<![CDATA[NBC 10 Philadelphia - Philadelphia Political News and Philadelphia Politics]]>Copyright 2018 https://www.nbcphiladelphia.com/news/politics http://media.nbcnewyork.com/designimages/NBC10_40x125.png NBC 10 Philadelphia https://www.nbcphiladelphia.com en-usMon, 15 Oct 2018 20:18:42 -0400Mon, 15 Oct 2018 20:18:42 -0400NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Saudis Considering Plan to Admit Writer Killed in Consulate]]> Mon, 15 Oct 2018 19:03:53 -0400 https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/khashoggiAP_18284761178131.jpg

Saudi Arabia’s government is discussing a plan to admit that missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, three people with knowledge of the situation tell NBC News.

According to two of the individuals, the Saudis are putting together an explanation that would absolve Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the putative leader of Saudi Arabia, of responsibility by giving him plausible deniability to say he didn’t order the killing and didn’t know about it.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Trump: 'Hard to Believe' Devastation Caused by Hurricane Michael]]> Mon, 15 Oct 2018 18:06:08 -0400 https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/SAMPLE+TIMELINE.00_00_59_29.Still007.jpg

On Monday President Donald Trump traveled to Florida to see first-hand the damage caused by Hurricane Michael.

<![CDATA[New Attack Ad Resurfaces Old Menendez Sex Claims]]> Mon, 15 Oct 2018 18:23:09 -0400 https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Menendez_Hooker_Scandal.jpg

An attack on Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey has hit the airwaves. Political observers are calling this race ugly with just three weeks to go until the election. The legal issues Menendez faced in his corruption trial last year were already part of this campaign. Now, claims surrounding foreign sex workers are surfacing again.

<![CDATA[Feds Find Increasing Attempts to Hack US Election Systems]]> Mon, 15 Oct 2018 16:31:15 -0400 https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Kirstjen+Nielsen-GettyImages-1017761754.jpg

The Department of Homeland Security says it's working to identify who — or what — is behind an increasing number of attempted cyber attacks on U.S. election databases ahead of next month's midterms.

"We are aware of a growing volume of cyber activity targeting election infrastructure in 2018," the department's Cyber Mission Center said in an intelligence assessment issued last week and obtained by NBC News. "Numerous actors are regularly targeting election infrastructure, likely for different purposes, including to cause disruptive effects, steal sensitive data, and undermine confidence in the election."

The assessment said the federal government does not know who is behind the attacks, but it said all potential intrusions were either prevented or mitigated.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Police: Suspicious Letter Sent to Sen. Susan Collins' Home]]> Mon, 15 Oct 2018 18:38:10 -0400 https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Susan+Collins+Bangor+Maine+collage.jpg

Police are investigating after a suspicious letter was sent to the Maine home of U.S. Sen. Susan Collins.

Bangor police said officers responded to Collins' West Broadway home just before 2 p.m. Monday for a report of a suspicious envelope that had been delivered to the home.

Firefighters and a local hazardous materials crew also responded to the scene, according to police.

Although no other details about the nature of the suspicious letter were immediately released, authorities in Bangor reassured residents that there was no information to indicate a public danger.

WCSH reports that Collins' husband was home at the time when the letter was received and that Collins is heading to Bangor from Washington, DC.

The investigation is ongoing.

Collins became the target of partisan ire after the moderate Republican voted to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this month following sexual misconduct allegations.

Photo Credit: WCSH/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Voting While Broke: What Keeps Low-Income People from Polls]]> Mon, 15 Oct 2018 17:02:39 -0400 https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-79839351.jpg

NBC10 is one of 20 news organizations producing BROKE in Philly, a collaborative reporting project on solutions to poverty and the city’s push towards economic justice. Follow us at @BrokeInPhilly.

Voting would be nearly impossible for South Philadelphia resident Eric Drummond if his polling station was not around the corner.

Disabled by diabetes and a motorcycle accident, Drummond depends on his wife, who has a bad back, to push his wheelchair. But the thought of losing health care is enough to push them both to the polls on Nov. 6, Drummond said.

“My medication went up and I’m on a fixed income,” he said. “I can’t really move my hands but they’re talking about taking away Medicaid and Medicare.”

This is the reality of voting while broke. Many low-income Americans face increasing uncertainty when it comes to casting a ballot, from feeling politically disengaged to questioning whether they have the time and resources to find their polling place. As a result, millions of potential voters opt out of an electoral system they feel doesn’t serve them well.

In 2014, 94 percent of financially secure Americans said they were registered to vote compared to 54 percent of low-income people, according to the Pew Research Center. The numbers extend to political engagement, as well. Just 14 percent of low-income people have contacted an elected official in the last two years while 42 percent of wealthier Americans have done this, Pew concluded.

This is where 32-year-old Anton Moore comes in. As Philadelphia’s youngest ward leader, Moore canvases his West Passyunk neighborhood weekly to speak with residents and encourage them to vote. He isn’t surprised when people don’t answer the door.

“It’s tough, but you do what you can,” he said while walking up and down streets on a rainy October Sunday.

When he patrols the neighborhood, Moore carries a “hit list” of registered voters. He diligently knocks on every door, waits for an answer, introduces himself if someone comes out and then moves on to the next house. Rinse and repeat for several blocks.

It was during one of these outings that Moore paused to chat with Paul Verwey. The 23-year-old moved into the neighborhood with his fiance about a month ago, two small dogs and plans for a growing family in tow. But soon after buying their first home, Verwey lost his job. Suddenly, their future was in question.

“That goes to your head,” he said. “It completely changed my perspective - you just never know what position somebody’s in.”

Prior to losing his job, which paid nearly $90,000 a year, Verwey said he questioned people who required financial help from the government. Now, he plans to vote for candidates who are “understanding of the situations that people are in,” Verwey said.

“There is a lot of divide across the country as a whole,” he said. “It’s very important for us to know that we’re going to be raising our children in a society that is going to be accepting of them and also supportive.”

Both Verwey and Drummond are registered voters who intend to visit the polls in November. But more than 21 percent of eligible voters were not registered for the 2014 federal elections, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Similar data is not yet available for the 2018 midterms because of rolling state deadlines.

Moore is accustomed to encountering so-called voter apathy. A familiar refrain during his weekly canvassing starts with someone saying their vote doesn’t matter and, with any luck, ending with a promise to register. But on this particular day, voter registration had already ended in Pennsylvania and several neighbors told him they didn’t even know an election is just around the corner.

“When is the election?” one man, who did not want to be identified, asked Moore.

“Nov. 6,” Moore answered.

“The vote is not for presidential, right?” the man asked. “Because I don’t know too much about the governors, to be honest with you.”

Moore went on to introduce the gubernatorial candidates. The man sounded interested, explaining that his first time voting was in the 2016 presidential election after he became a U.S. citizen.

“We could really use you at the polls,” Moore concluded, promising to return soon to help this neighbor learn about the candidates.

Local elections are nearly always a hard sell for voters. In Philadelphia’s last mayoral election, just 24 percent of residents voted, according to researchers at Portland State University, who examined voter engagement across the nation’s biggest cities.

But this year, the midterm elections will determine who controls Congress. In Pennsylvania, these numbers are especially significant after the state Supreme Court created new congressional districts, forcing many voters to consider different candidates for the first time since 2010.

Pennsylvania's newly drawn 1st Congressional District, for instance, is nearly evenly split between Democratic and Republican voters.

It's the kind of place where a moderate congressman like Republican Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick has, in the past, appealed to centrist voters of both parties.

But Fitzpatrick's vote in favor of President Donald Trump's tax cut last year didn't sit well with Jerry Middlemiss, a moderate Democrat from Yardley. And he is the kind of voter Fitzpatrick would need to win over to eke out a win this November.

"I'm not pleased about that," the semi-retired school counselor said.

Middlemiss doesn't yet know much about Scott Wallace, the Democrat challenging Fitzpatrick, but he believes America should push the reset button on Congress. And there is only one way to do that this year.

"If you are opposed to the current administration and the way the government has been run, you may want to make a change," Middlemiss said.

Photo Credit: Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Search Continues for Missing in Hurricane Michael ]]> Mon, 15 Oct 2018 11:17:14 -0400 https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/NC_trumptoursmichael_1500x845.jpg

Emergency responders continue to search for those who were last seen riding out Hurricane Michael in the Florida Panhandle as President Donald Trump head to Florida and Georgia to survey the damage. The storm has claimed the lives of 19 people. 

<![CDATA[Most Americans Would Fail US Citizenship Test, Survey Says]]> Mon, 15 Oct 2018 08:56:35 -0400 https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/flagGettyImages-488745228.jpg

A new poll shows that little more than a third of Americans would pass a basic multiple choice U.S. citizenship test, NBC News reported.

The survey, released this month by the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, sampled 1,000 American adults and was modeled after the test taken by immigrants in the process of naturalization.

Respondents 65 and older scored the best (74 percent), while only 19 percent of test-takers 45 and younger passed. The survey asks about everything from important dates to historical figures and current events.

How would you do on a U.S. citizenship exam? You can take a practice test on the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services website.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Rubio: 'Moral Credibility' at Stake Over Missing Writer Case]]> Sun, 14 Oct 2018 15:21:52 -0400 https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/AP_18287659713747.jpg

Sen. Marco Rubio warned Sunday that America's "moral credibility" is at risk if it fails in its response to suspected Saudi involvement in the disappearance and possible killing of a Washington Post columnist in Turkey.

Appearing on "Meet the Press" Sunday, the Florida Republican, a member of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said that if Saudi involvement is proven, the response must be strong and swift to ensure America's moral standing.

"Our ability to call Putin a murderer — because he is; our ability to call Assad a murderer — because he is; our ability to confront Maduro in Venezuela or any of these other human rights atrocities like what we see in China, all of that is undermined and compromised if we somehow decide that because an ally who was important did that, we are not going to call it out," Rubio said, referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro.

And John Brennan, the former CIA director who previously served as a CIA station chief in Saudi Arabia, said Sunday that it would be "inconceivable that such an operation would be run by the Saudis without the knowledge of the day-to-day decision-maker of Saudi Arabia, that's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman."

Photo Credit: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File
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<![CDATA[Bucks Battle: Democrat Scott Wallace Takes Aim at GOP]]> Mon, 15 Oct 2018 09:37:15 -0400 https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Bucks_Battle__Democrat_Scott_Wallace_Takes_Aim_at_GOP.jpg

Newcomer Scott Wallace hopes to win a seat in Pennsylvania's first congressional district for the Democratic party. Does he have what takes?

<![CDATA[Bucks Battle: Republicans Try to Maintain Hold]]> Mon, 15 Oct 2018 14:48:37 -0400 https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Bucks_Battle__Republicans_Try_to_Maintain_Hold.jpg

Republican Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick is likely to hold onto the seat in the new congressional first district, according to some polls. But other polls say the race is much tighter.

<![CDATA[Nancy Pelosi Visits Battleground PA Before Midterms]]> Sat, 13 Oct 2018 19:01:48 -0400 https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Nancy_Pelosi_Visits_Battleground_PA_Before_Midterms.jpg

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Pennsylvania would be central to the election Saturday while campaigning for Madeleine Dean, the Democrat running for Congress in Pennsylvania's new 4th district. Meanwhile, Republican candidate Dan David said he's working across party lines even during the campaign.

<![CDATA[Trump Welcomes US Pastor After Returning From Turkey]]> Sat, 13 Oct 2018 17:05:06 -0400 https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/SAMPLE+TIMELINE+Copy+03.00_00_37_08.Still008.jpg

President Donald Trump hosted Andrew Brunson on Saturday in the Oval Office after the pastor was released from confinement in Turkey.

<![CDATA[Clinton's Security Clearance Withdrawn at Her Request]]> Sat, 13 Oct 2018 13:35:31 -0400 https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-955550458.png

The State Department says former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's security clearance has been withdrawn at her request, NBC News reported.

Clinton's decision comes after Admiral William McRaven penned an op-ed in the Washington Post rebuking President Donald Trump's decision to revoke former CIA Director John Brennan's security clearance in mid-August, according to her spokesperson Nick Merrill.

On Aug. 30, Clinton's representative wrote a letter to the Bureau of Diplomatic Security at the U.S. State Department asking for a withdraw of her clearance "immediately."

"[Clinton] has no desire to have her clearance become part of an unprecedented partisan controversy over the clearance process, for the reason eloquently stated by Admiral William McRaven," Clinton's attorney wrote.

Photo Credit: Getty Images, File]]>
<![CDATA[Wagner Pushes Property Tax Elimination, But Not How to Do It]]> Sat, 13 Oct 2018 13:08:23 -0400 https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/211*120/Property+Tax+Drop+Box.jpg

Scott Wagner, the Republican gubernatorial candidate in Pennsylvania, had a message for Victoria Clark when she told him that she is downsizing from her four-story home, partly because of the mortgage.

"Under my plan, your school property taxes will go away," Wagner told Clark during a stop at her driveway sale while canvassing in her suburban Harrisburg neighborhood earlier this month.

Ending the ability of school boards to raise billions of dollars in property taxes is one of Wagner's most prominent campaign planks, one that he consistently advocates as a salve for overburdened taxpayers and fixed-income elderly struggling to keep their homes.

Eliminating more than $13 billion in school property taxes collected statewide has been a cause for some lawmakers in Pennsylvania for well over a decade. And while Wagner criticizes the man he's challenging, Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, for failing to deliver on it, Wagner avoids saying how exactly he would accomplish it.

"Here's the bottom line: everybody has the ability to go to the poll on Nov. 6 and vote for me for governor and it will get it done," Wagner told a forum on school property taxes in Wilkes-Barre last month.

For years, lawmakers sympathetic to the cause have tried, and failed. Unresolved fights include how to raise the money to replace school property taxes. Opponents include prominent organizations, such as the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry — which endorsed Wagner for governor — and the Pennsylvania School Boards Association.

Property taxes play an outsize role in paying for Pennsylvania's public schools because Pennsylvania plays one of the smallest proportional roles of any state in helping to foot the bill.

It is 45th out of 50, supplying less than 38 percent of total revenue, according to federal data from 2016. It is a dynamic that critics blame for driving inequities between funding levels in poorer and wealthier school districts.

Existing proposals to replace the lost money revolve around increasing state taxes on income and sales, money that the state would then distribute along with billions in aid it already sends to school districts.

Business organizations worry about small businesses picking up a disproportionately large share of the shifting tax burden. School boards worry about losing financial control to the state, giving up a recession-proof revenue source and being stuck with a state government unwilling to adequately underwrite district costs.

Then there's the massive wealth transfer — from average taxpayers to wealthier school districts — if school property taxes are replaced with higher state taxes on income and sales.

An Associated Press analysis of state data found that 75 percent of school property taxes were collected by school districts in the top half of average household income in 2016-17, the latest data available. Half of all school property taxes were collected by the wealthiest quarter of school districts.

"So consequently, it almost institutionalizes the inequities that are out there," said Mark DiRocco, executive director of the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators.

For his part, Wolf floated a $3.2 billion plan in 2015, his first year as governor, and said last month that he had not seen a better plan.

Under Wolf's plan, most of the money — just over $2 billion — goes to districts in the bottom half of average income, but the proposal went nowhere in the Republican-controlled Legislature.

Wolf has, at times, said he supports eliminating school property taxes, but he also said last month that he wants districts to maintain authority over school finances while making the state "a better partner than they are now."

Eliminating school property taxes would put Pennsylvania in a small group of states — including Arkansas, Vermont and Hawaii — in which there is little local funding role.

It's not clear that eliminating school property taxes would necessarily threaten the quality of schools.

Rutgers University education professor Bruce Baker, who studies inequality in public school finance, said school quality is less about the source of the funding and more about the cumulative amount of state and local funding.

Back at the driveway sale, Wagner didn't explain to Clark how his plan would eliminate property taxes, Clark didn't ask and the conversation moved on to another topic.

Wagner left, saying an aide would call Clark to discuss his property tax plan.

But, Clark said, nobody ever called.

Photo Credit: FILE]]>
<![CDATA[Gun Violence Prevention Group Weighs in on Congressional Race]]> Fri, 12 Oct 2018 20:59:08 -0400 https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Gun_Violence_Prevention_Weighs_in_on_Congressional_Race.jpg ]]> <![CDATA[Wagner Steps Back From 'Stomp' Threat to Gov. Wolf]]> Fri, 12 Oct 2018 19:11:29 -0400 https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/214*120/Wagner+campaign+ad.JPG

Two weeks ago, Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott Wagner went outside the boundaries of political decorum by calling Gov. Tom Wolf a "gutless coward" for Wolf's refusal to participate in more than one debate.

(Decorum? Etiquette? What're those? Fair questions, these days.)

But instead of pumping the brakes, Wagner hit the gas: On Oct. 12 in a social media video, the GOP challenger trailing badly in recent polls threatened the incumbent Democrat with golf spikes.

Yes, golf spikes. The sport of baseball didn't escape unscathed either.

"Between now and Nov. 6, you better put a catcher’s mask on your face," Wagner said along the side of a road in his home base of York County in a Facebook Live post. "Because I’m going to stomp all over your face with golf spikes. Because I’m going to win this."

Hours later, Wagner took the old one down.

"I may have chosen a poor metaphor. I may have had a poor choice of words. I shouldn’t have said what I said," Wagner said in the replacement post.

A spokesman for Wagner said hours after the video posted that the stomping is not to be taken literally.

"He wanted them to be a metaphor for how he will approach the final stretch of the campaign," campaign spokesman Andrew Romeo said in an email. "Tom Wolf has spent the entire race hiding behind false and negative attack ads like a coward instead of debating in front of the people of Pennsylvania and Scott will spend the last month of the race making it clear to voters why they should not give him a second term."

Wolf's camp said the video shows Wagner is "unhinged and unfit for office."

Photo Credit: @Wagnerforgovernor, Facebook]]>
<![CDATA[Civil Rights Groups Sue Ga. for Holding Voter Registrations]]> Fri, 12 Oct 2018 14:31:06 -0400 https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/AP_18176807375935.jpg

Civil rights groups sued Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, the Republican candidate for governor who also oversees elections in the state, saying the method his office uses to verify new voter registrations is discriminatory, NBC News reported.

The lawsuit, filed late Thursday in the U.S. District Court in Atlanta, comes after the revelation that thousands of applications remain in a pending status just weeks ahead of November's midterm election.

The filing alleges that Georgia's "exact match" protocol — which requires information on voter registration applications to precisely match information on file with the state's Department of Motor Vehicles or the Social Security Administration or be placed on hold — suppresses minority votes in violation of the Voting Rights Act, the 14th Amendment and the 1993 Voter Registration Act.

"Under this 'exact match' protocol, the transposition of a single letter or number, deletion or addition of a hyphen or apostrophe, the accidental entry of an extra character or space, and the use of a familiar name like 'Tom' instead of ‘Thomas’ will cause a no match result," lawyers for the civil rights groups wrote in the suit.

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File]]>
<![CDATA[Dem Seizes On Rohrabacher’s Russia-Friendly Views In SoCal]]> Fri, 12 Oct 2018 22:39:15 -0400 https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/rohrabacher+rouda.jpg

Southern California Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, who tells a story of losing a drunken arm-wrestling match with Vladimir Putin in the 1990s to settle who won the Cold War, has long advocated friendly ties with Russia. 

But what in the past has been seen as part of the pot-friendly Republican's maverick streak now runs the risk of a more sinister interpretation. He met with a Russian woman later charged with being an agent of the Kremlin trying to infiltrate the National Rifle Association, and dined with her alleged boss. FBI agents even warned him that Russian spies were trying to recruit him.

In this new political universe, with Russian intelligence officials charged with meddling in the U.S. presidential race in 2016 to help get Donald Trump elected, and special counsel Robert Mueller investigating whether Trump's campaign colluded with Russia to win the election, Rohrabacher's affinity for the Russian president is one more weapon for the Democrat trying to unseat him in November's midterm election.

"He's always been a kind of flake," said Gary Jacobson, an emeritus professor of political science at the University of California, San Diego. "He's been an unusual person and one of his characteristics is his favorable view of Russia. But after Trump and after the 2016 election it's probably more of a problem for him to be identified as a Russophile than it would have been earlier."

This year, the 15-term congressman for California's 48th Congressional District is facing one of his strongest challenges ever, from Harley Rouda, a lawyer, real-estate developer and Republican-turned-Democrat who moved to California from Ohio about a decade ago. 

After squeaking by in the primary by just 125 votes, Rouda hopes to appeal to a district that is increasingly less conservative and whose changing demographics now include more Hispanic and Asian voters.

This article, part 2 in a series, examines one of the key battleground races for control of the House of Representatives in the Nov. 6 midterm elections. Carried by grassroots momentum, Democrats must take 23 seats from Republicans to win the balance of power. They are contending with Republicans' experience, organization and an outspoken but polarizing president.

The race is close — far closer than it was in 2016, when Rohrabacher won the historically Republican district in Orange County by more than 16 percentage points, even while Democrat Hillary Clinton won it by 2 points. Now, the Cook Political Report rates the district a toss-up.

A July poll from the Monmouth University Polling Institute gave Rouda 46 percent of the vote to 43 percent for Rohrabacher; the UC Berkeley Institute for Governmental Studies found after a September survey that the race was a dead heat. 

"What's important about this particular race, of course, is Rohrabacher's profile, particularly in his defense of Russia," said Patrick Murray, the director of the Monmouth poll. "I think if Rouda can win this, it will be seen as a repudiation of the softer stance that the president has taken on Russia."

Like Rohrabacher, Trump has sought closer ties with Russia. Trump held a controversial summit with Putin and often refuses to place the blame for 2016 election meddling squarely on Russia, despite the U.S. intelligence community's conclusion.

Rohrabacher is known for his laid-back surfer style and libertarian leanings — he pushes for states to have autonomy on marijuana policy and once joked that, as a young man, he "did everything but drink the bong water." He reportedly questioned whether Robert F. Kennedy's assassin acted alone and whether there was a foreign connection to the Oklahoma City bombing carried out by Americans.

In the late 1980s, he took off for Afghanistan briefly to visit Afghan rebels fighting the Soviet invasion; he later told The Los Angeles Times that's when he realized that he was fighting communism, not Russians.

Rohrabacher's more recent pro-Russia activities may have caught the eye of Mueller's investigators, but if the 48th District does flip from red to blue, Murray believes that voters will be driven less by Russia than their feeling of insecurity over health care costs and the state of the economy, "concerns about having the rug being pulled out from under you, that you're only one crisis away from a bankruptcy," he said.

"These are the kinds of voters who are toying with voting Democrat even though they normally vote Republican," he said.

'Extremist Views,' 'Completely Disconnected'
The 48th District follows California's coast from Seal Beach south to Laguna Niguel. It has a median household income of nearly $89,000, an average jobless rate in 2016 of 4.4 percent and nearly three-quarters of its residents have some college or higher educational levels, according to the Census.

Rouda, 56, told NBC he thought Rohrabacher was vulnerable "because of his outlandish, extremist views and his unbridled support for Russia while failing to meet his obligations as a representative of the district."

Among the views Rouda cited: that homeowners should not have to sell their homes to gays and lesbians (a practice banned by California but not nationally); that undocumented immigrants in the United States, including "Dreamers,"  should be deported, and that high school students could be trained to use guns stored on school premises in the event of a mass shooting (the result of a prank pulled on Rohrabacher for a TV show that the congressman later called "a sick fraud").

"It's clear that he has lost touch with the vast majority of voters and their values here in the district," Rouda said.

Rohrabacher, a former speechwriter for President Ronald Reagan, did not agree to a request for an interview, but his spokesman, Dale Neugebauer, provided a statement. It called Rouda too liberal for the district, noting that he had been endorsed by the Progressive Democrats of America, had pledged to join the Congressional Progressive Caucus and had endorsed "Medicare for All." 

"In fact, it is Mr. Rouda whose views are far outside the normal bounds of political discourse and completely disconnected from those of voters in the 48th District," Neugebauer said.

A District in Flux
Rohrbacher, 71 has held on to his seat for so long because Republicans have dominated in the district, said Jacobson, the UC San Diego professor emeritus. But this year Trump might make the difference, he said.

"In a normal year, he probably wouldn't be particularly vulnerable," Jacobson said. "Trump, as unpopular as he is, especially in California, that gives an opportunity for a challenger that might not otherwise be there."

Rohrabacher still has strong support in the Republican bastion around wealthy Newport Beach, and Republicans have a nearly 10 percentage point advantage in voter registration, but constituents elsewhere in the district are open to someone new, said Murray, the Monmouth pollster.

"They are not your older Orange County families who are used to voting Republican," he said. "They are willing to take a look at the Democrats, particularly in this race."

The share of the county's population that identifies solely as white has dropped by 5 percent since 2006 to about 60 percent, according to Census data, made up by a corresponding rise in populations that identify as Asian or Hispanic/Latino. Countywide, Republicans' advantage over Democrats in voter registration has dropped from a high of 22 percentage points in 1990 down to 2.8 this March, according to the Orange County Register.

In the July poll, Rohrabacher was favored by white voters who did not have a college degree. Those with a college degree were split between him and Rouda, while Rouda led among women, those under 50 and black, Latino and Asian-American voters.

In last month's Berkeley poll, which put the candidates in a dead heat, more than 60 percent of the respondents rated the candidates' views on the economy, health care, gun laws, immigration and taxes as among the most important.

Russia was divisive: Forty-four percent of respondents said Rohrabacher's connections to Russia made them less likely to vote for him, but half said the connections had no effect on their vote.

Rohrabacher's Russia Connections
Rohrabacher has scoffed at the idea that his Russia ties are problematic and called the federal indictment of Maria Butina, accused of trying to infiltrate the NRA, ridiculous and part of a "deep state" plot to undermine Trump.

"It's stupid," he told Politico in July. "She's the assistant of some guy who is the head of the bank and is a member of their Parliament. That's what we call a spy? That shows you how bogus this whole thing is."

Butina, a 29-year-old gun rights activist, is charged with conspiracy to act as an unregistered agent on behalf of the Russian government. Rohrabacher met her in Russia in 2015 but a spokesman told The Mercury News in July that he did not remember the encounter and recalled Butina only as an aide to the deputy governor of the Russian central bank who is reported to have tried to broker a meeting between Trump and Putin.

Rohrabacher's spokesman told NBC that the congressman's position on the House Foreign Affairs Committee required him to pay attention to the U.S. relationship with Russia. 

"With respect to our relations with Russia, he believes we should cooperate with them only on those areas where we have a mutual interest and that open hostility towards them is not in the interest of the United States," Neugebauer said.

Some of Rohrabacher's supporters are untroubled by his ties to Russia.

And Rohrabacher's advocacy for Russia is not at the top of Rouda supporter James Percival's concerns, either. 

"To me there are so many other bad things about him that that's just one other blemish," said the 62-year-old Newport Beach lawyer.

Percival criticized Rohrabacher for accomplishing little in his 30 years in office and his refusal to say anything negative about Trump. He opposes Rohrabacher's positions on immigration, gun rights, climate change, health care, immigration and gay rights and said Rouda had a better heart.

Rouda "believes government can be a force for good not only on behalf of the wealthiest who seem to control the levers of power but also on behalf of the powerless and the downtrodden and the economically deprived," Percival said. 

The Other Issues
Some of the positions Rohrabacher's spokesman emphasized to NBC, along with the congressman's longtime connections to the district — he surfs, and the district is home to the U.S. Open of surfing — are bipartisan. Rohrabacher was one of the few Republicans to vote against the president's tax cuts last year, for example.

Last week, he released a new ad in which he portrayed himself as a health care advocate who would protect those with pre-existing conditions medical conditions from losing coverage.

The ad was personal: It features his daughter Annika who was diagnosed with leukemia when she was younger. But critics noted that Rohrabacher voted for the American Health Care Act of 2017, which would have repealed the Affordable Care Act, or "Obamacare." According to a Congressional Budget Office report, the American Health Care Act would have undermined protections for pre-existing conditions and would have resulted in 23 million Americans losing health-care coverage.

Other Rohrabacher policy positions are within the Republican mainstream, like opposing undocumented immigration.

In a video on his campaign website, Rohrabacher warns that California's quality of life is changing because of "a massive flow of illegal immigrants" over the last decades. He says he stands by Trump's efforts to control the country's borders, even if it means building a wall.

Orange County has shown some support for strict immigration enforcement as well — its board of supervisors and some cities joined a March lawsuit brought by the Trump Justice Department against California's sanctuary laws, which restrict how local law enforcement can cooperate with federal immigration enforcement officers. 

Rohrabacher has an "A" rating from the National Rifle Association's Political Victory Fund, supports offshore drilling for oil and supported Trump's decision to pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement. He told KPCC, Southern California's public radio: "I disagree with the theory that CO2, caused, done by mankind, is a major cause for climate change."

Rouda, 56, said he would work in Congress toward reforming immigration laws, creating middle-class jobs and addressing gun violence, climate change, health care and women's rights, all important issues, he said.

But, he said, "The one that has really come to the top in the last 60 days in the sense that our democracy is under attack."

He accused Republicans of failing to stand up to foreign adversaries trying to influence the U.S. presidential election.

He describes himself as a centrist, having left the Republican party in 1997 and staying independent for two decades until registering as a Democrat. The GOP is no longer the party of Reagan, Rouda said, and it was Trump's election as president that spurred him to run for office himself, though he said he was not running against Trump but Rohrabacher.

He was particularly critical of Rohrabacher's failure to get laws passed during his time in office. Govtrack.us, a website that tracks congressional legislation, credits Rohrabacher with being the primary sponsor of three bills that have been enacted as law over his 30 years in Congress.

"He's shown how ineffective he is," Rouda told NBC.

Rohrabacher's campaign responded that the congressman had been effective however many bills his name was on, giving as an example his work helping to get federal funding for flood mitigation along the Santa Ana River. 

As far Rohrabacher's opponent, Neugebauer asked: "Which Harley Rouda should voters believe? The far left liberal extremist who won the Democrat primary? Or the slick politician spending millions of dollars to remake himself now?"

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<![CDATA[Holder: Democrats 'Need to Do All We Can' to Fight GOP]]> Sat, 13 Oct 2018 11:12:22 -0400 https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/WCAU_000000030415341_1200x675_1342822979875.jpg

Former Attorney General Eric Holder, who served as head of the Justice Department under President Barack Obama, told NBC10 in an interview that Democrats "need to do all that we can to safeguard that which is most precious to us: the right to vote, protecting our climate, protecting our reproductive choices." He also was asked about the possibility of a presidential run.

<![CDATA[Procrastinator’s Guide to Delaware Voter Registration]]> Sun, 14 Oct 2018 00:43:14 -0400 https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Voter+Ballot+Boxes+1002.jpg

Time is running out for Delaware residents who want to register to vote or update their voter information in time for the Nov. 6 midterm election.

The last day Delaware voters can register to cast their ballot in the upcoming midterm election is Saturday, Oct. 13.

Here's what you need to know to get ready to vote in Delaware:

Who can vote?

To register to vote in Delaware, you must:

  • Be a citizen of the United States and a resident of Delaware.
  • Be at least 18 years of age on the day of the election.
  • Have not been adjudged mentally incompetent in a judicial guardianship or equivalent proceeding.
  • Have not been convicted of a disqualifying felony (murder or manslaughter, offenses against public administration, or any felony constituting a sexual offense); not be incarcerated, on parole nor on probation.

Online voter registration:

  • Delaware offers online voter registration
  • You need either a Delaware ID or your Social Security number to use Delaware's online voter registration system. If you choose not to provide this information, you can still register to vote by mail.
  • The deadline to register online to vote in Delaware is Saturday, Oct. 13.

In-person voter registration:

  • Those looking to register in person can use this site to locate their local election office; you can register at any of the Department of Elections' offices, at any Delaware DMV (when applying for, renewing or updating a driver's license or state ID), at the Department of Labor, at some Social Security offices, and at institutions of higher education when you register for classes. Office hours vary by location.
  • Need help? You can enter your home address here to determine your voting district and local polling place.
  • The deadline to register to vote in person in Delaware is Saturday, Oct. 13.

By-mail voter registration:

  • Print and fill out the Delaware voter registration application, then mail, email or fax it along with a copy of your ID (either a Delaware driver's license/state ID, or a copy of a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck or other government document that shows your name and address) to the department's office for your county
  • To qualify to vote in Delaware on Nov. 6, your form must be postmarked by Saturday, Oct. 13.

    Note: Anyone lacking a fixed residence or who is homeless and is otherwise qualified to vote in Delaware may register by completing the proper registration forms and providing two pieces of identification containing his/her name; one of the pieces must include the mailing address on the application, which may be a shelter or agency.

    Active-duty military, their families, and voters living overseas can register to vote and request their absentee ballot using the Federal Post Card Application (FPCA). If they don't receive that ballot in time, they can fill out and send a the Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot found here. 

    Voters are able to check their voter information and status online if they wish to verify or change their information. 

    For this upcoming midterm election, registered voters in the state of Delaware will choose an attorney general, state treasurer, United States senator, United States House representative and most of the state legislature.

    The deadline for Pennsylvania voter registration was Oct. 9. Registration in New Jersey ends Oct. 16.

    The final deadline for Delaware officials to receive and count a civilian absentee ballot is Nov. 6 at 8 p.m.

    <![CDATA[Bill Introduced to Prevent Foreign Ownership of US Election Firms]]> Fri, 12 Oct 2018 06:41:20 -0400 https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Maryland+voting+booth+generic+GettyImages-524444252.jpg

    Maryland Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen introduced new legislation Thursday to prevent foreign ownership or control of companies that support U.S. election systems.

    The move comes after state leaders were caught by surprise earlier this year upon learning a Russian oligarch has financial ties to one of Maryland's elections vendors.

    "My jaw dropped. I mean I was shocked," Van Hollen told the News4 I-Team.

    State officials have said there's so far no evidence of wrongdoing, but Van Hollen, a Democrat, said he doesn't want to take a chance.

    "Look, we've seen Russian interference in our elections when they don't control the elections infrastructure," Van Hollen said. "If they're actually inside the house and messing around, that poses a big risk and certainly an unnecessary risk in my view."

    He introduced the Protect Our Elections Act Thursday, along with Cardin and Republican Sen. Susan Collins, of Maine. Among its provisions, it would require vendors to disclose to the Department of Homeland Security, the Election Assistance Commission and state and local governments whether a foreign national has direct or indirect control of their company.

    The legislation would not have any impact on the upcoming election in November but Van Hollen hopes Congress will take it up this session.

    ByteGrid LLC is responsible for maintaining the data in several of Maryland's key election systems, including voter registration and online ballot delivery. The company purchased an existing Maryland elections vendor in 2015. State officials did not know ByteGrid was funded by a firm called AltPoint Capital, whose main investor is a Russian billionaire that state officials have said has ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

    ByteGrid has said its investors are not involved in its operations.

    Maryland State Board of Elections Deputy Administrator Nikki Charlson told the I-Team the ByteGrid contract is still in place and the company has been complying with new, additional monitoring and reporting requirements.

    Charlson said the company has also been cooperating with a Department of Homeland Security investigation of ByteGrid's access to the state's election management systems and that federal authorities so far have found no "adversary presence" in its networks.

    State elections officials were already planning to review the future of the ByteGrid contract after the November election, but Charlson said replacing the vendor in advance of the midterms wasn't an option.

    "We learned about this in mid-July, and so the process to procure a new data center and move the data without jeopardizing the election was not something that we could do," Charlson said, adding: "Right now [we're] focusing on securing the election and making sure that everything is working for voters."

    Van Hollen told the I-Team evidence of tampering isn't necessary to take preventative measures.

    "It's kind of like the arms race. You always have to be one step ahead of the adversary," he said.

    If the new legislation passes, Maryland and other states would have until the 2020 elections to comply.

    Photo Credit: Mark Wilson/Getty Images, File]]>
    <![CDATA[Pope Accepts DC Archbishop's Resignation Amid Scandal]]> Fri, 12 Oct 2018 18:29:46 -0400 https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/cardinal+wuerl+090218.jpg

    Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of the embattled archbishop of Washington, D.C., the Vatican announced Friday.

    Cardinal Donald Wuerl apologized again for "any past errors in judgment." His resignation comes amid a massive sex abuse scandal roiling the Catholic Church.

    "Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, has accepted the resignation first offered on November 12, 2015, when I reached my 75th birthday," Wuerl said in a statement. "I am profoundly grateful for his devoted commitment to the well-being of the Archdiocese of Washington and also deeply touched by his gracious words of understanding.

    "The Holy Father's decision to provide new leadership to the Archdiocese can allow all of the faithful clergy, religious and lay, to focus on healing and the future. It permits this local Church to move forward. Once again for any past errors in judgment I apologize and ask for pardon. My resignation is one way to express my great abiding love for you the people of the Church of Washington."

    He wrote to the faithful of the archdiocese, "I could no longer serve you in the way that you deserve." He added that new leadership will help focus on healing and the future.

    Last month Wuerl traveled to Rome to ask the pope to accept his resignation.

    Wuerl will now move into an Apostolic administrative role and will help with the transition to the next Archbishop of Washington. Because of the time it took to accept Wuerl's resignation, it's likely the Vatican or the pope has a successor in mind, church experts say.

    Wuerl had said he would ask Francis to accept his resignation after facing a storm of criticism and calls for his resignation after a Pennsylvania grand jury report said he allowed priests accused of sexually abusing children to be reassigned or reinstated when he was the bishop of Pittsburgh.

    He submitted his resignation three years ago when he reached the church-stipulated retirement age for bishops of 75. While bishops are requested to submit a resignation at that age, the pope is not required to accept it, and they continue in their positions unless the pope does accept it.

    The Pennsylvania grand jury report found that some 300 priests abused more than 1,000 children since the 1940s, and Wuerl is one of a string of bishops in six dioceses the report says covered up for them.

    Most of the victims were boys. Some were teens, while others were prepubescent. Several alleged victims were lured with alcohol or pornography. Afterward, they turned to substance abuse and even suicide to escape the lingering trauma.

    Wuerl has asked for prayers and forgiveness for what he calls his lapse of judgment in dealing with reports of abuse by priests.

    The archbishop recently called for a "Season of Healing," inviting parishes and parishioners to observe six weeks of Friday prayers in recognition of the pain of the victims and the need for healing.

    Last month, a man stood in a Mass Wuerl was celebrating in D.C. and yelled "Shame on you" after Wuerl asked parishioners to keep Pope Francis in their prayers.

    Pope Francis summoned the presidents of every bishops conference around the world for a February summit to discuss preventing clergy sex abuse and protecting children — evidence that he realizes the scandal is global and that inaction threatens to undermine his legacy.

    The Feb. 21-24 meeting of the presidents of the more than 100 bishops conferences is believed to be the first of its kind and signals a realization at the highest levels of the church that clergy sex abuse is a global problem and not restricted to the Anglo-Saxon world, as many church leaders have long tried to insist.

    Robert Boege said the resignation is what brought him to church Friday.

    “One of the reasons I’m coming to church today is to pray for the cardinal and for our church,” he said.

    Outside St. Matthew's Cathedral, Wuerl's parish, Dorothy Zolandz said her faith transcends church leadership.

    “I’m not here for the Cardinal or the Bishop," she said. "I’m here for Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ is still here.”

    Photo Credit: NBC Washington, File]]>