Alvin Brown Archives - Page 2 of 42 - Florida Politics

John Rutherford, a former Jacksonville sheriff, discusses police pensions

The crossroads for pension plans for new hires in Jacksonville is here, and is casting a shadow over virtually every aspect of the city’s future.

The latest bond rating trip for the city, for example, saw the pension issue – and whether or not Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry will succeed in getting at least one union’s new hires to accede to a 401K plan – casting a shadow over the proceedings.

The municipal debate over pension plans has elicited the interest of free-market groups such as Americans for Prosperity and, ineluctably, the national and state Fraternal Order of Police.

On other issues, Curry has called for a “Jacksonville solution.”

On the matter of pension reform, outside stakeholders may not be at the bargaining table as the city attempts to close the old plans that incurred $2.8 billion in debt to unlock future sales tax revenue, but they do have their talking points.

Caught in the middle of the maelstrom between city negotiators and police officers: the elected sheriff.

One man who knows what that’s like better than most in Duval County: Rep. John Rutherford, who was sheriff for three terms before term limits kicked in.

On Wednesday, Rutherford spoke to the issue, offering more extended comments than his successor, Mike Williams, delivered on this subject earlier in the week.

“I think a pension is absolutely necessary,” Rutherford told FloridaPolitics.com, noting that a defined contribution plan is a pension.

Albeit one that may not consider the full risk an officer assumes.

“I supported for years a defined benefit [plan], because if I have two officers who are facing a man with a gun – one has 20 years, one has two years – the guy with two years under a 401K is putting a lot more at risk than the guy who has twenty years,” the congressman-elect asserted.

“If you can come up with a defined contribution plan,” Rutherford added, “that levels that playing field, that might be okay. But you have to guarantee that, if an officer dies [during] his first year in office, his family’s going to be taken care of.”

“I hear people say ‘well, look, people die in all kinds of different disciplines, different jobs.’ The difference is my guy’s putting his life on the line. He knows what he’s going into,” Rutherford continued.

“An accident is one thing. Putting your life on the line because somebody’s in there shooting at you and you’re trying to save someone’s life, that’s a completely different situation,” Rutherford added.

“As long as you can make that defined contribution significant enough that it takes care of their family, then that might be doable, but I’d have to see it.”

Rutherford stresses that a defined contribution plan is a pension, which is not a universal view.

Despite that qualifier, many of Rutherford’s words are closer to the position of the police union than they are to the current sheriff.

During the collective bargaining session between the Fraternal Order of Police and the city before Thanksgiving, the union made many of these points.

While officers bear the non-negotiable burden of physical risk, a 401K plan floats with the market. And for officers who are younger and drawing more dangerous details, the 401K doesn’t come with a downside guarantee.

However, Rutherford isn’t completely sold on the Florida Retirement System option for new hires, which is a position held by all the public safety bargaining units.

“FRS is not bad. But let me say this – this is my concern about FRS and defined contribution. What I liked about our defined benefit plan is that it anchored officers in Duval County,” Rutherford contended.

“You look at South Florida. You see these guys moving all over, going from one agency to another. They come in at different ranks, and go away.”

“In Jacksonville,” Rutherford continued, “when I saw a recruit at the academy, I expected him to be here 25 years later. A defined benefit plan will do that for you. It will keep that stability in your agency.”

“Defined contribution has that as a possibility, but it’s much more portable. Because he can take that 401k with him. And FRS is the same way. They can take that with them.”

“So,” Rutherford added, “there’s a lot to be considered when you start talking about defined contribution versus defined benefit.”

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Rutherford, of course, found himself in the position of having to advocate for the stability of the sheriff’s office during much of his time in leadership.

The economic downturn of 2007 and the crash of 2008 caused millage revenues in Jacksonville to nosedive, and the recovery in revenue has been slow.

In 2009, Rutherford faced proposed cuts from Mayor John Peyton, with the general fund contribution being $76 million.

The sheriff told the Florida Times-Union that a big part of the issue was a trough in millage revenue, and that another part of the issue was that the city took breaks from paying its part of the obligation during economic booms.

When confronted with a proposal to raise the retirement age, Rutherford was blunt.

“Crime is a young man’s game. Running the street is a young man’s game,” he said. “And I’m not sure there’s a savings there. If you leave at 25 years, you leave with more pension than you had at 20.”

In 2013, Rutherford and the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office faced a potential $29.2 million cut in the JSO operating budget.

Rutherford advocated a tax increase, refusing to make the cuts Mayor Alvin Brown pushed for.

By 2015, Rutherford’s patience with the tax-averse Brown – and the impacts that tax aversion had on public safety – was exhausted.

The sheriff was, if not a surrogate for Lenny Curry, a definite asset when it came down to messaging.

And his message was that Brown couldn’t be trusted when it came to securing resources for public safety.

“Crime has gone up since 2011,” he said, asserting that violent crime especially has gone up increasingly as the Brown administration has progressed, with an 11.6% increase in 2014 being the direct “result of cuts to this office.”

Brown’s team touted nominal budget increases. Rutherford countered that “ninety-five percent of the budget increase was related to the unfunded liability.”

Soon thereafter, Rutherford was co-branded with Lenny Curry in a television spot.

“Lenny Curry understands that the Mayor’s first priority must be to reduce crime and ensure public safety,” the Sheriff said, adding that “for a safer city and a better Jacksonville, I support Lenny Curry to be our next Mayor.”

Curry won, of course, and so did Mike Williams – Rutherford’s preferred candidate.

While Curry has come through on long-delayed force enhancements and technological adds, and while Williams (much like Rutherford was during the Peyton era) is on the sidelines of the pension debate, history tells us that a sheriff walks a fine line between labor and management.

When asked about the union position on Monday — that if benefits fall behind the rest of the departments in the state, then retention and recruitment will suffer — Williams had this to say.

“I will say this: that’s my concern really,” Williams said, before ameliorating that concern with his characteristic optimism.

“As long as it’s a competitive pay and benefit package, I’m not sure the vehicle matters. But again, I’m going to leave the negotiations up to them. and I’m confident they’ll come up with something that will work,” Williams said.

History tells us that a recurrent motif in the Jacksonville model involves tough negotiations between labor and management … a consequence of when a low-tax regulatory model collides with the realities of a big city union.

And on Wednesday, Rutherford spoke to that history, clearly pointing out that a non-negotiable value in the transaction is the risk assumed by an officer.

A challenge for Curry’s team: to find a way to meaningfully address that idea within a defined contribution model.

Former TRUE commissioner blasts Jacksonville for post-hurricane cleanup

In Jacksonville, the TRUE Commission (Taxation, Revenue, and Utilization of Expenditures) advises the city on fiscal policy.

A recent email to city leadership shows that, while you can take a commissioner off of the TRUE Commission, that doesn’t necessarily divest that person of vigilance.

Patti Anania, a former TRUE Commission member and wife of a defeated city council candidate from 2015, expressed displeasure with dilatory post-storm cleanup in the hardscrabble Arlington neighborhood.

“The City of Jacksonville has really let down its residents since Hurricane Matthew.  It was bad enough that some residents and businesses have had to wait six weeks to have small piles of debris picked up. But, when an entire street’s regular household garbage gets missed and the residents do their due diligence by calling 630-CITY and also put in care tickets online the next day and for every day afterwards,” Anania writes.

“We then are told on Friday 11/18 that ‘they have until next Tuesday to pick it up’ is unacceptable. Tuesday is our regular scheduled pickup day. This is outrageous, for what we pay in contract fees to the solid waste companies this type of service should never happen.”

Anania then asserted that in her neighborhood, “very little bulk items (couches, furniture and other normal items) be removed. This contributes to the blight here in Arlington.”

Anania urges review of relevant contracts related to solid waste collection, while noting — as residents of Arlington do — the neighborhood is mired in a seemingly perpetual cycle of decline.

“The residents of Arlington were told almost two years ago, Feb. 11, 2015, by former Mayor Brown and JU’s President Tim Cost that the Renew Arlington Initiative was going to bring Arlington back to life. Arlington is worse now than it was then,” Anania observes, “with anchor restaurants and businesses such as Neros, Outback at Regency, Sears, Belk, Bed Bath & Beyond, and Walgreens all closing their doors.”

Matt Carlucci ‘seriously considering’ another run for Jacksonville City Council

Jacksonville’s Carlucci family is inextricably linked with Jacksonville history.

Joe Carlucci was a councilman from the days of consolidation.

Matt Carlucci carried on the family’s tradition of public service, serving three terms on the council, including a stint as president.

Now Carlucci is the chairman of the Florida Commission on Ethics. Yet his time there is nearing an end. And he’s considering a logical next move: a run for council in 2019, to replace the termed-out At Large Councilman Greg Anderson.

“I’m feeling my way through,” Carlucci said, “but that’s what I’m hoping for.”

Carlucci, a Republican, has been getting “lots of encouragement” from Republicans and Democrats alike; should he run, he will have a couple of strong GOP consultants: Bruce Barcelo and Tom Nolan.

“If I pull the trigger … and it looks like I will,” Barcelo and Nolan will run the campaign, he said.

Carlucci also can count on key support from outside Duval County, such as from former Speaker of the House Will Weatherford, who vowed to be Carlucci’s “first contributor.”

Carlucci describes himself as partisan on the national level, but less so in the local realm.

Illustrating that independent streak, Carlucci notably supported Democrats Alvin Brown and Ken Jefferson for mayor and sheriff in 2015, bets that didn’t pay off.

That said, Carlucci has very complimentary things to say about the “strong leadership” of Mayor Lenny Curry now, calling the mayor “very bold, very decisive.”

“History will treat Alvin well,” Carlucci said. “He brought a lot of excitement.”

However, said Carlucci, “Lenny’s got the trains running on time.”

A council run would present one irony for Carlucci.

In 2003, he ran for mayor unsuccessfully.

When asked his reason for running for the city’s top job, Carlucci quipped to the Jax Daily Record“I just couldn’t take another four years of council meetings.”

Reminded of this quote, Carlucci quipped that in the last dozen years, he’s “mustered up the endurance to get through the council meetings again.”

Carlucci, if he runs and wins, would offer institutional knowledge of the sort that veterans like Tommy Hazouri and John Crescimbeni bring to the chamber.

Lenny Curry talks Election 2016 at Jacksonville Marco Rubio HQ

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry has been an enthusiastic supporter and friend of Sen. Marco Rubio, dating back to a time before Rubio was in the U.S. Senate.

Evidence of that political symbiosis abounds in more recent memory.

Rubio was a prominent backer of Curry’s mayoral bid, coming into town for a rally the day before the May 2015 election that swept Curry into office over Alvin Brown, the Democratic incumbent considered unassailable by media types.

Curry backed Rubio in the Florida presidential primary, undaunted by polls headed up to the March vote that showed Trump poised to take Duval County and the rest of the state.

Beyond politics, the two have functioned well in the policy realm, with Curry and Rubio working together to offer long-delayed, meaningful redress for the residents of some of Jacksonville’s most neglected HUD properties.

During that brief period after Rubio left the presidential race, there was some question as to whether he would run for re-election after all.

Curry was one of those who publicly urged Rubio to reconsider his decision to leave the Senate, saying, “we need Marco Rubio for the skills he brings to the table.”

Rubio, of course, ran, dispatching Carlos Beruff in the primary before a more competitive general election battle against Patrick Murphy.

On Monday morning, Curry was showing support for Rubio again, thanking volunteers at a Southside Jacksonville HQ.

Rubio, Curry said, “reached out last week” to ask Curry to help “get the message out” and “get people to turn out.”

“A whole lot of us pushed him to run again,” Curry added.

“This is an important election,” Curry said, from “the top of the ticket on down,” especially the U.S. Senate.

There, Curry said, Rubio’s “strong voice” and willingness to engage on “tough issues” stand out.

Among the topics that came up with media: early voting.

“Early voting is becoming the new normal,” Curry said.

Regarding the gap of over 4,000 votes between Democrats and Republicans in Duval County, Curry emphasized the importance of “ground game” to close that gap for the GOP side.

There are a variety of opinions as to how Duval’s vote distribution ultimately will shake out.

Duval County typically goes red on Election Day.

But this is an atypical year, with changes in voting patterns and a realignment of the GOP along Trumpian lines providing meaningful wildcards that preclude precise forecasting of how the election will go, in Duval and everywhere else.

African-American mayors bring a message to St. Pete and Tampa: Vote for Hillary

As the election enters the homestretch, a group of African-American mayors and former mayors from across the U.S. have jumped on the bus for Hillary Clinton — literally.

They’re taking a bus around Florida on the “Souls to Polls Train” to take a message to the African-American and Latin communities in particular — elect Hillary.

“Her message is the message of hope,” Philip Levine, mayor of Miami Beach, said Friday.

If elected, the mayors said, Clinton will help hopes come true with promises of jobs, an increased minimum wage, free college tuition for those whose parents can’t afford it, investment in neglected communities, money for infrastructure improvements, $25 billion for entrepreneurship and small business, and an emphasis on early childhood education.

“She’s laid out a clear vision” where education is concerned, former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown said. “She’s the most qualified, but we have to get out and vote.”

The group stopped in Tampa Friday morning before coming to St. Petersburg where they toured the Dr. Carter G. Woodson African-American Museum before visiting individual areas along the historic 22nd Street South corridor. They planned to finish their St. Petersburg visit with a meal at Chief’s Creole Café.

Along the way, Mayor Michael Nutter of Philadelphia said, they’d deliver the message and urge people to get out and vote for Clinton.

“She’s ready to serve,” Nutter said. “She’s ready on Day 1. … People have to come out and vote.”

The election is Nov. 8. Early voting begins Monday.

Buddy Dyer, Phillip Levine, Bob Buckhorn, others on Mayors for Hillary bus tour

What a party bus this will be. A Democratic Party bus, filled with mayors from Florida including Orlando’s Buddy Dyer, Miami Beach’s Phillip Levine, Tampa’s Bob Buckhorn, and St. Petersburg’s Rick Kriseman, has begun a cross-state tour to campaign for Hillary Clinton.

Hillary for America announced Thursday that those four and 19 other mayors and former mayors — some from out-of-state cities like Detroit, Philadelphia and Dallas — are participating in the tour with at least four stops to promote Clinton’s economic plan and urge people to vote early.

The activity actually began Wednesday night with a kick-off debate watch party in Miami, and will roll Friday to Orlando and Gainesville, and Saturday to Tallahassee, with other stops yet to be scheduled or announced.

In addition to Levine — widely discussed as a 2018 gubernatorial candidate — Dyer, Buckhorn and Kriseman, the Florida mayors include Wayne Messam of Miramar, Oliver Gilbert of Miami Gardens, Lauren Poe of Gainesville; Andrew Gillum of Tallahassee, Thomas Masters of Riviera Beach, and former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown.

From out of state, Florida will meet William Bell of Birmingham, Alabama, Jacqueline Goodall of Forest Heights, Maryland, Sly James of Kansas City, Lovely Warren of Rochester New York, Malcolm Clark of Mt. Vernon, New York, Steve Benjamin of Columbia, South Carolina, Bill Bell of Durham, North Carolina, and former mayors Michael Nutter of Philadelphia, Mark Mallory of Cincinnati, Mike Coleman of Columbus, Ohio, Wellington Webb of Denver, Dennis Archer of Detroit, and Ron Kirk of Dallas.

Lenny Curry defends missing debit card investigation

A fun #jaxpol mystery of 2015 — accounting for $27,000 worth of missing employee incentive debit cards from the Alvin Brown administration — petered out this month.

“City debit cards reported missing were in a safe all along,” reported the Jax Daily Record.

In November 2015, Curry directed the inspector general to look into the debit card issue and to connect with the state attorney as appropriate.

However, in October of this year (justice moves slowly), the OIG determined that $3,100 in cards, which were in a safe the whole time, were all that were at issue, and the larger number was reported erroneously.

In an email to senior staff, Curry defended his vigilance on the debit card issue.

Curry says the story “gets one part right and that is that the Brown administration did not properly account for these cards, the attached story and other stories do not represent material facts.”

From there, Curry offered a recap.

Curry noted that once his team learned an “employee debit card program existed,” an “inventory of the cards” was requested.

That inventory was conducted by two senior staffers.

From there, a treasury employee found an envelope in a safe with $27,000 in “unaccounted for/missing debit cards.”

Curry noted that, after requesting an investigation by the inspector general, it took “six MONTHS from the date we asked for the investigation to when the IG secured and examined the contents of the safe. Due to lack of controls by the previous administration, any number of unknown people had access to that safe.

“We would not have asked the IG to engage if we believed those cards were in that safe. The safe should have been secured and audited at the time the investigation was announced,” Curry noted.

“No one can conclude those cards were in that safe based on the facts. We did the right thing by asking for an IG investigation to find the cards,” Curry concluded.

Jacksonville City Council members consider struggling commercial corridors

On Thursday, Jacksonville City Council members Scott Wilson, John Crescimbeni, and Greg Anderson convened to discuss an issue of interest to Wilson: commercial corridors in need of re-development.

Wilson, elected in 2015, has contended Jacksonville’s economic incentives policy doesn’t accommodate his district on Jacksonville’s Southside, where many neighborhoods have economic issues, but don’t qualify for incentives in the city’s recently formulated policy.

While the idea is to encourage retail development, the short answer is there are no easy answers to problems of disuse and misuse that built over decades.

One option could be Residential Recapture Enhanced Value Grants, or REV Grants, which could defray the cost of some improvements over time, such as facade improvements and landscaping.

An open question is whether that grant would “move the needle” to drive incentive.

For businesses like used car lots and mechanics, these modest grants wouldn’t really drive the kind of commercial redevelopment needed.

Paul Crawford, a representative from the mayor’s office’s economic development department, suggested  a way forward would be to change the use, into a “productive retail space.”

Many properties weren’t designed for their current uses, Crawford said.

Councilman Crescimbeni noted previous zoning decisions “opened the door” for a preponderance of used car lots and the like in Arlington, suggesting that changing the zoning categories may be the move.

“Down zoning” properties would have a gradual effect, with current tenants grandfathered in, Crescimbeni said.

Amortization was also discussed, creating a hard deadline for compliance with zoning criteria, which could change the topography of these “blightscapes” over time.

Another issue with the zoning in some parts of the Southside and Arlington: the fact that commercial zoning can go back a couple of properties into neighborhoods.

A potential solution: a zoning overlay to create larger, albeit gradual, zoning changes.

With overlays in Jacksonville, there is no one-size-fits-all solution, though the zoning issues in once-thriving areas seem to come down to used car dealerships and other businesses not conducive to residential prosperity.

Anderson discussed areas on the Westside, such as Blanding and San Juan, that have become hotbeds of more sordid businesses in recent years.

Hardscaping was discussed as one potential solution. Also discussed were community development block grant dollars, which may be difficult in these areas given that they aren’t quite economically distressed enough.

Crescimbeni laid out a problem: “planning commissioners aren’t accountable to anybody … and right now, we have a planning commission that never met an exception it didn’t like.”

Of course, the planning commission went through some big changes about a year ago, when Alvin Brown appointees were scuttled in favor of Lenny Curry adherents.

Alvin Brown, active surrogate for Hillary Clinton

In the mayor’s office in Jacksonville’s city hall, there was a new addition this week: a portrait of former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown to hang next to the pictures of previous mayors.

Brown, informed sources tell us, was not cooperative with the process: a rite of passage for former Jacksonville mayors, generally involving a painting paid for with private funds.

Brown’s photograph has been blown up and framed on the fourth floor of the St. James Building; however, even if Brown were a regular fixture at Jacksonville’s city hall, he wouldn’t see it between now and the election.

Brown is serving as a surrogate for Hillary Clinton on the campaign trail.

This is no surprise, of course. The Democrat did some important work in the first Clinton administration, and has served as an opening speaker for Bill Clinton during the former president’s own visits to Jacksonville.

However, Brown’s current role involves helping to make the sale for the Hillary Clinton ticket in a number of far-flung areas.

In doing so, Brown is doing some of the work in the trenches, with forays into small towns outside of the media glare.

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On Sept. 20 and 21, for example, Brown was part of the “Stronger Together” bus tour through Ohio. Part of Brown’s role: the “thank the volunteers” deal, as Brown and other mayors did in Dayton and other Buckeye State burgs.

Brown also serves up talking points that shore up the center-left and theoretically appeal to independent voters.

“She knows the cities are a place of innovation, creativity, the economic engine of our community all across the country,” Brown said of Clinton to the Springfield News. “She wants to put America back to work and that starts by working with everyone.”

Brown also broke ranks with his former political friend, Rick Scott, and cast aspersions toward the GOP presidential candidate to the Sandusky Register““There really isn’t another option. The other candidate has offended every constituent and group in this country. She has a proven track record; she’s qualified; and she has a plan.”

Brown also extolled Clinton’s five-year plan, saying Clinton had a “vision for America … [with] focus on small businesses and entrepreneurs. She knows cities. Her five-year plan, which she will pass in her first 100 days, will focus on rebuilding streets, highways, crumbling schools, and jobs.”

“No matter what zip code you live in, she’s going to be the president for every city in America,” Brown said.

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Last Friday, Brown was in Oklahoma City meeting with former colleagues at the fall meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

On Saturday, Brown issued what were called “strong remarks” at the South Carolina Democratic Party’s Spratt Issues Conference.

The SCDP’s social media person called Brown a “senior adviser” for Hillary Clinton.

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Brown’s role with the Clinton campaign has been below the radar, but has been ongoing for months.

Al Sharpton referred to Brown as a “senior adviser” in a July Tweet, regarding Brown’s speech at a meeting of the National Action Network.

When contacted regarding Brown’s role at the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the Clinton campaign offered no comment.

However, if Hillary Clinton wins, a reasonable expectation is that Brown will secure an administration job of some type.

Ironically, that would tie in with rhetoric put forth from the Lenny Curry campaign last year: that Brown was “dreaming of his next D.C. job.”

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A job in Washington would be ideal in some ways for Brown, who (as opposed to most former mayors) has been absent from the public square since his election loss in May 2015.

However, to achieve that goal, he has a job beforehand.

That job: to travel where he’s needed, and to help Hillary Clinton make the sale to groups still unconvinced.

James Clyburn sees enthusiasm and generational gaps plaguing Hillary Clinton campaign

On Monday, South Carolina’s Rep. James Clyburn hosted a “call to action” conversation in Jacksonville with supporters of Hillary Clinton.

Clyburn was last in Jacksonville in 2015, campaigning for a protege — former Mayor Alvin Brown — in a campaign that saw the mayor’s re-election thwarted by an enthusiasm gap in the base.

Clyburn is conscious of similar gaps for Clinton, which he attributes to a bruising primary and to a heavily motivated Donald Trump base.

The South Carolina congressman noted positive auguries for Clinton, such as USA Today’s editorial making the case against Trump, and Republican newspapers endorsing Clinton.

Another positive sign: Trump’s tax issues, which Clyburn likened to Watergate in terms of the magnitude of the scandal.

However, despite the case against Trump being made, the “campaign is too close” because the campaign has “not done a good enough job telling people why they should vote for Hillary Clinton.”

Clyburn compared Clinton to 1988 nominee Michael Dukakis. He, too, came out of the Democratic convention with a two-digit lead but ended up “defined by the Willie Horton ad,” which “came out of the Democratic primary,” where Al Gore used it.

Republican operative Lee Atwater refined and rebooted it, said Clyburn, and “that spelled doom for Dukakis.”

Clyburn noted the generation gap in the Democratic primary, insisting the Clinton campaign “cannot allow this campaign of Hillary Clinton to be defined by the primary.”

“The millennials are crying out for guidance from us,” Clyburn said to a largely over-50 crowd in Jacksonville comprised of elected leaders and party activists.

Clyburn believes that on issues such as criminal justice reform and infrastructure renewal, Clinton’s platform is stronger than Trump’s.

However, engaging the millennials for Clinton is far from a done deal, and is necessary, given that Trump’s support is strong and in hard-to-gauge areas.

Clyburn spoke of driving up U.S. Highway 52 in South Carolina, “seeing Trump signs everywhere … every now and then Confederate flags.”

Trump’s GOTV campaign is, said Clyburn, “on the back roads” in South Carolina and other battleground states, with “field officers” poised to turn the vote out.

Clyburn noted on occasion that Clinton could do a better job choosing her words, including her reference to half of Trump’s supporters as a “basket of deplorables.”

“She should have said a lot of deplorables,” Clyburn said, referencing David Duke and “white nationalists” as filling the bill.

Clyburn noted that when Trump says he’s a “law-and-order guy,” that’s a “code word for deplorables.”

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