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New Zimmerman Motions: Defense Wants Anonymous Jury; State Wants to Question Shellie

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George Zimmerman

[Orlando Sentinel]

The day before the deadline for pre-trial motions in the George Zimmerman case, there was a flurry of filings Thursday.

George Zimmerman’s attorneys filed paperwork asking his judge to allow trial jurors to visit the scene of Trayvon Martin‘s shooting, and also to sequester his jury and keep their identities of a secret.

Meanwhile, prosecutors filed a motion asking Circuit Judge Debra Nelson to order Zimmerman’s wife, Shellie, to answer questions in a pre-trial deposition.

The defense argues visiting the shooting scene would allow jurors to better understand the vantage point of individual eye- and ear-witnesses.

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Gov. Desantis: ‘It’s The Internet’

FLORDIA COURIER — The El Paso and Dayton shootings could help fuel debate in Tallahassee about gun-control issues and ideas for preventing mass violence, starting with a Florida Senate review of factors such as White supremacist terrorism. 

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Fans carry a sign that reads, “Pray for El Paso & Dayton” during a march before a pro soccer match in Orlando on Tuesday.

By Wire and Staff Reports

TALLAHASSEE – The El Paso and Dayton shootings could help fuel debate in Tallahassee about gun-control issues and ideas for preventing mass violence, starting with a Florida Senate review of factors such as White supremacist terrorism.

The shootings come after years of debate in Florida about gun-control issues, including whether to ban assault weapons. The Republican-dominated Legislature has rejected proposals by Democrats to ban the semiautomatic weapons, though a political committee, Ban Assault Weapons NOW, is trying to get a proposed ban on the November 2020 ballot.

“This weekend, we saw yet two more mass shootings in our country take the lives of 31 fellow Americans, with both shooters armed with military-grade assault weapons,” Gail Schwartz, chairwoman of Ban Assault Weapons NOW, said in a prepared statement.

“These events highlight the harsh reality: These killings will continue to happen, here in Florida and across the country, until we take action and do what our elected leaders have failed to do. We must ban these weapons of war.”

Legislative review

Senate President Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, on Monday directed Senate Infrastructure and Security Chairman Tom Lee, R-Thonotosassa, to lead efforts to determine if any further action is needed after laws were enacted in the wake of the Feb. 14, 2018 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

In the aftermath, the Legislature approved a wide-ranging measure that required schools to have safety officers, bolstered mental-health services and upgraded protections through school “hardening” projects.

The law also raised the minimum age from 18 to 21 and required a three-day waiting period for purchasing rifles and other long guns. The increase in the minimum age to purchase long guns drew a still-pending legal challenge from the National Rifle Association.

In May, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed legislation (SB 7030) that built on the 2018 bill. Among other things, it expanded the controversial school “guardian” program to allow armed classroom teachers, put $75 million into school mental-health services and strengthened reporting requirements for potentially threatening incidents that happen on school premises.

State ‘red flag’

Part of the 2018 law established what is known as the “red flag” law, which allows law enforcement agencies to seize firearms from people they believe may pose a threat to themselves or others.

“With committee meetings resuming just one month from now, our focus should be on steps the Senate can take to review and better understand the various factors involved in mass shootings, in addition to, and also including, school shootings,” Galvano wrote in a memo to senators.

“This includes White nationalism, which appears to be a factor not only with regard to these recent mass shootings, but also with other acts of violence we have seen across the country in recent years.”

‘Focus on solutions’

DeSantis pointed to “recesses of the Internet” where people can share “vile” views and a need to look at White nationalism – along with other causes – when asked Wednesday about tackling mass violence.

But he also said, after a Purple Heart dedication ceremony at Tallahassee National Cemetery, that it’s not productive to any gun-safety dialogue to focus on partisan politics, as Democrats continued to criticize President Donald Trump after two mass shootings over the weekend.

“I have no interest in being part of people’s political narratives. I understand the narratives. I’ve seen it for years and years,” said DeSantis, an ally of the president. “I’m trying to focus on solutions, and that’s why we’ve been forward-looking on our threat assessment strategy.”

‘Never blamed Bernie’

DeSantis said delving into every word said by a politician as a way to find fault for a mass shooting only makes it harder to have discussions about preventive measures.

While Democrats have focused on Trump’s rhetoric, DeSantis, a former congressman, brought up a 2017 incident in which an activist who had worked on Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders’ 2016 campaign shot four people, including Louisiana Congressman Steve Scalise, during a GOP congressional baseball team practice.

“Absent of someone saying, ‘Hey, go do this,’ to try to cherry pick someone saying one thing and saying this led to that, I don’t think that’s productive,” DeSantis said. “That’s why I never blamed Bernie for (the) shooting (at) our baseball (practice), because as much as I disagree with what he (Sanders) says, what that individual did was not justifiable, and there was nothing that was said that would justify you doing that.”

DeSantis said that while it may still be too early to determine the impact of the mental-health aspects of the 2018 law – about 1,600 orders have been issued – he supports a proactive approach by law enforcement.

Various threats

“You have the guy in El Paso, which obviously that was like an ethno-nationalist motivation. Obviously, the Pulse nightclub (mass shooting in Orlando in 2017) was militant Islam. And then you have some people who are just crazy, there’s not necessarily a clear motivation,” DeSantis said.

“I think you have to be familiar with all of those types of threats and have the warning signs identified and then do something about it.”

Another area he said needs to be addressed, even though the government is limited in what it can do, is the Internet.

“You have these recesses of the Internet where people who may not have a lot of common compatriots where they live, now they can all congregate in this community online and spread a lot of the vile stuff,” DeSantis said.

House may not follow

The Florida House isn’t expected to engage in a similar review before the January start of the 2020 session. House Speaker Jose Oliva, R-Miami Lakes, released a statement in which he said “Racism, including White nationalism, is a vile, disgusting, un-American ideology.”

“We cannot lose sight, however, that those who subscribe to those beliefs are few and their ideas so rejected that their words and actions unify all Americans -– left and right, Black, White or Brown – in abhorrence and condemnation,” Oliva said.

Oliva noted that as a Hispanic American, he’s seen more generosity and inclusiveness than discrimination and hatred.

“What we know is; evil exists, all of us play part in either expanding hatred or loving our neighbor, and despite what we see on the news, America is a great place, filled with kind people, always willing to help a neighbor in need,” Oliva said. “We must ask ourselves more than ‘what to do’ we must figure out, as leaders and as a society, ‘who we are.’ ”

‘Deranged’ and ‘evil’

Attorney General Ashley Moody on Monday pointed to a need to prioritize public safety. Moody said during a news conference in Jacksonville that everyone should be “horrified, shocked and saddened” by the recent attacks and more needs to be done to detect “those that are mentally deranged, that would seek to do us harm.”

Senate Appropriations Chairman Rob Bradley said on Twitter that “the ideology of White supremacy is evil.”

“It is the antithesis of what our country stands for and it offends God,” Bradley, R-Fleming Island, said. “It must be confronted aggressively so that it cannot metastasize further.”

‘Republicans won’t act’

Sen. Gary Farmer, D-Fort Lauderdale, urged Floridians to back the 2020 ballot proposal to ban assault weapons. Backers of the proposed constitutional amendment still need to submit hundreds of thousands of petition signatures and get a key approval from the Florida Supreme Court before the issue could go to voters.

“Republicans in FL won’t act on our epidemic of gun violence,” Farmer tweeted.

The details

The proposed constitutional amendment seeks to ban “possession of assault weapons, defined as semiautomatic rifles and shotguns capable of holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition at once, either in fixed or detachable magazine, or any other ammunition-feeding device.”

The measure, which would not prohibit handguns, includes an exemption for military and law-enforcement personnel “in their official duties.”

The proposal would allow people who already own assault weapons at the time the constitutional amendment goes into effect to keep them, if they register the guns with state law enforcement.

Moody is asking the Supreme Court to block the proposal from going on the ballot and reiterated Monday that she thinks the proposal’s wording is “misleading,” contending the proposal would ban possession of “about virtually every self-loading long gun.”


Ana Ceballos and Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida contributed to this report.

This article originally appeared in the Florida Courier.

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Committee Chairs Request Information from Consumer Bureau on Efforts to Protect Student Loan Borrowers

NNPA NEWSWIRE — Former Student Loan Ombudsman Seth Frotman asserted in his August 2018 resignation letter that CFPB leadership “has abandoned the very consumers it is tasked by Congress with protecting.” The position of Student Loan Ombudsman has been vacant since Frotman resigned in August 2018.

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Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), Chairwoman of the House Financial Services Committee
Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), is the Chairwoman of the House Committee of Financial Services

Chairs Also Request Documents from Education Department, Loan Servicers

WASHINGTON – Today, Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA), and Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-MD), sent a letter to Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Kathleen Kraninger requesting information and records concerning the CFPB’s efforts to protect consumers from unlawful student loan servicing practices.

In the letter, the Chairs raise concerns that “…the Consumer Bureau has taken actions that weaken its ability to fulfill its mission to protect student loan borrowers,” and that the agency is “…providing potentially harmful and conflicting advice to student loan borrowers.”  The Chairs request records from the Consumer Bureau by no later than September 9, 2019.

Former Student Loan Ombudsman Seth Frotman asserted in his August 2018 resignation letter that CFPB leadership “has abandoned the very consumers it is tasked by Congress with protecting.” The position of Student Loan Ombudsman has been vacant since Frotman resigned in August 2018.

The Chairs also sent a letter to Betsy DeVos expressing deep concern over the Education Department’s failure to protect students and families from student loan companies. The letter addresses recent reports that the Department is shielding student loan servicing companies from state law enforcement and undermining the CFPB’s oversight of these companies. In March 2019, an independent watchdog found that the Department failed to establish policies to properly conduct oversight of student loan servicing companies.

“As Chairs of Committees with oversight responsibilities over the student loan industry, we are very concerned by reports that under your leadership, the Department of Education has failed to adequately oversee student loan servicers,” the Chairs wrote. “Reports indicate that improper practices by these servicers—including inaccurate determination of monthly payments, forbearance steering, and other practices—directly impact millions of Americans and have ripple effects on their families, communities, and the economy as a whole.”

In addition, the Chairs sent letters today to federally contracted loan servicers seeking information about their operations, including any strategies or policies that push students into more expensive repayment options.

The full text of the letter to the CFPB is available here.

The full text of the letter to the Education Department is available here.

The full text of the letter to Navient is available here.

The full text of the letter to Nelnet is available here.

The full text of the letter to Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency is available here.

Congresswoman Maxine Waters

Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), Ranking Member of the House Committee on Financial Services
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Ohio State Sen. Cecil Thomas: Tracie Hunter’s Conviction is Unlawful

NNPA NEWSWIRE — “No one is above the law, including judges and prosecutors,” Thomas said. However, in an Aug. 13 letter to Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost and Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, Thomas said Hunter’s prosecution and subsequent conviction violated the law.

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“The judge refused a motion for a retrial after he refused to poll the jury, in clear violation of the law and at the request of my attorney,” Tracie Hunter told NNPA Newswire during the annual National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) annual convention in Cincinnati.
“The judge refused a motion for a retrial after he refused to poll the jury, in clear violation of the law and at the request of my attorney,” Tracie Hunter told NNPA Newswire during the annual National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) annual convention in Cincinnati.

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

Former Judge Tracie Hunter, who became Hamilton County Ohio’s first black juvenile court judge, is receiving support from Ohio State Senator Cecil Thomas, who argues that her conviction should be overturned.

Thomas said Hunter didn’t receive a fair trial and that she appears to have been the victim of corruption.

After being convicted of providing confidential documents to her brother in an attempt to help save his job as a corrections officer and exhausting her appeals, Hunter was literally dragged off to jail last month.

“No one is above the law, including judges and prosecutors,” said Thomas. However, in an Aug. 13 letter to Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost and Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, Thomas said Hunter’s prosecution and subsequent conviction violated the law.

On Sept. 17, 2013, Prosecutor Joe Deters filed a motion requesting special prosecutors for the case against Hunter.

On that same day, Judge Beth Myers filed an entry with the Hamilton County Clerk of Courts appointing special prosecutors, to fully investigate Hunter.

“By filing the motion without due diligence, Judge Myers subsequently appointed Prosecutor Joe Deters’ lawyers and friends who have represented [Deters] in personal litigation,” said Thomas.

One of the attorneys is a partner in the law firm that represented Deters in his divorce, the senator noted, adding, “There are numerous examples that will show just how close these attorneys are to Deters.”

When publicly questioned regarding the appointments, Myers said she “dealt with things as they were presented to me. I will continue to do that,” according to Thomas.

Deters has maintained that he didn’t recommend the appointments and that they were done strictly by the Common Pleas Court. However, Thomas said the appointed lawyers have twice referenced Deters’ role in the appointments.

“Joe Deters requested a special prosecutor because he had a conflict. As such, by law, his only participation is to make the request and provide reasoning,” Thomas said.

“Judge Myers’ role is to decide whether to honor the request and if so, to appoint with the assurance that there are no conflicts,” he said.

“It appears neither Deters nor Myers followed the law to assure Judge Hunter received a fair trial, free of any biases and [Myers] appears to have played a role in unlawfully securing a public contract,” Thomas said.

By appointing Deters’ lawyers, any reasonable person can conclude there are inherent conflicts, Thomas continued.

“First, the mere personal relationship speaks for itself. Second, by honoring his recommendation to hire his personal lawyers, in essence, [Myers] played a role in using her public office to secure a public contract of approximately $700,000 for the personal lawyers of another public official,” Thomas said.

A spokeswoman for the Hamilton County Prosecutor’s Office said they hadn’t seen the complaint.

Yost’s office declined to comment.

As Thomas submitted his letter, attorneys for Hunter formally asked that she be released.

The judge who carried out her sentence is reportedly waiting for the special prosecutor in the case to respond before deciding.

Hunter, who’s also a church pastor in Cincinnati, has had the support of so many including The Coalition for a Just Hamilton County which is composed of members from the Interdenominational Ministry Alliance; the Cincinnati Chapter of the NAACP; the local chapter of Al Sharpton’s National Action Network; the Black United Front; the Southern Christian Leadership Council; the Nation of Islam and others.

“They’ve tried to stop me from telling my truth and all I have is my truth,” she told NNPA Newswire in June.

She said she had mostly refrained from giving interviews because the local media has only used sound bites to try and embarrass her.

“I’ve lost hope in the justice system which is why I became a judge in the first place,” Hunter said. “I’ve not lost faith in God even though they’ve tried to drive me out of this city.”

Stacy M. Brown

A Little About Me: I'm the co-author of Blind Faith: The Miraculous Journey of Lula Hardaway and her son, Stevie Wonder (Simon & Schuster) and Michael Jackson: The Man Behind The Mask, An Insider's Account of the King of Pop (Select Books Publishing, Inc.)

My work can often be found in the Washington Informer, Baltimore Times, Philadelphia Tribune, Pocono Record, the New York Post, and Black Press USA.
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COMMENTARY: What goes up must come down

DAYTONA TIMES — There is much to object to about No. 45’s presidency – his hateful racial rhetoric, his attacks on women and people of color, his appointment of extremely young and inexperienced members of the federal judiciary, his rollback of environmental protections, his attacks on public education, and more.

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By Julianne Malveaux

There is much to object to about No. 45’s presidency – his hateful racial rhetoric, his attacks on women and people of color, his appointment of extremely young and inexperienced members of the federal judiciary, his rollback of environmental protections, his attacks on public education, and more.

But his economic stewardship, an arena he claims to have mastered, is as repulsive as his noneconomic stewardship. Many of his minions have, albeit gently, criticized the ways he has managed the economy. His trade wars, especially with China, may stand at the top of the list.

China won’t pay

He says that China will pay when he, most recently, announced that he would impose a ten percent tariff on $300 billion worth of imports from China.  The Chinese won’t pay. U.S. consumers will. And U.S. producers and manufacturers will also pay when China retaliates against us, as they have promised to do.

To be sure, China has been a “bad actor” in trade relationships with the United States. But No. 45’s intemperate and ill-advised tantrum will not only affect many in the United States –including farmers, manufacturers, and consumers – but may also play a role in slowing down the world economy.

For the first time in a decade, the Federal Reserve has reduced the interest rate by a quarter-point. Cutting the interest rate during the early recovery from the Great Recession was an effective way to lower the cost of money and, theoretically, put more money into the economy for expansion.

No trickle-down

In reality, cheaper money didn’t trickle down to homeowners or consumers, but it did generate GDP growth. Now growth is slowing, partly because of Trump’s trade wars, and partly because his tax cuts have not trickled down, and people don’t have as much money to spend as they’d like. Interest rate cuts are a clear sign that our nation’s bankers are not confident that economic expansion will continue to be robust.

Many of No. 45’s allies tout low unemployment rates as evidence of economic strength. And the July 3.7 percent unemployment rate, unchanged from June is indeed a ten-year low. The Black unemployment rate is at an all-time low. And last month, 164,000 more jobs were created, labor force participation rose, and the number of discouraged workers declined.

Why no celebration?

Firstly, because wage growth is slow. In a tight labor market, with low unemployment rates, wages should be increasing by more than the 3 percent annual rate they are growing at now.

Further, although there is slight improvement in labor force participation, and fewer workers holding part-time work for economic reasons, tepid wage growth suggests that while jobs are available, they aren’t necessarily good-paying jobs.

Slow wage growth and a slowing economy are likely to lead to a new recession. Economist Heather Boushey says that increasing inequality makes a recession more possible than it otherwise might be.

And this administration does not mind increasing inequality. Most recently, they have proposed cuts to food stamp programs that will leave at least three million people – low-income workers and their children, people with disabilities and some older Americans, vulnerable to hunger. The Senate just passed a budget that will increase military spending by more than $750 billion and will cut spending on food.

Less to spend

Economic expansion depends on people spending money, and too many have little to spend. The food stamp cuts give some even less. Increased prices of goods imported from China gives them less to spend. And the administration team that touts economic strength on the one hand is undermining both growth and poverty alleviation, on the other.

What goes up must come down. Can the No. 45 economic team manipulate the economy to continue expansion through the 2020 election, or will attacks on the poor result in less spending, less expansion, and an economic catastrophe?


Julianne Malveaux is a Washington, D.C.-based economist and writer. Her latest book, “Are We Better Off? Race, Obama and Public Policy,” is available at www.juliannemalveaux.com.

This article originally appeared in the Daytona Times.

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Obama decries leaders “who demonize those who don’t look like us”

THE WESTSIDE GAZETTE — In a rare public statement Monday about twin mass shootings that have rattled the nation, former President Barack Obama offered a forceful rebuke of the growing gun violence in America, denouncing not only the lack of federal gun control measures but public leaders who demonize marginalized groups and stoke racial divisions.

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President Barack Obama

By Camilo Montoya-Galvez

In a rare public statement Monday about twin mass shootings that have rattled the nation, former President Barack Obama offered a forceful rebuke of the growing gun violence in America, denouncing not only the lack of federal gun control measures but public leaders who demonize marginalized groups and stoke racial divisions.

Without naming President Trump or the divisive rhetoric of his successor on immigration and race — which some Democrats have said fans the hatred behind violent acts like Saturday’s massacre in El Paso — Obama urged the public to rebuff “leaders” who scapegoat certain groups and employ bigoted language.

“We should soundly reject language coming out of the mouths of any of our leaders that feeds a climate of fear and hatred or normalizes racist sentiments; leaders who demonize those who don’t look like us, or suggest that other people, including immigrants, threaten our way of life, or refer to other people as sub-human, or imply that America belongs to just one certain type of people,” Obama said in his statement.

Mr. Trump, during his first official televised remarks about the shootings on Monday, denounced white supremacy and “racist hatred.” But he did not concede that his own inflammatory — and at times racist — rhetoric has come under criticism from many Americans.

The nation’s first African American president also directly referenced and condemned the apparent racist and anti-immigrant motives of the 21-year-old white man who authorities believe killed at least 22 people inside a Walmart in El Paso on Saturday.

Obama said “indications” suggest the actions of the suspected shooter in El Paso are part of a “dangerous trend” of mass violence fueled by racism and white supremacy. “Like the followers of ISIS and other foreign terrorist organizations, these individuals may act alone, but they’ve been radicalized by white nationalist websites that proliferate on the internet,” he wrote.

The deadly rampage in this predominately Latino border city is being treated as an act of domestic terrorism by the Justice Department and a potential hate crime by federal investigators, who are probing a racist, anti-immigrant document purportedly authored by the suspect. The alleged manifesto decries the growing political power of Texas’ large Latino community and denounces progressive positions on immigration.

Urging Americans to heed the lessons of the past, Obama stressed that there must be a broad acknowledgment that racist language has “been at the root of most human tragedy throughout history, here in America and around the world.”

“It is at the root of slavery and Jim Crow, the Holocaust, the genocide in Rwanda and ethnic cleansing in the Balkans,” he wrote. “It has no place in our politics and our public life. And it’s time for the overwhelming majority of Americans of goodwill, of every race and faith and political party, to say as much — clearly and unequivocally.”

In his statement — one of only a couple of public proclamations he’s made since leaving office in early 2017 — the former two-term Democratic president said he and former first lady Michelle Obama are grieving with all the families affected by the massacre in El Paso and another mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio, that killed nine people.

The two massacres over the weekend have reignited the divisive debate around gun control and exposing the deadly threat of domestic terrorism, radicalization of youth and white supremacy.

“No other nation on Earth comes close to experiencing the frequency of mass shootings that we see in the United States,” Obama wrote.

“No other developed nation tolerates the levels of gun violence that we do.” 

Obama criticized the position of elected officials and members of the public who maintain that stricter gun laws will not stop a person determined to carry out mass violence, saying common sense measures can help prevent some killings and “save some families from heartbreak.”

“We are not helpless here,” he wrote. “And until all of us stand up and insist on holding public officials accountable for changing our gun laws, these tragedies will keep happening.”

This article originally appeared in The Westside Gazette.

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Stacey Abrams Says She’d Serve as Vice President

NNPA NEWSWIRE — “I’ve just come to the decision that my best value add, the strongest contribution I can give to this primary, would be to make sure our nominee is coming into an environment where there are strong voter protections in place,” Abrams told the New York Times.

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“I would not have publicly raised the possibility if it was not a legitimate thought,” Abrams said.
“I would not have publicly raised the possibility if it was not a legitimate thought,” Abrams said.

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

The overcrowded Democratic presidential field has a record six women seeking the nomination.

But one prominent individual who isn’t running for the top job has thrown her hat into the ring for vice president.

Former Georgia Gubernatorial Candidate Stacey Abrams said she would be delighted to serve under one of the 22 candidates.

“I would be honored to be considered by any nominee,” Abrams told The New York Timeson Wednesday, Aug. 14.

“I’ve just come to the decision that my best value add, the strongest contribution I can give to this primary, would be to make sure our nominee is coming into an environment where there are strong voter protections in place,” Abrams told the Times.

“I would not have publicly raised the possibility if it was not a legitimate thought,” Abrams said.

She said the current field, which includes former Vice President Joe Biden; Calif. Sen. Kamala Harris; New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker; and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, is talented.

Earlier this year when Biden entered the race, he was reportedly considering Abrams as a running mate.

YAHOO! Newsreported that Abrams dismissed those rumors, noting that at the time, Abrams was considering a run for president.

Earlier this year, Booker said he believed that a woman should be on the ticket.

Another candidate, former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, said he would find it “very difficult not to select a woman” as his running mate.

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