BREAKING: Henry Cuellar
We’re putting this item above a divider at the beginning of the issue, because we want to make sure you read it first.
Hey, quick question for a friend. Is it a good thing if the FBI raids your house and office, then subpoenas you, your wife, and everyone who’s ever done business with you? Again, just asking, for a friend. You don’t know him—he lives in Texas, goes by Henry, has an election in five weeks, you know.
…but seriously, this is the worst week that U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar has had in his entire career. Worse than the time he actually lost an election.
On Wednesday, local news outlets first caught wind of a large law enforcement presence at the congressman’s home. The FBI, specifically. According to the Bureau, they were conducting a “court-authorized law enforcement activity.” As local outlets saw more and more—and as the national media began to pick up the story—it became clear that the FBI had raided Cuellar’s home. (And his campaign office.)
Since the raid, law enforcement has said little, and thanks to that tight-lipped attitude, the press has only been able to figure out that the investigation 1) relates to an Azerbaijani businessman and 2) has a federal grand jury assigned to it issuing subpoenas into the business dealings of Rep. Cuellar, his wife, and an unnamed campaign staffer. But developments in the race—unlike the investigation—have come fast.
Progressive challenger Jessica Cisneros got a flurry of endorsements immediately following the raid. Some—AOC and the Texas AFL-CIO, just to name two—were to be expected, as they had already endorsed Cisneros in 2020. The San Antonio Express-News, on the other hand, was not, as they had endorsed Cuellar over Cisneros in 2020. (However, the paper says that their choice to switch sides had been made before the FBI raided Cuellar’s house.) All this happened while Cuellar was flailing. For a couple days, the congressman was almost silent, aside from a brief statement the night of the raid claiming that Cuellar will cooperate with the investigation. Those hoping that Cuellar had decided go quietly would soon be disappointed: a couple days later, after an outside group canceled the ad time it had reserved which it was going to use for ads promoting Cuellar, his campaign rolled out a decidedly defiant new ad recommitting the congressman to his reelection campaign (albeit without mentioning the raid), and a few days later released a video statement explicitly stating the raid would not impact his reelection plans. One small problem with that video statement: it falls into a common-but-deadly trap for politicians facing corruption allegations, who often have an insatiable urge to directly deny the allegations even though doing so only reminds voters of their existence. Specifically, Cuellar said “there is an ongoing investigation that will show that there was no wrongdoing on my part.” (Pic unrelated.)
Cisneros herself has stayed relatively positive, mostly skirting around the scandal and letting local news reports do the work for her. (Though she has been running Facebook advertisements promoting the news of the raid, a sly strategy noticed by Politico.) The same isn’t true of her allies: Justice Democrats incorporated the raid into fundraising appeals almost immediately, and released a new ad connecting the raid with Cuellar’s past ethical lapses: his gross donors, his troubles with campaign finance reporting, allegations of employment discrimination in his congressional office. This is a fundamentally different race than it was before the FBI raid; we’re almost inclined to call Cisneros the favorite now, and there’s now a pretty strong case to be made that she’s the better candidate to hold off the Republican nominee in the general election in this seat, which like all of the Texas-Mexico border lurched right in 2020. Biden carried the district by about seven percentage points; on the one hand, that’s just about the worst a Democrat who wasn’t losing in a landslide has ever done in this district, so there’s a lot of downballot Democratic loyalty to buoy the party’s nominee. On the other hand, an FBI raid is a great way to lose even some of your staunchest partisans; other congressmen embroiled in scandal have underperformed their party’s last presidential nominee by a lot more than seven percentage points.
Richmond City Council Member Demnlus Johnson III filed to run for Congress in the new CA-08, which mostly covers inland Contra Costa and Solano County suburbs like Vallejo, Fairfield, and Pittsburg, but also has his city of Richmond (pop. 116,000) at the western end. It’s a very diverse district, middle class (by the standards of the Bay Area, at least), and overall relatively moderate, even if it does have pockets of progressivism, like Richmond, the last vestige of Green Party strength in the state. Unfortunately, Johnson is not part of that progressive culture. He’s a business-friendly politician who often butts heads with the Richmond Progressive Alliance, the leading progressive organization in the city. But he’s not really part of the moderate bloc either, and will sometimes just abstain from hot button votes that split the two.
Johnson filing to run now is strange, considering he’s in the heat of a mayoral race which will be held concurrently with the congressional one. This may be a sign he’s planning on hopping races, though he’s said nothing about that so far. If he does run, that would put him on a collision course with incumbent John Garamendi. It’s hard to say if Johnson would be much of an improvement over Garamendi, an aging moderate, but it’s not like he’d be any worse.
You may have thought that the initial round of district-hopping and retirements was all that California's redistricting cycle had in store for us, but the musical chairs aren’t over yet. Jerry McNerney abruptly decided to retire this week from his district, which includes Stockton and most of the rest of surrounding San Joaquin County. Rep. Josh Harder, who does not live in the new CA-09 but represents a district with a bit of overlap, equally abruptly decided to switch to CA-09 from the new CA-13, where he had been expected to run and which he currently represents more of. This is a bit selfish on Harder’s part; as an incumbent representative who’s been through competitive general elections before, he could’ve dissuaded the GOP from competing in CA-13, which leans blue but not as much so as CA-09 (and he already represents a lot of it, which is not true of CA-09.) But alas, House Democrats are nowhere near disciplined enough to keep a nervous member like Harder from hopping districts—so CA-09 is where he’ll end up, meaning that...
…this district is suddenly and unexpectedly open. As we’ve mentioned, this is, at bare minimum, annoying. While CA-09 is basically safe for Democrats under any environment, CA-13 is Biden+11 and with a Democratic base that might be especially prone to poor turnout in 2022. Even though Democrats are clearly favored here, it’s still on the edge of competitiveness, and we really could’ve used an incumbent in a year like 2022. Also frustrating is the leading contender to fill the void left by Harder being Assemblyman Adam Gray, a Democrat from Merced who, despite being the literal leader of the chamber’s moderates, often tips into outright conservatism, especially when it comes to guns, and has absolutely no business representing a district Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden each carried by double digits. Gray, known for being “aggressively” pro-business and “a big help” to Republicans, has constantly sparred with his own party, to the point where leadership has repeatedly felt the need to yank him from committees to prevent his obstructionism. State Sen. Anna Caballero, a standard liberal, was reportedly considering a run after redistricting put her in the same district as a fellow Democratic state senator, but she quickly committed to seeking another term in the state senate.
Thankfully, Gray won’t go entirely unchallenged; Phil Arballo, the Democratic candidate against Devin Nunes in 2020, announced he’d run for CA-13 a couple days after the seat opened up. Arballo isn’t much of a progressive, but he’s a pretty normal Democrat, whereas Gray would immediately become a headache in Congress. Arballo is also Latino, like a majority of this district and unlike Gray, and he has a huge donor base left over from challenging Nunes, one of liberal grassroots donors’ favorite people to hate. He even has $467,000 to start off with, money he raised for the special election to finish Devin Nunes’s term, which he was running for before switching races. He should be able to put up a real fight against Gray.
Relatively low-profile progressive challenger Neal Walia received the endorsement of the Colorado chapter of the Working Families Party this week; it’s an indication that this race, which in some ways seems ripe for national attention, might be heating up. Longtime Rep. Diana DeGette is a reliably liberal Democrat, but Denver is Denver, and Walia is promising to be a bolder, more progressive representative. Walia is currently struggling with money, raising just $23,000 in the last three months of 2021, and he needs institutional support like the WFP to become viable.
David Scott, one of the worst Democrats in the House, got a very high-profile challenger this past week in former state Sen. Vincent Fort. Fort endorsed Bernie Sanders for president in 2016, and received Sanders’s endorsement in 2017 when he ran for mayor of Atlanta. He was also previously one of the highest-ranking Democrats in the Georgia legislature. South Fulton City Councilor Mark Baker was already challenging Scott from the left, but Fort could easily suck up all the oxygen on the left in this race. (And since Georgia requires runoffs when no candidate gets a majority of the vote, there’s no risk of a split field reelecting Scott.)
Several top associates of gubernatorial candidate Kirk Caldwell were indicted this month. The case is a little complicated and more than a little odd—three city officials diverted $250,000 of city funds to create a “severance fund” for the chief of police, who was, at the time, resigning in disgrace over an FBI probe. Caldwell was mayor at the time, which leads to one of two damaging interpretations: either he knew about the fraud and looked the other way, or he merely hired crooks for his administration, and was too incompetent to realize they were going to siphon money from the city’s coffers. Caldwell was already facing a huge uphill climb in trying to beat enormously popular Lt. Gov. Josh Green in this primary; this can’t make it any easier.
The good news for Marie Newman this week? She received the endorsement of four union locals. The bad news? The Office of Congressional Ethics recommended 6-0 that the House Ethics Committee review her conduct, almost certainly a prelude to a messy and public investigation into possible corruption on her part. So, on net, not a great week. The investigation centers on allegations that she paid another candidate to get out of the race in 2020. An already dubious move, her choice to pay him with a government job should she win adds another possible layer of misuse of public funds. Hey kids, if you’re buying your opponent out of the race, please don’t put it in writing.
Kentucky’s candidate filing deadline just passed, and to our great shock, it looks like the open KY-03, kindly preserved as a safely Democratic seat recently by the state legislature, will be a two-way contest between progressive state Rep. Attica Scott and more moderate state Sen. Morgan McGarvey. McGarvey is the Senate Minority Leader, but the Kentucky Senate’s Democratic caucus currently sits at a size of 8, so that’s less impressive than it sounds. Nevertheless, McGarvey says he raised over $775,000 for his campaign in just over a month, a staggering pace if he can keep it up (provided that McGarvey, a lawyer from a family of lawyers, didn’t self-fund most of that and call it fundraising.) McGarvey will be the establishment choice (just look at his endorsement list) but progressive state Rep. Attica Scott, who entered to run before incumbent John Yarmuth announced his retirement, should not be counted out, despite some poor fundraising. Louisville’s electorate generally has a progressive streak, and McGarvey is not interested in being that kind of politician. (Additionally, Democratic voters may not be inclined to replace Yarmuth with another white guy, and EMILY’s List in particular is going to face some uncomfortable questions if it doesn’t soon endorse Scott; barring some unforeseen development, it certainly would not look good for the group—which recently had to rebuke its onetime favorite Kyrsten Sinema for her refusal to pass voting rights legislation—to stay of an open-seat race between a moderate white guy and a progressive Black woman in a semi-Southern red state with a long history of voter suppression.)
After months of playing coy about her very obvious impending candidacy, Maura Healey finally made it official. Healey enters with millions of dollars, sky-high name recognition, and a slew of endorsements including some important labor unions. Healey is far and away the frontrunner now; for both state Sen. Sonia Chang-Díaz and nonprofit leader Danielle Allen, the next few months will be crucial in convincing people there’s even a race to be had. With her entry, Healey didn’t just secure frontrunner status; she squeezed out her main competition, US Labor Secretary and former Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, who finally decided to stay put this week.
Comptroller Peter Franchot released an internal poll, showing him with a weak 23-16 lead over 2018 primary runner-up Rushern Baker. Wes Moore pulls a surprisingly strong 12%, former DNC chair Tom Perez only has 10%, and the field is rounded out by former state AG Doug Gansler at 7% and former U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King at 6%. (Former Republican Anne Arundel County Executive Laura Neuman was not included.) If this poll shows anything, it’s that the race is wide open. That Franchot is only at 23% despite 12 years in statewide office is perhaps not as good for him as the campaign thought, and Tom Perez is quite weak for someone with his stature in the party. If there’s a standout here, it’s Wes Moore, who was unheard of before this race. Last week, early fundraising numbers also showed Moore in a surprising financial lead, having raised over $4 million. Not every candidate released their figures, but now that the final 2021 fundraising reports are in we can say no one else did very well. Gansler raised $509K, Neuman raised $109K (though it was in just a few weeks), and Baker raised a pitiful $123K, though that will multiply when matching funds kick in (he’s the only one taking them.)
The field for this open seat is slowly taking shape. Shri Thanedar and his millions loom large above the race, and the Detroit establishment absolutely does not want him to win. Their machination will, however, be occurring behind closed doors. As the general public, all we get are new candidate announcements, and this week we have two disgraced ex-Detroit Chief of Police/current minister Ralph Godbee and state Sen. Adam Hollier. Godbee we mentioned when the district first opened up, while Hollier is a new name. First elected to the Senate in 2018, Hollier has done little to distinguish himself in his short time in office, but he is in the minority of candidates without any sort of obvious baggage.
It looks like we really might not have Bill de Blasio to kick around anymore. The erstwhile mayor of New York City decided against running for governor, which he had seemingly been moving towards doing for a while. Maybe that’ll help NYC Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, who desperately needs the help: a new Siena poll taken before de Blasio’s announcement had Gov. Kathy Hochul at 46% of the vote, de Blasio at 12%, Williams at 11%, and Rep. Tom Suozzi at 6%. Hochul also announced some absolutely monstrous fundraising numbers: $21.6 million in 2021. Williams raised about one percent of that total, just $220,000—which would be low if he was running for Congress, mayor, or even reelection. (Needless to say it is nowhere near enough to run a statewide campaign.) Suozzi, who is running a conservative campaign that doesn’t seem to be targeting any actual Democratic voters, raised $3.3 million and transferred another $2.1 million from his congressional campaign account (which makes it harder for him to drop out and seek reelection later, if he ever has second thoughts about throwing away his seat in Congress just so Kathy Hochul can turn him into a grease mark on a New York City sidewalk.)
Someone is running a poll in this district, and it sure looks like that person is Suraj Patel based on the polling questions. We had thought (hoped) that Suraj Patel, after going radio silent for almost a year on the topic of this race, had simply moved on, but instead it looks like he’s still toying tossing a hand grenade into this race and seeing just how low a plurality Rep. Carolyn Maloney can skate by with.
Also this week, Rana Abdelhamid announced endorsements from 6 district leaders, a fairly powerful local position within the NYC Democratic Party.
After the blockbuster $11 million primary contest between Nina Turner and Shontel Brown ended with a narrow 50-45 victory for Brown, there was tremendous disappointment on the left (as well as some well-earned finger pointing at a campaign that, to be frank, made several strategic errors), but Turner herself was not deterred. She looked at the possibility of a rematch, citing the prospect of a more urban, working class district after the redraw, and a busier cycle where DMFI and affiliated centrist groups would have other progressives besides her to hit with an avalanche of negative ads. Today, she announced she’s going for it. While this news isn’t shocking (she’s hinted at a rematch several more times since that interview, and even filed with the FEC some months ago) there was still no guarantee she was actually going to take the plunge once again after such an ugly election. We wish her well, and more importantly, we wish she’ll remember the importance of paid media this time around.
Yamhill County Commissioner Casey Kulla dropped out of the race for governor this week. Kulla had been running for governor for months but failed to gain any traction, to the point that a good deal of the coverage of the primary simply forgot he was even running. Kulla will instead be a candidate for Labor Commissioner, a technically nonpartisan post where incumbent Val Hoyle was cruising to reelection before Peter DeFazio announced his retirement, and she decided to run for Congress instead. Kulla joins one other candidate running for this now-open position: labor attorney Cristina Stephenson, who entered this week apparently at the urging of the state’s labor unions, who’ve been scrambling for a new candidate after Hoyle stepped aside. Stephen took a close-ish second in a Portland-area state house primary last cycle, and had near-universal support from labor in that election.
Oregon Medical Board member Kathleen Harder raised $129,000 in the two months since she announced her campaign, which means she’s going to be a real part of this ever-widening field of candidates. In addition to her, state Rep. Andrea Salinas, former Multnomah County Commissioner Loretta Smith, and dueling pro-cryptocurrency self-funders Matt West and Cody Reynolds, a new candidate has entered: State Rep. Teresa Alonso Leon. Leon, who is in her second term in the state house, was mentioned as a potential candidate for this seat when it was first drawn, but stayed quiet about any plans until people just assumed she wasn’t interested. That likely includes the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, who endorsed Salinas last month. Leon, an immigrant herself, has been fantastic on immigrant rights issues, and has fought to include the undocumented in Oregon’s Medicaid program. But her launch and campaign website have so far been light on the policy details, and she hasn’t taken any stances in inter-party fights that would make her allegiances more clear.
Leon may not even be the only candidate entering—AI researcher Carrick Flynn has filed to run. While assorted professors and researchers run for Congress all the time without anyone noticing, Flynn spent years as a relatively public-facing part of a well endowed AI-related public policy program, so he probably knows more than a few rich people.
We’re finally getting the wave of retirements we dreamed of, and man is it turning out to be a lot of work for us. We’re now at 29 Democrats peacing out at the end of this term with the imminent departure of James Langevin, a politician you definitely have not thought much about before this week. His district is quite white, mostly rural and suburban, voted for Biden by 14% (though that may get bumped up in redistricting), and covers both the western half of the state and part of Providence.
Rhode Island, a small state with tiny legislative districts and a solid decade of backlog for promotional opportunities, is flush with potential candidates:
Treasurer Seth Magaziner: Seth, son of Clintonworld policy advisor Ira Magaziner, was an investment banker in 2014, when he entered politics to successfully run for Treasurer. He’s been basically unremarkable in the role, and similarly unremarkable in the last few months while he mounted a campaign for governor.
Ex-Rhode Island Democratic Party Chair and state Rep. Ed Pacheco: Pacheco was considered a liberal for the time, but given the state of the RI Dems in the 2000s, that doesn’t mean anything.In general, it’s a good idea to be suspicious of the politics of any who ascended the ranks of the RI Dems official party.
Refugee nonprofit leader Omar Bah: Bah is himself an immigrant from The Gambia. According to his launch interview, he plans to be running a mostly progressive campaign focused on the rights of refugees.
Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos: Matos, generally considered a progressive in her time on the Providence City Council, is also not too threatening to a moderate like Dan McKee that he would give her a promotion. So far Langevin’s been the only one to mention her as a potential candidate, while the prevailing suspicion is that running for reelection is a better career move for her.
State Sen. Sam Bell: says he’s considering. Bell is a DSA member and one of the recent crop of progressives working to overthrow the conservative order currently running the state. Bell is interested, and wants a progressive elected, but has told us “With my newborn son only just home from the hospital and his prognosis uncertain, this has come at an awkward time for me. My decision will depend on his final diagnosis.”
State Rep. Carol Hagan McEntee: McEntee, despite being a former prosecutor, has generally placed herself on the correct side of party disputes and has generally been less of a corporate lackey than some in the party. She also won her first race by beating the sister of U.S. Rep. David Ciciline, so she obviously has some campaign chops.
State Rep. Robert Craven: While at least with the national party on some of the big issues dividing RI Dems (abortion, gun control), Craven is still supportive of the state’s conservative leadership, and, worryingly, has had two separate domestic assault charges expunged.
State Rep. Joseph Solomon Jr.: Solomon is one of the remaining cadre of anti-choice, NRA A-rated legislators who used to run things in the state. Although that would make him dead in the water in any other state, it doesn’t necessarily preclude a victory in Rhode Island, even if it probably means winning on a plurality. His dad was the mayor of Warwick until recently, which could help win name recognition in a crowded field.
State Rep. Thomas Noret: Noret is another anti-choicer hanging on in the legislature, and represents the most conservative turf of anyone mentioned so far (Coventry). He also recently introduced a bill to make the unvaccinated a protected class under state law, so…get ready for that kind of campaign if he decides to run.
Providence City Council President John Igliozzi: Igliozzi has been on the city council for decades, only becoming President last year. So far his biggest initiative is trying to exempt the police from vaccine requirements. That’s in line with his career as a pro-cop, tough-on-crime type.
RI Health Department Director Nicole Alexander-Scott: Alexander-Scott is already on her way out, and already taking criticism for accepting a $46K/mo consulting gig with the Department to find her replacement. Ideologically, we have no idea about her.
Ex-police chief Brendan Dougherty: Dougherty was the GOP nominee for RI-01 in 2012, so the fact that he’s considering running for the other party, in the other district, and being taken seriously, is both galling and not that surprising given the state of Rhode Island politics.
With early voting beginning in only a few weeks, we’ve been running out of time to get a clear picture of this race. Most progressive groups (including two new this week, the Working Families Party and Our Revolution) have been throwing in with freshman state Rep. Jasmine Crockett, who is now carrying outgoing Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson’s endorsement owing to Crockett’s brilliant tactical decision to not run for Congress until after Johnson had become angry at literally every other politician in the city. Given her parallel support from sources both establishment and not, we see her as the candidate to beat, but we’ve been thirsty for a poll here. Finally, we have one, sort of. Crockett released the toplines of an internal poll she ran that has her on top with 35%. Following her are former state Rep. and perennial candidate Barbara Mallory Caraway at 11% (something Crockett herself attributes to the name recognition of spending two decades on the ballot), ex-Biden campaign staffer Jane Hope Hamilton at 3%, and then, at 1% each, activist Jessica Mason and state House staffer Abel Mulugheta. The poll shows Crockett in a good position, though not necessarily a great one. She's far ahead right now, but that's mostly a result of none of her opponents gaining traction so far. Hamilton and Mulugheta are both likely stockpiling money for a last minute ad blitz to get them into a runoff with Crockett. Mason, meanwhile, has spent the last year steadily campaigning and has to be hoping this poll is simply wrong.
TX-30 wasn’t the only race where the progressive frontrunner dropped a poll. Greg Casar released another internal poll showing him at 48%, state Rep. Eddie Rodriguez at 20%, and former San Antonio City Councilor Rebecca Viagrán at 14%. His previous poll, from December, had him leading in a two-way against Rodriguez 42% to 17%. (A major word of caution here—Casar hasn’t released the full polling memo for either poll.) In Texas, a candidate bypasses the need for primary runoffs if they clear 50% in the first round, and Casar’s team evidently thinks he’s close to doing that.
Austin’s preeminent lefty has been racking up endorsements recently, from organizations like Sunrise Movement, Our Revolution, and Progressive Democrats of America, to national progressive figures like Pramila Jayapal, to Elizabeth Warren, to the state AFL-CIO. As for Eddie Rodriguez? He signed up with the New Dems, which would have been out of character for him when he was playing the part of a progressive in the legislature, but makes sense now that he’s the leading candidate to stop a Justice Democrats/Sunrise/Our Revolution-endorsed DSA member.
And Casar also passed a test of his own political power in Austin: his preferred candidate to succeed him on the Austin city council easily won the special election to replace him. Chito Vela faced down the conservative money cannon that’s more or less permanently aimed at Casar and his allies and won with a resounding 59% of the vote, clearing the majority threshold to avoid a runoff while his three serious opponents were bunched up between 9 and 13 percent of the vote each.
The Barrons are an odd phenomenon, a political power couple of self-described socialists with roots in late-20th-century Black nationalism. Here’s how we described them last June:
Inez and Charles Barron are such a fun couple. They've been playing switcheroo with this district and the overlapping Assembly seat for a couple decades now. Inez, currently the CM, is termed out, so it's Charles's turn back on the Council. It's perhaps not the ideal arrangement, but they're old-school idiosyncratic lefties who don't owe anything to the other power brokers of the city, which makes it a good thing that Charles will probably be skating to (re)election over the machine’s candidate, Nikki Lucas.
Then, we were talking about the race for Brooklyn’s Council District 42; Charles Barron had a close call, but ultimately emerged victorious over Lucas, winning the primary for that New York City Council seat. But when Inez’s term ended, and her husband succeeded her, did something that threw a wrench into things: she retired.
The Barrons first entered elected office when Charles was elected to CD-42 in 2001. He served until term limits forced him out in 2013; in the meantime, Inez had been elected to the state Assembly. The couple switched offices—Inez running for CD-42, Charles running for AD-60—and kept their grip on politics in East New York, a large, predominantly Black working-class neighborhood in east Brooklyn. When term limits came due for Inez in 2021, the expectation was that the couple would repeat their 2013 swap, but with the offices reversed; Charles’s run for city council seemed to confirm that. But in October, with Charles Barron the de facto member-elect for CD-42 as the Democratic nominee, the Barrons announced that Inez wouldn’t be running in the inevitable special election to fill Charles’s Assembly seat, and instead backed Keron Alleyne, a former staffer in Charles’s district office.
In a primary, the Barrons’ backing might have been decisive—but in New York, party nominees in special elections are chosen by the local party machinery, not by primary election. Once Charles was officially seated on the city council, vacating his Assembly seat, a nominating convention was held, and Nikki Lucas (Charles’s machine-backed opponent in the 2021 primary) walked away with the nomination. Backing down would’ve been uncharacteristic for the Barrons, who relish fighting the Brooklyn Democratic machine—and, true to form, they chose the most direct form of confrontation available. Rather than wait to contest the seat in a Democratic primary for a regular two-year term, Alleyne pivoted to a third-party campaign with the Barrons’ support. The Working Families Party quickly awarded him their ballot line, officially making it a race—and also making it official that the Barron machine wouldn’t be alone in trying to defend the seat in the special election.
State Rep. Harold Dutton is the most inexplicably terrible Democrat in Texas. Actually, given the retirement of Sen. Eddie Lucio and the party switch of state Rep. Ryan Guillen, he may now just be the worst, explicable or otherwise. Dutton’s relationship with the party has deteriorated into open warfare at this point, after refusing to join the summer voting rights walkout, trying to get the state to take over Houston schools, and reviving an anti-trans bill too odious for even some Republicans, all on top of decades of conservative voting that would be frustrating on the border, let alone in Houston. In 2020, Dutton barely survived a runoff against ex-Houston City Councilor Jerry Davis, a man with problems of his own. This year, instead of waiting for a soon-to-be-indicted local politician to jump in of their own accord, progressives got serious and found an opponent: Candis Houston, a teacher and local AFT president. The state AFL-CIO and Annie’s List, a Texas-based organization for electing progressive women, have both gotten behind her.
Santa Clara County DA
Santa Clara County, home to about 2 million people (making it larger than 13 states and also mid-sized for a county in California) is the most recent frontline in the progressive DA movement. Jeff Rosen, who narrowly ousted a Republican in 2010 (though the race is technically nonpartisan) hasn’t faced an opponent since. Even though his official government webpage calls him “a nationally-recognized leader in criminal justice reform”, standards have changed in the last decade, and he hasn’t. Papers now call him a “tough on crime” prosecutor, and they’re right. An advocate of more jails, Rosen has always sought harsh sentences, and freely engages in the dubious practice of charging drug dealers with murder if the drugs cause an overdose, including one case, only announced yesterday, where a 16-year-old was the dealer in question. He also supports trying 14-year-olds as adults, and only stopped supporting the death penalty in 2020.
Rosen has two opponents. On a similar wavelength as Rosen is Daniel Chung, a prosecutor in Rosen’s office who says (backed up with some documentation) that Rosen tried to ban him from county property using BOLO notices, usually reserved for people who pose an immediate, violent threat, after Chung criticized Rosen for being too soft on criminals. To Rosen’s left is Sajid Khan, a public defender of 16 years, who is looking to reduce harsher penalties, find alternatives to prosecution, and stand up to police profiling and brutality. While Rosen has the support of many establishment politicians in the county, Khan is backed by former U.S. Rep. Mike Honda and Assemb. Alex Lee, as well as a plethora of local progressive groups. While Rosen says he has $500,000 on hand, Khan managed to raise $236,000 in a few months, which isn’t bad. He also released a poll showing Rosen up 23% to Chung’s 10% and Khan’s 8%. Rosen being at 23% despite over a decade in office shows he probably won’t be able to reap most of the benefits of incumbency, even if Khan is largely unknown. In other words, this sure seems like a competitive race.