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From School Boards to the Senate, All Politics Is Virus Politics in 2020 – The New York Times

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The coronavirus pandemic upended Pamela Walsh’s life. It shut down her office, leaving her working at home from a folding table. It forced her to turn her dining room into a Zoom classroom for her 7-year-old son. And the virus propelled a still more unlikely change: It led Ms. Walsh to run for public office.

“It wasn’t even on my radar screen,” said Ms. Walsh, 47, a political adviser in Concord, N.H., who has long worked for Democrats but never before considered seeking elective office herself. Months of supervising elementary school lessons from home, with little idea of when her son would return to school, convinced Ms. Walsh that she should vie for a seat on her local school board.

“I decided I needed a voice like mine on the board,” Ms. Walsh said in a phone interview, which she muted periodically as her son called out for her and at one point thumped a bat on a chair. “Everyone is struggling right now a bit and needs to be represented by how these policies impact real families.”

By some measure, all politics is virus politics in 2020, and the federal government’s handling of Covid-19 has become an explosive issue in the presidential race, which has been further complicated by President Trump’s own hospitalization for the virus.

Yet around the nation, there are local and state races in which the pandemic has also taken an outsize role. In some cases, the virus has been the reason for running; in others, handling of the pandemic has become the defining issue, eclipsing ordinary matters of taxes and services.

The virus — and the government’s response to it — has inspired parents, hair salon owners and others to run for the first time, turned sleepy races into competitive matches and injected a level of unpredictability and rancor into normally tranquil down-ballot contests.

Credit…Elizabeth Frantz for The New York Times

“This is an issue that no one expected to be one of the pillars of this election, but it has clearly become one,” said Robert Griffin, research director for the Democracy Fund Voter Study Group, which is partnering with academics at the University of California, Los Angeles, to poll about 6,000 Americans each week leading up to the election.

Mr. Trump’s own bout with Covid-19 only intensified some of the debates over the issue in lower races. “If you, Mr. President, have the best health system in the world and bodyguards and the whole thing, and you still get it, what does that say for us at the local level who are trying to figure out what to do with our children?” asked José Luis Bedolla, 50, who said he was motivated to run for the school board in Berkeley, Calif., because of the pandemic.

Candidates’ own cases of the virus have created all sorts of uncertainty for political races, yanking campaigns off the trail and into quarantine during crucial weeks and confounding political strategists, who have little precedent to lean on as they try to figure out how voters will respond.

In North Carolina, a race that could help decide control of the United States Senate was thrust further into limbo this month when Senator Thom Tillis, a Republican, tested positive for the coronavirus after attending a White House ceremony. At the same time, his opponent, Cal Cunningham, is contending with a texting scandal.

In Missouri, where average new daily cases have risen sixfold since mid-June, the governor’s race is being defined in no small part by the pandemic. Gov. Mike Parson, the incumbent Republican who is leading in the polls, had resisted requiring people to wear masks and at times campaigned without one. Then last month, he came down with the virus himself.

As Mr. Parson was sidelined, his Democratic opponent, Nicole Galloway, wished him well while also soliciting donations in an effort to remind voters of their dueling positions on the virus. An online ad showed her wearing a blue mask, side-by-side with a barefaced Mr. Parson.

“Governor Parson has failed this test, and it’s apparent,” Ms. Galloway said in an interview. An accountant by training and the current state auditor, she has made public health a key issue in Zoom appearances, uses elbow-bumps on the campaign trail, and has said she will issue a mask requirement if elected.

Credit…Charlie Riedel/Associated Press
Credit…Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

Elsewhere, conservatives have made their opposition to mandates on masks and business closings the center of blossoming campaigns.

In Washington State, a small-town police chief has made Gov. Jay Inslee’s handling of the pandemic a top issue in a long-shot bid to become the state’s first Republican governor since the 1980s. The chief, Loren Culp, has criticized Mr. Inslee, a Democrat, as a “job killer” and is drawing a contrast by holding rallies where masks are not required.

In Texas, a salon owner who was jailed this spring for defying shutdown orders quickly became an anti-lockdown hero for the political right. The owner, Shelley Luther, spoke at rallies, gave Senator Ted Cruz a haircut and donned a T-shirt emblazoned with the popular Texas rallying cry “Come and Take It” — except in place of a cannon, there was a blow dryer.

Now, Ms. Luther, a former high school teacher who has never held public office, is running as a Republican for a seat in the Texas State Senate.

She has put Gov. Greg Abbott’s handling of the pandemic and his virus-related restrictions at the forefront of her campaign. The outrage over her jailing was so intense that Mr. Abbott, a fellow Republican, softened his own shutdown orders and removed confinement as a punishment.

Running in a largely rural Republican district northwest of Dallas, Ms. Luther has called Mr. Abbott “our tyrant governor” at campaign events. One of her ads showed the black-and-white security footage of the moment she was handcuffed as she looks into the camera and says, “I fought back, and they backed down.”

Credit…Ricardo B. Brazziell/Austin American-Statesman, via Associated Press

“It’s about time that we the people take this back into our hands and let the government know that they work for us and they should not be telling us what to do like this,” Ms. Luther said last month on the talk show “America, Can We Talk?”

And then there was this wrinkle: Her main opponent, a Republican lawmaker, State Representative Drew Springer, was sidelined for days during the race; he had to quarantine after his wife tested positive for the virus. Ms. Luther won 164 more votes than Mr. Springer during a recent special election, and the two are now in a runoff set for December, to represent Prosper, Texas, a Dallas suburb that is one of the fastest growing areas in the state.

Restrictions to control the spread of the virus — or the lack of such restrictions — have become motivating factors in races of all sizes.

Adrian Perkins, the mayor of Shreveport, La., had no plans — and no money — to run for United States Senate at the start of this year. But he grew increasingly frustrated as the coronavirus swept through his city, sickening thousands and leaving many others unemployed. He tried ordering everyone to wear masks but got sued for that.

So Mr. Perkins, a 34-year-old Army veteran and Harvard Law School graduate, began a last-minute, long-shot bid to go to Washington, where he felt he could have more sway. He announced his candidacy in July, two days before the registration deadline.

Credit…Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times
Credit…Melinda Deslatte/Associated Press

“No sane person launches a Senate campaign on purpose with just 110 days,” said Mr. Perkins, a Democrat who is running to unseat Bill Cassidy, the senior Republican senator from Louisiana. (Mr. Cassidy, a medical doctor, tested positive and recovered from the coronavirus this summer.)

Mr. Perkins’s campaign says he has raised $1 million in just a few months, but his odds are long. His opponent, who already had more than $6 million on hand by the time Mr. Perkins entered the race, has a solid lead in a mostly red state.

But the long shot is worth it to Mr. Perkins, who grew up in Shreveport and described the federal government’s missteps in response to the pandemic as the reason for his campaign.

“Without the coronavirus, I wouldn’t be running,” he said, adding, “It’s people’s lives that were on the line.”

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Even as political relations worsen, Canada-China trade thrives – The Globe and Mail

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A Helijet helicopter flies past gantry cranes and shipping containers at the Port of Vancouver while landing on the harbour in Vancouver, on Wednesday, March 11, 2020.

DARRYL DYCK/The Globe and Mail

Canada’s business with China appears to be thriving during the pandemic even as diplomatic relations remain in a deep freeze.

Exports to China increased close to 10 per cent in the first seven months of the COVID-19 pandemic over the same period a year previous, according to new analysis from the Canadian International Development Platform (CIDP), which is part of the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs at Carleton University.

This growth occurred even as exports, by value, to many other traditional customers sunk during the pandemic, which hit Canada in March.

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Overall, Canadian exports fell nearly 20 per cent in the same March to September period, CIDP’s analysis of Statistics Canada data shows. For instance, exports to the United States declined 22 per cent in this period.

Exports to China for the March to September period exceeded $14.7-billion, compared with $13.4-billion in 2019.

Aniket Bhushan, an adjunct research professor at the Norman Paterson School, said one of the reasons exports to China are growing is that sales are rebounding from a bad year in 2019 when China punished Canada for arresting Huawei Technologies chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou. China blocked sales of pork and beef for several months in 2019.

Still, Prof. Bhushan said, Canadian exports to China appear to be on track to exceed 2018 levels by the end of this year.

Perrin Beatty, president of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, said Canadian exports to China are up in 2020 because China’s economy is one of the few that will grow this year. The country, where COVID-19 first appeared, recovered much more quickly than most and is expected to expand economic output by a modest 2.1 per cent this year.

Diplomatic relations between China and Canada have steadily eroded since late 2018 when Canada arrested Ms. Meng on a U.S. extradition request and Beijing locked up two Canadians – Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor – in what Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has called an effort to exert “political pressure.” Beijing applied, and then lifted, restrictions barring imports of Canadian pork and beef, while Canada’s two biggest exporters of canola seed remain barred from shipping to the Chinese market.

In October, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland denounced China’s ambassador to Canada for threatening Canadians living in Hong Kong, saying envoy Cong Peiwu overstepped his diplomatic role when he warned granting asylum to pro-democracy dissidents could jeopardize the “health and safety” of 300,000 Canadians living in the Asian city. Mr. Cong was also reprimanded by the Global Affairs department.

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Trade data analyzed by CIDP show rising exports to China include ores, cereal grains such as wheat, meat, animal or vegetable fats, and vegetables. Statistics compiled by the federal agriculture and agri-food department show that in September, for instance, Canada exported 61,570 metric tonnes of pork to China compared with 346 tonnes in September, 2019.

Mr. Beatty, whose organization represents 200,000 Canadian businesses, said the political differences between Ottawa and Beijing should not be allowed to “contaminate our commercial relationships.” He said it “makes no sense for the Chinese to use imports of Canadian agri-food as a weapon” and that “politicizing trade” destroys the benefits of trade.

“Half a century ago, Canada supplied China with wheat when other countries refused to sell to them. It was the right decision, and both Canadian farmers and the Chinese people benefited,” he said.

Gordon Houlden, director of the University of Alberta’s China Institute, suggested that China is being pragmatic in dealing with Canada for economic and political reasons.

“I think there may be a desire not to make things worse on the political side because taking the two Canadians has not worked out and maybe there is a desire not to add economic pressure to the equation,” he said.

In a recent report, the China Institute documented how China is continuing to buy Canadian agricultural goods at a solid pace.

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David Mulroney, a former Canadian ambassador to China, said that aside from arresting Ms. Meng – who is fighting extradition to the U.S. in a B.C. court – Ottawa has avoided taking significant measures that might antagonize Beijing.

By comparison, Australia has faced an increasing list of trade reprisals from China after challenging China in ways Canada hasn’t. Australia has banned Huawei from 5G networks, called for an inquiry into the origins of COVID-19, and led a pushback against authoritarian states by enacting a law to monitor agents acting for foreign governments.

Prof. Houlden said it would be unwise for Canada to try to decouple its trade with China. He added that trade accounts for 64 per cent of Canada’s GDP, compared with 24 per cent for the U.S. and 37 per cent for China.

“We are far more export dependent than China and we can’t maintain our prosperity without that, so [the] idea that we can’t or shouldn’t sell to China is not sustainable,” he added.

While Canadian canola seed exports continue to face targeted restrictions from Beijing, the China Institute report said 2020 has been marked by relative gains in both export value and tonnage. The cumulative value of canola seed exports to China has risen by 52 per cent on a year-to-date basis to $976-million. That’s still far below the $2.7-billion in canola seed Canada exported in 2018, however.

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Indian politicians slam Trudeau for 'unwelcome' remarks on farmers' protest – CTV News

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TORONTO —
Politicians in India are slamming Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for wading into the escalating farmers’ protests in their country.

Tens of thousands of Indian farmers have swarmed India’s capital New Delhi in protest of laws passed back in September which the farmers believe will allow corporations to exploit agricultural workers.

The farmers have been met with tear gas and water cannons upon arriving In New Delhi, but have indicated that they intend to stay in the regions for weeks if necessary.

Trudeau weighed in Monday during a virtual celebration for Guru Nanak Dev Ji Gurpurab, a festival to mark the 551st birthday of Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism.

“The situation is concerning and we’re all very worried about families and friends,” Trudeau said during video conference, which was later tweeted by the World Sikh Organization.

“Canada will also be there to defend the rights of peaceful protests. We believe in the importance of dialogue and that’s why we’ve reached out through multiple means directly to the Indian authorities to highlight our concerns.”

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said the new laws give farmers more autonomy to set their own prices and the ability to sell their products directly to businesses.

Both NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and British Columbia Premier John Horgan have previously issued statements in support of the Indian farmers, though Trudeau is believed to be the first world leader to make a public statement.

Trudeau’s comments were met with harsh criticism from Indian politicians on both sides of the debate. In a statement, Indian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Anurag Srivastava called the comments “ill-informed.”

“Such comments are unwarranted, especially when pertaining to the internal affairs of a democratic country,” the statement read. “It is also best that diplomatic conversations are not misrepresented for political purposes.”

Priyanka Chaturvedi, an Indian MP and deputy leader for Shiv Sena, a right-wing regional party, tweeted that she is “touched” by Trudeau’s concern, but “India’s internal issue is not fodder for another nation’s politics.”

In an opinion piece on the New Delhi Television website, Chaturvedi called it “unfortunate” that Trudeau is using “India’s internal issue to further his own place in his nation’s politics.”

“In international relations, there are courtesies extended to not comment on internal affairs of a nation, India has always extended it to other nations, we expect the same to be extended to India,” Chaturvedi wrote in the article.

Chaturvedi did add that if the Indian government continues to ignore the protests, the country will open itself up to commentary from other nations.

Raghav Chadha, a spokesperson for the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), the ruling party in the New Delhi region, echoed Chaturvedi’s comments.

“While we urge (Bharatiya Janata Party) Govt to immediately resolve & accede to farmers’ demands, this remains an internal matter of India,” he wrote in the tweet. “AAP believes interference or commentary from elected heads of other countries are unsolicited & unwelcome. India is capable of handling its own domestic matters.”

With files from The Associated Press

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Justice Department investigating potential presidential pardon bribery scheme, court records reveal – CNN

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The case is the latest legal twist in the waning days of President Donald Trump’s administration after several of his top advisers have been convicted of federal criminal charges and as the possibility rises of Trump giving pardons to those who’ve been loyal to him.
The disclosure is in 20 pages of partially redacted documents made public by the DC District Court on Tuesday afternoon. The records show Chief Judge Beryl Howell’s review in August of a request from prosecutors to access documents obtained in a search as part of a bribery-for-pardon investigation.
The filings don’t reveal a timeline of the alleged scheme, or any names of people potentially involved, except that communications between people including at least one lawyer were seized from an office that was raided sometime before the end of this summer.
No one appears to have been publicly charged with a related crime to date.
The White House declined to comment on the court filing. CNN has previously reported that associates of the President are making appeals to him in the hopes of obtaining pardons before he leaves office. There is no indication that any of those associates are being investigated by DOJ in relation to Tuesday’s filing.
A Justice Department official told CNN that “no government official was or is currently a subject or target of the investigation disclosed in this filing.”
According to the court records, at the end of this summer, a filter team, used to make sure prosecutors don’t receive tainted evidence that should have been kept from them because it was privileged, had more than 50 digital devices including iPhones, iPads, laptops, thumb drives and computer drives after investigators raided the unidentified offices.
Prosecutors told the court they wanted permission to the filter team’s holdings. The prosecutors believed the devices revealed emails that showed allegedly criminal activity, including a “secret lobbying scheme” and a bribery conspiracy that offered “a substantial political contribution in exchange for a presidential pardon or reprieve of sentence” for a convicted defendant whose name is redacted, according to the redacted documents.
Communications between attorneys and clients are typically privileged and kept from prosecutors as they build their cases, but in this situation, Howell allowed the prosecutors access. Attorney-client communications are not protected as privileged under the law when there is discussion of a crime, among other exceptions.
“The political strategy to obtain a presidential pardon was ‘parallel’ to and distinct from [redacted]’s role as an attorney-advocate for [redacted name],” Howell wrote in her court order.
The grand jury investigation also appears to relate to unnamed people acting as unregistered “lobbyists to senior White House officials” as they sought to secure a pardon and use an intermediary to send a bribe, the unsealed court records say.
Prosecutors hadn’t provided evidence to the judge, however, of any direct payment, and instead showed evidence that a person was seeking clemency because of past and future political contributions.
The investigators indicated in court that they intended to “confront” three people with the communications and complete their investigation.
Over the last week, the Justice Department told Howell it wanted to keep filings related to the matter confidential in court, because “individuals and conduct” hadn’t yet been charged.
Trump has granted 29 pardons and commuted 16 people’s sentences during his presidency, according to the US Pardon Attorney’s office. Several of those have gone to people close to the President or whose names would make a splash — including the 19th Century suffragist Susan B. Anthony, the former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, Bush-era adviser Scooter Libby and longtime Republican political adviser Roger Stone, who lied to Congress to protect Trump’s efforts in 2016.
Just last week, Trump pardoned his former national security adviser Michael Flynn for lying to the FBI, undisclosed lobbying for Turkey and the waterfront of potential related crimes that Flynn could have faced in the future.
This story has been updated with additional information.

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