Newsletter: What to make of the Democratic debate tension

Nevada Democratic Debate
Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg (left), Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., participate in a Democratic presidential primary debate Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2020, in Las Vegas. John Locher / Associated Press
Nevada Democratic Debate
Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg (left), Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., participate in a Democratic presidential primary debate Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2020, in Las Vegas. John Locher / Associated Press

Newsletter: What to make of the Democratic debate tension

Happy Thursday! I’m looking forward to sunshine (and temperatures in the upper 40s) this weekend. Here’s what you need to know today.

1. The latest Democratic debate highlighted a sense of urgency

The tension and fiery retorts at last night’s debate in Las Vegas showed that some candidates are worried their time to sway voters is running out.

National polls show Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in the lead, followed by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Centrist candidates like former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar argued on stage about who is the best alternative to Sanders. The final moments of the debate showed the candidates were speaking to more than just Nevada voters, who caucus on Saturday. They’re looking ahead to the South Carolina primary next week and Super Tuesday on March 3. [The Washington Post]

The longer it takes the Democratic Party to solidify a candidate, the longer it will take to focus on beating President Donald Trump. That’s good news for Trump, who has a 44% approval rate among registered voters, according to a NPR/PBS/Marist poll released this week. [NPR]

2. “It’s a fixed cost. That’s all I ask”: A politician’s pitch for campaign cash

Southwest suburban factory owner Zach Mottl says he felt Cook County Commissioner Jeff Tobolski pressured him into making a campaign contribution at the same time his company was seeking Tobolski’s backing for a critical property tax break.

In emails obtained by WBEZ and the Better Government Association, Tobolski suggested to Mottl that his company consider campaign contributions a “fixed cost.” Tobolski has not been charged with any wrongdoing and continues to serve as county commissioner and mayor of McCook. [WBEZ]

3. Trump’s former political advisor sentenced to more than 3 years in prison

Roger Stone was sentenced to 40 months in prison today for lying to Congress, obstructing its investigation and witness tampering during a congressional investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Prosecutors initially recommended seven to nine years in prison, but President Trump and Attorney General William Barr called the request too severe. Critics have accused Trump of interfering in the justice system, and even Barr went on ABC to publicly plead for Trump to stop his Twitter commentary.

Trump later told an audience in Las Vegas he thought Stone has “a very good chance of exoneration,” although he didn’t specify what exactly he believes will happen. [NPR]

4. Fired top cop Eddie Johnson will get almost $190,000 annually for the rest of his life

Despite being dismissed in December just before his planned retirement, former Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson will still bring in a monthly pension of $15,800, according to records obtained by the Chicago Tribune. The yearly figure is 75% of his annual salary during his last four years with the department.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot said she fired Johnson for lying about the night he was found asleep in his car. It was later revealed he had been drinking with a subordinate before he was found. [Chicago Tribune]

5. “Poison” of racism blamed in far-right shooting that killed 9 in German hookah bars

German Chancellor Angela Merkel condemned the racism, hate and conspiracy theories that apparently fueled the gunman to attack two hookah bars frequented by the city’s Middle Eastern community Wednesday night in Hanau, Germany. The shooter and his mother were later found dead from gunshot wounds.

Violent attacks by far-right extremists have been increasing in the past year in Germany. A politician who supported asylum seekers was assassinated in June, and two people died after a gunman attempted to attack a synagogue and failed in October. Last week, police arrested 12 members of a group planning attacks on mosques.

German authorities say they’ve stepped up monitoring far-right groups, but that these kinds of incidents are particularly hard to track. [The Washington Post]

Here’s what else is happening

  • Parents are outraged after a Chicago elementary school assigned an “African animals” project to kindergartners for Black History Month. [Chicago Sun Times]

  • The Chicago Police Board refuses to say why it didn’t fire a sergeant who shot an unarmed autistic teen. [WBEZ]

  • A new study has found that kids seem to be less vulnerable to the coronavirus. [NPR]

  • A small police training company founded in Chicago has trained more than 600 officers in El Salvador. [Chicago Reader]

Oh, and one more thing …

For Virginians who have been minding their manners since 1792, it’s almost time to let loose. The state Senate today overturned an anti-cursing law that made foul language in public a misdemeanor with a $250 fine.

The law will go to the governor, who punned, “It’s about time we swore off the antiquated policies of the past.” If he signs the bill, Virginians can cuss to their hearts’ content starting June 1.

Still, not all uncouth behavior is allowed. State lawmakers voted to keep the ban on spitting, which carries a similar fine. [NPR]

Tell me something good …

What’s a weird, hilarious or unusual memory from your childhood that you look back on and think, man, things have really changed?

Dei Spencer writes:

“Where (and when) I grew up, we had a ‘party line.’ For you young ‘uns, that was a phone line shared by multiple households. At any time you might go to make a call and pick up the receiver to hear a neighbor’s conversation. Or, more likely, ‘Hey, I’m ON THE LINE. Here, honey, wait your turn!’ This, a mere 45 years ago, and today even the 7-year-olds have their very own phone in their pockets!”

Feel free to tweet or email us, and your responses might show up here this week.

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