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Steve Schale: Dear Dems, one 2018 project — Caribbean voters

In my earliest days on the Barack Obama campaign in 2008, one of our first statewide polls showed a weakness with Black voters, at least compared to other states.

It wasn’t necessarily that John McCain was doing better than elsewhere, just that there were more voters on the sidelines. It didn’t take long to figure out the initial weakness was among Caribbean voters, which over time, we were able to address.

A couple of days ago, an old Obamaland friend who was a big part of those 2008 Caribbean conversations, texted me a quick question about the Haitian vote in Florida, and specifically if there was any truth to the chatter, and/or anecdotal evidence that Hillary Clinton underperformed among Haitians.

I had sensed some of the same but honestly hadn’t taken a look at the data yet.

Before starting, it is important to consider there are three significant challenges when thinking about the Haitian, and in a larger sense, Caribbean Black vote in Florida.

First, unlike the vast majority of other states, the Black vote in Florida is not monolithically African-American. Here, a significant share is either Caribbean and/or Hispanic.

The same challenge exists when analyzing the Hispanic vote. On other battleground states, Hispanics tend to be nearly universally Mexican, while here in Florida, both Hispanic and Black voters come from a large mosaic of nationalities.

Secondly, along these same lines, Florida’s voter registration data is woefully overly-generic about the population. When it comes to Caribbean and African-American voters, the voter registration form provides actually just three options: Black, Multiracial or Other. Therefore, it is impossible to solely pull out voters of Caribbean descent. There are some analytic tools, but that is generally built on a model, and as such, isn’t exact (nor available to the public as a whole).

Third, and finally, the census data isn’t a ton better.

The generic census form does not drill down for information on “Black or African-American” residents (it does with certain Hispanics and Asian populations). There are census tools that dig into a nation of origin, but again are sampled and not individual specific.

So, in answering my friend’s query, I came up with what was a (granted, inexact) performance model, yet one I think provides some insight — and in this case, caution for Democrats — or at least cause for more research.

The model: Florida House District 108, the home of “Little Haiti.”

The question — how did Clinton/Donald Trump play both in this district and specifically in the Little Haiti precincts, versus Obama/Romney? For the sake of adding more data, I also looked at Rick Scott in 2010 and 2014.

Understanding the limitations laid out above, here is what the data says.

Obama won the district in 2012 by 90-10, and Clinton won it 87-11 (Interestingly, this shift matches the 2-point margin shift from Obama to Clinton). Also, voter turnout in the seat at large was about the same, at least among Black voters (70 percent in 2012, 70.5 percent in 2016).

On the surface, these are not insignificant changes, but in no way, are the kind of massive shifts we saw in places like Pasco County, north of Tampa, where the change among Republican support was almost 10 points.

But looking deeper, there is more than the story.

First, there were actually 6,000 fewer registered voters in the district in 16 than 12, which a combination of two things: purges of “inactive voters” and at a certain level, some voters not being interested enough to care to keep registration up to date.

As a result, Clinton got 6,000 fewer votes than Obama in the district — while Trump got about the same as Mitt Romney. In other words, Clinton carried the district by 6,000 fewer votes than Obama’s 2012 margin.

The total shift in the vote margin statewide was roughly 180K votes — so just over 3 percent of the full shift from Obama to Trump happened just in this one state House seat — a seat that by comparison only made up 0.6 percent of the entire statewide vote in the presidential election.

Secondly, it gets even more interesting in just the Little Haiti precincts.

So, inside House District 108, during the Obama re-election, voters in the Little Haiti precincts made up just over 17 percent of registered voters, and in the election, just over 16 percent of the actual 2012 voters.

Looking at it another way, turnout among all Black voters in the district was roughly 70 percent in 2012, but within the Little Haiti precincts, was about 63 percent.

My guy won Little Haiti by 92 percent (96-4). Clinton won it by 85 percent (91-6 percent). Honestly, this data point actually surprised me. My hunch going in was Trump might have done better in these precincts than he did districtwide (10 percent).

But here is where the huge red flag shows up. Little Haiti residents in 2016 actually made up a bigger share of registered voters than 2016 — almost 19 percent but saw their share of the district’s actual vote drop to 16 percent. Why? Black turnout was right at 71 percent in the district in 2016, but inside Little Haiti, it fell to 58 percent.

As a result, Clinton carried these 10 precincts by 1,300 votes less than Obama did, or roughly 0.7 percent of the total shift from Obama to Trump — 10 precincts that by the way, make up less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the 2016 statewide vote. Why? Simply, Little Haiti voter participation was 13 percent lower than Black turnout districtwide.

While Trump got better margins than Romney did four years earlier, but it had almost nothing to do with more support for him, and almost everything to do with lower participation from people who in 2012 voted for Barack Obama.

It is interesting when comparing Democratic performance in Little Haiti between 2010 and 2014, Charlie Crist did better than Alex Sink, both regarding turnout and performance.

But I suspect, just as we saw overall Black turnout prove to be robust in 14, a lot of that was a factor of voters showing up to protect President Obama. Interestingly enough, Rick Scott put a lot more emphasis on Caribbean voters in 2014 than 2010 so it would be useful to look outside of this one neighborhood to see if the 2014 results hold up elsewhere.

Moreover, Crist’s 2014 strength in Little Haiti doesn’t mean, as 2016 shows, that one can expect 2018 to be the same without work.

Granted, there are lots of reasons to be cautious about reading much of anything into a 10-precinct sample of one state House seat in a state like Florida. However, I do think there is enough to take a longer look at this, overlaying census data with precinct maps throughout South Florida, and comparing the presidential election in precincts with a significant Caribbean population.

My hunch is we would see a lot of the same.

 

Kathy Castor dismisses talk of her running for Tampa mayor

Kathy Castor is not interested in running for Tampa mayor in 2019.

Elected in November to a sixth term in Congress representing Hillsborough County, the idea that Castor was contemplating leaving Washington to succeed Bob Buckhorn was floated by Patrick Manteiga in his La Gaceta column late last month.

On Tuesday, Castor dismissed such speculation.

“You know, I love my hometown, and I’m in a fabulous position to be able to advocate for my hometown,” she told FloridaPolitics.com. “And that’s what I intend to do — stay right where I am, if the voters will continue to have confidence in me.”

Castor was elected in the Democratic wave of 2006, when the party stunningly picked up 31 seats, putting them back in charge of the House of Representatives for the first time since the Newt Gingrich-led Republican party took over the House some 12 years earlier.

Castor won the open seat left vacant by Jim Davis’s decision to run for governor by winning a primary over four Democrats, including current County Commission Chairman Les Miller.

Florida’s 14th Congressional District seat is considered to “lean strongly Democratic,” though the most recent redistricting before last year’s elections reduced the Democratic advantage in Florida from roughly 14 percent to 7 percent.

Republicans retook the House in 2010, but with Democrat Barack Obama in the White House, Castor was able to maintain some influence, most notably in the president’s decision in December of 2014 to reestablish relations with Cuba. That effort was paved in part by Castor’s 2013 announcement that it was time to end the economic embargo against the Communist island nation.

In doing so, she became the first elected official in Florida to make such a declaration since sanctions took place more than fifty years earlier.

Castor currently serves as the Vice-Ranking Member of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, one of the first committees to review the first iteration of the American Health Care Act, the House GOP health care plan designed to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. The AHCA passed the House earlier this month.

Buckhorn’s second and final term in office as mayor is slated to end April 2019, with nearly two years until Tampa voters will be asked to decide on his successor.

George Sheldon, under fire in Illinois, also faces questions at home

George Sheldon, a former Florida official now facing an ethics inquiry as director of Illinois’ Department of Children and Family Services, also ran into a spot of trouble at home this week.

Property records show Sheldon, secretary of Florida’s Department of Children and Families in 2008-11, claimed a homestead exemption on his Tallahassee house while he was living and working in Chicago.

He also was listed as “delinquent” on paying his Florida Bar dues, according to its website.

In a phone interview Tuesday morning, Sheldon said he’s never considered himself a permanent Illinois resident, and wherever work may take him, “Florida is my home.” He has owned a home in Tallahassee’s Golden Eagle neighborhood since 2007, Leon County property records show.

He also sent a copy of a lawyer’s opinion letter saying, in part, “mere absence for a protracted period of time is not of itself sufficient to establish abandonment of homestead.” The opinion was by Tallahassee attorney Ronald Meyer, a veteran labor lawyer who also represents the Florida Education Association.

Also Tuesday, a Bar spokeswoman told FloridaPolitics.com that Sheldon “is no longer fee delinquent.”

“His fees are current and he’s paid the reinstatement fee of $150,” the Bar’s Karen Kirksey said. He is, however, still listed as “not eligible to practice in Florida” because he had not yet returned a required form, she added.

As reported Monday by the Tallahassee Democrat, “Sheldon, a well-known figure in Florida politics who took over Illinois’ troubled child welfare agency in 2015, is embroiled in ongoing state ethics probes and facing scrutiny over contracts given to past campaign donors and consultants.”

A spokesman told the paper Sheldon “saw no personal financial benefit from any of the Florida contracts” that went to Gary Yordon, a political consultant and former Leon County commissioner, and Adam Corey, part-owner of Tallahassee’s Edison restaurant.

Yordon got “$35,000 to produce two television public service announcements about child drowning danger and safe infant sleeping practices,” and Corey “lobbied for a company, Presidio Networked Solutions, that was awarded more than $1 million in contracts with (Illinois’) DCFS.”

Sheldon now is weighing a return to Florida to head the Our Kids nonprofit that provides child services in Miami-Dade and Monroe counties.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do,” he said Tuesday. “I’m torn. But I have never run from a challenge, and Illinois is a challenge.”

On his residency, Sheldon added: “It’s a fair question and it was a fair question when they were trying to knock me off the ballot.”

Sheldon, a Democrat, lost a challenge to incumbent GOP Attorney General Pam Bondi in 2014. Before that campaign, he lived in Washington while serving as acting assistant secretary in 2011-13 for the federal Administration for Children and Families under President Barack Obama.

After his legal residency was challenged in court, a Tallahassee judge ruled that his “professional sojourn out of state didn’t disqualify him for holding office if elected,” the Tampa Tribune reported. Meyer also represented him during that case. 

Over a long career, Sheldon also has served in the state House, was an aide to then-state Sen. Reubin Askew, and was a deputy to Attorney General Bob Butterworth.

This is all part of being in the public eye,” Sheldon said. 

Updated 9 p.m. — The Miami Herald reported that the Our Kids board voted unanimously Tuesday afternoon to hire Sheldon as its new CEO, but he “has given Our Kids no assurances yet that he will accept the offer.”

George Sheldon now taken to task by hometown paper

George Sheldon‘s hometown newspaper now has weighed in on the former Florida politico, putting in newsprint the latest ethics woes of the now-director of Illinois’ Department of Children and Family Services.

The Tallahassee Democrat’s Monday edition (online version here), with help from the Chicago Tribune’s estimable reporting of the last few weeks, documented Sheldon’s travails as head of Illinois’ DCFS.

The lede, by the nearly 20-year Democrat veteran Jeff Burlew: “George Sheldon, a well-known figure in Florida politics who took over Illinois’ troubled child welfare agency in 2015, is embroiled in ongoing state ethics probes and facing scrutiny over contracts given to past campaign donors and consultants.”

Sheldon, a Democrat who lost a challenge to incumbent GOP Attorney General Pam Bondi in 2014, was secretary of the Florida Department of Children and Families from 2008-2011 under then-Gov. Charlie Crist.

He also has served in the state House, as a deputy to Attorney General Bob Butterworth, and as acting assistant secretary for the federal Administration for Children and Families under President Barack Obama.

The upshot: Sheldon now is looking at a beating a retreat to Miami, to head the Our Kids nonprofit that provides child services in Miami-Dade and Monroe counties.

Not that Sheldon—still listed as owning a home in Tallahassee that last sold for $409,000—talks much to the Florida media these days.

Sheldon, who was a reporter’s best friend during his AG campaign, now has taken to largely shunting press inquiries to right-hand man Neil Skene, a former St. Petersburg Times (now Tampa Bay Times) Tallahassee bureau chief. Skene joined Sheldon’s leadership team in Illinois.

“George’s leadership has won widespread, bipartisan support, including an outpouring from people in the General Assembly and the child-welfare system urging him to remain in Illinois and complete that work that is under way,” Skene told the Democrat, adding that Sheldon “saw no personal financial benefit from any of the Florida contracts.”

They include Gary Yordon, a political consultant and former Leon County commissioner, and Adam Corey, part-owner of Tallahassee’s Edison restaurant.

Yordon got “$35,000 to produce two television public service announcements about child drowning danger and safe infant sleeping practices,” the paper reported, and Corey “lobbied for a company, Presidio Networked Solutions, that was awarded more than $1 million in contracts with (Illinois’) DCFS.”

Sheldon did tell the Tribune last week he “can’t not give serious consideration to Florida. It’s home, but I also feel an obligation to Illinois.” He said he expects to make a decision “in the coming weeks.”

Darryl Paulson: President ‘Pants on Fire’

Although a Republican and a conservative, I was never able to support Donald Trump for president for three reasons. First, he has seldom been a Republican in his lifetime. Second, he is a pragmatist and populist, but not a conservative.

Finally, he has difficulty telling the truth.

So, what was so appealing about Trump that he won 30 of the 50 states and a majority of the electoral vote? His greatest appeal was being a non-politician in an era where Americans demanded political change.

Politics is the only occupation where experience is a negative. The next time you or a loved one needs major surgery, will you pick an experienced doctor or one who is doing his first operation? Only in politics do we prefer someone with no experience. We are now reaping what we have sowed.

How can you tell if Donald Trump is not lying? See if his lips are closed. Trump has changed virtually every major political position he has held. He then denies doing so, or says that changing positions is a sign of his flexibility. There is nothing wrong with a politician who changes their position, but it is not unfair to expect that person to remain true to their core values.

As New York Times columnist David Brooks has written, Trump is the “most dishonest person to run for high office in our lifetime.” Trump “is oblivious to accuracy.”

During the presidential campaign, Trump lied about President Barack Obama not being born in the United States; he lied about his own position on the Iraq War; he lied about NATO; he lied about Ted Cruz’s father being involved in the assassination of President Kennedy; he lied about the unemployment and crime rate; he lied about voter fraud in elections, and he lied about his groping of women. The list is far more extensive than this.

Once assuming the presidency, President Trump lied about President Obama tapping his phones; he lied about his winning the Electoral College vote by historic margins; he lied about his inaugural crowds being larger than Obama’s, and he even lied about the provisions of his American Health Care Act.

Trump’s constant inability to tell the truth led PolitiFact to call Trump’s misstatements during the 2016 presidential campaign to be the “lie of the year.” PolitiFact concluded that 76 percent of Trump’s statements were False, Mostly False or Pants on Fire.

Lest one concludes that PolitiFact is merely another liberal hatchet job by the left-leaning media, PolitiFact labeled President Obama’s statements that “if you like your health care plan, you can keep your plan,” and “if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor” to be the “lie of the year” after passage of Obamacare.

Trump’s latest lie is that he fired FBI Director James Comey because he mishandled the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails. Comey was in the third year of a ten-year term as FBI Director when fired by the president. The long-term was designed to protect the FBI Director from political interference from the White House and Congress.

During the last few weeks of the presidential campaign, Trump praised Comey for reopening the investigation into Clinton’s emails against strong protests from the Democrats. Trump said, “it took a lot of guts” for Comey to reopen the investigation and, in doing so, Comey had “brought back his reputation.”

Comey was currently investigating potential ties between the Trump campaign and Russian influence in the presidential election. Five members of the Trump campaign have been found to have contact with Russian officials during the presidential race. The list includes former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, consultant Roger Stone, foreign policy adviser Carter Page, national security adviser Michael Flynn and current Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Corey’s dismissal puts the Trump-Russian investigation in jeopardy. Democrats are suspicious of the timing of Comey’s firing, but their position is weakened by their repeated called for Comey’s ouster.

Perhaps the most consistent aspect of the Trump campaign and presidency is Trump’s lies. As bad as those lies may be, what is worse is that Trump is attempting to place himself above the law.

Americans would not tolerate that behavior during Watergate, when both Republicans and Democrats joined forces to find out the truth. As Howard Baker said during the Watergate hearings, “what did the president know and when did he know it?”

That question is just as relevant as it was over 40 years ago.

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Darryl Paulson is Emeritus Professor of Government at USF St. Petersburg specializing in Florida politics and elections.

Rick Scott has a friend in White House and foes back home

With a friend and a political ally in the White House, this was supposed to be a moment of triumph for Florida Gov. Rick Scott.

For years, Scott complained and criticized President Barack Obama and contended he wasn’t helping Florida. Now with Donald Trump in office, Scott has worked out a deal with federal officials to provide at least $1 billion for the state’s hospitals and he obtained a promise to move forward with repairs to a federally-operated dike that surrounds the state largest freshwater lake.

But that didn’t help him with the Republican-controlled Legislature.

Instead by the end of this year’s session, Scott’s legislative agenda was in tatters, ignored by GOP legislators he has feuded with for months and criticized during visits to the lawmakers’ hometowns.

And on Tuesday, he bashed the newly-passed $83 billion budget, giving his strongest sign that he may veto the spending plan and force the state House and Senate to reconvene in a special session. He criticized legislators for assembling most of the budget — which covers spending from July of this year to June 2018 — in secret and for refusing to set aside money for his top priorities including money for business incentives.

“I ran for governor to fight career politicians and it’s backroom deals like this that make families think politics is nothing more than a game,” Scott said in a statement. “Just like I do every year, I will make my decisions based on what’s best for our families because my job is to wake up every day and fight for Floridians.”

The Florida Legislature wrapped up its session late Monday, passing a series of budget-related bills that included a pay raise for state workers, a measure to cut funding to the state’s tourism marketing agency by two-thirds and a small boost in money for day-to-day school operations. They also passed a sweeping education bill that includes more than $400 million for teacher bonuses as well as money for charter schools that enroll students now attending failing public schools.

Scott contends the new budget could harm the state’s economy and suppress job creation.

The big question, however, is whether Scott will take the political risk of vetoing the budget since it was passed by overwhelming margins. A Florida governor hasn’t vetoed the entire budget in more than two decades.

Scott, a potential candidate for U.S. Senate next year against incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, could be embarrassed if legislators return to the Capitol and override him. It takes a two-thirds vote in both the House and Senate, meaning Republicans would need Democrats to join with them.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran has derided Scott’s requests for business incentives as “corporate welfare” and has ridiculed VISIT Florida for deals such as the secret one where the rapper Pitbull was paid $1 million to promote the state. The Land O’ Lakes Republican has defended his strong stance opposite Scott and criticized politicians he says have flipped positions. Scott backed strong anti-immigration moves in 2010 but then backed off later. The governor also flipped on whether to support Medicaid expansion.

“There’s a war going on for the soul of the party,” said Corcoran, who says he thinks the Legislature has enough votes to block Scott’s veto. “Are we going to be who we say we are?”

Senate Republicans say they tried to back Scott’s priorities and have urged him to sign the new budget. Sen. Bill Galvano, a top Republican from Bradenton, said Scott’s situation was a byproduct of negotiations in order to get a final budget.

“The reality is what it is,” Galvano said. “There’s got to be some give and take.”

Senate Democratic Leader Oscar Braynon from Miami Gardens said Republicans should not assume that Democrats will join in an override, especially since there are measures, including the education bill, that were opposed by Democrats.

“You can’t predict that until we see what he vetoes,” Braynon said.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Andrew Gillum

Andrew Gillum calls for ‘strengthening’ Obamacare in Florida

A day after the end of the 2017 Legislative Session, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum on Monday called on state lawmakers to pass a bill “strengthening insurance protections for those with pre-existing conditions.”

Gillum, the sitting mayor of Tallahassee, appeared at the Florida Press Center with two local women who told of their family members’ troubles getting coverage and treatment: One has a son with a chromosomal disorder and the other’s sister lives with Crohn’s disease, an incurable digestive malady.

Gillum’s proposal, a priority if he’s elected in 2018, has three goals: Prohibit insurers from denying coverage to people with pre-existing medical conditions; charge them the same premiums as those without such conditions; and “end the discriminatory practice of charging women higher premiums than men.”

The first two already are part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as “Obamacare,” which President Donald Trump and GOP members of Congress have so far unsuccessfully tried to repeal. The federal law is the signature act of former President Barack Obama

Gillum’s proposal, light on specifics, may be more pipe dream than policy—at least for now—with a GOP-controlled Legislature and an insurance industry averse to change.

He said he had had “some behind-the-scenes conversations” with members of the industry, though he declined to say who, and couldn’t provide a financial impact of his proposal.

A request for comment was sent to Audrey S. Brown, the president and CEO of the Florida Association of Health Plans, which represents managed-care companies.

Gillum also dodged a question about whether he supported an “individual mandate,” insurance parlance for a legal requirement to buy health insurance. That’s also part of the ACA.

“We believe, and I certainly believe, that health care is a right,” he said. “We also know that it has a tremendous impact on this state’s economy. We unfortunately have a governor that did not allow the full benefits of the ACA to be felt. We would work toward a strengthening of the ACA.”

GOP Gov. Rick Scott, a former for-profit hospital chain executive who’s term-limited next year, has declined to expand Medicaid under the ACA to provide health coverage to more poor and working-poor Floridians. That decision was supported the Republican-controlled House.

Denise Wilson, a banking trainer, told of her young son’s struggle with Potocki-Shaffer syndrome, which affects bones and tissues. He’s needed surgery just to maintain his ability to move, she said.

She told of having “to go through hoops” to get him treatment: “And when you have a child with special needs, your life is hoops.”

And Avril Wood, a “state worker,” said her younger sister’s need for Crohn’s treatment has caused her family constant worries over paying for insurance and medications.

Crohn’s “causes inflammation of the lining of the digestive tract, which can lead to abdominal pain, severe diarrhea, fatigue, weight loss and malnutrition,” according to the Mayo Clinic.

“My sister is loving and kind,” Wood said, verging on tears. “This has ravaged our family … My parents are wondering if they’re going to run out of money in their retirement. Given the choice between bankruptcy and keeping my sister alive, they will choose bankruptcy. And that thought is cruel.”

The 37-year-old Gillum was first elected to public office in 2003, when he became Tallahassee’s youngest city council member ever at 23. He was elected mayor in 2014.

He still faces an Leon County Sheriff’s Office investigation into whether he broke state ethics law by using a city-owned email program to send campaign-related and other political messages.

Other declared Democratic candidates for governor include former Tallahassee-area congresswoman Gwen Graham and Winter Park businessman Chris King. Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is likely to be the the first Republican to declare; his announcement is expected Wednesday in Bartow.

Anxiety over GOP health plan for those with severe illnesses

Unease and uncertainty are settling over Americans with serious illnesses as Republicans move closer to dismantling Democratic former President Barack Obama‘s health care system.

A New Orleans attorney with multiple sclerosis fears he’ll be forced to close his practice if he loses coverage, while a Philadelphia woman with asthma is looking at stockpiling inhalers.

The Republican health care bill pushed through the House on Thursday leaves those with pre-existing conditions fearful of higher premiums and losing coverage altogether if the Affordable Care Act is replaced.

The bill sets aside billions of dollars more to help people afford coverage, but experts say that money is unlikely to guarantee an affordable alternative for people now covered under a popular provision of the existing law that prevents insurers from rejecting them or charging higher rates based on their health.

What happens to those with pre-existing conditions under the Republican plan remains unknown.

Several people unsettled by the prospects expressed these concerns.

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FORMER UTAH CHEF

Jake Martinez said he’s worried about getting health insurance in the future because he has epilepsy, considered a pre-existing condition by insurers.

For the last several years, he, his wife and their three children have settled into a comfortable place using health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. But now the Murray, Utah, residents are worried about what may happen with this new health care bill.

“Today, it really kind of sunk in that not only are we not going to potentially have health care coverage but that it was done as a political win rather than a well-thought-out plan,” said Martinez, a 32-year-old former chef who’s studying social work. “That’s what stings about it.”

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KENTUCKY ATTORNEY

Shortly after being diagnosed with type I diabetes, Amanda Perkins learned about the perils of pre-existing conditions when she starting trying to buy health insurance.

Now she worries that protections under the Affordable Care Act that made sure certain essential health benefits, like insulin prescriptions, could be eliminated.

The new Republican plan would let some states allow insurers to charge higher premiums for people with pre-existing conditions, but only if those people had a lapse in insurance coverage. Supporters say those states would need to have programs in place to help people pay for expensive medical treatments, including high-risk pools.

But Perkins said Kentucky’s previous high-risk pool had a 12-month waiting period and was too expensive for her.

“I bought a house just a couple of months ago. Will it come down to me paying my mortgage payment or paying my health insurance so I don’t have a lapse in coverage?” said Perkins, an attorney for a small firm in Lexington, Kentucky.

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KANSAS GRAPHIC DESIGNER

Janella Williams has a rare neurological disorder that forces her to receive expensive IV drugs every seven weeks. Without it, she would not be able to walk.

Williams, who owns her own graphic design company in Lawrence, Kansas, pays $480 under an Obamacare plan. It keeps her out-of-pocket maximum at $3,500 a year and provides her coverage despite her pre-existing condition.

“I’m terrified of becoming disabled. If I’m being completely honest, I’ve thought of ending my life if it comes to that,” she said.

High-risk pools run by the state are not the answer, she says. The Republican plan would also bring back lifetime caps on coverage, which Williams says she would meet after only her first IV treatment. She and her husband both work full time, but wouldn’t be able to afford the roughly $600,000 a year her treatments cost once the cap is met.

“I have really lost my faith in humanity,” she said. “It’s terrible how little we care for the sick.”

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NORTH CAROLINA FINANCIAL ADVISER

John Thompson credits his survival in large part because he bought a family insurance policy through the Affordable Care Act marketplace.

Thompson, of Greensboro, North Carolina, was laid off in 2013, lost his employer-backed insurance and diagnosed with cancer during the year he was unemployed.

If the House proposal allowing insurers to make coverage for pre-existing conditions unaffordable takes hold, he fears his cancer history will make him uninsurable if he would lose his current job as a retirement financial adviser.

“Like many of us here, whether you have asthma or a heart condition or diabetes or like me, cancer, any type of pre-existing condition, you go back to the way it was before, you give insurance companies carte blanche to do their underwriting and to exclude you,” Thompson said.

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FLORIDA MOM

Shelby Jehlen, of New Port Richey, Florida, was diagnosed six years ago with leukemia and says she wouldn’t be able to afford insurance if she lost her roughly $400 a month subsidy.

Jehlen saves about $1,000 every three months to see her cancer doctor under her Obamacare plan, but still pays about $1,500 for the check-ups.

She was forced to quit work because of all the X-rays and other chemicals she was exposed to daily as a veterinary assistant and now cuts corners, sacrificing phones and school activities for her two teen daughters, to afford the monthly premiums. The stress has caused her to struggle with depression and anxiety.

“Absolutely, I’m scared. I’m worried I’m going to have to figure out what I’m going to do with all my side effects with my leukemia if they take this away from me,” she said.

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PHILADELPHIA BUSINESSWOMAN

Adrienne Standley has been preparing for the possibility of losing her insurance since President Donald Trump took office.

Three days after the inauguration, she set up an appointment for a birth control implant so she would be covered for four years, no matter what happens.

The 29-year-old operations director at a start-up apparel business in Philadelphia also has asthma and attention deficit disorder.

“I’m looking at stockpiling, making sure I have an inhaler,” she said. “I’m pretty scared to lose coverage.”

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NEW ORLEANS ATTORNEY

John S. Williams says he’ll be forced to close his practice and find a job with a group insurance plan if he’s longer covered under the government’s health care plan

The New Orleans attorney has multiple sclerosis, a neurological disease for which medication alone costs $70,000 a year. He buys insurance for himself on the individual marketplace, and the Affordable Care Act has made that possible, he said.

“We always hear about job growth and business creation — being able to have affordable health care drives that,” Williams said. “Because of the ACA, I am able to employ people and help the economy grow.”

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Experts: Long road ahead for Donald Trump offshore drilling order

President Donald Trump‘s executive order seeking to find new ocean expanses in the Atlantic and the Arctic for offshore drilling isn’t likely to reach its goals anytime soon, but instead will kick off a yearslong review and legal battle.

Trump signed the order Friday aimed at dismantling a key part of former President Barack Obama‘s environmental legacy.

“This executive order starts the process of opening offshore areas to job-creating energy exploration,” he said. “It reverses the previous administration’s Arctic leasing ban and directs Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to allow responsible development of offshore areas that will bring revenue to our treasury and jobs to our workers.”

Despite Trump’s assertion that the nation needs to wean itself of foreign oil, U.S. oil imports have declined in recent years as domestic production boomed amid improved drilling techniques opening up once unreachable areas.

And environmental law and policy experts questioned Trump’s authority to reverse Obama’s withdrawal of certain areas in the Arctic or Atlantic to drilling, a question likely to be decided in the courts.

“It’s not quite as simple as the president signs something and it undoes the past,” said Sean Hecht, a University of California, Los Angeles environmental law professor.

For instance, Obama used his authority under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act to protect Arctic areas from oil drilling late last year, a move Trump’s order seeks to undo. At the time, Obama administration lawyers said they were confident that move would be upheld in court.

Legal experts say the law has never been used by a president to remove protections, just to create them.

Trump’s order also directed Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to conduct a review of marine monuments and sanctuaries designated this past decade. Obama issued monument proclamations under the Antiquities Act, including the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument in the Atlantic, which protected that swath of sea from drilling.

Legal scholars said Trump would enter uncharted waters if he seeks to undo a national monument proclamation in an effort to remove environmental protections.

Under Trump’s order, Interior Secretary Zinke will start to review the government’s plan that dictates which federal locations are open to offshore drilling, known as the 5-year plan.

The administration can redo the 5-year-plan, but it’s a long process. Zinke said the leases scheduled under the existing plan would remain in effect during the review, which he estimated would take years before any new leases are possible.

Still, Pam Giblin, an Austin, Texas-based environmental attorney who represents energy companies said Trump’s order is welcome to her clients despite the limitations they see.

“Every one of these orders is primarily aspirational. But it is starting to change the lens through which government is talking about fossil fuels,” she said.

The new 5-year plan could indeed open new areas of oil and gas exploration in waters off Virginia, Georgia and North and South Carolina, where drilling has been blocked for decades. Many lawmakers in those states support offshore drilling, and Alaska’s governor and its Washington delegation all supported the order.

But the plan faces opposition from the fishing industry, tourism groups and even the U.S. military, which has said Atlantic offshore drilling could hurt military maneuvers and interfere with missile tests needed to help protect the East Coast.

More than 120 coastal communities from New Jersey to Florida have passed resolutions opposing any Atlantic drilling.

“Allowing offshore drilling is a forever decision that will forever change our way of life for the worse,” said Frank Knapp, president of Columbia, South Carolina-based Business Alliance for Protecting the Atlantic Coast.

Environmental groups are preparing for the fight to come, saying that opening up vast areas to drilling harms whales, walruses and other wildlife and exacerbates global warming.

“We will go to court to enforce the law and ensure President Obama’s protections remain in place,” Trip Van Noppen, president of the environmental legal organization Earthjustice, said in a statement.

Re[published with permission of The Associated Press.

Americans offer hope, prayer in assessing Donald Trump’s 100 days

They are young and old: a high school student who can’t yet vote, a Vietnam vet who did so proudly. They hail from all corners of the United States and very different walks of life: a “downhome boy” from Kentucky, a third-generation Mexican-American from Texas, a stay-at-home mom in Pennsylvania, an Iranian immigrant in Los Angeles.

Some oppose Donald Trump and all that he stands for, while others voted enthusiastically for him. Now, they are critiquing him.

One hundred days into Trump’s presidency, The Associated Press returned to some of the everyday people interviewed these past months to ask them to write a letter to the president, evaluating the job he’s done so far and looking ahead to the months to come.

One supporter tells the president he “might have fallen a little short” — on Obamacare, in particular — but he signs off “with hope.” A refugee implores Trump to “make America more friendly,” but finds optimism in the president’s reaction to this month’s chemical attack in Syria: “I hope this is a turning point.” A Trump objector calls his biggest accomplishment “waking up the public to fight.” She offers this advice: “Make decisions with your heart. It will give you wisdom.”

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FROM RURAL AMERICA, A SUPPORTER SEES HOPE IN TRUMP’S PRESIDENCY

Alan Halsey, 31, is a self-described “downhome boy” from Campton, Kentucky, who along with his wife owns and operates The Swift Creek Courier, a weekly newspaper, and Halsey’s Country Store, “a small business that is a chunk of 1950 set down in 2017.” He says he works seven days a week to try to provide for his family, but is struggling and tired of government regulation and red tape.

He wrote:

” … I supported you quite strongly in the 2016 election, even to the point of hanging one of your signs on the front door of my business. I particularly related to your foreign policy of ‘America First,’ and your promise to bring business back to the United States. So far, I believe you’re heading in the right direction on that front, and I find a glimmer of hope in the future of the American economy.

“Overall, I think you might have fallen a little short on your first 100 days, but I don’t put a lot of weight into a time frame that small. Provided you serve two terms, 100 days is about 4 percent of that. I still feel that something needs to be done with the Affordable Care Act, although I’m not certain exactly what. … I know many ACA recipients that visit a doctor more than once a week, while those that purchase their own insurance wait until a visit to a doctor is imperative to their survival. There must be a middle to that scenario. …”

He signed his letter: “With Hope.”

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CANCER SURVIVOR WORRIES OVER TRUMP’S PROPOSED BUDGET CUTS, BUT PRAYS FOR HIM

Rebecca Esparza, 45, is a freelance writer in Corpus Christi, Texas, who didn’t vote for Trump. A cancer survivor, Esparza fears proposed budget cuts targeting the nation’s premier medical research institution, the National Institutes of Health, will hurt Americans who battle illness.

She wrote:

“. I cannot say I’m proud of your work so far. However, I have respect for the Office of the President, even if I disagree with your political aspirations. … I could write a dissertation on the many ways I disagree with your political ideals. I’m a third-generation Mexican-American, born and raised in South Texas. Your disdain for Mexico, its descendants and immigrants in general troubles me. Your plan to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, leaving millions of Americans with no other health insurance options, leaves me anguished.

“But what distresses me most is your plan to cut nearly $6 billion in funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). On Thanksgiving Day in 2001, at age 30, I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. … Cancer research saved my life. … The cuts you are proposing are disconcerting not only for cancer survivors, but for millions of Americans suffering from many types of chronic and rare diseases. …

“I’ll be praying for you, President Trump. … I pray you will carefully consider how your decisions have life or death consequences for hard-working Americans.”

Read more about Esparza.

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ONE-TIME OBAMA VOTER FEELS PRIDE IN TRUMP’S WORK

Laverne Jones Gore, 60, owns an executive leadership development company in Cleveland and voted for Trump after previously supporting Barack Obama. Gore calls herself a “middle-class American who happens to be black” and says she felt uncomfortable voicing her opinion during the Obama years, but Trump has “made me proud to be an American again.” Part of a military family — her deceased husband was a Marine and a son graduated from West Point — Gore’s one hesitation these past 100 days is over Trump’s airstrike in Syria.

She wrote:

” … Mr. President you have absolutely met my expectations. I actually believe you have shown a strength that I had not given to you, and I am surprised by your willingness to meet head on the challenges and resistance within your governing bodies. I don’t believe you have been afforded an opportunity to really show us what you have to offer in the form of leadership of our nation.

“I have no issue with you as it relates to ‘Russians.’ I personally believe most of it was contrived. I have no issue with you as it relates to immigration. I think the issues were in need of control. … I have some reservations about your use of Twitter, but I understand the difficulty you have getting your intended message out.

“Yes, you surprised me with the Syria strike and I am not certain how I feel about another war or thought of war. I am still contemplating your action and observing the responses to come from the world theatre as they absorb your full intent.”

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‘YOUR SIGNATURE CRUSHED MY FAMILY’

Marjan Vayghan, 32, an artist and writer in Los Angeles, parses no words in her evaluation of Trump. An Iranian immigrant who came to the U.S. with her family in the 1990s, Vayghan’s uncle was caught up in the chaos that erupted after Trump signed his first travel ban order in January. Ali Vayeghan was detained at the Los Angeles airport and put back on a plane back to Iran, even though he had an immigrant visa. He returned nearly a week later, after a federal judge blocked the order.

She wrote:

” … We appreciate the greatness of our country and our freedoms, because we’ve consciously fled other places with the hopes of making a better life here. We’ve undergone ‘extreme vetting’ and left behind our loved ones for a chance to be free and follow our dreams.

“On January 27th, everything changed as your signature made my uncle disappear … The following day I saw my father cry for the first time in my life. My mom got sick. I felt afraid and alone. My parents started plans with the expectation we were all about to be rounded up and sent to internment camps. Later that day, we realized our family wasn’t alone in LAX. Countless people showed up, chanting supportive messages and singing songs of love like “this land was made for you and me. …

“As your executive orders crush the immigrants and native-born people of this country together, I have hope that the pressure will forge us into a stronger union. … Seven days into this ‘un-presidented’ adventure, your signature crushed my family. The next day we were embraced by the country’s love and support.”

Read more about Vayghan.

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A BANKER IN COAL COUNTRY TELLS TRUMP TO ‘PROVE THEM WRONG’

James McDonald, 57, of Tazewell, Virginia, is a Trump supporter who believes the president has “brought integrity and honor back to the White House, our country and the way the world views our country.” An assistant vice president at a bank in a small mining community, McDonald’s priorities include reviving the economy and replacing the Affordable Care Act. He sums up his advice for Trump in three words: “Jobs. Jobs. Jobs.”

He wrote:

“The fact that you mean what you say and say what you mean is what we have needed in our president for the last eight years. This is one of the few elections that the way I voted was for what was in the best interest of my local community. The war on coal that was waged by the former administration devastated our area. …

” … Since the inauguration my only concern was the handling of the repeal and replace of the Affordable Health Care Act. I felt like you comprised too much, and came close to signing a bad bill. I commend you on your continued efforts to enact this change, however if it’s not a good bill please don’t compromise too much.

” … Of course, keeping America safe is your No. 1 priority, after that in my opinion it is putting people back to work. One quote from the Republican convention that was impressive was when Donald Trump Jr. said that ‘when people tell him it can’t be done, that guarantees that he gets it done.’ They say you can’t make America Great Again. Prove them wrong. …”

Read more about McDonald.

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A FINANCIAL PLANNER URGES TRUMP TO ‘READ. LISTEN. LEARN. PREPARE.’

Brooke Streech, 44, runs a nonprofit in Phoenix that provides financial planning and education for those who cannot afford an adviser. She voted for Hillary Clinton because she believes she was “more qualified, smarter and cared more about people.” The mother of two boys, 10 and 12, Streech urges Trump going forward to “Read. Listen. Learn. Prepare. Work hard to understand the complex issues you are required to face.”

She wrote:

“Your lack of experience and intelligence has certainly shown itself to be an issue so far in your presidency. It might be OK to go into office with your incredible ignorance if you were to surround yourself with smart and talented people. Unfortunately, you have done the opposite. Your administration appears to be run less efficiently and with more chaos than any other in history.

” … I would implore you to spend some time reflecting on how you get your information. Find advisers and spokespeople who are smart, good at what they do, and might disagree with you once in a while with the aim to create dialogue and make decisions with all of the information available..”

Read more about Streech.

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REFUGEE PRAYS GOD WILL GIVE THE PRESIDENT WISDOM

Suliman Bandas, 37, is a refugee from Sudan who could not vote in the election because he is a legal permanent resident and not a citizen. He teaches English as a Second Language to other immigrants in Lincoln, Nebraska. He advises Trump to “make America more friendly, beautiful and strong — by caring for others and defending the weak.”

He wrote:

“I grew up in southern Sudan, which was engaged in a long civil war with the north. In 1986, my uncle … took my father, a teacher, and other civilians in a helicopter to areas that needed aid. I watched from our backyard as that helicopter was shot down. … In 2005, I was accepted to come to the U.S., a place where I can be safe and call home. …

“In my job I help teach refugees, and every day they express to me their worries that this country may reject refugees in the months to come. I have heard you express concern about the Syrian people and I hope this is a turning point. Please, Mr. President, let America continue to treat refugees the same way God wanted them to be treated. That is what made America what it is — strong and different from any other country on the face of the planet. The Bible says: “When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. …” (Leviticus 19:33-34) Dear Mr. President, may God guide you, give you wisdom and spirit of understanding in these very challenging moments.”

Read more about Bandas.

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A KANSAN FEELS ‘AMERICAN PRIDE AGAIN’ OVER A LEADER WHO ‘BELIEVES IN ALL OF US’

Rick Yearick, 50, is an ad salesman at the local paper in Liberal, Kansas. An avid Trump supporter, he praises the president for a number of things, including flexing his muscles with “decisive action against those who perform badly on the world stage.” He says the president’s biggest failure so far is not successfully uniting Republicans behind him.

He wrote:

“Keep fighting for a secure America with your travel ban for those who seek to do us harm, building a wall to secure a sound immigration policy, and by serving Americans and not trying to be President of the World. …

“I commend you on the selection of (Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch) for his commitment to the Constitution rather than a revisionist who interprets it to fit their political needs. I am sure that given a chance at more appointments, you will do the same.

“I feel American pride again knowing that our president believes in all of us. For the past several years, I could not relate to the direction we were headed as we were divided and at each other’s throats. Now, we are uniting behind the common man with the leadership of a president who honors us all. …”

Read more about Yearick.

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‘LUCKILY, I DON’T HAVE TO FIGHT YOU ALONE’

Kate Young, 43, is a stay-at-home mother in West Chester, Pennsylvania, who says she couldn’t sit idly by after Trump’s election. So she and her neighbors began holding rallies every week to fight to keep the Affordable Care Act, which helped her family after her husband lost his job.

She wrote:

” … When you won the election, I worried that you would put business profits ahead of the environment, and that you would involve the United States in a new, possibly nuclear, war. Today, much sooner than I feared, both dire predictions have come true. Congress rolled back environmental protections … You bombed Syria, and as I write this letter, the news reports that you dropped the ‘Mother of all Bombs’ on Afghanistan. Please don’t go nuclear!

“Every Friday, starting January 20th, I rally with my neighbors in front of Congressman Ryan Costello‘s office. We fight to protect the Affordable Care Act. Claire’s son needs the ACA to manage Type 1 diabetes. Lisa needed the ACA to cover prenatal care and delivery of a healthy baby after her husband left her, uninsured and 10 weeks pregnant. Dr. Jack’s infant patients need the ACA to cover life-saving treatment and eliminate the lifetime caps that they otherwise might exceed before ever being discharged from the NICU. …

“Luckily, I don’t have to fight you alone. Most Americans did not vote for you. We won’t stop holding you accountable for every infraction of American laws, values, or norms.”

Read more about Young.

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INSURANCE AGENT SAYS TRUMP’S LOVE OF COUNTRY ‘IS REFRESHINGLY OBVIOUS’

Carolee Upshur, 60, a life insurance agent in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, says she voted for Trump because he seemed like the only candidate who “had the backbone to withstand the attacks that would come as a result of any attempt to ‘drain the swamp.'” She encourages him to “please move forward with the building of the wall, and do not compromise with the Republican establishment.” As for any failure? “Obamacare. He was elected to get rid of Obamacare.”

She wrote:

” … I have been utterly amazed at your ability to accomplish anything in the environment as it exists in Washington. … You jumped in feet first and set out to do everything you promised during your campaign. …

“I applaud your move to curtail the illegal immigration and build the wall, and continue to be frustrated at the attempts of the progressives to use the judicial system to try and block your attempts to fulfill your duties as president. … I was absolutely thrilled to see the decisiveness with which you acted in Syria and Afghanistan, which sent a strong message to the world that there ‘is a new sheriff in town.’ It is wonderful to have a ‘man’s man’ leading this country from a position of love of country and peace through strength. …

“Please know that I continue to pray for you daily, that God will hold your family together and protect you all.”

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LA TEEN: FOCUS ON HELPING PEOPLE, NOT MAKING MONEY

Amellia Sones, 15, is a high school student in Los Angeles who was spurred to help organize a protest against Trump after his election. Sones says in her letter that even though she’s not yet old enough to vote, she has opinions about the job Trump has done. For one, she worries the younger generation is watching him “act inappropriately and out of line” and will conclude that it’s acceptable behavior.

She wrote:

“. One major thing I do not like is putting a ban on immigrants from entering the United States. I know you were trying to keep terrorists from entering our country, but I do not believe banning immigrants from certain countries is an effective way of doing this. And, after all, the United States is called the melting pot of many nations. …

“Your biggest failure (and there have already been so many) is NOT making an effort to bring our country together. To me, that’s a big part of a president’s job. … I only ask that you start watching the way you speak and try listening to what your people are asking of you. Stop arguing with celebrities over Twitter and start acting like an actual president.”

Read more about Sones.

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EX-DEMOCRAT CALLS TRUMP THE ‘LAST CHANCE TO TURN OUR COUNTRY AROUND’

Ed Harry, 70, of Plymouth, Pennsylvania, is a retired union official and ex-Democratic activist who became a Trump voter. A Vietnam veteran who recalls being spit on and called a baby-killer, Harry encourages Trump to “stay away from any wars.” His biggest failure, he says, is “not having his house in order; all the turmoil in the White House from the staff.”

He wrote:

“I laughed when I heard you were running for president. I didn’t think you had a chance. As the campaign went along, I found out that the Democrats, Republicans … China, India, Mexico, all were opposed to you. At that moment I knew I had my candidate. .

“Considering all the opposition you have had against you, I think you deserve a C+ rating. You’ve accomplished quite a lot: Neil Gorsuch appointment … get rid of a lot of Obama executive orders … “The WALL,” or at least some immigration enforcement I would like to see take place this year. Finally, most of all, do NOT let the neocons or both political parties corrupt your administration. I do, in fact, believe YOU are OUR last chance to turn OUR COUNTRY around!!!”

Read more about Harry.

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‘MAKE DECISIONS WITH YOUR HEART. IT WILL GIVE YOU WISDOM’

Susan McClain, 52, works in customer service for a tech company in Aurora, Colorado. She was a Clinton supporter, and says the greatest thing to come from Trump’s presidency so far is “waking up the public to fight … and stand up for American lives, values, and aspirations.” Still, she has some advice for the president as his term goes on: “Make decisions with your heart. It will give you wisdom.”

She wrote:

“Are you meeting my expectations so far? Sadly, yes. Your first 100 days as president was tragic for Americans and the globe. … Regardless, I would like to thank you. As you rampaged all over America’s values, we understood more deeply what we love and cherish. And, we woke up.

“In you, we see that wealth is not success.

“In you, we see that unchecked ego is dangerous.

“In you, we see the mighty power of words.

“In you, we see that winning must include all of us, not just the rich and powerful.”

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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