2020 Daily Trail Markers: Jacksonville’s COVID count rises in weeks before GOP convention

When the Republican National Committee announced in mid-June that it had chosen Jacksonville to host President Trump’s nomination acceptance speech, Duval County, where Jacksonville is located, had about 1,900 reported COVID-19 cases. Just over three weeks later, Jacksonville — as well as the state of Florida — is seeing record numbers of positive COVID-19 cases, and Duval County has surpassed 10,000 cases as the state has reopened and testing capacity has increased. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis was among the first to announce his state would reopen amid concerns from experts who questioned whether it was too soon, and polls showing the public, too, harbored mixed feelings about reopening. Still, in June DeSantis said Florida could potentially host the convention, assuming that mitigation measures like face masks and testing would be in place. Now, with less than 50 days until the headliner event, Jacksonville has enacted a mandatory mask requirement, Florida is under a statewide executive order prohibiting facilities from operating at more than 50% capacity, and the Sunshine State now has had more than 200,000 COVID cases, the third most of any state, behind California and New York.

This week, President Trump told Gray Television’s Greta Van Susteren that the details surrounding the convention are “flexible.” Convention officials have announced that attendees will be tested and have their temperatures checked daily. CBS News political unit associate producer Eleanor Watson and campaign reporters LaCrai Mitchell and Nicole Sganga report on the changing landscape in Jacksonville and throughout the state of Florida with less than two months until the event.

FROM THE CANDIDATES

JOE BIDEN

In a 110-page document, the Joe Biden-Bernie Sanders task forces released their recommendations on six major topics to nominee Biden and the Democratic National Committee, CBS News campaign reporter Bo Erickson reports. Biden welcomed the months of work from six task forces which were made up of moderates and progressives. “I commend the Task Forces for their service and helping build a bold, transformative platform for our party and for our country,” Biden said in a statement specifically thanking Sanders for his leadership. 

Sanders said Biden and he have “strong disagreements” but noted the “end result” of the recommendations document is “a good policy blueprint that will move this country in a much-needed progressive direction” even though he noted the final document “is not what I or my supporters would have written alone.”

The six areas covered by the document cover climate change, criminal justice reform, economy, education, health care, and immigration. Though the Biden campaign is releasing these recommendations, Biden has not committed to each recommendation, but he is expected to adopt some of these ideas. The CBS News political unit notes the document hews to Biden’s advocacy of a healthcare public option, rather than “Medicare for All.” It favors using federal money to “create a civilian corps of unarmed first responders” to “handle nonviolent emergencies” so police officers can focus on more dangerous calls. 

On climate change, the document contained a few timeline goals: By no later than 2050, the U.S. should achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions, eliminate carbon pollution from power plants by 2035 and by 2030, net-zero greenhouse gas emissions for all new buildings. On the economy, the document recommends that Biden pledge no cuts to Social Security benefits or changes to the retirement age, and on immigration, there is a recommendation for a “100-day moratorium” on deportations, pending a review of current practices under the Trump administration. The task force’s recommendations on education mostly match Biden’s previously released plans, but the group highly recommends Biden work for more unionizing for educators.

Also on Wednesday, Biden was endorsed by Medicare-for-All activist Ady Barkan, who has ALS and formerly supported Elizabeth Warren and then Bernie Sanders. Explaining his public option health plan to Barkan, Biden suggested he would be able to “quickly” pass this plan, whatever the legislative realities are after the election. On police reform, Biden agreed with Barkan that “absolutely” a portion of police budgets could be redirected for different programs. Broadly, Biden opposes the total defunding of the police some of his fellow Democrats support. Later in the day, Biden also addressed the IBEW union, ridiculing Presidet Trump’s displeasure with COVID-19 testing and general lack of interest in the death rate from the virus.

At a virtual fundraiser Tuesday evening Biden came to the defense of Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth, who has drawn criticism from both President Trump’s campaign and Fox News host Tucker Carlson. Referring to her military service, Biden called questions about Duckworth’s patriotism “disgusting” and “sickening.” His campaign is currently vetting Duckworth as a potential running mate. He’s expected to announce his pick in early August.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP

President Donald Trump’s campaign rally in Tulsa “more than likely contributed” to a spike in new coronavirus cases, Tulsa City-County Health Department Director Dr. Bruce Dart said Wednesday during a press conference. “We do have the highest number of cases. And we’ve had some significant cases these few past weeks that more than likely contributed to that,” Dr. Dart said, referencing Tulsa County. “We’ve seen almost 500 new cases, and we had several large events just over two weeks ago, which is about right.” Dr. Dart added that health officials are now left to “just connect the dots.” CBS News campaign reporter Nicole Sganga and CBS News digital politics reporter Grace Segers report Tulsa’s surge in coronavirus cases has outpaced all other cities in Oklahoma, including the more populous Oklahoma City. Tulsa County reported a one-day record high of 261 new cases on Monday, as well as 206 new cases, Tuesday. 

“The President’s rally was 18 days ago, all attendees had their temperature checked, everyone was provided a mask, and there was plenty of hand sanitizer available for all,” Trump communications director Tim Murtaugh said, in part, in a statement to CBS News. “It’s obvious that the media’s concern about large gatherings begins and ends with Trump rallies.” White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters Wednesday she did not have data from Tulsa, Oklahoma, adding, “It’s the decision of individuals whether to go. We encourage the wearing of masks.” The Trump campaign will encourage, but not require, mask-wearing at the president’s upcoming rally in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The president’s reelection team will also mandate that all campaign staff wear masks inside the rally in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Saturday night. In a press conference, Tuesday, Governor Sununu told reporters, “We hear from the Trump campaign that they’ll be there wearing masks.” Multiple GOP sources confirmed the Trump campaign staff requirement to CBS News. “All campaign staff are instructed to wear masks and were in Tulsa as well,” director of press communications Erin Perrine told CBS News.

VEEPSTAKES

TAMMY DUCKWORTH

VoteVets, a liberal veterans’ group, released a video this morning defending Illinois Senator Tammy Duckworth after Fox News host Tucker Carlson’s comments smearing the senator. CBS News campaign reporter Jack Turman says the organization has released videos encouraging presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden to select Duckworth as his running mate. The video features footage of Carlson as the narrator says, “[President Donald Trump] sicced Tucker Carlson in a suicide mission to take her down” and that Duckworth is “tough as hell.” 

Duckworth also released a statement on Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman’s retirement. Duckworth announced her intention last week to block the promotions of 1,123 senior U.S. Armed Forces officials until Defense Secretary Mark Esper gave her written confirmation that he will not block the “expected and deserved promotion of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman to Colonel.” In a statement Duckworth said, “Secretary Esper’s failure to protect his troops sets a new, dark precedent that any Commander in Chief can interfere with routine merit-based military promotions to carry out personal vendettas and retaliation against military officers who follow duly-authorized subpoenas while upholding their oath of office and core principles of service.” Vindman was a witness and testified in the impeachment trial of Mr. Trump.

ISSUES THAT MATTER

EDUCATION

The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) launched a $1 million TV and digital ad buy Wednesday, calling on the Senate to return and pass more funding for schools to reopen safely in the fall. AFT said schools need at least $116.5 billion to accommodate PPE, cleaning supplies, hybrid distance learning, transportation and other aspects of a fall reopening. 

“Why are Senate Republicans taking a vacation instead of passing funding to safely reopen schools and kick start our economy?” the ad asks. “We can’t afford for our children’s education to be another victim of the coronavirus. Tell your senator to come back to Washington and support emergency education funding.” CBS News political unit broadcast associate Aaron Navarro says the ads will be running for two weeks on CNN, MSNBC and Fox News in D.C. and 10 states: Arizona,  Colorado, Florida, Kentucky, Maine, Montana, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.  

STATE-BY-STATE

CALIFORNIA

All of California’s Democratic state legislators announced today their support of 2020 Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, reports CBS News campaign reporter Musadiq Bidar. The 29 Democratic state senators and 61 assembly members represent more than 28 million Californians and make up more than two-thirds of the state legislature. The Biden campaign called the move an “unprecedented show of support” and said it is the first time that members of both houses of the California legislature have come together in a joint show of support for a Presidential candidate.” State Senate President Pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins said senate Democrats in California “fall all along the political spectrum,” and underscored the group’s strong belief in Biden. Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon echoed those remarks, saying in a statement that “with President Joe Biden there is daylight visible, and an opportunity for unity, recovery and new growth.”

NORTH CAROLINA

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper has ordered that all flags at state facilities be lowered to half-staff in remembrance of the late former State Senator Katie G. Dorsett, who was the first Black woman to hold a cabinet position in the state’s legislature. Dr. Dorsett passed away Tuesday. 

“Katie Dorsett was a dedicated public servant and inspiration as the first African American woman to hold a cabinet position in North Carolina,” said Cooper in a tweet Tuesday. “Her work in the state senate and Department of Administration paved the way for future leaders, and she’ll be deeply missed.” 

Born in Mississippi, CBS News campaign reporter LaCrai Mitchell says Dorsett spent much of her adult life in North Carolina where she taught at North Carolina A&T for more than three decades before going on to serve as a Guilford county commissioner and later the secretary of the North Carolina Department of Administration, making her the first Black woman to serve in a cabinet post in the state’s history. Even before this milestone, Dorsett had made history when she became the first Black woman to serve on the Greensboro City Council. From 2003-2010, Dorsett served in the North Carolina Senate and in 2010, she was inducted into the state’s Women’s Hall of Fame. State flags will remain at half-staff in her honor through Friday.

CONGRESSIONAL COVERAGE

IN THE HOUSE

NEW JERSEY

Educator Amy Kennedy and former construction CEO David Richter were the most notable winners in New Jersey’s House primaries Tuesday, reports CBS News political unit broadcast associate Aaron Navarro. In the 2nd District, Kennedy, who is married to former Congressman Patrick Kennedy, a scion of the American political dynasty, quickly cruised through her Democratic primary and will face off against Republican Congressman Jeff Van Drew, who switched parties after flipping the seat in 2018. Mr. Trump won this South Jersey district by five points in 2016. An internal poll by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee showed Kennedy trailing Van Drew by 3 points, and Biden trailing by 1 point to Mr. Trump in the district. The poll was conducted from June 30 to July 3. 

In the 3rd District, Richter beat former Burlington county legislator Katie Gibbs and is the Republican nominee who will run against Democratic incumbent Andy Kim. While Kim’s seat has been targeted by national Republicans, he’s been able to keep a consistent fundraising streak and has $3.5 million cash on hand. In an election night statement, Richter said while he expects to be outspent in the general, he called Kim “a Nancy Pelosi puppet, part of the radical left and a terrible fit for our district, one that voted for President Trump in 2016 and is going to do so again in 2020.” 

Another notable result, Democrat Josh Gottheimer easily fended off his progressive challenger, local councilwoman Arati Kreibich. Kreibich received late support from Senator Bernie Sanders and Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley. She said in her concession statement she’d be voting for Gottheimer.

IN THE SENATE

Heading into the summer, Democratic Senate hopefuls are raising record amounts of cash in their bids to unseat Republican Senate incumbents, CBS News political unit associate producers Sarah Ewall-Wice and Eleanor Watson report. The massive fundraising hauls are pouring in despite the ongoing economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic. 

According to Amy McGrath’s campaign, the retired fighter pilot raised $17.4 million from April through June in her primary bid to unseat Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in Kentucky. The average donation was $39. This comes just after McGrath eked out a win in the June 23rd primary in a closer than expected race against Charles Booker.  Cook Political Report currently ranks the race as “likely Republican.”

While second-quarter numbers have not yet been filed, the Kentucky Senate race is already one of the most expensive Senate races in the 2020 cycle so far. For context, the Texas Senate race was one of the most expensive Senate contests of 2018. In the second quarter of that year, then Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke brought in just over $10 million in his bid against Senator Ted Cruz. McGrath’s fundraising number is also more than was raised by multiple presidential candidates during the 2019 fundraising quarters, including the amount raised by presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden during the fall quarter. According to Kantar/Campaign Analysis Group tracking, McGrath has spent $15 million on advertising in her race to date.

Meanwhile, in another ranked “likely Republican,” Democratic Senate candidate Jaime Harrison in South Carolina has raised almost $14 million in his bid against Republican Senator Lindsey Graham. While Graham has not yet released his second-quarter fundraising number, Harrison raised nearly double what he raised during the first quarter of the year, when he broke South Carolina fundraising records and outraised the incumbent senator. 

Democratic candidates in more competitive races have continued their run of impressive fundraising since the start of the year.

Read more here.

GEORGIA

Senator David Perdue of Georgia released his first two television ads of the cycle on Wednesday, reports CBS News political unit associate producer Eleanor Watson. In the first ad called “City on the Hill,” Perdue said, “It’s up to us to protect what the rest of the world envies: economic opportunity for everybody, limited government, individual liberty.” In the second ad, Perdue said there is a need for police reform but not “Defund the Police.” He cites measures like body cameras, de-escalation training, and recruiting so that officers look more like the communities they serve. Perdue is taking on Democrat Jon Ossoff in November.



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