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Democrat Narrowly Loses in Georgia; Interview with DNC Chair Tom Perez; Republican Wake-Up Call in Georgia; Hernandez Commits Suicide in Prison; Boxer Finds New Fight; Georgia Special Election. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired April 19, 2017 - 08:30   ET


[08:30:00] TOM PEREZ, DNC CHAIR: I'd rather be Jon Ossoff than Karen Handel right now. And we have a lot of wind at our back. The progressive energy out there is palpable and the volunteers are out there and we're going to be knocking on doors and the DNC is all in and other partners are all in.


PEREZ: I feel good.

CUOMO: The question is, is this repeatable success in some of these close call places where Clinton won but you have current Republican congressional members in the seats? You spent a lot of money here. And the money was important and relevant in boosting Jon Ossoff. But is that repeatable?

PEREZ: Oh, I think we can do this in the next 60 days here in Georgia. By the way, Chris, he was outspent two to one. I mean Paul Ryan's super PAC was in. They hit the panic button big-time on the Republican side.

CUOMO: But by 18 -- I'm saying you had like one against 18 in terms of spending.

PEREZ: Yes, well --

CUOMO: You guys put a lot of money into this race. You couldn't do that in every race, could you?

PEREZ: Sure. No, I understand. But, you know, the Democrat Party, you know, we have to walk and chew gum, and that's exactly what we're doing. We're investing heavily here in the Georgia six race, but I'm traveling across the country. We're building strong parties everywhere. That's what we have to do because that's where we fell short in the past. We allowed our basic infrastructure to, you know, to atrophy and we have to build strong parties. We have to have organizers on the ground 12 months a year, not just two months before the election. That's the blocking and tackling. That's the basics of party building. And then we have to articulate our message. Our message that America works best when we have shared prosperity, not just for -- prosperity for a few at the top. And when we lead with our values and we mobilize our voters and we communicate clearly our message, that's when we succeed. CUOMO: So how is it going? You're out on the road with Bernie Sanders,

which should be a book in and of itself. In Maine you had some boo birds out there. There's obviously work to be done in consolidating the party. What are you seeing out on the hustings?

PEREZ: Seeing a lot of energy out there. We were in Maine, as you said, on Monday. We were in Kentucky yesterday. And it's all about listening to people. You know, we -- the party needs to make more house calls. That's what I'm doing, listening and learning. And what people want is they want a Democratic Party that's fighting for their values, fighting for health care as a right, fighting for good jobs that pay a decent wage, telling the story of Donald Trump's failure and his lies. But not just holding Donald Trump accountable, standing up for our beliefs. And that's what I'm hearing everywhere.

And we're -- I feel like we've got some great wind at our back and great energy and, you know, we've got thousands of people showing up at these places and we're having good conversation. We have to do -- you know, I think good leaders, Chris, are good listeners. And I've been doing a lot of listening out there on the road and there's a lot of excitement. People want to make sure the Democratic Party succeeds. You look at what happened. You know, in Kansas, we moved the needle 24 points. This race yesterday moved the needle 23 points. And we're going to get up above 50 percent here and we're going to walk and chew gum elsewhere, not only in federal races, but municipal races, like Omaha, Nebraska, and elsewhere because our mission, Chris, is not only to elect the president, but to elect people from the school board to the Senate.

CUOMO: All right, well, that's -- that's certainly how you get to the presidency is by building from below.

Tom Perez, thank you very much for being on the show. Appreciate it.

PEREZ: Always a pleasure.

CUOMO: Alisyn.


So you just got the Democrats' take on what happened. Now let's hear from the Republican candidate in that run-off race. Karen Handel joins us how.

Karen, good morning.

KAREN HANDEL (R), GEORGIA CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: Good morning. Thanks so much for having me.

CAMEROTA: Thanks for being here.

You just tweeted moments ago to Donald Trump, "thank you for the call this morning." What did the president tell you?

HANDEL: He just called to say congratulations and encourage me and let me know that as we go into June 20th, that, you know, it's all hands on deck for Republicans. And we take it very seriously. And I'm proud to be the Republican going to the run-off. And I think it's important in this district. This is a district where people know me and they trust me. And that's a big contrast to the Democrat who doesn't even live in the district. Gosh, he couldn't even vote for himself yet.

CAMEROTA: Yes. So let's talk about how he got more than 48 percent of the vote. This is a Republican district, as you know. It was the district of Newt Gingrich. Tom Price won there by something like 60 -- more than 60 percent. How did a Democrat get more than 48 percent last night?

HANDEL: Well, let's just keep in mind that on the Democrat side they were largely consolidated around their coroneted candidate here and they spent upwards of close to $10 million. Just on TV alone, $5.5 million compared to roughly $75,000 that I spent on television. So, money buys a lot when it's a very compressed race. That won't be the same in the run-off. Republicans are united. We know that this is an important race and it's going to stay in the hands of a Republican. And I'm excited about the next 60 days.

[08:35:00] CAMEROTA: But, I mean, when you look at the numbers, you know, what's getting a lot of national attention this morning is that this seems to be about more than just money spent because he got 48 -- more than 48 percent of the vote. He almost won it out right. Had he gotten less than two more points and he would have been over that 50 percent mark. So is this a referendum on President Trump? Is this a message that Democrats are sending somehow?

HANDEL: No, I think it's important to understand that if there was one Republican, it was 52 to 48 or 49, so it still would have been a Republican victory. What I hear out across the district is this, the people of this district want a congressman that they know, that they trust, someone who has a real track record. They're not interested in someone who doesn't even live in the district, someone who has a really thin resume and very lacking in experience.

CAMEROTA: Sure. But clearly voters responded to him somehow. There's something appealing about Jon Ossoff since, again, so many people turned out to vote for him. What do you think it is?

HANDEL: Look, I think money buys a lot. This is the world of politics and this is where we are. At the end of the day, the people of this district, they want a solid, independent minded conservative, someone like me, that they know, that they trust. And I believe firmly and am very confident as we come into the next 60 days.

CAMEROTA: Do you think that President Trump will come to Georgia and campaign with you?

HANDEL: I -- I would hope so. I mean, look, we -- all Republicans, it is all hands on deck for us. We know what's at stake here and I don't think that any -- this is about any one person. We all have to rise above it, that it is about the district that has a long legacy of Republican leadership, from my good friend current HHS Secretary Tom Price, to Senator Isakson and former Speaker Newt Gingrich. So we are all, including the very good ten other Republican candidates, we are all going to be united because we know what our job is over the next 60 days.

CAMEROTA: I mean, very quickly, President Trump only won there by one percentage point. Are you certain that he will be an asset for you in the district?

HANDEL: Again, it is all Republicans all hands on deck. So we are going to be united.

CAMEROTA: Secretary Karen Handel, thank you very much. We will be watching what happens from now through June. Thanks for being here.

HANDEL: Super. Thanks so much.


CUOMO: All right, more on the breaking news that convicted murderer and former Patriots star Aaron Hernandez killed himself in prison. The latest, next.


[08:41:05] CAMEROTA: We do have breaking news. Convicted murderer Aaron Hernandez found dead in his prison cell this morning. The Massachusetts Department of Corrections says the former New England Patriots star killed himself.

Joining us now is CNN Sports analyst and "USA Today" sports columnist Christine Brennan.

Christine, thanks for being here.

Your thoughts this morning?

CHRISTINE BRENNAN, CNN SPORTS ANALYST: Well, what an American tragedy in all ways now apparently complete. And no one saw this coming. Obviously, the news I think shocks everyone as they're waking up and hearing this news, Alisyn.

And, you know, for me, you think about Aaron Hernandez and, of course, what we've known the last three or four years is all terrible, self- induced. Of course, a murderer, convicted, terrible, terrible things. This man was so linked with our culture. He caught passes from Tim Tebow at Florida. He caught passes from Tom Brady in New England. He was born in Bristol, Connecticut, the home of ESPN. You can't have a story that sounds more all-American than that. And then to have it turn into a tragedy like this and always and a loss of a life and, of course, the murder, it is just one of those things you just say what could have been and how terrible the reality of what did happen really is.

CUOMO: Right. And then you get the flip side of it, something else he caught, obviously, a life sentence for what was really an execution- style first degree murder charge against a man, by all accounts a good man, his friend --

CAMEROTA: Odin Lloyd. CUOMO: Odin Lloyd.


CUOMO: And that takes you into the question of, well, did Aaron Hernandez just become a monster one day or is this something that someone like you, Christine Brennan, can trace back to reports about him when he was coming in from Florida into the locker room, reports about his temper, reports about his anger, reports about who he was with. Is there a knowledge base here that was ignored because of his stardom?

BRENNAN: Great question. There were concerns about marijuana use. His draft stock, for example, fell. He was a tight end, of course, with a lot of promise. So people knew he was in trouble. There were problems at Florida when he played there. There were things, run-ins with the law. He punched a bouncer at a bar. Tim Tebow, of all people, was there trying to obviously help the situation and diffuse it. So this kid was trouble from the get-go.

His dad, Chris, died when he was 16. Certainly that is no excuse to commit murder. But we do know these stories are out there in our culture of young men who are so troubled by not having a father figure at key moments in their life. Again, that is not an excuse. But I think the warning signs were there, to answer your question, absolutely. Clearly the NFL knew it. His draft stock fell. A lot of his money when he was signed with the Patriots was performance based because they were concerned about his behavior. I -- we're not going to say he slipped through the cracks, because he didn't. There were warning signs. I don't think anyone saw it going to the extent that it did.

CAMEROTA: And then, of course, just the timing, Christine. The Patriots will be at the White House today.

BRENNAN: Oh, I know, Alisyn. You know, the questions now will come for all of them after -- these events, of course, are wonderful celebrations. There's a little tinge of controversy about who's coming, who's not. First one for Donald Trump as president. But now every journalist will ask and the stake-out outside the White House, every question will be about Aaron Hernandez, or most of them will, anyway. So it's certainly -- not to say it's a -- you know, alleged -- obviously a known (ph) suicide and, of course, the man murdered someone. So you think about this. It's not to be celebrate at all, but definitely this will taint everything, as it should. This is a question that has to be asked.

CUOMO: And a tough spot for the players. They're there to celebrate. Many remember Aaron Hernandez as a teammate, but they can't lose perspective on the price that was paid by Odin Lloyd and his family.

CAMEROTA: Of course.

Christine, thank you very much for all of that perspective.

BRENNAN: Take care. CUOMO: All right, Democrats came close in Georgia's high stakes congressional race. There will now be a run-off. Can they win it? What would it mean to the GOP if they do? We get that in "The Bottom Line" from David Axelrod, next.

[08:45:05] CAMEROTA: But first, a New York boxer did not let high blood pressure knock him out of the sport all together. He became a coach. CNN's chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta has his story in "Turning Points."


ANDRE ROZIER, BOXING COACH: I don't like to lose. I don't like my fighters to lose.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Andre Rozier is a champion corner man who began his boxing career inside the ring.

ROZIER: I started out in junior Olympic category of amateur boxing, and I went on until my first Golden Glove tournament, which was at the age of 16.

But when I went to the Golden Glove physical, I was told that I had high blood pressure. And I said to myself, what are you talking about? And I was tested again and the results were the same.

GUPTA: Rozier was stripped of his boxing credentials. Unable to compete, he hung up his gloves and left the sport.

ROZIER: At that point I was like, well, you know what, this is it. I'm finished. I'm done.

Now jab (INAUDIBLE). Start with that jab.

GUPTA: Until a persistent young boxer asked for his help.

ROZIER: Go right back to work.

His confidence and his exuberance brought me back to where I was before. This time as a teacher it opened me back to the sport that I did love. I think I've coached about a million people. Sometimes you train an athlete and they're with you for two days and sometimes you train an athlete and they're with you for the rest of their lives. It's only because I love it.

GUPTA: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN reporting.



[08:50:49] CUOMO: Democrats and the president both claiming victory after the special election House race in Georgia. Democrat Jon Ossoff got more than 48 percent of the vote in the race for Tom Price's seat. Tom Price won just a few months ago by 23 points. So, you did need 50 percent to win outright, so there's going to be a run-off in June against Republican Karen Handel. So who did win this race that isn't over yet? Let's get "The Bottom Line" with CNN senior political commentator David Axelrod.

Unusual to see the president this involved in one of these races. He wasn't like this in Kansas. Is he right to be claiming victory for keeping Ossoff from 50 percent?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I heard Tom Perez use a football analogy, so let me use one of my own. You're the Republicans. You're the champions. You've held this seat for 37 years. The last time there was a race here, Tom Price won by 23 points. Now this unheralded challenger, you stop him an inch before the goal line so you send the game to overtime. So it's good, you live to fight another day. Maybe you can win in overtime. But there are fundamental problems with the team, and he's the problem.

So, you know, I -- now he gave himself credit. He thanked himself. And it's good that he did because Karen Handel, when she spoke to her supporters last night didn't and didn't mention him. And as you can see on your own broadcast, she wasn't terribly interested in talking about him whenever his name was raised in that conversation. So this was a fundamental (INAUDIBLE) --

CAMEROTA: But she did say -- I mean, David, she did say that she hoped he would come down. I mean she did say that she wants him to campaign with her.

AXELROD: Well, you -- and -- yes, she did. She did in answer to your question. She didn't exactly volunteer that. And she quickly shifted to, you know, it's all hands on deck, it's all Republicans, it's not about one person and so on. Clearly he was a liability there. He only won the district by a point last November. And this is the kind of suburban district where you're going to have pitched battles come 2018. These are the battlegrounds that will determine the composition of the House.

And it goes beyond that, you guys, because if Republicans begin to feel that Trump is a liability and that 2018 is going to be challenging, you're going to see incumbents retire. It's going to be harder to recruit candidates. And those suburban Republicans in particular are going to question how closely they should cleave (ph) to the president on their votes in Congress. So he can celebrate because he survived and the party survived a very stern test yesterday, but it's not good news.

CUOMO: He's doing that just right now. He just twitted, David, "Dems failed in Kansas, are now failing in Georgia. Great job, Karen Handel. It's now Hollywood vs Georgia on June 20th." It sounds something like one of the McMahons would come up with to promo one of the WWE events. But Hollywood versus Georgia.

AXELROD: This is -- yes, so -- so says the proprietor of "Celebrity Apprentice." I don't know where he fits into the equation here.

But, look, I think that's going to be the campaign. The campaign against Ossoff is going to be, he's a carpet bagger, he's being supported by liberal Hollywood elites and they're trying to take this decision away from people in the district. That's going to be the Republican campaign. I wouldn't necessarily want Donald Trump to be the guy carrying that message, though.

CAMEROTA: I mean, Ossoff is a carpet bagger from one mile away. He lives one mile down the road and he grew up in that district. So I know that a lot of people are -- and he admitted it on our program yesterday that -- why he doesn't live there because he's supporting his girlfriend and he lives -- they live together. So, I don't know -- I don't know if that one is going to fly when it comes to the next run-off (ph).

AXELROD: Yes, I saw you trying -- I saw you trying -- I saw you trying to wrench a matrimonial agreement out of the whole deal yesterday.

CAMEROTA: I turned into his mother. I know. That was -- I don't know what happened.

AXELROD: No -- yes, I saw that. I saw that. It was a great moment.

But, look, no, I mean the fact is, he's got some roots in the district. He grew up there. But this is -- this is common in these races. And it does actually matter. You find in these races that people do care about that. So this will be something they will plug away at. But they've got -- the Republicans have significant headwinds and the significant headwinds come from the White House.

[08:55:12] CUOMO: All right, David, appreciate "The Bottom Line," as always. Thank you.

AXELROD: All right, guys, have a great day.

CAMEROTA: You too.

All right, that's it for us. CNN "Newsroom" with Poppy Harlow and John Berman will pick up after this very quick break and we will see you tomorrow.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: All right, good morning.

The breaking news this morning, convicted murder Aaron Hernandez found dead in his prison cell. Massachusetts officials say he hanged himself.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hernandez, a former pro football player for the New England Patriots, was serving a life sentence without parole for the 2013 killing of Odin Lloyd and he was recently found, as in within the last two weeks, not guilty of murdering two other men in Boston. A stunning development this morning.

CNN's Jean Casarez joins us now with more. Found dead in his cell this morning.

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This morning, 3:05 is when they found him. He was in the correctional facility in Shirley, Massachusetts. And they found Aaron Hernandez dead within his cell. A bed sheet he had used to hang himself and attach it to his window. But even more than that, things were piled up to the back of the door of his cell so that someone conceivably couldn't get in.

[09:00:06] Now, at this point, we do not know if there was a suicide note. Authorities are not releasing that. Massachusetts State Police are on the scene with the investigation.