Issue #42

We have brand new polling for Delaware, and it points to a real race

DE-Sen

Data for Progress has polled Delaware to determine the potential for Jess Scarane, progressive challenger to centrist Senator Chris Coons, who has been in the race for about three weeks now. The poll finds that by a margin of 36 to 32 registered Democrats would prefer “a more liberal female Democrat” to Senator Chris Coons. The poll also tested a variety of pro- and anti-Coons messages, from the Green New Deal, to his support of Trump nominees, to his membership in The Family. They find that the most persuasive anti-Coons message is that he voted to confirm multiple judges who oppose Brown v. Board of Ed, while the most persuasive pro-Coons message is that he signed a letter opposing an anti-gay policy. While voters did move 45-24 to the side of “a more liberal female Democrat” after hearing only the negative messages, they moved back to the same 36-32 margin after hearing the positives as well, which suggests that while voters may not have intricate knowledge of the specifics, as a whole they understand the general shape of the choice presented. However, Coons’s popularity sinks from a very healthy 62-24 approve-disapprove from before any of the message testing to a much more anemic 49-35 after, a promising sign.

The poll surveyed 528 registered Democrats using the VITMS method. Crosstabs are here.

New Developments

CA-16

Fresno City Councilor Esmeralda Soria’s challenge to Blue Dog Rep. Jim Costa has had a seemingly unbroken streak of good luck in recent months, some of which we’ve covered in this newsletter. She managed to prevent the California Democratic Party from endorsing Costa’s reelection; she won the endorsement of the SEIU, a major labor union; and she got the endorsement of state Sen. Anna Caballero, who represents much of this congressional district in the state Senate. She got two more pieces of good news this past week.

First, only one Republican made the ballot in her race. Under California’s top-two system, the top two finishers regardless of party advance to the general election; with only one Republican on the ballot, it is now impossible for an all-Republican general election to occur, no matter how ugly Soria’s fight with Costa gets. Given the district’s strong, but not overwhelming, Democratic lean, this probably means the race will be decided in March; it’s hard to see the Republican coming in third here, meaning Soria will not have to fight Costa for Republican and independent votes in a Democrat-on-Democrat general election in November. The Republican beating either Costa or Soria in November is even less likely than the Republican coming in third in March; additionally, if you’re really worried about electability, that probably makes Soria the more attractive option, because Costa (in)famously often comes close to losing because he just doesn’t campaign.

Second, Soria was endorsed by labor activist and civil rights leader Dolores Huerta. Huerta cofounded the National Farmworkers Association (now the United Farm Workers) with Cesar Chavez; her endorsement carries serious weight with Latinx voters and labor unions, especially in the heavily agricultural Central Valley where this district is located.

It’s worth noting that Soria hasn’t embraced all of the left’s priorities - for instance talking about affordable public college instead of free. However, she’s much better than Costa--a current member and former chair of the awful Blue Dog Coalition--and taking him down would still be a massive victory for the left wing of the Democratic Party.

NJ-02

Two weeks ago, we told you about a potential primary for Rep. Jeff Van Drew, a conservative Democrat from a Trump-voting district in South Jersey. Back then, sources told the New Jersey Globe that Van Drew risked losing some of the all-powerful county party ballot lines if he voted against impeaching the president (which already seemed quite likely, since Van Drew was one of only two Democrats to vote against the resolution establishing the impeachment inquiry.) Now, the Globe has learned that Van Drew attempted to get the Democratic county party chairs in the eight counties of his district to back his reelection in an open letter. Multiple refused, and the letter was subsequently scrapped. 

One of those chairs is presumably Michael Suleiman of Atlantic County, home to Atlantic City. The county is the largest in the district and the single largest source of votes in most Democratic primaries. According to another Globe article, Suleiman warned Van Drew that he could lose party support in Atlantic County if he were to vote against impeachment. The next-largest county in the district, Cumberland County, also seems to be trouble for the congressman; Cumberland County Freeholder Jack Surrency is mulling a challenge, and Cumberland Democrats are still smarting from the humiliating loss of all three Democratic incumbents in Van Drew’s old legislative district last month. Van Drew hasn’t learned his lesson; in fact, he doubled down, telling CNN he planned to vote against impeaching the president. Since Van Drew seems determined to get himself primaried, it’s time to look at who might take him on.

Two weeks ago, Assemblymen Vince Mazzeo and Adam Taliaferro, both of Atlantic County, were floated as challengers; since then, both have said no, although both hedged their language (Mazzeo said he “probably” wouldn’t run, while Taliaferro said he had no interest “as of right now.”) We’d keep them in mind, but we wouldn’t consider them particularly likely opponents.

Montclair State University professor Brigid Callahan Harrison has been mulling a run for weeks; while Montclair is very far from the district, Harrison lives in Longport and has been involved in Atlantic County Democratic politics for decades.

As mentioned above, Cumberland County Freeholder Jack Surrency is considering a run.

West Cape May (pop 1,000) Commissioner John Francis, an environmentalist first elected to the municipal commission of his small borough in 2017, told InsiderNJ that he is considering a run. Francis would be in the unique position of challenging Van Drew from his own backyard; Cape May County, where both men are from, has long been Van Drew’s loyal base. Despite voting for Donald Trump by 20 percentage points in 2016, the county even backed Van Drew in his 2018 election to the House. (However, while Van Drew may be popular at home, New Jersey has closed primaries, so the Republicans and independents who vote for him in general elections can’t save him in a primary.)

Indivisible Cape May, a local affiliate of the national progressive group Indivisible, has been actively searching for a primary challenger; InsiderNJ says Surrency and especially Francis are currently being considered by the group. Indivisible’s volunteer network could serve as a strong complement to the institutional weight of the county party ballot lines. Right now, it appears that some parts of the grassroots and the machine are in agreement about ousting Van Drew. While it’s unusual to see the grassroots and the machine agree on much of anything in New Jersey, voting against the impeachment of Donald Trump may be more than even the corrupt, conservative machines of South Jersey can stomach.

NY-09

New York City Council Member Chaim Deutsch looked at the list of announced candidates for NY-09, decided that what it was missing was a good old-fashioned homophobe, and then concluded that he should be that race’s homophobe. Deutsch has yet to officially file with the FEC, but he discussed his plan to run for Congress at a private event on Dec. 5th, according to an anonymous elected official. Deutsch does represent a part of NY-09, but only the most conservative part of the district, a collection of neighborhoods down in deep south Brooklyn that is not representative of this diverse district overall. 

A self-proclaimed “conservative Democrat” who’s well-loved by police unions, Deutsch also has a record of voting and speaking out against the rights of LGBTQ New Yorkers rivaling that of Council Member Ruben Diaz Sr. In 2017 alone, Deutsch voted against increasing support for LGBTQ students in NYC public schools and banning conversion therapy. He was also one of three Council Members (including AOC’s conservative challenger Fernando Cabrera) who refused to put rainbow flags on their desks as a show of solidarity with the LGBTQ community after the Orlando Pulse shooting in 2016. Deutsch is just bad, and he ranks high on our list of homophobes to keep away from Congress in 2020.

NY-15

Ritchie Torres has racked up a ton of notable union endorsements. The Communications Workers of America announced their endorsement on Monday, joining a coalition including local SEIU affiliate Workers United, Teamsters 237, Laborers LIUNA, and more. Torres also announced that his fundraising has continued to be strong, saying he’s already crossed the $1 million mark of total fundraising. This isn’t saying too much, since he was already at $878,935 last quarter, but having more than $121,000 banked before the final fundraising stretch is a good sign and means the entry of other candidates hasn’t hurt his fundraising operation.

Meanwhile, last week New York City DSA announced their endorsement of Samelys Lopez, giving her a major boost in an increasingly crowded field. DSA has a huge volunteer base that is ready to knock doors and organize for Lopez, and has had a huge impact on major progressive victories in the city over the past two years (i.e. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Julia Salazar). In a race where major New York City establishment organizations are rapidly consolidating their support, DSA’s endorsement could have a huge impact on Lopez’s chances. While Torres has always branded himself as a progressive, he’s not part of the DSA-style left. As a matter of fact, he has disavowed the group over its support of BDS in an interview where he embraces the views of the conservative and hawkish wing of the Democratic Party on Israel, calling the idea of conditioning aid to the country “absurd” and a “dog-whistle” and saying he found a “queers for Palestine” shirt “baffling” because of the presence of Hamas.

NY-17

This week, two of our least favorite candidates running for NY-17 received new endorsements. Wannabe Republican New York State Senator David Carlucci got the backing of the Rockland County Building and Construction Trades Council, which makes his second union endorsement. Ironic that labor would stand behind someone who spent over seven years caucusing with the Republicans in the Senate and blocking progressive, one might even say pro-labor, legislation. The building trades do have a reputation for being one of the more conservative and cautious branches of the union movement, often willing to play both sides. They were at the very least not antagonistic to the IDC (Democrats caucusing with Republicans) while it was active. They also backed former IDC members in 2018, as all but two were wiped out in primaries.

Assembly Member David Buchwald, who has never caucused with Republicans but did vote against tenant protections this year, is racking up the support of state and local elected officials. Back in November, he was endorsed by a group of over 40 local electeds, and now he’s secured the first county-wide endorsement of the race — Tim Idoni, Westchester County Clerk. This is a good sign for Buchwald, since his path to victory likely runs through Westchester, with Westchester County making up about half of the 17th district and being Buchwald’s home base. Buchwald’s strong establishment support here solidifies that Mondaire Jones is the only clear progressive in this race.

TX-28

It’s almost commendable how much effort Henry Cuellar puts into arguing why he should be voted out. When asked about Justice Democrats’ support and campaigning for Jessica Cisneros, Cuellar doubled down on conservative messaging about the race. He decried their “New York values” and called Justice Democrats “Justice Socialists”, a conservative Facebook page-level insult making it pretty clear that he’s not above right-wing framing to smear Cisneros and Democrats to the right of him.

Today, Daniel Marans published a piece in the Huffington Post on the small mystery of why Bernie Sanders hasn’t endorsed Cisneros, especially with so many high-profile endorsements from progressive groups. Cisneros put out a statement that Sanders’ support would be appreciated and that they welcome any endorsements from officials who “share our values.” (If anyone on Team Bernie, or really any presidential campaign, is reading this, please consider endorsing!) In October, Sanders said he will be getting involved in more primary challenges, but as of now his only endorsement remains for Marie Newman.

New Primaries

NC-06

State Representative Derwin Montgomery has joined the Democratic primary for NC-06. Montgomery represents a state house district on the Forsyth County side of the district, in Winston-Salem. Montgomery entered the Winston-Salem City Council in 2009, and was generally part of a more progressive wing on the board, pushing, for instance, to make the city functionally a sanctuary city in defiance of the state legislature in 2017, and pushing for an investigation into the police killing of a local black teenager. But he’s voted with Republicans quite a bit since he was elected to the General Assembly last year, on important issues from taxes to education to healthcare. Daily Kos Elections estimates that in 2016 the Democratic primary electorate was 48% black and 46% white, meaning Montgomery, who is black, could start out with an advantage over his only current opponent, Kathy Manning, who is white.

Meanwhile, City Councilwoman DD Adams, who we mentioned last week, has filed for re-election. She can’t run for both offices, which suggests she may not be interested in NC-06.

PA-HD-34

In 2018, an organizer and attorney from North Braddock named Summer Lee knocked off 20-year incumbent Rep. Paul Costa, of the infamous Costa family of the Pittsburgh Democratic machine. With help from the Democratic Socialists of America, Lee and now fellow State Rep. Sara Innamorato successfully primaried local Democratic machine incumbents a month before AOC made it cool. Lee is ideologically a leftist dream candidate — outspoken on issues from environmental justice to racial equality — and the fact that she is also a woman of color (the first black woman to be elected to the state legislature!) makes her a sorely needed member of the General Assembly.

Apparently, North Braddock (pop 4,700) City Council Member Chris Roland begs to differ, as he has announced that he’ll be challenging Lee in 2020. So far, Roland is not off to a great start: he’s already falsely claimed that Lee’s opposition to pollution is anti-union and admitted that he would be a strong police ally (vomit). It looks like Roland may have some institutional support, though — his campaign Facebook includes a picture of him with Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald is a big name in Allegheny County politics, and it is said that all Democratic political staffers in the Pittsburgh area end up working for him eventually. Having Fitzgerald’s endorsement could be a pretty big deal, given all his power and connections. Lee, who received little institutional support for her own primary challenge (Fitzgerald himself backed Costa), was quick to point out the irony in this, tweeting, “I remember when all the ‘powerful’ county Democrats were singing about ‘protect all Dem incumbents’ no matter what! Then a Black woman ran and won and it turns out it was never the incumbency they were protecting, but the self interest. Color me surprised!”

WA-10

A week after backbench moderate Democrat Denny Heck announced his retirement from WA-10, the field has begun to grow from where it was then, with socialist truck driver Joshua Collins as temporarily the only candidate in the race.

Between two Politicoarticles and one from The News Tribune we’ve got quite the crowd

  • Olympia (pop. 53,000) Mayor Cheryl Selby has been mentioned. Selby was first elected mayor in 2015, and has generally opposed progressive efforts in the city. She fought a ballot measure which would have created an income tax on the wealthy for Olympia in 2016, which was then narrowly defeated. In 2017 she appeared in an Uber PR campaign. She’s also been a proponent of getting confrontational with the homeless population in the city, to the point where the city council had to stop a police raid she supported on a homeless encampment. She has recommended one article on her Medium page - this shameful piece of anti-homeless dehumanizing agitprop that, among other things, recommends getting tougher on addicts, and blames “street subculture” for the rise in homelessness.

  • Phil Gardner, district director for Denny Heck has said he’s “very seriously considering” and will make a decision soon. Gardner’s has worked for Heck for the last 9 years and supports Buttigieg for President, so it’s a fair guess that he won’t be too different from Heck

  • St. Rep. Beth Doglio has been mentioned. Doglio has represented the Olympia area in the house since 2017, and before that spent years as a climate activist. She’s maintained a very progressive voting record and shows no signs of breaking from that pattern.

  • St. Rep. Mari Leavitt has been mentioned. Leavitt has only been around for less than a year, and it’s already clear she should stay out of Congress. She has an aggressivelyanti-taxvoting and rhetorical record, even when it puts her at odds with the entire party.

  • St. Rep. Christine Kilduff. Kilduff entered the House two years before Doglio and has built a voting record somewhere between Doglio and Leavitt (with whom she shares a district.) One major red flag appears in her past: she used to be a prosecutor, which perhaps helps explain her attempt to let prosecutors extend periods of involuntary confinement for the mentally ill.

  • St. Rep Laurie Dolan. Dolan is Doglio’s seat mate and a reliable party-line vote in the House. She used to live in Spokane, and ran for state senate twice there. She portrayed herself as a moderate in those campaigns, and it’s possible statements she made at that time could come back to haunt her

  • Ex-US Ambassador to Switzerland & Liechtenstein Suzan LeVine, an Obama appointee. Her main asset will likely be money, both from herself and from her business connections, which include executive positions at Microsoft, Expedia, and CellarTracker

  • Ex-Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland is said to be preparing a run. Strickland has only been out of the office of mayor for a couple years, but her truly terrible behavior since then has erased any bit of good will she might have had from those years. She now chairs the Seattle Chamber of Commerce, and in that capacity has lobbied against the proposed Head Tax, a small tax on large business which was to be used to help the homeless. She also ran the following campaign to oust progressives in the chamber with a slate of 7 Amazon-approved and funded corporate lackeys, sparked largely by the Head Tax attempt. We covered the Seattle City Council election results on here before - they were a clear fight with progressive and grassroots groups on one side, and large corporations on the other. Strickland led the latter side, and lost, as she deserves to if she runs for Congress. It’s worth noting that most, but not all, of Tacoma is not in WA-10

Two potential candidates have said they won’t be running: Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal and State Senator Sam Hunt.

Collins’s campaign has received more attention since Heck’s retirement, and as this profile in Law and Crime shows, he’s in it to win it. In the two days following Heck’s announcement, Collins raised $25,000, almost as much as the $30,000 he had already raised that quarter, speaking to a much better financed campaign than what he was running in the summer. He also speaks of a warming relationship with local parties and a well-developed canvassing and outreach strategy. He points out he also stopped working full time in September, which, as much as it discourages the working class from running for office, is important for a Congressional campaign. They are time intensive, and you need to be a full time candidate. Months ago, the Collins candidacy wasn’t far from a low budget shitposting effort a guy was doing in the little spare time afforded to a truck driver. And that’s why we weren’t covering him. But it’s come together to be a viable campaign just in time for Denny Heck to retire and all hell to break loose. It’s a real opportunity, and we’re excited to see if he can take advantage of it.


MD-05

Recently, Nick had the chance to speak with Mckayla Wilkes, who is challenging House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer in the primary for Maryland’s 5th congressional district. Hoyer is the second-ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives, and he’s been in office longer than anyof us have been alive. He repeatedly had his district redrawn to be whiter, because he did not want to face a majority-Black primary electorate. While he has more power than perhaps any Democrat besides Nancy Pelosi, his relationship with Pelosi has long been notoriously poor, because he is far more conservative than she is. We talked about Wilkes’s progressive platform, her recent endorsements, and how her upstart campaign has rattled the local Democratic establishment. Our subscribers will get to see the full conversation on Friday, but a preview is below.

NICK: How’s the campaign been going so far?

WILKES: The campaign has been going very, very well. We’ve been having a lot of positive things happening...our [number of volunteers] has been growing. We have, I think, close to a hundred volunteers now in the area. We’ve raised over $100,000. We’ve gotten endorsed by Brand New Congress, by our local chapter of DSA, as well as a few local figures. So I think things are going very great.

NICK: You told the magazine Marie Claire that a Democratic state legislator actually confronted you at an event because she was angry that you were challenging Hoyer. Is that reflective of how the establishment has reacted to your campaign?

WILKES: Yeah, I would say, overall, in regards to the establishment, it has been kind of that way, especially in dealing with some of Steny Hoyer’s staffers. I think [some] people from the establishment...have been supportive, kind of in private, but what I’ve noticed is that a lot of them are afraid to speak up publicly in support of our campaign because of how much power Steny Hoyer has in the state of Maryland and the nation as a whole.

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