Black pols look to form Hillary’s firewall

The Massachusetts presidential primary is nearly two weeks off, but the Democratic battle between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders landed in front of the State House Wednesday morning, where minority political leaders were due to hold dueling events.

A little past 9 am, a bevy of black leaders assembled to sound their support for Clinton. Several Latino community leaders were scheduled to speak at the same spot at 11 am on behalf of Sanders.

Clinton backers at this morning’s event included Boston City Councilors Ayanna Pressley, Michelle Wu, and Tito Jackson, Suffolk County Sheriff Steven Tompkins, state Sen. Linda Dorcena Forry, former state public safety secretary and Suffolk sheriff Andrea Cabral, and Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts head Darnell Williams.

There are two Hillary narratives when it comes to black Americans. The one her campaign is pushing — which got lots of airing this morning — centers on her work as a young legal aid lawyer in Arkansas, as a staffer for Marian Wright Edelman’s Children’s Defense Fund, and a 40-year champion of issues affecting poor and minority communities.

The other centers on the baggage she carries from her husband’s time in the White House, when a sweeping crime bill was signed into law that has been widely blamed for helping to fuel an era of mass incarceration that has seen prison populations explode, with minority communities heavily impacted. The Clintons themselves have offered mea culpas for what they now say were policy missteps of that period.

Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton has had to fend off attacks from Sanders and those on the left who say she was busy cozying up to Wall Street while average Americans, including blacks who sit disproportionately at the lower end of the income ladder, saw their economic fortunes stagnate or fall.

Today’s event came a day after Clinton delivered a speech in Harlem targeting black voters. In it, she laid out a $125 billion spending plan addressing everything from jobs programs to reentry services for offenders released from prison and economic development aid for small businesses in underserved communities. That event featured a lineup of prominent black leaders, including US Rep. Charles Rangel, former US attorney general Eric Holder, Rev. Al Sharpton, and Chirlane McCray, the wife of New York mayor Bill de Blasio.

For good measure, a Clinton campaign aide told the New York Times the program would be paid for through a “risk fee” on Wall Street banks and other tax code changes. Translation: No Goldman Sachs speaking fee bounty is going to buy her.

Clinton supporters say her initiatives are realistic and paid for. “Plans without price tags are simply pandering,” Pressley said this morning. “Anger is not a plan.”  What Clinton offers, said Pressley, is “real solutions for real problems.”

The language is a not-too-subtle jab at what the Clinton camp thinks is the fatal flaw of the Sanders campaign: That it is built largely on pie-in-the-sky promises that he can’t hope to deliver, the costs for which wouldn’t come close to adding up if he could.

Clinton has been piling up the endorsements of black politicos, including the Congressional Black Caucus PAC. Sanders’s prominent black support has come more from black intellectuals on the left, such as Ta-Nehisi Coates and Cornel West. Electoral advantage: Clinton, with the one black endorsement everyone wants probably leaning her way.

The battle for black supporters has taken on a new intensity as the primary schedule shifts from overwhelmingly white Iowa and New Hampshire to the South. Sanders is hoping to repeat even a bit of what Barack Obama pulled off eight years ago, when what looked like a Clinton firewall among black voters came crumbling down.

While Clinton may have been in New York yesterday, and her surrogates were in front of the Massachusetts State House today, the short-term focus of the Clinton messaging is South Carolina, where voters head to the polls in less than two weeks — and where blacks are expected to make up about half of the Democratic primary electorate.


[An earlier version incorrectly said the Massachusetts primary was more than a month away; it is on March 1.]


Hiring at the state Department of Children and Families is expanding rapidly. (State House News)

Attorney General Maura Healey tells the Patriot Ledger editorial board she’s “strongly opposed” to the effort to legalize marijuana in Massachusetts, saying in places where it’s become legal there are increases in hospitalizations and drugged-driving from potent pot.

After an investigation revealed that Northern Essex Registry of Deeds Register M. Paul Iannuccillo was working an average of four hours a day, an employee is elevated to the post of assistant register at a salary of $99,000 a year. (Eagle-Tribune)

Essex County Sheriff Frank Cousins Jr., a Republican from Newburyport, is stepping down when his term ends. Cousins was the state’s first African-American sheriff and served 20 years. (Salem News)


Telegram & Gazette columnist Clive McFarlane calls out the Pioneer Institute for its report on Gateway Cities.

The rehab of Springfield’s Union Station is expected to be complete by the end of the year. (Masslive)

Five Salem social clubs (American Legion, Elks, etc,) are charged with allowing illegal gambling on their premises. (Salem News)

The Wenham Board of Selectmen vote 2-1 to allow the owners of Lakeview Golf Course to sell the property to a developer who plans to build as many as 28 duplexes there. (Salem News)


Plainridge Park Casino pulls in $12.5 million in January, its first upswing since the summer. (Masslive)


President Obama challenged Republican senators to justify their refusal to vote on a Supreme Court nominee, while the chairman of the Judiciary Committee now says he has not closed off the possibility of a hearing on the pick, a slight crack in the GOP wall of resistance. (New York Times)

A Herald editorial calls out two Democratic candidates for local office in Massachusetts for dancing on Scalia’s grave in social media comments.

A bill is on the governor’s desk in South Dakota that would require transgenders to use bathrooms, locker rooms, and shower facilities that conform with their biological sex. (Argus Leader)


Sen. Bernie Sanders may not be the clean campaigner he wants voters to believe he is. (U.S. News & World Report)

Add Red Sox pitcher Clay Buchholz to the list of Boston sports figures who call Donald Trump a friend. The Donald introduced the oft-injured righty to his now-wife (Buchholz’s, not Trump’s) at a post-Ultimate Fight Club party in 2008. (Boston Globe)

Jeb Bush tweets a picture of a handgun with his name on the barrel.

President Obama says he continues to believe Donald Trump will not be elected president. (CNN)

US Rep. Seth Moulton formally announces his run for reelection. (The Item)


Apple CEO Tim Cook says the company will not comply with a court order to aid FBI agents in unlocking the iPhone of one of the gunmen who killed 14 people in San Bernardino, calling the ruling an “unprecedented step” that could compromise customers’ privacy. (New York Times)

The beginning of a wave of baby boomer retirements has Massachusetts firms worried about their ability to fill positions and keep the state economy humming. (Boston Globe)

The Red Sox will launch their own in-house ticket reselling operation. (Boston Globe)

A one-year pilot program is launched in Worcester to promote farm-to-table businesses. (Telegram & Gazette)


A new state report paints a grim picture of practices at a Holyoke school, where students with emotional and behavioral problems were regularly restrained, saying the practices were the result of “systemic failure” on the part of school administrators. (Boston Globe)

Mitchell Chester, the state commissioner of elementary and secondary education, calls for two new charter schools in Springfield and Brockton and the expansion of five others. (WBUR)

Suffolk University President Margaret McKenna says tension with the board of trustees surfaced only weeks after her arrival on campus. (Boston Globe)

Two Wheelock College professors discuss the impact on their careers of what they say has been a pattern of discrimination and anti-semitism by school officials. (Greater Boston)


An Eagle-Tribune editorial praises legislation filed by Rep. Ann-Margaret Ferrante of Gloucester that would codify the view of the city’s police chief that anyone seeking treatment for opioid abuse deserves treatment rather than jail.


The $244 million project to replace the Fore River Bridge at the Quincy-Weymouth line is running two years behind schedule, meaning commuters will continue to drive over the single-lane temporary span until at least the fall of 2018. (Patriot Ledger)

Globe columnist Shirley Leung is clinging to the Olympic dream of redeveloping Widett Circle into Boston’s next great neighborhood, but state transportation officials say they may need to park trains there if South Station expands. Of course, an expansion wouldn’t be necessary if South and North Stations were connected, as Mike Dukakis and Bill Weld have proposed.

Another day, another smoke-filled MBTA car from which passengers escaped any way they could. (Boston Globe)

High construction and maintenance cost estimates derail a proposal for an expanded Lowell trolley system. (The Sun)


Moody’s raises concerns about the region’s power generators in the wake of last week’s electricity auction, which also stirred debate about Gov. Charlie Baker’s hydroelectric proposal. (CommonWealth)

General Electric and the Environmental Protection Agency are battling over a federal plan for the company to spending hundreds of millions of dollars to clean up toxic waste it dumped in the Housatonic River in Pittsfield. (Boston Globe)

The Legislature is considering a bill that would eliminate the 5-cent deposit on bottles and cans and place a 1-cent levy on nearly all beverage containers, which backers say will increase recycling and reduce trash disposal. (Herald News)


US Attorney Carmen Ortiz launches a civil rights unit. (Masslive)

A correction officer at MCI-Bridgewater was arrested in Somerset and charged with heroin trafficking. (The Enterprise)

A first-term Harwich selectman, already facing domestic assault and battery charges, is now subject to a restraining order against her filed by a woman who dated the official’s ex-boyfriend. (Cape Cod Times)


Hilary Sargent says goodbye to (Media Nation)