Rick Scott gets no love from the MAGA-verse

Sen. Rick Scott has spent years courting MAGA supporters. But he can’t quite get them to love him.

The billionaire-turned-politician is trying to build his own national brand ahead of a potential run for president, but some early stumbles — including a recent pivot away from Trump — aren’t endearing him with the base.

“I would argue what he has done since the election has been confusing,” said Tony Fabrizio, Trump’s top 2020 pollster and a former Scott adviser. “He votes to not certify Pennsylvania, yet the other day said Biden obviously won the election. He defends Trump on impeachment, yet also defends Liz Cheney. I think the real question is ‘what the hell are they thinking?”’

Though Scott has been unbeatable since first running for statewide office in 2010, the tone and direction of the GOP under Trump has shifted to a place outside of his comfort zone. Trump’s GOP is largely foreign to Scott, a former health care executive who embraces focus groups and adheres to the talking points of the day, not the off-the-cuff brashness Trump embraces. That, along with his well-known lack of charisma, could spell early trouble for Scott’s White House ambitions.

Scott, a former two-term Florida governor and now the state’s junior senator, was one of the first establishment-type politicians to back Trump’s bid for president. A tea party darling, Scott chaired a pro-Trump super PAC in 2016 that raised $20 million and, more recently, bashed Trump’s second impeachment trial, and challenged the certification of the 2020 election.

But in recent public remarks, Scott has created distance between himself and Trump. He claimed the Republican civil war is “cancelled” even as Trump openly plots revenge and potential primary challenges against GOP critics. As the new head of the GOP Senate’s campaign arm, he said he would favor incumbents over challengers, which largely closes the door on the organization supporting Trump-backed insurgents.

“In the eyes of Trump voters, Scott plays it too safe,” said state Rep. Anthony Sabatini, an Orlando-area Republican who sponsored a bill that would rename a stretch of Florida highway after Trump. “Sure he stands with Trump on a lot of votes and issues, but he’s not charging the hill on anything or pushing the conversation like others are.”

A pair of recent polls also shows Scott is having difficulty breaking through. Last weekend’s Conservative Political Action Conference straw poll had Scott at less than half a percent while Ron DeSantis, a longtime Scott rival, got 43 percent if the former president doesn’t run in 2024. In another poll taken last month by Florida Republican pollster Ryan Tyson, 69 percent of Republicans viewed Scott’s performance as strongly or somewhat favorable, compared to 84 percent for DeSantis, and 83 percent for Trump.

Scott was not even included in the poll looking at a potential 2024 field that does not include Trump done last month by GOP pollster Patrick Ruffini.

Some veterans of Florida politics, however, warn against paying too much attention to early 2024 numbers. Scott has been a giant over the past decade in Florida politics, and they have watched him use his vast wealth to knock off favored rivals in the past, and rack up an impressive 3-0 record in statewide political races, a number that jumps to 4-0 if you count Scott knocking off Republican establishment-favored Attorney General Bill McCollum in the 2010 GOP gubernatorial primary.

For them the message is clear: doubt Rick Scott at your own peril.

“I don’t know if CPAC is the most telling audience in the world for who is going to be the next nominee, or whatever,” said Brian Ballard, a Florida-based lobbyist who was close with Scott when he was governor and is a well-known Trump influencer. “Rick Scott has a political graveyard littered with opponents who did not take him seriously.”

“I think he will be able to resonate with Trump voters when the time comes,” Ballard added. “Just like Marco Rubio will. Just like Ted Cruz will. Everyone has their place.”

Chris Hartline, a spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee who previously worked for Scott in his U.S. Senate office, said in a text message: “Rick Scott is focused on one thing — saving the country from socialism by winning back the U.S. Senate. Any suggestion or story beyond that is dumb.”

Susie Wiles, who has run both of Trump’s Florida campaigns and advised Scott in his past races, says that Scott will be able to break through with the Trump base when he focuses on his own politics again.

“Rick Scott is focused on being a senator right now, and outside of winning races for other Republican senators,” she said. “When he decides to focus on something else, he will be successful. He always has been.”

Brian Burgess, Scott’s communications director after he first became governor in 2010, said his old boss never relied on “lofty” political rhetoric to energize supporters.

“His strength is in methodical execution of a strategic plan, and then living or dying by the results,” Burgess said. “That’s who he is, and if he decides to run for president in a few years, it will be because there are large numbers of Americans are hungry for that kind of leadership, not because he can ‘out-Trump’ other potential candidates.”

While Scott has struggled to gain traction among Trump’s most loyal voters as compared to other rising Republican stars, he has also shaken up establishment corners of the party. When taking over as head of NRSC, he fired a handful of top staffers and replaced them with his own longtime aides, according to two sources familiar with the matter. Scott replaced the staff without informing Senate leadership during the heated Georgia runoffs that saw Democrats pick up two Senate seats and flip control of the chamber.

“He is trying to please two masters,” Fabrizio said. “In this day and age, I just don’t know how you do that.”

A Florida GOP consultant said that Scott’s failure to get traction with Trump voters and scuffles with the GOP’s more establishment could leave him somewhat politically rudderless headed into a 2022 election cycle where he will be charged with helming Republican Senate campaigns.

“The problem is he has no lane anymore. Trying to be a Trump person is not working,” the person added. “Trying to be a Senate leadership person is not working. So, what does he do? Think he just tries to win races, which is one thing he has done well.”

Former Trump appointees say they’re still waiting on their vacation payouts

A number of former Trump political appointees have still not received their lump-sum vacation payouts and required forms that are necessary to file for unemployment benefits as they face a tough job market in a Democratic Washington.

While HR headaches are to be expected during a government transition, some former political appointees say they were not warned there would be significant delays. And the problems faced by the seven former appointees POLITICO interviewed appear more acute than during past recent transitions.

It’s not clear, however, whether the delays are related to the rocky Trump-Biden transition or a slow federal government bureaucracy that is still working mostly from home.

Political appointees who stay to the very end of an administration often face a gap between Jan. 20 and when they land their next job, given the time it takes to network, get job interviews and then get a formal offer. Trump appointees face the added problem of job hunting in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 riot, which made some companies reluctant to hire former Trump appointees, in part because of fear of a backlash.

“I’m sitting here going, how do I pay my rent? How do I pay my cellphone bill?” one former Commerce appointee said in an interview.

Another former Trump Commerce official said: “I have enough money to make it a month, but when rent’s due next month, what happens then? Rent in D.C. isn’t cheap.”

Besides the vacation payouts, at least three former Commerce appointees haven’t gotten their separation packets that contain a document called the SF-50, which allows them to apply for unemployment benefits, according to another former Commerce appointee, who only just received his packet.

A Commerce Department spokesperson said in a statement: “Commerce’s HR Department is available to past appointees and more than happy to help them finish any outstanding paperwork.”

The spokesperson added that Commerce had completed separation procedures for appointees who have completed the necessary paperwork and that it was ready to assist appointees who have outstanding questions or haven’t completed all of the steps for off-boarding out of the department, which is necessary for payouts to be issued.

The lack of timely vacation payouts is not affecting just former Commerce appointees. A former Homeland Security official said she hadn’t received payout of her annual leave, which is more than 200 hours and equivalent to three months of pay. Another former senior DHS official said he also hadn’t gotten his one month of vacation payout, which comes out to about $15,000 minus taxes.

“For all pay and benefits inquiries, former DHS employees are encouraged to reach out to their servicing Human Resources office,” a DHS spokesperson said in a statement.

It’s not known how widespread the payment delays are or the exact cause, but there have been other personnel hiccups during the transition, which was especially rocky because of former President Donald Trump’s refusal to acknowledge President Joe Biden’s win. POLITICO previously reported that a number of Trump appointees unexpectedly lost their parental leave benefits when Biden was sworn into office.

While some Trump appointees have been able to land jobs on Capitol Hill or in the private sector, many of them are still looking, and one called the job market for Trump appointees “a little slow” and said that she’d received no offers yet.

Two former Commerce political appointees who served at the end of the Obama administration said that their vacation payouts weren’t delayed as long, and that there weren’t major delays in getting appointees their separation packets.

“I don’t remember it being a problem,” said one of the former Obama Commerce officials. “I don’t remember us having any issues.” Another former official got his vacation payout in the middle of February of 2017.

Some of the former Trump appointees say they are getting increasingly frustrated with the prolonged delays in the payouts, although others have started to get them recently.

“I don’t understand how it’s taking so long to figure out how much comp time you have and how much you’re owed and why that isn’t falling directly into my account,” one former Trump appointee said. “Jan. 20 was never a moving target.” While he has only 72 hours of unused comp time because he was new at the department, he said some people have hundreds of hours.

“A lot of the politicals are not getting jobs, so a lot of them were relying on the lump-sum payments to get them through the next few months,” a third former Trump appointee said.

A separate issue some former Trump appointees are facing is temporarily extending their federal government health insurance through COBRA, although such insurance would be paid by the appointees themselves.

While there’s a 31-day grace period in which appointees still get health insurance, several told POLITICO that the government hadn’t given them the proper forms to apply for COBRA, and one said that when he went to a doctor recently, the office couldn’t find evidence of his insurance.

One said the delay was “leaving a lot of people asking: Am I going to lose health care for the time that the processing center would take to get our information into the system?”

“A lot of people are freaking out,” another said.

New Virginia PAC forms to diversify state's political landscape

An Obama White House alum has formed a political action committee aimed at diversifying state and local campaigns in Virginia.

The Virginia People’s PAC, launched Wednesday, was created by Nick Rathod, a Virginia-based political consultant and Deputy Director of Intergovernmental Affairs under President Obama. Its goal is to recruit and train people of color for senior-level staffing roles on political campaigns. Angela Kasey, a Senate campaign staffer who worked on campaigns for Tim Kaine, Kamala Harris and Jon Ossoff, will serve as the PAC’s executive director.

The PAC does not plan to make any immediate endorsements in the state’s upcoming gubernatorial primary. Instead, Rathod said, he and the group’s leadership team are focused on diversifying candidates’ top staffs.

As Rathod sees it, these are “the candidates most receptive to diversity in their staffing, not only within the campaign, but if they become governor, how are they going to staff — especially at cabinet and senior level positions — [with aides] that are more reflective of the diversity of the commonwealth,” he said.

Lack of diversity within campaigns has been a longstanding issue in both Democratic and Republican politics. While the 2020 cycle saw a historically diverse number of women and racial minorities pursue public office, those managing their races did not reflect the sea change. People of color represent less than 1 percent of all political consultants. There are also a number of structural barriers to entry — long hours, low pay an exclusive networks — that make it more difficult for potential staffers of color to join campaigns.

It’s part of the reason why both Rathod and Kasey formed the PAC, which also includes a fellowship program they hope will create a corps of young political operatives of color who can quickly join a campaign or governors’ office in a top position.

“Most of the time, on campaigns and in politics in general, these positions go to people who already know people in their organizations, and so it leaves a lot of people out,” Kasey said. “We want to create networks of support.”

The group is launching in the heat of Virginia’s crowded and diverse gubernatorial primary. Three Black Democrats, Jennifer McClellan, Jennifer Carroll Foy and Justin Fairfax all announced plans to run, as has former governor Terry McAuliffe, who is the highest-fundraising candidate in the race thus far.

Their ultimate goal, Kasey said, is for the state’s political landscape to become so diverse that groups like theirs are obsolete.

“There’s sort of two Virginias that are fighting each other right now,” Rathod said, referencing the state’s history of electing the first Black governor in the country juxtaposed against the events of Charlottesville in 2017. “And a lot of the old Virginia still kind of permit permeates the politics in the commonwealth.”

We asked governors what they want from Biden. Here’s what they told us.

Gov. Kay Ivey of Alabama, who was a supporter of former President Donald Trump, has something in mind she would welcome from a new president who she voted against: money.

Specifically, the Republican leader is urging President Joe Biden to lead the charge for new spending on infrastructure, which she regards as key to “the rebuilding and strengthening of the manufacturing sector.”

A thousand miles to the north of Montgomery, a Democratic governor who is in most ways the ideological opposite of Ivey is hoping that Biden and Congress will work together on precisely the same goal. “Infrastructure is critical to our state,” said New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy. “Hundreds of thousands of our residents are employed in New York and Philadelphia, and rely on mass transit to get to their jobs.“

In his inaugural address, Biden issued an appeal for “unity” and a revival of functional government. The weeks since — with an impeachment trial and gaping differences over the size of a pandemic relief package — have made clear the low probability in the near-term of changing the relentless partisanship of the nation’s capital.

But a POLITICO survey of select governors, which collectively represents a quasi-symposium, suggests the revival of the practical-minded center Biden extols might be attainable for his administration. Its path likely would run though places like Montgomery and Trenton, as well as Montpelier and Salt Lake City and Olympia, before finally arriving (if at all) in Washington, D.C.

It is not that polarization and grievance don’t exist in the states. No one following the way that Republican state parties in multiple locations have been taken over by Trump acolytes — who have passed resolutions denouncing Republican lawmakers who show insufficient fealty to the former president and his bogus claims that he won the election — could harbor that illusion.

But the survey respondents did illuminate a kind of steady, practical-minded focus that crossed both partisan and geographic divides.

Democrats, not surprisingly, are more eager than Republicans for the new administration to robustly expand government’s role in fighting the pandemic and its economic and social consequences. Several Democrats wish for a national mask mandate from Washington, for instance, while no Republicans do.

More striking, however, is the relative blurring of ideology in the answers. All seven governors who participated in POLITICO’s queries expressed concern about the condition of their state’s economy. Most said assistance from the federal government is necessary for their state governments to meet the demands of the moment, though a couple said they would make do without it.

The survey had two parts. In the first, governors answered multiple choice questions with the understanding that answers would be described cumulatively but the answers of individual governors would not be shared by name. The second part of the survey invited governors to expand on their views and experiences with on-the-record answers.

Both sections highlighted a sense of urgency — and in some cases, a sense of precariousness — that governors perceive about the condition of a pandemic-stricken country as Biden begins.

Their concerns were in every instance about what might be called material politics — that is, problems and remedies which have a tangible manifestation, from job rates to infection rates to energy supply and transition to low-carbon alternatives. In no case did the answers gravitate to the cultural issues — from concern about race relations, or “cancel culture,” or even the all-consuming debates about Trump — that have animated so much of national politics over the past 12 months or the past four years.

Almost certainly, this reflects the nature of a governor’s job, rather than that these particular politicians are somehow wired differently in their interests. But the answers do suggest a way that Biden might transcend a style of politics that often defaults toward remorseless personal and ideological conflict and away from problem-solving. It is by organizing his own administration — as by most appearances he seems to be doing — around material politics. These types of issues by nature tend to reward concrete results rather than rhetorical appeals, and allow for a degree of practical difference-splitting on the way to those results.

What follows are excerpts of the on-the-record portion of the survey results.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey, Republican

What about your job worries you the most right now, and why?

Striking a balance between protecting people’s personal health and their livelihood has been the primary goal of mine throughout the pandemic. Alabama went from a pre-pandemic record low unemployment rate to now being in recovery mode. I look forward to regaining that momentum, while helping distribute a successful vaccine to people in all 67 counties.

From your perspective as governor, what one major policy area do you want the president and Congress to address? Why?

Continually investing in our infrastructure is important to Alabama. Throughout the Trump Administration, we have put Alabama and America first, which has launched business and industry forward. Alabama is a great example of the rebuilding and strengthening of the manufacturing sector. When you prioritize business, you are prioritizing middle America.

Maine Gov. Janet T. Mills, Democrat

What about your job worries you the most right now, and why?

Making life and death decisions and decisions that affect the economy, schools and people’s livelihoods; making sure people have confidence in the decisions our public policy and public health officials are making. What disturbs me most about recent events, including the election and the effect of the pandemic, is the widening gap between the haves and have-nots, the learnings gap in our schools and the earnings gap in our working communities, things that the vaccine alone will not cure.

From your perspective as governor, what one major policy area do you want the president and Congress to address? Why?

Taking measures to combat and mitigate the effects of climate change — rejoining the Paris Climate Accord; enforcing CAFE [Corporate Average Fuel Economy] standards, mercury and ozone emission regulations and appliance efficiency standards; providing incentives for energy efficient and safe homes and buildings, renewable energy sources, electric vehicles and home heating apparatuses such as heat pumps.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, Democrat

What about your job worries you the most right now, and why?

As we navigate the second wave, what worries me is the many hard decisions that are ahead if the pandemic continues to worsen. This pandemic has left Governors with options that can only be described as bad and worse. [Last] March, I made the immensely difficult decision to shut down our state, a decision many other Governors around the country made as well. While this was the right choice, it had a massive economic impact on our state, and the struggles that New Jerseyans, whether they are essential workers, small business owners, students, or anyone else, are going through are always at the top of my mind.

We must also continue to serve low-income residents and our communities of color. These residents have been amongst the hardest-hit by this pandemic, not only in terms of the death toll, but also in terms of the economic impact. Food insecurity and demand for essential social services are at all-time highs and we need as much federal aid as we can get to protect the most vulnerable among us.

From your perspective as governor, what one major policy area do you want the president and Congress to address? Why?

New Jersey serves as a gateway to New York City and Philadelphia, the first and sixth largest cities in the United States. As such, infrastructure is critical to our state. Hundreds of thousands of our residents are employed in New York and Philadelphia, and rely on mass transit to get to their jobs. We have made meaningful progress on portions of the Gateway Program, but we must complete this project in order to avoid economic catastrophe, not just for our region, but our nation. The area covered by the Northeast Corridor rail line is responsible for 20 percent of the GDP of the United States.

The North River Tunnel [that runs under the Hudson River] is in need of imminent repair, and if shut down without a replacement tunnel, will cause immense damage to the state, regional, and national economies, something that the country could not afford before the pandemic, but certainly won’t be able to after. It is of immense importance that the … administration and Congress fund the Gateway Program. We are fortunate to have a [president] that understands more than almost anyone else in government, the importance of a functioning Northeast corridor, and I am more hopeful than I have ever been before that we … have a true partner in the White House.

Vermont Gov. Phil Scott, Republican

What about your job worries you the most right now, and why?

There are many things that have kept governors up at night these past nine months, but one of the most serious challenges we face is the amount of COVID-related misinformation and denial we see, fueled by online conspiracy theories and fact-free ideological websites.

From your perspective as governor, what one major policy area do you want the president and Congress to address? Why?

There is no shortage of problems the Federal government must address: COVID-19, the cost of healthcare, infrastructure, the debt, the economy, restoring global alliances, etc. But one of the most impactful initiatives they should pursue is a major federal effort to expand rural broadband across the country. States have worked hard and struggled for years to expand coverage with some success, but we simply cannot get to the last mile without federal help. The digital divide between urban and rural parts of our country has seriously hampered rural economic development in a 21st Century economy increasingly dependent on reliable connectivity. And the pandemic has demonstrated just how critical this need is for rural states.

We have faced a similar problem before and must pursue a similar solution. In the early 20th Century, the urban-rural divide was electricity. Recognizing the importance of electrification to the economy and quality of life in rural America, Congress passed the Rural Electrification Act (REA), which helped states like Vermont get to the last mile. Our country needs an REA-type approach to broadband to help grow our economy, which will help states raise revenue organically to invest in other critical areas.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, Democrat

What about your job worries you the most right now, and why?

Answering in December, before cases began falling: The growth of COVID-19 cases throughout my state and the ability of our health care system to serve all who need care. We must slow the spread of new cases, hospitalizations and death. I remain deeply concerned about the economic impact of the virus on workers and businesses.

From your perspective as governor, what one major policy area do you want the president and Congress to address? Why?

Congress: Financial assistance to help individuals, workers and businesses who have been impacted by the virus.

Next president: Stronger direction and coordination from the federal government, the states have been left to their own devices for the past year and strong federal leadership would have saved lives and protected health.

Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon, Republican

Gordon chose not to answer most of the on-the-record portion, but he did respond to this question:

For the sake of your state’s economic recovery from the coronavirus crisis, what’s the most urgent unsolved problem to address?

Supporting businesses so that they are able to survive through the winter months, particularly given the uncertainty surrounding [an] additional relief package.

Former Utah Gov. Gary Richard Herbert, Republican

Herbert left office shortly after completing this survey.

What about your job worries you the most right now, and why?

Economic development in rural Utah.

From your perspective as governor, what one major policy area do you want the president and Congress to address? Why?

They should focus on balancing the budget.

Trump aides build out the MAGA-verse with new groups

Brooke Rollins spent nearly three years in Donald Trump’s White House, part of it as the former president’s chief domestic policy adviser.

Now she’s trying on a new role: Helping to oversee a Trump-aligned nonprofit devoted to pushing the former president’s agenda while he’s out of office.

Rollins has moved aggressively since Trump left the White House, with her soon-to-be-launched organization — America First Policy Institute — taking up office space in Arlington, Va., hiring about 30 staffers so far, and, according to Rollins, raising millions of dollars.

Rollins is joining an increasingly long list of former White House officials who’ve set up Trump-allied political groups since the 2020 election, a roster that includes prominent figures in the former president’s orbit like ex-Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson. With Trump out of office and plotting his political future, the emerging ecosystem promises to bolster the former president as he prepares to dive into the 2022 midterm elections — and potentially launch a 2024 comeback bid.

The former aides are capitalizing on widespread donor interest in funding projects aligned with the former president, with pro-Trump givers ready to shell out big checks in order to keep the Trump agenda front and center. Now that the presidential campaign is no longer consuming donors, who can give unlimited amounts to nonprofits or super PACs, a space has emerged for former Trump advisers to finance their own endeavors.

“I think the investors that are out there,” Rollins said, are “really, really excited” about the idea of a vehicle that advocates for Trump’s policies. “For the people that are funding us,” she added, “they get it, they see the vision, they understand what’s at stake.”

Parscale’s new vehicle, the American Greatness Fund, is not explicitly pro-Trump, but its core themes are unmistakably aligned with the former president. The group’s mission statement describes it as a “nonprofit social welfare organization devoted to retaining, cultivating, and inspiring the grassroots energy of the ‘Make America Great Again’” movement. The organization, it adds, will focus on voter integrity issues by creating a website that will catalog legal and legislative efforts surrounding elections and combat what it describes as “cancel culture against conservatives.”

Parscale was fired as Trump’s campaign manager in July 2020, but he has since made a return to the former president’s orbit and is helping to run his post-White House political efforts. Parscale said the American Greatness Fund, the existence of which was first reported by Axios, has so far raised $300,000.

Corey Lewandowski, another former Trump campaign manager, has created Fight Back Now America, a political action committee that according to its website is devoted to “supporting candidates and policies that seek to advance the America First Agenda.”

The organization is expected to be heavily involved in 2022 Republican primaries by targeting those who backed Trump’s impeachment such as Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, though it will also be focused on ousting Democrats in the general election. Lewandowski has separately been tapped to oversee the principal pro-Trump super PAC, though its unclear how that outfit will interface with Fight Back Now America.

Carson said in an interview that his American Cornerstone Institute is a conservative think tank that will emphasize election integrity, one of the ex-president’s fixations. Carson has also set up a PAC, Think BIG America, which can engage in elections and dish out funds to favored candidates.

“We’ll be very interested,” Carson said, “in who are the people who are advocating visions that are logical and that make sense.”

Russ Vought, who was Trump’s Office of Management and Budget director, has set up Center for American Restoration, a think tank that espouses Trump’s fiery populist message. Vought blasted the political establishment in a recent piece published on The Federalist, a conservative website, and said his organization aimed “to give voice to the common, forgotten men and women across this great country.”

Vought, a veteran of Heritage Action, a prominent conservative advocacy group, has among other issues zeroed in on conservative censorship on online platforms, a cause that Trump has taken up after being banned by Twitter.

Whether Trump assists any of the organizations remains unclear. The former president has been focused on establishing his own political apparatus, and during a meeting last week with top advisers he signaled that he wanted to establish a Lewandowski-run super PAC, which would be able to raise and spend unlimited amounts of money.

Trump previously set up a leadership PAC, Save America, which could contribute directly to candidates but has restrictions on the amounts individual donors can contribute. During an appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference over the weekend, he urged supporters to donate to Save America, which has already banked tens of millions of dollars.

Republicans have expressed interest in building out a constellation of new conservative nonprofit groups, believing that Democrats have established a critical advantage in that space in recent years. While nonprofits are limited in some ways in their ability to spend money on elections, they can raise unrestricted amounts of money and spend vast sums to influence voters. Unlike super PACs, they don’t have to disclose their donors.

Republicans point to Fair Fight, a collection of political and nonprofit organizations overseen by Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams devoted to voting rights, as a vehicle that has been particularly effective. Abrams has been credited with helping Democrats make gains in Georgia during the election, when President Joe Biden carried the state and the party seized both of its Senate seats.

Rollins said she has drawn staffers from the White House, the Trump campaign and Capitol Hill. She added that the outfit, which is also spearheaded by former Trump adviser Larry Kudlow, will focus on an array of policy issues that were central to the Trump White House, including school choice, energy independence and immigration reform.

We’re “taking all those ideas that we built out over the last four years and leaning into them,” said Rollins, who prior to joining the White House oversaw the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative think tank based in Austin.

The glut of Trump-aligned organizations could create complications. Some senior Republicans have expressed concern that there may be competition over donors, who may be confused about which outfit to support. They say major contributors are waiting for the former president’s political apparatus to fully form and are waiting for guidance from him on where they should direct their funds.

Carson dismissed the idea that there would be clashing between the different groups and noted that his organization had been in touch with Vought’s. The two organizations are headquartered in close proximity to one another on Capitol Hill.

“The way I look at it, we’re fighting for the same things,” Carson said. “We need as many people in that fight as we can get.”

George Floyd’s killing started a movement. Nine months later, what’s changed?

George Floyd didn’t live to see Kamala Harris become vice president. Nor was he alive to see an investigation into Breonna Taylor’s death find that her killer’s gunfire was justified.

But his legacy will determine which America his daughter, Gianna — and the next generation of young Americans — will grow up in: the nation in which a record number of voters can elect a Black woman into the White House. Or the country in which Taylor’s killer isn’t going to trial, but the officer who shot her neighbors’ wall is.

After a summer of protests, the coming weeks will show how much has really changed since Floyd’s death — in Washington, D.C., the judicial system, and America itself. Next week, jury selection commences for the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer who was filmed pinning his knee into Floyd’s neck for seven minutes and 46 seconds.

And in Congress this week, Democrats are trying once again to shape Floyd’s legacy by advancing federal legislation to reform policing. The House is expected to vote on the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act — again. The bill passed the chamber last summer but was never taken up by the then-Republican-controlled Senate.

“In light of what happened to George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, now is the time to get this bill passed and on President Biden’s desk,” said Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio), chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus.

The bill would ban chokeholds, end racial and religious profiling, eliminate qualified immunity for law enforcement and mandate data collection on police encounters. Civil rights leaders like Rev. Al Sharpton are pushing for its passage. But centrist Democrats have their concerns about some provisions of the bill. And it’s not clear how it’ll fare in the Senate.

Which means it’ll be up to cities and states to overhaul the nation’s beleaguered criminal justice system. But so far, results are mixed.

In the wake of Floyd’s death in May, 25 states enacted new policing laws. But even so, some of those new laws have little to do with improved policing or increased accountability. Instead, they focus on lessening bureaucratic hurdles such as easing residency requirements.

Other laws prohibit chokeholds, update training standards and require officers to have body-worn cameras. Other notable policies include laws that increase penalties for falsely summoning officers or making false reports. Whether those reforms represent real change depends on whom you ask.

“If ‘reimagining policing’ is a phrase, if ‘defund the police’ is a phrase, if ‘abolish the police’ is a phrase, how do we move from essentially a hashtag to budget-specific, legislative-specific, regulatory-specific, community-specific solutions in real time?” said Cornell William Brooks, professor of the practice of public leadership and social justice at Harvard University and a former NAACP president.

“It’s one thing to call for a whole-scale transformation,” said Brooks who is working with a team of students to help mayors reimagine what policing looks like in terms of budgets, legislation, regulation and police culture.

But it’s just as necessary, Brooks said, “to figure out, ‘What does that mean at a granular level?’”

‘I can’t breathe’

Floyd’s death nine months ago was unlike any of those before him. It was familiar in the sense that, yet again, an unarmed Black American was killed by a white police officer. And as he begged for oxygen, his cries mirrored the language of Eric Garner nearly six years prior. Garner, a Black man who was put into a fatal chokehold by police, repeatedly said, “I can’t breathe,” while under restraint.

The deaths of Taylor, Garner, Ahmaud Arbery, Atatiana Jefferson, Botham Jean, Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, Laquan McDonald, Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Freddie Gray and so many others like them who were killed by police officers or vigilantes sparked outrage and protests. But the aftermath of Floyd’s death was different.

“It was just disappointing and really heartbreaking to see just how little progress was made to the point where a police officer could kneel on someone for almost nine minutes, with people videotaping — and they could see folks filming them — with the whole world watching and not care,” said Erika Maye, deputy director of criminal justice and democracy campaigns with the racial justice organization Color of Change.

Footage of Floyd’s fatal encounter reverberated across the globe, uniting people of all races, and igniting worldwide protests for racial justice and against police brutality.

“I never expected it to turn into what it did,” New York state Sen. Brian Benjamin said of the ensuing movement. “This took on a life of its own.”

“That level of interaction and interest across the board is what changed the game here in New York state,” said Benjamin, a candidate for New York City comptroller, who introduced anti-chokehold legislation after Garner’s death. The bill passed in June in “record time,” Benjamin said.

“All of a sudden this became an issue for everybody,” Benjamin said.

Last week, leaders from civil rights groups convened a virtual news conference to demand the passage of the federal police reform bill.

Sharpton, president of the National Action Network, said the bill is just as important as the legislation that came out of the 1960s civil rights movement — the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act.

“We’ll be going to Minneapolis for the jury selection of the police officer that lynched George Floyd with his knee,” Sharpton told reporters. “The family will have to sit there and relive this.

“I would hope that they would be able to sit there knowing that the laws have changed and that George was not lynched in vain and that the Senate of 2021 has the same backbone and integrity that the Senate had in 1964.”

Reimagining policing

Floyd’s death has opened a new level of conversation about policing in communities across the country. Despite the villainization of the slogan to “defund the police,” policymakers and policy experts say they’re now able to have conversations about reimagining policing and holding police accountable in a way they couldn’t before.

“The defund movement is about taking away resources or shifting resources, which doesn’t do anything for improving accountability and oversight for whatever remains after the defunding or shifting of resources,” said Loren Taylor, an Oakland city councilmember. “The reality is if you want police to do better, you hold them accountable. If you want them to do less, you take away resources.”

Floyd’s death showed plainly the type of experiences Black people have long had with law enforcement, leading to increased support for the Black Lives Matter movement, the acknowledgment of racism and the role it plays in American society, and conversations about addressing the many inequities African Americans face in housing, health care, education, employment and other areas.

Still, that talk hasn’t led to action everywhere. As the Chauvin trial nears, Dave Bicking, a board member of Minneapolis-based Communities United Against Police Brutality, said the city is already off to a bad start.

Bicking said Minneapolis is creating a false narrative by putting up fences and barbed wire and planning to bring in the National Guard, arguing that police violence is what the city should be concerned about. He also said the city council has fallen short on enacting meaningful, post-Floyd policy changes.

“There has been very little change,” Bicking said. “There’s radical talk but no action to speak of. A few steps backward and a process, I think, designed to lead to nowhere.”

Despite talk of defunding or even abolishing police in Minneapolis, Bicking said, neither outcome looks likely.

“The net effect of it has been virtually nothing has changed,” he added. “The people in our city government don’t act like they realize this is the epicenter of a movement, a huge movement, and something which is history-making and which is for better or worse going to really cause some change here.”

Black Americans are hopeful Chauvin will be convicted. But many have learned not to get their hopes up after disappointing outcomes in high-profile cases that have led to acquittal or no indictment in recent years.

“Black people have been let down a lot, on so many levels, and when it comes to trust, I think as a people we definitely have trust issues. Rightfully so,” said Kamau Marshall, a former spokesman for Joe Biden’s presidential campaign and ex-senior congressional staffer. “We all know what the outcome should be, but what we’ve seen in the past with various outcomes in most cases have not gone the best way.”

Last week, New York Attorney General Letitia James announced that a grand jury voted not to indict any officers involved in the death of Daniel Prude, a Black man who was experiencing a psychotic episode when police handcuffed him, put a mesh hood over his head and pinned him to the ground until he was unconscious.

The grand jury’s decision was a disappointment, but not a surprise for Tianna Mañón, CEO of Mañón Media Management and a former journalist who now works with reporters and newsrooms on equity in coverage and storytelling.

“You knew this was coming and yet it still hurts,” Mañón said. “It’s a pain you can’t prepare for because these people are just gonna continue living their lives, and not even just continue living their lives but within this community, so to speak.”

Sakira Cook, senior director of the justice program at The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, said she hopes the prosecution can prove that Chauvin acted outside the bounds of the law and took Floyd’s life with what he thought was impunity.

“It is not often the case that officers are arrested, indicted and then put on trial for these types of incidents,” she said. “So anytime that does happen, that is a step in the right direction.”

There’s no consensus on what Floyd’s legacy will be. Some say it’s too soon to say, while others envision a future where police departments cease to exist as conversations about rethinking public safety and who should respond to what continue. But perhaps Floyd’s daughter said it best.

“I keep replaying in my mind the clip of his daughter saying, ‘My daddy changed the world,’” Cook said. “And that, for me, sums up beautifully what I hope his legacy will be. I hope we will look at that moment as the spark that ignited a transformation in this country on all fronts but also one that permeated the rest of the globe.”

Vernon Jordan, activist and former Clinton advisor, dies at 85

ATLANTA — Vernon Jordan, who rose from humble beginnings in the segregated South to become a champion of civil rights before reinventing himself as a Washington insider and corporate influencer, has died, according to a statement from his daughter. He was 85.

Jordan’s daughter, Vickee Jordan Adams, released the statement Tuesday to CBS News.

“My father passed away last night around 10p surrounded by loved ones his wife and daughter by his side,” she said.

After stints as field secretary for the Georgia NAACP and executive director of the United Negro College Fund, he became head of the National Urban League, becoming the face of Black America’s modern struggle for jobs and justice for more than a decade. He was nearly killed by a racist’s bullet in 1980 before transitioning to business and politics.

His friendship with Bill Clinton took them both to the White House. Jordan was an unofficial Clinton aide, drawing him into controversy during the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

After growing up in the Jim Crow South and living much of his life in a segregated America, Jordan took a strategic view of race issues.

“My view on all this business about race is never to get angry, no, but to get even,” Jordan said in a July 2000 New York Times interview. “You don’t take it out in anger; you take it out in achievement.”

Jordan was the first lawyer to head the Urban League, which had traditionally been led by social workers. Under Jordan’s leadership, the Urban League added 17 more chapters and its budget swelled to more than $100 million. The organization also broadened its focus to include voter registration drives and conflict resolution between Blacks and law enforcement.

He resigned from the Urban League in 1982 to become a partner at Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer and Feld.

Jordan was a key campaign adviser to Clinton during his first presidential campaign and co-chaired Clinton’s transition team. He was the first Black to be assigned such a role.

His friendship with Clinton, which began in the 1970s, evolved into a partnership and political alliance. He met Clinton as a young politician in Arkansas, and the two connected over their Southern roots and poor upbringings.

Although Jordan held held no official role in the Clinton White House, he was highly influential and had such labels as the “first friend.” He approached Colin Powell about becoming Secretary of State and encouraged Clinton to pass the NAFTA agreement in 1993. Jordan also secured a job at Revlon for Monica Lewinsky, a White House intern whose sexual encounters with the president spawned a scandal.

Jordan’s actions briefly drew the attention of federal prosecutors investigating Clinton’s actions, but he ultimately was not mentioned in a final report issued by special prosecutor Ken Starr.

Vernon Eulion Jordan Jr., was born in Atlanta on Aug. 15, 1935, the second of Vernon and Mary Belle Jordan’s three sons. Until Jordan was 13, the family lived in public housing. But he was exposed to Atlanta’s elite through his mother, who worked as a caterer for many of the city’s affluent citizens.

Jordan went to DePauw University in Indiana, where he was the only Black in his class and one of five at the college. Distinguishing himself through academics, oratory and athletics, he graduated in 1957 with a bachelor’s degree in political science and went on to attend Howard University School of Law in Washington. While there, he married his first wife, Shirley Yarbrough.

The young couple moved to Atlanta after Jordan earned his law degree in 1960, and Jordan became a clerk for civil rights attorney Donald Hollowell, who successfully represented two Black students — Hamilton Holmes and Charlayne Hunter — attempting to integrate the University of Georgia. In an iconic photograph, Jordan, an imposing 6 feet, 4 inches, is seen holding at bay the white mob that tried to block Hunter from starting her first day of classes.

In 1961, Jordan became Georgia field secretary for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. During his two years in the role, Jordan built new chapters, coordinated demonstrations and boycotted businesses that would not employ Blacks.

Jordan moved to Arkansas in 1964 and went into private practice. He also became director of the Voter Education Project of the Southern Regional Council. During his tenure, millions of new Blacks joined the voter rolls and hundreds of Blacks were elected in the South.

Jordan considered running for Georgia’s fifth congressional district seat in 1970, but was tapped that year to head the United Negro College Fund. Holding the position for just 12 months, Jordan used his fundraising skills to fill the organization’s coffers with $10 million to help students at historically Black colleges and universities.

In 1971, after the death of Whitney Young Jr., Jordan was named the fifth president of the National Urban League, which is dedicated to empowering African Americans to enter the economic and social mainstream.

“I believe that working with the Urban League, the NAACP, PUSH and SCLC is the highest form of service that you can perform for Black people,” Jordan said in a December 1980 interview in Ebony Magazine. “And if you serve Black people you serve the country as well. So if I do a good job here, the Black people are not the only beneficiary; so is the country. The country has a vested interest in Black people doing well.”

The high-profile position landed him in the crosshairs of a racist in May 1980 in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Jordan was shot with a hunter’s rifle outside his hotel after returning from dinner following a speaking engagement.

Jordan had five surgeries and was visited by President Jimmy Carter during his 3-month recovery in the hospital.

“I’m not afraid and I won’t quit,” Jordan told Ebony after the shooting.

Joseph Paul Franklin, an avowed white supremacist who targeted Blacks and Jews in a cross-country killing spree from 1977 to 1980, later admitted to shooting Jordan. He was never prosecuted in Jordan’s case, but was put to death in 2013 for another slaying in Missouri.

Jordan left the organization in 1981, but said his departure was not related to the shooting.

In 2000, Jordan joined the New York investment firm of Lazard Freres & Co. as a senior managing partner. The following year, he released an autobiography, “Vernon Can Read!: A Memoir.” Also in 2001, Jordan was awarded the Spingarn Medal, the highest honor given to a Black American for outstanding achievement.

He has received more than 55 honorary degrees, including ones from both of his alma maters and sat on several boards of directors.

Navarro penned 15-page memo falsely accusing Coates of being Anonymous

Former President Donald Trump’s trade adviser Peter Navarro penned a 15-page dossier falsely accusing his colleague Victoria Coates of being Anonymous, according to a copy of the document that was obtained by POLITICO and captures the backbiting that was rife in the Trump White House.

The December 2019 memo goes into great detail to make the case that Coates — who was then a deputy national security adviser — was the author of both the New York Times op-ed and a tell-all book that described a resistance force within the administration aiming to undermine President Donald Trump.

Coates, who is not named in the memo but is clearly identified through specific information, was transferred out of the White House to the Department of Energy in February, just weeks after Navarro wrote and circulated the document.

The dossier lists fifteen bullet points as the likely profile of the author, and several of them turned out to be wrong, including that the person was a “Female With Several Children,” a “Middle East Expert, Pro-Israel, Iran Hawk,” an “Experienced Writer” who had ties to former national security adviser John Bolton and who worked at the National Security Council and not at a Cabinet agency.

The Dec. 2, 2019, memo, entitled “Identity of Anonymous” and which has never been published publicly, seems to reverse-engineer the search for Anonymous and cherry-pick clues to pin the blame on Coates.

The memo — which was riddled with incorrect theories — shows how Anonymous set off significant turmoil inside the White House and also how senior officials were eager to go after their colleagues.

Anonymous turned out to be Miles Taylor, who was the chief of staff at the Department of Homeland Security and eventually became an outspoken Trump critic before revealing himself as Anonymous in late October of last year.

Besides pushing a populist trade agenda for Trump, Navarro focused heavily on trying to figure out who Anonymous was. Ironically, for a dossier discussing who Anonymous was, the memo is unsigned. But three former Trump administration officials said that Navarro had written it. Two officials said that he gave it to then-White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney in January, who never believed Navarro’s findings.

Navarro did not have a comment.

Mulvaney was “irritated” by Navarro’s memo and told Navarro, “I don’t have time for this,” said one of the former officials.

The person said that Navarro had shared that Trump was “aware” of the memo, and another said that “Navarro was pimping the idea that Victoria was Anonymous to the President.”

Mulvaney declined to comment on the record.

Coates told POLITICO that she had heard that the memo was sent to Trump. A spokesperson for Trump had no comment.

“There is no question in my mind that it got Victoria fired,” said one of the former officials.

Asked why Navarro targeted Coates in the first place, another former official said only he had “decided she was a globalist early on.”

Despite telling CNN in February 2020 that the extent of his hunt was just reading and thinking about the book and op-ed, a person familiar with the matter said that Navarro was clearly circulating his theory around town and that he floated the notion that Coates was Anonymous to a reporter at The Washington Post, but the Post was not able to verify Navarro’s claims. A Post spokesperson didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Asked by CNN last February if he thought Coates was Anonymous, he said: “Suspects are everywhere.” He also called hunting for the author a “vocation.”

“It’s shocking to realize senior administration officials were so easily duped by this garbage,” Coates said in a statement. “President Trump was not well served.”

The report lists six points that Navarro offered as “major corroborating evidence” that Coates was Anonymous, including that she had written under an anonymous pen name before on a blog and had two “indirect” links to the word “lodestar” and the Flight 93 metaphor used in the book’s epilogue.

Part of the memo discusses Navarro’s contention that because the op-ed and book were made up of “short declarative sentences,” that it was likely that they had the person had written previous op-eds or books.

That helped Navarro point to Coates as the likely author, given that she had written an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal and a 2016 book called “David’s Sling: A History of Democracy in Ten Works of Art” and helped in the writing of books by former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas). The real author, Taylor, had never written a book before; “A Warning” was his first published book.

The memo also believes that the author is a “Female with Several Children” and points to how Coates dedicated her art history book to her husband and her two kids “who make everything worthwhile.” “A Warning” was dedicated to “My children” even though Taylor currently has no kids. (The book did say: “Certain details have been withheld or modified without changing the facts in order to preserve the anonymity of those involved.”)

The strongest piece of evidence that Navarro seemed to have was Coates’ ties to the two former Rumsfeld aides who started the literary agency that sold Anonymous’ book, Javelin.

“It is an open debate as to whether Javelin is simply a mercenary that will sell anything that will sell or whether it is an agency with a particular Never Trump agenda,” Navarro writes.

While Keith Urbahn and Matt Latimer of Javelin had initially said they would not confirm or deny specific individuals had written “A Warning,” after Coates got on thin ice at the White House because of the Anonymous rumors, they backtracked and publicly denied she was the author.

“To be very clear so there is no chance of any misunderstanding: Dr. Coates is not Anonymous,” Latimer said in a statement last February. “She does not know who Anonymous is. We have never discussed Anonymous or the book, A WARNING, with her prior to its publication. She did not write it, edit it, see it in advance, know anything about it, or as far we know ever read it.”

But that was not enough to save her job, and she was eventually moved to the Department of Energy as the senior policy adviser in late February. (Her boss at the time, national security adviser Robert O’Brien, said in a statement that she had “served the president loyally since the earliest days of the administration” but did not publicly say at the time she wasn’t Anonymous.)

The only “conclusions” listed in the memo appeared to reflect the possibility that Coates wasn’t actually anonymous.

“While there is a reasonable probability that our POI may be Anonymous, our POI may also be innocent,” Navarro wrote. “Extreme care must be taken in any investigation of this matter, and one should presume innocence until actually proven guilty.”

CPAC designed as a Trump coronation, former head of American Conservative Union says

The former head of the organization that oversees CPAC on Sunday called this year’s ongoing event a coronation of Donald Trump.

Calling him “the great whiner.” Al Cardenas said on MSNBC of Trump: “He’s going to continue to make sure people understand that he is the de facto leader of the Republican Party, and those that don’t follow his path will have to pay for it.”

Cardenas was the head of the American Conservative Union from 2011 to 2014. The organization runs the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, which began in 1974 with Ronald Reagan as its first keynote speaker. Cardenas was succeeded by Matt Schlapp, who remains the organization’s president.

Trump is to address CPAC on Sunday afternoon.

Speaking on “The Sunday Show With Jonathan Capehart,” Cardenas said that everything at CPAC leading up to Trump’s speech has been “a set-up” to highlight the themes that the former president will hammer home.

Trump is, Cardenas told Capehart, intent on “instilling fear” and “making sure everybody know there is one leader in this party and that’s him.”

New York City's once-powerful Democratic bosses sit out mayor’s race

NEW YORK — When Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez toppled Queens party boss Joe Crowley in 2018, it marked a new low for the local Democratic machines that once held sway over New York City politics.

Now, the party organizations in the city’s boroughs can’t even get behind a candidate for one of the most important mayoral contests in recent memory.

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, a leading candidate among more than two dozen people seeking the Democratic nomination for mayor, made a hard sell for the Queens party nod. Borough pride be damned, Adams stared into the camera on a recent weeknight and declared himself the “Queens candidate.”

“We have heard reported over and over again that there is not a Queens candidate running for mayor. That is not true. I am the Queens candidate,” Adams, who grew up in Queens, told its Democratic county organization at a virtual forum earlier this month. “This is a borough that is dear to my heart.”

Two weeks later, Rep. Greg Meeks, who runs the Queens Democratic party, announced the organization’s district leaders had not reached consensus around a single candidate and would skip endorsing in the race to replace outgoing Mayor Bill de Blasio. His counterparts in Brooklyn and the Bronx are charting a similar path — all three so far declining to get behind any of the contenders four months before the June 22 primary.

The abdication by the county parties — which at one time had viable organizations in three of the city’s five boroughs — marks another demonstration of the local Democratic organizations’ recession from their once-powerful role at the center of New York City politics.

No longer are party leaders able to corral — or dictate, depending on one’s perspective — votes for citywide candidates, leaving them without position in one of the most consequential local elections in modern memory.

“The counties are in a very difficult, if not impossible, position,” said city-based lobbyist George Fontas, who hails from South Brooklyn. With four months to go, the field is too crowded and too uncertain — the unavoidable consequence of a new campaign finance system and ranked-choice voting — to confidently pick a winner, he reasoned.

With a crucial deadline coming up to get on the ballot, the parties are likely to sit out one of their most important roles in the city’s electoral process.

“Time is running out and is of the essence,” said Jason Laidley, chief of staff to Bronx Democratic leader and state Sen. Jamaal Bailey, referring to the March 2 start of collecting signatures to secure a spot on the ballot. The local party has still not gotten behind a candidate.

In Brooklyn, Democrats are mired in a civil war between old-guard allies and left-leaning reformers. The breach has stalled an endorsement of Adams, even as the county party’s lawyer openly supports the borough president’s campaign.

A spokesman for the party, George Arzt, said it is “simply too early for county party leaders to endorse mayoral candidates” and added they are “grappling with the ravages of the pandemic” and too focused on constituent services to endorse until later in the cycle.

Discord in the Brooklyn Democratic party has become so severe it led to a 13-hour virtual showdown in December, captured in video snippets of party elders silencing reformers by automatically muting their mics. The standoff over the party’s byzantine bylaws is now in the hands of the courts.

Meeks, who is reportedly fond of Wall Street executive Ray McGuire in the mayor’s race, is wrestling with several divisions in Queens, including a bloc of support for Adams countered by a growing presence of far-left activists more inclined to back a politically concordant candidate, according to several people familiar with the matter.

“I don’t understand why the parties would not embrace these movements of new blood,” Derek Evers, a district leader in Queens’ Ridgewood and Long Island City neighborhoods, said in an interview.

In the Bronx, Bailey is finding his footing following a leadership shakeup last year. Shortly after Borough President Rubén Díaz Jr. dropped out of the mayoral race, party chair Marcos Crespo stepped down and opted not to run for reelection to the state Assembly. Bailey has been calling district leaders and politicians to assess their preferences in the upcoming primary but has found little consensus, Laidley said.

Looming over party leaders is the longstanding cold war between Adams, a mainstay in city Democratic politics whom they might otherwise be inclined to support, and Rep. Hakeem Jeffries — a rising star in Washington, whom they are uninclined to cross.

Given the messy landscape, the leaders have decided to focus on other elections this year: Surrogate court contests, City Council faceoffs and the race for comptroller.

“An endorsement of one [mayoral] candidate at this juncture, when they’re all viable candidates, could cause a major fracture in the county parties and they don’t want to do that. So smarter to let things play out,” Fontas said.

In 2013, each party endorsed four months before the primary, allowing them time to assist candidates in gathering signatures and potentially challenging their opponents’ petitions.

There are more than two dozen people running for mayor, and at least eight would appear to have a viable path, given the unpredictable role ranked-choice voting will play in the election. Among those, several candidates have put elbow grease into winning over county leaders, despite their losing track record in the last open mayoral election in 2013.

Frontrunner Andrew Yang held a private, 30-minute Zoom call with Meeks to make a final pitch the weekend before the congressman declined to endorse in the race, according to a campaign aide. Yang, who has skipped many of the nightly forums, made sure to appear at one hosted by the Brooklyn Democratic party earlier this month.

He has made his deepest inroads in the Bronx, where he lunched with the borough president at a famed Italian restaurant this week, toured the Council district of a party loyalist and hired Stanley Schlein, the county organization’s lawyer.

The Brooklyn party has all but endorsed Adams. County leader Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn’s close ally on the City Council, Farah Louis, recently backed the borough president, and county attorney Frank Carone has donated to his campaign. So have Carone’s relatives, as well as 35 other people who live in his neighborhood and contributed a total of $28,930 to Adams’ campaign, according to a POLITICO analysis of donations.

Adams’ pitch that he is the “Queens candidate” may not have earned him Meeks’ backing, but he did clinch a lineup of endorsements from City Council Member and party loyalist Francisco Moya and six district leaders last week.

Standing in his way is McGuire, who donated the maximum contribution to Meeks’ 2020 reelection effort. McGuire set his sights on the prized voting bloc in Southeast Queens early, hiring a political consultant with long ties to the area and dining at Sangria’s in Jamaica with state Sen. Leroy Comrie. During a recent Zoom forum, Comrie rushed to McGuire’s defense when one of Adams’ surrogates lobbed criticisms at him.

Even Maya Wiley — who is pitching herself to liberal, reform-minded voters — signaled her desire for county party support Before she entered the race, the attorney and former de Blasio adviser trekked to the Bronx for Caribbean cuisine with Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, the former county leader who still holds considerable sway. Wiley also personally called Bichotte Hermelyn to pitch her candidacy, according to a campaign aide.

One leading contender who has no evident path to county support is City Comptroller Scott Stringer, whose native Manhattan lacks a strong Democratic organization.

Despite being a career politician, Stringer alienated county leaders by backing Tiffany Cabán’s unsuccessful bid in the 2019 Queens district attorney race against party favorite Melinda Katz. He also supported the winning bids of upstart challengers to incumbent state lawmakers across the city and furthered his rift with Heastie by siding against him on a legislative pay raise committee.

The atrophying of the county organizations’ electoral muscle began long before 2018, when Ocasio-Cortez routed a Queens party boss in an upset.

In 2009, the labor-backed Working Families Party reached into districts that county leaders thought were securely in their grasp and tossed out their favored candidates. City Council members Danny Dromm and Jimmy Van Bramer defeated the party’s choices in Queens, and Jumaane Williams, now the city’s public advocate, ousted a party-backed incumbent in Central Brooklyn.

It was a marked disappointment for the once-powerful leaders in Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx, whose control had previously eclipsed breakaway factions.

The county leaders suffered another series of setbacks in 2013 — first in backing mayoral candidates who lost to de Blasio in the September primary and then failing to secure their pick for speaker of the City Council, Dan Garodnick.

In the intervening years, they have continued winning judgeships and district leader races and returned victorious in backing Corey Johnson in the 2017 Council speaker’s race.

“Sure politics changes, but if that were the case I don’t think we would’ve made a decision on comptroller,” said Antonio Alfonso, political director of the Queens party. “If we were completely irrelevant we wouldn’t have endorsed on a citywide level, but we did. We chose a hometown favorite in David Weprin who is also the best fit for the job.”

The decline of county parties has been hastened by a new generation of reform-minded New Yorkers who eschew the old-school politicking that counties engage in and are more concerned with ideology than party power.

And despite candidates seeking their support this year, campaign aides quietly acknowledge the parties are not as necessary as they once were because Covid-era rules have abbreviated the ballot requirements and for-hire firms are perfectly capable of doing the job.

“If you’re going to run for office you need to have your own organization today,” former Bronx City Council Member Jimmy Vacca said. “You cannot depend on a [political] club or a county party anymore.”