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Minnesota Lt. Gov. Tina Smith to fill Al Franken's Senate seat

Updated 1:02 p.m. ET Dec. 13: Sen. Al Franken said Minnesota Lt. Gov. Tina Smith “will make an excellent United States Senator” after she was announced Wednesday as the Democratic congressman’s replacement.

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton named Smith as Franken’s replacement after the senator announced his intention to resign. He has not set a date for his resignation. Dayton said Wednesday that Smith will serve a one-year term ending in January 2019.

Franken said Smith, who became lieutenant governor in 2015, will “be an effective senator who knows how to work across party lines to get things done for Minnesota.”

“I look forward to working with her on ensuring a speedy and seamless transition,” he said.

Updated 11:07 a.m. ET Dec. 13: Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton announced Wednesday that the state’s lieutenant governor, Tina Smith, will fill the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Sen. Al Franken.

Franken announced his intent to resign earlier this month after multiple women came forward to accuse the Democrat of sexual misconduct.

In a statement, officials said Smith will serve a one-year term in the Senate before Minnesotans go to the polls to chose Franken’s replacement.

Original story: Minnesota Lt. Gov. Tina Smith will be appointed to fill the U.S. Senate seat of fellow Democrat Al Franken, the Star Tribune and Minnesota Public Radio are reporting.

>> PREVIOUS STORY: Al Franken will resign amid allegations of sexual misconduct

Gov. Mark Dayton will announce Smith's appointment at a news conference Wednesday morning, the outlets reported, citing unnamed sources familiar with the decision.

>> PREVIOUS STORY: Al Franken: What happens to his Senate seat if he resigns?

Both outlets reported that Smith, 59, also will vie for the seat in the November 2018 special election.

The news comes less than one week after Franken announced he'd be resigning amid sexual misconduct allegations.

>> Read more trending news 

From 2003-2006, Smith, a New Mexico native who has lived in Minnesota since 1984, was vice president of external affairs for Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota. She also was chief of staff for Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak and Dayton before becoming lieutenant governor in 2015.

– The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

5 things to know about Doug Jones, winner of the Alabama Senate race 

After sexual misconduct allegations surfaced against Republican U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore in the weeks leading up to the Dec. 12, 2017, special election in Alabama, critics began lining up behind Democrat Doug Jones in the closely watched race.

In a dramatic turn of events, Jones pulled off a nailbiter of a win against Moore.

>> 5 things to watch in Alabama's U.S. Senate election

Here's what we know about Jones, a 63-year-old former federal prosecutor from Birmingham:

>> Who is Judge Roy Moore?

1. He became the U.S. attorney for Alabama's Northern District in 1997. President Bill Clinton appointed him to the post, which Jones held until 2001, according to NBC News.

2. Jones prosecuted two Ku Klux Klan members behind the 1963 16th Street Baptist Church bombing that killed four black girls in Alabama. In the early 2000s, Bobby Frank Cherry and Thomas Blanton were sentenced to life in prison in the case, according to NBC News.

3. He was involved in prosecuting Eric Rudolph, who bombed a Birmingham abortion clinic in 1998. That attack killed an off-duty officer. Rudolph also was behind the deadly 1996 Centennial Olympic Park bombing in Atlanta.

>> Read more trending news 

4. He has spoken in support of Moore's accusers. “Those brave women are entirely credible; they’re telling the truth,” Jones said, according to Newsweek. “Moore will be an embarrassment to the people and businesses of Alabama, and if he makes it to Senate, he’ll continue to divide our country.”

5. He is against repealing the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare. Jones also told AL.com that he supports a woman's right to choose to have an abortion but added: "The law for decades has been that late-term procedures are generally restricted except in the case of medical necessity. That's what I support." Read more here.

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee dead at 65

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, the city's first Asian-American mayor, died suddenly Tuesday morning after a heart attack, officials said in a statement. He was 65.

>> PHOTOS: Notable deaths 2017

>> Click here or scroll down for more

>> Read more trending news 

WATCH: Jimmy Kimmel holds infant son during tearful monologue about children's health care

On Monday, late-night host Jimmy Kimmel delivered an emotional monologue while holding his 7-month-old son, Billy, after taking a week off as the baby boy recovered from heart surgery.

>> Jimmy Kimmel: Senator ‘lied right to my face’ about health care

A tearful Kimmel asked lawmakers to restore the Children's Health Insurance Program, which expired two months ago.

>> Round 3: Jimmy Kimmel continues criticism of GOP’s health-care bill

"This is literally a life-and-death program for American kids," Kimmel said. "It’s always had bipartisan support, but this year, they let the money for it expire while they work on getting tax cuts for their billionaire and millionaire donors."

>> Read more trending news  

He continued: "And imagine getting that letter, literally not knowing how you will be able to afford to save your child’s life. It's not a hypothetical. About 2 million CHIP kids have serious chronic conditions. I don’t know about you, I’ve had enough of this. I don’t know what could be more disgusting than putting a tax cut that mostly goes to rich people ahead of the lives of children."

>> Watch the clip here

Kimmel's son, who was born with congenital heart disease, has had two heart surgeries and will have another at age 6, according to his show's YouTube page.

5 things to watch in Alabama's U.S. Senate election

Alabama voters head to the polls Tuesday to decide the race for U.S. Senate between Republican Roy Moore and Democrat Doug Jones, and the outcome is being closely watched across the nation.

>> Who is Judge Roy Moore?

No Democrat has been elected to the U.S. Senate from Alabama since 1992, and President Donald Trump won the state by nearly 30 percentage points. But allegations that Moore pursued sexual relationships with teenage girls when he was in his 30s have rocked the race. He’s denied the claims.

>> Who is Doug Jones, Democrat facing Roy Moore in Alabama Senate race?

Jones, a former federal prosecutor, has highlighted his opponent’s outspoken conservative views in his bid to energize the state’s Democratic base and flip suburban voters who typically vote for the GOP. Polls show a tight race, though special elections like the one Tuesday are notoriously hard to predict.

>> Read more trending news

Moore is deeply popular with the state’s evangelical voters, a powerful voting bloc that has enthusiastically supported him in past statewide votes. In the closing weeks of the race, he’s had scattered appearances in rural churches while largely relying on supporters to defend him.

Here are five things to watch with Tuesday’s vote to succeed Jeff Sessions, whose seat became open when Trump tapped him to become U.S. attorney general:

>> Trump tweets support for Roy Moore in Alabama Senate race

1. It’s a big deal. Republicans now control 52 seats in the U.S. Senate, including the one held by Luther Strange, who was appointed to fill Sessions’ seat and was soundly defeated by Moore in September. A Democratic win would mean that Republicans could only afford one “no” vote to pass a Senate measure on party lines, since Vice President Mike Pence would break a 50-50 tie. Some Republicans fear a Moore victory could be equally unsettling for the party. Moore has repeatedly called for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to step down, and he in turn has withheld his support and funding for the former judge’s campaign. And Democrats would look to tie Moore to a host of GOP candidates seeking office in the midterm elections in 2018, highlighting not only accusations that he’s a sexual predator but also his history of controversial statements.

>> WaPo: Another Roy Moore accuser comes forward with evidence of relationship

2. The bombshell allegations. Allegations against Moore of sexual misconduct involving teenagers while a prosecutor in Etowah County, Alabama, from 1977 to 1982 have threatened to upend the race. Moore has denied the allegations while claiming media outlets and Washington status quo enforcers are trying to derail his campaign. The women have stuck by their stories, and several said they are willing to testify under oath. They have left GOP voters who are concerned by the allegations in a quandary, debating between supporting a candidate accused of being a sexual predator or sending a Democrat to Washington. Some could also stay home on Tuesday or write in a candidate.

3. Alabama’s rural base. The state’s rural Republican base holds outsized sway in Alabama, where grass-roots Republicans have helped ensure that no Democrat has been elected to major statewide office since 2006. But Moore’s margins as a statewide candidate show he has underperformed other Republicans. In 2012, he narrowly won a vote for Supreme Court chief justice even as Mitt Romney carried the state by 22 percentage points. And in his 9-point victory over Strange in the primary, Moore struggled in the affluent, conservative suburbs in Birmingham and Huntsville. Moore has tried to shore up his base by crisscrossing rural areas he hopes to carry by overwhelming victories, and his advisers expect enthusiastic turnout to mark the difference in Tuesday’s vote.

4. The key to a Democratic victory. Jones must rely on a two-pronged strategy to flip the seat. He needs Alabama’s black population – a predominantly Democratic voting bloc that accounts for about 27 percent of the state – to turn out in droves. Jones, who is white, has leaned on African-American supporters, including New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, to energize black voters in populous areas like Birmingham in the closing days of the race. He has also wooed voters in Republican-leaning suburbs in the outskirts of Birmingham, Huntsville and Mobile in hopes of convincing them to vote across party lines – or not cast a ballot at all. Some suburban voters who have never cast Democratic ballots say they’ve proudly posted Jones signs in their yards.

5. How the election will affect the 2018 elections in other states. For example, although Georgia and Alabama are vastly different states, Peach State strategists are closely watching their neighbor for clues about next year’s elections in Georgia. Like in Alabama, Democrats in Georgia hope to flip independent voters in affluent suburbs who have fled to the GOP. And Republicans in both states see a path to victory through maximizing their advantage in rural areas. U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Atlanta, was among the black leaders enlisted to help Jones’ campaign across the state line. And Stacey Evans, a Democratic candidate for governor, has already made clear she intends to weaponize Moore’s campaign. She called on her GOP rivals to disavow Moore’s candidacy. None did so.

WATCH: The Army-Navy national anthem in the snow was one to remember

When it came to the Army-Navy college football game on Saturday, there was no doubt what the national anthem was going to look like in terms of participation, but the addition of snow to the equation made the moment that much more memorable.

>> Watch the clip here

>> PHOTOS: Army beats Navy 14-13

The rendition by the West Point and U.S. Naval Academy glee clubs was a hit on social media, with many Twitter users saying the performance gave them "goosebumps” and “chills.”

Other commenters took the opportunity to call out the NFL players who have been kneeling in protest of racial inequality as the anthem is performed before games.

Army went on to win Saturday's game 14-13.

– The Cox Media Group National Content Desk contributed to this report.

Obama had the most-liked tweet of 2017; here's what it said

Twitter has released its end-of-year stats and revealed that former President Barack Obama had the most-liked tweet of 2017.

>> Read more trending news

His tweet, sent in August after white nationalists marched on Charlottesville, Virginia, has been liked 4.6 million times. The tweet reads, “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion,” accompanied by a picture of him looking up at a group of children.

The tweet, a portion of a quote from late South African President Nelson Mandela, was followed up by two more tweets from Obama, which finished the quote.

>> See the tweet here

 “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love. For love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite,” the quote, in whole, reads.

>> Obama's Charlottesville response becomes most-liked tweet of all time

Obama’s tweet following the Charlottesville march wasn’t his only top tweet. He also took the third spot for most-liked, and the second, fifth, and eighth spots for most-retweeted tweets.

His other top tweets included his tweet to Sen. John McCain after the Arizona Republican was diagnosed with cancer; the final line of his presidential farewell address in Chicago; and his farewell after leaving the Oval Office for the last time.

Other top tweets included Ariana Grande’s tweet after the bombing at her Manchester, England, concert; LeBron James’s tweet when he called President Donald Trump a “bum"; a tweet promising to donate 6 pounds of dog food to Houston dogs affected by Hurricane Harvey for every retweet it received; another tweet asking for retweets to raise donations for Houston;, a photo from Linkin Park of its former frontman, Chester Bennington, after he committed suicide earlier this year; the number to the suicide hotline tweeted by social media star Seth Joseph; and finally, the most-retweeted tweet of the year came from 16-year-old Carter Wilkerson begging for retweets so he could win free chicken nuggets from Wendy’s for a year.

While Trump didn’t win a top spot for any of his own tweets, he was the most-tweeted-about world leader.

Tomi Lahren slams Beyoncé, Colin Kaepernick as 'police-hating' after awards ceremony

Colin Kaepernick was this year’s recipient of Sports Illustrated’s Muhammad Ali Legacy Award, which he accepted in person from surprise presenter Beyoncé on Tuesday night.

>> Watch the clip here

Prior to the ceremony, Sports Illustrated writer Michael Rosenberg praised Kaepernick for making “his truth known” with his controversial national anthem protests. Explaining the award, Rosenberg wrote, “Each year, SI and the Ali family honor a figure who embodies the ideals of sportsmanship, leadership and philanthropy and has used sports as a platform for changing the world.”

>> WATCH: Beyoncé presents Colin Kaepernick with Sports Illustrated's Muhammad Ali award

This sentiment was reflected in the short introductory speech given by Beyoncé, who said the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback “took action with no fear of consequence or repercussion, only hope to change the world for the better.”

“With or without the NFL’s platform, I will continue to work for the people, because my platform is the people,” Kaepernick said.

Several hours later, political commentator Tomi Lahren weighed in on the award with a controversial tweet.

“Police-hating Beyoncé presents police and America-hating Kappy with a ‘legacy’ award. This is how far we’ve fallen. Wow,” she wrote.

>> See the tweet here

Both Kaepernick and Beyoncé have said they neither hate the military nor the police, both praising members of the respective institutions.

Lahren has been a vocal critic of Kaepernick's protests for more than a year.

>> Read more trending news

In March, Lahren was fired from The Blaze, the news outlet where she gained a following for, among other things, speaking about Kaepernick. After settling a legal dispute with her formal employer, she went to work for Fox News.

Read more here.

Melania Trump, Karen Pence stop at Whataburger, treat press to french fries

First lady Melania Trump, along with second lady Karen Pence, traveled to Texas on Wednesday to visit with first responders and check on Hurricane Harvey relief efforts. And if there’s anything politicians (or in this case, politicians’ spouses) love to do when they’re on a visit, it’s make a stop at a purveyor of local cuisine. Trump and Pence flew through Corpus Christi, which means Whataburger.

>> Read more trending news

According to social media reports (including tweets from reporters along for the trip, as well as a White House official), the first and second lady stopped by the venerable Texas burger chain and walked out with at least some of those famous fries. The rest of their order is unknown (so far), but the tweets about the pit stop are quite a journey.

Reporters in the press pool said the first and second lady treated them to fries.

Officials in Texas approved. The orange and the white, as ever, proved to be a unifying force.

According to the San Antonio Express-News, Trump and Pence stopped at the Whataburger at 602 Padre Island Drive. 

Chelsea Handler evacuates, blames Trump for California wildfires

Television personality Chelsea Handler, among the thousands forced to evacuate due to the raging California wildfires, called out President Donald Trump in a controversial tweet about the blaze Wednesday. “It’s like Donald Trump is setting the world on fire. Literally and figuratively,” she wrote.

>> See the tweet here

The infernos have caused filming to halt temporarily and threaten the famed Getty Museum.

Handler’s antipathy for Trump often fuels her busy Twitter feed.

>> California wildfires force thousands to evacuate: Live updates

“We have got to get rid of Trump,” she posted on Nov. 22. “He is incapable of honesty or goodwill. He cares about no one. We must stay the course and not let up.”

>> Read more trending news

She also speaks out on national events with frequency.

>> On AJC.com: Strong winds ground firefighting aircraft

“Innocent people go to church on Sunday to honor their God, and while doing so, get shot in [sic] killed. What country? America. Why? Republicans,” she posted on Nov. 5, after a gunman opened fire in a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas.

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