The Oct. 15 event at Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio, just outside Columbus, will include every candidate who qualified, instead of splitting the massive field over two nights as Democrats did in their first two debates earlier this year, when no more than 10 candidates appeared together.
Former Vice President Joe Biden and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, will be centerstage, reflecting their lead in polls, while lower-performing candidates were placed towards the wings.
Biden will have progressive rivals on both sides of him — Warren to his left and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. to his right, while Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana will be on Warren’s other side.
The next rung out will feature California Sen. Kamala Harris and entrepreneur Andrew Yang, followed by New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker and former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke.
Filling out the rest of the stage will be Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, billionaire Tom Steyer, Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and former Housing Secretary Julián Castro.
The only newcomer to the 2020 debates will be Steyer, who entered the race late but has already spent at least $17 million of his own money on TV and radio ads to catch up.
All 12 candidates met the Democratic National Committee’s qualifications for the CNN/New York Times debate, which included registering at least two percent in four qualifying polls and receiving donations from at least 130,000 online donors.
The bar to qualify for the November debate has been raised to 3 percent in four polls, as well as 165,000 donors.
Democratic voters have expressed frustration with the size of the largest presidential primary field in history and told pollsters they’re eager for the field to winnow.
Still, several candidates who failed to qualify for the October debate have said they are regardless staying in the race.
One of them, former Maryland Rep. John Delaney, saw four top aides — including his communications director and a senior adviser— depart the campaign this week.
“Love John and am rooting for him. But it was time for me to move along,” John Davis, a veteran Iowa operative who was Delaney’s campaign manager before transitioning to a senior adviser role, told NBC News.
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Black lawmakers in Virginia set to be key powerbrokers
RICHMOND, Va. — In Virginia, where the Confederacy once had its capital and where political power has historically eluded black people, African Americans have just won unprecedented levels of clout.
Black officials there give ironic credit for the change to President Donald Trump and the voter animosity he’s engendered.
“We love Trump, he’s our best ally,” joked state Sen. Lionell Spruill. “The more that crazy white man talks, the better it is for us.”
Since Trump took office, Virginia Democrats have won three straight election cycles and are set to control the legislature next year for the first time in more than two decades. The Democratic gains have been powered in large part by black voters.
At least nine new Democrats were elected to the Virginia House on Tuesday, and four of them are black.
Black lawmakers there say they plan use their newfound influence to make sweeping changes to many state laws and policies, including those related to housing, education and criminal justice.
African Americans have been historically underrepresented at a Capitol that’s produced a long list of racist laws dating back more than a century. They include the anti-school segregation movement known as Massive Resistance and a ban on interracial marriage drafted by a Nazi sympathizer.
No African Americans have been part of the Republican majorities that have governed the legislature in recent years. And long-serving African American Sen. Louise Lucas said she’s often had to fight with fellow Democrats to make sure black lawmakers’ priorities aren’t “afterthoughts.”
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“Now we will be taken seriously as opposed to many times in the past when we were not,” Lucas said.
Two black lawmakers are vying to become the first African-American House speaker in the state’s history and several more are preparing for potential statewide runs in 2021.
Del. Lashrecse Aird, 33, said she’s running for speaker because black women — often seen as “the dependable electorate” for Democrats in high office — should also have a role in leadership.
“It’s a brand new day,” she said.
Legislative committees in Virginia hold huge sway in deciding the fate of bills. No African American lawmaker has led a committee in years. In the House, there hasn’t been a black committee chairman since the late 1990s.
Del. Lamont Bagby, chairman of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus, said he’s hopeful that as many as half a dozen black lawmakers will lead committees next year.
“That is a real opportunity for us to have influence,” Bagby said.
Changes to state law and policy could include decriminalizing marijuana, making eviction laws friendlier to tenants and boosting spending for the state’s black colleges and universities, Bagby and other black lawmakers said.
The black caucus will likely find a willing ally in the Democratic governor.
In February, Gov. Ralph Northam faced intense pressure to resign after a racist picture surfaced from his 1984 medical school yearbook page. He denied being in the picture but admitted to wearing blackface as a young man while portraying Michael Jackson at a dance party in the 1980s.
Shortly afterward, two women accused Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax of sexual abuse, which he denies. And just days after Attorney General Mark Herring called for Northam to resign, he admitted to wearing blackface in college.
The black caucus took the lead in formulating Democrats’ response to the wave of scandals enveloping their top three statewide officials. That included calling on Northam and Fairfax to resign, but opposing a legislative hearing on Fairfax’s alleged misconduct.
Lucas, who was among the more outspoken lawmakers in calling for the governor to step down, said she’s since changed her mind and is glad he’s still in office.
She said the scandal has made a “changed man” of Northam, who has made addressing the state’s longtime racial inequalities his top priority of the rest of his term. At a cabinet meeting Wednesday that was open to reporters, much of the discussion focused on issues important to black lawmakers, like making it easier to vote, increasing minority-owned business participation in state government and lowering the African American maternal mortality rate.
“He’s working like a true champion to get things done,” Lucas said.
Supreme Court appears inclined to let Trump end DACA program
WASHINGTON — A bare majority of the U.S. Supreme Court appeared likely Tuesday to let the Trump administration follow through on its plan to shut down DACA, the federal program that has allowed nearly 800,000 young people, known as “dreamers,” to avoid deportation and remain in the U.S.
With hundreds of DACA supporters rallying outside — so many that police shut down the street in front of the Supreme Court — the justices heard nearly an hour and a half of oral arguments. Based on their questions, it appeared that the court’s five conservatives were inclined to rule that the Department of Homeland Security acted properly when it ordered the program ended in 2017 and that the federal courts cannot second-guess that decision.
While Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh appeared likely to say DACA was properly shut down, Chief Justice John Roberts did not seem to be as strongly convinced. Roberts may be the deciding vote, just as he was last term when the court blocked the Trump administration from adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census form. He concluded in that case that the government had not given an adequate explanation for its proposed action.
Lower court rulings have kept DACA going, allowing young people in the program to reapply every two years to remain under its protection. Children of undocumented immigrants can remain here if they were under 16 when their parents brought them to the U.S. and if they arrived by 2007.
Arguing for DACA’s defenders, lawyer Ted Olson said federal law requires the government to give a detailed explanation before taking an action that affects hundreds of thousands of people and the businesses that employ them.
It would be one thing, he said, “if they provided a rational explanation and took responsibility for their decision.” But instead, the Justice Department has simply said the program was illegal and therefore must be shut down.
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“We don’t know what the administration would do if it had to own its decision and take responsibility for throwing these young people out of work,” Olson said.
The court’s four liberal justices seemed to agree. When the government tried to end it, “they said it was illegal and said nothing about the policy,” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor said much more explanation was needed to justify the decision. “This is about a choice to destroy lives,” she said.
But the court’s conservatives suggested that the Trump administration’s decision to stop enforcing DACA is beyond the power of courts to review, as would be the case if a local prosecutor decided to stop enforcing laws against possessing small amounts of marijuana.
When Olson suggested ending DACA is different, because so many people are affected, Gorsuch said, “I can think of a large number of people who would be affected by a prosecutor’s exercise of discretion.”
Among those nervously watching is Claudia Quiñonez of Maryland, brought to the U.S. at age 11 by her mother, who overstayed a tourist visa.
“DACA truly changed my life,” she said. “I have a Social Security number. I have the ability to work, to contribute, and pay taxes.”
Figures show that over 90 percent of DACA participants have a job. Nearly half are in school. Many don’t speak the language or know the culture of their home countries.
The case has attracted the interest of more than 100 businesses and trade groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which have urged the Supreme Court to allow DADA to continue. Microsoft is one of the DACA defenders whose lawsuits led to court orders that kept the program going.
The company says more than 60 DACA recipients are among its employees. “These young people contribute to our company and serve our customers. They help create our products, secure our services and manage our finances.”
Apple CEO Tim Cook filed a separate friend of court brief in aid of DACA participants. “They, and immigrants like them, are vital to Apple’s success. They spark creativity and help drive innovation. They are among our most driven and selfless colleagues.”
A ruling in such a contentious case isn’t likely until the spring of 2020, assuring that DACA will figure in the presidential campaign.
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