Political Roundup

In national headlines…

Stacey Abrams conceded to Bryan Kemp in the Georgia gubernatorial race after acknowledging his victory. Abrams would have been the first Black female governor in the United States had she won, but despite concerns of voter suppression and a last-minute investigation into her campaign—all of which Kemp’s office oversaw—she acknowledged to CNN, “[Kemp received] an adequate number of votes [to become the] legal governor of the State of Georgia.” She also stated that she plans to seek elected office again (The Washington Post, “‘Something being legal does not make it right’: Abrams says she still has concerns about Georgia’s election,” 11.18.2018)

Both Bill Nelson and Andrew Gillum of Florida ended their campaigns against their Republican opponents in the Senate and gubernatorial races. Nelson, who served as Florida Senator for nearly two decades, conceded to outgoing Republican Governor and Senator-Elect Rick Scott after Gillum ended his campaign. Gillum would have been the state’s first Black governor (CNN, “Bill Nelson concedes Florida Senate race to Rick Scott,” 11.18.2018).

Amazon announced on Tuesday, Nov. 13, that it will split its second headquarters between D.C. suburb Crystal City, VA, and the Long Island City neighborhood of Queens, NY. This will bring 25,000 jobs to an area of New York that previously struggled to attract newcomers. Amazon has also dedicated funds to community infrastructure and a new school. However, controversy surrounds the decision of the Queens location, as Amazon received at least $1.5 billion in tax breaks from the city and state governments. Queens Congresswoman-Elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wrote on Twitter, “The idea that [Amazon] will receive hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks at a time when our subway is crumbling and our communities need MORE investment…is extremely concerning … [It was] dressed-up trickle-down economics” (The New Yorker, “The New York Hustle of Amazon’s Second Headquarters,” 11.17.2018).

Democrats are currently divided over who will serve as the next Speaker of the House. Various House Democrats have hesitated to publicly support Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA.12) bid for the position. Brian Higgins (D-NY.26), Marcia Fudge (D-OH.11) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY.14) initially expressed concerns about Pelosi, but later said they would support her. Pelosi faces resistance after serving as the last Democratic Speaker of the House. Congressman Tim Ryan (D-OH.13), who previously challenged her for the speakership, employed tactics often associated with the Freedom Caucus among House Republicans by announcing a struggle on the House floor if Pelosi does not step aside. “We need to be prepared for what’s going to happen when she can’t get to 218,” he said, referring to the number of votes needed to secure the Speakership. There are no immediate contenders for the position, and analysts credit Pelosi with Democratic success in the past election season. Pelosi stated that she intends to be a generational leader for the increasingly youthful and diverse Democratic party (The Guardian, “‘Don’t fire the Coach’: bid to end Nancy Pelosi’s reign leaves Democrats divided,” 11.25.2018).

Around the world…

U.S. President Donald Trump caused an international uproar after vowing to remain a “steadfast partner” of Saudi Arabia, despite the CIA assessment that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is accountable for the murder of Washington Post journalist and Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi. Republican senators and various world leaders have publicly split with Trump following his comments. Coupled with the worsening conflict in Yemen between Iran-backed Houthi rebels and the Saudi-backed coalition, which the United Nations described as causing the world’s worst famine in 100 years, humanitarians have increased their calls for a total ban on weapons sales to Saudi Arabia. On Friday, Nov. 13, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and Finland all signed on to an arms embargo that earned the support of the European Parliament (Washington Examiner, “Four European countries to stop Saudi arms sales,” 11.24.2018).

European leaders and British Prime Minister Theresa May finalized a Brexit deal in Brussels this past Sunday, Nov. 25, after a year and a half of negotiations. President of the European Council Donald Tusk and chief negotiator Michel Barnier have publicly expressed support for the final 600-page treaty, which sets the terms for the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the E.U. and expresses ambitions for a future free trade agreement. Many Britons oppose the deal and believe that the agreement is a watered-down version of the U.K.’s current membership, while those in favor of Brexit feel it leaves the nation too attached to the European project. Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn stated, “[It is] a bad deal for the country.” He promised to oppose the agreement in next month’s vote alongside the Democratic Unionist Party, whose votes from Northern Ireland May relied upon to maintain control of her weakened coalition government. Brexit will formally be finalized on March 29, 2019 (Al Jazeera, “EU leaders approve Brexit deal with the UK,” 11.25.2018).

Nine have been killed in Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir in the state’s deadliest week since 2009. Six rebels died in a gun battle with Indian police, while other casualties resulted from clashes between locals and authorities. Hundreds of civilians called for a shutdown of businesses in response to the killings and took to the streets to support an independent state or merger with the Kashmir-e-Azad state of Pakistan. Five hundred and twenty-eight people have died in armed conflict this year, including 145 civilians, and Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society coordinator Khurram Parvez accused India’s main ruling party of “selling the body bags of Kashmiris to gain votes [ahead of federal elections]” (Al Jazeera, “Nine killed as Kashmir reels from its deadliest year since 2009,” 11.25.2018).

In our backyard…

The Trump administration’s travel ban caused the number of asylum-seekers entering New York State, which hosts the third-largest population of refugees in the nation, to drop from 5,026 in 2016 to 1,281 in 2017. The ban suspends visas from Libya, Iran, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, North Korea and Venezuela, and the Trump administration has decreased the cap on refugees from 45,000 from any country to 30,000 by next year. Many refugees have been separated from their families, and the drop has been pronounced in upstate areas where refugees have contributed to the socio-economic landscape. Various groups with the goal of helping these refugees have spoken out against the sudden decrease. Congressman Eliot Engel (D-NY.16) posed the idea of revisiting the travel ban next year (Poughkeepsie Journal, “After Trump travel ban, refugees to New York plummet,” 11.21.2018).

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