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National Politics

    No it wasn't a blue wave. But a week after the voting, Democrats are riding higher than they thought on Election Night. As vote counting presses on in several states, the Democrats have steadily chalked up victories across the country, firming up their grip on the U.S. House of Representatives and statehouses. The slow roll of wins has given the party plenty to celebrate. President Donald Trump was quick to claim victory for his party on Election Night. But the Democrats, who hit political rock bottom just two years ago, have now picked up at least 32 seats in the House — and lead in four more — in addition to flipping 7 governorships and 8 state legislative chambers. They are on track to lose perhaps two seats in the Senate in a year both parties predicted more. In fact, the overall results in the first nationwide election of the Trump presidency represent the Democratic Party's best midterm performance since Watergate. 'Over the last week we've moved from relief at winning the House to rejoicing at a genuine wave of diverse, progressive and inspiring Democrats winning office,' said Ben Wikler, Washington director of the liberal group MoveOn. The blue shift alters the trajectory of Trump's next two years in the White House, breaking up the Republican monopoly in Washington. It also gives Democrats stronger footing in key states ahead of the next presidential race and in the re-drawing of congressional districts — a complicated process that has been dominated by the GOP, which has drawn favorable boundaries for their candidates. Trump and his allies discounted the Democratic victories on Monday, pointing to GOP successes in Republican-leaning states. 'Thanks to the grassroots support for @realDonaldTrump and our party's ground game, we were able to #DefyHistory and make gains in the Senate!' Republican National Committee Chair Ronna Romney McDaniel tweeted, citing Senate wins in Indiana, Missouri, North Dakota and Tennessee, among others. Indeed, just once in the past three decades had a sitting president added Senate seats in his first midterm election. But lost in McDaniel's assessment was the difficult 2018 Senate landscape for Democrats, who were defending 10 seats in states Trump carried just two years ago. Says Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez: 'I believe in facts. And the fact of the matter is, the Democratic Party had a historic night at the ballot box — and we are not resting,' Perez said in an interview, 'Our goal was to compete everywhere, to expand and re-shape the electorate everywhere — and that's exactly what we've done.' The Democrats found success by attracting support from women, minorities and college-educated voters. Overall, 50 percent of white college-educated voters and 56 percent of women backed Democrats nationwide, according to AP VoteCast, a wide-ranging survey of the electorate. Democrats featured historic diversity on the ballot. Their winning class includes Massachusetts' first African-American female member of Congress, Ayanna Presley, and Michigan's Rashida Talib and Ilhan Omar, the first two Muslim women to serve in Congress, along with Kansas' Sharice Davids, the first lesbian Native American. They also won by running candidates with military backgrounds who openly embraced gun ownership, such as Pennsylvania Rep. Conor Lamb and Maine's Jared Golden, who is poised to win his contest because of the state's ranked-choice voting system. The Democrats needed to gain 23 seats to seize the House majority. Once all the votes are counted, which could take weeks in some cases as absentees and provisional ballots are tallied, they could win close to 40. Democrats have not lost a single House incumbent so far. Yet they defeated Republican targets such as Reps. Mike Coffman of Colorado, Barbara Comstock of Virginia, Carlos Curbelo of Florida and Dana Rohrabacher of California. They could win as many as 19 House races in districts carried by Trump two years ago, according to House Democrats' campaign arm. Ten House races remained too close for the AP to call as of Monday evening. Far more of the Senate landscape was decided early, although contests in Arizona, Florida and Mississippi remain outstanding. While there were notable statehouse Democratic losses in Iowa and Ohio, the party flipped governorships in seven states: Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Nevada, Kansas, New Mexico and Maine. Republicans now control 25 governorships nationwide compared to 23 for Democrats. High-profile contests in Florida and Georgia remain outstanding, although Republicans hold narrow leads in both states. Overshadowed perhaps by the higher-profile statewide elections, Democratic gains in state legislatures could prove deeply consequential. Overall, they flipped state legislative chambers in eight states this midterm season, including Washington state's Senate in 2017. The others include the state Senates in Maine, Colorado, New York, New Hampshire and Connecticut in addition to the state Houses of Representatives in New Hampshire and Minnesota. With hundreds of races still too close to call, Democrats have gained at least 370 state legislative seats nationwide, according to the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee. The pickups include surprises in West Virginia, where Democrats knocked off the GOP majority leader-designate in the House and the majority leader in the Senate. 'We have elected a new generation of inspiring leaders and we know that a new era of democratic dominance is on the horizon,' said the committee's executive director Jessica Post. Still, Republicans will control the majority of state legislative chambers, governorships, the U.S. Senate and the White House. And even before the new Democrats take office, attention has begun to shift toward 2020. Many Democrats have yet to shake off the stinging losses of 2016. Publicly and privately, Democrats are lining up for the chance to take down Trump in two years. 'This is step one of a two-step process to right the ship,' Guy Cecil, chairman of the pro-Democrat super PAC Priorities USA, said of the midterms. 'Democrats have every reason to be optimistic.
  • An associate of longtime Trump confidant Roger Stone said Monday that he expects to face charges in the special counsel's Russia investigation. Conservative conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi said on his YouTube show that negotiations fell apart with special counsel Robert Mueller's team and he expects in the coming days to be charged with making false statements. 'I'm going to be indicted,' Corsi said on his show. 'That's what we were told. Everyone should know that, and I'm anticipating it.' The Associated Press couldn't immediately confirm Corsi's claims that charges against him are forthcoming. Corsi's attorney, David Gray, declined to comment Monday evening. A spokesman for the special counsel's office also declined to comment. Corsi is one of several Stone associates who have been questioned by investigators as Mueller probes Stone's connections with WikiLeaks. American intelligence agencies have concluded that Russian agents were the source of hacked material released by WikiLeaks during the 2016 campaign, including emails belonging to former Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta. And Mueller's office is trying to determine whether Stone and other associates of President Donald Trump had advance knowledge of WikiLeaks' plans. Corsi, the former Washington bureau chief of the conspiracy theory outlet InfoWars, said Monday that he had no recollection of ever meeting WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. 'To the best of my recollection, what I knew in advance about what Julian Assange was going to do in terms of having the Podesta emails, I figured out,' he said. Corsi said Monday that he has been cooperating with the Mueller investigation since receiving a subpoena in late August. He said he gave investigators two computers, a cell phone and access to his email accounts and tweets. But he said talks with investigators recently had 'blown up.' 'I fully anticipate that in the next few days, I will be indicted by Mueller,' he said, as he made a pitch for donations to his legal defense fund. Stone, who has also said he expects to be indicted, has denied being a conduit for WikiLeaks, which published thousands of emails stolen from Podesta in the weeks before the election. In a telephone interview with the AP last month, Stone said: 'I had no advanced notice of the source or content or the exact timing of the release of the WikiLeaks disclosures.
  • Congress returns to a changed political landscape Tuesday as newly-elected lawmakers arrive in Washington, the parties elect new leadership and incumbents square off for one final legislative sprint before House Democrats take power. Voters swept away eight years of House Republican control in last week's election, creating a new political dynamic that's challenging President Donald Trump even before the new 116th Congress begins in January. For their last act, Republicans will try to deliver on Trump's promise to fund the border wall, which could spark a partial federal government shutdown in weeks. Newly emboldened Democrats are in no mood to cooperate over wall money. Instead, they'll be pushing to protect special counsel Robert Mueller's probe from acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker, who has criticized the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. All sides must agree to a federal funding bill to prevent a partial government shutdown from beginning on Dec. 7. 'House Democrats are anything but lame ducks,' Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi wrote Monday to colleagues, saying Democrats are 'flying high and taking pride' in the greatest Democratic sweep of the House since the Watergate election of 1974. They picked up at least 32 seats, with several races still undecided. 'We have great opportunity, and therefore great responsibility to get results for the American people,' Pelosi wrote. Democrats 'need to be unified, find common ground with Republicans in our legislative engagements, but stand our ground when we must.' Against this backdrop, dozens of new House lawmakers and a handful of new senators arrived for a whirlwind orientation session. They will take their official photos, meet colleagues and take what could prove to be the toughest vote of their early careers — electing their leadership. Several new Congressional Progressive Caucus members held their first press conference Monday. 'I hope that we are ushering in a new era,' said Rep.-elect Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass. Their majority lost, House Republicans will start the task of rebuilding. Retiring Speaker Paul Ryan will begin to transition out of power and next-in-line Kevin McCarthy of California is favored over conservative Rep. Jim Jordan, a leader of the Freedom Caucus, to win the job of incoming minority leader in leadership elections Wednesday. GOP Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana is expected keep his spot unchallenged. And new to leadership will be Rep. Liz Cheney, the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, in the No. 3 position of conference chair. 'We've got to change the way that we operate and really in some ways be more aggressive,' Cheney, running unopposed, told The Associated Press. Senators will also select their leaders, but few surprises are expected. On the Democratic side, Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York is set to return as leader, even though the party lost several seats in the election. Schumer suggested Democrats would use the lame duck session to fight to protect special counsel. 'People are really concerned about this,' Schumer told CNN. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has predicted a 'lively' lame duck session. He has said legislation to protect Mueller is 'unnecessary' because the investigation is 'not under threat.' McConnell is poised to again lead Republicans, but term limits are pushing GOP Whip John Cornyn of Texas out of the No. 2 spot, making way for South Dakota Sen. John Thune to move up. Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso and Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri will round out the team, and Cornyn will still have a seat at McConnell's table of counselors. McConnell is also trying to add a female senator to a lower leadership spot, seeking to address the optics of having an all-male leadership slate in a year that brought a record number of women to Congress. The biggest leadership race is Pelosi's bid to return as the first female House speaker, a contest she says she's '100 percent' confident she will win despite a public campaign by some incumbent and newly elected Democrats to oust her. Preliminary voting won't unfold for House Democrats until after Thanksgiving. Amid the leadership shuffle, lawmakers have several pieces of legislation they want to finish by year's end, including a farm policy bill and legislation overhauling Congress' handling of sexual harassment claims. The Senate will try to confirm more of Trump's judicial and administrative nominees, including a vote this week on Michelle Bowman to be a member of the Federal Reserve's board of governors. But first they appeared headed toward a showdown over Trump's wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Trump spent weeks ahead of the midterm election rallying fears over a migrant caravan heading toward the border and promised voters that Republicans would bring tougher border security. House Republicans have already approved $5 billion for Trump's wall, but in the Senate, where Republicans need Democratic support to prevent a filibuster, a bipartisan bill allocates $1.6 billion. McCarthy upped the stakes by introducing legislation for the full $25 billion the White House wants in border funds as he tries to shore up support from conservatives ahead of the GOP leadership election. It's unclear how hard Republicans will be willing to fight for the wall, given that dozens of House GOP lawmakers are serving their final days in Congress after retiring or losing their re-election races. Ryan had promised a 'big fight' over the border money and McConnell said a mini-shutdown may be necessary to help Trump 'get what he's looking for' on the wall. Rep. Nita Lowey of New York, who is set to chair the House Appropriations Committee, said Democrats 'have our boxing gloves on' to spar with Trump and other Republicans. The top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations panel, Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, on Monday told reporters Trump is the only person in Washington who seems to want to a shutdown. Firefighters battling California wildfires, police officers and other emergency responders all would be hurt by a shutdown, he said. If Republicans insist that 'it's the wall or nothing, then they are going to get nothing,' Leahy said. ___ Associated Press writers Matthew Daly, Mary Clare Jalonick, Alan Fram and Laurie Kellman in Washington contributed to this report. Follow on Twitter at https://twitter.com/lisamascaro and https://twitter.com/AP_Politics
  • Liz Cheney has had a quiet first term as congresswoman, but that's about to change. She's seeking a House Republican leadership post that's key to her party's strategy against next year's Democratic majority. If she succeeds, Cheney will be the only woman in House Republican leadership — and follow in the footsteps of her father, former Vice President Dick Cheney, who won the same post more than 30 years ago. She is seeking the position of GOP conference chair, which would put her at the forefront of the House GOP's communications strategy when Democrats take over the chamber in January. House Republicans are looking for a more forceful approach to communications. 'We've got to change the way that we operate and really in some ways be more aggressive, have more of a rapid response,' Cheney told The Associated Press in an interview. The Republican leadership elections are set for Wednesday. The conference chair is the third-ranking position and comes with several duties, including organizing regular weekly meetings and developing the GOP's message to voters. Cheney is running unopposed after the current chair of the conference, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington, declined to continue in the post. Cheney's father, former Vice President Dick Cheney, won the conference chair position more than 30 years ago after four terms as Wyoming's congressman. By landing the position after just one term, Liz Cheney would leave little doubt that she's a rising political star in her own right. Back home in deep-red Wyoming, most quit questioning Cheney's political chops a while ago. She won re-election last week with 64 percent, beating a little-known Democrat. It was the widest margin in Wyoming's congressional race since 2014, when Republican Rep. Cynthia Lummis beat a Democrat living in Arizona whose campaign consisted of YouTube puppet and stuffed animal shows. 'She's just been gathering strength as she goes on,' said one of Cheney's primary opponents this year, Rod Miller, a retired ranch manager from the southeast Wyoming high country. Since winning office by a wide margin in 2016, Cheney has served on the Armed Services and Natural Resources Committees. More remarkably for a freshman member of Congress, she landed a seat on the Rules Committee, which sets the terms for floor debate on legislation. 'That kind of is an indication that she has a constituency within the Republican conference — that she would be considered knowledgeable on issues, someone who is going to help advance the party's leadership agenda,' said University of Wyoming political science professor Jim King. The Republican conference chairmanship will be especially important now that Republicans look to rebrand themselves after losing the House majority, or at least improve their messaging to voters. Deregulation, such as rolling back parts of the Dodd-Frank banking reform law, and federal income tax cuts are important accomplishments that Republicans can sell to voters, Cheney said. 'I think now the American people will have a chance to compare what we accomplished and what the Democrats do now that they're in the majority,' Cheney said. Cheney would give a fresh face to the party in the No. 3 role. The top two jobs will likely by filled by Kevin McCarthy of California and Steve Scalise of Louisiana, who are already in leadership. Yet having the Cheney brand at the forefront of the GOP communications apparatus could set a mixed tone. Cheney's ascent will likely prove popular with GOP voters who recall fondly the George W. Bush-Dick Cheney years, especially those who favor a hawkish defense posture. And as a woman in leadership, she'll face questions about what Republicans acknowledge is a yawning gender gap as their side of the aisle is made up of mostly white men. After the midterm elections, the ranks of Republican women in the House declined. Less certain is whether Cheney's style will appeal to those voters in suburban districts, particularly women, who flipped Republican-held seats to Democrats this year. Republicans will need those voters if they hope to win back the House majority in 2020. Cheney has seen little notoriety lately compared with five years ago, when she launched an ill-fated campaign to oust Wyoming's popular Republican senior senator, Mike Enzi. Labeled a carpet-bagger for having moved to Wyoming from Virginia barely a year earlier, Cheney made things worse by publicly feuding with her openly gay sister about gay marriage. She bowed out eight months before the primary but didn't give up on politics. She continued touring Wyoming, forming — and in some cases mending — the relationships she needed to dominate a crowded U.S. House primary two years later. Her past experience as a Fox News commentator and State Department employee now give her valuable media and policy experience for the conference chairman job, Cheney said. 'It's an opportunity that's going to be focused on what it takes to get the majority back,' she said. ___ Mascaro reported from Washington, D.C. ___ Follow Mead Gruver at https://twitter.com/meadgruver
  • The president of Afghanistan told a U.S. audience Monday that his country is not losing the war to the Taliban and is not at risk of collapse amid escalating attacks by the militant group and an expansion of the territory it controls. President Ashraf Ghani said his administration is intent on seeking a negotiated peace with the Taliban, which have shown no interest in direct talks with a government they see as illegitimate. 'The Taliban are not in a winning position,' Ghani said by video to an audience at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University in Washington as a suicide bombing in Kabul and a deadly militant assault on districts in eastern Afghanistan suggested government control was slipping further. Ghani said that more than 28,000 Afghan forces have been killed in the past four years but that the military will be able to retake territory as long as it has an air force and commando troops. He said most of the losses incurred by its security forces were in defending static positions, so the government was rethinking how it deploys its forces. Speaking on Veterans Day, the Afghan leader paid tribute to American sacrifices in Afghanistan, including the death of Brent Taylor, a Utah mayor serving as a major in the state's Army National Guard who was training Afghan commandos. Taylor, 39, was fatally shot a week ago by one of his Afghan trainees. But Ghani also offered a rare public accounting of the scale of the Afghan losses. He described how their casualties have risen sharply while U.S.-led coalition casualties have declined after Afghan forces assumed responsibility for combat operations in the country. He said that since 2015, 58 American forces have died in Afghanistan. 'In the same period, 28,529 of our security forces have lost their lives and become martyrs,' he said. U.S. military officials have previously indicated that Afghan casualties have been increasing, but they have avoided giving hard figures, apparently because of political sensitivities. In its most recent report to Congress, in October, the special inspector general for Afghanistan said Afghan casualty numbers had been reported only in classified form since September 2017 because the U.S. military command in Kabul said it had stopped making them public at the request of the Afghan government. However, the report said that the average number of casualties between May and October this year was the greatest it has ever been during similar periods. On Oct. 30, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Afghan forces had more than 1,000 dead and wounded during August and September alone, 'and they stayed in the field fighting.' The Trump administration has marginally increased U.S. troop numbers to train Afghan forces and intensify military pressure on the Taliban in hopes of forcing the insurgents to negotiate an end to the 17-year conflict. Successes on the battlefield have been elusive. The inspector general report said the number of districts under Afghan government control and influence has declined and stands at just 55 percent — down 16 percentage points in the past three years. U.S. special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad is on his second tour of the region in a month, seeking to kick-start a peace process. The diplomatic veteran is making stops in Pakistan, Afghanistan, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, where the Taliban maintain a political office. The insurgents say they met Khalilzad in Qatar last month. The Taliban have so far refused direct negotiations with Kabul, which they view as a U.S. puppet. On the sensitive topic of the U.S. role in talks, Ghani said there was 'total agreement' between the U.S. and Afghan governments on moving the peace process forward. 'U.S. engagement is to ensure that talks with the Taliban result not in negotiations with Taliban but with talks, direct talks, between the Afghan government and the Taliban,' he said. He insisted that the Afghan government was seeking a negotiated peace but would not do so 'from a position of weakness.' In a possible sign of America's efforts, Pakistan released two Taliban officials on Monday, members of the militant group said. Abdul Samad Sani, a U.S.-designated terrorist who served as the Afghan Central Bank governor during the militants' rule in the late 1990s, and a lower-ranking commander named Salahuddin, were freed, according to two Taliban officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief media. Ghani, however, said Pakistan has yet to demonstrate a 'sense of urgency' in seeking an end to the Afghan conflict and a change in its policies. Kabul has long protested that Afghan Taliban leaders and fighters enjoy sanctuary inside Pakistan, which Islamabad denies. ___ Associated Press writer Robert Burns contributed to this report.
  • A recently defeated Republican congressman is blaming the Democratic House takeover on the late Republican Sen. John McCain's vote against repealing the Affordable Care Act. First-term Minnesota Rep. Jason Lewis argued in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece first published Sunday that McCain's vote against repealing the federal health care law last year 'killed the reform effort.' Lewis said the vote also unleashed a wave of Democratic attack ads against Republicans across the country on health care issues. McCain, a longtime Arizona senator, was among three Republicans to vote against the repeal legislation in the Senate. Democrats took back control of the House after hammering Republicans on pre-existing conditions, citing the GOP's repeal efforts and an ongoing lawsuit from 20-plus Republican attorneys general to repeal former President Barack Obama's health care law. Lewis was among the Republicans unseated last week, losing his suburban Minneapolis-area seat to Democratic challenger Angie Craig. Lewis argued that McCain's vote was motivated by distaste for President Donald Trump and not by policy concerns. Lewis's column first appeared online on Veteran's Day. McCain — a decorated war hero, former prisoner of war and one-time Republican presidential nominee — died earlier this year of brain cancer. McCain's daughter, Meghan McCain, called Lewis's remarks 'abhorrent' on Twitter. Lewis's campaign manager did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Lewis is no stranger to controversy. His past career as a conservative talk show radio host was a campaign issue in his 2016 election and again during his failed 2018 bid for a second term, including years-old remarks in which he wondered aloud why he couldn't call a woman 'a slut' and said it's not the federal government's place to ban slavery.
  • U.S. analysts said Monday they have located 13 secret North Korean missile development sites, underscoring the challenge that the Trump administration faces in trying to reach its promised broad arms control agreement with Pyongyang. The administration has said it is hopeful about eventually reaching an agreement with North Korea. President Donald Trump declared after his historic summit in June that with President Kim Jong Un there was 'no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea.' But a report based on satellite imagery shows the complexity posed by an extensive network of weapons facilities that the U.S. wants to neutralize. A report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies has identified 13 secret facilities used to produce missiles and related technology. Although the sites are not launch facilities and in some cases are rudimentary, the authors of the report say they are hidden and illustrate the scope of the North's weapons program and the country's determination to conceal its military might. 'The dispersed deployment of these bases and distinctive tactics employed by ballistic missile units are combined with decades of extensive camouflage, concealment and deception practices to maximize the survival of its missile units from pre-emptive strikes and during wartime operations,' they said. The authors say the sites, which can be used for all classes of ballistic missile, therefore should be declared by North Korea and inspected in any credible, verifiable deal that addresses Pyongyang's most significant threats to the United States and its allies. North Korea analysts not involved in the report said the findings were not surprising given Pyongyang's past activities but were still cause for concern. They noted that Kim had not agreed to halt either nuclear weapons or missile development in negotiations with Trump or Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. 'The fact that North Korea has continued to build nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles in the midst of high-level diplomacy with China, South Korea and the U.S. should not come as a surprise,' said Abraham Denmark, the Asia program director at The Wilson Center. 'Despite all the summitry, North Korea is just as dangerous today as it was a year ago.' 'Improving relations with Pyongyang may be a laudable goal, but any claim that the North Korean nuclear and missile threats have been solved is either wishful thinking or purposefully deceptive,' he said. 'Interesting but unsurprising report,' said Kelsey Davenport, director for nonproliferation policy at the Arms Control Association. 'Kim Jong Un only committed voluntarily to halt long-range missile tests.' The report was released less than a week after North Korea abruptly called off a new round of negotiations with Pompeo that had been set for Thursday in New York. The cancellation, which the U.S. ascribed to scheduling issues, followed threats from North Korean officials to resume nuclear and missile testing unless U.S. sanctions are lifted. The administration has said repeatedly that sanctions will not be lifted until a denuclearization agreement is fully implemented.
  • The Latest on the Florida election recount of 2018 (all times local): 6:30 p.m. Two voter rights groups are suing to prevent Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who is running for U.S. Senate, from having any role in the general election recount. Common Cause Florida and the League of Women Voters of Florida filed the federal lawsuit Monday in Tallahassee. The groups are seeking a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction to remove Scott from any role in the recount of the 2018 Florida general election. The groups previously sent Scott a letter urging him to recognize the conflict of interest in overseeing the recount of his own U.S. Senate race. The governor's office didn't immediately respond when asked if Scott would recuse himself from the certification but said Scott has previously certified elections when he's been on the ballot. Scott, a Republican, holds a slight lead over Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson. The margin was close enough to trigger an automatic recount under Florida law. ___ 4:30 p.m. Election officials in a Florida county battered by Hurricane Michael last month allowed about 150 displaced voters to cast ballots by email, even though it's not allowed under state law. The Miami Herald reports that Bay County Supervisor of Elections Mark Andersen defended that decision Monday. Andersen told the newspaper that parts of the county remained shut off by law enforcement, preventing people from reaching their homes. The displaced voters were allowed to scan and email their ballots to the elections office. Andersen said all the ballots were verified by signature. Hurricane Michael hit the Florida Panhandle Oct. 10 as a devastating Category 4 storm. On Oct. 18, Gov. Rick Scott issued an executive order extending early voting and designating more voting locations in the eight counties, including Bay. A statement that accompanied the order specifically prohibited votes being returned by email or fax. ___ 2:45 p.m. Elections officials say boxes labeled with the words 'provisional ballots' that have shown up around Broward County contain offices supplies used on Election Day and are not used to collect actual filled-out ballots. Broward supervisor of elections attorney Eugene Pettis says the boxes contain office supplies and a red envelope for polling places to use for any provisional ballots. Provisional ballots are cast when someone votes without identification or their eligibility cannot immediately be verified by elections officials. Pettis says provisional ballots are sealed inside the envelope and sent separately to the supervisor of elections' office. The box is then loaded with office supplies and dispatched to the same office but does not contain any ballots. One such box found at an elementary school was opened for reporters. It contained only the office supplies. Additional boxes were found late Sunday in the back of a returned rental car at the Fort Lauderdale airport. Broward Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Veda Coleman-Wright says deputies transported them back to the proper office. ___ 2 p.m. Lawyers for the Republican and Democratic parties and their candidates have agreed to add three more sheriff's deputies to monitor the recount of the Florida governor and Senate races at the Broward County election supervisor's office. Circuit Chief Judge Jack Tuter earlier Monday suggested that the sides agree on a suggestion of putting the additional law enforcement officers at the office of Brenda Snipes, where the county's votes are being counted. He said this would be a measure that could help reassure citizens that the integrity of the Florida recount is being protected. The judge said he's seen no evidence of wrongdoing in the vote counting in Broward County and urged lawyers on all sides to 'ramp down the rhetoric.' Lawyers for Gov. Rick Scott's Senate campaign were seeking security for the ballots and the machines. Unofficial election results show Scott leading incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson by just 0.14 percentage points. ___ 1 p.m. A spokesman for Florida Gov. Rick Scott's Senate campaign says the lawyer for incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson 'seems to be content filing frivolous and laughable lawsuits.' The Nelson campaign sued the Florida Department of State on Monday in an effort to count mail-in ballots that were postmarked before Election Day but not delivered before the polls closed Tuesday. Attorney Marc Elias says voters should not be disenfranchised because of mail delivery delays that weren't their fault. Unofficial election results show Scott leading Nelson by 0.14 percentage points as a mandatory statewide recount continues. Scott campaign spokesman Chris Hartline calls the lawsuit 'nothing short of a legal white flag of surrender.' Also Monday, a South Florida judge presiding over an emergency hearing brought by the Scott campaign regarding ballot security during the recount urged lawyers on both sides to 'ramp down the rhetoric.' ___ Noon A Florida judge said he's seen no evidence of wrongdoing in the vote-counting in Broward County and urged all sides to 'ramp down the rhetoric.' Circuit Chief Judge Jack Tuter said during emergency hearing Monday that there is a need to reassure citizens that the integrity of the Florida recount is being protected. To that point, he urged lawyers for Rick Scott and others representing the Republican and Democratic parties and their candidates as well as the Broward County elections office to agree on some minor additions in security, including the addition of three more law enforcement officers to keep an eye on things. And the judge says that if anyone any evidence of voter fraud or irregularities, they should report it to law enforcement. ___ 11:30 a.m. Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson is suing the Florida Department of State in an effort to count vote-by-mail ballots that were postmarked before Election Day but not delivered before polls closed. Nelson's attorney, Marc Elias, filed the lawsuit Monday, saying voters should not be disenfranchised because of mail delivery delays that aren't their fault. Unofficial election results show Nelson trailing Republican Gov. Rick Scott by 0.14 percentage points. As an example, he cited the Miami-Dade County postal facility that was evacuated when because explosive devices sent to prominent Democrats were processed there. 'Florida's 7 p.m. Election Day receipt deadline for vote by mail ballots burdens the right to vote of eligible voters,' the suit said. Elias wants all ballots postmarked before Nov. 6 to be counted if they are received within 10 days of the election. ___ 10 a.m. Gov. Rick Scott wants law enforcement to impound Broward County's voting machines and ballots when they're not being used during the Florida recount. Lawyers for Scott's Senate campaign were asking Circuit Chief Judge Jack Tuter on Monday to give custody of all voting machines and ballots to the Broward Sheriff's Office and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement whenever they're not being used. The recount is already secured by police outside and deputies inside, with both parties and campaigns monitoring the entire process. Once calibration tests are completed on the ballot scanning machines, vote-counting will continue around the clock. So it's unclear when any machines or ballots would be 'not in use.' Scott says Elections Supervisor Brenda Snipes has a history of violating state law during vote-counting. The recount was triggered because Scott led Democratic incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson by just 0.14 percentage points. ___ 12:15 a.m. Mishaps, protests and litigation are overshadowing the vote recount in Florida's pivotal races for governor and U.S. Senate, recalling the 2000 presidential fiasco in the premier political battleground state. All 67 counties face a Thursday deadline to complete recounts. Half began last weekend amid early drama focused on Broward and Palm Beach counties, home to large concentrations of Democratic voters. The recount was ordered Saturday after unofficial results showed Republican former U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis leading Democratic Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum by 0.41 percentage points for governor. Scott's lead over Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson was 0.14 percentage points for the Senate. The recount is unprecedented even in a state notorious for settling elections by razor-thin margins.
  • The Latest on the Georgia governor's race (all times local): 6:20 p.m. Georgia's secretary of state has ordered county election officials to count absentee ballots even if voters have not included their year of birth if there is enough other information to verify their identity. Secretary of State Robyn Crittenden issued the guidance in a bulletin sent to county election officials Monday. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that the State Election Board had voted Sunday to issue guidance on how counties should process absentee ballots. When casting absentee ballots, voters have to sign an oath and have to write their address and year of birth on the envelope. The bulletin says election officials can accept a ballot without the year of birth if the election official can verify the voter's identity with the signature and other required information. Tuesday is the deadline for counties to certify election results that include an unsettled governor's race. ___ 3:45 p.m. Two Democratic U.S. senators are asking the Justice Department to investigate 'potential voting rights abuses' in Georgia following the state's close gubernatorial election. Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Brian Schatz of Hawaii released a letter Monday to Assistant Attorney General Dreiband. The senators cite concerns with Georgia's 'exact match' law requiring voters' information to match precisely how they appear on other government databases. They also cite aggressive efforts to delete inactive voters from the rolls and the elimination of polling places. Booker and Schatz's letter requests a 'thorough investigation' to determine if Georgia's election laws and policies violate the Voting Rights Act. The Supreme Court in 2013 rolled back a provision of that law requiring Georgia and other states to get federal approval before changing voting laws. ___ 9:30 a.m. A spokesman for Republican Brian Kemp says a concession in the Georgia governor's race by Democrat Stacey Abrams is 'long overdue.' The statement Monday comes in response to a federal lawsuit filed Sunday by Abrams' campaign asking a judge to delay certification of Georgia's vote by one day to be sure officials count any votes that were wrongly rejected. Unofficial returns show Kemp with about 50.3 percent of the vote. Abrams hopes to pick up enough provisional votes and other uncounted ballots to push Kemp's margin below the 50 percent threshold he needs to avoid a runoff. Kemp campaign spokesman Ryan Mahoney said in a statement Monday that Abrams had 'moved from desperation to delusion.' Mahoney said: 'Stacey Abrams lost and her concession is long overdue.' ___ 12:30 a.m. Republican Brian Kemp hasn't officially won Georgia's governor's race. But he's proceeding as a victorious candidate and promising to be a governor for all Georgians. That might not be so easy. If his narrow lead holds over Democrat Stacey Abrams and he ultimately gains the governor's mansion, Kemp will face lingering questions about his role in an election he oversaw as secretary of state. And his victory would be fueled by a stark urban-rural divide and his embrace of President Donald Trump's rhetoric. Abrams, seeking election as the first African-American woman governor of a U.S. state, filed a federal lawsuit Sunday asking a judge to delay the vote certification deadline and make officials count any votes wrongly rejected. Meanwhile, Kemp is trying to maintain GOP dominance in a diversifying state.
  • A retired Army paratrooper and current West Virginia lawmaker seeking to restore the Democratic Party's blue-collar roots chose Veterans Day to formalize his campaign for the presidency in 2020. Richard Ojeda made the announcement Monday at the Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. Ojeda filed his campaign committee paperwork with the Federal Election Commission on Sunday. 'We have not had people that have really fought for the working-class citizens in this country,' Ojeda said. The 24-year veteran known for his tattoos and populist message lost a U.S. House race to a Republican this month. Ojeda, whose name is pronounced oh-JED-ah and is of Mexican descent, was elected to the West Virginia senate in 2016 and became a champion of teachers during their fight for better pay and benefits. He sponsored successful legislation to make medical marijuana legal, and has stressed health care and economic issues in a district reeling from lost coal jobs. He said Republicans and Democrats alike, including President Donald Trump, have focused more on 'infighting, political wars.' Ojeda is a relative newcomer to politics. He lost a 2014 primary race for the U.S. House before winning his senate seat in 2016. After retiring from a 24-year military career, he co-founded a nonprofit group that gave shoe vouchers to schoolchildren and provided meals to the poor and elderly, among other things. He said some kids in the coal region had it worse than the ones he saw in Iraq and Afghanistan. Ojeda said politicians on the federal level should be required to donate everything they make above $1 million to charity. Ojeda took the struggles of state teachers to heart because he spent four years as a high school ROTC instructor. He spoke to groups of teachers several times and made a passionate Senate speech in January in favor of them. The next month they embarked on a nine-day strike and won a 5 percent pay increase.

News

  • The wedding band has been in his family for more than a hundred years. So, when he noticed it was no longer on his finger at Saturday's Georgia football game, Stuart Howell said his heart dropped.
  • Congratulations to Atlanta Braves superstar Ronald Acuña, Jr. on winning the National League Rookie of the Year Award! Acuña finished 2018 with 26 home runs, a .293 batting average and 64 runs batted in. Ronnie ROY. Your 2018 NL Rookie of the Year: @ronaldacunajr24. pic.twitter.com/7b6UX7EIR9 — MLB (@MLB) November 12, 2018 The 20-year-old beat out Washington Nationals outfielder Juan Soto and Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Walker Buehler. Acuña is the first Braves player to win the NL Rookie of the Year Award award since Craig Kimbrel in 2011. Before that, Rafael Furcal won in 2000. 
  • A woman who owns land near where a deadly wildfire started in Northern California said Monday that Pacific Gas & Electric Co. sought access to her property just before the blaze started because the utility's power lines were causing sparks. It's still not clear what caused the massive fire that started Thursday, killing at least 29 people and destroying the Sierra Nevada foothill town of Paradise. PG&E has said it experienced a problem on an electrical transmission line near the site of the massive fire, minutes before the blaze broke out. The fire started on 64 acres of land in Pulga, California, owned by Betsy Ann Cowley. Cowley told The Associated Press she received an email from the utility on Wednesday telling her that crews needed to come to her property to work on the high-power lines because 'they were having problems with sparks.' PG&E declined to discuss the email when contacted by AP. Two days before the fire started, PG&E told customers in nine counties, including Butte County, that it might shut off their power Nov. 8 because of extreme fire danger. The fire started about 6:30 a.m. that morning. Later that day, PG&E said it had decided against a power cut because weather conditions did not warrant one.
  • The deadly wildfires whipping through California have killed more than 30 people and destroyed thousands of homes and businesses. Officials are calling the fires the worst in state history. >> Read more trending news  Celebrities, such as Miley Cyrus, Martin Sheen, Gerard Butler and others, are not immune to the flames and have lost homes and property alongside average citizens.  One couple in particular, well-known car enthusiasts and collectors Gary and Diane Cerveny, reportedly lost an irreplaceable collection of classic and rare vehicles worth millions, according to Autoweek. Hotrod.com described the couple as “the best kind of car collectors” and called their collection “eclectic.”  There was a Ferrari Dino, a ’65 Pontiac GTO gasser, a ’66 Dodge Dart, a Marty Robbins NASCAR, a ’66 Dodge Charger, a ’71 Plymouth Barracuda, a ’97 Dodge Viper, a Studebaker kart hauler and perhaps the rarest car in the collection, the one-of-a-kind 1948 Norman Timbs Special. >> Related: Photos: California wildfires kill dozens, destroy entire town The dramatic streamliner was created in the 1940s by mechanical engineer Norman Timbs, according to Conceptcarz.com. The elegant, swooping custom car took over three years to build, then eventually disappeared. It was rediscovered in the desert in 2002 and restored. >> Related: Actor Martin Sheen flees Malibu wildfire; says little chance home survived The Cervenys kept their collection at a shop in Malibu, which has been ravaged by the wildfires.  
  • Georgia Secretary of State Robyn Crittenden told county election officials Monday to count absentee ballots even if they lack a voter’s date of birth, as long as the voter’s identity can be verified. Crittenden issued the instructions for county election officials as they face a Tuesday deadline to certify the results of the Nov. 6 election. [READ: Abrams sues for more time; Kemp's campaign says math is clear] Republican Brian Kemp holds the lead over Democrat Stacey Abrams in the race to become Georgia’s governor. Abrams would need to gain more than 20,000 votes to force the race into a runoff. Crittenden’s instructions could affect vote counting in Gwinnett County, where election officials rejected 1,587 mailed absentee ballots. Gwinnett has the largest number of potential uncounted absentee ballots for Abrams in the state. Many of Gwinnett’s rejections were because absentee ballots contained incorrect birthdate information or insufficient information on the return envelope. [READ: Bourdeaux files motion to delay election certification in 7th District race] Crittenden sent the letter after the State Election Board voted unanimously Sunday night to issue guidance for how local election officials should proceed with their counts. Her letter is meant to reinforce state laws and provide clarification to county election officials, according to the Secretary of State’s office. Rules about vote counting haven’t changed. “What is required is the signature of the voter and any additional information needed for the county election official to verify the identity of the voter,” Crittenden wrote. “Therefore, an election official does not violate [state law] when they accept an absentee ballot despite the omission of a day and month of birth ... if the election official can verify the identity of the voter.” [RUNOFF: Everything you need to know about Secretary of State race] Gwinnett County accounted for 31 percent of all Georgia’s rejected absentee ballots, often because of discrepancies with birth dates, addresses, signatures and insufficient information. Gwinnett Commission Chairwoman Charlotte Nash said she wasn’t surprised at the scrutiny Gwinnett has received because of “the role that both parties saw it playing in their success.” She defended the way the elections office has conducted its business. [READ: Kemp campaign calls Abrams' refusal to concede 'a disgrace to democracy'] “They always focus a lot on figuring out how to deal with the issues that arise,” Nash said last week, “and I have every expectation that they will do that this time around too.”  Gwinnett Elections Board Chairman Stephen Day, a Democrat, has also defended county staff. “There are definitely different political points of view [on the elections board], but we do agree that our staff has acted in the way that the law stated they should act,” Day said following Friday’s closed-door elections board meeting. “We do understand that there are different interpretations of that.”