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Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards wins re-election in blow to Trump



WASHINGTON — Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards narrowly won a second term as Louisiana governor, beating Republican challenger Eddie Rispone by 1.4 percentage points and delivering another blow in off-cycle elections to President Donald Trump.

“Our shared love for Louisiana is always more important than the partisan differences that sometimes divide us,” Edwards said as he celebrated his victory with supporters.

“And as for the president, God bless his heart,” Edwards continued.

Edwards was up by over 19,000 votes with 96% of precincts reporting Saturday night, according to the Associated Press.

“I am disappointed, if I am being very honest,” Rispone said in his concession speech.

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“By the way, can we give President Trump a round of applause? That man loves America and he loves Louisiana. He came down here three times specifically to try and help us,” Rispone added.

Edwards’ victory in a state that Trump carried in 2016 by nearly 20 percentage points highlights the limitations of nationalizing local races. Rispone, a wealthy businessman and long-time Republican donor, tied himself to Trump. He often railed against illegal immigrants on the campaign trail and portrayed Edwards as a “liberal, socialist-leaning governor.”

But Edwards, a conservative Democrat, managed to remain fairly popular by frequently breaking with national Democrats. He signed into law one of the most restrictive abortion bills in the country, favored gun rights, and touted his willingness to work with Republicans, including Trump.

Edwards also earned a level of good will in his first term for his focus on local issues, such as ending the budget crisis created by his predecessor and expanding Medicaid.

Louisiana is the second reliably red state that voted for Trump to elect a Democrat as governor in the past month. Kentucky elected Attorney General Andy Beshear over GOP incumbent Gov. Matt Bevin, despite Trump’s campaign efforts in the state.

Edwards was a top target for the GOP as the Republican National Committee spent $2 million to defeat him and Trump visited the state three times in five weeks to support Rispone.

Before the polls closed Saturday, Trump tweeted multiple times encouraging voters to support Rispone.

Edwards narrowly missed the 50 percent threshold needed for an outright win in the October jungle primary, in which every candidate runs against each other on the same ballot regardless of party. He earned 46 percent of the vote, Rispone 27 percent and Rep. Ralph Abraham, R-La., roughly 23 percent.

Although Abraham endorsed and campaigned for Rispone in the runoff, it was not enough to push the Republican over the finish line.

Edwards, the only Democratic governor in the Deep South, was elected in 2015 in what many viewed as a fluke election due to a flawed Republican opponent mired in a prostitution scandal.

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Jill Biden says Trump is a bully and ‘afraid’ to run against her husband



Former second lady Jill Biden lashed out at President Donald Trump on Saturday, accusing him of “bullying” and being “afraid” to run against her husband.

The wife of former Vice President Joe Biden told MSNBC’s “Up with David Gura” that Trump was wrong to attack 16-year-old environmental activist Greta Thunberg, who was named Time magazine’s person of the year before she was immediately mocked by the president.

“That’s bullying,” Jill Biden told MSNBC. “Look at what the president did this week with that 16-year-old girl, Greta. You can’t attack children. That’s the bottom line.”

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The Bidens have been center stage of impeachment proceedings against Trump, who asked the Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate the former vice president and his son Hunter and a debunked theory about the 2016 election. The administration placed a hold on military funding to Ukraine that had been approved by Congress at roughly the same time.

Hunter Biden served on the board of a Ukrainian energy company from 2014 to 2019 and Trump has asserted, with no evidence, that the former vice president used his office to advance his son’s business interests.

“We knew it was going to be tough. Our family knew it was going to be tough, but we could never have imagined that it would turn into Donald Trump … asking a foreign government to get involved in our elections,” Jill Biden said Saturday. “And I think it just proves he’s afraid to run against my husband, Joe Biden.”

Joe Biden, who recently turned 77, would be 78 and about three months if he were elected and took office in January 2021. Jill Biden dismissed reports that her husband would consider serving just one term.

“He has a lot of energy,” she said. “Most of the time I have to say to him in the morning like, ‘Joe, just wait until I have my coffee until you start with this idea or that idea.'”

President Trump is now 73.

With the Iowa caucuses about seven weeks away, Biden is locked in a close battle with South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.

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Richard Hatcher, one of 1st black mayors of major city, dead at 86



Former Gary Mayor Richard Hatcher, who became one of the first black mayors of a big U.S. city when he was elected in 1967, has died. He was 86.

Hatcher died Friday night at a Chicago hospital, said his daughter, Indiana state Rep. Ragen Hatcher, a Gary Democrat. She did not provide a cause of her father’s death.

The Hatcher family said in a statement that “in the last days of his life, he was surrounded by his family and loved ones.”

“While deeply saddened by his passing, his family is very proud of the life he lived, including his many contributions to the cause of racial and economic justice and the more than 20 years of service he devoted to the city of Gary,” the family added.

Hatcher had to overcome opposition from the local Democratic machine to become mayor of what was then Indiana’s second-largest city in a surprise victory in 1967. He went on to serve five terms.

Hatcher became the political face of Gary and a political force for blacks after his groundbreaking election. He organized the 1972 National Black Political Convention in Gary and served as chairman of Jesse Jackson’s Democratic presidential campaign in 1984 and vice chairman four years later.

But his mayorship was also marred by the steel city’s deterioration.

The election of Hatcher, then a 34-year-old activist, lawyer and City Council president, sparked high emotions in Gary. He defeated incumbent A. Martin Katz in the primary by more than 2,300 votes, prompting a celebration that forced police to shut down a six-block section of Broadway for four hours.

The celebration was short-lived. When Hatcher refused to allow Lake County Democratic leaders to pick the city’s police chief, city attorney and fill other major positions in Hatcher’s administration, party Chairman John Krupa told him the party wouldn’t support Hatcher during the general election. Not only that, the party worked for his Republican opponent, Joseph Radigan.

Although Gary hadn’t had a Republican mayor since 1938, it was a difficult challenge for a campaign that had spent most of its money on the primary and now had no party to back it. Hatcher managed to raise $8,000 to run full-page campaign ads in The New York Times and the Post-Tribune in Gary. The ad read, “Richard Hatcher is battling bigotry and ignorance. And he needs your help.”

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Those ads brought in more than $250,000, drew invitations to appear on TV and radio shows, and attracted the attention of Sen. Robert Kennedy, Vice President Hubert Humphrey and others who held fundraisers.

“It was unbelievable,” Hatcher, who kept a framed copy of the ad on his office wall, said in a 2011 interview with The Associated Press. “We ended up having enough money to run a decent campaign.”

He gave credit for his election to the city’s black residents, who made up slightly more than half of Gary’s population of about 175,000 residents in 1967 but trailed whites in the number of registered voters.

“There was a tremendous spirit in the city and the black community was very united,” he said. “I think I received about 7% of the white vote. The other white candidates divided up the white vote, they really split it, which made it possible for me to win.”

During his inauguration speech, Hatcher said his primary goal was to make the city a decent place to live for his “brothers and sisters.”

“Gary is a rising sun. Together, we shall beat a way; together, we shall turn darkness into light, despair into hope and promise into progress,” he said.

Hatcher attracted hundreds of millions of dollars in federal money to Gary in his 20 years in office, some of which was used to build low-cost housing and the first public housing units in the city in nearly two decades. He also got federal funds for jobs training; repaved deteriorating streets; and put many inner-city neighborhoods on regular garbage collection for the first time.

The changes extended to City Hall. When he was elected, only two of the city’s department heads were black. A decade later, 25 of the city’s 40 department heads, including the police and fire chiefs, were black.

Even before he became mayor, Hatcher was making changes. As a member of the City Council, he helped pass an open housing law to end restrictive property covenants that forced blacks to live primarily in Gary’s midtown section.

But Hatcher couldn’t stop Gary’s decline, which coincided with that of the U.S. steel industry. The company town, founded in 1906 by U.S. Steel Chairman Elbert H. Gary, had flourished as the industry did. While Hatcher was in office, U.S. Steel cut its workforce from 35,000 in the early 1970s to 25,000 by the early 1980s.

Businesses were shuttered as banks and shops moved to the suburbs. Crime increased, and by 1984, Gary had the nation’s highest per-capita homicide rate.

Many white residents fled the city. The percentage of blacks grew to 71 percent by 1980, up from 53 percent a decade earlier.

By the time Hatcher left office in 1987, the city had lost 50,000 residents. When Hatcher lost the primary, police again shut down Broadway so people could celebrate.

Hatcher told the AP that he was proud of his accomplishments in office. “Maybe for some people in Gary it may not be better. But for others it may seem very much better,” he said in 2011.

Richard Gordon Hatcher was born July 10, 1933, in Michigan City, Indiana. He was one of 13 children whose father molded railroad car wheels and whose mother was a factory worker. He graduated from Indiana University, earned a law degree from Valparaiso University and moved to Gary after becoming a deputy prosecutor.

He married his wife, Ruthellyn, in 1976. They had three daughters, Ragen, Rachelle and Renee.

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Trump admin intends to announce withdrawal of more than 4,000 troops from Afghanistan



WASHINGTON — The Trump administration intends to announce the drawdown of more than 4,000 troops from Afghanistan as early next week, according to three current and former U.S. officials. The withdrawal will leave between 8,000 and 9,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, the officials said.

The announcement comes just days after Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad rejoined diplomatic talks with the Taliban, which had broken down in September. On Thursday Amb. Khalilzad said the U.S. was “taking a brief pause” in talks after a Wednesday attack near Bagram Airfield killed two Afghan civilians and wounded 70 more.

The U.S. has between 12,000 and 13,000 troops in Afghanistan now. The officials would not say when the drawdown would begin, but did characterize it as a phased withdrawal that would occur over a few months. Two U.S. officials said the drawdown would be a combination of troops re-deploying early and others not being replaced when they rotate out.

U.S. troops patrol at an Afghan National Army (ANA) base in Logar province, Afghanistan on Aug. 7, 2018.Omar Sobhani / Reuters file

In a statement, a spokesman for U.S. Forces-Afghanistan said, “U.S. Forces-Afghanistan has not received orders to reduce troop levels in Afghanistan. We remain fully committed to the Resolute Support mission and our Afghan partners, and focused on our key objective: ensuring Afghanistan is never again used as a safe haven for terrorists who threaten the United States, our allies or our interests.”

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President Donald Trump has pushed for a withdrawal from Afghanistan for some time, including during his recent visit to Afghanistan on Thanksgiving, his first as commander in chief.

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper told an audience at the Reagan National Defense Forum last weekend that the reduction of U.S. troops will happen even if the Taliban does not negotiate an agreement, and that the commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Scott Miller, has said he can sustain a reduction in forces.

“The commander feels confident we can go down to a lower level without jeopardizing our ability to ensure that Afghanistan doesn’t become a safe haven for terrorism,” Esper said, adding that he hopes to reallocate forces from CENTCOM to the Asia Pacific region, which he called his “priority theater.”

The announcement of withdrawal is “part of trying to reset the talks with the Taliban,” the former defense official said. Khalilzad can then propose to the Taliban that the two sides restart negotiations where they left off, with the U.S. withdrawing troops and the Taliban promising a ceasefire.

“This takes us to the minimum that you have to keep in the country to remain credible negotiating with the Taliban,” the former official said.

In October Esper said the U.S. could decrease to 8,600 troops without affecting the counterterror operations.

The commander of U.S. Central Command, Gen. Frank McKenzie, participated in meetings Thursday to discuss the footprint for U.S. troops in the Middle East, according to three U.S. officials. The discussion also included talk of increasing the U.S. military footprint in other parts of the Middle East to counter the threat from Iran.

Trump has promised since campaigning for the White House in 2016 to end wars like the one in Afghanistan and reduce the number of U.S. troops deployed overseas. His advisers have over the past three years convinced him not to pull the plug on the Afghanistan mission, but the president showed a willingness to take such a step in October when he abruptly pulled U.S. troops out of Syria.

Trump had made clear to his advisers earlier this year that he wanted to withdraw all troops from Afghanistan by the November 2020 election.

“It’s all about talking points in 2020,” the former official said.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Hans Nichols contributed.

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