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Black candidates win mayoral races, could affect US politics

Published: Wednesday, November 08, 2017 @ 6:45 PM
Updated: Wednesday, November 08, 2017 @ 6:45 PM

DETROIT (AP) — When Wilmot Collins knocked on doors across Helena, Montana, residents wanted to know what he would do to address homelessness, affordable housing and other municipal issues.

"They didn't once ask me if you think a black person can win a race in this town," the Liberian immigrant told The Associated Press a day after his election.

Fifty years to the date after the nation's first black mayor was elected to lead a large American city, voters in more than a half-dozen large and small cities chose black candidates as mayors Tuesday. Most of the mayors are Democrats, but some of the races were nonpartisan. Political experts say the results could have national political consequences as the Democratic Party looks to build its bench with a more diverse pool of candidates and the mayors seize opportunities to bring about change at the local level in an era of gridlock in Washington under President Donald Trump.

Vi Lyles was elected mayor of Charlotte, North Carolina, becoming the first black woman to run North Carolina's largest city. City Councilman Melvin Carter was elected the first black mayor of St. Paul, Minnesota. Voters in Cleveland and in Flint, Michigan, re-elected black mayoral incumbents. The result in Ohio came 50 years after Carl Stokes made history in Cleveland in becoming the nation's first big-city black mayor.

Stephanie Mash Sykes, executive director of the nonpartisan African American Mayors Association, said there are about 30 black mayors of U.S. cities with more than 100,000 residents. The 2010 Census lists more than 200 cities and regional areas that size.

Those 30 black mayors include Randall Woodfin, who defeated black incumbent William Bell last month in Birmingham, Alabama. New Orleans will be on that list as two black women are in the runoff for mayor. Atlanta City Councilwomen Keisha Lance Bottoms, who's black, and Mary Norwood, who's white, are headed to a runoff for Atlanta mayor.

Not all black candidates found success. Tito Jackson, a black city councilor in Boston, was defeated Tuesday by incumbent Mayor Marty Walsh, who's white. And in Detroit, Coleman Young II, the son of the city's first black mayor, lost to incumbent Mayor Mike Duggan, who first was elected in 2013 as Detroit's first white mayor since 1973.

"We'll win some. We'll lose some," Sykes said, but "voters are looking for a leader that's effective in developing innovative solutions for jobs, access to affordable housing."

The victories could translate to national politics, according to Paul Watanabe, political science professor at the University of Massachusetts Boston.

"For most of these mayors from the Democrat party, they may provide an answer to the question: Is there any new leadership on the Democratic side?" Watanabe said. "Perhaps one might look to governors or to mayors, particularly, for candidates of color who might be new or fresh on the scene."

To some political observers, Tuesday's general elections also were a referendum on the divisive politics and policies emanating from Washington, where Republicans control the White House, the Senate and the House of Representatives.

Helena voters shut all that down, said Collins, a psychology instructor at Helena College who left West Africa as a refugee about two dozen years ago.

"The people of Helena told (Washington) that they are an accepting community," said Collins, who will become the city's first black mayor since the 1800s. "We want diversity."

Sykes, who didn't have a historical record showing if the number of black mayors was the most ever, said the candidates elected Tuesday have an opportunity to play a large-than-usual role in setting the agenda with Washington leaders struggling to get much done.

"We don't see much of anything to impact local communities, particularly communities of color," she said. "These mayors are the hopes and opportunities to create solutions on the ground."

Tuesday's elections also saw Ravi Bhalla, a Sikh, win the mayor's race in Hoboken, New Jersey.

In Flint, Karen Weaver fended off a recall effort and beat a number of challengers to complete the last two years of her term.

The recall focused on Weaver's decision to hire a trash hauler that became connected to a federal corruption investigation. It didn't refer to Flint's lead-tainted water crisis.

The city was under state control when it switched from Detroit's water system to the Flint River in 2014 to save money. But the river water wasn't properly treated, causing lead from pipes to leach into drinking water.

Weaver made the water problems a focus of her successful 2015 mayoral campaign and said she believes her win Tuesday gives a voice to an urban agenda.

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Former Trump campaign aide Rick Gates pleads guilty in Mueller investigation

Published: Friday, February 23, 2018 @ 2:39 PM
Updated: Friday, February 23, 2018 @ 2:53 PM

What You Need To Know: Rick Gates

Rick Gates, a former aide in President Donald Trump's campaign, pleaded guilty to making false statements and conspiring against the United States on Friday, making him the fifth person to enter a guilty plea in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

READ MORE: Paul Manafort, Rick Gates face new charges: report | Mueller investigation: Lawyer pleads guilty to lying to investigators in Russia probeWho is Rick Gates and why was he indicted by Robert Mueller?Who is Paul Manafort, the man indicted in Robert Mueller’s Russian investigation?What are Paul Manafort and Rick Gates charged with?MORE

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Mueller investigation: Lawyer pleads guilty to lying to investigators in Russia probe

Published: Tuesday, February 20, 2018 @ 3:26 PM
Updated: Tuesday, February 20, 2018 @ 3:26 PM

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An attorney pleaded guilty Tuesday to lying to the FBI in the agency's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and its possible ties to President Donald Trump's campaign.

The charges against lawyer Alex Van Der Zwaan are the latest in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation.

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House Oversight Committee launches probe into Rob Porter's employment

Published: Wednesday, February 14, 2018 @ 2:40 PM

Who is Rob Porter?

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is investigating the White House’s employment of staff secretary Rob Porter in the wake of allegations that he abused his two ex-wives, committee chairman Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-South Carolina, said Wednesday.

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Porter submitted his resignation Feb. 2.

Gowdy told CNN that the committee launched a probe Tuesday night into Porter’s employment and when White House officials knew about the domestic violence allegations levied against him.

Porter has denied any wrongdoing.

"We are directing inquiries to people that we think have access to information we don't have. You can call it official. You can call it unofficial,” Gowdy told CNN. “I'm going to direct questions to the FBI that I expect them to answer.”

Porter resigned Feb. 2 after his ex-wives went public with allegations of domestic abuse and said they spoke with federal authorities about the claims, prompting critics to question why he had remained employed in the Trump administration. The allegations held up a background check needed to grant Porter a security clearance for work in the White House. Officials said he was working on an interim security clearance.

The process to get Porter his clearance was ongoing at the time of his resignation.

“How do you have any job if you have credible allegations of domestic abuse?” Gowdy asked on CNN. “I am biased toward the victim.”

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Porter’s first wife, Colbie Holderness, and his second, Jennifer Willoughby, told the FBI about the alleged domestic violence in January 2017, after they were contacted while Porter was applying for his security clearance, according to The Washington Post.

White House officials defended Porter in the immediate aftermath of the allegations, and President Donald Trump has faced criticism for what critics called his lack of care for the victims and his focus on the fact that Porter has denied the claims.

“I was surprised by (the allegations), but we certainly wish him well, and it’s a tough time for him,” Trump told reporters in Washington on Friday. “He did a very good job when he was in the White House, and we hope he has a wonderful career. … It was very said when we heard about it, and certainly he’s also very sad now. He also, as you probably know, says he’s innocent, and I think you have to remember that.”

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks with White House Secretary Rob Porter (C) and Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) (R) as they return to the White House December 4, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chris Kleponis-Pool/Getty Images)(Pool/Getty Images)

Holderness told The Daily Mail that Porter was verbally abusive throughout their relationship, which started in 2000, but that things escalated after they were wed in June 2003. She said Porter kicked her during their honeymoon and during a 2005 vacation in Italy, punched her in the face.

Willoughby, who married Porter in November 2009 and separated from him in early 2010, told The Daily Mail that Porter was verbally abusive.

Willoughby obtained a protective order against Porter in June 2010 after she said he violated their separation agreement and refused to leave her apartment, according to court records obtained by The Daily Mail. In the complaint, Willoughby said Porter punched in a glass door while she was locked inside the apartment, but left after he heard she was on the phone with police.

She told the Mail that in December 2010, he dragged her out of a shower while she was naked in order to yell at her.

The couple was divorced in 2013.

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Veteran resident dies, receives patriotic farewell from nursing home

Published: Saturday, February 10, 2018 @ 12:20 PM

File image of the American flag.
Christopher Bruno, Freeimages
File image of the American flag.(Christopher Bruno, Freeimages)

A veterans nursing home in South Carolina honored a resident who died this week with a patriotic farewell that has gone viral.

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In a Facebook post, Laura Dorn thanked the Richard M. Campbell Veterans Nursing Home in Anderson for taking such good care of her father, Doug Timmons, who had Alzheimer's disease and was a resident of the facility for the last three years. Dorn wrote that her father died early Thursday morning and the staff took the time to honor him for his service as his body was removed from the facility. In a video that Dorn posted, Timmons' body, draped with an American flag, is wheeled out as staff line up and a musical tribute plays.

In a Facebook review of the nursing home, Dorn thanked the "caring, accommodating and selfless" staff who she said treated her father like family. Dorn wrote, "They treated my Dad with dignity and respect from the first moment there until he drew his last breath, then sent him off with a hero's procession."

The video has received more than 3 million views.

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