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Nina Turner Launches Bid for Congress, Pledging “No Honeymoon” for Biden Administration

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We speak with Nina Turner, one of Bernie Sanders’s top allies, the day after she announced she is running for Congress in Ohio to fill the seat of Congressmember Marcia Fudge, who Biden tapped to head the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Turner has promised to hold the Biden team accountable and pressure the incoming administration to enact a progressive agenda. “I’m running in service of the people,” says Turner. “We need more, not just bold voices, but people who will take action and will be fearless when it comes to standing up for what is just, for what is right and for what is good.” Turner is a former state senator from Ohio who served as president of Our Revolution, the progressive organization spun out of the 2016 Bernie Sanders campaign, and national co-chair of Bernie Sanders’s 2020 presidential campaign. If elected, she will join the growing progressive wing of the Democratic Party in Congress.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Nina Turner is running for Congress. The former Ohio state senator became a national figure as one of presidential candidate Bernie Sanders’ most visible allies, in his 2020 campaign, national co-chair. On Tuesday, she announced she’s now launching her own campaign.

NINA TURNER: Today, I am announcing my candidacy for Congress for the 11th Congressional District of Ohio.

AMY GOODMAN: Nina Turner is running to fill a seat left open by Congressmember Marcia Fudge, who was tapped by the Biden administration to be secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Turner is now the third candidate to announce their candidacy in the 11th District, following Cuyahoga councilwoman, County Democratic Party Chair Shontel Brown and former Ohio State Senator Jeff Johnson.

Bernie Sanders, California Congressmember Ro Khanna, Congresswoman-elect from Missouri Cori Bush have all lined up to endorse Nina Turner’s campaign. If elected, she’ll join the growing progressive wing of the Democratic Party in Congress, which has been putting pressure on other lawmakers to pass a second coronavirus stimulus package amidst the largest spike in COVID infections since the start of the pandemic. The relief package currently being considered does not include direct COVID relief payments for American families, despite a surge in unemployment and evictions by the end of the month.

Nina Turner’s platform includes direct COVID relief payments, Medicare for All, free college and a $15-an-hour minimum wage. She has also been a vocal part of the movement to hold President-elect Joe Biden accountable to the grassroots organizers and communities that helped elect him.

Nina Turner narrated a video released today titled “No Honeymoon”.

NEWS ANCHOR: CNN projects Joseph R. Biden Jr. is elected the 46th president of the United States.

NINA TURNER: “No honeymoon.” What do we mean by that? We mean that we the people hold the power, that we must continue to fight for what is just, right and good, and fight against what is not just, right and good. We mean that we must have solidarity and commitment, one to another. We who believe in freedom cannot rest. What do we mean by that? That as long as there are injustices, we will continue to fight. What do we mean by that? We know that when everyday people put a little extra on their ordinary, extraordinary things happen.

ACTIVIST: The pressure on Biden starts now! We are holding him accountable because we got him elected!

NINA TURNER: We mean we will continue to pursue those things that lift and edify, and we will reject those things that do not. We mean that we will not be seduced by smiles. We need action, and we need it right now. We will not relent. And that’s what we mean when we say “no honeymoon.”

AMY GOODMAN: “No Honeymoon” was produced by RootsAction. Nina Turner’s campaign announcement comes as Biden announced more Cabinet picks Tuesday. Former South Bend, Indiana, mayor and presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg will be nominated to be secretary of transportation. Former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm has been tapped to be secretary of energy. Politico reports Biden has quietly expanded his transition team to include veterans from Goldman Sachs, McKinsey & Company, Facebook and Google.

Well, for more on the Cabinet, coronavirus relief and her run for Congress, Nina Turner joins us now from Cleveland, Ohio.

We welcome you to Democracy Now! It’s great to have you with us, former state legislator Nina Turner. Can you talk about why you have thrown your hat in the ring?

NINA TURNER: Well, this moment calls for that. I mean, this is my home. I am a daughter of Cleveland. I’ve lived in the 11th Congressional District, served in this district as a councilwoman, as a state senator, as you have laid out. I was the Democratic nominee for secretary of state in 2014, fighting against one of the worst secretaries of state in this country. All that I have done heretofore has been because of my love for my community and my love for this nation, to stand up and make sure that people understand that they deserve better than what they have been getting.

I definitely congratulate Congresswoman Marcia Fudge for being tapped for the secretary of HUD position. There has not been a Black woman, I believe, in that position in over 40 years. And the greater Cleveland area has a lot to be proud of. The state of Ohio has a lot to be proud of.

But I’m running in service of the people. And we need more, not just bold voices, but people who will take action and will be fearless when it comes to standing up for what is just, for what is right and for what is good. So, in your title, Amy — and to Juan, good morning — Democracy Now!, we need this type of leadership right now.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, Nina Turner, do you expect much pushback from the Democratic establishment or possible even competitors on the progressive wing of the Democratic Party? There’s been some talk that Dennis Kucinich, who had been toying with a possibility of running for mayor of Cleveland again, may also consider running for this seat, as well?

NINA TURNER: Yes, that is true. The more, the merrier. I mean, this is what democracy is all about. People should be able to run. You know, I don’t come from the school that tries to push people out of an election —

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And in terms of the key policies that you would —

NINA TURNER: — within the Democratic Party all over the country, that’s been —

AMY GOODMAN: We’re having a little bit of a video stutter here, so sometimes you break up, Nina. Go ahead, Juan.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Yeah, I was just going to ask: In terms of some of the key policies that you would run as the plank of your campaign, could you talk about those?

NINA TURNER: Yes, $15-an-hour minimum wage, a living wage, people deserve that. It is immoral how the working class of this nation, from all backgrounds, have steadily not — their wages have not kept pace with inflation. And so, we have to, especially, Juan — even before the pandemic, but especially now, how are people going to survive? And if you can’t even survive, you will never get to thrive.

COVID relief, absolutely. It is immoral — and that is for both sides of the Congress and the current president — that there has not been a second stimulus package for the American people that contains direct payment. That is a must. It is a necessity; it’s not a luxury. And we need to follow the lead of other industrialized nations who have set in place — either folks get checks on a regular basis and/or helping the businesses that employ them be able to [inaudible]. It is a shame that this hegemon nation has not done that heretofore. And we all should be ashamed.

AMY GOODMAN: Democratic Congressmember Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez talked about the COVID relief package during an Instagram Live video last week. This is what she said.

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ: What Mitch McConnell said is that we want to give big corporations total immunity for five years from COVID-related lawsuits. Now, if we do that, if we accept that for a one-time $1,200 check or a super short expansion of unemployment insurance, the deal is, is that you’re going to end up behind, because you may get one $1,200 check, on one hand, but you also may also get a multimillion-dollar hospital bill, with no recourse and no ability to protect yourself from a negligent corporation or employer. And so, that’s not worth it, right? Your check is not worth your life.

AMY GOODMAN: So, that is New York Congressmember Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. A bipartisan group of senators introduced a COVID relief bill Monday that does not include direct cash payments. It does include a so-called liability shield for businesses, which Republicans secured in exchange for agreeing to approve funding for local and state governments. Bernie Sanders says he will not support a bill that includes this corporate liability shield. You have Congress, that has a majority of members who are millionaires, saying no to, at this point, a COVID stimulus, though McConnell now says he will move forward, though he’s absolutely insisting on this shield for corporations. Talk about the significance of this, and what exactly you want to see in a stimulus package.

NINA TURNER: I definitely, Amy, want to see a guaranteed basic income, not a one check. You know, Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez is absolutely correct: That one-time check does nothing, even if it was in there. We need guaranteed basic income, especially for the magnitude of this particular crisis.

Amy and Juan, it shows a heartlessness. If you want to talk about a shield for businesses, what about the shield for the American people? What about the shield for folks who are facing eviction? What about the shield for people who go to bed hungry every night? What about the shield for the homeless? This is a heartless way to do the people’s business, their bidding. And the American people are going to have to stand up and say, in the words of Fannie Lou Hamer, “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.” How heartless do you have to be to care more about industry and corporations than you do about the everyday people of this nation, Amy? It cannot — this cannot continue.

And the healthcare portion of it, absolutely right, we need Medicare for All right now. We needed it before the pandemic. We especially need it right now. And we know that millions, almost 14, 15 million people, have lost their “employer-sponsored,” air-quote, healthcare, on top of the millions of people, almost 97 million or so people, who were already uninsured or underinsured. This is a crisis of epic proportions. It was a crisis before the COVID, and it is especially a crisis right now. And it cannot be tolerated. It cannot stand. And we’ve got to fight.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, Nina Turner, the latest reports coming out of Washington last night were suggesting that the compromise effort would separate this stimulus into two bills: one that would include the federal aid to cities and states and the liability shield for corporations, and a separate one that would deal with assistance to ordinary Americans. Admittedly, it would only have $300 in additional unemployment benefits instead of the $600 from last time, but it would include some rental assistance and some food assistance. Do you think it’s advisable, if you were in Congress right now, to go ahead and pass the bigger bill and then wait until the new Congress comes in, in January, to decide on the liability shield and the municipal assistance?

NINA TURNER: Well, they shouldn’t be connecting that liability shield to the municipal assistance. You know, as a state senator, I had to deal often with cuts to local government. And to put those two things together, Juan, we know exactly why they’re doing it. They’re playing games with the American people. You know, this is a complicated issue. I believe firmly that we’ve got to — we have to get the checks. The $300 is certainly not enough at all. As a matter of fact, we’re going backwards and not going forward.

And we’ve got to awaken the sleeping giants in this country, Juan. It’s unacceptable. The American people — and I know COVID is out there, and I don’t want anybody to get COVID, but we’ve got to stand up strong. And we’ve got to find a way to make it known that this kind of throwing crumbs, if you will, will not be tolerated.

We need a social contract. That is our money, Juan and Amy. Our money. And I want the American people to understand that you’ve got people in the Congress, in both chambers, who are playing games with our money. That money should be given back to the American people that fund — that fund — this nation, period. So, it just cannot be accepted.

AMY GOODMAN: This is former Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders speaking to MSNBC about the incoming Biden administration’s Cabinet.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: I’ve seen some good appointments, people that I like, I think people who are really, really smart, experienced. But I have not seen people from the progressive movement per se in that Cabinet.

AMY GOODMAN: So, there is Bernie Sanders — you were co-chair of his national campaign — looking for progressive representation at the Cabinet level. He was pushing, apparently, very hard for labor secretary. Any word if that is going to happen, Nina Turner? And then if you can respond to Joe Biden saying — you know, pushing people to back off before the January 5th runoff election, senatorial races, in Georgia, that will determine the balance of the Senate? You just narrated that film that says “no honeymoon.” So, first, what would a Bernie Sanders as labor secretary mean? And are you satisfied with the Cabinet so far?

NINA TURNER: Having Senator Sanders as labor secretary would change everything. As we know, the senator has always been committed to the house of labor. Even in this last presidential run, when the Walmart workers could have picked from any of the 25 or so candidates running on the Democratic side, they chose Senator Bernie Sanders to come to that meeting of stakeholders and represent them. He has been on the streets with the house of labor. So, not just in the House of Representatives, and now the Senate, talking about it, he has been on the streets with the workers. He is the ultimate champion of the workers. And so, his vision for labor, the $15-an-hour minimum wage, making sure people have a right to form a union, you name it, he’s been there. He would be an extraordinary labor secretary.

In terms of the Cabinet picks so far, I mean, yes, I certainly agree with the senator: There have not been a lot of progressives put up thus far. We’ve got to do better. I mean, I would love to see stratification economist Dr. Darrick Hamilton, you know, Dr. Debra Furr-Holden, people like Michael Render, aka Killer Mike. Oh my god, what kind of Cabinet would that be! Certainly members of Congress, like Congresswoman Barbara Lee or Congresswoman Karen Bass. Those are the other types of people that they should be looking at to put in that Cabinet so that he has a robust — people in there with a robust commitment, who will not flinch, to lead and to serve, but to clearly be on the side of the poor, the working poor and the barely middle class in this country. That is what we need, Amy. And I don’t see that thus far.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: I wanted to ask you about the issue of immigration. We’re seeing reports now of a increasing surge of migrants coming to the Mexican border, trying to cross the Mexican border. Obviously, there have been a few major hurricanes in Central America that have devastated huge portions of Central America. What kind of advice or pressure would you put on President Biden at this point as to what he should do in terms of immigration — reversing the immigration policies of President Trump, especially given the fact that we may be facing a new surge of migrants at the border?

NINA TURNER: Yeah, absolutely, Juan. So, that’s job number one. Whatever he could do via executive order to overturn or — yeah, overturn or reverse, rather, what President Trump has done in his heartless administration should be done. And then, beyond that, we have to deal with the global — the climate crisis, that in many ways is driving this. There’s a push-and-pull factor that happens when you have this kind of disruption. So, whether it’s famine, whether it is the weather — you know, hurricanes, tornadoes — you’re going to have people all over the world who need relief.

And so, in that particular case, the president-elect needs to bring together world leaders so that we can deal with this issue. Climate crisis and immigration, on whole, we can deal with as a world, because we, the United States, should certainly be one of the many leaders — not the only one, but one of the many leaders — that deals with these types of complex issues that impact the everyday lives of our sisters and brothers all over the world. We should do that as a collective, as a coalition. That is how we’re going to build the type of strength that we need, not only in our country, but in the world.

You know, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “What happens to one directly happens to us all indirectly.” And the COVID virus has certainly shown that. The pandemic has shown that. And the climate crisis that we have, that is driving most of this, not all of it, has shown that, as well. And so it needs a world — a national and a worldwide response.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And speaking of the COVID crisis that you mentioned, the reports in The New York Times today say that the wealthy nations of the world have basically been locking up the supplies of vaccines that are coming out right now to deal with the pandemic, says Canada has already locked five — the ability to — contracts to inoculate their people five times over their population; the United States, three times over its population; the European Union and the United Kingdom. Meanwhile, the nations of Africa, Asia and Latin America, very few of them have been able to obtain supplies of the vaccine until possibly 2022. Could you talk about the inequity here of who’s going to be getting this vaccine, or these vaccines?

NINA TURNER: It is the height of inequity. But it is a formula that has been carried out throughout the history of this world: You leave the Black and Brown nations in peril, vulnerable, and nations that are primarily white or European, they get to lock it up.

That cannot stand, either, because, again, the connection — we are certainly citizens of our respective nations, but we’re also citizens of the world. And another example of what affects one directly affects us all indirectly is called a pandemic for a reason. And so, world leaders to be — that’s a level of selfishness that will impact everybody. So, we can run, but we can’t hide. So, those nations that have locked up the vaccine in that way may think what they’re doing is OK and good for their citizens, but ultimately it is not, because the pandemic has shown very clearly that there is no border when it comes to something of this magnitude.

It’s the wrong thing to do, Juan, and it must be — we’ve got to stand up against that, as well. We can’t accept that. So, the nations of Canada and the United States and others, that can’t sit well with us.

AMY GOODMAN: And finally, Nina Turner, in 2014, Cleveland police officer Timothy Loehmann shot Tamir Rice within two seconds of arriving at a park where he was playing with a pellet gun. He was 12 years old. When Tamir’s 14-year-old sister rushed to her brother’s side, they tackled her to the ground, handcuffed her and put her in their cruiser. Tamir Rice died the next day. Neither officer was indicted.

Very quietly, in October, the Trump administration ended a civil rights investigation into the police killing of Rice. The New York Times reports the Justice Department ignored pleas by career prosecutors to open a grand jury probe into Rice’s killing for more than two years before denying the request in 2019.

Nina Turner, we went with you in 2016 during the Democratic National Convention in Cleveland to that park, and you showed us where Tamir Rice was shot by police. If you could, finally, talk about the issue of defunding the police, and also the fact that Joe Biden says no to defunding the police and no to Medicare for All?

NINA TURNER: Well, Amy, the Medicare for All is totally unacceptable in every way. I know some folks don’t want to use the term “defund the police,” but we have a crisis in this country that is a long time in the making. None of this stuff happened overnight.

And, Amy, you’re absolutely right. I mean, I know my face cannot be seen right now, but, yes, you and I were at that park. You know, I was in the last term of my Senate term in 2014 when that happened. It was in November. And I called then-Governor John Kasich. And I didn’t call him as a state senator; I called him as a Black mother and American. I think I shared some of this with you, Amy. And I said, “Governor, we’ve got to do something. We cannot let folks explode in this state, and they have every reason to do so. We’ve got to let them know that we hear their cries. What happened to Tamir Rice could have happened to my son, to any other Black mother’s or Black father’s son. And it cannot stand at all. I mean, we have to do something.”

And to his credit, he did. And that is how we were able to launch the Task Force on Community-Police Relations and, for the first time in the history of our state, to have standards by which law enforcement agencies have to abide by and have the community be able to judge them and critique whether or not they are answering to those standards.

Amy, a crisis in this nation a long time coming, generationally, the way that police and then other law enforcement agencies were set in this country, never to really protect and serve the Black community, but rather to be there to lord over the Black community, historically. And that is embedded in the DNA of this country.

And let me say this, because my husband is a retired police officer, our son is in law enforcement right now, so I get this in a very unique way, both warning and understanding that the really very real dangers of being out there to try to protect and serve, those that have the mindset to do so, and then understanding that both of my Black men have been racially profiled throughout their life. We have got to, as a nation, rethink policing in this country. We have got to put the requisite resources in mental health, the requisite resources in education, the requisite resources in making sure that people have a job, the requisite resources in making sure that people can live in safe communities. We need to overhaul the entire system. It’s not just what happens in policing; it is what happens with judges and prosecutors. It is the entire system. Some people may call that “defund the police.” The more important aspect here is that we must totally reform — and some people would say “transform” — and destroy and rebuild the way that the legal system works in this country.

AMY GOODMAN: Nina Turner, we’re going to have to leave it there, but we expect to be talking to you soon in the future, candidate for Ohio’s 11th congressional seat, announced yesterday. She’s former national co-chair of the Bernie Sanders 2020 presidential campaign, former Ohio state senator.

When we come back, immigrant rights activists are pushing Biden to enact a moratorium on deportations and release people from immigrant jails. Stay with us.

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