Democrats speak out on Sandra Bland’s death


Welcome to Trail Guide, your daily tour through the peaks and valleys of the 2016 presidential campaign. It's Wednesday, July 22, and here's what we're watching:

  • Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton says the Sandra Bland case is 'incredibly disturbing'
  • Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is treading carefully when talking to Donald Trump supporters
  • A new poll finds red flags for Clinton in key swing states
  • Republicans are hoping to use Uber to drive a wedge between Democrats
  • Clinton is slamming Republicans on 'family issues'
  • Sen. Ted Cruz wants Americans to vote on their Supreme Court justices
  • Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is campaigning in Tennessee

In San Diego, union members protest conservative group's gathering

In San Diego, an estimated 600 labor union members and supporters protested Wednesday near a hotel where a conservative group is set for a three-day gathering that will include appearances by GOP presidential hopefuls Scott Walker, Ted Cruz and Mike Huckabee.

Protesters blasted the group, the American Legislative Exchange Council, for what they said was support of rising corporate profits at the expense of workers, students, immigrants and others, with the backing of the moneyed Koch brothers and other “millionaires and billionaires.”

“Shame on you, shame on you, for pandering to the interests of the rich and greedy," chanted the group, led by San Diego Rabbi Laurie Coskey, executive director of the Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice.

Union members gathered from throughout Southern California at Embarcadero Park under the motto, “ALEC is not welcome in California.”

Among the unions represented were those representing Teamsters, teachers, municipal workers, firefighters, nurses, homecare providers, steelworkers and letter carriers.

Labor movement icon Dolores Huerta said that ALEC supports candidates who are tough on immigrants in the U.S. illegally and who question whether climate change is manmade.

“They are trying to get people elected who are denying that we are in a precarious condition,” Huerta said of the climate change issue.

Before the rally, San Diego County Democratic Party Chairwoman Francine Busby called on San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, a Republican, to repudiate the group of state legislators and city and county officials attending the gathering and to cancel his scheduled speech.

“We don't want San Diego associated with hurting women and families,” Busby said. “But Mayor Faulconer is aligning himself with extremist politicians who want to shut down health clinics.”

Faulconer's press secretary, Craig Gustafson, said the mayor welcomed numerous conventions to San Diego and that he still planned to speak.

A sign in the crowd mocked the interplay between politicians and corporate lobbyists: “ALEC Is a Dating Service Between Lobbyists and Legislators.”

Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) picked up on the dating theme, to the cheers of the crowd: “ALEC isn't about harmony, it's about harm. Let's stand our ground.”

A lot of focus is on the first four states and I spent a lot of time last week in Iowa and New Hampshire and South Carolina and Nevada. But as you've seen already a couple of times this year, I've been here in Tennessee, in Nashville in particular, but we'll be in other parts as well.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker while campaigning in Tennessee on Wednesday. The state is scheduled to be a part of the so-called March 1 SEC primary.

Perry defines 'Trumpism': 'demagoguery, mean-spiritedness and nonsense'

Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry denounced Donald Trump's presidential bid Wednesday as “a cancer on conservatism” that “must be clearly diagnosed, excised and discarded” for the good of the country.

Delivering the most sustained assault on the wealthy real estate developer since he burst into the GOP nominating contest a month ago, Perry denounced Trump as an example of the “small-minded, divisive figures” who crop up in American politics during “times of trouble.”

Rather than offer solutions to the country's problems, Perry said, Trump “offers a barking carnival act that can be best described as Trumpism: a toxic mix of demagoguery, mean-spiritedness and nonsense that will lead the Republican Party to perdition if pursued.”

“It cannot be pacified or ignored,” he added, “for it will destroy a set of principles that has lifted more people out of poverty than any force in the history of the civilized world -- the cause of conservatism.”

Trump fired back on Twitter , calling Perry a “hypocrite” who was “in my office last cycle playing nice and begging for my support and money” for a presidential bid that collapsed early.

Perry was one of the first of the GOP presidential hopefuls to criticize Trump for derogatory remarks about Mexicans that he made during his announcement speech in June. He ratcheted up the criticism over the weekend when Trump questioned Sen. John McCain's status as a war hero.

In Wednesday's speech in Washington, hosted by a super PAC that supports his campaign, Perry cranked the volume higher, saying that Trump was appealing “to the worst instincts in the human condition.”

Trump, he said, “has piqued the interest of some Republican voters who have legitimate concerns about a porous border and broken immigration system. But instead of offering those voters leadership or solutions, he has offered fear and sound bites. This cannot stand.”

Ted Cruz vs. Supreme Court of the United States

Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas is targeting the Supreme Court for a series of recent rulings that he says shows the need for the justices to be elected, not appointed.

Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas is targeting the Supreme Court for a series of recent rulings that he says shows the need for the justices to be elected, not appointed.

(Molly Riley / AP)

If there is a primary within a primary going on to be the chief Supreme Court antagonist in the 2016 Republican presidential race, Sen. Ted Cruz is running hard, The Times' Colin Diersing writes:

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Hillary Rodham Clinton, other Democrats, respond to Sandra Bland's death

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks during the Iowa Democratic Party's Hall of Fame Dinner, Friday, July 17, 2015, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks during the Iowa Democratic Party’s Hall of Fame Dinner, Friday, July 17, 2015, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

(Kurtis Lee)

A trio of Democrats vying for the party's 2016 presidential nomination have waded into the racially charged outcry over the arrest of Sandra Bland, who was later found dead in a Texas jail cell.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley each assailed the behavior of the Texas law enforcement agents involved in Bland's arrest.

“No one should be yanked from her car, thrown to the ground, assaulted and arrested for a minor traffic stop. The result is that, three days later, she is dead in her jail cell,” Sanders said in a statement. “This video highlights once again why we need real police reform.”

Bland, who is black, was arrested July 10 in Waller County, Texas, after a contentious confrontation with state Trooper Brian Encinia. At one point in a dash camera video, Encinia is heard yelling "I will light you up," when Bland refuses to exit her vehicle. Three days later, she was found dead in her jail cell of what a preliminary autopsy listed as a suicide. Still, Bland's family has challenged the official finding and plans to have an expert perform a second autopsy.

"My heart breaks at seeing another young African American life lost too soon,” said Clinton. “From what I've seen, the circumstances of this case are incredibly disturbing. I hope and expect that there will be a full investigation into this situation. It is also a tragic reminder of the ongoing systemic issues of race and justice in America that we must address with urgency, and we have to do more than talk -- we have to take action."

O'Malley alluded to much the same in his comments, calling for an independent investigation.

"This is a horrible loss of life that demands a full, thorough and independent investigation of the traffic stop, the arrest, and Ms. Bland's tragic death in custody,” he said.

So far, no Republican presidential hopefuls have spoken publicly about Bland's death.

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Bernie Sanders stumps for minimum wage hike

Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont called on President Obama on Wednesday to sign an executive order raising the minimum wage, an issue at the heart of Sanders' campaign for president.

“All of our workers from coast to coast need at least 15 bucks an hour,” Sanders told hundreds of people gathered in a shady park across from the Capitol at a rally to demand better pay. “Seven dollars and 25 cents an hour, the current federal minimum wage, is a starvation wage,” Sanders said.

Sanders, an avowed socialist, has become an unlikely foil to Democratic front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton, fueled by discontent among progressives lukewarm to Clinton and drawing some of the nascent campaign season's largest crowds. He has seized on a message of reducing inequality through government, particularly a higher minimum wage and tax increases on the wealthy.

Sanders drew loud cheers from the crowd, many clothed in blue “Strike!” T-shirts, when he lamented that employees should not need to work more than full-time, putting their health at risk, simply to make ends meet. “If you work 40 hours a week you have a right not to be living in poverty,” he said.

Ramon Lazo, who works in a condominium, said he used to work a second job to make ends meet. He got home at midnight and began work again at 7 the next morning. “My mother helps me, so that's now how I get by,” Lazo said.

Sanders thanked workers “for their courage to go on strike” and called on them to keep up the momentum from the day, citing recent minimum-wage increases in municipalities across the country, including Los Angeles County, as victories. L.A. County supervisors voted Tuesday to phase in a minimum wage of $15 an hour in unincorporated parts of the county.

“Cities and states are beginning to understand that we need a minimum wage that is a living wage,” he said.

Some see a highway bill, Cruz sees an 'opportunity to stand for liberty'

Ted Cruz likes to think of himself as a “disruptive app” in politics -- a one-man Uber shaking up the halls of Congress. And that was evident this week with his intent to amend a routine highway bill.

The conservative Texas senator's amendments list looks more like a presidential campaign platform than a few tweaks to an ordinary road-funding measure. It's the kind of a legislative show-stopper that can kill a bill. But Cruz says he's committed.

“I fully intend to take this opportunity to stand for liberty,” Cruz said. “Each of my amendments addresses a critical policy issue that deserves Congress' full attention.”

A summary of amendments, per team Cruz:

> Repeals Obamacare

> Eliminates the illegal congressional exemption for Obamacare

> Ends federal funding for Planned Parenthood

> Prohibits federal funds from going to any abortion provider that is under federal investigation

> Makes permanent the moratorium on Internet access taxes

> Ensures state reciprocity for concealed-carry laws

> Ensures no Iranian nuclear deal unless Iran recognizes Israel and frees American hostages

> Prohibits disbursement of any highway funds until the administration has certified that it will no longer implement its amnesty policies, and prevents amnesty recipients from working on federal highway projects

Is the phone prank the best thing that ever happened to the Graham campaign?

Tuesday, Donald Trump gave Lindsey Graham's private cellphone number to the world. Today, Graham is milking it for all it's worth. The South Carolina senator has struggled to win attention in a crowded field, even joking last week on "Late Night with Seth Meyers" that “This is what happens when you're at one percent. You show up at 12:30 on television.” He might just have found his moment.

Trump to visit U.S.-Mexico border

Republican Donald Trump will take his hard-line immigration message to the U.S.-Mexico border on Thursday.

Trump's rhetoric on immigration, including his declaration that Mexico sends "rapists" to the U.S., has helped propel his unlikely presidential bid to the top of the GOP field. It also has cost him corporate partnerships with Univision, Macy's, NASCAR and other companies wary of being associated with the comments.

Other Republican candidates also have distanced themselves from Trump and his immigration remarks, as the party has tried to court Latino supporters and expand its coalition.

Trump is slated to meet with representatives of a border patrol agents union in Laredo, Texas, on Thursday morning before heading to the border to deliver a statement, his campaign said.

I don't regret it. It seems to have gotten a lot of press, but I don't regret it at all. He calls me names, you have to fight back
Donald Trump, speaking to Fox News, on whether he regrets publicly releasing Lindsey Graham's phone number.

Bernie Sanders rallying for $15 minimum wage

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) rallied outside the Capitol on Wednesday before filing a bill to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour. The Los Angeles Times' Mary Ann Toman-Miller captured the scene.

Where do campaigns stash all their cash?

In a small Virginia bank run by a former U.S. senator and known for its ability to wire large sums of money to television stations in Iowa pronto, reports Bloomberg's Phil Mattingly.

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Poll finds trust issues for Clinton, high negatives for Trump

A new poll of key swing states has rough numbers for Hillary Rodham Clinton and even worse numbers for Republican Donald Trump. Clinton is statistically tied or trailing in head-to-head matchups against three top Republican candidates in Iowa, Virginia and Colorado, according to a Quinnipiac University survey released Wednesday.

Clinton also had negative favorability ratings in each of the three states -- meaning the percentage of voters who had an unfavorable opinion was higher than the slice of voters who gave her a favorable rating. In Iowa, 56% of respondents said they viewed Clinton negatively.

The numbers show a summer slide in her support. Clinton was clearly ahead in more matchups in an April 9 Quinnipiac poll, said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the poll.

The survey suggested Clinton faces particular headwinds in convincing voters she can be trusted. Solid majorities in each state said they did not think she is trustworthy, though voters rated Clinton markedly better on whether she has strong leadership qualities.

“Clinton still hasn't answered simple questions about her secret email server, her foundation's business with foreign governments or her collapsing foreign policy,” said Charlie Szold, a spokesman for the Iowa Republican Party. “Iowans expect more from the men and women running for president, and they see that Clinton just can't be trusted.”

The survey also captured a key challenge facing the Clinton campaign. The former secretary of State and first lady is a known quantity and voters have opinions about her -- for better or worse.

Respondents were far less settled in their opinions about her rivals.

Roughly 40% of those surveyed in each state said they didn't know enough about Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, the closest thing Clinton has to a rival for the Democratic nomination, to have an opinion. Roughly 15% said the same about former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, a leading GOP candidate.

Still, Bush's favorability was upside down in all states but Virginia, while respondents had generally more positive impressions of his opponents Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.

But Trump fared worst of all among the candidates in either party on that front, posting a negative favorability of almost 2-to-1 in the three states. (New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie wasn't far behind in all three.)

The Quinnipiac poll was conducted between July 9-20 and included more than 1,200 registered voters in each of the three states. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.8 percentage points.

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Former Obama advisor warns progressives not to oppose sharing economy

The debate over how to handling the growing "gig economy" is heating up the campaign trail — and dividing Democrats — The Times' Lisa Mascaro reports Wednesday. President Obama's circle appears to be landing on the side of embracing Uber, Instacart and others like it. Former Obama advisor Dan Pfeiffer weighed in earlier this week:

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A close look inside the Uber election

The Times' Lisa Mascaro is dissecting the way Uber and the "sharing economy" are shaping the economic debate on the campaign trail. Mascaro notes that the issue is trickier for Democrats, who are caught between labor and young people. In remarks last week, Hillary Rodham Clinton tried to split the difference.

"Clinton's team downplayed the partisan debate and emphasized that she had "no beef" with Uber or other aspects of the sharing economy," Mascaro writes. "At the same time, Clinton anticipates engaging in a broader policy discussion about the changing workplace environment."

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Clinton pounces on 'gender card' remark

Hillary Rodham Clinton's campaign is jumping on Sen. Mitch McConnell's use of the phrase "gender card" to slam Republicans on a host of what she calls "family issues." In a new attack video, Clinton runs through several of the GOP contenders' positions on abortion rights, paid sick leave and a Democratic bill dubbed the Paycheck Fairness Act.

Clinton also revives a 20-year-old comment Jeb Bush made during his first bid for the Florida governor's office. Bush listed "get a husband" as one of three things women could do to stabilize their lives and get off welfare. CNN's Eric Bradner has the full background on the remark here.

It won't be the last time we hear Bush's comment or Clinton's broader argument in the video: That Republicans are bad on issues especially important to women. If Clinton is to rely on the coalition that elected President Obama, she'll need to win a solid majority of female voters and drive strong turnout among single, young, Latino and African American women.

There are some early signs that Clinton has much work to do in mobilizing those groups. A survey released in late June found Clinton had solid support of unmarried women, people of color and millennials. These groups combined will make up a majority of voters for the first time in 2016, according to the poll conducted by Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg for progressive groups Democracy Corps and Women's Voices, Woman Vote Action Fund.

But Democrats face a serious enthusiasm gap with those voters. A 67% majority of voters who don't fall into those categories said they had a high level of interest in the 2016 elections. That number dropped to 48% among those groups.

Clinton's efforts to engage women are starting now.

Jeb Bush toes the line when talking about Donald Trump supporters

Republican presidential candidate, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, autographs campaign literature for a young supporter after speaking at the Florida State University Conference Center in Tallahassee, Fla., Monday, July 20, 2015. (AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser)

Republican presidential candidate, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, autographs campaign literature for a young supporter after speaking at the Florida State University Conference Center in Tallahassee, Fla., Monday, July 20, 2015. (AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser)

(Kurtis Lee)

While Republicans look to distance themselves from inflammatory rhetoric by Donald Trump, Jeb Bush has also sought to address the billionaire businessman's supporters -- a rare move by a candidate in the crowded field of GOP presidential hopefuls.

Speaking in South Carolina on Tuesday, Bush was not willing to take the John McCain route of calling Trump supporters “crazies,” when he addressed a local conservative women's group.

Instead, he opted to describe them as “good people,” though he continued to distance himself from the real-estate mogul, who also visited the state.

In a town hall-style discussion in Spartanburg, S.C., Bush said those who are gravitating toward Trump see a world in which there is a “lack of rule of law.”

“They see an uncontrolled border, they see a sanctuary city. Really, I mean, we really release convicted prisoners, criminals who should be deported? We release them to the streets in defiance of the federal government to make it harder for them to enforce the law when they're not doing the best job in the world to do it,” said Bush, while speaking before the Palladian View, a local group focused on issues of concern to conservative women.

“You go across the spectrum and you sort of watch TV and you see this unfold and you go, 'Look I want someone to fight for me on this,' and so I respect the sentiments that people feel when they hear Trump talk,” he added.

Though going after Trump can lead to intense criticism by the reality television star turned GOP presidential aspirant, Bush's message of hearing the concerns of his supporters could prove beneficial as he tries to win over conservative primary voters.

Still, the former Florida governor said the problem is that Trump's language is forging a gap between Americans.

“It's divisive, it's ugly, it's mean-spirited,” said Bush. “I think you need to separate Mr. Trump -- we have to separate him from the people that have legitimate concerns about the country.”

Earlier on Tuesday in Bluffton, S.C., about 230 miles south, Trump continued his critiques of the nation's immigration laws and took aim at Lindsey Graham, the state's senior senator, who is also seeking the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.

“He's registered zero in the polls. Zero. He's on TV all the time,” Trump said of Graham, who has lambasted the billionaire's comments about Mexican immigrants and McCain's military service. Trump then announced Graham's personal phone number , creating a minor furor and leading Graham to joke that he needs a new phone.

An ABC News/Washington Post poll released Monday showed Trump netting 24% support among GOP candidates, with Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker at 13% and Bush receiving 12%.

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Ted Cruz targets 'lawless' Supreme Court

Republican senator and presidential candidate Ted Cruz will chair a hearing Wednesday on Capitol Hill that gives the conservative firebrand a chance to showcase his staunch opposition to recent Supreme Court rulings unpopular with GOP primary voters.

Last month, Cruz joined a chorus of other Republican candidates in criticizing the court for ruling that the Constitution required states to recognize same-sex marriages and for upholding a key provision of Obamacare. The Texas senator, who clerked at the Supreme Court after graduating from Harvard Law School, called for the nation's top jurists to face “judicial retention elections” in an editorial for the National Review.

Though the idea is unlikely to ever become law, the Supreme Court's record-low level of support among conservatives could make it an especially tempting target this year. A Gallup poll released last week found that only 18% of Republicans approved of the court, a drop of 33 percentage points from last summer.