2020 Daily Trail Markers: The woman selected to replace John Lewis in Congress

2020 Daily Trail Markers: The woman selected to replace John Lewis in Congress

The Democratic Party of Georgia on Monday selected Nikema Williams, a Georgia state senator, to replace civil rights icon and Congressman John Lewis on the ballot for the November general election following his death on Friday, reports CBS News digital reporter Melissa Quinn. Williams will face off against Republican Angela Stanton-King to represent Georgia’s 5th Congressional District, though she is expected to face few hurdles to victory in November, as the district, which includes most of Atlanta, is heavily Democratic. As chairwoman of the Georgia Democratic Party, Williams abstained from voting. In 2018, Lewis ran unopposed for his 17th term in Congress, and in June, he defeated Barrington Martin II with more than 87% of the vote in the Democratic primary. Lewis represented Georgia’s 5th for more than three decades. The longtime congressman died at the age of 80 on Friday after he was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer in December.

The Georgia Democratic Party on Saturday swiftly launched its efforts to replace Lewis on the November ballot, and 131 candidates submitted applications, the party said. Those applications were evaluated by a nominating committee composed of Democratic leaders, which then recommended five people to be considered by the Georgia Democratic Party’s executive committee: Park Cannon, a state representative; Andre Dickens, a member of the Atlanta City Council; Robert Franklin, former president of Morehouse College; James “Major” Woodall, president of the Georgia NAACP; and Williams. Among those serving on the nominating committee are Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams and former state Senator Jason Carter, the grandson of former President Jimmy Carter. The Democratic Party of Georgia’s 44 voting members then selected Williams as the nominee from the pool of five recommended candidates.

Georgia law requires the party’s executive committee to appointment a nominee who will be on the November ballot, and Governor Brian Kemp, a Republican, will also call a special election to fill the rest of Lewis’s current term. “As our state mourns the loss of a great Georgian, the law demands that we move quickly to elect the next representative from the 5th Congressional District,” Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said in a statement. “Congressman Lewis played a pivotal role in our nation’s history to ensure access to the ballot box, and voters can honor his legacy by participating in our democracy as they decide who should represent them in Congress. No one can replace John Lewis, but someone must represent the interests of the 5th Congress District.”

Lewis was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1986 and became known as the “conscience of Congress” throughout his 33-year tenure. The civil rights icon joined the Freedom Riders at 21 and was the youngest — and last surviving — speaker at the March on Washington in 1963, which he helped organize. In March 1965, Lewis led the march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, on a day that became known as “Bloody Sunday” after police brutally beat demonstrators. Lewis’ skull was fractured in the violence. Tributes poured in for Lewis over the weekend, with former presidents, congressional leaders and other political figures paying homage to his life and legacy fighting for civil rights.



Joe Biden, after sharing with donors on Friday night he was receiving intelligence briefs “again,” issued a warning to those virtually gathered and to the country: “The Russians are still engaged in trying to delegitimize our electoral process. Fact.” On Monday evening, he rang a louder alarm in a 652-word statement: “I am putting the Kremlin and other foreign governments on notice. If elected president, I will treat foreign interference in our election as an adversarial act that significantly affects the relationship between the United States and the interfering nation’s government,” Biden wrote. He stated he would direct the intelligence community to publicize any efforts of interference by foreign actors and promised to “leverage all appropriate instruments of national power and make full use of my executive authority to impose substantial and lasting costs on state perpetrators,” like sanctions, asset freezes and cyber attacks. This tough language is a result of Biden blaming President Trump for his “failure to act” against Russian electoral aggression.

Earlier on Monday, Biden courted the Million Muslim Votes summit in an effort to engage 1 million Muslim American voters in the November election, CBS News campaign reporter Bo Erickson reports. An address by a presidential nominee to a group like this is a rarity, as noted by NPR’s Asma Khalid, as neither Hillary Clinton nor Barack Obama as candidates addressed a large Muslim organization like Emgage, the summit’s organizer. Biden began his remarks on the death of Congressman John Lewis, casting him as an ally for all people from the marches of Martin Luther King, Jr., to the recent protests for Black Lives Matter. “As always John Lewis knew were to stand — or sit — on the right side of history,” Biden said, noting Lewis’ quick action to protest the Muslim ban at the Atlanta airport. He criticized the Trump administration’s hostility towards Muslim Americans and promised to repeal the Muslim ban on day one of his administration. Biden said he wished children were taught more in schools about the Islamic faith, along with the other confessional faiths. One bit that some progressives listening likely did not want to hear is his continued insistence for a two-state solution: Biden said he’ll “continue to champion Palestinians and Israelis to have a state of their own.” Emgage national co-chair Khurrum Wahid pitched the group’s GOTV effort in Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Texas and other states as a growing political force to monitor with the election.


President Trump said he will once again hold press conferences to discuss the coronavirus, bringing back what he called “very successful briefings” with “record numbers watching” on television. “It is a great way to get information out to the public as to where we are with the vaccines and with the therapeutics,” the president said in the Oval Office on Monday. CBS News campaign reporter Musadiq Bidar reports Mr. Trump said “people are going to be very pleasantly surprised” with the “tremendous progress” the U.S. is making on developing a vaccine and other therapeutics for the coronavirus. The administration has said it is confident a vaccine will be available before the end of the year. Mr. Trump also acknowledged a recent spike of cases in Texas and Florida but insisted “this is a worldwide problem.” Mr. Trump once again blamed China for not stopping the virus from getting to the rest of the world. Mr. Trump, along with Vice President Pence, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy all outlined their priorities for a Phase 4 economic stimulus bill. Discussions on that bill will begin on Tuesday, Mnuchin and McConnell said. “Kids in school, jobs and healthcare will be the theme of the proposal,” McConnell said, sitting next to the president. McCarthy said the next round of stimulus will incentivize Americans to get back to work. “We don’t think any federal money should be spent that gives you a disincentive to work,” McCarthy added.

The president’s campaign team is also continuing recent shake ups after Bill Stepien was named campaign manager last week. On Monday, Stepien announced Justin Clark as deputy campaign manager, Matt Morgan as campaign counsel, and Nick Trainer as director of battleground strategy. “All are longtime #MAGA & will help DJT win in 105 days,” Stepien tweeted. The Trump campaign also released a new ad on Monday attacking Biden for wanting to “redirect funding away from police to other budget areas.” The ad says that Biden has responded “Yes! Absolutely!” to a question about defunding the police. “Biden’s proposed destruction of qualified immunity for police in the Biden-Bernie Sanders ‘Unity Platform’ would financially cripple local police departments even further, effectively bankrupting and destroying them,” the ad claims.



Rapper Kanye West’s held his first campaign rally in North Charleston, South Carolina on Sunday. Donning a “SECURITY” vest and purple hair with “2020” faded into the back of his head, CBS News political unit broadcast associate Aaron Navarro says West quickly engaged with the young crowd by having several of them come up on stage to discuss an issue of importance to them. The town hall like approach quickly turned into West giving disjointed speeches on a variety of topics as well as many attempts to quiet the crowd down since he didn’t use a microphone. On politics, West said Democrats “ain’t done sh*t for blacks” and that the “most racist thing said out loud, is that if Kanye West runs for president, I am going to split the Black votes.” He claimed that abolitionist Harriet Tubman “didn’t free the slaves, she had the slaves go work for other white people.” This was met with confusion and boos from the crowd, and West later clarified his comments after being asked, saying he was “sick of Black iconography being used by White organizations.” After yells of people questioning his stance on Planned Parenthood, Kanye revealed that his wife, Kim Kardashian, originally wanted to have an abortion with their first child, North West. He said that he received a sign from God, and that he called Kim and said “we’re going to have this baby.” Kanye then got emotional, talking about how his own father wanted to abort him. “I almost killed my daughter,” West said through tears, adding that he doesn’t care if Kardashian divorces him or if he loses his deal with GAP. He later added that if he is not put on the board of GAP, he would walk away from the deal. West then talked about having a “Plan A,” which would be $50,000 to support and take care of a child instead of having an abortion. He said he does not want to make abortion illegal, and then raised the stakes to “everybody that has a baby gets a million dollars” with a $5 million option for the second. He often talked about his own struggles with prescription drugs (though he did say he would legalize marijuana), mental health, and how he has found solace and change in religion.

West did not end up making the filing deadlines in South Carolina. His home-state of Illinois also had a deadline on Monday, and a spokesperson said West filed 412 sheets of petitions (usually 10 signatures a page) four minutes before deadline, thus making him eligible to be on the ballot. Illinois does require 2,500 signatures from registered voters, and now there is a week period for someone to review the validity of the signatures, file an objection and challenge the candidacy to the state board.



In the latest development of ongoing planning for the Republican National Convention, Duval County Sheriff Mike Williams cast doubt on whether the event can be held safely in Jacksonville next month. With just 35 days until the headliner event, Williams said “a growing list of challenges” has forced him to express “significant concerns with the viability of the event.” In a statement Monday, Williams said, “It is my sole responsibility to provide safety and security for our city and more importantly, for the citizens who I serve. With a growing list of challenges — be it finances, communication and timeline, I cannot say with confidence that this event and our community will not be at risk.” He continued, “We knew some months back that this effort was going to be a huge lift…with a timetable that was aggressive to say the least, the communication required to make the critical steps come together just never seemed to gel. And still has not.” As previously reported by CBS News political unit associate producer Eleanor Watson and campaign reporters LaCrai Mitchell and Nicole Sganga, when the Republican National Committee announced in mid-June that it would host Mr. Trump’s nomination acceptance speech in Jacksonville, located in Duval County, the county had about 1,900 reported COVID-19 cases. According to data released by the state’s Division of Emergency Management, the county now has more than 17,000 reported cases — the sixth-highest of any county in the state. In a statement Monday, the Republican National Convention said it continues to work with Jacksonville local leadership to plan the event. “The RNC continues to work closely with local leadership in Jacksonville on planning for the convention, including on health and security measures, and the Department of Justice is in the process of allocating millions of dollars in a safety grant,” said RNC Spokesperson Mandi Merritt. “Jacksonville has accommodated upwards of 70,000 people for football games and other events, and we are confident in state, local and federal officials to be able to ensure a safe event for our attendees.”



Democratic congressional leaders on Monday released a joint letter to FBI director Chris Wray requesting a “defensive counterintelligence briefing” on election security for all members of Congress prior to August recess, in a sign concerns about potential foreign interference are mounting as the November election nears. CBS News Intelligence & Security Reporter Olivia Gazis says the letter was sent last week by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Mark Warner and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff. In the letter, the leaders write they “believe it is imperative that the FBI provide a classified defensive briefing to all Members of Congress.” The Democrats wrote “we are gravely concerned, in particular, that Congress appears to be the target of a concerted foreign interference campaign, which seeks to launder and amplify disinformation in order to influence congressional activity, public debate, and the presidential election in November.” The letter was dated July 13 and asked Wray to respond by Monday. The FBI did not immediately respond to a request for comment from CBS News. The letter includes a header that says “unclassified when separated from attachment,” suggesting the request is based at least in part on classified intelligence. All four lawmakers are part of the Gang of 8, a select group that is briefed by the executive branch on highly classified intelligence matters. “To ensure a clear and unambiguous record of the counterintelligence threats of concern, the four enclosed with the letter a classified addendum that draws, in large part, from the Executive Branch’s own reporting and analysis,” a congressional official said. The letter did not specify in detail what prompted the all-member briefing request, but its release follows a similar request from Democratic Senators Gary Peters of Michigan and Ron Wyden of Oregon — the ranking members, respectively, of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs (HSGAC) and the Senate Committee on Finance. The two lawmakers wrote to their Republican counterparts last week renewing a request for a briefing from the FBI’s Foreign Influence Task Force and other intelligence officials regarding certain Ukrainian operatives and the materials they had offered to the committees.



In Florida, political leaders and civil rights groups remembered the life and legacy of Congressman John Lewis through social media posts about memories they shared with the Georgia congressman, according to CBS News campaign reporter LaCrai Mitchell. “I was in awe in the ’60s and am still in awe today of the man who was larger than life. Mr. John Lewis was strong as a lion, yet gentle as dove. He loved America and was willing to work hard and sacrifice to make it a better place,” said Congresswoman Val Demings in a statement Saturday. “In the dark and difficult days, he reminded us to protect our inner light, maintain our hope and our spirit; that only despair can impede the cause of justice.” ACLU of Florida Executive Director Micah Kubic said, “In an America where battles for racial justice and voting rights are once again front and center, Congressman Lewis is an inspiration to those fighting for a more just and equal country. His moral courage, his persistence, and his immovable commitment to our shared values will continue to inspire us at the ACLU of Florida.” Kubic added, “Although Congressman Lewis had an impact on many of the issues we tackle at the ACLU of Florida, no one in this country has done as much to advance voting rights as he did.” After choosing not to respond to a question about Lewis’ death and the national conversation around race and confederate statues during a coronavirus presser Saturday, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis tweeted later that he was “honored to serve alongside” the civil rights icon in Congress and would be praying for his family. Senator Marco Rubio was one of a couple Republican senators to receive backlash after mistakenly posting a tweet remembering Lewis with a picture of the late Congressman Elijah Cummings—who passed away in October. Rubio later acknowledged the mistake and posted a picture of him in Lewis in a later tweet .

Also In Florida, a day after a legal settlement was reached between the state and plaintiffs in two lawsuits involving state election laws, voting rights advocacy groups and Republicans are calling the settlement an election victory. In a press conference Monday, Florida voter advocacy groups outlined some of the terms of the legal settlement that they say will expand access to voter registration, voting by mail and general voter education amid the pandemic. Mitchell reports that the settlement calls in part for Florida’s Secretary of State to hold at least one workshop with the state’s Supervisors of Elections to educate them on vote-by-mail procedures including prepaid postage for mail-in ballots, the use of CARES funding for election security measures, and encourage supervisors to maximize the use of drop boxes for vote-by-mail ballots. The settlement also calls for the state to expand its obligations as a part of the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC) to include sending ERIC postcards that invite unregistered voters to register to vote and inform them of the multiple methods of voting in the state. RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel called the settlement a victory for Florida voters and election integrity. “Democrats’ assault on our elections process is not based on fact or reason, which is why they are dismissing every claim in their radical suit,” said McDaniel in a statement Sunday. “The RNC will continue to step in and fight back against Democrat attempts to circumvent existing law and weaken our elections process.” Litigation Director for Advancement Project National Office Gilda Daniels countered that this settlement is a “clear victory and step forward” for Black and Latinx voters. “Rumors circulated last night about this settlement, especially in partisan circles,” said Daniels in a statement. “Dream Defenders v. Ron DeSantis shows how broken the Florida election system is, and what needs to be done to ensure that every Floridian can vote in August and November. In settling this case, Florida has finally done one thing right during the COVID crisis.”


Iowa’s Republican Secretary of State Paul Pate announced an emergency directive to mail absentee ballot request forms to all active registered voters in the state ahead of the November election, reports CBSN political reporter Caitlin Huey-Burns. Pate instituted the same process ahead of the state’s June primary, which helped lead to record turnout for a primary. But the GOP-led state legislature has passed a measure requiring Pate to receive approval from a 24-member legislative council before sending out ballot request forms for the general election. The council approved the request last week. “I want Iowa voters and poll workers to be safe during this pandemic while we conduct a clean, fair and secure election,” Pate said in a statement, noting the successes of the June primary where 80% of voters cast ballots by mail. “Voters will still have the option of casting their ballot in person and we will provide resources to protect Iowans who choose that method.” The move comes as states around the country aim to scale up their vote by mail operations in addition to in-person voting so as to give people options to cast ballots safely in a pandemic. The Iowa decision is particularly notable because Mr. Trump has been critical of voting by mail. In an interview with Fox News Sunday, Mr. Trump claimed without evidence that “I think mail-in voting is going to rig the election. I really do.” Trump won Iowa by nine percentage points in 2016.



Iowa GOP Congressional candidate Ashely Hinson says she did not know phrases and sentences that appeared on her campaign website and op-eds were plagiarized, CBS News campaign reporter Musadiq Bidar reports. “I was unaware of the plagiarism when I reviewed drafts presented to me by my staff,” Hinson tweeted. The New York Times reported Monday that Hinson, a former local television reporter running for Congress in Iowa’s first district against Democrat Abby Finkenauer, plagiarized “more than a dozen times since her campaign began last year.” Hinson said that as a journalist, she takes this “extremely seriously,” adding that she is “deeply sorry for the mistake.” Hinson went on to say that the staff responsible for the drafts she received will be held accountable. A source familiar with the Hinson campaign tells CBS News that changes to senior level advisers and consultants with the campaign are going to be expected moving forward. Hinson’s campaign has been working with FP1 strategies, one of the largest Republican political consulting firms in the country. A source familiar with the campaign tells CBS News the FP1 employee assigned to the Hinson campaign and responsible for producing content, like the material displayed on the candidate’s website, will no longer be working Hinson’s team. The race is Iowa’s first district is expected to be extremely competitive. Last quarter Hinson raised more than $1 million, a total that was slightly higher than Finkenauer who raised just under $900,000. Hinson also had more cash on hand at the end of the quarter.