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With ‘No More Campaigns to Run,’ Obama Refuses to Back Down

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by George E. Curry
NNPA Editor-in-Chief

NEWS ANALYSIS

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – The strongest line in President Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday night was adlibbed. When he said toward the end of his one-hour speech, “I have no more campaigns to run,” Republicans laughed. He quickly shot back, “I know because I won both of them.”

That brief exchange tells us what we can expect in Obama’s final two years in office and reflects two different realities. A confident and relaxed Obama, making it very clear that he is not going to curl up in a corner and concede the next two years to Republicans, outlined his bold vision for the future, a vision that does not abandon his key policy positions.

Though Obama did indeed win both times his name was on the ballot, Democrats suffered major losses in the 2014 mid-term elections. Consequently, Republicans hold a 247-188 edge in the House. In the Senate, there are 54 Republicans, 44 Democrats and two Independents who usually vote with Democrats.

On Tuesday night, President Obama seemed to be setting the stage for 2016 when in addition to the White House, there will be a major battle for control of the Senate, where 25 Republicans will be up re-election, compared to only 10 Democrats.

Though it will be difficult to get many of the proposals President Obama said will be in his budget when it is delivered to Capitol Hill in two weeks, he argued forcefully that his polices had worked, despite strident Republican opposition over the past six years.

“We are 15 years into this new century,” he began in his address to a joint session of Congress. “Fifteen years that dawned with terror touching our shores; that unfolded with a new generation fighting two long and costly wars; that saw a vicious recession spread across our nation and the world. It has been, and still is, a hard time for many.

“But tonight, we turn the page. Tonight, after a breakthrough year for America, our economy is growing and creating jobs at the fastest pace since 1999. Our unemployment rate is now lower than it was before the financial crisis. More of our kids are graduating than ever before. More of our people are insured than ever before. And we are as free from the grip of foreign oil as we’ve been in almost 30 years.

“Tonight, for the first time since 9/11, our combat mission in Afghanistan is over. Six years ago, nearly 180,000 American troops served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Today, fewer than 15,000 remain. And we salute the courage and sacrifice of every man and woman in this 9/11 Generation who has served to keep us safe. We are humbled and grateful for your service.

“America, for all that we have endured; for all the grit and hard work required to come back; for all the tasks that lie ahead, know this: The shadow of crisis has passed, and the State of the Union is strong.”

As has become customary during State of the Union speeches, Democrats stood and applauded when Obama made a point that appealed to them while dour-faced Republicans remained seated. Unlike 2009 when Rep. Joe Wilson, a Republican from South Carolina, violated congressional decorum by shouting, “You, Lie,” Republicans were mostly polite, while making it clear they were not endorsing Obama’s vision for his final two years in office.

Noticeably absent from Tuesday’s State of the Union were three of the most conservative members of the Supreme Court: Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia. Thomas has called the event so partisan that it makes him feel uncomfortable. Scalia has dismissed it as a “childish spectacle” and Roberts has likened it to “a political pep rally.” In modern years, regardless of a court member’s personal views, the robbed justices have attended the yearly event, most of the time displaying no emotions.

Reviewing his accomplishments over the past six years, Obama boasted, “We believed we could reverse the tide of outsourcing and draw new jobs to our shores. And over the past five years, our businesses have created more than 11 million new jobs.

“We believed we could reduce our dependence on foreign oil and protect our planet. And today, America is number one in oil and gas. America is number one in wind power. Every three weeks, we bring online as much solar power as we did in all of 2008. And thanks to lower gas prices and higher fuel standards, the typical family this year should save about $750 at the pump.”

With Democrats applauding, Obama continued, “We believed we could prepare our kids for a more competitive world. And today, our younger students have earned the highest math and reading scores on record. Our high school graduation rate has hit an all-time high. More Americans finish college than ever before.

“We believed that sensible regulations could prevent another crisis, shield families from ruin, and encourage fair competition. Today, we have new tools to stop taxpayer-funded bailouts, and a new consumer watchdog to protect us from predatory lending and abusive credit card practices. And in the past year alone, about 10 million uninsured Americans finally gained the security of health coverage.”

Like most politicians, Obama cherry-picked some numbers, according to FactCheck.org, a nonpartisan project of the Annenberg Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania that describes itself as a nonpartisan, nonprofit “consumer advocate” for voters that aims to reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics.

For example, it noted, “It’s true that nearly 8.2 million private sector jobs have been added since February 2010, which was the low point of the great job slump that began a year before Obama took office and continued through his first year. But total employment has risen less – by 7.6 million – held back by layoffs of state and local government workers. Obama was technically correct, as he was careful to speak of jobs “’our businesses have created.’”

It also explained, “The president said that ‘because of the Affordable Care Act … more than 9 million Americans have signed up for private health insurance or Medicaid coverage.’ But that total includes Medicaid renewals, not just new recipients that gained Medicaid coverage because of the health care law.

“The 9 million figure includes 3 million Americans who have chosen insurance plans on the federal or state marketplaces and 6.3 million who were determined eligible for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. An estimated 3.1 million young adults under age 26 also joined their parents’ plans as a result of the Affordable Care Act’s requirements.”

There is a growing consensus that the economy has largely recovered under Obama’s stewardship – with little help from Republicans.

“At every step, we were told our goals were misguided or too ambitious; that we would crush jobs and explode deficits. Instead, we’ve seen the fastest economic growth in over a decade, our deficits cut by two-thirds, a stock market that has doubled, and health care inflation at its lowest rate in 50 years. This is good news, people,” he said to laughter and applause.

“So the verdict is clear. Middle-class economics works. Expanding opportunity works. And these policies will continue to work as long as politics don’t get in the way. We can’t slow down businesses or put our economy at risk with government shutdowns or fiscal showdowns. We can’t put the security of families at risk by taking away their health insurance, or unraveling the new rules on Wall Street, or refighting past battles on immigration when we’ve got to fix a broken system. And if a bill comes to my desk that tries to do any of these things, I will veto it. It will have earned my veto.”

Exercising the veto is one of the few tools Obama has except for issuing executive order in a Republican-controlled Congress. Until recently he has been reluctant to sign executive orders or veto bills that crossed his desk.

Obama has issued only two vetoes in six years. By contrast, George W. Bush issued 12; Bill Clinton, 37; George H.W. Bush, 44; Ronald Reagan, 78; Jimmy Carter, 31; Gerald R. Ford, 66; Richard Nixon, 43 and Lyndon B. Johnson, 30, according to Senate records. The last two-term president to approach Obama’s rate was James Monroe, who vetoed only one bill from 1817 to 1825.

There was a similar pattern with executive orders.

Despite Republican charges that Obama is a “socialist dictator” and operates an “imperial presidency,” he has issued the fewest executive orders since Grover Cleveland, who was in the White House from 1885 to 1889.

But Obama promised to be more combative his last two years, if necessary.

He outlined a broad agenda that, among other things, offers two years of free community college, shifts $320 billion in new taxes on the wealthy largely to the middle class, vetoes any legislation that would undermine his executive order on immigration or sanction Iran over its nuclear program while negotiations are underway, and mocks Republicans denials of climate change.

On the latter, he said, “2014 was the planet’s warmest year on record. Now, one year doesn’t make a trend, but this does: 14 of the 15 warmest years on record have all fallen in the first 15 years of this century. I’ve heard some folks try to dodge the evidence by saying they’re not scientists; that we don’t have enough information to act. Well, I’m not a scientist, either. But you know what, I know a lot of really good scientists at NASA [National Aeronautics and Space Administration], and at NOAA [National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration] , and at our major universities. And the best scientists in the world are all telling us that our activities are changing the climate, and if we don’t act forcefully, we’ll continue to see rising oceans, longer, hotter heat waves, dangerous droughts and floods, and massive disruptions that can trigger greater migration and conflict and hunger around the globe. The Pentagon says that climate change poses immediate risks to our national security. We should act like it.”

Continuing his in-your-face style, Obama challenged Congress to raise the minimum wage.

“Of course, nothing helps families make ends meet like higher wages,” he said. “That’s why this Congress still needs to pass a law that makes sure a woman is paid the same as a man for doing the same work. It’s 2015. It’s time. We still need to make sure employees get the overtime they’ve earned. And to everyone in this Congress who still refuses to raise the minimum wage, I say this: If you truly believe you could work full-time and support a family on less than $15,000 a year, try it. If not, vote to give millions of the hardest-working people in America a raise.”

Before Obama delivered his State of the Union speech, new Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) made it clear that it didn’t matter what goals Obama articulates.

At a news conference before the speech, McConnell, who once said his goal was to make Obama a one-term president, said, “With all due respect to him, he doesn’t set the agenda in the Senate.”

In his speech, Obama said he realizes Democrats and Republicans have different ideas on major issues, but urged cooperation where possible.

“Imagine if we broke out of these tired old patterns. Imagine if we did something different,” he said. “Understand, a better politics isn’t one where Democrats abandon their agenda or Republicans simply embrace mine. A better politics is one where we appeal to each other’s basic decency instead of our basest fears. A better politics is one where we debate without demonizing each other; where we talk issues and values, and principles and facts, rather than ‘gotcha’ moments, or trivial gaffes, or fake controversies that have nothing to do with people’s daily lives.”

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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.

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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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Congressman John Lewis to Receive Thurgood Marshall Award From American Bar Association

OAKLAND POST — The American Bar Association will present Congressman John Lewis with the Thurgood Marshall Award at its annual meeting in San Francisco, Sat., August 10.

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Civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) (Freddie Allen/AMG/NNPA)
https://blackpressusa.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/John-Lewis.jpg

By Conway Jones

The American Bar Association will present Congressman John Lewis with the Thurgood Marshall Award at its annual meeting in San Francisco, Sat., August 10.

The Thurgood Marshall Award honors U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, who epitomized individual commitment, in word and action, to the cause of civil rights in this country.

Congressman Lewis is one of the original 13 Freedom Riders, a founding member and chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and the only one of the “Big Six” civil rights leaders who organized the 1964 March on Washington still living, He is a 17 term congressional leader, and one of only two Lifetime Achievement recipients of the John F. Kennedy Profiles in Courage Award.

“Congressman John Lewis is one of our most revered elder statesmen. His sacrifices for civil rights, justice and equality are unparalleled,” said Robert L. Harris, Esq., former president of the National Bar Association.

This article originally appeared in the Oakland Post

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Mayor Bottoms Urges Immediate Senate Action on Gun Safety Legislation

ATLANTA DAILY WORLD — Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms joined 214 bipartisan mayors from across the nation signing on to a letter from The United States Conference of Mayors urging immediate action from the federal government on gun safety legislation.

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Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms. (Photo by: Itoro N. Umontuen/The Atlanta Voice)
By ADW News

Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms joined 214 bipartisan mayors from across the nation signing on to a letter from The United States Conference of Mayors urging immediate action from the federal government on gun safety legislation.

“Public servants—from the local level to Washington—have an obligation to protect the lives of those we are entrusted to serve,” said Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms. “We need strong leadership willing to take the necessary measures to prevent heinous, senseless acts of violence. If we are truly serious about preventing one more family from knowing the pain of losing someone to another gun tragedy, we need Congress to enact commonsense gun safety legislation immediately.”

With over 250 mass shootings in 2019, the United States Conference of Mayors is urging the nation’s leaders to work with Congress, the Administration, and others to develop holistic remedies to the scourge of gun violence.

Read the full letter at this link.

This article originally appeared in the Atlanta Daily World

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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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