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Steve Bannon leaving White House

White House chief strategist Steve Bannon is leaving his White House post.

That’s according to two people familiar with the decision who demanded anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss private conversations.

Bannon was a key adviser to President Donald Trump’s general election campaign and has been a forceful but contentious presence in a divided White House.

The former leader of conservative Breitbart News pushed Trump to follow through with his campaign promises. But he’s also sparred with some of Trump’s closest advisers, including son-in-law Jared Kushner.

“Bannon had one hell of a run,” Matt Drudge tweeted in response.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Donald Trump’s die-hard supporters show no signs of straying

They wash their hands of neo-Nazis and wag their fingers at leftists. They denounce a press corps they see as biased and controversies they view as manufactured. But in the frenzied blame game over the deadly violence at a rally of white supremacists, Donald Trump‘s loyal base is happy to absolve the president himself.

Even as Trump’s zig-zag response to the weekend bloodshed in Charlottesville, Virginia, has brought criticism from some Republican lawmakers, many men and women who helped put him in office remain unmoved by the latest uproar.

“He has done nothing to turn me away from him,” said Patricia Aleeyah Robinson, of Toledo, Ohio.

Robinson is black and her support of Trump has put her at odds with many in her life, costing her friendships and straining family relationships.

But the 63-year-old retired truck driver sees the controversy over Trump’s response to Charlottesville as being driven by those seeking to disrupt his agenda and push backers like her away. She said she knows he pays no deference to racists and feels he is the only president who has ever spoken directly to blacks. She admires his refusal to sugarcoat his beliefs.

Three hundred miles south in a Charleston, West Virginia, shopping mall, Joyce Ash took a moment to ponder Trump after buying a dress Wednesday to wear to the funeral for her husband of 33 years, who died of pancreatic cancer.

The 71-year-old woman summoned nothing but support for the political novice who led her to ditch her lifelong support of Democrats. She recalled sitting up all Election Night to watch Trump clinch the win, and said nothing since made her reconsider her vote.

“Let the president do his job instead of trying to take him out every time you turn around,” Ash implored. She didn’t follow the back-and-forth over Trump’s statements on Charlottesville but saw no reason to question him: “I believe in Donald Trump, I really do. I believe that if they would just give this man a chance, the economy, everything will start going better.”

Though images of Nazi flags and men in white hoods sickened many Americans, the president’s most ardent champions saw no reason any of that should change their feelings for Trump.

“You know why it doesn’t bother me? Because he is everybody’s president whether you like him or don’t like him. Everything he does, he’s doing it for our country,” said Patsy Jarman, a 70-year-old retired factory worker in New Bern, North Carolina. “And if you don’t like being here, you need to leave.”

Such enthusiasm may be unsurprising in some ways. Trump himself boasted last year he “could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.”

Polls showed his approval ratings dipping even before this flare-up, and now some commentators are proclaiming a historic low point and late-night comedians have turned serious. But many Trump voters interviewed Wednesday showed no sign of moving away from him.

In Florida, 50-year-old Steven Damron of Spring Hill said the president handled the Charlottesville situation well, and he agreed with Trump that “both sides” were to blame.

In Iowa, Branden Nong, 35, of Waukee said that while he wished the president was more careful with his tweets or in his criticism of fellow Republicans, his vote was driven by economic issues, and he has been happy with Trump’s performance.

And in Pennsylvania, 46-year-old substitute teacher Julie Horrell of Mohrsville said: “I am sticking by the president. It’s early in his term yet. He needs to get the time to dig in his feet.”

Julie Brown, a 42-year-old real estate agent in Gilbert, Arizona, accused the media of twisting Trump’s statements on Charlottesville and said local officials did a bad job preparing for the protests. But she remains fully behind a president she sees as exactly the unpolished, authentic leader that the U.S. needs right now, and thinks of how her 4-year-old son will someday learn of this time.

“He’s going to be reading in a textbook one day about the good and the bad that this president is going to do,” she said, “but I hope and I believe it’s going to be more good.”

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Hillsborough Confederate monument to move after donations reach threshold in 24 hours

Led by two huge contributions, the private sector has raised well in excess of the $140,000 required by the Hillsborough County Commission to move a controversial Confederate monument in Tampa.

Bob Gries, the founder and managing partner of Gries Investment Funds in Tampa was watching CNN Wednesday night when he learned the Board of County Commissioners had reversed their position yet again on their decision regarding moving the monument.

The report said that unless the private sector came up with half the estimated $280,000 needed to move the statue, it would remain in front of the Hillsborough County Courthouse annex on Pierce St. in downtown Tampa.

“I was just really concerned, and I was embarrassed that Tampa Bay would be cast in a negative spotlight, and I just really thought what could I do to help change this and do the right thing,” said Gries at a press conference held at Tampa’s City Hall Thursday afternoon.

So Gries called up Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn first thing Thursday, saying he would kick in $50,000 that would not only hugely boost the effort to raise $140,000, but inspire others in the community to chip in as well.

On Thursday, the community did that big time, raising more than $40,000 in the 24 hours after the commissioners’ vote. Included in that effort was $5,000 from former Tampa Bay Buccaneer coach (now NBC football analyst) Tony Dungy and $1,000 contributions from Buckhorn and former Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink.

The Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce chipped in the other huge check of $70,000.

Though some will consider this a shining moment for the Tampa Bay area rising to the occasion to come together on what is an incredibly emotional and divisive issue, Buckhorn is having none of that.

“It was unprecedented, it was disheartening, it was not who we are and what this community believes in and what we stand for,” the mayor said of the board’s vote to outsource the decision to the community.

The decision to delay the vote had put an additional burden on the business community, Buckhorn added, and it was a “blatant attempt not to do the right thing,” which was to move the statue.

Wednesday was the third time the board had weighed in what to do with the 106-year-old monument, called “Memoria in Aeterna.”

In late June, the Commission stunningly voted 4-3 to keep the memorial in place, unlike other southern communities that have decided that such monuments were a relic of the Jim Crow past, and are no longer appropriate in 2017.

After the vote received local and national outrage, the board came back in late July, voting 4-2 to move the monument with Commissioner Sandy Murman changing her vote, but only if the money to move the statue was raised privately.

County Administrator Mike Merrill said that such an effort could not be guaranteed, and stated that the county would be responsible for raising the balance of the needed funds if the private sector could not come up with more than $200,000 required to move it.

Private fundraising had gone slow, with the man leading that campaign, attorney Tom Scarritt, saying he only had 60 days to raise the money or the issue would return to the board.

Commissioner Victor Crist brought the issue up again Wednesday, leading the move for the board to vote 4-3 for a 30-day timeline on Scarritt to raise $140,000.

If he could not, the statue would remain in place.

Buckhorn said he was disgusted by the board’s flip-flops.

“I’m not happy that they choose to throw roadblocks in the way of our progress,” he told reporters. “This was a decision that had been made, the outcome was secure, and at the last minute they changed the rules of the game, and that’s what I find unfortunate because some of them didn’t have the political courage to do what is morally the right thing to do.”

The monument will be moved to the Brandon Family Cemetery, a blow to Confederate advocates who have been determined to stop the county from moving the memorial.

“Isn’t it so sad that people are willing to pay money to disrespect American Veterans and destroy history,” said David McCallister with Save Southern Heritage Florida. “Too bad leaders of this movement aren’t putting this energy into making sure children go to safe schools, are taught to respect each other, or fixing stormwater runoff in our community.”

“If Tony Dungy and the Chamber used this effort to address real problems, imagine how great our community would be!” he added.

Later on Thursday, Save Southern Heritage Florida said they would go to court on Friday to attempt to block the removal of the monument.

Preliminary work on preparing for the statue to move has already been underway for a few weeks, with the county already expending $20,000 on the effort. That work was stopped Wednesday, and there is no word yet on when it will resume (County Administrator Mike Merrill was not immediately available for comment).

Earlier Thursday, President Donald Trump weighed in on the moving of such monuments, denouncing their removal as “sad” and “so foolish,” just days after white supremacists and neo-Nazis took to Charlottesville, Virginia, to violently protest the planned removal of a statue of the Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. 

Buckhorn wasn’t impressed.

“We have a president who today doubled down on his remarks of two days ago,” Buckhorn said. “He chose a side. That side was not the better angels of America. That side was the hate groups and the Klan and neo-Nazi’s and the bigots in bed sheets that ran through this country in the South in the 40’s and 50’s. That was the side that he chose, and those code words and those dog whistles that he used in these comments send a signal to those who would engage in these kinds of behaviors that it’s OK. It’s not OK. Hate has no place in America, and it damn sure has no place in Tampa, Florida.”

Rick Scott lunches with Donald Trump ‘solely to promote Florida’

Florida Gov. Rick Scott has often spoken of President Donald Trump as his long-awaited “partner in the White House.” And that partnership was again exemplified Thursday with Scott taking a jaunt to New Jersey to lunch with the vacationing President.

A statement from Scott’s office stressed that Scott’s visit was “solely to promote Florida.”

“Governor Scott had lunch today with President Trump following an invitation from the White House last week. Governor Scott was solely there to promote Florida,” asserted Scott’s Communications Director John Tupps.

“They discussed a wide range of topics including the President’s commitment to partner with Florida on needed repairs to the federally-operated Herbert Hoover Dike at Lake Okeechobee. Governor Scott wants to do all he can to protect Florida’s environment and President Trump is very supportive to help.”

“Additionally, they discussed the terror attack in Barcelona and the efforts President Trump is taking to keep America safe,” Tupps added.

Scott has spent much of the last week fielding questions about Trump’s erratic reaction to the violence in Charlottesville last weekend — reaction that has fueled criticism from Republicans and Democrats alike over what some call Trump’s moral equivalence and others call the President’s latest flirtation with white supremacists.

“I’m not going to parse the president’s words, but here’s what I’ll say: It’s evil. It’s horrible. I don’t believe in racism, I don’t believe in bigotry,” Scott said Monday. “I believe that the KKK, white supremacists, neo-Nazis, they don’t belong in our society.”

On Wednesday, Scott said that he didn’t serve in the Navy “to defend neo-Nazis.”

Some will question Scott’s unwillingness to criticize the president on this issue directly. Others, meanwhile, will frame it as the cost of doing business with a White House as mercurial as any in recent memory.

Paul Chandler ties Bobby Olszewski to Donald Trump in HD 44 race

Democrat Paul Chandler has fired the opening salvo in the special election campaign for Florida’s House District 44, tying newly-nominated Republican candidate Bobby Olszewski to President Donald Trump.

“Let me be clear. A vote for Bobby Olszewski is a vote to bring Donald Trump style politics to Orange County,” Chandler stated Thursday in a news release. “Bobby supports Donald Trump on health care. He supports him on taxes. He supports all of Trump’s misguided policies. There is no place for that in District 44.”

Olszewski just won a bruising Republican primary on Tuesday, while Chandler has largely sat back, watched and listened through the Republicans’ campaign, waiting for the face-to-face race for the Oct. 10 special election to fill the HD 44 seat opened when state Rep. Eric Eisnaugle quit in the spring to take a judicial appointment.

Republicans have a sizable voter registration advantage in HD 44 and have owned the district’s seat for decades. Yet Chandler’s campaign points out that the district, which covers southwest Orange County, voted for Hillary Clinton over Trump in 2016.

The district’s voters, the Chandler news release states, is “clearly rejecting not only his policies, but his politics of deceit and division. Instead of renouncing that type of politics, and those policies, Robert Olszewski supports them every step of the way.”

Chandler, of Lake Buena Vista, faces a legal challenge to his qualification as a candidate, with a lawsuit filed last week alleging he voted in Missouri last year; if he was a legal Missouri resident, that could make him ineligible to run in Florida this year. Chandler insists he has been a legal Florida resident for several years, and is fighting the lawsuit.

Meantime, he’s turned on his campaign, now that he has a Republican opponent.

“Bobby Olszewski is going to have to explain to the voters of this district why he supports Trump’s plans to strip away health care from tens of millions of people, including hundreds of thousands of Floridians,” Chandler stated. “Or why he supports giving huge tax breaks to millionaires like Trump, while the middle class struggles.”

Chandler is a former teacher and is the founder and CEO of Ohana Healthcare, a national medical records management and consulting company with offices from Hawaii to Orlando. He has pledged to focus on preserving and improving health care, stronger education, and knows how to create jobs for Florida.

“The race is on. And the choice is clear. Donald Trump style politics in Orange County, or a real plans to move the 44th forward,” Chandler said.

Christian Cámara: No, white supremacists at Charlottesville were not ‘good people’

Christian Cámara

There is much emotion on both sides of the current debate over race relations, even among people of goodwill. There are contentious questions to address, such as: Should we remove Confederate statues? Should we allow racists to protest in public spaces? Are our elected leaders to blame for escalating tensions? Is one side more at fault for recent violence?

I think these are all fair questions that good people might disagree on without necessarily making them “Fake News-Loving Commies” or “Nazi-Sympathizing Racists.” Thankfully, those two groups represent a tiny fraction of the population, but they, unfortunately, generate most of the coverage.

Although I agree with much of the president’s response to Charlottesville, I fundamentally disagree with him on at least one statement: That there were good people on both sides.

I believe there are many decent, non-racists who oppose the removal of Confederate monuments, and some might have very well attended to protest the removal of the Lee statue. However, it is hard to believe that any good person would have stuck around more than five minutes after noticing that an innocent event to protest the removal of a statue was actually a grotesque gathering of Nazi sympathizers, white supremacists and other malcontents. Therefore, I would take issue with the president’s assertion that there were “good people on both sides” that day. Good people on both sides of the issue? Yes. Present that day? No.

I do, however, agree with him that elements inside the counter protest indeed included bad people looking to cause trouble: Antifa and other communist groups that likely instigated violence. Of course, the diabolical terrorist act of plowing a car into a crowd falls squarely on the driver, and whoever else might have helped him.

So as we look to address this escalating racial tension, decent Americans on all sides of this issue should agree to uphold certain principles.

First, we must reject any assault on free speech. As detestable as these racist groups are, they have a constitutionally protected right to express their views — and yes, even their hate — so long as their actions don’t trample on other people’s rights through violence or other means. If they choose to live life hating others and expressing their hate, their right to do so trumps our sensibilities and our justified reaction to be offended by them. Indeed, I may not agree with one iota of what they’re saying, but I’ll defend their right to say and think it.

However, with rights come responsibilities, and with responsibilities come consequences. They must also understand that, although we support their right to think and speak what they think, we regular Americans can and will exercise our right to condemn them for their vile views. That may include exposing and ostracizing them, though I do caution that we should be careful not to misidentify the innocent. But those who are accurately identified may be subject to public ridicule and contempt, and the repercussions thereof.

Secondly, our elected officials, including President Donald Trump, need to exercise some moral clarity. There is no moral equivalence between a bunch of racist, Nazi-sympathizing white nationalists and those who protest them. Indeed, there were violent troublemakers within the counter protesters’ ranks. But to equate the entire diverse group of counter protesters to the overwhelmingly racist other side is just plain wrong.

Likewise, Democrats and others on the left need to come down as hard on the violent communists as they do on the violent racists. In short, all sides need to come down hard on violence. No more sugarcoating or excusing why one side can be violent and the other side shouldn’t be.

Finally, we all must adhere to the rule of law. Emotions cannot compel us to break the law. As much as some detest the existence of Confederate monuments and what they represent, we law-abiding Americans cannot and should not endorse or tolerate an angry mob destroying or vandalizing any property, much less physically assaulting people. Neither a constitutional republic nor its civil society can survive if the rule of law is replaced with mob rule.

Debates can be had about what to do with Confederate memorials, and legislative bodies may elect to keep, remove or relocate them through normal deliberative processes. But to support or encourage angry mobs to enter and destroy property undermines the most basic tenets of a representative democracy governed by laws — not to mention that it would likely instigate the opposing side to retaliate unlawfully, thus escalating violence on all sides.

As much as I utterly loathe racism, racists have a right to be racist, albeit peacefully and in such a way as it does not trample on other people’s rights. If we use the power of government — or worse, mob rule — to silence or crush undesirable thoughts, then we ourselves risk becoming just a different brand of fascists, but fascists nonetheless.


Christian Cámara is Southeast Regional Director of the R Street Institute.

Mary Barzee Flores turns backlash hate talk into fundraising

Democratic congressional candidate Mary Barzee Flores‘ strong statements about Nazis, white supremacists, President Donald Trump, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions brought in ugly responses Wednesday filled with profanity and wishes that she would die.

And that, her campaign is quickly turning into a fundraising pitch.

The former circuit court judge and federal public defender from Miami is running in Florida’s Congressional District 27, seeking to replace Republican U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who’s retiring.

In messages sent out mainly through social media earlier this week and Wednesday, Flores denounced Nazis, the KKK, and white supremacists, and challenged Trump to take numerous actions to oppose racial violence, but lamented, “This president has failed nearly every test of leadership thrown his way, time and again.” Of Sessions, she wrote, “We wish he’d stay out of Florida. Jeff Sessions and the Trump administration don’t represent the values of this community. We wish he’d stay out of D.C. and the Federal Government too.”

Then came the backlash, which her campaign reports includes “vicious, violent, racist and sexist Alt-right trolls … attacking Mary for speaking up.” Most of the comments the campaign quoted were filled with “****” where the profanities presumably appeared, such as, “MARY FLORES–EAT **** AND DIE–TODAY” and “U can go and **** U self!!”

And so comes the fundraising letter sent out Wednesday afternoon.

She’s in a crowded field with fellow Democrats state Representative David Richardson, state Senator Jose Javier Rodriguez, Miami Beach Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez, and Miami DEC member Michael Hepburn; and Republican Dr. Maria Peiro.

“I showed these vile comments to Mary and this is what she told me: “We have a First Amendment. They can say whatever they want about me and I’ll keep saying what I believe. At least they got my name right,” Flores’ campaign manager Sam Miller wrote in the fundraising letter.

“Mary is tough as nails. After a dozen years as a public defender and eight years sitting on the bench hearing criminal cases, anonymous trolls on the internet don’t faze her one bit,” Miller added. “Mary’s not going to back down, and neither can we.”


Jack Latvala says he’ll capture more Trump voters than GOP opponents

While President Trump is being disparaged this week even by some Republicans following his controversial remarks in which he equated white nationalist hate groups with the protesters opposing them, Jack Latvala showed no qualms about the commander in chief when he said Wednesday that Trump voters in Florida may look more favorably upon his candidacy for governor than his opponents.

“I’m looking at a field that’s made up of people who have been in government their entire lives—either in elective office or as a staff member—and don’t have any business experience and have never really had those challenges that those of us that have businesses have, and I just think that the party who nominated Donald Trump (is) not going to be comfortable with nominating somebody like that,” Latvala told Tampa 820 AM host Dan Maduri on Wednesday.

Trump easily defeated Marco Rubio in the Florida Republican presidential primary more than a year ago, before capturing the Sunshine State narrowly over Hillary Clinton in last fall’s presidential election.

The 63-year-old Clearwater state senator was referring to Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and House Speaker Richard Corcoran when he said that, unlike his opponents, he has no desire to run for higher office than governor, saying that leading Florida would be his ultimate destination.

“It’s a never ending ladder and I’m at the end of the ladder,” he said. “I’m old enough that this is my last race for anything, and I just want to get in and do what’s got to be done to solve some of these problems and straighten things out.”

Putnam declared his candidacy back in March, and remains the presumptive favorite in the race, thanks in part to his prodigious fundraising and simply the fact that he’s so well known after serving in politics for nearly half of his 43-year-old life. Corcoran has not declared for office, though he is expected to early in 2018.

Latvala announced last month that he would pledge to raise $50,000 over the next six months for the Republican Party of Florida. He told Maduri that someone has to do it, since Rick Scott and other high profile Republicans are raising money for their own political committees.

“The governor doesn’t participate with the party, the Cabinet members haven’t done that, and the leadership of the party is all out raising money for themselves, for their own PACS and own campaigns, and it’s taking it’s toll on the party,” he said. “We’ve got to remember the party.”

Latvala spoke to him the Tampa radio station en route to the Panhandle, where he was scheduled to make his third and final appearance around the state as he officially kicked off his run for governor on Wednesday.

(Photo credit: Kim DeFalco)

David Richardson says it’s time to dump Donald Trump

Miami Beach Democratic Rep. David Richardson said Wednesday that President Donald Trump should resign over his comments in the wake of the Charlottesville, Virginia, protests that left one dead and 19 injured.

“What the country witnessed yesterday was a United States president losing all moral authority to govern. His defense of neo-Nazis, KKK members, and white supremacists is not just ‘Trump being Trump’ or one more opportunity for Republicans to condemn the sin while continuing to prop up the sinner. We’ve seen heads of industry and labor resign in disgust from the President’s jobs council. Today, I challenge Republican elected officials to join me in calling on President Trump to resign,” the HD 113 representative said.

Trump failed to mention neo-Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan or other white supremacist groups by name in his initial remarks following the “Unite the Right” rally that saw thousands descend upon the small Virginia town to protest the removal of a statue and the renaming of a park dedicated to Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

Instead, Trump said Sunday that “both sides” — interpreted to mean the hate groups and the people who protested them — were to blame for the violence.

After the backlash surrounding his initial statement, the president condemned the white supremacist groups in prepared remarks Monday but gave a full-throated and unprompted defense of his original statement Tuesday in a news conference.

Trump on Tuesday described the counter protesters as members of the “alt-left,” a term he seemingly reverse-engineered from “alt-right,” the common name for the collection of far-right fringe groups that make up the more unscrupulous side of his base. He also went on to deride the counter protesters for not having a permit and described them as a club-wielding group that charged at the alt-right protesters.

Perhaps his most damaging comment Tuesday was his assertion that there were “very fine people” among the white supremacist groups.

“Excuse me. They didn’t put themselves down as neo-Nazis. And you had some very bad people in that group. But you also had people that were very fine people on both sides,” he said.

Racial politics haunt GOP in the Donald Trump era

The statue of Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville, Virginia, was the focus of an emotional debate in the state’s Republican primary election weeks before it became a flashpoint in the nation’s struggle over race.

Corey Stewart, an outsider candidate for governor sometimes compared to President Donald Trump, seized on possible removal of the Confederate general’s memorial as an “attempt to destroy traditional America.” Stewart, who said in an interview Tuesday that such an action “hits people in the gut,” found unexpectedly strong support, forced his main opponent to defend the statue and almost won.

Now the fight over “traditional America” is throwing a spotlight on the Republican Party’s struggle with race in the age of Trump. The deadly white supremacist rally against removal of the Lee statue served as a painful example of the uncomfortable alignment between some in the party’s base and the far-right fringe. But despite the party’s talk of inclusiveness and minority outreach, it’s clear white fears continue to resonate with many in the GOP base. Politicians willing to exploit those issues are often rewarded with support. One big beneficiary, critics say, has been the president himself.

For those critics, on both the left and right, Trump’s response to Charlottesville was a glaring example. On Saturday, he denounced hatred and violence on “many sides,” seeming to assign blame equally to counterdemonstrators as well as hate groups protesting the proposed removal of the statue. He waited until Monday to specifically name the groups he was condemning — the KKK, neo-Nazis and white supremacists.

On Tuesday, he was back to assigning partial blame to those protesting the white supremacists.

“I think there’s blame on both sides,” Trump charged in a fiery Trump Tower news conference. He added, “There are two sides to a story.”

“Not all of those people were neo-Nazis, believe me. Not all of those people were white supremacists by any stretch,” Trump continued. “Those people were also there because they wanted to protest the taking down of the statue of Robert E. Lee.”

For Republicans who hoped the president might use the moment to send a new message about racism and their party, Trump failed the test.

“We have reached a defining moment,” New Hampshire GOP chair Jennifer Horn said. “We, as Republicans, every single one of us, needs to speak up and make it very clear that this is not our party, these are not our values.”

Such moments have the potential to undermine years of attempts to portray the party as more welcoming to minority voters.

The Republican National Committee, led by Trump’s former chief of staff Reince Priebus, released an exhaustive report in 2013 noting that the GOP’s traditional base of older, white voters was becoming a smaller and smaller portion of the electorate in America. “If we want ethnic minority voters to support Republicans, we have to engage them and show our sincerity,” the RNC wrote.

Yet Republican officeholders, including the president, have found success by seizing on semi-hidden “dog whistle” rhetoric and policies largely designed to appeal to whites.

— Across the Midwest, Trump and others have appealed to suburban white voters by decrying a rise in urban violence, even as statistics show violent crime is down in many cities.

— With no evidence of widespread voter fraud, Republicans nationwide have promoted voter ID laws that several courts determined discriminate against minority voters.

— Trump’s promise to build a massive wall along the southern border resonates with conservatives across the West and even in overwhelmingly white Northeastern states where Republicans fear the influx of illegal Hispanic immigrants.

— And, particularly in the South, some conservatives continue fight to preserve symbols of a Confederate Army that fought for Southern states’ rights to continue slavery. The relics are simultaneously denounced as symbols of oppression by most blacks and celebrated as marks of Southern pride by many whites.

This week in Alabama, three Republicans running in Tuesday’s special U.S. Senate primary demonstrated the careful tiptoeing politicians do around the subject.

Rep. Mo Brooks generally bemoaned “bigotry.” Former Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore rejected “violence and hatred.” Sen. Luther Strange, appointed to the seat when Trump tapped Jeff Sessions as attorney general, made no reference to racial motivations at all.

Brooks and Strange also expressed support for Trump’s remarks, and Strange seemed to echo the president’s assertion that “many sides” were at fault, as he encouraged “Americans to stand together in opposition to those who encourage hate or promote violence.” Trump recently endorsed Strange.

The careful language reflects a political reality in a state where nearly all Republican votes come from white voters, says David Mowery, an Alabama-based political consultant who has worked for Republicans and Democrats. That doesn’t mean Republicans actively pursue racist votes, he said, but sometimes it means they take the most cautious path to avoid controversy.

“I don’t think here that any Republican benefits by talking about it or is necessarily hurt by not talking about it,” he said.

Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, now Trump’s representative to the United Nations, said as recently as 2014 that the Confederate battle flag should fly at the state Capitol. She changed course two summers ago only after a white supremacist who was photographed holding a Confederate flag murdered nine black people inside a South Carolina church. About the same time, then-Gov. Robert Bentley of Alabama removed Confederate banners from a Confederate monument outside his office, though the monument remains.

In this year’s Virginia primary for the Republicans’ candidate for governor, outsider Stewart lost to establishment favorite Ed Gillespie, but by less than 2 percentage points. On Sunday, Gillespie attended church in Charlottesville and minced no words in naming names and urging those responsible for the violence to take their “vile hatred” out of the state.

“We have stared down racism and Nazism and white supremacy before, and we will stare it down again,” the Republican candidate for governor told a local TV station.

His campaign later added that Gillespie continues to oppose removal of confederate statues, but “believes it is an issue best resolved at the local level.”

Stewart is now running for the Senate in 2018.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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