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They believe the recall election lends a platform to make their case both to would-be voters and prospective donors who had written off California as a lost cause. The intense national attention on the race gives Republicans a high-visibility pulpit to present their vision in what will be the most prominent election in the U.S. this year.

“I’ve never gone into a race with 2.1 million votes. That’s exciting for us,” said California Republican Party chair Jessica Millan Patterson. “Now our job is to make sure we have individuals in each one of these races in each one of these districts to bring the message of what California Republicans will do differently, because clearly one-party rule has not worked over the last decade in California.”

The recall has already drawn out-of-state donors, and both recall organizers and Patterson said more have expressed interest now that the campaign has become a near-certainty. National figures and institutions like former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and the Republican Governors Association have waded in. The campaign has become a recurring cause célèbre on Fox News, offering the tantalizing possibility of defeating Democrats in their West Coast stronghold, and Patterson said she has seen a surge in new volunteers.

“Californians have really woken up to first [Newsom’s] hypocrisy, then his incompetence and now the desperation he’s in, and this allows Republicans to talk to a larger group of people who are more ready to listen to our ideas,” Patterson said, noting Californians sided with the party in 2020 by rejecting ballot measures to raise commercial property taxes, impose rent control and reinstate affirmative action.

Newsom remains in strong position to keep his seat in an overwhelmingly blue state. Polling shows he retains majority support thanks to a coalition of Democratic and no-party-preference voters. Meanwhile, California’s Covid-19 infection rates are now among the lowest in the nation, and the governor has announced plans to reopen California on a wide scale by June 15. Roughly half of adults have received at least one vaccine dose, and all now qualify for appointments.

The governor is counting on that comeback story — buoyed by a state budget bursting with revenues — to quell the voter unrest that grew throughout the pandemic.

But even if Newsom survives, “that doesn’t mean people who are pissed off about what he did don’t nail people at the local level,” said Republican consultant Sean Walsh, who worked in the White House for Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

Republicans are already organizing around hot-button issues that cross party lines, none greater than the fact that more California public schoolchildren have been shut out of classrooms than students elsewhere. Parents were so angry that they organized in liberal hotbeds like Berkeley and San Francisco to protest.

Republicans are also appealing to residents who have desperately wanted to dine out, worship, work out in gyms and watch their children play sports. While such activities are widely allowed again — some as a result of court action — GOP leaders believe voters will have a long memory. Momentum from the recall could pay dividends next year during the midterm elections.

“There is a lot of pressure built behind that dam, and you never know what will happen if the dam bursts,” Walsh said. “If a Democrat in a certain Assembly or Senate district thinks they can’t get caught up in Gavin Newsom’s issues with closing schools or closing restaurants, you should think twice.”

Additional attention and resources could reverberate down-ballot as Republicans seek to reclaim or defend House seats and make inroads in the Legislature. The recall’s unexpected success shows “not only does the Republican Party have a heartbeat here and a chance to fight, but we’re bringing along moderate Democrats and independents” and gaining a chance “to earn their registrations,” said Orange County Republican Party Executive Director Randall Avila.

“Definitely having those eyes on California again helps a lot with our recruitment efforts,” Avila said. “I think you’re going to see more national money coming into California, at least in targeted areas where we can make some decisive wins.”

It won’t be easy. Republicans seeking a California resurgence have a steep demographic hill to climb in addition to one of the nation’s lowest coronavirus transmission rates and a surprisingly stable budget. And as much as recall supporters want to keep the focus squarely on what they call Newsom’s inept pandemic management, their formal recall petition lays out an anti-immigration and anti-tax agenda that critics say is at odds with California’s electorate.

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“The truth is, the recall is being driven and led by people who are on the fringes of the right wing,” said Democratic strategist Katie Merrill, and when recall foes make that case, “it’s going to add to voters’ negative impressions of the Republican Party and likely have the opposite effect of what the Republican Party wants, which is they won’t build, they will lose registration.”

It’s also likely the race will draw in Republicans who have ties to Trump or share his agenda like Richard Grenell, a former Trump administration official, and Caitlyn Jenner, a television celebrity, Olympian and transgender activist. That could energize loyal Republican voters and bring in more national money. But Trump is enduringly unpopular among California’s larger electorate, including critical no-party-preference voters, and Newsom’s team is eager to portray the recall as a project of Trumpists and right-wing extremists.

The party has been here before. A 2003 recall drew enormous interest and ended with voters replacing Democratic Gov. Gray Davis with Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger — who was California’s last GOP governor. But Schwarzenegger’s tack to the center and his warning that the party was “dying at the box office” failed to help the party gain traction.

A recall “gives you an opportunity to provide a structure, both locally within various districts and statewide for other elections,” said Duf Sundheim, who was California Republican Party chair at the time. But “one of the biggest problems the Republican Party has faced is the people who were drawn to California from all over the country to work on the recall effort left the state because there weren’t the opportunities afterwards.”

Sundheim argued Republicans could find success this time by defining California Republicanism as a distinct entity from the national party, focusing on “candidates who are more competent than the current administration” rather than excessively ideological.

“If you make it an ideological thing, that’s not where the people of California are,” Sundheim said. “I think this is a great opportunity to showcase that there is an alternative and to have national attention focused on the fact that things are different here just as [Larry] Hogan has shown in Maryland, other [Republican] governors have shown in blue states.”

But recall organizer Anne Dunsmore argued the campaign’s momentum demonstrates a wider distaste with establishment politics and political parties. She argued the pandemic has read as a failure of leadership to many voters who believe “both parties have abused their leadership capacities.”

“If the parties want to go ahead and listen to the people, then they will be able to harness that energy. If they don’t listen, then people are going to move to more no party preference,” Dunsmore said. “If the [Republican] Party is willing to tone down the rhetoric and work on the issues being handed to them by Gavin Newsom there’s a lot you can do.”

Uniting the party’s factions could pose a challenging task as California Republicans navigate the same post-Trump course as their national counterparts. Former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer is seeking to position himself as the pragmatic choice, noting he has won elections in a diverse big city, but he is all but certain to be vying for votes with more Trump-aligned candidates.

A crowded Republican field could also yield a fractured conservative vote that at best does not send a clear message about the party’s position and at worst telegraphs a party in disarray. But Sundheim argued the recall melee will still give Republicans a rare chance to reach a broad audience.

“I don’t think the circus nature of it will detract. I think it does provide the potential to focus attention,” Sundheim said. “The volume’s turned up.”


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Black Lives Matter thought they had Washington’s ear. Now they feel shut out.

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Now, leading Black activists say those issues aren’t getting the hearing they deserve.

“It was grassroots and base building organizations that put our issues at the forefront. That’s who delivered this win to the administration,” said Amara Enyia, policy director for the Movement for Black Lives. “At minimum, those folks should be given an audience.”

Part of the disconnect may be the cultural gap between activists — for whom justice is an absolute, but attainable ideal — and politicians, who deal with the messy realities of governing, forging compromise, and accepting incremental wins. Many BLM leaders, for instance, pushed to “defund” city police departments, only to find little appetite among lawmakers for what was widely seen as a politically suicidal position.

On Sunday, House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) signaled that he was willing to water down qualified immunity, which currently shields officers from civil liability for misdeeds, in order to pass some sort of policing reform legislation.

“Well, I will never sacrifice good on the altar of perfect. I just won’t do that,” Clyburn told CNN. “I just won’t do that. … Sometimes you have to compromise.”

So while, at the outset of the new Congress, movement leaders stressed they wanted to play a role in enacting policy change, and insisted they weren’t interested in empty rhetoric or piecemeal reforms, they’re now reassessing that approach as frustration sets in.

Now, where there was once more momentum behind the push for sweeping systemic change, bureaucratic policy hurdles and political calculations have pushed activists with the Movement for Black Lives back to the sidelines.

While this has forced activists to refocus their efforts, they maintain that their organizing is multi-dimensional. And they’ve amassed a sizable war chest. The Black Lives Matter Global Network, armed with more than $90 million in fundraising following last summer’s protests, has channeled those funds into initiatives and campaigns. One, launched in February, targets police unions and police budgets–efforts that have the most heft at state and local levels.

They’ve also used that funding to publicize their assessment of Joe Biden’s performance as he passed the 100-day mark. A recent advertisement paid for by the Black Lives Matter Global Network, criticized the administration’s handling of police reform. The ad, which aired in Washington, D.C., for a limited time, specifically condemns what they see as Biden’s lack of action on the transfer of military equipment to law enforcement.

“We are the people who elected Biden,” the ad says. “It’s time he started acting like it.”

When asked for comment, a White House official did not specify where talks with movement leaders stand. The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to candidly explain the administration’s stance, said there is an “open and ongoing dialogue” between senior White House officials and leaders of the movement as well as with legacy civil rights organizations.

Movement leaders also met with members of Congress early in the planning stages for the Justice in Policing Act last summer and asked for a platform to outline the BREATHE Act, several activists said. However, even those they view as allies on the Hill — including Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.), who is spearheading police reform discussions — were unwilling to diverge from the bill’s core tenets.

As members of Congress continue to hash out a bill to pass with enough Democrats and Republicans in the Senate, activists say they have not been included in any of those discussions.

Melina Abdullah, a co-founder of Black Lives Matter Los Angeles and one of the movement’s first lead organizers, said movement leaders have not abandoned their national advocacy work.

She pointed to a number of allies in Congress like Bass with whom she and other leaders have had “critical conversations” in the past about the movement’s role in policymaking.

“One of the things we’re looking at moving forward is having a better relationship [with lawmakers],” Abdullah said. “So rather than lawmakers making laws without the input of a movement that gives traction to them, we want to do a better job of coordinating on the front end.”

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But complicating things is the fact that movement leaders stand vehemently against the Justice in Policing Act, which Congress drafted as a response to their protests. They argue that instead of holding officers accountable, the bill — which passed the House in March — actually gives more funds to law enforcement. Moreover, activists say, police de-escalation training, universal body cameras and data to track use of force, all provisions of the Justice in Policing Act, don’t go far enough.

The bill “requires that police be the fixers of their own problems,” said Karissa Lewis, national field director for the Movement for Black Lives. “And we know that that just has not been a successful strategy.”

Still, the Movement for Black Lives has come out in favor of some national policies that have implications for the work they do on the state level. Activists point to both the For the People Act and John Lewis Voting Rights Act as critical to their work. If passed, the bills would curb a number of the provisions in state laws that limit access to the ballot.

Organizers said they were happy to hear Senate Majority Leader ´ say that he would like to pass a major voting rights bill by August, though it’s not clear how he would do so without reforming Senate rules.

And there are activists who are continuing their work locally. A national platform, they say, was never one of their chief goals. Following an unsuccessful effort to reallocate police funds in Minneapolis last summer, activists there say they’re doubling down on their push for more comprehensive public safety plans that give community members more power.

“We know the history of the failure, where we’re expecting [police] to reform themselves,” said D.A. Bullock, a lead organizer with the Minneapolis-based group Reclaim the Block. “We know that’s not possible. We’re looking to a more fundamental change in the way we do public safety.”

Nor do they see Derek Chauvin’s conviction as the final chapter following last year’s organizing against police violence and systemic racism under the umbrella of a “racial reckoning.”

“People are still asking this question of, ‘is anything coming?’ Yes, it’s coming. It’s happening on the local and state level,” said Maurice Mitchell, national director of the Working Families Party and lead organizer with the Movement for Black Lives.

Still, Mitchell added that he and other lead organizers feel they are “duty bound to ensure that [police reform] happens on the federal level.”

Mitchell called for Biden to issue more executive orders and make full use of the bully pulpit to pressure Congress to act quickly on criminal justice reform as discussions around the Justice in Policing Act seem unlikely to conclude in time for Biden’s May 25 consensus deadline.

Federal legislation, activists argue, should address the root causes of the issue: A system of law enforcement that disproportionately harms communities of color. And that means they’ll continue to push for a public safety overhaul — and lobby those members of Congress willing to hear them out.

“We’re not interested in easy solutions, and we’re not interested in nibbling around the edges,” Mitchell said. “This is an urgent and real crisis for us.”


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Palestinians, Israel trade new rocket fire and airstrikes

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In recent weeks, tension has been soaring in Jerusalem, marked by clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli police in the walled Old City, located in east Jerusalem which Israel captured and annexed in the 1967 war.

One of the flashpoints in the Old City has been the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, the third holiest site of Islam and the holiest site of Judaism. Another driver of Palestinian anger has been the threatened eviction of Palestinian families from homes in an east Jerusalem neighborhood by Israeli settlers.

Monday was a long day of anger and deadly violence, laying bare Jerusalem’s deep divisions, even as Israel tried to celebrate its capture of the city’s eastern sector and its sensitive holy sites more than half a century ago. With dozens of rockets flying into Israel throughout the night, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with top security officials and warned that the fighting could drag on, despite calls for calm from the U.S., Europe and elsewhere.

Hamas, the militant group ruling the Gaza Strip, fired dozens of rockets Monday evening, setting off air raid sirens as far as Jerusalem. The barrage came after Hamas had given Israel a deadline to withdraw forces from the Al-Aqsa compound.

By Tuesday morning, Hamas and other Gaza militants had fired more than 200 rockets. That included a barrage of six rockets that targeted Jerusalem, some 100 kilometers (60 miles) away. It set off air raid sirens throughout Jerusalem, and explosions could be heard in what was believed to be the first time the city had been targeted since a 2014 war.

There appeared to be some first signs of de-escalation in Jerusalem early Tuesday. Palestinian worshippers performed the dawn prayer at the mosque without confrontations as Israel apparently limited the presence of its police officers around the compound. Amateur videos showed dozens of faithful marching to the mosque and chanting “we sacrifice our blood, soul for Al-Aqsa.”

In Gaza, an Israeli drone strike killed a man in the southern Gaza town of Khan Younis early Tuesday, according to local media reports. In another strike, a woman and two men were killed when a missile struck the upper floors of an apartment building in the Shati refugee camp on the edge of Gaza City, according to Gaza Health Ministry and rescue services.

Hamas’ armed wing said it intensified the rocket barrages following the airstrike on the house.

The Israeli military said it had carried out dozens of airstrikes across Gaza overnight, targeting what it said were Hamas military installations and operatives. It said a Hamas tunnel, rocket launchers and at least eight militants had been hit.

Dozens of rockets were intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome defense system. But one landed near a home on the outskirts of Jerusalem, causing light damage to the structure and sparking a brush fire nearby. In southern Israel, an Israeli man was lightly wounded after a missile struck a vehicle.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that “terrorist organizations in Gaza have crossed a red line and attacked us with missiles in the outskirts of Jerusalem.”

He said fighting could continue for some time and that “”whoever attacks us will pay a heavy price,” he said, warning that the fighting could “continue for some time.”

Gaza health officials gave no further breakdowns on the casualties. At least 15 of the 22 deaths in Gaza were attributed to the airstrikes. Seven of the deaths were members of a single family, including three children, who died in a mysterious explosion in the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanoun. It was not clear if the blast was caused by an Israeli airstrike or errant rocket. More than 100 Gazans were wounded in the airstrikes, the Health Ministry said.

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In a statement issued early Tuesday, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said the rocket attacks would continue until Israel stops “all scenes of terrorism and aggression in Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa mosque.”

Tensions at the site, known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as the Temple Mount, have triggered repeated bouts of violence in the past.

In Monday’s unrest, Israeli police fired tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets in clashes with stone-throwing Palestinians at the compound.

More than a dozen tear gas canisters and stun grenades landed in the mosque as police and protesters faced off inside the walled compound that surrounds it, said an Associated Press photographer at the scene. Smoke rose in front of the mosque and the golden-domed shrine on the site, and rocks littered the nearby plaza. Inside one area of the compound, shoes and debris lay scattered over ornate carpets.

Over 600 Palestinians were hurt in Jerusalem alone, including more than 400 who required care at hospitals and clinics, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent.

Palestinians and police reported renewed clashes late Monday. Israeli police also reported unrest in northern Israel, where Arab protesters burned tires and threw stones and fireworks at security forces. Police said 46 people were arrested.

Monday’s confrontations came after weeks of almost nightly clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police in the Old City of Jerusalem during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The month tends to be a time of heightened religious sensitivities.

Most recently, the tensions have been fueled by the planned eviction of dozens of Palestinians from the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of east Jerusalem, where Israeli settlers have waged a lengthy legal battle to take over properties.

Israel’s Supreme Court postponed a key ruling Monday in the case, citing the “circumstances.”

In Washington, State Department spokesman Ned Price condemned “in the strongest terms” the rocket fire on Israel and called on all sides to calm the situation.

“More broadly, we’re deeply concerned about the situation in Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, including violent confrontations in Jerusalem,” he said. He said the U.S. would remain “fully engaged” and praised steps by Israel to cool things down, including the court delay in the eviction case.

In an apparent attempt to avoid further confrontation, Israeli authorities changed the planned route of a march by thousands of flag-waving nationalist Jews through the Muslim Quarter of the Old City to mark Jerusalem Day.

The annual festival is meant to celebrate Israel’s capture of east Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war. But it is widely seen as a provocation because the route goes through the heart of Palestinian areas.


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Vatican warns U.S. bishops about rebuking Biden, other Catholic pols

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Ladaria, in his letter, said any new policy “requires that dialogue occurs in two stages: first among the bishops themselves, and then between bishops and Catholic pro-choice politicians within their jurisdictions.”

Even then, Ladaria advised, the bishops should seek unanimous support within their ranks for any national policy, lest it become “a source of discord rather than unity within the episcopate and the larger church in the United States.”

Ladaria made several other points that could complicate the plans of bishops pressing for tough action:

— He said any new statement should not be limited to Catholic political leaders but broadened to encompass all churchgoing Catholics in regard to their worthiness to receive Communion.

— He questioned the USCCB policy identifying abortion as “the preeminent” moral issue, saying it would be misleading if any new document “were to give the impression that abortion and euthanasia alone constitute the only grave matters of Catholic moral and social teaching that demand the fullest accountability on the part of Catholics.”

— He said that if the U.S. bishops pursue a new policy, they should confer with bishops’ conferences in other countries “both to learn from one another and to preserve unity in the universal church.”

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— He said any new policy could not override the authority of individual bishops to make decisions on who can receive Communion in their dioceses. Cardinal Wilton Gregory, the archbishop of Washington, D.C., has made clear that Biden is welcome to receive Communion at churches in the archdiocese.

Among the leaders of the campaign to rebuke Biden is Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, who recently issued a pastoral letter arguing that Catholic politicians who support abortion rights should not receive Communion. A few days later, Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego published an essay saying such an initiative “will bring tremendously destructive consequences.”

Ladaria’s letter was dated May 7. It was first reported Monday by Catholic News Service and the Jesuit magazine America.


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