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Political Notebook

Pence says voters ‘looking for new leadership’

Former vice president Mike PenceJohn Minchillo/Associated Press

NEW YORK — Former vice president Mike Pence said Wednesday that voters are “looking for new leadership” following the disappointing midterm elections for Republicans, who are now openly debating whether his onetime boss, Donald Trump, should maintain a leading role in the party.

In an interview with The Associated Press just hours after Trump announced another White House run, Pence declined to say whether he thinks the former president is fit to return to his old job. But he implicitly positioned himself as a potential alternative for Republicans seeking conservative leadership without the chaos of the Trump era.

“I think we will have better choices in 2024,” Pence said. “I’m very confident that Republican primary voters will choose wisely.” He said that he and his family will gather over the holidays “and we’ll give prayerful consideration to what our role might be in the days ahead.”

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Asked whether he blamed Trump for last week’s Republican losses, he said, “Certainly the president’s continued efforts to relitigate the last election played a role, but ... each individual candidate is responsible for their own campaign.”

Pence, while considering a presidential campaign of his own, has been raising his profile as he promotes his new memoir, “So Help Me God,” which was released on the same day that Trump made official his long-teased White House bid. If Pence moves forward, he would be in direct competition with Trump, a particularly awkward collision for the former vice president, who spent his four years in office defending Trump, refusing to criticize him publicly until after Jan. 6, 2021.

That’s when a mob of Trump’s supporters — driven by Trump’s lie that Pence could somehow reject the election results — stormed the Capitol building while Pence was presiding over the certification of Democrat Joe Biden’s victory. The vice president was steered to safety with his staff and family as some in the mob chanted, “Hang Mike Pence!”

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Still, Pence on Wednesday remained largely reticent to criticize Trump beyond the insurrection. That hesitance reflects the reality that the former president remains enormously popular with the GOP base that Pence would need to win over to be competitive in primary contests.

Associated Press

Bass to be first woman to lead Los Angeles

Karen Bass, a veteran Democratic congresswoman, on Wednesday became the first woman elected as mayor of Los Angeles after pledging to build coalitions in a metropolis torn by racial tensions and fed up with homelessness. The race was called by the Associated Press.

Bass survived a bruising race against Rick Caruso, a billionaire real estate developer, that had remained too close to call for more than a week after the election. Caruso had pumped roughly $100 million into his campaign as a law-and-order candidate, hoping to appeal to a frustrated electorate.

On Wednesday, Los Angeles County election results showed her with more than 53 percent of the vote, with returns trending heavily for her.

“The people of Los Angeles have sent a clear message,” Bass said in a statement Wednesday. “It is time for change, and it is time for urgency.”

Bass’s election comes at a tumultuous moment in Los Angeles, a city of 4 million people that emerged from the pandemic to a landscape of tent camps, debris, economic anxiety, and spiking violence. Although matters have gradually begun to improve and crime rates remain far below the city’s peaks of the 1990s, Los Angeles residents have expressed fury and exhaustion, particularly at the city’s epidemic of homelessness, according to surveys, focus groups and preelection interviews.

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In an interview last year at her hillside home — a ranch house in the Baldwin Vista neighborhood that was burglarized in September by thieves who stole two handguns — Bass, 69, said that the main reason she ran for mayor was the familiarity of the current civic unease. She said the city’s mood reminded her of the fear-stoked distrust and divisiveness that preceded the 1992 riots.

“That’s what is frightening to me now — the anger,” she said. “And my concern is the direction the anger can move the city in.”

Bass has said that as mayor she will declare a state of emergency on homelessness and find housing for 17,000 homeless people in her first year. She also has promised to put more police officers on the street, in part by freeing up sworn members to patrol the city rather than handle administrative tasks.

She will bring to the job a long history of coalition-building, dating to the 1980s, when as a physician assistant and emergency room worker she applied for a federal grant to launch a nonprofit to address the crack epidemic that was ravaging the city. The Community Coalition for Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment — now known simply as the Community Coalition, or CoCo — has since become one of the city’s largest and most influential advocacy groups, working across the city’s vast array of ethnicities.

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New York Times

Michelle Obama chose against braids during husband’s term

WASHINGTON — Former first lady Michelle Obama considered wearing her hair in braids while living in the White House. But then she thought of the American people.

They were “just getting adjusted” to having a Black president in the Oval Office and a Black family in the White House, so she decided to keep her hair straight, Obama said at the Warner Theatre in Washington on Tuesday, the first of a 13-night cross-country tour to promote her new book, “The Light We Carry: Overcoming in Uncertain Times.”

It would have been easier to keep her hair in braids, Obama said, but ‘”nope, they’re not ready for it,” she added, recalling her thinking at the time.

So she sacrificed doing her hair as she would have liked so her husband’s administration could focus on achieving its goals instead of sinking political capital into putting out a hairstyle-induced firestorm.

“Let me keep my hair straight,” Obama said of her mindset at the time. “Let’s get health care passed.”

Obama said her dilemma was an extreme example of the decisions Black women make daily to navigate the politics and sensibilities of their workplaces. They often find it easier, healthier, and safer to wear braids, dreadlocks, or Afros, but feel the pressure from white beauty standards and workplace norms to chemically straighten their hair for a more professional, “clean-cut” appearance.

“We deal with it — the whole thing about, ‘Do you show up with your natural hair?’” Obama said.

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Attitudes about natural Black hairstyles, such as braids and dreadlocks, have shifted. Earlier this year, the House passed the Crown Act, legislation that would prohibit discrimination based on someone’s hairstyle, including those “in which hair is tightly coiled or tightly curled, locs, cornrows, twists, braids, Bantu knots, and Afros.” Although the bill stalled in the Senate, Alaska in September became the 19th state to pass legislation to protect Black people from being punished for how they wear their hair.

California’s original Crown Act, which stands for “Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair,” passed in 2019.

Washington Post

Florida law restricting college lessons is blocked

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — A federal judge in Florida on Thursday blocked a law pushed by Governor Ron DeSantis that restricts certain race-based conversations and analysis in colleges.

Tallahassee US District Judge Mark Walker issued a temporary injunction against the so-called Stop Woke act in a ruling that called the legislation “positively dystopian.”

The law prohibits teaching or business practices that contend members of one ethnic group are inherently racist and should feel guilt for past actions committed by others. It also bars the notion that a person’s status as privileged or oppressed is necessarily determined by their race or gender, or that discrimination is acceptable to achieve diversity.

“Our professors are critical to a healthy democracy, and the State of Florida’s decision to choose which viewpoints are worthy of illumination and which must remain in the shadows has implications for us all,” Walker wrote. “If our ‘priests of democracy’ are not allowed to shed light on challenging ideas, then democracy will die in darkness.”

The ruling is at least a temporary setback to the powerful Republican governor’s agenda to combat what he describes as the “woke ideology” of liberals and critical race theory, a way of thinking about America’s history through the lens of racism. DeSantis won a landslide reelection to a second term this month after a campaign that focused heavily on cultural issues.

Associated Press