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2020 Daily Trail Markers: Candidates for prosecutor explore "defund the police"

Calls for reform, from activists and police
Calls for reform, from activists and police 07:04

After the deaths of George FloydBreonna TaylorAhmaud Arbery and Rayshard Brooks, a drumbeat of protesters has been demanding to "defund the police." In Minneapolis, the city council voted to disband the police force and replace it with a community-led system. But in general, the term does not mean that police should be given zero funding or that police departments should be abolished, but rather that some portion of their funding should be diverted to community programs.  

What it means to "defund the police" is being explored nationwide by some of the candidates running for district attorney and county prosecutor, the law enforcement officials who have the power to directly hold police accountable. Progressive candidates told CBS News they interpret the phrase to mean reallocating some police funds for health care and education. And many would also like to see police forces demilitarized, fewer non-violent crimes prosecuted and an end to the cash bail system.

CBS News spoke to several candidates, as well as former 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Julián Castro, who is supporting district attorneys backing policing reform as part of their agenda.

CBS News campaign reporters Jack Turman and Timothy Perry and political unit broadcast associate Aaron Navarro have more on how these candidates view the "defund the police" movement and the larger reforms they want to make on criminal justice and police accountability. 

FROM THE CANDIDATES

JOE BIDEN

Lancaster, Pennsylvania, was the backdrop for Joe Biden's rebuttal to the rebirth of the Obamacare lawsuit today, CBS News campaign reporter Bo Erickson reports. The presumptive Democratic nominee first joined in on a socially-distanced discussion with families who said they benefitted from the expanded Obamacare protections. 

Biden told them the Trump administration lawsuit "seems to me to be close to cruel" and then agreed with one of the attendees that it is also "unconscionable." In 18 minutes of remarks afterward, Biden whittled into President Trump for his "twin legacies" of "failure to protect" from COVID-19 while fighting his "crusade" to do away with the ACA.  The former vice president said the president was acting "like a child" in terms of his COVID-19 response, focusing more on how testing rates make him look rather than focusing on help to those impacted by the virus. Biden reiterated his support to try to implement a "public option" in addition to Obamacare coverage if elected, which would offer Medicare-like plans to those wanting better coverage outside of employee-based healthcare.

The Biden campaign also continued its battleground state rollout Thursday, announcing new leadership in North Carolina and Nevada. CBS News campaign reporter LaCrai Mitchell reports that L.T. McCrimmon, a staffer from Governor Roy Cooper's office, will serve as the state director and the former North Carolina state director for Elizabeth Warren presidential campaign, Maggie Thompson, will take on the roles of State Advisor and Chief of Staff. Scott Falmlen, a partner at Nexus Strategies political consulting firm in North Carolina, will also serve as a strategic adviser. 

In Nevada, CBS News campaign reporter Alex Tin reports the former vice president has tapped two top staffers from the state Democratic party to head his general election campaign. Alana Mounce, formerly the party's executive director, will serve the campaign as state director. Shelby Wiltz, who helmed the last-minute shift over the "first in the West" caucus plans in February, will return to head Democrats' coordinated campaign in the state. Much of Biden's organizing team in Nevada, where the former vice president lost to Bernie Sanders by more than 20 points, have since parted ways with the presidential bid. The campaign declined to identify how many of their former Nevada staffers would be offered an opportunity to return to Biden's general election team, if any.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP

With visits from both the president and vice president this week, the political battleground state of Wisconsin is back in the spotlight, report CBS News campaign reporters Musadiq BidarAdam Brewster and Nicole Sganga. President Trump touched down in Wisconsin for the second time this year, to tour the Fincantieri Marinette Marine shipyard, which was recently awarded a $800 million contract with the U.S. Navy to develop a new missile frigate. 

About two hundred miles southwest, demonstrations raged into the night Tuesday outside Madison's state capitol as protesters smashed in statehouse windows, attacked a state senator and tore down two long-standing statues. Since the death of George Floyd in police custody, both cities and protesters have been taking down confederate statues nationwide. A new Marquette University Law School poll released on Wednesday reveals a majority of registered voters in the poll disapprove of Trump's handling of nationwide protests after the death of George Floyd in police custody (58%), his handling of the coronavirus pandemic (52%) and his job performance overall (51%).The survey shows presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden leading Mr. Trump in the state 49% to 41%, a jump from his three-point lead last month. 

"We have the greatest testing program in the world," President Trump said Thursday, in Marinette. "We've developed it over a period of time. We're up to almost 30 million tests. That means we're gonna have more cases. If we didn't want to test or if we didn't test we wouldn't have cases." In a call with reporters Thursday, Center for Disease Control Director Robert Redfield said for every reported case of COVID-19, there are 10 more undetected infections. Johns Hopkins University has tracked over 2.4 million confirmed coronavirus cases in the US. Based on the CDC's new estimates of unreported cases, over 20 million Americans have had the virus.

Dozens of Trump campaign staffers who worked the president's rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Saturday will quarantine this week after interacting with at least 8 advanced staff testing positive for COVID-19. "As a precaution staff who made the trip to Tulsa are working remotely, and they will be tested and return working to the office after that," said Tim Murtaugh, communications director for the Trump campaign, in a call with reporters. CBS News has learned the Trump campaign chartered a plane for lawmakers, campaign advisors and surrogates ahead of Saturday's rally. Not every surrogate or lawmaker wore a mask on the plane, though they were made available, according to multiple Republican officials. Campaign officials received a COVID test before entering the arena in Tulsa.

Also on Thursday Vice President Mike Pence rolled onto the stage during his visit to Ohio's Lordstown Motors plant riding in the passenger seat of a pickup truck. During his remarks, CBS News campaign reporter Musadiq Bidar reports Pence touted the administration's economic success before the coronavirus pandemic. Citing low unemployment numbers among Black and Hispanic communities, the vice president declared "the American dream came roaring back" under President Trump. "Our economy was on a roll," Pence said while also reassuring the crowd that "the recovery is on" and Lordstown Motors will be "a part of the great American comeback." 

Later in the day, Pence visited the Youngstown Police Department. The Vice President's press secretary Devin O'Malley said in a statement that Pence's visit to the police department is to "highlight their recent innovative police reform effort." Youngstown PD recently opened their use of force training to the community "in order to promote transparency, open up communication, and build trust," O'Malley said. The Vice President delivered brief remarks at the police station, saying "we don't have to choose between supporting law enforcement and support for our African-American community." Pence, who's been referring to George Floyd's death as a tragedy and promising justice, continues to also couch the remark with lines like "there is also no excuse for the rioting, and the violence, and the looting and the attacks on law enforcement that followed." Pence said every American can support law enforcement and the African-American community at the same time while coming "together around better public safety."

Pence is headed to campaign in Arizona next week, continuing his "Faith in America" tour on the heels of a visit from President Trump that packed a Phoenix mega-church — and drew some protests — on Tuesday. White House National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien had floated news of Pence's visit Wednesday, during remarks to Arizona business leadersCBS News campaign reporter Alex Tin reports the campaign event is planned in Tucson, at the heart of Arizona's Democrat-heavy Pima County where Trump lost by more than 13 points in 2016, despite winning statewide by more than three points. Though the president has visited the state multiple times and bought more than $1 million in Arizona ad time, new polling released today continues to show President Trump lagging behind Joe Biden in the battleground state. 

CBS NEWS COVID CHRONICLES

BLACK OWNED BUSINESSES IN NORTH CAROLINA

CBS News is chronicling what has changed for the lives of residents of some of the biggest battleground states in 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemicIn the latest edition of COVID Chronicles, CBS News campaign reporter LaCrai Mitchell continues to examine the economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic on Black business owners, with a dispatch out of North Carolina. Patrick Williams, 45, had just become one of four business partners at Pier 34 Seafood & Pub in Goldsboro, when the restaurant closed due to the pandemic. Pier 34 continued to offer take-out and delivery options while the restaurant was physically closed but the team barely earned half of what they had been receiving per month. The restaurant has reopened and while it could sustain another six months at its current revenue, Williams said that it would be "cutting it hard," and his team would eventually have to decide whether to keep their doors open or permanently close. According to research done by the University of California in Santa Cruz, there were more than a million black-owned businesses in the U.S. at the beginning of February. By mid-April, 440,000 Black business owners had permanently shut down — a 41% drop. Women-owned businesses saw a 25% plunge.

Marc Bayard, the director of the Institute for Policy Studies' Black Worker Initiative, told CBS News that in some ways this data was unsurprising and ties into the much larger racial inequities and economic injustice that African-Americans have faced for a long time. "If we think about the black-owned businesses that we've grown up with, they're smaller, they're individual entrepreneurs, they weren't well capitalized before," said Bayard. "…without the working capital, without the ability to access the federal loan programs…it's pretty cataclysmic, the impact of some of the inability to get capital for these small businesses in this pandemic."

Shalisha Morgan, the owner of Geek in Heels electronic repair business in Winston-Salem, applied for Small Business Administration loans during the pandemic but also decided to pivot and began offering curbside repair services throughout the state to keep her business alive. "It was important that I worked seven days a week for as many hours as I could, doing what I needed to do because I knew that no Superman was coming in to save me and everyone felt like I did," said Morgan. 'I was very thankful that I was able to pivot my business model…not every business is capable of doing that."

ISSUES THAT MATTER

HEALTH CARE

Democrats on Thursday focused on health care as the Trump administration faced a deadline to file a brief with the Supreme Court to strike down the Affordable Care Act. This comes as coronavirus cases in the United States surge and nearly 20 million people are facing unemployment due to the pandemic, reports CBS News political unit associate producer Sarah Ewall-Wice. In March, the Supreme Court agreed to hear a case at the request of Democratic attorneys general seeking to reverse a lower court ruling. The initial case was brought by Texas, other Republican state officials and backed by the Trump administration seeking to dismantle the health care law. The case will be heard during the next term, which does not begin until October. "The ACA is more popular than ever for one simple reason: it works," said DNC chairman Tom Perez Thursday in a statement ahead of the expected filing. "The ACA has significantly reduced the ranks of the uninsured; it's helped Americans can get the health care they need and helped keep them from being bankrupted just because they get sick." 

JOBS

The Department of Labor announced Thursday that 1.4 million Americans applied for unemployment insurance benefits last week, CBS News campaign reporter LaCrai Mitchell reportsOklahoma, Texas, New Jersey, New York and Louisiana saw the largest increases in unemployment applications when compared to the rest of the country. In May, CBS News reported that nearly 3.2 million Americans had applied for unemployment insurance benefits. Weeks later forecasters were confounded when the unemployment rate fell to 13.3% and the Labor Department announced that employers had added 2.5 million jobs in May, after months of Americans taking economic hits due to the coronavirus pandemic. Still, unemployment figures are just one measure of the economic toll that Americans have endured throughout the pandemic. And as Mitchell reported earlier this week in CBS News COVID Chronicles, small business owners in battleground states like Florida are still recovering from the negative economic impacts of COVID-19.

MOTHERS ON A MISSION

Star power meets political power in a new letter to Congress spearheaded by Beyonce's mother, Tina Knowles-Lawson. Her daughters, Beyonce Knowles Carter and Solange, are among the A-list signatories which include Jada Pinkett Smith, Whoopi Goldberg, Halle Berry, Kerry Washington and other African-American entertainers.  It is co-penned by Mothers of the Movement, a coalition of Black mothers who have lost their children to police brutality and gun violence. "I'm not a politician. I am not an activist, in that public sense, but I just felt like I had to do this," Knowles-Lawson told CBS This Morning co-anchor Gayle King.  

"It all comes down to having the polling places open, where is that money going to come from?"  Tamika Palmer, mother of Breonna Taylor, added, "It is important that people vote and that they're given this opportunity."  Taylor was a 26-year-old medical worker killed in March during a police encounter at her Louisville home. The open letter sent to Senate leaders Thursday urges passage of the HEROES Act, which includes $3.6 billion in election funding. 

It reads: "Fall-out from the most recent primaries makes it abundantly clear that we must act now to ensure every citizen can freely and fairly vote in the upcoming general election." CBS News correspondent Nikole Killion reports the congressional push is also coupled with a public petition organized by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, All Voting is Local and its 'And Still I Rise' campaign. The organization held a virtual discussion on voting rights Wednesday night with Knowles-Lawson and the mothers of Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner and Ahmaud Arbery. 

CAMPAIGN STRATEGY

ON THE MOVE

After months of virtual campaigning due to the coronavirus, in-person activity is slowly starting to creep back up depending on where states are with reopening, reports CBS News political unit associate producer Sarah Ewall-Wice. On Thursday, the Progressive Turnout Project, whose mission is to get Democrats to the polls, announced it will begin door-to-door canvassing in some metro areas Saturday. The PAC, which is investing more than $52 million this election cycle, will have upcoming activity in Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Wisconsin and Colorado. 

Their 2020 goal is to knock on more than 10 million doors and get out the vote in 17 states for the presidential and Senate races. According to PTP, conversations will focus on helping voters make a plan to vote safely including by mail. They're targeting a mix of voters including those under 35, voters of color and people who stayed home in 2016. "Donald Trump's response to the pandemic and recent protests further prove that he is fundamentally incapable of doing his job," said Executive Director Alex Morgan in a statement. "It's essential that we get to work now by having the kind of early, face-to-face conversations that our research shows boost Democratic turnout." 

Morgan said the group is taking precautions to protect both staff and voters. With that in mind, PTP is deciding to launch based on metro areas meeting several public health criteria including areas that proceeded at least 28 days without stay-at-home orders and gatherings of 10 people or more. Locations must also have flat or decreasing coronavirus cases, large COVID-19 testing capacity, and be cleared for canvassing with an infectious disease expert. Measures also include providing staff with masks, disinfectant wipes, and hand sanitizer, maintaining social distancing including when talking to voters, and setting guidelines to not enter voters' homes or apartment buildings. TPT's effort to turn out Democrats comes soon after the RNC and Trump campaign recently resumed in-person campaigning with door knocking and in-person volunteer training sessions.  

Meanwhile, the progressive organization ACRONYM is kicking off the first wave of an $11 million voter registration and mobilization effort. The campaign called People's Power Grab, aims to register and turnout 100,000 people of color across eight states including Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wisconsin. This week, the group is launching a $250,000 digital ad buy as part of its effort. ACRONYM's campaign comes as the organization hopes to fill the void with on-the-ground voter registration efforts taking a hit due to the coronavirus pandemic. The campaign will include ads through Election Day on platforms such as Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and TikTok, as well as on streaming services and other less traditional platforms. While the People's Power Grab registration effort is nonpartisan, ACRONYM is affiliated with PACRONYM, a committee launched in an effort to take on Donald Trump.

CONGRESSIONAL COVERAGE

IN THE SENATE

MISSISSIPPI

U.S. Democratic Senate Candidate Mike Espy attended a demonstration Thursday at the Mississippi State Capitol urging the State Legislature to take the Confederate Flag out of the Mississippi state flag, reports CBS News political unit associate producer Eleanor Watson. "It an ugly symbol, meaning it harkens back to an ugly time when people owned other people," Espy said, "The flag is a divisive symbol and symbols should be unifying." Espy joined religious leaders Thursday in Jackson to pressure lawmakers to take action before they wrap up the 2020 legislative session on Friday. Espy is also again campaigning against GOP Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith in November. Espy lost a Special Election runoff to Hyde-Smith in 2018.

GOVERNOR'S MANSION

HITTING PAUSE

While coronavirus cases are on an upward trend in multiple states, governors in the south are seeing especially high spikes. In Texas, Governor Greg Abbott paused their reopening after seeing 5,551 new cases Wednesday and 13 days of increasing hospitalizations reports CBS News political unit broadcast associate Aaron Navarro. In a release, the Republican governor also put a stop on elective surgeries. 

"The last thing we want to do as a state is go backwards and close down businesses. This temporary pause will help our state corral the spread until we can safely enter the next phase of opening our state for business," said Abbott. Businesses that were already permitted to open under the state's previous phases of reopening can "continue to operate at the designated occupancy levels and under the minimum standard health protocols provided by the Texas Department of State Health Services," according to the statement. The Texas Democratic Party launched digital ads on Thursday, criticizing Abbott's handling of the coronavirus pandemic and claiming he ignored the data about a second wave.

And as the number of cases continues to rise Florida, a spokesperson for Florida Governor Ron DeSantis told CBS News campaign reporter LaCrai Mitchell that he is continuing to monitor COVID-19. "The governor is not planning any rollback of Phase II reopening at this time," said the spokesperson, who added that "he never announced a timetable for a Phase III."

NEW HAMPSHIRE

In New Hampshire, gubernatorial Democratic candidate Andru Volinsky was condemned by the Manchester Black Lives Matter chapter on Wednesday, after he opposed Republican Governor Chris Sununu's nominations of two black appointees to statewide positions, according to CBS News political unit broadcast associate Aaron Navarro

Eddie Edwards, a black conservative former law enforcement official, withdrew his nomination in a letter Tuesday, citing Volinsky's role as an executive councilor in the state to "control over a majority of councilors" and delay his confirmation hearing. Volinsky has opposed Edwards' nomination in the past, calling him "unqualified." Earlier in June, Volinsky also had to apologize for using the term "tokenism" in a debate with Sununu about a nominee for the state Board of Education. On Facebook, Black Lives Matter Manchester wrote, "Andru Volinsky's microaggressive comments have no place in politics. We strongly disavow his statements claiming that a black man had no experience or expertise in earning his position for the office of professional licensure and certification." 

Volinsky, running as a progressive who has supported the Black Lives Matter movement, said in an apology he recognizes there's a "different context" to calling past, white nominees unqualified. "There is a long history of Black people who have been unfairly dismissed as 'unqualified'; I failed to take that context into account when opposing these nominees. I look forward to engaging in honest and candid dialogue with Black Lives Matter Manchester and take to heart their criticisms about my words," he wrote. 

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