Kentucky grocery shootings were 'possible hate crime'

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The fatal shootings of two African-Americans at a grocery store near Louisville, Kentucky are being investigated as a possible federal hate crime, US officials say.

Gregory Bush, 51, has been charged with two counts of murder and 10 of wanton endangerment over Wednesday's incident.

Police say he opened fire on both victims at a Kroger grocery store on the outskirts of Jeffersontown city.

Officials say he also tried to enter a black church shortly before.

Police Chief Sam Rogers said it was too early to confirm if the shooting was racially motivated - but confirmed reports Mr Bush was seen on security cameras attempting to enter the Jeffersontown First Baptist Church about 10-15 minutes before the shooting at the Kroger store.

The church has a large African-American membership,

The two victims of the shooting have been named as 69-year-old Maurice Stallard and Vickie Lee Jones, 67.

Mr Stallard was shot multiple times inside the Kroger shop, which he had been visiting with his 12-year-old grandson.

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A witness told a local Fox affiliate he had shielded the child, who was uninjured in the shooting, after he ran away shouting for help after witnessing the attack.

Ms Jones was then gunned down in the car park outside the supermarket.

One witness, Ed Harrell, exchanged gunfire with the suspect outside, but he fled and was apprehended by officers minutes later.

Mr Harrell told the local Courier Journal newspaper he confronted the gunman outside, who told him: "Don't shoot me. I won't shoot you. Whites don't shoot whites."

Police have not confirmed the statement, but the FBI confirmed it is investigating the shooting alongside local authorities.

Grab showing the Kroger strore where shooting happenedImage copyrightGOOGLE STREET VIEW
Image captionThe shooting happened on Wednesday, at a supermarket surrounded by other businesses

US District Attorney Russell Coleman in Louisville said Friday that they were looking into potential violations of federal law "which includes potential civil rights violations such as hate crimes."

In his statement, he said the shootings "are not being taken lightly by the United States government."

Bush has a criminal record of violent behaviour and a recorded history of mental illness, local media say.

He had previously been temporarily banned from possessing firearms by a judge, the Associated Press reports.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said he was "sick and heartbroken and quite angry" over the attack.

"We are one city - one proudly diverse and welcoming city - and we have one shared future," he told a news conference on Thursday.

"Our city and our future have no room for anyone who looks at their fellow human beings with hate or discrimination," he added.



GOP pollster: Republicans may hold on to the House in midterms

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GOP pollster John McLaughlin said Sunday that Republicans may be able to fend off Democrats' efforts to take back control of the House in November's midterm elections. 

Speaking on AM 970's "The Answer" in New York, McLaughlin told host John Catsimatidis that the key to a Republican victory next month is retaining enthusiasm felt by GOP-leaning voters following the successful confirmation of President Trump's second Supreme Court nomination, Brett Kavanaugh.

"You’re seeing Republicans in the areas where Trump did well go up in the polls because the Trump voters are reengaged," McLaughlin said.

"If, over the next three weeks, they keep those Trump voters engaged, [then] we have a shot at holding the House, but we’ll definitely pick up some U.S. Senate seats," the pollster continued.

McLaughlin, who served as Trump's top pollster during his 2016 campaign against Hillary Clinton, asserted that Republicans should take a page from Trump's book and go on the offense.

"The Republicans, they need to play offense," McLaughlin said, adding that the party's target should be House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who has battled opposition from within her own party in recent months.

"The person who is the most unpopular national figure is Nancy Pelosi. And the Democrats are hiding her," McLaughlin continued. "The president needs to take her on and expose her because she stands for higher taxes, open borders, fewer jobs. She stands for basically a weaker America."

Democrats are battling for a net gain of 23 seats in the House to retake the lower chamber next month. Republicans hold the advantage in the Senate, where Democrats are seeking to close a two-seat gap.

Republicans trailed Democrats by 13 points on a generic congressional ballot among likely voters in a CNN poll released this week. FiveThirtyEight's election forecast currently gives Democrats a 79 percent chance of winning control of the House next month.



History-making runs turn black governor nominees into stars

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illum, Abrams, Jealous

It was a raucous scene that could have been backstage at a rock concert: camera flashes, fans clamoring for autographs, scowling bodyguards, reporters hungry for a scoop. But the center of this attention wasn't Beyonce or the Rolling Stones. It was three black gubernatorial candidates who stood side by side in a throng of admirers, soaking up all that love.

If elected, Stacey Abrams of Georgia, Ben Jealous of Maryland and Andrew Gillum of Florida would give America its largest number of black governors ever. That historic possibility was not lost on them, or the black voters who hope to make that history happen, as they shared the stage at the Congressional Black Caucus' annual legislative conference this week.

"This moment, and the significance of it, won't seep in for some time from now," said Gillum, mayor of Tallahassee, and at 39 the youngest of the three.

"What this signals is not only the continued evolution of our country but the increasing recognition of diversity, not only of capacity but of backgrounds," said Abrams, 44, later.

Abrams, who could become the nation's first black female governor, is getting the most national attention. But all three were squired around the Washington Convention Center by black politicos who are strategizing ways to help on turnout, campaigning and fundraising.

Jealous, 45, faces the steepest challenge, down in polls against incumbent Republican Gov. Larry Hogan. Abrams and Gillum are running for open seats.

After the three spoke together on stage, Jealous listened attentively backstage as Democratic U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas laid out plans to help him with voter turnout and fundraising. Gillum, meanwhile, stood nearby shaking hands with other state elected officials and Abrams conducted a media interview.

"I believe what we see in this current electoral cycle is not going to stop," Abrams said. "We have more diversity in the candidates running and in the candidates winning and particularly for women of color. ... I'm proud to be part of a national trend and I think it's a trend that's becoming a permanent one for America."

None of them were heavy favorites in their primaries. Abrams is a longtime state official and former state House leader; Gillum has been a fixture of local Tallahassee politics since his college days; and Jealous is a former head of the NAACP and was a venture capitalist and activist before entering the governor's race last year.

Their historic primary wins — and the national attention it brought — will bring out Democratic voters who might not have voted in a midterm election otherwise, they said. Midterm elections typically draw fewer than half of those eligible to vote.

"I know we have people keep wanting to hedge on these races: 'Oh, you can win in the primary, but what happens in the general?'" Gillum said. "I honestly believe for all three of us, we are the best, and frankly, the most likely of the whole lot we were in to bring the kind of energy necessary in order to win states like ours."

The political trio seem comfortable together and readily quote one another in interviews. They also tease one another, as they did when they turned Abrams' observations about overcoming gender and racial barriers into jokes about their respective skin tones.

"I'm of a very rich brown hue," Abrams said.

"I'm richer," Gillum interrupted. "It's the only thing I'm rich in."

Jealous, who is biracial, smiled, then quipped: "No comment."

The three of them have known one another for many years, Jealous said. He met Abrams when they were both around 20 years old, he said, and they've known Gillum since he was about that same age.

"It's a special joy when you look to your left and look to your right and the people you see are the people you know and the people you trust," Jealous said.

P.B.S. Pinchback of Louisiana was the nation's first black governor during Reconstruction, serving from 1872 to 1873. The next would not come until 1990, when Douglas Wilder would be elected in Virginia. Deval Patrick was elected in 2007 and David Paterson served as New York governor from 2008 to 2010.

There has never been a black female governor in American history.

"What's more important to me is that I'm opening the doors for others who may not have seen themselves in positions of power and leadership, and I can speak for communities that are unseen and unheard," Abrams said.

All of them recognize the change their campaigns represent and what could be a unique place in history if they are all successful.

"It is a wonderful season we are in," said Bernice King, a daughter of Martin Luther King Jr., at a later event honoring black female lawmakers. "I'm excited about the midterm elections, and I know that regardless of what the outcome is that God still has his hands on us."



Andrew Gillum Becomes First African-American Nominee For Florida Governor

Andrew Gillum addresses the audience at the Netroots Nation annual conference for political progressives in Atlanta on Aug. 1

The election for the top job in the third-largest state will be a referendum on President Donald Trump, who considers himself a part-time resident of Florida.

Andrew Gillum has become the first African-American nominee for Florida governor, pulling off an upset win over favorite Gwen Grahamand two big-spending businessmen in a crowded Democratic primary field.

The Tallahassee mayor will face Jacksonville congressman Ron DeSantis, who easily defeated state agriculture commissioner Adam Putnam thanks to the backing of President Donald Trump.

“We’re going to bring this thing home,” Gillum told his election night gathering in Tallahassee. “As the mayor of Florida’s capital city, I humbly accept the Democratic nomination.”

Gillum never led in any public polling, but was showing signs of gaining momentum in the final weeks. He benefited from being chosen by the progressive wing of the party’s most generous benefactors ― including billionaires Tom Steyer and George Soros ― as well as from a barrage of negative ads against Graham by billionaire Jeff Greene.

Greene wound up finishing fourth in the five-way pack, but he spent $10 million on ads attacking Graham ― more than she spent on television on her own behalf. Liberal outside groups, meanwhile, coalesced around Gillum and served as his turnout operation, particularly in urban areas with large concentrations of younger and minority voters.

Gillum, 39, had difficulty raising money for his campaign after the revelation that the FBI was investigating Tallahassee city government. He says he heard he is not a target of the probe, but one of his closest friends and a former political ally has been the subject of federal subpoenas examining a restaurant he developed in part using city money.

Gillum wound up raising the least money of the five candidates ― $8.4 million between his campaign and a political committee under his control. In contrast, Greene raised $43 million, $40 million from himself. And Miami Beach Mayor Phil Levine, who started airing TV ads 10 months ago and led the race for several months, raised a total of $41 million, of which $29.5 million was his own cash.

But throughout the race, Gillum’s embrace of progressive ideals such as Medicare for all and his engaging public speaking style made him a favorite of the party’s most liberal activists. In the final weeks, he was endorsed by Vermont senator and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, who campaigned with Gillum in the closing days of the race.

Gillum cut his teeth on political activism as a student government leader at Florida A&M University just a few blocks from Florida’s Capitol, where he led protests against Gov. Jeb Bush’s plan to revamp the state’s affirmative action programs. He went to work for People for the American Way before running for a seat on the Tallahassee City Commission in 2003. He became the city’s mayor in 2014.

The Florida gubernatorial race will now become a referendum on Trump’s presidency, with Gillum painting DeSantis as a Trump clone and DeSantis hoping to bring out as many Trump voters as he can in November.

Trump has spent winter weekends and holidays at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach for years and considers himself a part-time resident of the state. It is unclear how frequently, if at all, he will campaign for DeSantis in the two months leading up to the Nov. 6 general election. Whether Republicans retain control of Congress could determine the survival of the Trump presidency, and his political advisers may choose to focus his time on House and Senate seats.

Trump campaigned with DeSantis only once during the primary, at a rally in Tampa in July, and sent out a handful of supportive statements on Twitter, including the message “VOTE FOR RON” in all capitals late Monday. But in a GOP primary electorate bearing little resemblance to the one that supported former Gov. Jeb Bush and former U.S. Sen. Connie Mack, Trump’s seal of approval allowed DeSantis to overcome enormous disadvantages in cash and traditional support.

The state Republican establishment was solidly behind Putnam even before he announced his candidacy. From a cattle ranching and citrus family in the heart of the state, Putnam had been grooming himself for this run from the time he graduated college. He won a state legislative seat at age 22, then moved to Congress four years later, returning to Florida in 2010 to run for state agriculture commissioner.

He served two terms, coinciding with Rick Scott’s years as governor, and had appeared the heir apparent to the job as Scott leaves because of term limits.

DeSantis, in contrast, entered politics just six years ago, when he ran for Congress from the wealthy suburbs of Jacksonville, his hometown, after serving as a Navy prosecutor. His deployment to Iraq during President George W. Bush’s “troop surge” there was a highlight of his biography on the campaign trail. Despite the populist, pro-Trump rhetoric he has delivered for years from the Fox TV studio near the U.S. Capitol, DeSantis graduated from Yale and received a law degree from Harvard.

President Donald Trump talks with Ron DeSantis during a Make America Great Again Rally at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Ta
President Donald Trump talks with Ron DeSantis during a Make America Great Again Rally at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa, Florida, on July 31, 2018. 

And while Putnam also praised Trump repeatedly on the campaign trail, his standing with Trump likely was irreparably damaged in October 2016 after the release of the “Access Hollywood” tape that featured Trump bragging that his celebrity enabled him to grab women by the genitals. Putnam criticized Trump for the remarks, while DeSantis did not. 

DeSantis leaned on Trump’s approval heavily, mentioning it often in stump speeches and in TV ads. He even produced an ad using his young children as props, dressing up his infant in a “Make America Great Again” onesie.

Yet while DeSantis’ love for and from Trump clearly helped him against Putnam in the Republican primary, it may wind up hurting him in the November election against Gillum. Trump is not popular with many independents and even some moderate Republicans. Democrat Margaret Good defeated the son of sitting Republican congressman Vern Buchanan in a special election for a state House seat in Sarasota earlier this year, even though the district leans solidly Republican.

Florida Democrats have not won a governor’s race since 1994, when Lawton Chiles won a second term by defeating Republican Jeb Bush. The party has come within a single percentage point in both 2010 and 2014, losing both times to Scott.




Federal Court Strikes Down North Carolina Congressional Map Again

The court ruled the map so egregiously benefited Republicans that it violated the U.S. Constitution.

A federal court in North Carolina ruled for the second time this year that the state’s congressional map was drawn to so severely benefit Republicans that it violates the Constitution.

The court held on Monday that North Carolina’s congressional map violates Article I, the First Amendment and the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment.

A three-judge panel reached an identical conclusion in January, but after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in two separate partisan gerrymandering cases, it sent the North Carolina case back to the lower court for further consideration.

In June the Supreme Court said in Gill v. Whitford that plaintiffs in partisan gerrymandering cases must show they suffered an injury in the districts where they live. It asked the North Carolina court to consider whether the plaintiffs in the case met those conditions, and on Monday the court said that it did.

“We conclude that, under the test set forth in Gill, at least one Plaintiff registered to vote in each of the thirteen districts in the 2016 Plan has standing to assert an Equal Protection challenge to each of those districts,” Judge James Wynn, who sits on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit wrote in an opinion that was joined by Senior U.S. District Judge William Earl Britt. “In particular, such Plaintiffs introduced evidence establishing that each of their districts is ‘packed or cracked’ and, as a result, that their votes ‘carry less weight than [they] would carry in another, hypothetical district.’”

“We further conclude that Gill did not call into question — and, if anything, supported — this Court’s previous determination that Plaintiffs have standing to assert partisan gerrymandering claims under Article I and the First Amendment,” Wynn continued.

The court said the map violated the 14th Amendment because it treated voters differently, depending on their political preferences. The panel also said the map violated the First Amendment because it made it more difficult for politically engaged groups and voters with certain political beliefs to elect their preferred candidates. The map runs afoul of a provision of Article I of the Constitution, the court said, because it gives the North Carolina legislature too much power in choosing who sits in the U.S. House. Article I says that the members of the House of Representatives shall be chosen by “the people.”

The decision is significant because North Carolina is one of the most severely gerrymandered states in the country, with Republicans consistently controlling 10 of the state’s 13 congressional seats since 2012. Gerrymandering reform advocates believe the case presents one of the best opportunities for the U.S. Supreme Court to place a limit on partisan gerrymandering because the evidence of Republicans’ intent to gerrymander is so clear. A key Republican involved in drawing the congressional map in 2012 said he wanted a 10-3 GOP delegation because he did not think it was possible to draw one that was 11-2 in favor of Republicans.

“Although North Carolina’s loud and proud admission that legislators drew districts for partisan advantage is unusual, the practice is universal when politicians are in charge,” Kathay Feng, the national redistricting director at Common Cause, which brought the suit on behalf of the North Carolina voters, said in a statement. “Until we prohibit partisan gerrymandering, a true representative democracy will remain out of reach and the voices of all Americans will continue to be silent.”

The court highlighted that the current North Carolina congressional map has been in place for six years and notably left open the possibility of implementing a new congressional map for this year’s midterm elections. Noting that North Carolina Republicans have dragged their feet in drawing previous court-ordered fixes to the map, the court declined to say whether it would afford lawmakers the opportunity this time around but said it would give lawmakers until Sept. 17.

Republicans are expected to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. With Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement, there is a 4-4 split between conservative and liberal justices, meaning the lower court’s ruling could remain in place, wrote Rick Hasen, an election law expert and a professor at the University of California, Irvine.




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