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Democrats Nominate Two Transgender Women And A Former Undocumented Immigrant To Run For Congress

This has been a scary election year for liberals. The rise of Donald Trump as the presumptive Republican nominee has exposed the darkest fragments of American society. The racists, sexists, xenophobes and homophobes have all come out from the holes where they used to hide to loudly embrace the candidate that finally expresses what they’re thinking.

To many, the success of the Brexit movement meant that white nationalism would also win in our own elections next November. But the primary wins of two transgender women and a Dominican-American who was once an undocumented immigrant serve as proof that, sometimes, inclusivity wins.

For the first time in American history, a major party has selected a transgender woman to run for a Senate seat.

Utah Democrats chose Misty K. Snow to run against Republican Sen. Mike Lee. The 30-year-old grocery store clerk from Salt Lake City beat her opponent, Jonathan Swinton, by almost 20 points. Swinton, a marriage therapist, ran to the right of Snow, who attacked him for advocating limits to abortion rights. Snow ran a campaign similar to that of Bernie Sanders, advocating for “$15 per hour minimum wage, paid family leave, legalized marijuana, criminal-justice reform and free or reduced tuition for higher education” according to the Salt Lake City Tribune.

“We hoped more Democrats were really looking at the long game at this, trying to unseat Mike Lee,” Swinton said, referring to Snow’s slim chances of winning a general election in conservative Utah. “The reality is I’ve done my absolute best and run an honorable campaign.”

Snow released a statement after her win, calling Tuesday “a historic day for the LGBT community.” 
 If elected in November, she would also be the youngest senator in the chamber.

And Snow wasn’t alone: Colorado Democrats chose Misty Plowright, one of the first transgender people to run for congress, to challenge Rep. Doug Lamborn. Plowright, A 33-years old Army veteran who works in IT, beat her closest opponent by more than 3,000 votes.

Harlem Democrats chose state senator Adriano Espaillat to take over longtime Rep. Charles Rangel’s seat in the House of Representatives.

Espaillat’s candidacy is remarkable for several reasons: Not only would he be the first Dominican-American to serve in Congress, but his win also represents a fundamental change in the historically black neighborhood of Harlem, which has turned increasingly Hispanic. “I never thought about that ever happening in all of my years, 72 years,” Rangel said of the results.

The 61-year-old state senator ran against assemblyman Keith Wright, a black man who was endorsed by Rangel. Wright has refused to concede until “every vote is counted,” citing a “real possibility of a lot of campaign irregularities and voter suppression.” Based on the latest results, Espalliat beat him by around 1,300 votes.

“The voters … elected a country boy from Santiago de los Caballeros in the Dominican Republic,” Espaillat told Reuters. Espalliat will probably win the November election – Democratic voters outnumber Republican voters in Harlem by quite a margin.

Snow and Plowright face a tougher battle in November – they are running in conservative states where the Democrat vote does not represent anywhere near a majority of the population. Plowright on her part is running in the Colorado’s 5th district, one of the most conservative in the state. Snow’s state of Utah is one of the most conservatives in the nation. Her challenger, Sen. Mike Lee is a powerful tea-party favorite who won with more than 60 percent of the vote in 2010.

There may be hope for Snow yet, however small. Predominantly-Mormon Utah voters, despite the state’s history as a stalwart of the right, hate Donald Trump with a passion for his persecution of another minority religion, Islam. So far, that hasn’t benefitted Democrats in the state as much as it has hurt Republicans. But if Donald Trump can turn Utah purple, anything is possible.

Photo: Facebook

Colorado City To Pay Restitution To Poor Jailed In ‘Debtor Prison’

DENVER (Reuters) – The city of Colorado Springs has agreed to provide restitution to dozens of poor people wrongfully jailed because they could not afford to pay fines they incurred for petty infractions such as loitering or panhandling, attorneys said on Thursday.

The settlement calls for the city to pay each of some 60 named individuals $125 for every day they spent locked up under a since-repealed ordinance that allowed incarceration of offenders who failed to pay fines for otherwise non-jailable offenses.

The deal, providing for an estimated total payout of about $100,000, was announced in separate statements by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Colorado’s second-largest city.

The case grew out of an ACLU study last year finding that despite the outlawing of so-called debtor prisons, judges in the city of 440,000 routinely converted fines into jail sentences, said Mark Silverstein, legal director of the group’s Colorado chapter.

“We hope today’s settlement sends a loud and clear message to municipal courts throughout the state to stop using jail or the threat of jail to collect debts from persons who are too poor to pay,” Silverstein said in a statement.

The settlement heads off a potential lawsuit against the city over so-called “pay-or-serve” sentences that have been the source of litigation in other states.

In October, the ACLU sued the city of Biloxi, Mississippi, in federal court over the issue, accusing the city of employing debtors prisons as an “illegal revenue generation scheme” that targeted the poor.

Last March, the U.S. Justice Department said it would issue federal guidelines for municipalities on the issue after finding the city of Ferguson, Missouri – the St. Louis suburb convulsed in 2014 by a white policeman’s fatal shooting of an unarmed black teen – made widespread use of the practice.

One of the indigent Colorado Springs offenders, Shawn Hardman, was sentenced to jail on four occasions after he was unable to pay fines for panhandling citations.

“I was trapped in a cell that it seemed like I could never get out of,” Hardman said in an ACLU statement. “I was told over and over that I either had to pay or go back to jail. I was homeless and jobless, so the cycle kept repeating.”

Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers, the state’s former attorney general, said the city halted the practice last year after reviewing results of the ACLU study and will work to educate prosecutors and judges about the policy.

 

(Editing by Steve Gorman)

Photo: A banker counts currency in Westminster, Colorado November 3, 2009.  REUTERS/Rick Wilking 

Colorado Planned Parenthood Reopens After Deadly Rampage

(Reuters) – A Colorado Planned Parenthood clinic reopened on Monday, seeing patients nearly three months after a deadly shooting rampage at the facility left three people dead and nine wounded.

“Today, we opened our doors in Colorado Springs. We didn’t back down. We didn’t disappear. We returned, stronger and with more conviction than ever,” the clinic said in a statement.

The clinic was closed on Nov. 27 following a bloody five-hour siege that police said began when a gunman opened fire with a rifle outside the building and then stormed inside. He was taken into custody by law enforcement at the scene.

Portions of the building damaged during the standoff will remain closed as repairs continue, said Vicki Cowart, president of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains.

The facility was resuming its work providing a range of healthcare services, including abortion, to the community of Colorado Springs, Cowart said.

Several abortion opponents gathered near the building on Monday as it resumed operations, the Colorado Springs Gazette reported.

The gunman accused of carrying out the attack, Robert Lewis Dear, 57, faces 179 felony counts, including charges of first-degree murder, attempted murder and assault.

In a court appearance in December, he declared himself guilty and a “warrior for the babies.” He has also told a judge he distrusts his lawyers and wants to represent himself.

The November rampage was the first deadly attack on a U.S. abortion provider since 2009, when physician George Tiller was gunned down at the Kansas church he attended.

(Reporting by Victoria Cavaliere in Los Angeles; Editing by Dan Grebler)

Photo: A view of the damage to the entrance of the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, Colorado November 28, 2015. REUTERS/Isaiah J. Downing

Suspect In Deadly Planned Parenthood Attack Declares Self Guilty

By Keith Coffman

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Reuters) — The man accused of shooting three people to death and wounding nine others at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado last month declared himself guilty and a “warrior for the babies” during an outburst in court on Wednesday.

The disturbance, as prosecutors formally presented murder and other charges against Robert Lewis Dear, 57, bolstered assertions by Planned Parenthood executives that the attack on the Colorado Springs clinic was motivated by anti-abortion sentiments.

Dear has been held without bond since surrendering to police at the end of a five-hour siege on Nov. 27 that authorities said began when he opened fire with a rifle in front of the clinic, then stormed inside.

It was the first deadly assault on a U.S. abortion provider in six years – since the 2009 assassination of a doctor at a Kansas church. Three people, including a police officer, were fatally shot and nine were wounded; no Planned Parenthood staff were killed or injured in the rampage.

Dear’s outburst took place at the start of his hearing in El Paso County court on Wednesday. He was not scheduled to formally enter a plea during the day’s proceedings.

“I’m guilty, there’s no trial. I’m a warrior for the babies,” Dear blurted out in a loud voice while seated beside his lawyers in front of the judge.

Addressing the judge, defense attorney Dan King raised the issue of Dear’s mental competency to stand trial, saying, “I think the problem is obvious.”

A search warrant accompanying police affidavits filed in the case has been placed under court seal, and authorities have yet to publicly disclose a motive for the shooting.

Several media outlets, citing law enforcement sources, have reported that Dear uttered the phrase “no more baby parts” in statements to investigators following his arrest.

Dear, a native of South Carolina who once earned a living as a self-employed art salesman, appeared at Wednesday’s hearing in shackles wearing turquoise-colored jail garb.

At one point, during a discussion between the judge and attorneys about the sealing of documents in the case, Dear spoke out again.

“Seal the truth, huh? Kill the babies, that’s what Planned Parenthood does,” Dear said.

(Writing by Alex Dubuzinskis; Editing by Steve Gorman, Jeffrey Benkoe and Leslie Adler)

Photo: Robert Lewis Dear, 57, accused of shooting three people to death and wounding nine others at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado last month, attends his hearing to face 179 counts of various criminal charges at an El Paso County court in Colorado Springs, Colorado December 9, 2015. REUTERS/Andy Cross/Pool