NewsState of the Commonwealth


The Latest: Weld ends Republican primary challenge to Trump

Election 2020 Bernie Sanders
Posted at 7:45 AM, Mar 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-18 16:13:01-04

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on the Democratic presidential primaries (all times local):

4:10 p.m.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld is ending his primary challenge to President Donald Trump.

Weld said in a statement Wednesday that he was suspending his 2020 Republican presidential bid. It came hours after Trump secured the number of delegates needed to clinch the Republican presidential nomination at the summer convention.

Weld was a 2016 vice presidential candidate on the Libertarian ticket and served as Massachusetts governor in the 1990s.

His bid failed to gain traction as the Republican Party increasingly closed ranks around the president, with a number of states canceling their primaries and other nominating contests. Two other Republican candidates have already ended their bids: Joe Walsh, a former congressman from Illinois, and Mark Sanford, a former South Carolina governor and congressman.

Weld is the final major Republican challenger to Trump to leave the race.


8:30 a.m.

The manager of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign says his candidate “is going to be having conversations with supporters to assess his campaign."

But he also suggests Sanders is in no hurry to make any decisions about leaving the race noting, “The next primary contest is at least three weeks away.”

Faiz Shakir said in a statement Wednesday that “in the immediate term” Sanders “is focused on the government response to the coronavirus outbreak and ensuring that we take care of working people and the most vulnerable.”

Sanders lost all three states holding primaries on Tuesday and hasn't won any contests since Super Tuesday in early March with the exception of North Dakota and the Northern Mariana Islands. Joe Biden beat him Tuesday in Arizona, Florida and Illinois.

Still, Sanders has not publicly discussed leaving the race, instead using the outbreak of the coronavirus to promote his signature issue, universal, government-funded health coverage under “Medicare for All.”


11 p.m. Tuesday

Joe Biden has won Arizona’s Democratic presidential primary.

The state's top election official had declined to seek a delay because of the coronavirus, saying there was no certainty that putting off voting would help.

Most of the 1.2 million registered Arizona Democrats cast ballots early by mail, but about 300,000 could vote in person Tuesday. According to figures obtained by The Associated Press, turnout among Democrats had already surpassed the 2016 election. Over 480,000 votes had been cast by Tuesday morning.

Biden also won Illinois and Florida primaries Tuesday. Ohio canceled its election because of coronavirus fears.


9:50 p.m.

Joe Biden is taking a measured approach as he celebrates two more primary wins that will give him a wider delegate lead over Bernie Sanders in the Democratic presidential nominating contest.

The former vice president said Tuesday that wins in Florida and Illinois made it a "good night." Votes are still being cast and counted in Arizona.

But Biden spent most of a brief address confronting the coronavirus and the national quasi-quarantine that had him speaking online rather than at a raucous rally with supporters.

"It's moments like these we realize we need to put politics aside and work together as Americans," Biden said. "The coronavirus doesn't care if you're a Democrat or Republican. ... We're all in this together."

Biden nodded to Sanders and his supporters, saying they "have shifted the fundamental conversation in this country." To the youngest voters, he added: “I hear you. I know what's at stake.”


8:23 p.m.

Joe Biden has won Illinois’ Democratic presidential primary.

Officials declined to postpone the election despite concerns about low turnout because of the coronavirus outbreak.

There were some signs of early confusion, with voters calling a hotline to get help finding polling places.

In Chicago, about 50 polling sites opened late. Election authorities scrambled to find alternate locations as nursing homes and other typical polling sites backed out amid concern about the coronavirus. A Chicago elections official and Gov. J.B. Pritzker traded accusations about who was to blame for the problems.

Biden also won Florida Tuesday. Arizona is also voting. Ohio canceled its election because of coronavirus fears.


8 p.m.

Joe Biden has won Florida’s Democratic presidential primary.

The once-crowded Democratic field has narrowed to two major candidates: Biden and Bernie Sanders. Biden is seen as the establishment pick, a return to the era of President Barack Obama. Sanders is a self-described democratic socialist who is pushing for a political revolution.

Voters in Florida cast ballots Tuesday even as officials sought to contain the spread of the new coronavirus.

State health officials had been working with local election supervisors to ensure polling locations are safe and clean, and some precincts at nursing homes and senior centers had been moved.

In Palm Beach County, elections officials say many workers failed to show up in at least five locations.

Nearly 2 million Floridians voted early or by mail.

Illinois and Arizona were also voting Tuesday. Ohio canceled its election because of coronavirus fears.


7:40 p.m.

A handful of polling places in Arizona were late to open Tuesday because workers didn’t show up or the doors were locked. Crowds varied. About 30,000 voters had visited a polling place by 4 p.m. in Maricopa County, a number approaching the 35,000 Democrats who voted in 2016. In Pima County, which includes Tucson, elections director Brad Nelson said “polls are pretty quiet.”

Nisha Hindosha, a 50-year-old nurse from Tempe, Arizona, said she was “more nervous about the wrong candidate winning than I was about the virus at this point.”

A rattlesnake caused alarm for voters at a polling place on the outskirts of Scottsdale, where neighborhoods meet desert. Megan Gilbertson, a spokeswoman for the Maricopa County Elections Department, said an election worker moved it before animal control arrived.


5:15 p.m.

Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez is calling on states with upcoming presidential primaries to use vote-by-mail and other measures to make it safe for people to vote because of the coronavirus outbreak.

In a lengthy statement issued as three state held primaries Tuesday, Perez was critical of Ohio officials for postponing their primary on the eve of voting. Ohio Gov. Mike Dewine made the call Monday night, while officials in Arizona, Florida and Illinois decided to go ahead with in-person voting on Tuesday. Perez did not name DeWine, a Republican, but said the delay “has only bred more chaos and confusion.”

Perez said states that already have mail voting should “proactively mail ballots to registered voters, where feasible, and should count all ballots ... postmarked by the date of the primary.”

He also suggested expanding days and hours of early, in person voting and expanding absentee voting to all registered voters. Some state laws allow absentee voting for a limited number of reasons.

Georgia, Maryland, Louisiana, Ohio and Kentucky have postponed upcoming primaries.


4:20 p.m.

A Chicago elections official and Illinois' governor are trading accusations of culpability as city voters reported problems casting ballots after days of public debate over whether the state's primary should be postponed because of the coronavirus threat.

Jim Allen, a spokesman for the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners, said Tuesday morning that the board asked Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker last week to cancel in-person voting and expand other options, including mail-in ballots, but the governor refused. Allen says Chicago election officials had proposed a move to entirely mail-in ballots.

Pritzker responded heatedly at a daily briefing on the coronavirus cases in the state. He said state law does not give a governor the authority to make the sweeping changes that Chicago election officials wanted.

Pritzker says he will not use this situation “to supersede my constitutional authority.” He says it is “times like these when the constitutional boundaries of our democracy should be respected above all else.” And he says, "If people want to criticize me for that, well, go ahead. I’ll wear it like a badge of honor.”

Pritzker also said the Chicago board turned down offers for help to staff polls using the National Guard and a statewide program that connects teenagers with civic opportunities.


Catch up on the 2020 election campaign with AP experts on our weekly politics podcast, “Ground Game.”