Former DNC chair Perez announces bid for Maryland governor

June 23, 2021

By Brendan O’Brien

(Reuters) – Tom Perez, a former Democratic National Committee chairman, on Wednesday announced he was running for governor in his home state of Maryland in a bid to succeed outgoing Governor Larry Hogan, a popular Republican who cannot run again because of term limits.

In an online video announcing his candidacy, Perez vowed to build a Maryland where all residents have access to quality education, affordable healthcare and a good job.

“My entire life has been about making government work and helping people, and that is exactly what I’ll do as your governor,” the 59-year-old said.

Perez is the ninth Democrat to announce his candidacy for governor while two Republicans are in the running to succeed Hogan, who has served as Maryland’s governor since 2015.

Hogan, who has enjoyed high approval ratings during his tenure and the pandemic, is barred from seeking a third term.

In the five-minute video announcing his candidacy, Perez highlighted his upbringing as the son of Dominican of Republic immigrants. He touched on his work ethic, saying he had worked as a trash collector to pay for college, and portrayed himself as a family man who coached his daughter’s basketball team.

Perez served as the head of the civil rights division of the Department of Justice and as labor secretary under President Barack Obama.

He was elected to head the Democratic National Committee in 2016 after Hillary Clinton lost a bitter race for president to Republican Donald Trump. He did not seek another term as DNC chair and served until January of this year.

Perez has also held several other federal and state government positions, including as secretary of Maryland’s labor, licensing and regulation department. In May, the Venable law firm said it hired Perez as a Washington, D.C.-based partner.

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Chicago; Editing by Matthew Lewis)

U.S. Democrats vow ‘long march’ toward voting rights reforms

U.S. Democrats vow ‘long march’ toward voting rights reforms

June 23, 2021

By Richard Cowan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Democrats in the U.S. Congress suffered a bruising defeat in their drive to pass a major election reform bill but said there are more tools at their disposal to overcome Republican efforts in several states to roll back expanded voting procedures.

“It will be a long march but it’s one we are going to make,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer proclaimed after Democrats voted in lock-step on Tuesday to launch a debate on voting rights legislation – but still fell 10 votes short of advancing such a bill, thanks to the 60-vote threshold required by filibuster rules.

Given Senate Republicans’ solid opposition, Schumer has a tough battle ahead. Although he did not detail next steps, there have been hints along the way.

For example, Senator Dick Durbin, the No. 2 Democrat, this week spoke of breaking up a voting rights initiative into smaller bits that might test Republican resolve.

Democrats employed tough rhetoric to underscore how important they think it is to establish national standards for voting, before the 2022 midterm elections when Republicans seek to regain majorities in the House and Senate.

“Our American Democracy is in peril, and today, every single Senate Republican voted against saving it. Democrats will not be deterred in our fight,” House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement. “Our Republic is at a crossroads, and it is up to us to save it.”

Senate Republicans have argued that Washington ought to stay out of states’ decisions on how they conduct their elections for president and Congress.

Republicans have justified the new laws by citing former President Donald Trump’s false claim that widespread fraud led to his November election defeat. Numerous court decisions have repudiated that claim, as did Trump’s own administration.

Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar told reporters on Tuesday that she is continuing to negotiate with moderate Democratic Senator Joe Manchin over the details of a compromise proposal he has floated.

That could become the basis for another Senate vote.

Klobuchar praised Manchin’s efforts and said he has used an “expansive definition” of what would qualify for voter identification he wants included in a bill and has agreed to other elements important to Democrats.

Democrats also could pursue a bill that would restore Washington’s oversight of certain states’ changes to election laws and build a more expansive voting rights bill upon that. Some Republicans are on record as potentially supporting the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, named after the late civil rights leader and Democratic congressman.

Klobuchar said after Tuesday’s vote that she would launch a series of field hearings to examine the impact of Republican efforts to toughen voting laws in various states. Those hearings could help guide Schumer’s decision on future moves.

Hanging over this effort will be the most controversial move Schumer could take: An attempt to change or kill the long-standing “filibuster” rule, which now gives minority Senate Republicans the ability to repel Democrats’ legislative initiatives, as they did on Tuesday.

Under the filibuster, at least 60 votes are needed in the 100-member Senate to advance legislation.

To change the rule, all 50 Democrats and independents would have to vote yes – a step that Manchin and Senator Kyrsten Sinema so far have opposed.

(Reporting by Richard Cowan; Editing by Scott Malone and Gerry Doyle)

U.S. Vice President Harris to visit Mexico border Friday

U.S. Vice President Harris to visit Mexico border Friday

June 23, 2021

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris will visit the border her country shares with Mexico, stopping at El Paso, Texas, with Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Friday, a source familiar with the trip said on Wednesday.

Harris is leading efforts in President Joe Biden’s administration to untangle the country’s immigration situation and was criticized for not visiting the border when she traveled to Latin American countries last month to address the issue.

(Reporting by Nandita Bose; Additional reporting by Susan Heavey; writing by Lisa Lambert; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

Political novice claims win in Democratic mayoral primary in New York’s 2nd largest city

Political novice claims win in Democratic mayoral primary in New York’s 2nd largest city

June 23, 2021

By Peter Szekely and Nathan Layne

NEW YORK (Reuters) – India Walton, a left-leaning political novice, appears to have unseated the four-term mayor of Buffalo, New York state’s second largest city, in an upset that she said was only a first step in overhauling the politics of the upstate region.

Also in western New York, Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren was defeated handily by city council member Malik Evans. Warren was under fire for her administration’s handling of the death of a Black man in police custody last year.

With mail-in and absentee ballots yet to be counted in the Buffalo race, Walton led Mayor Byron Brown by 52% to 45% in a Democratic primary that drew an unofficial total turnout of fewer than 22,000 voters. A third candidate drew 3%.

“We set out to not only change Buffalo, but to change the way progressive politics are viewed in upstate New York,” Walton, 38, a school nurse, told cheering supporters late on Tuesday.

Brown, whose 16 years as Buffalo’s mayor culminated a long career as a Democratic party stalwart, refused to concede.

“Things are very tight now,” Brown, 62, told supporters. “They are too tight to call, and we’re going to make sure that each and every vote – that every single vote is counted.”

The Erie County Board of Elections said it would report the official election results within 25 days. The Buffalo News reported that 1,536 absentee ballots, barely more than Walton’s roughly 1,500-vote margin over Brown, were returned by Tuesday.

The winner of the Democratic primary is favored to prevail in the November election. Only one other candidate, an independent, has filed to run for mayor in the general election, and his petitions are currently being challenged, the News reported.

Walton has called for ending a police role in mental health calls, while Evans campaigned on an anti-crime platform in Rochester, as did Eric Adams, who was leading the voting in New York City’s Democratic mayoral primary.

Walton, who received campaign support from the progressive Working Families Party, vowed to make her campaign the start of a left-leaning movement in the region.

“This is about building the infrastructure to challenge every damn seat,” she said. “All that we are doing in this moment is claiming what is rightfully ours.”

In Rochester, Evans’ victory all but assures that he will become mayor of New York’s third-largest city, which heavily leans Democratic.

Warren faced growing calls for her resignation amid sometimes violent protests last summer following release of body-camera footage showing Daniel Prude’s encounter with police in March 2020.

Prude, who appeared to be suffering from mental distress, died from asphyxiation after he was restrained against the ground and a mesh hood was placed over his head. It took months to release the footage, sparking allegations of a cover-up and prompting the city’s police chief to step down.

Warren’s candidacy was further challenged by her indictment on felony campaign finance charges and the arrest of her husband on drugs and weapons charges last month.

Rochester’s rising murder rate was also an important issue in the race. Evans has proposed appointing a gun czar to work with federal and state officials to curb the flow of illegal guns thought to be a factor in the city’s homicide spike.

(Reporting by Peter Szekely in New York and Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut; Editing by Bill Berkrot)

Nasdaq hits record high as factory activity scales new peak

Nasdaq hits record high as factory activity scales new peak

June 23, 2021

(Reuters) – The Nasdaq hit a record high shortly after the open on Wednesday with investors razor focused on business activity data after Federal Reserve officials sought to calm fears of a sharp tapering of monetary stimulus.

The Nasdaq Composite rose 10.1 points, or 0.07%, to 14263.381 at the opening bell.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 3.0 points, or 0.01%, at the open to 33948.54, while the S&P 500 rose 2.8 points, or 0.07%, at the open to 4249.27.

(Reporting by Medha Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Maju Samuel)

Nasdaq set to open at record high ahead of business activity data

Nasdaq set to open at record high ahead of business activity data

June 23, 2021

By Devik Jain and Medha Singh

(Reuters) – The Nasdaq 100 index was set to open at a record high on Wednesday with investors razor focused on business activity data after Federal Reserve officials sought to calm fears of a sharp tapering of monetary stimulus.

Tech-heavyweights Facebook, Apple Inc,, Nvidia and Microsoft Corp edged higher in premarket trading.

Microsoft also became the second U.S. firm to cross $2 trillion in market capitalization.

IHS Markit’s flash reading on manufacturing and services PMI data, due at 9:45 a.m. ET (1345 GMT), is expected to show a slight easing in business activity this month, compared with May.

In a hearing before a U.S. House of Representatives panel, Fed Chair Jerome Powell reiterated that the central bank will not raise interest rates too quickly on inflation fears alone and will encourage a “broad and inclusive” recovery of the job market.

Powell’s comments follow the Fed’s projection of an increase in interest rates as soon as 2023, sooner than anticipated which sparked a sharp profit booking in the so called “reflation” stocks and triggered a move into tech-heavy growth names.

However, market participants have swung between value and growth stocks this week, with the Nasdaq notching a record close on Tuesday, lifted by strong gains in top-shelf tech companies.

“Equities have come back up to all-time highs and that tells you the market is shrugging off the communication from the Fed,” said Johan Grahn, vice president and head of ETF Strategy at AllianzIM in Minneapolis.

“Powell has planted a seed of tapering … the Fed is paving a way for more discussions around tapering itself and that, coupled with where they talk about rates next time, is going to build some volatility into markets.”

The S&P growth index has risen 3.9% in June, closing the gap with its value counterpart, which has fallen 2% this month but is still up more than 14% on the year.

At 8:24 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis were up 61 points, or 0.18%, S&P 500 e-minis were up 4.5 points, or 0.11%, and Nasdaq 100 e-minis were up 16 points, or 0.11%.

Rate-sensitive Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase & Co, Morgan Stanley and Bank of America added between 0.4% and 0.6%.[US/]

Energy stocks Occidental Petroleum Corp, ConocoPhillips and Exxon Mobil rose in the range of 0.6% and 1.4% as oil prices jumped to a more than two-year high. [O/R]

Among so-called meme stocks, software firm Alfi Inc dropped 10% after more than doubling in value in the prior session, while Torchlight Energy Resources Inc slumped 15% for the second day after announcing an upsized stock offering.

(Reporting by Devik Jain and Medha Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Maju Samuel)