Atlanta, Jul 25 (AP/UNB) — With a damning secret recording of his opponent and a late Trump-Pence endorsement, Secretary of State Brian Kemp on Tuesday won a bruising Republican runoff in the race for Georgia governor.
A self-described "unapologetic conservative" whose campaign ran an eyebrow-raising ad that said he could use his own pickup truck to "round up criminal illegals," Kemp rode a national wave of voter contempt for the establishment in favor of bare-knuckled outsider politics.
He now faces Democrat Stacey Abrams, who could become the country's first black female governor, in a race that will test Democrats' assertion that changing demographics have turned the Republican stronghold into a swing state.
Kemp thanked supporters at a party in his hometown of Athens, Georgia, on Tuesday night and said he had won a "clear, convincing victory." He credited the White House's backing for sealing his win. "They poured gasoline in the fire and fueled the Kemp surge to victory," Kemp said.
Kemp portrayed the race against Abrams as a battle with the "radical left" as Georgia's future hangs in the balance. "Do you want a governor who is going to answer to Nancy Pelosi and Hillary Clinton?" he asked.
Abrams tweeted her reaction to Kemp's win Tuesday, saying "Tonight, I have an opponent: Kemp. The race for #GAGov may change, but our values never will. Service, faith & family guide our vision for GA: Affordable health care. Excellent public schools for every child. An economy that works for all."
"Stand with us," she wrote, followed by a link to a fundraising page.
Kemp beat once heavily-favored Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, who outraised Kemp more than 2-to-1 and had a Rolodex of endorsements from establishment Republicans in the state including Gov. Nathan Deal.
In a tweeted endorsement last week, President Donald Trump pointed to Kemp's tough stance on illegal immigration and strong support for gun rights. With days left in the race, Vice President Mike Pence also stumped for Kemp on the campaign trail. Both reiterated their support for Kemp in tweets Tuesday.
Kemp's victory is likely to embolden Trump to become even more engaged in shaping the Republican Party in the final months of the primary season. And it is another election success for a Trump-approved candidate, following victories by Katie Arrington in South Carolina and Martha Roby in Alabama.
Nichole Jacobs went to Sandy Springs Christian Church to vote Tuesday for Kemp, citing his stance on immigration. Jacobs sends both her children to private schools, and feels her affluent Atlanta suburb is overrun with "illegal immigration."
"People are moving out of Sandy Springs to get into a better school district or putting their kids in private schools," Jacobs said.
Cagle began to lose ground after the release of a secret recording in June in which he says he helped pass a "bad public-policy" bill for political gain. The recording was made without Cagle's knowledge during a private conversation with former GOP gubernatorial rival Clay Tippins, who last week endorsed Kemp.
"Trump is a very powerful man," Cagle told watch party attendees Tuesday night in Atlanta after conceding to Kemp. He pumped his fist in the air, saying he put his best foot forward in the race as he congratulated Kemp.
"We have to rally behind him, so he can before the next governor of the state of Georgia," Cagle said of Kemp. "He is a person who is undeniably ready to lead this state. We have to rally behind him."
But Keenan Rogers, a 25-year-old Cagle supporter, was not yet convinced. He said he is leaning toward voting for Abrams over Kemp, but hasn't come to a decision yet.
"My knee-jerk reaction is to vote for Stacey Abrams," Rogers said, but added that he wanted to do more research on both candidates. "She might be a step forward for millennials ... But right now, I'm a little apprehensive."
Kemp had received widespread criticism — and national headlines — with television ads in which he pretends to intimidate a young man interested in his daughter with a shotgun and says he has a big pickup truck "just in case I need to round up criminal illegals and take 'em home myself."
Kemp's opponents also hammered his record of securing voter data as secretary of state, in a line of attack likely to become a refrain for Abrams during the general election.
Cagle labeled Kemp "inKempetent," pointing to a 2015 incident in which Kemp's office inadvertently released Social Security numbers and other identifying information of millions of Georgia voters on disks sent to members of the media and political parties.
Kemp said a member of his staff was responsible for the error, that person was fired, and procedures were changed.
Kemp's office made headlines again last year after security experts disclosed a gaping security hole that wasn't fixed until six months after it was first reported to election authorities. Personal data was again exposed for Georgia's 6.7 million voters, as were passwords used by county officials to access files.
Kemp spokeswoman Candice Broce laid the blame squarely on Kennesaw State University, which had a contract to manage the system. "It was not our system. It was not our equipment. It was not our network," Broce said.
In the race ahead, Democrats point to a Georgia electorate that has become more urban and less white in recent decades as a sign they may be able to break the GOP winning streak for statewide office. Abrams already has star power, having garnered national attention when she won more than 76 percent of Democratic votes in her May 22 primary.
Bogota, Jul 25 (AP/UNB) — Influential former President Alvaro Uribe said he would resign from his Senate seat after Colombia's Supreme Court ordered Tuesday that he be called to testify on allegations of witness tampering.
Uribe tweeted that he felt "morally impeded" from continuing in his role as a senator while also mounting a defense against accusations that he has he denied.
"I've proceeded according to the law and my rights," he wrote on Twitter, while decrying the Supreme Court's press release as a "pre-judgment."
For several years the powerful ex-chief of state has been involved in a protracted legal dispute related to long-simmering and vehemently denied claims of ties to right-wing paramilitary groups.
The conservative Uribe accused another senator at the opposite end of the political spectrum, Ivan Cepeda, of pressuring prison inmates to falsely state that he was linked to one such group.
The Supreme Court found no evidence to support Uribe's claim but decided there were grounds to investigate him for manipulating witnesses instead.
In a statement, the court provided few details but said the case concerns acts that took place this year. The court said that after Uribe's case against Cepeda was blocked from going forward, "People close to ex-President Uribe began new acts of manipulating witnesses."
Cepeda told The Associated Press that Uribe's associates had offered one witness a bribe in exchange for retracting accusations against the former president.
"Colombia is showing today that no one is above the law," Cepeda said.
The case comes just two weeks before President-elect Ivan Duque will be sworn into office, having handily won a runoff election against ex-guerrilla Gustavo Petro thanks in large part to Uribe's support.
Many Colombians had speculated whether Uribe would use his position in the Senate and close relationship with Duque to sway the new president on decisive matters, such as making changes to the government's peace accord with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.
Uribe has been dogged by allegations of links to drug cartels and paramilitaries since the start of his political career in the early 1980s, when the civil aviation agency he led was accused of giving air licenses to drug traffickers. U.S. State Department cables declassified in May showed U.S. officials were told more than two decades ago that Uribe had ties to drug cartels.
His brother, Santiago Uribe, is awaiting trial on charges that he was a leader of a death squad called the "Twelve Apostles" that was run from his cattle ranch.
Uribe, in a video posted on social media, has dismissed the allegations in the State Department cables as "fake news, in electoral periods and without proof."
Toronto, Jul 23 (AP/UNB) — A gunman is dead after shooting nine people, including a young girl, in the Toronto neighborhood known as Greektown, police said late Sunday.
The condition of the victims was not known yet, police spokesman Mark Pugash says. He says it's too early to say whether the shooting is terrorism.
John Tulloch says he and his brother had just gotten out of their car on Danforth when he heard about 20 to 30 gunshots.
"We just ran. We saw people starting to run so we just ran," he said.
An army of police, paramedics and other first responders soon descended on the scene, while area residents, some in their pajamas, emerged from their homes to see what was happening.
Los Angeles, Jul 22 (AP/UNB) — A woman was shot and killed when a gunman ran into a busy Los Angeles supermarket where he held dozens of people hostage for about three hours Saturday before handcuffing himself and surrendering to police. No hostages were seriously hurt.
About two hours before taking the hostages, police say the man shot his grandmother seven times and wounded another woman, who he forced into a car. Police chased the vehicle and exchanged gunfire with the man, who crashed into a pole outside the Trader Joe's in the city's Silver Lake section and ran inside.
Frightened customers and workers dove for cover as police bullets fired at the suspect shattered the store's glass doors. Some inside the supermarket climbed out windows and others barricaded themselves in rooms as scores of police and firefighters and 18 ambulances converged on the scene and prepared for mass casualties.
Heavily armed officers in riot gear stood along the side of the store and used mirrors to look inside as hostage negotiators tried to coax the man into freeing his 40 to 50 hostages and surrendering.
At about 6:30 p.m., the man agreed to handcuff himself and walked out the front door, surrounded by four of the hostages. The unidentified man, who police said is about 28, was immediately taken into custody. Police said he had a wound to his arm.
Mayor Eric Garcetti congratulated police and firefighters for their work and mourned the loss of life at the Trader Joe's where he and his wife regularly shopped when they lived in the neighborhood.
"The heroism that was shown today was second to none and the teams that were able to respond, secure the perimeter and engage in conversation with the suspect no doubt saved lives today," he said, adding "our hearts go out to everyone who has been traumatized."
Among those who survived the harrowing afternoon was 91-year-old Don Kohles. He lives in the neighborhood and was walking into the supermarket when he saw "two police cars coming like a bat out of hell" and the suspect crashed into the pole.
The driver got out and police started firing at him as he ran toward the Trader Joe's. Kohles hurried inside and he and others took cover as the suspect ran in.
"Those bullets went right over the back of me as he was running right down the main aisle," Kohles said. He was terrorized as he lay on the floor and others around him sobbed.
Christian Dunlop, a real estate agent and actor who lives nearby and frequents the Trader Joe's, was on a corner near the store when he saw four people run out. One person, an employee, was dragging an injured woman by the hands.
"She appeared lifeless," Dunlop said.
He then saw about five employees hang out a second-floor window and drop to the ground, and about 15 other people run to safety from the back of the store. Among them was a police officer carrying a small child, he said.
"I know all the employees. I see them all the time. My heart was just racing and thinking about all the endless possibilities," Dunlop said.
Makela Wilson, 26, an office manager, had finished shopping and was driving out of the parking lot when the suspect crashed his vehicle and police opened fire. She heard three or four gunshots and then officers in SWAT gear arrived and ordered her and other people in their cars to hunch down in their seats.
"Duck down! Duck down!" an officer shouted at her. She estimates she was in the car for a half-hour until officers escorted her to safety. At about the same time, other officers went into the store and rushed out Kolhes and others near him.
Police Chief Michel Moore said the suspect made a "series of demands" during the standoff but crisis negotiators believed they could convince him to surrender peacefully.
"Our hostage negotiators believed they had established a good rapport with him," the chief said.
Police aren't sure what led to the initial violence that produced the car chase and standoff. Moore said at about 1:30 p.m. the suspect shot his grandmother and another woman in a South Los Angeles home and then forced the other woman into his grandmother's car. The grandmother was in critical condition while the other woman suffered a grazing wound.
Officers were able to track the car using LoJack — a stolen vehicle tracking system — and officers tried to stop the suspect in Hollywood, but the man refused to pull over, Moore said. During the chase, the suspect fired at officers, shooting out the back window of his car.
Outside the store, the man exchanged gunfire with police again and the woman was shot and killed, Moore said. It was not clear if she died from police gunfire or was killed by the gunman. Moore said police and firefighters responded quickly but could not save her.
Fire officials said six people, ranging in age from 12 to 81, were taken to the hospital. None had been shot and all were in fair condition.
New York, July 20 (AP/UNB) — President Donald Trump's former personal lawyer secretly recorded Trump discussing payments to a former Playboy model who said she had an affair with him, The New York Times reported Friday.
The president's current personal lawyer confirmed the conversation and said it showed Trump did nothing wrong, according to the Times.
Citing lawyers and others familiar with the recording, The Times said attorney Michael Cohen made the recording two months before Trump's 2016 election. The newspaper said the FBI seized the recording during an April raid on Cohen's office amid an investigation into his business dealings.
People familiar with the investigation have told The Associated Press that the raid sought, among other things, any information on payments made in 2016 to former Playboy model Karen McDougal, who says she had an affair with Trump in 2006. He denies it.
The Wall Street Journal revealed, days before the election, that the National Enquirer — run by Trump supporter David Pecker — had paid $150,000 to silence McDougal. At the time, Trump campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks said, "We have no knowledge of any of this."
Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani told the Times the Republican president did discuss the payments to McDougal with Cohen on the less than two-minute-long recording, but that the payment was never made.
Giuliani says Trump told Cohen that if he did make a payment, to do it by check so it could be documented.
"Nothing in that conversation suggests that he had any knowledge of it in advance," Giuliani told the newspaper. "In the big scheme of things, it's powerful exculpatory evidence."
Giuliani and Cohen haven't immediately responded to messages from The Associated Press. Cohen lawyer Lanny Davis declined to comment to the Times.
McDougal's lawyer, Peter Stris, did not immediately respond to a message.
Cohen, a self-described fixer for Trump for more than a decade, said last year that he "would take a bullet" for Trump. But Cohen told an interviewer earlier this month that he now puts "family and country first" and won't let anyone paint him as "a villain of this story."