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Transcript: The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, 10/15/21

Guests: Madeleine Dean, Heather Raymond, Ana Marie Cox, Jasmine Crockett, Raphael Anchia, Christian Menefee, Aimy Steele


Texas Senate Republicans followed the lead of the state House approving redistricting maps that create more districts with white majorities even though voters of color outnumber them statewide. New fundraising numbers are good news for Democrats in the midterms and Trump telling Republicans not to vote. Local school board officials getting terrorized by Trump supporters for supporting kids wearing masks at school. Rep. Madeleine Dean answers questions regarding school board officials getting terrorized by Trump supporters, Proud Boys, NSC-131 and angry parents because of wearing masks in schools.


ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: They`ve been going two steps forward and one step back on climate for decades now. This latest blow from Senator Manchin tonight is just the latest and serious setback. Watch the space. That does it for us tonight. I`ll see you again tomorrow morning on my show "VELSHI" 8:00 a.m. eastern. Now it`s time for "THE LAST WORD" and my absolute pleasure to introduce my friend, Zerlina Maxwell who is in for Lawrence O`Donnell this morning. Good evening old friend.

ZERLINA MAXWELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Ali. Thank you so much and please have a safe weekend. It`s actually great to see you even though it`s remotely.

VELSHI: You, too. Thank you, my friend.

MAXWELL: Thank you. So, it just takes one person to terrorize you. I first heard that line on this very show, two days ago when Jennifer Jenkins, a member of the Brevard County School Board described her experience being terrorized by more than one person because she supports kids wearing masks in schools, you know, just like the CDC does.

Jennifer Jenkins talked about people shouting vile things outside her 5- year-old daughter`s bedroom window while she was trying to read her a bed time story. How they brandished weapons in front of her neighbors and how her daughter asks at least twice a week, are the mean people going to be outside again?

It`s a minority of people for sure. That helps me. But that`s not enough to make a woman who ran for elected office to make a difference in her school district to have really dark days. Here`s what she told Lawrence.


JENNIFER JENKINS, SCHOOL BOARD MEMBER, BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA: It just takes one person to terrorize you. And when there is no consequences for it, it becomes the norm and it becomes acceptable.


MAXWELL: How do you think that happened? You know, I know exactly the moment it happened. This was the moment. It was the moment I knew that Donald Trump was changing and breaking us and our politics.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA (via telephone): She gets out and starts asking me all sorts of ridiculous questions. And you know, you could see there was blood coming out of her eyes. Blood coming out of her -- wherever.


MAXWELL: That was in 2015 after his first Republican primary debate, describing moderator Megyn Kelly, who was a big time star on Fox News at the time. And I saw -- we all saw that Donald Trump paid absolutely no price for that. Not a political price or a societal one. He wasn`t shamed out of politics. He wasn`t ostracized by the Republican establishment or the donor class or by conservative media outlets.

By some, but not by enough. How did he get to stay in public life after that? How could we accept this as a standard behavior for any adult, much less a president? And because of their silence, Donald Trump saw he could get away with it. So he did more. And then he did more.

In the end, the "Access Hollywood" tape didn`t matter to Republicans. Being accused of sexual misconduct and sexual assault by 26 women didn`t matter to Republicans and every time they stayed silent he did more. And in doing so they created the permission structure for what we`re seeing today.

And it is ugly, but it`s important to understand that there was a moment where we could have gone a whole different way. But we didn`t. And there is a direct link to what we see today from Trump supporters. Like when dead enders that support Donald Trump were mad about the election results in Michigan and they showed up outside secretary of state Jocelyn Benson`s house while she was putting her son to sleep and putting up Christmas decorations.

Or when criminals you thought they were liberating Michigan from COVID restrictions plotted to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer. The governor said in a victim impact statement, "Threats continue. I have looked out my windows and seen large groups of heavily armed people within 30 yards of my home. I have seen myself hung in effigy. Days ago as a demonstration there was a sign that called for burning the witch."

Governors have security. Local election officials do not. School board members do not. Jennifer Jenkins does not. Heather Raymond is the president of the school board in Nashua, New Hampshire.


At a recent meeting of the board, two police officers needed to be on site because of the harassment she faced from protesters. Heather Raymond told "The Boston Globe," "This is my fourth year on the board and this is the first time we needed to do this. It`s not good for our community. The proud boys started showing up at our meetings in June and then in July we had the NSC-131 group come. They are neo-Nazis and came in full regalia with swastikas on their arms."

It didn`t have to be this way. And you know what, it still shouldn`t. Joining us now is Heather Raymond, president of the school board in Nashua, New Hampshire and parent of a sixth grader and eighth grader, and Congresswoman Madeleine Dean of Pennsylvania. And I`m just grateful to both of you for being here.

Congresswoman Dean, I`ll start with you. You started in local government and you ran for town commissioner, of course, and you were one of the women candidates who delivered the House for Nancy Pelosi and Democrats in 2018 in that huge wave. So, I`m really grateful to you tonight, you know, for this topic specifically.

What do you think about the way in which Donald Trump has created essentially a permission structure that has Nazis showing up at school board meetings?

REP. MADELEINE DEAN (D-PA): Well, you know what, Zerlina, let me say that as I prepared for this interview and I thought about what you wanted to focus on tonight, my thanks goes to you. Thank you for focusing on this. Thank you for talking about our heroic volunteer school board members whose focus is our children and their education. There couldn`t be anything more important.

I`ve talked to many school board members. And in fact if you don`t mind behind me I have here the map of my district and all the school districts within it. The school board members like who we see in front of us, Heather Raymond, and Jennifer Jenkins who you referenced, they`re heroes. They`re not in this for the glory. They are not in this for the money. They are in this for our children.

And what they have faced in the last 18 months and maybe even longer is threats, threats to their life, threats to their personal safety, and I just have to say you`re heroes, guys. I talked to a bunch of my school board members today in preparation. One school board member literally said to me, it`s been pretty unpleasant. I feel sick before every school board meeting, every single time.

I do everything I can in my power not to lash out. He said because I`m here for the kids. I`m here for the kids. So, you`re right. I had the chance to serve at the township level, at the state level as a state representative for six and a half years and now at the federal level.

But my champions are you, the school board members who are volunteers for our children and care about our children and they should not be subject to the horrendous threats that you`re absolutely right, are the ligaments of Donald Trump and those who support Donald Trump.

MAXWELL: You know, Heather, I honestly at any time know what NSC-131 was, like they had to tell me. I had to Google that. And it is the local`s national socialist club, aka Nazis. So, again, Nazis are showing up at your school board meetings. How does that make you feel?

HEATHER RAYMOND, SCHOOL BOARD PRESIDENT, NASHUA, NEW HAMPSHIRE: Well, first thank you so much for having me and including me in this conversation. It was pretty hairy there for a while. I didn`t think that our little community would have these kinds of events happening. So, it was scary. It was scary to see people outside our meetings chanting such hateful things. We`re a very diverse community and it just -- it doesn`t reflect who I thought we were.

MAXWELL: Attending a school board meeting is, you know, kind ever like local homework for kids and we don`t have civics in school, and we should. Heather are the kids aware of what is happening at the meetings that, you know, folks are coming and, you know, spewing violent rhetoric towards members?

RAYMOND: Yes, I think -- I think many, many students are aware. We -- I mean, this is New Hampshire. Everyone has a level of civic engagement. We even have two juniors on our school board as student representatives.


So they`re aware of it. It makes them very uncomfortable. My own kids are aware of it. And they`re -- they get concerned about my safety and the safety of fellow board members. We are fortunate here in Nashua that we have a nationally ranked police force who have been there for the board members every step of the way, making sure that we`re insulated inside the board room and even creating paths to our cars after the board meetings sometimes.

MAXWELL: Congresswoman Dean, it`s just -- it`s so hard to hear this from local election officials because as I said they`re heroes of the community. They`re trying to do what`s right for their own kids but also the kids in their communities. What can be done about this?

I mean, is there any turning back from the normalization of this kind of behavior? I don`t think any parent out there wants their child to behave in this way. And so it`s so disturbing to see adults treating each other in this way in a school board setting.

DEAN: To your point, exactly, Zerlina. And the school board members I have talked to, each one of them has said to me the children have no problem with what is going on. They want to deal sensibly by way of the science with COVID. They have said we have no difficulty with students wearing masks.

So these folks, these adults, frankly, in the room who are not acting like adults, who come in in their anti-vax, their anti-mask, and they are causing all this stir, are really sapping the resources from our children who are way ahead of us. They said they`re not our problem. The children say we`ll wear the masks. We`ll protect ourselves. We`ll protect others.

But here is the other extraordinary grave loss. These folks, these people who run for public office to serve us on school boards throughout this country, as I said, a great risk to themselves now, at greater risk to themselves, at no pecuniary gain. This is all using of their own volunteer spirit and believing in our children and their future.

Their resources are sapped as they have to deal with these zappers, as they have to deal with these, literally, threats to their safety. I talked to a school board member today in one of my largest school districts. And they`re doing very, very well for the students. But he said, I felt bad for the districts that have very few resources and they`re dealing with the threats.

They`re not able to focus on the kid. They have to deal with the threats and the people right in front of them. And he said literally in August, as we put forward our plan for our children and the safety plan that we put forward, he said that meeting got so out of hand we had to go to a back room, sit in a band room locked in until the crowd could be -- the excited, very negative crowd could be dispersed and they could try to safely get to their cars to leave.

That is not what`s should be going on in America for our children. So I`ll go back to Heather to say thank you, please, god, and Jennifer Jenkins, and so many others including in my very own set of school districts, and many women by the way. And Zerlina, I know you were thinking about that as well.

Women public servants under attack, thank you for what you`re doing. Our children deserve you and do not deserve the vile attacks that are happening at you.

RAYMOND: Congresswoman is --

MAXWELL: Heather, what are you going to tell your children -- oh, go ahead? Go ahead.

RAYMOND: I was just going to say the congresswoman is absolutely correct. You know, many, many of our people who yell out during our meeting and disrupt our meeting are people who are against masking, and some of them are parents who have been led astray by disinformation. But many are people who travel from place to place specifically to disrupt these meetings.

And if you ask our student members of the board or really any students, they don`t have a problem with our requirements that students and staff wear masks. They would rather be in school wearing a mask than risk getting COVID and having us shut down.

And, you know, when we talk about women in local government, our board is the most female in the state of New Hampshire. We have eight of our nine members are women. And so I don`t know how that played into various hate groups targeting our board, you know, specifically as opposed to other districts.

DAEN: Zerlina can I tell you one other thing --

MAXWELL: Oh, yes, go ahead. Go ahead.

DAEN: What is baffling to me is the dark money that has now filtered into this.


We have a PAC that has generated out of Bucks County, Pennsylvania, which is the county directly to the north of what I represent, Montgomery and Berks County, $500,000 PAC where this gentleman is pouring $10,000 per candidate for school board. If you ever run for local office, $10,000 is a whole lot of money.

This is dark money trying to radicalize, frankly, school boards, trying to defeat candidates like the people we`re talking about right now, whether it`s Heather or Jennifer, Tina in my district and Jen and many other men as well.

This -- there is a very cynical thing going on here in terms of dark money trying to indoctrinate school board members toward the very, very far right and toward this, sadly, I think, anti-children, anti-public health, anti- science set of rhetoric.

MAXWELL: Heather in the last few minutes here, do you get the sense that this is an orchestrated thing that this isn`t a random thing where, you know, a group of people in your community are showing up that it`s organized in some way by some of these groups?

RAYMOND: I think it`s both. So, in my community we definitely have impassioned parents and I have so much compassion for them and I will never interfere with their ability to speak during the public comments period. But we also have some very anti-government libertarian groups operating here in New Hampshire and they have absolutely been to my school board meetings.

And the congressman was mentioning -- congresswoman was mentioning money in local school board races. You know, I`m running for office again this year and I typically raise about $1,000. And that`s enough to, you know, purchase signs, and a little bit of literature. But we see people in this race raising tens of thousands of dollars.

So they`re not getting these little, you know, $10 and $25 donations from local people in the community. And as of yet, I don`t know where their money is coming from. I haven`t seen any reporting in our filing period with the city was last week to report our donations. So, it will be interesting to me to see what has been reported when that becomes publicly available.

MAXWELL: Well we should definitely all pay very close attention to that, because I do believe some of these divisions are being exacerbated by outside forces with -- with an agenda. And it`s not just some naturally occurring thing. Although Donald Trump, I believe, was the catalyst. Congresswoman Madeleine Dean and Heather Raymond, thank you for being here tonight. It was a great conversation. Very important. Please stay safe.

And joining us now, Ana Marie Cox, veteran political journalist and host of the podcast "With Friends Like These." And Ana Marie, we thought Donald Trump was like just the disease. And I do think he did have a big role in creating this permission structure. But what does he actually say about the rest of us? Because he might just be a symptom of something else.

ANA MARIE COX, POLITICAL JOURNALIST: Oh, I think he`s a symptom. I really do. I think that -- I mean, I love everything you`re saying, but I feel like I need to point out that that permission structure is not so much that it didn`t exist prior to Trump. It was more underground. And that it just became public in this way that a lot of women recognized, right.

We have all heard the kinds of things that Trump was saying. We just didn`t hear them in public. And in some ways, I feel like the kinds of racism and xenophobia and misogyny that Trump brought to our faces, I mean, it`s a kind of gift. I hate to say -- I look for gifts at everything.

We had to look at this part of our country. We had look at what was happening. We couldn`t just like go merrily along and pretend that we`re all just progressing, you know. Like we had to wake up and we have woken up. And I was just thinking, kind of looking for the right metaphor. For every new branch on the permission structure, we have 100 women with hacksaws and axes climbing up and trying to take it down. Like, look at this panel. Look at this panel. It`s an all-female panel.


COX: That school board, almost all women. You know, I think that we are the ones we have been waiting for as they say, right. Like, we need to do this. And it`s not -- I don`t want to sound like pollyanna. It`s not easy. I have a lot of privilege in even saying this. And it takes a community to do it. And it takes a community maybe that we`re not used to.

It takes maybe making a community more diverse than we have had before and being a little uncomfortable about that. But I love what you`re saying that quote from Ms. Jenkins that it takes one person to terrorize you. That`s true. It takes a community silence to let that terror continue.


But it also can be a community that stops that terror. So, weirdly I`m hopeful. This very panel makes me hopeful.

MAXWELL: Well, no, -- no, I am hopeful. I have to be. Honestly, like I`m sitting literally right now in front of a photo of my grandfather who marched in Selma. If I -- like I wake up and -- like hope is required in this house. Like, that would be silly, right. I wouldn`t be sitting here without that hope. Somebody had to hope.

But how do we turn back? Like, I -- so I want to play an ad that I think is very pressing in this particular moment because I keep thinking about it and we`re talking about school boards. And it`s the one Hillary Clinton ran in 2016 and it was called our children are watching. Here`s part of it.


TRUMP: When Mexico sends its people, they`re bringing drugs, they`re bringing crime, they are rapists.

You know you could see there was blood coming out of her eyes. Blood coming out of her wherever.

You got to see this guy. I don`t know what I said. I don`t remember. He is like I don`t remember.

TEXT: Our children are watching. What example will we set for them?


MAXWELL: How do we correct this now? Because at the time, that resonated - - and I don`t even have kids. But that resonated with me because I was like, I certainly don`t want the next generation of humans to act like Donald Trump. So how do we put this evil genie back in the bottle?

COX: It takes a community. I will say it again. The phrase that occurred to me while we were listening or I was listening to the previous segment is keep calm and run for school board. I mean, we have to get involved, right. I mean, and have to show up for the meetings that aren`t as fun as maybe the march on Washington which, you know, there was such activity and such power that was generated out of our anger at Trump, right.

Like we took that anger and we did stuff with it. It is harder to sustain that and I`m kind of glad that it`s harder to sustain that. But this is where the real work happens, right, is on the day to day level where we don`t necessarily have our pink hats on and we just have to show up to our local school board which, you know, shout out if you know where your local school board meets.

Like, I would have to look it up myself. But I`ll tell you, yes, my heroes in this community are the people that are working on the school board, the people that are working on my county government in Austin, Texas. Let me tell you

People that are working in our county and city governments are heroes. Not all of them are women. But they are the ones that have to stand up to the state government. And, you know, I`m sure it gets tiring. I`m sure it`s tiring. And so I think if we can just remember the anger that we felt and then turn that into a sustained energy for pushing the ball along, right. Like we did something great (inaudible). Awesome.

Work is still -- god, there is so much work to be done you`d probably know this better than most. So I just want to tell people, again, one person to terrorize you, a community can save you. Be a part of that community.

MAXWELL: I think that`s such a good message. And my radio co-host Jess McIntosh, she always says it`s a relay race, you know, you`re picking up the baton from somebody else. So, pick up the baton, everybody. Start running. Ana Marie Cox, thank you so much for joining tonight. It`s a good conversation. Really important. Please stay safe.

Coming up, two Texas Democrats will react to the breaking news from Austin tonight.



MAXWELL: Texas Republicans are at it again. They have passed one of the country`s harshest voting laws discriminating against voters of color. Republican Governor Greg Abbott is banning any form of a vaccine mandate even for private businesses. Just last night, the Republican-led statehouse passed a bill that would force transgender student athletes to play on sports teams associated with the gender they were assigned at birth.

The Justice Department is still fighting the near ban on abortion in Texas saying today it will again ask the Supreme Court to block the law after a federal appeals court upheld it. And breaking tonight, Texas senate Republicans followed the lead of the statehouse, approving redirecting maps that create more districts with white majorities, even though voters of color outnumber them statewide.

But this party platform is not an outlier. Texas Republicans might as well be writing the playbook for the GOP`s nationwide strategy. Joining us now are democratic Texas State representative Rafael Anchia and Jasmine Crockett. And state rep Anchia, I want to take -- I want you to take a listen to some of your colleagues debating the anti-trans bill I mentioned.


JOE MOODY, TEXAS SATE REPRESENTATIVE: The bill was designed knowing these kids will be harmed. And that`s a price that some are willing to pay for grown adults to score symbolic points in a fight they chose over a fiction.

JAMES TALARICO, TEXAS STATE REPRESENTATIVE: If one trans child dies to protect someone`s damn trophy, this bill is grotesque.

CELIA ISRAEL, TEXAS STATE REPRESENTATIVE: We`re not protecting women. We`re not protecting girls. Not tonight, not four years ago when we said we were doing the bathroom bill. Its more games. We`re playing games with the people who we represent.


MAXWELL: You know, Democrats argued that this bill isn`t necessary and it will cause irreparable harm. What is the Republican response to that?

RAFAEL ANCHIA, TEXAS STATE REPRESENTATIVE: Well there is no response. The pretext is that they`re trying to save women`s sports. We know that`s not true. They couldn`t name one example of a situation where a transgirl took the place of another girl, either in competition or in practice. In fact, they went so far as to say that girls and boys could no longer practice together. That`s how extreme the bill was.

And, you know, the reality is that this whole session has been extreme. We`ve been in session for all but six weeks of 2021. They passed anti-voter bills, anti-abortion bills and really have gone where I didn`t even expect them. I knew it was going to be an extreme session. I didn`t think this would be bad -- it would be this bad.

I`ve served for nine sessions now in the Texas legislature and really Republicans have gone off the deep end. It`s all in the furtherance of political ambition of our governor, Greg Abbott, who is not only running for re-election but running for president. So, he can`t -- he can`t stop himself from going to crazytown when he sees Kristi Noem and Ron DeSantis do things in their state. He has to try to one up them and he`s really leading Texas off a cliff.

MAXWELL: State rep Crockett, let`s talk about the harm caused by the anti- abortion law which I think, you know, it`s all of these laws working together and the harm that they all create in different ways.


And the Dallas Morning News reports in just one recent month, seven pregnant 12-year-olds and their caregivers sought help at the Dallas Children`s Advocacy Center which handles the most serious criminal sexual abuse cases in the county. Staff members told of recent pregnant rape victims as young as nine. The advocacy center shared stories of 12-year- olds trying to find maternity clothes. Of girls who must continue attending their neighborhood school as their pregnancy progresses and bewildered children who believe their own bodies have become alien beings."

I mean that`s really hard to read but that is the reality and it`s important for people to understand that.

Why do you think Texas Republicans went this extreme? I mean, 12-year-olds and 9-year-old children should not have to go through this.

STATE REP. JASMINE CROCKETT (D-TX): You know, there is no excuse for what they`re doing. It`s -- it`s one thing to be a lawmaker and to be entrusted with making laws that make sense for adults. It`s another thing to be entrusted with the responsibility to take care of our children and the fact that this legislature with all the problems that we have in the midst of COVID, in the midst of a failed power grid drama that we had in the state of Texas, you just wouldn`t think that they would go after children in the way that they did.

But with this anti-abortion bill they went after our kids. They went after our kids as it relates to the anti-trans legislation because one thing that we know for sure when it comes to our trans children, even our LGBTQIA youth we know that there is a higher incidents of homelessness, a higher incidents as it relates to mental health disturbances within their community.

What we do also know is that there was no issue as it relates to trans children playing sports. And so the idea that they have sunken -- or gone to the sunken place as it relates to dealing with children is just ridiculous.

And I think that they just don`t know where to go, because they were used to Trump bringing out all of the extremists. So now they are just pushing whatever buttons they believe it takes to get those same extremists excited enough to show up to the voting booth. And it is sad that they are using children as pawns.

The party that claims to be so pro-life is anything but prolife when it comes to our children and taking care of them.

MAXWELL: Well and also the death penalty, which is the thing that I always bring up when folks say that they are prolife but they support the death penalty. I`m like I don`t know if that makes quite the sense you think.

But State Rep Anchia, you know, it feels frustrating to watch extreme Republicans, you know, as somebody who supports choice, who supports progressive pieces of policy.

And it`s hard as a voter in Texas to push back, because of extreme gerrymandering. Expert Ari Berman tweeted "The racial impact of these maps in Texas, which is majority/minority," which just for folks at home means white people are a minority. That`s what that means.

His tweet. You see on the screen there. I mean, how do Democrats push back? I mean this is a minority of people, right. White voters and these extreme supporters of Republicans are a minority of voters in Texas. How do you push back?

STATE REP. RAPHAEL ANCHIA (D-TX): Well, Texas has been a minority/majority state for some time now. In fact, the census results showed that Latinos alone are larger that than the Anglo population. And when you look at all of the growth percent of the census, 95 percent of it have been people of color, including the African-American communities and the explosive growth in the Asian community.

Yet, the maps that they are passing today have fewer districts where Latinos and African-Americans can elect a candidate of their choice. This is straight out of the playbook of the last decade, where three federal courts found intentional, not casual discrimination but intentional discrimination on ten different occasions on voting rights matters both redistricting and strict photo ID where they just determine that the Texas legislature wanted to discriminate against Latinos and African-Americans and they`re doing it again.

They`re doing it again this redistricting cycle. You know, Latinos should have about 44 seats on a proportional basis in the legislature. They`re -- in their maps they`ve got 30 seats. African-Americans they`re dialing back from seven seats to four seats.

And so -- and over and over and over again despite 95 percent -- I don`t know about you but 95 percent not quite 100 percent but it`s the whole enchilada, ok.


ANCHIA: And yet they`re doubling down on intentional discrimination. They`re trying to draw us back. Why? Because they want to hold on to power.

And it`s brazen. They have provided the public very little (INAUDIBLE) for public input. They have -- they have drawn lines straight through African- American communities in open committee. And they know what they`re doing. They just don`t care.

And they got away with it last decade. And they`re trying to get away with it again. And that`s why we need federal legislation to protect the freedom to vote for millions of Texans.

We need to reform the filibuster and get that done. I`m so glad the Senate is moving on that this week.

MAXWELL: Well, let`s -- , I think as a Texas voter who supports democracy, if Senators maybe Kirsten Sinema and Joe Manchin are listening, I believe you heard it from these two great Texas state representatives.

Raphael Anchia and Jasmine Crocket -- thank you so much for being here tonight. Have a great weekend and please stay safe.

Joining us now is Harris County Attorney Christian Menefee. And I wanted to talk to you about Abbott`s ban on vaccine mandates because, you know, as we were talking about the other extreme policy Texas is now pushing. It feels like banning vaccine mandates should fit in that group.

How are businesses in Texas handling that?

CHRISTIAN MENEFEE, HARRIS COUNTY ATTORNEY: Well, first of all thank you very much for having me on tonight, Zerlina. Governor Abbott loves to say that Texas is open for business. But his ban on vaccine mandates is about as anti-business as it gets.

It strips away choice from businesses who are trying to make tough decisions about how to keep their employees, their customers most safe during this pandemic. Because of other executive orders that the governor has issued tying local officials hands.

And what we have seen is throughout the state, you have seen chambers of commerce, you`ve seen business groups, you`ve seen large institutional businesses like Southwest Airlines or American Airlines, come out and say we`re going to follow what the federal government has told us to do where employers that have more than 100 employees are to mandate the vaccine.

And I think this was exactly what the governor wanted. It was to sow confusion in business, to put these businesses in the very tough position of having to potentially get sued for violating the federal government`s rule or potentially get sued for violating the governor`s executive order.

It`s bad business for Texas. And it`s bad policy for Texas as well.

MAXWELL: In the last minute here do you think that it`s costing people`s lives for him to prohibit small businesses from putting mandates in place?

MENEFEE: Absolutely. This is something that we have seen time and time again with Governor Abbott. You know, originally it was a ban on local officials issuing any type of mask mandates. And my office represents the largest county in the state of Texas, Harris County which encompasses the Houston area.

And we filed a lawsuit against the governor and the attorney general to push back because schools were opening up. We had students going back into the schools. And of course, students of a certain age aren`t able to get vaccinated.

So you have these breeding grounds for the vaccine and folks to potentially get sick. And the governor time and time again has issued more and more executive orders that are intended to tie our hands. To have these measures that stop us from keeping other people safe.

And, you know, again it`s bad business for Texas, bad policy for Texas. And right now Texas is number two in the country for COVID deaths. And so we need local officials to be able to keep people safe. We need businesses to be able to keep people safe. And we need our state leaders to stop tying our hands in this process.

MAXWELL: I want everybody to stay safe. I say it at the end of every segment. Harris county attorney Christian Menefee, thank you so much for joining us tonight. Please stay safe.

Coming up, new fundraising numbers are good news for Democrats in the midterms. Oh and Trump telling Republicans not to vote. We`ll talk to David Plouffe about that next.



MAXWELL: With three weeks to go until the Virginia governor`s race, a Fox News poll this week found Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe has the support of 93 percent of Democrats who voted for Joe Biden in 2020. So the Democrats are all right.

A new poll, a CNN poll has President Biden`s approval rating ticking back up to 50 percent. So Democrats probably feel all right about that as well. And in midterm news House Democrats beat House Republicans in quarterly fundraising by $10 million.

Joining us now is David Plouffe, a former campaign manager and White House senior adviser to President Barack Obama. He`s an MSNBC political analyst.

And I should start by saying that I started in politics as a field organizer in Virginia for the campaign you were manager of, the 2008 Obama campaign. So it is great to have you here tonight. Thank you for being here.

DAVID PLOUFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: It`s great to be with you, Zerlina. You did a great job back then. You`re doing a great job now.

MAXWELL: Thank you. There was a lot of walking up and down hills in a hot summer here in Virginia.

So some -- some great fundraising numbers there And some really critical races. How do Democrats turn that cash into votes for this upcoming election but also next year`s midterm elections? It feels like that money has to go towards turnout, right?

PLOUFFE: Well, sure. I think it`s good news. My strong suspicion, Zerlina, is Democrats are not going to lose close House races or Senate races because of money. We still need people to get that. I think the question is going to be the next layer or two of activism as you saw in Virginia `08.

The people who are going to be writing post cards, organizing (INAUDIBLE) will probably be back to full on canvassing. And then, of course, people will need to turn out who might not have a regular history of turning out.

And I think we`ll learn quite a bit in this Virginia governor`s race about that, lessons that could be learned next year.


PLOUFFE: But yes, I also think vote share is not going to be the issue. You mentioned the poll showing McAuliffe getting almost 95 percent of Biden supporters.

I think Terry is probably going to get the vote share among swing voters and base voter groups. The question is turnout. And that worry will be the riddle that both parties need to solve for `22.

MAXWELL: One of the weird things happening right now is that Donald Trump is actually encouraging his folks not to vote. He put out a statement saying "If we don`t solve the presidential election fraud of 2020 -- which is capitalized, as if that`s a thing -- which we have thoroughly and conclusively document -- also not true -- Republicans will be voting in `22 or `24. It is the single most important thing for Republicans to do."

So like, is that going to work? Because I feel like you probably don`t want to tell the Republicans not to vote if you want to win an election which requires votes.

PLOUFFE: Yes. You`d think. It is historical political malpractice, Zerlina, if it gets properly weaponized. Ok. So for the next couple of weeks of Virginia, most I think pressingly next year with good data as you know we know who of Republican voters are who might be less inclined to vote.

And so you need to keep those comments in front of them through advertising and really just sharing Trump`s comments. Because Joe Biden is going to still be president.

And Donald Trump saying if that is the case if somehow the election is not overturned you shouldn`t bother voting. So we saw in Georgia in the Senate runoffs that that dynamic of Trump basically and his allies question legitimacy of elections hurt.

This is even more destructive. But only if Democratic candidates and groups are really smart about making sure that message stays in front of those unlikely Republican voters.

And again the Republicans -- yes Democrats have turnout challenges in off year elections but the Republicans have to bring a lot of those voters who only got involved in politics or at least intentionally (ph) because of Donald Trump. And he is strangely out there don`t bother. So, yes, it could be quite a factor, if again that`s utilized properly.

MAXWELL: One of the things that`s happening right now that reminds me of the Obama administration is the fact that you know, it took a while to get Obamacare passed. There was a lot going on. And it was an up and down battle that was, like, you never really knew what was going to happen.

In similar fashion, the two infrastructure bills here are going up and down, up and down. It`s still uncertain. How important is it, though, that these bills pass to motivate Democrats to turn out?

PLOUFFE: Critically important. And listen with Obamacare one thing I -- you know, as you know, the benefits of that didn`t kick in for a while. Ok.

Most of the benefits of these two packages will begin to kick in right away. So Democrats can do storytelling. I understand the anxiety and I share it that this is too hard. It`s too complicated.

But eventually, you know, maybe I`ll regret these words -- they`re going to pass. The only thing worse than individual members not getting exactly what they want is nothing getting done. And this is a historical opportunity.

So right now I think to the casual voters all they see is Democrats arguing over trillions, is it going to get done? So once it gets passed you need to go out there and talk about all the elements of it how people benefit.

And you know the place you need to start is not necessarily people who voted Republican in the last couple of elections you want to convince. It`s all the people who voted Democrat and say you gave us the presidency. You gave us the Senate and gave us the House. Here is what we did. We took action on your behalf.

So yes, I mean my guess is the next year every Democratic candidate, certainly every Democratic incumbent and White House needs to be out there every day every week animating this so it`s just not some big Washington spending bill. It`s something that matters in people`s living rooms and in their homes.

MAXWELL: David Plouffe thank you for joining us tonight. Please stay safe.

Coming up, fighting voter suppression in a state that is critical for keeping Republicans from winning control of Congress. That`s up next.



MAXWELL: One way to beat back Republican voter suppression -- Democratic voter engagement, doing the work on the ground. I love it -- former field organizer here.

A group called the New North Carolina Project is working to mobilize 100,000 people of color who were eligible to vote but didn`t vote in 2020.

Joining us now is the executive director of the New North Carolina Project, Aimy Steele. And Aimy, your group hopes to register and mobilize more than 100,000 eligible voters for the 2022 midterms. I mean we know margins. That is enough to win many elections.

The long-term strategy is actually to register 90 percent of eligible voters in North Carolina by 2030. How will you do that?

AIMY STEELE, NEW NORTH CAROLINA PROJECT: Well, Zerlina, first of all, thank you so much for having me. I think the best way to do that is to really invest in communities of color and ensure these communities thrive by organizing long-term infrastructure. We plan to really engage people from communities of color in the work to organize their communities, hire them, train them and really educate them on the importance of exercising their power and their right to vote.

No longer is it ok to just assume these monolithic -- these groups of color, rather, are monolithic and that they`re going to vote a certain way. We really have to get out there and organize similar to what you did in the `08 Obama campaign.

MAXWELL: Oh, yes, I mean I think President Obama really created the template, I think, for effectively organizing. He has a history as a community organizer.


MAXWELL: You actually have experience as a candidate in North Carolina, narrowly losing two close State House elections in `18 and in 2020.

How do you think your experience as a former candidate and understanding how this process works helps you, and how do you talk about your state to folks who are thinking about getting into the races?

STEELE: Absolutely. So, we know we have two critical -- or several rather critical races coming up in 2022. But yes, my experience as a candidate running for State House in 2018 and 2020 really prepared me for standing up a field operation when in 2018 we weren`t a targeted race. So, I think it truly showed me the ability or the efficacy around standing up a ground game and really getting out there into the community so people can see me and know that I was really fighting.

MAXWELL: It`s so important. Field organizing is the key. Aimy Steele, thank you so much for joining us tonight.

We`ll be right back with tonight`s LAST WORD.



MAXWELL: That is tonight`s LAST WORD. You can catch me every weeknight at 6:00 p.m. Eastern on "THE CHOICE" from MSNBC exclusively on Peacock.