts by former President Barack Obama’s administration to reduce crack possession sentences.
Biden was the head of the Senate’s Judiciary Committee when the 1994 crime bill — which is now criticized as having helped create an era of mass incarceration — was passed and signed into law.
“It was a big mistake that was made,” he said. He added: “It’s trapped an entire generation.”
Biden says the crack sentencing guidelines are one example of broader racial injustice in America.
“White America has to admit there’s still a systematic racism,” he said. “And it goes almost unnoticed by so many of us.”
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MICHAEL BLOOMBERG
Bloomberg said far too many U.S. politicians don’t “seem to give a damn” about the victims of gun violence.
Speaking at the same event as Biden, he said many politicians care more about “getting re-elected than saving lives.” He spoke of his own efforts to reduce gun violence, including spending millions of his own fortune to support gun control initiatives.
His speech focused on policies he championed while New York City’s mayor, such as his efforts to improve schools and reduce neighborhood pollution. And he highlighted how he apologized to the fiancee of Sean Bell, a black man who was shot to death by New York police in 2006. At the time Bloomberg was critical of officers who he said used excessive force.
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ELIZABETH WARREN
In Boston, Warren called for a constitutional amendment guaranteeing a right to vote for every American.
Warren made the comment after saying “people of color have been systematically denied the most basic of human rights: the right to vote.”
“It would guarantee the right to vote to every American citizen and make sure that that vote is counted. Right now there is no constitutional right,” Warren said. “It would help protect and give us grounds for pushing back when localities undercut the right of people to vote.”
Warren said King’s fight was not just about civil rights, but also about economic rights. She said the road to prosperity is steep and rocky for millions of working people, but is “steeper and rockier for black and brown Americans.”
Warren also criticized the president for the partial government shutdown and responded to Trump’s offer to Democrats on Saturday to open the government.
“If the president wants to negotiate over immigration reform I’m all for it,” she said after the speech. “But open the government and open it now.”
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KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND
Gillibrand addressed hundreds of African-Americans at a Martin Luther King Jr. celebration hosted by civil rights activist Al Sharpton.
“We have to have an honest conversation about systemic, institutional and daily individual acts of racism in our country that hold people and families back for generations,” Gillibrand said, citing ongoing disparities for black Americans related to heath care, criminal justice and the economy.
She continued: “White women like me must bear part of this burden and commit to amplifying your voices. We have to join you on the battlefield for justice … If I really care about your family as much as my own, it really is my fight.”
Gillibrand also condemned Trump at length. The president, she said, “has inspired a hate and darkness” that’s tearing the country apart along racial and religious lines.
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BERNIE SANDERS
Speaking in South Carolina, Sanders cited King’s “courage” in opposing U.S. military involvement in Vietnam as well as in fighting to end racial inequity.
“Racial equality must be central to combatting economic inequality, if we are going to create a government that works for all of us, and not just the 1 percent,” Sanders said.
Sanders lost South Carolina’s 2016 Democratic primary to Hillary Clinton by more than 40 percentage points. His events in the state signaled that he plans to redouble efforts in South Carolina should he launch a second White House run.
Sanders also spoke of King’s efforts to help workers organize and “change the national priorities,” leaning into what sounded like a campaign message-in-waiting. Among the specific proposals he cited were a federal jobs guarantee, free tuition at public colleges and universities, and universal access to child care.
He also attacked the president, calling him “a racist” and saying he has purposely tried “to divide us up by the color of our skin, by our gender, by the country we came from, by our religion.”
Sanders avoided answering definitively Monday when asked if he would formally enter the 2020 race. Sanders, one of two independents in the Senate, said he’s still “assessing” his plans and that several already-declared candidates are “friends of mine.”
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CORY BOOKER
Booker implored those gathered at South Carolina’s Statehouse to channel their dissatisfaction with the country’s direction into action.
Recalling King’s words on needing to work toward change rather than waiting for it, Booker urged those in the crowd to build on their ancestors’ successes and struggles.
“We are dissatisfied that we live in a society that’s being seduced by celebrity and forgets that substance is more important than celebrity,” Booker said.
Booker and Sanders participated in a morning prayer service before leading a march to the Statehouse.
“We don’t just celebrate King’s holiday,” said Booker, who is African-American. “We recommit ourselves to be agents of change.”
Booker applauded Trump’s decision to visit the King memorial in Washington. “May everyone study his work,” Booker said of King. “This is not a day to criticize other Americans.”
Trump and Vice President Mike Pence laid a wreath at the memorial and held a moment of silence in a brief visit.
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KAMALA HARRIS
Harris, a first-term senator and former California attorney general known for her rigorous questioning of Trump’s nominees, opened the holiday by declaring her bid on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
“I love my country,” she said when asked what qualifies her for the presidency. “And this is a moment in time that I feel a sense of responsibility to stand up and fight for the best of who we are.”
Harris grew up in Oakland, California, a daughter of parents from Jamaica and India who were active in the civil rights movement.
King, she said, “was aspirational, like our country is aspirational. We know that we’ve not yet reached those ideals, but our strength is that we fight to reach those ideals.”
Harris also cited her years as a prosecutor in asserting: “My entire career has been focused on keeping people safe. It is probably one of the things that motivates me more than anything else.”
The senator plans a formal campaign launch in Oakland in a week.
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JAY INSLEE
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, who attended a King event last week at a Seattle church, was scheduled to appear in overwhelmingly white New Hampshire to address a private fundraiser for the League of Conservation Voters but was delayed. The event aligns with his intention to put climate change at the center of a presidential campaign if he runs.
The juxtaposition highlights the challenges involved in building the diverse coalition necessary to win Democrats’ nomination.
Highly diverse South Carolina and Nevada are getting heavy early attention, but the process still starts with Iowa, which is 91 percent white, and New Hampshire, which is 94 percent white. That all adds up to a balancing act: No one can emerge from a crowded Democratic field without winning a considerable number of non-white voters; but candidates, particularly those who are lesser known, must show some strength in Iowa and New Hampshire or risk not even being around by the time the nominating calendar turns to more diverse states.
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Associated Press reporters Brian Slodysko and Juana Summers in Washington, Steve Peoples in New York, and Steve LeBlanc in Boston contributed to this report.

Bitter cold prompts NY school closings

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — Bitter cold temperatures compounded by sub-zero wind chills have caused school closings and delays around western New York.
According to WKBW , AAA for western and central New York says service calls tripled on Monday.
Although the temperature was inching upward on Tuesday, AAA was still reminding drivers to keep a full tank of gas and fully charged phone, and to check their tires.

Airbnb critics say blocked law would save housing NYC units

NEW YORK (AP) — A new report from critics of Airbnb and other home-sharing platforms claims New York City could lose nearly 11,000 housing units if new regulations on the companies don’t go forward.
A federal judge this month blocked a New York City law that would have subjected Airbnb and HomeAway to reveal detailed information about their business. The ruling comes as the companies challenge the new law in court.
The groups New York Communities for Change and Tenants PAC issued a report on Tuesday that analyzed government and rental data. It found that without the law, 10,800 units could be diverted for use as short-term rentals.
The groups maintain that home-sharing platforms drive up rental prices by reducing available residential units.
San Francisco-based Airbnb hailed the judge’s decision as a huge win.

Democrats lurch left on top policies as 2020 primary begins

By STEVE PEOPLES, Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) — Democratic presidential contender Julian Castro launched his campaign by pledging support for “Medicare for All,” free universal preschool, a large public investment in renewable energy and two years of free college for all Americans.
That wasn’t enough for some of his party’s most liberal members.
Critics on social media quickly knocked Castro’s plan to provide only two years of free higher education — instead of four — as “half measures,” ”scraps” and “corporate Dem doublespeak.” Aware of the backlash, the former Obama administration Cabinet member clarified his position in an interview days later.
“At least the first two years of college or university or apprenticeship program should be tuition free — and preferably four years,” Castro told The Associated Press. “We’re going to work toward that.”
Welcome to the 2020 presidential primary. Almost no policy is too liberal for Democrats fighting to win over their party’s base, which is demanding a presidential nominee dedicated to pursuing bold action on America’s most pressing challenges.
Among two dozen possible candidates, virtually all have embraced universal health care in one form or another. Some have rallied behind free college, job guarantee programs, a $15 minimum hourly wage and abolishing — or at least reconstituting — the federal agency that enforces immigration laws. While few have outlined detailed proposals to fund their priorities, most would generate new revenue by taxing the rich.
The leftward lurch on top policies carries risks.
President Donald Trump and his Republican allies are betting that voters will ultimately reject the Democratic proposals as extreme. Some GOP leaders cast lesser plans as socialism during the Obama era.
Republican critics are joined by a handful of moderate Democrats, who fear that promises by well-intentioned presidential prospects may create unrealistic expectations with their party’s most passionate voters.
Billionaire businessman Michael Bloomberg, a former Republican mayor of New York now considering a Democratic presidential bid, recently opined that primary voters might be receptive to a more moderate approach.
“Most Democrats want a middle-of-the-road strategy,” Bloomberg said on ABC’s “The View.” He added: “If you go off on trying to push for something that has no chance of getting done, that we couldn’t possibly pay for, that just takes away from where you can really make progress in helping people that need help today.”
So far, at least, very few presidential prospects are heeding such warnings.
In the 2016 campaign, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist, was the only presidential contender to support “Medicare for All,” a proposal that would essentially provide free health care coverage to all Americans. This year, it’s hard to find anyone in opposition.
That’s even after one recent study predicted the plan would cost taxpayers more than $32 trillion. Proponents argue that those same taxpayers would save the trillions they currently spend out-of-pocket for their health care.
Lesser-known policies have emerged heading into 2020 as well.
New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, who is expected to launch his presidential campaign soon, has sponsored legislation to create a federal jobs guarantee program in several communities across America. The pilot program, which is co-sponsored by fellow 2020ers like New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, California Sen. Kamala Harris and Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley, could ultimately transform the U.S. labor market by providing well-paid government employment with benefits for anyone who wants it.
Critics decry the plan as a step toward socialism.
“Big challenges demand big solutions,” Booker told the AP. “Both Martin Luther King Jr. and President Franklin Roosevelt believed that every American had the right to a job, and that right has only become more important in this age of increasing income inequality, labor market concentration and continued employment discrimination.”
Billionaire activist Tom Steyer supports much of the liberal movement’s new priorities — including Trump’s impeachment — but says the federal jobs guarantee “doesn’t make sense” given the nation’s low employment rate.
“I want the private sector to produce jobs people can live on,” he said in an interview. “A guarantee of government jobs doesn’t make sense.”
Yet Steyer insists that most of his party’s policy priorities — universal health care and free college, among them — are anything but radical.
“The Republicans are an extremist far-right, radical party. When you say we need to moderate to their position, there’s nothing moderate or pragmatic about their position,” said Steyer, who recently backed away from a presidential run, although he’s expected to spend tens of millions of dollars to shape the 2020 debate.
Free college is quickly emerging as a litmus test for Democratic contenders.
Those already on the record backing free tuition at public colleges and universities include former Vice President Joe Biden, Sanders, Gillibrand, Harris and Warren. Estimates vary for the cost to state and local taxpayers, although Sanders acknowledged it could be $70 billion annually.
Warren seemed to back away from her support for free college during an appearance in Iowa earlier in the month, however. In 2017, she co-sponsored the “College For All Act,” which would have made tuition free at public universities.
Asked in a radio interview whether she supports reducing the cost of college or offering it free, Warren responded: “No, I think this is about reducing the cost.”
It’s unlikely the Democratic Party’s energized base would tolerate any significant shifts to the center on free college — or any of the party’s top issues.
Such populist appeals helped fuel sweeping Democratic victories in last fall’s midterm elections, while producing a new generation of unapologetic Democratic leaders such as New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who is aligned with the democratic socialist movement. And polls repeatedly suggest that voters support proposals for universal health care, free college and free preschool.
“We have seen a dramatic shift in the Democratic Party’s center of gravity,” said Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee.
To win the next presidential election, the Democratic nominee must embrace “big ideas,” he continued. “Those who deny that are hurting their chances in 2020.”
Meanwhile, Castro, like others in the early 2020 field, says he’s fully committed to a “bold vision” to address the nation’s top policy challenges.
“All Democrats recognize that this is not going to be easy, that to get Medicare for all, for instance, it’s not guaranteed, it’s not going to be easy, it may require along the way there are some compromises,” he said. “But I’m convinced that it’s worth it to go forward.”