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Walker Visits South Carolina, Addresses Firing Of Campaign Aide

By Patrick Marley, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (TNS)

GREENVILLE, S.C. — Governor Scott Walker brought his Wisconsin story to South Carolina Thursday, telling voters how he overcame protests and a recall effort, and suggesting the departure of a campaign aide this week was rooted in the need to respect voters.

In a speech to about 200 people at the TD Convention Center in Greenville, Walker indirectly addressed the departure of social media aide Liz Mair after news spread about tweets she posted before she was hired that disparaged Iowa and its caucuses, the first in the nation.

“One of my clear rules is, if you’re going to be on our team, whether on the paid staff or a volunteer, what I always say is you need to respect the voters,” he said. “Because really if you think about campaigns, it’s not about the candidate or the staff. It’s about the voter. It’s about how to help people’s lives be better.

“One of the things I’ve stressed … in the last few days as I’ve looked at the possibility of running is you have my firm commitment that I’m going to focus on making sure that the people on my team, should we go forward, are people who respect voters.”

Mair stepped down Tuesday just hours after her hiring had been announced — and shortly after the head of the Iowa Republican Party said Walker should fire her.

The incident was a distraction for the Republican governor as he made his first foray into South Carolina since he began seriously considering a run for the presidency. The state holds the third nominating contest in the country, after Iowa and New Hampshire — two other states Walker has recently visited.

How Walker fares is considered especially critical because the Republican Party is so strong in the South, and most of the likely candidates for the nomination come from Southern states. The votes of the religious and the deeply conservative hold great sway here. The son of a Baptist preacher who has built his reputation as someone who has stood up for conservative causes in a purple state, Walker hopes to appeal to those sets of overlapping voters.

In speeches Thursday in Greenville and Columbia, Walker spoke of his efforts to curtail collective bargaining for public workers and the response those efforts elicited. Walker in 2012 became the first governor in the country’s history to survive a recall effort.

“Throughout all of that, instead of intimidating us, what it reminded me was that I was elected for a purpose,” Walker said to a crowd of about 150 in a Marriott meeting room in Columbia.

“It was worth it because if I had just run for the title or position, a hundred thousand protesters might have scared me off. But because I was running for (sons) Matt and for Alex and for all the other sons and daughters like them, or all the other grandsons and granddaughters like them, I knew I could not back down. I knew it was worth it for them.”

In both speeches, Walker ran through what has developed into his standard stump speech and cataloged his achievements — lower taxes, a concealed weapons law, cuts to funding for Planned Parenthood — and said he saw a need to revive America.

“In America you can be and do anything you want,” he said in Columbia. “The opportunity is equal for all, but the outcome is still up to each and every one of us.”

As he has in other recent speeches, he stressed the need for an aggressive stance in the Middle East and signaled the possibility of needing to send troops there.

“In America, we need a commander in chief who understands that it’s not a matter of if but when, and I’m going to take — and we need a leader who will take — the fight to them and not wait until it comes to us on American soil, to do whatever it takes to protect your children and your grandchildren from another attack on American soil,” he said in Greenville.

He also revived a story he’s told for years in Wisconsin about raking leaves in his front yard with a friend of his son’s when someone pulled up in front of his house and raised a middle finger. Walker said he reacted calmly and minutes later, another car pulled up and gave him a thumbs up.

“It was a great reminder that if you do good, good will come back to you,” he told the crowd.

He told the group he got support from people in all 50 states during his recall campaign, saying he received contributions from nearly 300,000 donors.

“Only Mitt Romney has more donors on the Republican side,” he said.

Between the fundraisers for the South Carolina Republican Party that Walker hosted, he met with GOP South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley and other lawmakers, and stopped by a Harley-Davidson dealership to buy T-shirts. On Friday, he will host events for the party in Rock Hill and Charleston, and one for the National Rifle Association in Charleston.

Thursday’s crowds received Walker warmly.

“He wouldn’t be afraid to step on toes, especially with unions,” said Marty Jewell of Prosperity, S.C.

Jewell contributed to Walker’s cause during his recall race.

“I thought he was doing a great job and when they started to persecute him, I knew he was doing a good job,” he said.

Walker has been positioning himself as someone who can appeal to his party’s conservative and moderate wings. He pointed to his success in Wisconsin, where he has won election three times in four years even though the state — as he noted in both speeches — hasn’t voted for a Republican for president since 1984.

Photo: Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin speaking at the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland. (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

Chicago’s Rahm-Chuy Show

CHICAGO — The mayor is proud to tout his work expanding access to pre-kindergarten programs, raising the minimum wage, and making two years of community college available to everybody. He talks admiringly about his city’s ethnic diversity and stresses his commitment to making it a place where “every resident in every neighborhood has a fair shot at success.”

This is not a preview of the re-election campaign of New York City mayor Bill de Blasio, a hero to progressives around the country. It’s the actual platform of Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel. So it’s mildly ironic that the very sorts of left-of-center voters who elected de Blasio and other mayors blocked Emanuel’s re-election on Tuesday and forced him into a runoff campaign that will not be settled until April 7.

The champion of change was Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, a county commissioner who quickly made himself a counter-brand. If everyone here calls their chief executive “Rahm,” everyone now refers to Garcia by his nickname, “Chuy.” The Rahm-Chuy Show promises to be another storied encounter staged by a city that knows how to turn politics into drama — in this case, a production that could draw a class line across Chicago.

Garcia is unabashed in making this contest an ideological struggle. He has cast Emanuel — who received an endorsement from his old boss, President Obama, and vastly outspent his opponent — as a local reincarnation of Mitt Romney, “Mayor 1 percent.”

“Today, we the people have spoken,” Garcia declared on election night after his showing far surpassed his standing in pre-election polls. “Not the people with the money and the power and the connections, not the giant corporations, the big-money special interests, the hedge funds and Hollywood celebrities who poured tens of millions of dollars into the mayor’s campaign. They all had their say. They’ve had their say for too long.”

In this round, Emanuel received 45.4 percent of the vote, well short of the 50 percent plus one that he needed to avoid a runoff, to 33.9 percent for Garcia. Willie Wilson, a self-financed African-American businessman, received 10.6 percent and two other candidates split the rest.

The ideological frame on the race is an important part of the story, and it’s reinforced by the victories of several anti-Emanuel members of the City Council whom the mayor’s supporters tried to oust. Nationally, the race has been characterized as a shadow battle between the Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren wings of the Democratic Party. Garcia is clearly embracing the Warren role.

But this take oversimplifies the dynamics here because politics is also local, and personal. Emanuel is, you might say, unabashedly unabashed. The words “aggressive,” “blunt” and “bullying” attach to him, and he has an urban poet’s affection for expletives.

Some of the Garcia voters I spoke with saw their first-round votes as a chance to force a runoff and thereby bring Emanuel down a peg. Emanuel’s second-round strategy will focus on asking such voters — and the roughly two-thirds of the electorate that didn’t vote on Tuesday: Now that you’ve registered your displeasure, do you want Chuy or Rahm running your city?

There were a lot of accumulated grievances against the mayor that at one point brought his approval rating down to 29 percent: His closing of 50 schools, his protracted fight with Chicago’s teachers’ union, and the high crime rates in the city’s poorest neighborhoods. Like many mayors before him, he was accused of focusing primarily on downtown development, and the taxi drivers sure don’t like his friendly attitude toward Uber.

Wilson, who spent about $2 million of his own money, also hurt Emanuel. The mayor carried most of the city’s predominantly African-American neighborhoods, but as Fran Spielman noted in the Chicago Sun-Times, his share there typically dropped from around 60 percent in his election four years ago to about 40 percent on Tuesday. Wilson, a very religious man whose television ads included scenes in churches, appears from private polling to have done especially well with older African-American women, even as Garcia expanded turnout in Latino areas.

Emanuel is one of the most complicated, and thus most interesting, characters in American politics. An unapologetically pro-business Democrat, his legendary feuds with liberals, often carried out at high decibel levels, created a legion of enemies who cheered his humbling. He also has a fondness for policies — on education, pre-kindergarten and community colleges — that reflect his passion for widespread upward mobility. The denouement of the Rahm-Chuy Show could depend on whether the second Rahm can save the first.

E.J. Dionne’s email address is ejdionne@washpost.com. Twitter: @EJDionne.

Photo: ctaweb via Flickr

Grisly Language Propels Kansas Anti-Abortion Bill As U.S. Model

By Esmé E. Deprez, Bloomberg News (TNS)

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. — Activists in Kansas and Oklahoma are seeking to outlaw a common abortion technique by using the text of legislative bills to lay bare its graphic details, a tactic that may spread across the U.S.

Republican lawmakers in both states are pushing to ban what they call “dismemberment abortion” with language supplied by National Right to Life, a Washington-based advocacy group. Opponents say the bills inaccurately describe what medical literature calls dilation and evacuation, a method used in 96 percent of second-trimester terminations, according to the National Abortion Federation.

As state legislative sessions get under way across the U.S., Republicans are tapping into momentum from the 2014 midterm elections to advance an already record-breaking wave of restrictions passed in recent years. That has emboldened activists to revisit the practice of deploying grisly language last used to lobby for a ban on what they call partial-birth abortions, which the U.S. Supreme Court upheld in 2007.

“Abortion care can be, in the abstract, deeply upsetting and the anti-abortion movement using the word ‘dismemberment’ is not an accident,” said Carole Joffe, a reproductive health sociologist at the University of California at San Francisco. “It puts the pro-choice movement on the defensive.”

The aim is to rebrand a medical procedure with a new and unsettling name, include clinical details of what it entails in a bill and let lawmakers’ reactions guide the way they vote.

Kansas has been an early adopter of abortion laws that other states emulated, including mandates that clinics resemble hospital-like surgery centers and tighter regulations on drugs. Republican Governor Sam Brownback has already said he’d sign a ban on dilation-and-evacuation abortions.

The latest bills are trial balloons for a national strategy, said Elizabeth Nash, who tracks legislation for the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health research and advocacy group in Washington.

“The past four years have been about state legislatures adopting restrictions, because that’s a way to show their conservative stripes,” said Nash. “This is the new trend.”

It’s also a return to an earlier and more confrontational strategy that helped ban so-called partial-birth abortions on the federal level in 2003. That procedure, known by providers as dilation and extraction, involves the partial extraction of a fetus from the uterus and the collapse of the skull and removal of its brain and was used late in a pregnancy.

National Right to Life sees the dilation-and-evacuation bans as a major component of its 2015 legislative agenda. The environment may be favorable: Republicans, traditionally opposed to abortion, added control of two additional governor’s seats in the November election and now hold 31. They also have control of legislatures in 31 states with majorities in a record 69 of 99 chambers.

In Oklahoma, the group contacted Republican Representative Pam Peterson to sponsor a dilation-and-evacuation bill following her years of championing the anti-abortion cause, she said. Women terminate pregnancies because they’re in the dark about what doing so actually means, she said.

“With the discussion about, and passage of this bill, the public will see that dismemberment abortions brutally –- and unacceptably –- rip apart small human beings,” said Kathy Ostrowski, director of National Right to Life affiliate Kansans for Life, in a statement.

Oklahoma’s bill defines the procedure as one “to dismember a living unborn child and extract him or her one piece at a time from the uterus through use of clamps, grasping forceps, tongs, scissors or similar instruments that, through the convergence of two rigid levers, slice, crush, and/or grasp a portion of the unborn child’s body to cut or rip it off.” The Kansas bill is virtually identical.

Abortion-rights supporters say they worry that what they see as misleading and inflammatory language will carry the day.

Julie Burkhart, who in 2013 re-opened an abortion clinic once run by slain doctor George Tiller in Wichita, Kan., says the real motivation of the bill’s backers is to eliminate all abortions.

“They really thrive on sensationalizing abortion care, which is disheartening because we have real women and real families who come in every day to get the health care they need,” she said.

Bruce Price, a Kansas-born physician and associate professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School, said in written testimony to the legislature that the proposal would force physicians to “deviate from the best, most sound care for patients; hence, putting the woman’s life at risk.”

Photo: J. Stephen Conn via Flickr

Free Speech Or Conflict? High Court To Hear Judges Fundraising Case

By Michael Doyle, McClatchy Washington Bureau (TNS)

WASHINGTON — Hands-on fundraising for a 2009-2010 judicial campaign in Florida’s Hillsborough County is now front and center at the U.S. Supreme Court, where justices must balance free speech against judicial neutrality.

Amid escalating campaign costs nationwide, the high court on Tuesday will weigh Florida’s rule that prohibits judicial candidates from directly soliciting contributions. The court’s eventual answer will matter in many of the 39 states where residents appear before elected judges.

“Very significant life decisions are in the hands of these judges,” noted Tracey George, a professor at Vanderbilt University Law School. “We should be particularly concerned and interested with the rules that govern how we choose (them).”

Underscoring the broader stakes, 11 states including Idaho, Pennsylvania and Washington have joined a legal brief supporting Florida’s position. The organization representing the chief justices in all 50 states also backs the campaign solicitation rule.

“The restrictions on direct judicial solicitation safeguard the critical state interests in a judiciary that is impartial in both fact and appearance, and protect lawyers and litigants from potential coercion,” the chief justices declared in a brief, signed by attorney Igor V. Timofeyev.

But to Lanell Williams-Yulee and her allies, the contribution solicitation ban seems a rank violation of rights protected by the First Amendment. Her strange-bedfellows array of supporters range from the American Civil Liberties Union to conservative attorney James Bopp, the longtime general counsel to the National Right to Life Committee.

While Williams-Yulee declined to comment until after the hour-long oral argument Tuesday morning, her case against Florida’s direct solicitation rule is spelled out in court filings.

“It prohibits speech at the core of the First Amendment, the speech of candidates for elective office,” Williams-Yulee’s attorneys wrote in one brief, adding that “recusal rules prevent judges from presiding over matters in which their impartiality might plausibly be questioned, without intruding on First Amendment rights.”

A graduate of the University of West Florida and the Mississippi College School of Law, Williams-Yulee had prior experience as both a prosecutor and assistant public defender when she launched a campaign for county court judge in Hillsborough County. The county includes the city of Tampa.

As part of her campaign kickoff in September 2009, Williams-Yulee signed a mass-mailed letter that asked for contributions, with recommended amounts ranging from $25 to $500.

Incumbent Judge Dick Greco Jr., easily defeated Williams-Yulee in the August 2010 balloting, winning 80 percent to 20 percent. Williams-Yulee subsequently lost a later three-way judicial race in 2012.

“I don’t care how much money you have, or your color,” Williams-Yulee told the Tampa Bay Times during the 2012 campaign. “I want to be fair and impartial.”

Even before the 2010 election ended, though, the Florida Bar filed a complaint alleging Williams-Yulee had violated a provision in the state’s 43-page Code of Judicial Conduct. The code states that “a candidate…for a judicial office that is filled by public election between competing candidates shall not personally solicit campaign funds.”

Willliams-Yulee received a public reprimand and was ordered to pay $1,860.30 to cover costs.

Defenders of the fundraising restriction cite the importance of maintaining public confidence in a neutral judiciary. Illustratively, a 2007 survey by Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania found 69 percent of those asked think raising money for elections affects a judge’s ruling. One quarter of state judges surveyed in 2002 said contributions influence decisions.

“States have a compelling interest in avoiding the actuality and appearance of corrupt influence,” attorneys for the Florida Bar declared in a brief.

Between 1990 and 1999, judicial candidates raised approximately $83.3 million. Judicial candidates then raised a stunning $206.9 million over the next 10 years, Emory University Law School Professor Joanna M. Shepherd reported in the Duke Law Journal.

The dash for dollars is accelerating. In Florida, the three state Supreme Court justices facing retention elections last year raised approximately $1.5 million for their campaigns. The money race, moreover, has seemingly outpaced restraint efforts.

“This is the first time the court has considered regulations of judicial campaign conduct since 2002,” noted Matthew Menendez, counsel for the Brennan Center for Justice’s Democracy Program.

Restrictions have been challenged before, sometimes successfully.

Erlanger, Ky.-based attorney Marcus Carey, who has joined in a brief supporting Williams-Yulee, twice sought election for state court positions, including an unsuccessful 2006 bid for a Kentucky Supreme Court seat. In July 2010, the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals sided with Carey in calling the state’s ban on direct solicitations overly broad.

“Judicial elections, like most elections, require money; often, a lot of it,” Judge Jeffrey Sutton wrote. “Prohibiting candidates from asking for money suppresses speech in the most conspicuous of ways and, in the process, favors some candidates over others.”

AFP Photo/Jim Watson