Issue #34

It's FEC report week! We're keeping track of 100 candidates now - when did that happen?

It’s that time of the quarter again, where every candidate for federal office has top file their campaign finance reports, and we get a window into the state of campaigns across the country. Fundraising is of course just one aspect of a campaign’s health. But it’s one of the few quantifiable numbers we get to see, and there’s a lot of information contained within: notable supporters, signs of reach within a district, even interesting expenses. The deadline to file was last night at midnight, and most campaigns like to run right up against it, so we haven’t had the time to pour over the details of every report, but there’s still a lot going on here. Without further ado,

Third Quarter Fundraising

Our thoughts

  • AZ-01: Flagstaff City Councilor Eva Putzova still isn’t raising much money, especially for a district as sprawling and diverse as this, while former state Senator Barbara McGuire didn’t file, which either means she blew the deadline or raised less than $5,000. Either way, not a great sign. Arizona has a late primary, so Putzova still has a while to grow her campaign into something that could seriously challenge O’Halleran, but it’s been 8 months and she’s still at this level, so it doesn’t seem terribly likely.

  • CA-14: We haven’t covered lefty Pelosi challenger Shahid Buttar before, mostly because he ran in 2018, along with another candidate in a similar vein, and Pelosi still got 78% of the Democratic vote. Buttar is raising significantly more money this time around, but Pelosi, a national figure with sky-high favorability among Democrats, is probably safe.

  • CA-16: Fresno City Councilor Esmeralda Soria did very well, and in a cheap seat against an opponent known for lazy fundraising (even though 55% of his haul is PAC money), that $153K will go even further. A look at her donors reveals a lot of California politicians on board: city councilors from Bakersfield and Sacramento, a San Diego County Councilor, chiefs of staff for two state senators, and curiously enough, the district director for Congressman TJ Cox of the neighboring 21st district, who was allegedly threatened with withdrawal of party support if he didn’t vote to endorse Costa at the party convention. A few unions also donated, including the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the Fresno firefighters’ union. We encourage journalists and progressive organizations to take a long look at this race.

  • CA-18: Saratoga City Councilor Rishi Kumar was strong out of the gate in Q1, but it seems like he tapped his donor list early and his fundraising has been tapering off since then. We can’t say we’re disappointed, considering his ties to Indian political party BJP, which is nativist and theocratic at best and downright fascist at worst.

  • CA-53: Keep in mind these big hauls came from a race that was only started less than three weeks ago. Sara Jacobs unsurprisingly has access to a lot of big money donors from her 2018 campaign for CA-49. We’re actually pretty surprised how well Georgette Gómez did, but a quick perusal of her donors reveals a few San Diego politicians, so it seems like the San Diego establishment might have decided on her out of the gate—somewhat surprising, as she’s a progressive activist type and the San Diego establishment is known for producing guys like Scott Peters. Goldbeck is the odd candidate out in all of this, but she has enough donors to stay in what looks to be an expensive battle.

  • FL-05: This race was pretty dead over the summer. Maybe Chester’s decision to self-fund $25,000 means he’s about to take it a lot more seriously? Okay, probably not, but who knows?

  • GA-13: This race is so frustrating. Scott is one of the worst Democrats in Congress, and this year we got two candidates who both looked good on paper, but it doesn’t look like either are going anywhere.

  • HI-02: Once again, we’re displaying Gabbard’s numbers in the format of House/President. Tulsi’s House numbers are deceptive, of course, since she still has $2.1M sitting in her presidential account (although she’s spending faster than she’s taking in, so who knows how much she’ll have when she drops out of the race). Kahele on the other hand is doing okay, although this quarter was a drop from Q2’s $145K. Mostly a status quo report this time around.

  • IL-01: Even though he didn’t file on time, we’re going to assume Rush didn’t raise much, because he never does. He’s probably vulnerable, and if you were to somehow combine Emmons and Gad you’d probably have a good challenger. As it is, though, this isn’t the quarter that convinces us to take this race seriously.

  • IL-03: Marie Newman raised more than double what Dan Lipinski did. This is simultaneously not too surprising, given Newman’s support from a wide array of local and national politicians and activist groups, and also a minor earthquake given that a challenger just outriased an incumbent 2:1. More notable, however, is where Dan Lipinski got his money, because some of it was really shady shit. He reported $10,000 from Cheniere Energy, a fracking company; $1,500 from Exxon Mobil; $2,500 from Exelon, an energy company whose CEO just resigned due to an FBI probe into the company’s lobbying (that same probe resulted in FBI raids of Illinois state Sen. Marty Sandoval’s home and office); and thousands more from various health insurance, fossil fuel, and telecom PACs. He also got $1,000 from Synergy PAC, which is Connecticut Rep. John Larson’s PAC. (Larson represents a safely Democratic district based in Hartford, so he deserves a primary for this alone.) Unfortunately, it looks like our fears of a split progressive field were real: activist Rush Darwish raised $211K and self-funded another $62K. While there are some districts where we still need to let the field play out to see who the stronger challenger is, in this case it’s clear Darwish needs to drop out, or he could very well reelect Lipinski.

  • IL-07: Those Kristine Schanbacher numbers are eye-popping. She is, however, a white moderate with no political ties in this black-majority district, which is an extremely difficult starting position. Kina Collins didn’t raise too much, much like last time around.

  • MD-05: This is disappointing to see from Wilkes, who pulled in a promising $46K in her second quarter and who looked like she was on the ascent. A lack of outside support is probably a big reason why she backtracked this quarter. It’s just extremely difficult to put together a campaign as a lone activist. Hopefully the total implosion of Urbina (that negative sign is not a typo) helps convince any progressive groups interested in this race that there’s only one viable challenger.

  • MA-Sen: See item.

  • MA-01: Morse did really well for a first time candidate, pulling in $217K, and Neal is pulling in about what you’d expect. Neal has more money than he could possibly spend on this race, so the fundraising here is mostly going to be about whether Morse can run the campaign he wants to, and the answer so far is yes.

  • MA-04: Rich guy and ex-Senate candidate Alan Khazei pulled in the kind of money you’d expect a rich guy with a donor list to pull in. He’s probably going to dominate the airwaves in this race, but that doesn’t automatically win you the race. Becky Grossman did well and showed why people were talking her up as a top contender. A pleasant surprise is Ihssane Leckey, who has decided to go all in with the news of the open seat, and loaned herself $100K. Obviously she’s not a multi-millionaire and so she’ll still need to get donations, but if she can establish herself as a top contender early, being the progressive candidate would be a route forward for her.

  • MA-06: Most of that Moulton money is a transfer of the last of his presidential campaign funds, which means that’s it for him. That’s all the money he has right now, providing a serious opening for a challenger. Jamie Zahlaway Belsito is thankfully not raising much, but Salem City Councilor Lisa Peterson brought in an acceptable-ish $34K.

  • MA-08: Brianna Wu had been simmering under $50K in previous quarters (including last year), so this is a pleasant surprise. She also keeps getting local press attention, so her campaign seems like it’s on a better track than 2018, but then again she finished with 23% that year, so she has a ways to go still.

  • MO-01: Hard to say much about Cori Bush’s fundraising when she hasn’t released the numbers yet

  • NM-Sen: Ouch. This fundraising disparity isn’t quite as bad as Q2, when Lujan raised $1.1M to Toulouse Olvier’s $227K, but it’s close. And Toulouse Oliver’s high burn rate means that Lujan is closing in on $2M in reserves while Toulouse Oliver has almost nothing in the bank. This race might be over before the primary, which would suck.

  • NM-03: Valarie Plame just opened this thing wide up with a $447K quarter. The sheer size of that number compared to the rest of the field is imposing, but there are two important caveats to keep in mind here. One, she’s a minor national celebrity, and her donor list looks distinctly non-New Mexican, so this is more of case of her getting money than that money reflecting support in the district. It’s not like money isn’t useful, but money raised from the district signals support in addition to raw dollars. Two, she’s already spent a lot of that money, including on over $100,000 worth of digital ads. Leger had a similar quarter to Q2, so nothing crazy there. Serna’s fundraising fell off a cliff, something we’re not particularly saddened by after seeing his awful, centrist policy statements (the Green New Deal is bad because it targets coal and natural gas, apparently). Newcomer progressive, gay ex-Maggie Toulouse Oliver staffer John Blair entered strong, and made it clear that this should be considered a 4 way race with him, Plame, Serna, and Leger. Environmentalist Kyle Tisdel raised only $41K, which means he’ll need a lot of activist support if he wants oxygen in this crowded race. Neither Joe Sanchez nor Laura Montoya raised much, which, good.

  • NJ-05: Josh Gottheimer has more money than god. No shock there. Arati Kreibich raised a respectable six figures, and with help from the activists in the district she can probably make that go far. Again, it’s a Trump district, so we’re going to refrain from commenting too much on this one.

  • NY-03: Melanie D’Arrigo had an unimpressive quarter, but D’Arrigo’s self-funding might indicate she’s committed to running a real race. Awful Democratic incumbent Tom Suozzi had a strong quarter and has an insane amount of money on hand.

  • NY-09: Incumbent Yvette Clarke got outraised by Adem Bunkeddeko, who nearly sent her packing in 2018. Clarke’s problem last time around was that she never took her reelection race seriously, and that clearly hasn’t changed. Bunkeddeko was not in the race for the full quarter, making this even more impressive. However, there’s one bit of good news for Clarke: Michael Hiller, a progressive lawyer, raised $46,000 and self-funded another $54,000. If Hiller, who is white, can take votes from Bunkeddeko in the upscale white neighborhoods where Bunkeddeko crushed Clarke in 2018, Clarke can win with a plurality of the vote. (Bunkeddeko and Clarke, like the majority of the district’s population, are Black.)

  • NY-10: Neither Jerry Nadler nor Lindsey Boylan had their best quarter, each pulling in under $200K, which is significantly less than either got last quarter and honestly embarrassing for a powerful incumbent like Nadler. Maybe they had a pact to take it easy this quarter? At least Boylan didn't self-fund $84K like she did last quarter. Running a PAC-free campaign, Boylan outraised Nadler $155K to $136K among individuals.

  • NY-12: Hawkish, anti-vaccine incumbent Carolyn Maloney raised $303K, followed by 2018 challenger Suraj Patel with $95K, housing activist Peter Harrison with $23K, and comedian Lauren Ashcraft with $21K. Patel entered the race quite recently, so that’s a strong start, but he has a lot of liabilities. Meanwhile, Harrison and Ashcraft are struggling, and they’ll need to do more if they want to compete. (Harrison has worked with our editor, Sean McElwee, on housing policy; Sean has recused himself from editing our NY-12 coverage.)

  • NY-14: See item.

  • NY-15: Councilmember Ritchie Torres outraised everyone in this race again even though he raised less than in Q2, when he was fundraising for this race full-time. Assemblymember Michael Blake is catching up to Torres, with only about $100K now separating the two’s fundraising. Blake, however, spent much more money (including nearly $32,000 on fundraising) so Torres is currently sitting on nearly 4 times as much money. Former City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito posted strong numbers as well, reaching six figures despite not having filed until the middle of the quarter and now has almost as much cash on hand as Blake. Lots of other candidates filed for this race in the middle of the quarter as well, so we'll have to see what they can do with a full quarter for Q4. Rodriguez’s low total is perhaps excusable because he raised it in only 10 days, but Marlene Cintron’s was just terrible. Finally, the awful Ruben Diaz Sr. thankfully phoned it in this quarter and only brought in $44K.

  • NY-16: It's becoming clear in this race which progressive challenger knows how to fundraise. Jamaal Bowman did decently, bringing in $112K to incumbent Rep. Eliot Engel's $317K. Andom Ghebreghiorgis, on the other hand, only raised $32K, which is somehow even worse than he did last quarter. Ghebreghiorgis needs to start getting serious about his fundraising if he wants to stay in this race.

  • OH-03: This is possibly the biggest fundraising result of the quarter. Morgan Harper, a first-time candidate running to the left, outraised uncontroversial incumbent Joyce Beatty by nearly $100,000, without a dime of PAC money. Harper raised more than any other challenger this quarter, and as a first quarter, she’s par with other recent primary success stories Seth Moulton ($355K, 2014), Dwight Evans ($359K, 2016), and Ayanna Pressley ($363K, 2018).

  • OR-03: We haven’t mentioned this race before. Blumenauer is a pretty progressive member of Congress, but there’s always room for improvement, which DSA-affiliated Lee would likely be. But right now he’s not raising the kind of money he needs to.

  • OR-04: Last quarter, activist Doyle Canning raised $37,000 in just a few days, which is impressive for anyone, much less an insurgent primary challenger in a swing district. She raised only $30,000 this quarter, despite having a full three months to fundraise this time. Incumbent Peter DeFazio, a solid progressive aside from his timid oversight of the Trump administration as chairman of the House Transportation Committee, raised a solid $295,000.

  • OR-05: Milwaukie Mayor Mark Gamba did a little better than last quarter, but still isn’t raising much. That looks to change with a big fundraiser the Portland progressive community threw Gamba, but that fundraiser happened in October, so it won’t be reflected here.

  • PA-18: Looks like Mike Doyle didn’t learn from last quarter when his opponent Gerald Dickinson almost matched him in fundraising, since this time Doyle raised $207K, which is less than double his lackluster Q2 number. Although, to be fair, Dickinson completely flopped this quarter, only bringing in $22K, so maybe Doyle’s instincts are actually pretty good.

  • TX-28: We covered Cisneros’s spectacular numbers last week, but we didn’t have Cuellar’s in yet. Now we do, and we can say that Cuellar only barely outraised her, which is a good place for a challenger to be. Looking through Cuellar’s donations (which are “only” 46% PAC this time around), we see a lot of the typical corporate goons on his side: oil lobbyists, the American Petroleum Institute, and so on, but we also noticed a donation from Diane Rath, Board Member of the Texas Conservative Coalition Research Institute, an ultra-conservative, high-dollar think tank chaired by ultra-conservative state senator Larry Talor. Henry Cuellar, same as he ever was.

  • WA-06: Tacoma activist and democratic socialist Rebecca Parson raised $44K in her first quarter, which is, you know, pretty good but nothing special and something she’ll need to dwarf in coming quarters to be competitive.

IL-11, TN-09: As we said last quarter, sometimes a candidate looks strong on paper and then just doesn’t perform. It happens.

Other news this week

MA-Sen

Huh. Even with Kennedy’s late entry date, we did not expect Markey to outraise the boy with the golden name. They have nearly $9 million between them already, so if you’re in Massachusetts, get ready to get buried in ads. But we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that the top fundraiser was actually labor lawyer Shannon Liss-Riordan, who put down $2M of her own money. That’s a lot of money, even for a Senate race, and it’s a clear sign that she doesn’t intend to let this become a two-way race. You may be noticing someone’s missing from this list.

Steve Pemberton, a business executive who spent years in the foster system as a child and who has made a name for himself as a motivational figure through his memoir (later adapted to film) has dropped out of the Democratic primary for the Massachusetts senate race. As he put it, he “ran into an impenetrable wall of legacy and birthright”. That’s a pretty fair assessment of the race, honestly. With the entire state viewing this as a competition between established properties Ed Markey and Joe Kennedy III, there’s very little room for a competitor to establish themselves. Labor lawyer Shannon Liss-Riordan has obviously decided to fight it out anyway, and we suppose Pemberton just widened whatever narrow path she has forward.

NY-14

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has already attracted a horde of weirdo conservative fame-chasers running as Republicans in her race, so why not one running as a Democrat? City Councilman Fernando Cabrera is best described as… well he’s best described as another Rubén Díaz Sr. Cabrera is, like Díaz, an evangelical preacher in the Bronx. He also holds the same backwards and bigoted social views as Díaz, praising the government of Uganda after they instituted the death penalty for homosexuality and regularly appearing at the events of anti-gay hate group Family Leadership Council. Cabrera previously attempted to primary progressive state senator Gustavo Rivera at the behest of the IDC, a group of nominal Democrats in the senate who caucused with Republicans to give them control of the chamber (see more on them in the Carlucci section of NY-17), and when he lost he blamed the liberal media. He has also given at least one sermon on how the rich deserve what they have because they can handle more pressure.

Cabrera announced his campaign against AOC this week, and his chances in this race are pretty terrible. He doesn’t live in or represent any of the district, already ate shit twice trying to primary out a progressive in the senate, and since he’s termed out in 2021, it sure seems like he’s just looking for something to do. He joins Queens Community Board Member Badrun Khan in the primary on AOC’s right. Considering AOC’s level of celebrity and her stunning $1.4M fundraising haul this quarter, we don’t see either of them cutting it.

NY-17

Democratic Representative Nita Lowey, the chair of the powerful House Appropriations Committee and the 9th longest serving Democrat in the House, announced her retirement this week. In interviews after her announcement she stressed that her primary challenger, Modaire Jones, was “absolutely irrelevant” in her decision. Now, we don’t know what’s going on in her head, and that very well may be true, but she didn’t list any pressing reasons to retire, and with the potential of heading perhaps the House’s most powerful committee during a potentially generation-defining 2021-2023 Congress, it’s not a leap to suspect the prospect of having to go through the grueling process of a real campaign for the first time in 28 years might have been weighing on her mind. Regardless, she’s moving on from Congress and we wish her well in her retirement. Her stepping down without any clear successor set off a scramble for her seat, so it sounds like it’s time for our fifth open seat survey:

  • Mondaire Jones is running, and has had a pretty great week all things considered. First, he was able to announce a pretty substantial $218,398 raised last quarter. Then he found out that his only opponent was leaving the race, meaning that he would be facing the challenge of winning an open seat instead of the more daunting task of unseating an incumbent, and also that he would have a three month and $190,232 head start on the field. Yesterday Jones announced he’d received the endorsement of seven Rockland County (just under half the district) elected officials and party leaders. Jones is the frontrunner for this race, and an imposing one.

  • Assemblymember David Buchwald is in. Buchwald announced his candidacy shortly after the news of Lowey’s retirement broke. He represents the 93rd district, which stretches up the eastern border of the state to northern Westchester County, so it’s only about half in NY-17, but Buchwald lives in White Plains, which is very much inside. Buchwald has been a fairly progressive, if quiet, member of the chamber, but his decision to vote against the omnibus of pro-tenant reforms passed earlier this year, even in a watered down form, stands out on his record for all the wrong reasons.

  • David Carlucci is considering. Fuck this guy. Carlucci is the state senator for most of Rockland County, and one of the few IDC-ers to survive 2018. For those unaware of one of the most infuriating chapters of New York Democratic history, in 2008 Democrats flipped the state senate. There was a leadership battle, and then shortly thereafter the loser and some of his allies jumped ship and started caucusing with the Republicans, letting them continue to run the chamber. They maintained their Democratic registration to keep winning elections, calling themselves the Independent Democratic Caucus (IDC), In 2010, governor and huge asshole Andrew Cuomo saw their utility in preventing anything progressive from getting to his desk, and allied himself with the project, signing off on their gerrymander and campaigning for them in the primaries. In 2018, facing a wave of primaries, Cuomo “negotiated” a “deal” where they would come back to the Democratic caucus...after all major legislation was signed, and Republicans would keep the Senate anyway. Most IDCers lost their primaries in 2018, but Carlucci eked out a narrow win. He can fuck off forever.

  • Assemblymember Amy Paulin’s name is being floated. Which, uh, why? Paulin represents AD-88, a district in southern Westchester County, ie NY-16, where she lives. The only part of NY-17 she represents is a few thousand people in and near White Plains. Like Buchwald, her legislative record is mostly okay except for tenant’s rights, including that 2019 bill. (Seriously, only eight Dems voted no on that thing, and now two of them might be running for NY-17). Notably, however, she is the only woman people are seriously talking about in this race, so if she chooses to run, that could mean support from EMILY’s List and other woman-focused groups. However, there’s one big problem in her past: she endorsed Jeff Klein, the accused sex pest who led the IDC, for reelection in 2018. (Thankfully, Klein lost his primary to Alessandra Biaggi, and the IDC is dead.) So that’s a hard pass from us.

  • Assemblymember Tom Abinanti’s name is also being floated. He’s another case of “what, why?”. Abinanti is seriously old to be running for Congress for the first time - he’d be 73 or 74 when he takes office, and the man’s a walking controversy for his anti-vax views, for killing legislation to make the minimum wage apply to disabled employees, and for a general prickliness. Abinanti is a Cuomo antagonist, which we support, but for him that means he’s boxed out from establishment support, while his own terrible record and the presence of Jones in the race means he’s not likely to get much progressive support.

  • Chelsea Clinton is not running.

A name that hasn’t been mentioned but seems eminently possible is Steven Otis. Otis represents AD-91, which is only half in the district, but he lives in NY-17, in the city of Rye (pop. 16,000) which he was mayor of 2002-2010. Another plausible candidate is Thomas Roach, mayor of White Plains (pop. 59,000) since 2011. Roach conveniently isn’t up for re-election until 2021, so this would be a free shot for him.

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Issue #33

Damn these fundraising numbers look good

New Developments

CA-16

Fresno City Councilwoman Esmeralda Soria’s challenge to longtime Blue Dog Rep. Jim Costa scored a major victory at the California Democratic Party’s convention. Soria held Costa to a weak plurality, 48.75% for Costa to 46.25% for Soria, in the convention’s endorsement vote. Long-shot progressive candidate Kim Williams picked up the last five percent of delegates (and it’s likely Williams’s delegates would prefer Soria to Costa.) The endorsement requires 60% of delegate votes, and it comes with money, organizational support, and inclusion in official party communications. A longtime incumbent like Costa, who was a state legislator for a quarter of a century before his 2004 election to Congress, should have no trouble winning party support. Costa, however, isn’t just any incumbent.

Costa is, by every measure, among the most conservative Democrats in Congress, and worst of all, he’s a former co-chair of the nihilistically conservative Blue Dog Coalition. (The caucus’s webpage is still hosted on his House website.) He’s also one of the first in line to chair the House Agriculture Committee should fellow Blue Dog Rep. and current chairman Collin Peterson lose reelection in his blood-red agricultural Minnesota district. In this Central Valley district, where agriculture is vital to the economy, the value of the agricultural chairmanship cannot be understated—but neither can the value of keeping the chairmanship out of the hands of a congressman in the pocket of massive agricultural corporations.

IL-03

A few weeks ago when AOC endorsed Marie Newman, incumbent Rep. Dan Lipinski said that Newman was “an extreme candidate who is completely out of step with the voters.” This week a group of 17 Illinois state and local elected officials, who were literally chosen by the voters of Illinois and some of whom will be voters in the upcoming primary, announced they were endorsing Newman as well. Among those officials endorsing Newman is the proud democratic socialist Chicago Alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, who was for a time the only DSA member in Chicago government, is a loud and prominent voice for progressive change on the Chicago City Council, and was a vocal critic of former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Newman also announced this week that she raised a jaw-dropping $350,000 in the third quarter, which is up from the impressive $327,000 she raised last quarter. Lipinski has yet to release his numbers yet for this quarter, but if they’re at all similar to his second quarter when he raised $363,000 (which is apparently an inflated number), Newman will be hot on his trail. It is rare for a challenger to outraise an incumbent, so the fact that Newman’s fundraising numbers are even close to Lipinski’s is very impressive. As Data for Progress’s own Sean McElwee said to the Intercept about Newman and other challengers’ fundraising, “These are pretty astounding numbers. If I were an incumbent, I would be scared shitless.”

MA-04

This week saw the entry of another candidate into the open MA-04. Jake Auchincloss is a former Marine who was elected to one of the 16 at-large council positions for the city of Newton (pop 88,000) in 2015. He was re-elected in the same election that fellow MA-04 candidate Becky Grossman was to also elected to her at-large Newton City Council spot. They weren’t actually running against each other, because Newton elects its 16 councilors in 8 separate positions of two councilors each, each position based in one ward of the city, which also each elects a local councilor. If that sounds absurdly complex and inefficient for a city this small, well, welcome to Massachusetts, where every local government was designed by an obscure duke in 1696 as he was recovering from a fever in India or something. Newton’s system is comparatively sane for the state. Essentially the situation is that most of the at-large positions aren’t contested by more than the minimum number of people. Auchincloss’s actually had a third candidate in the race in 2017, but that guy had a habit of doing things like saying his female opponent was “a pretty face”. He tanked and Auchincloss came in second. Auchincloss also took second in the 2015 four-way race that brought him to the Council, but that race had abysmal turnout. All that’s to say that his electoral record is nothing special.

Which is a good thing, because he sucks. You can kind of tell he’s not bringing the best perspective from his website, where he says things like “Today, the future first Hispanic CEO of the Dana-Farber may be in a cage at the Mexican border.” The fact that they might grow up to be a CEO is perhaps the worst reason not to put a child in a cage we’ve ever heard. Similarly, he thinks the reason we should be giving children an education is to “invest in human capital”. His consistently awful framing might be worth it were Auchincloss good on the issues, but he’s not. He was never even a particularly strong Democrat. Going back at least a decade, he’s only voted in one state primary - the Republican one in 2014. In 2014, he also donated to the Republican State Committee and Lewis Evangelidis, the Republican Sheriff of Worcester County. He called himself an independent in his 2015 race. On Twitter, he’s not just made eye-rollingly inane comments like “Constitution first, politics second”, he’s also gotten angry about cancel culture, managed to rail against socialism, not understand socialism, and condescend to millennials in the same tweet, supported platforming Steve Bannon, and claimed that the benefits of automation go to the workers. He’s also retweeted notorious race-science promoting blog Quillette, known for publishing obvious hoaxes and keeping friend of violent fascist gangs Andy Ngo on staff to write posts blaming fascist violence on antifa. That is when they’re not just promoting phrenology.

Dave Cavell, who had previously said he was considering the race, filed with the FEC, but has not confirmed his intent to run.

OH-03

Another Justice Democrat, Morgan Harper of Ohio’s Columbus-based 3rd congressional district, announced an impressive fundraising quarter, raising $323,000 since launching her campaign in early July. Her campaign has additionally shared with us that they had 2,675 individual donors, donations from every state, and from 37/41 of the zip codes in OH-03. As of right now, this is the best opening quarter for any primary challenger this cycle, and one of the best of any recent cycle. Harper’s campaign emphasized to us that this was all done without PAC money. An early demonstration of strength like this proves Harper’s campaign against low-profile Rep. Joyce Beatty must be taken seriously. Harper, a former advisor to Consumer Financial Protection Bureau head Richard Cordray, is running on a bold left-wing platform which includes a living wage, Medicare for all, a Green New Deal, reparations, and rent stabilization laws. (We interviewed Harper in the first month of her campaign, and subscribers can read that here.)

TX-28

Jessica Cisneros, the Justice Democrats-backed immigration attorney challenging notorious Blue Dog Rep. Henry Cuellar, announced she raised an impressive $310,000 in the third quarter of 2019. We look forward to the Cuellar campaign calling these small donations (average donation $32) “dark money” and threatening to sue the authors of this newsletter again. Today, Cisneros also announced the endorsement of 10 local government officials and community leaders in the district, as well as the Working Families Party, who just sent out an email blast for her. Cuellar, for his part, picked up the endorsement of Nancy Pelosi, who said, among other things, “I’m proud to support him — even if I didn’t have a policy of endorsing incumbents”, a statement that reportedly prompted the crowd at the Texas Tribune’s festival to boo her.

CA-53

Another Democrat has filed to replace retiring Rep. Susan Davis: Marisa Calderon. Calderon is the Executive Director of National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals. From what we can tell so far, Calderon seems very mixed. Given her job, Calderon probably has a lot of experience with housing policy, but the fact that she’s tied to the real estate industry makes her pretty iffy as a candidate. We’ll have to wait and see when she rolls out a policy platform. She also wrote an article on LinkedIn five years ago encouraging people to vote in the 2014 midterm elections, which sounds good until you read to the end and see that she quotes Rudy Giuliani.

New Primaries

CA-20

Leon Panetta is an interesting guy. A liberal Republican, he was forced out of the Nixon White House for refusing to slow-walk civil rights enforcement. He switched parties and not soon after was elected to Congress, serving 16 years before being tapped for the Clinton White House, where he was Bill’s chief budget guy. Under Obama he was first CIA director, then Secretary of Defense. Jimmy Panetta, Leon’s son, is one of the most boring guys in Congress. He spent most of his adult life as an assistant DA, then was gifted CA-20 when it opened up in 2016. He has done absolutely nothing newsworthy in Congress since then. Ideologically, there are far worse offenders in the caucus, but Panetta been pretty moderate. He co-sponsored the Medicare for All and Green New Deal resolutions, but he regularly sides with Republicans on little things, including the Blue Lives Matter bill and allowing James Mattis to take his dad’s old job. He’s just painfully mediocre.

Jimmy has only ever faced a single Democratic opponent, a perennial candidate who says he’s the Ron Paul of Santa Cruz County. On Thursday, it looks his streak of never having a serious opponent came to an end with the FEC filing of Adam Scow. Adam Scow is the California Director of Food and Water Watch, an international organization that fights for environmental justice. In that capacity, he organized the Farmers Against Fracking coalition, seeking to ban fracking in Monterey County (pop 436,000), an effort which was ultimately successful in 2016 after a ballot measure passed despite over $5 million in oil company money pouring in. Scow was also a Senior Consumer Advocate at Consumer Watchdog, a national consumer rights organization, until very recently. California has a particularly well-developed collection of political advocacy organizations, so Scow likely knows a lot of progressives with money, if fundraising is going to be an issue. Under the top 2 system California employs, the top two finishers in the March primary will face off in the general election in November. CA-20 went for Clinton by margin of 70-23, so as long as Scow runs a competent campaign, he should finish ahead of any potential Republican and be able to take this race to November.

MA-03

Former Marty Walsh Chief of Staff, 2018 MA-03 primary runner up, and current Selectman of Andover Dan Koh has spent the year making noises about running a rematch for MA-03. And he’s only been making noises about it, nothing further, something we noted last week. He obviously read our witty Groundhog Day reference and was determined to prove us wrong, because it was reported this week that he is polling the district for a potential primary challenge. No word on what the results were.

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Issue #32

We have a primary poll!

New Developments

HI-02

Primary polls for house districts are such rare treats, and ones from established firms that aren’t released by a campaign even more so. That’s exactly what we got yesterday from Democratic superfirm Public Policy Polling, who went into the field for HI-02. Overall, the results are bad but not disastrous for incumbent Tulsi Gabbard. In a poll of Democratic primary voters of HI-02, Gabbard’s approval rating only sits at 44-34. Considering that most Democratic voters tend to approve of most Democratic politicians, that number is weak. Another big warning sign for Gabbard is that she’s currently only leading State Senator Kai Kahele 48-26. While that’s a large margin for Tulsi, Kahele is far less known than Gabbard, and it’s a long-running rule of thumb that incumbents who are polling at less than a majority are in the danger zone. 

The poll also finds that by a margin of 50-38, voters “Prefer to vote for someone else” over Gabbard. While this does speak to a low floor for Gabbard, this is a notoriously unreliable question because voters can have very different ideas of what they want from “someone else”, and in the case we have an actual someone else to poll against. While this poll doesn’t show Tulsi losing, it does show her with underwhelming support and a lot of voters up for grabs, which considering Kahele is campaigning at home an Tulsi is in Iowa, means things could easily move much further from her before the primary date.

MA-04

Last week there was an explosion of interest in the newly open MA-04. This week, three candidates moved further on the path to running.

  • 2018 Democratic sacrificial lamb in the governor’s race Jay Gonzalez has begun looking into this race, and he is at the very least making calls. Gonzales is a new name to the race. He ran on a mostly progressive platform for governor, but since the Massachusetts Democratic Party had essentially decided to re-elect Baker, Gonzalez’s campaign attracted little attention.

  • Just like she promised to do last week, Jesse Mermell launched her campaign. Mermell doesn’t give much in the way of policy, but does say she wants to run a “progressive grassroots” campaign and touts her time working for former governor Deval Patrick and Planned Parenthood. Overall, a pretty boilerplate campaign announcement.

NY-15

Samelys Lopez officially launched her campaign this week with a speech and a fundraising page. For more on Lopez’s background as an activist and organizer, you can look back a few issues to what we wrote when she first filed. We guess she didn’t read the part of the newsletter last week where we said that people should stop entering this race, but looking at her experience and platform, we can’t be too mad. In her announcement, Lopez named a Homes Guarantee, a Green New Deal, Medicare for All and building Dual Power as part of her platform and openly embraced socialism. She also has pledged to reject corporate PAC money and donations from developers or landlords. It’s also worth noting that Lopez seems to be already be pretty popular with the AOC/Caban crowd. We’ll be looking out to see how she does with early fundraising when her Q3 report is made public.

Other candidates in this race have spent their week disappointing us. For one, it came out this week that New York State Assemblyman Michael Blake introduced legislation in 2015 that was being pushed by Airbnb, while at the same time Hilltop Public Solutions, a “strategic communications” (AKA lobbying) firm, was paying Blake to help with “out of state” clients, and Hilltop was also being paid by Airbnb to push for the very bill that Blake sponsored. In other words, “In 2015, Blake was being paid by Hilltop; Airbnb was paying Hilltop; and Blake introduced legislation Airbnb had been pushing.” Also, the Hilltop lobbyist that Airbnb had on retainer was Bill Hyers, a good friend and campaign consultant to Blake. The whole thing just has the appearance of a massive conflict of interest — as a freshman Assembly Member with little legislative influence at this point, why else would Blake have been chosen to lead on this legislation of great importance to Airbnb? Blake’s campaign insists, though, that this is all just very coincidental: “Mr. Blake has never worked as a lobbyist during his time with Hilltop or any other organization. Any bills that Mr. Blake introduces are of his own volition and for the betterment of the people of the state of New York.” If you say so...

Okay, so we weren’t too surprised to find out that Blake was up to something sketchy yet again, but it was a bit of a shock when we learned that progressive New York City Councilman Ritchie Torres accepted donations from executives of a real estate contracting company with a history of screwing over workers. Joel and Alan Mounty of Mountco Construction & Development each gave Torres the maximum $2,800, as did Joel’s wife Aideen Mounty. Joel Mounty also gave money to Torres’ opponent and known bigot Ruben Diaz Sr., also a New York City Council Member. Mountco is on a city watchlist for wage theft. As of 2014, Mountco owed workers $910,000 in wages. The fact that Torres accepted donations from such a company concerns us. Cea Weaver, a tenant organizer who arguably orchestrated the passage of New York’s historic 2019 rent legislation package single-handedly, best explains why: “It makes you question the progressive credentials of the campaign… I certainly wouldn’t want to be represented in Congress by somebody who is running on money that they got that [a company] stole from workers... You can’t serve your donors and the people who voted for you if you’re fueling your campaign with real estate.”

Last but not least for this race, Cynthia Nixon decided this week to endorse former New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. We would have expected that as the progressive 2018 challenger to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, Nixon would have chosen, well, someone better to endorse. Like, maybe someone who didn’t spend her career helping gentrification along or who hasn’t tried to use the racism faced by an opponent in a past race to score some political points? Mark-Viverito did endorse Nixon’s run for governor, so that’s probably the reason. Regardless, we’re mostly annoyed that the progressives in this field are splintering 4 ways while the threat of Ruben Diaz Sr. still looms.

OR-05

Milwaukie mayor Mark Gamba began his challenge to conservative Democrat Kurt Shrader back in April. Since then, Gamba’s been running a fairly quiet campaign. He’s done events and gotten a fewlocal profiles, but he’s worried us with his low fundraising, pulling in only $37,000 during his first quarter in the race which might be passable for an upstart activist but for the mayor of a town of over 20,000 isn’t a good sign. It looks like Gamba might be getting more support coming his way soon. He just announced a fundraiser hosted by 4 sitting state legislators: Shemia Fagan (SD-24), Michael Dembrow (SD-23), Kathleen Taylor (SD-21), and Alissa Keny-Guyer (HD-46). All four legislators are Portland-based, and while none of them live in OR-05, it overlaps with parts of both Fagan and Taylor’s districts. Taylor is Gamba’s state senator.

The fundraiser itself will likely net Gamba much needed campaign funds and, perhaps just as importantly, establish him as a serious candidate in the race to parts of the Oregon political world skeptical of him. There are only 18 senate Democrats, so this announcement means that a full ⅙ of them have endorsed Gamba in this race. The list for the fundraiser also includes a collection people active in progressive Portland politics: 2016 Working Families Party US Senate nominee and lawyer Shanti Lewallen, Portland-based activist and Precinct Committeeperson Sally Joughlin, 2018 Portland City Council at large candidate Julia DeGraw, 2014 HD-45 candidate and Oregon Health Care For All board member Tom Sincic, and about a dozen more. It’s hard to look at a list like that and not conclude that a significant portion of the Portland progressive community hasn’t taken an interest in Gamba. OR-05 includes almost none of Portland, but having highly engaged and  connected activists right next door supporting you cannot be a bad thing.

New Primaries

MA-03

If you’re following Dan Koh’s statements on a potential MA-03 run, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Groundhog Day was getting a Massachusetts-based reboot. Koh finished a ridiculously close second to now-Rep. Lori Trahan in a wild six-way primary for this open seat in 2018 (one that it now appears that Tahan committed some egregious campaign finance violations to win). Koh has been a critic of Trahan’s since the start of Congress. In July, he told reporters that he was considering running for MA-03 again, but that it was too early to tell. And then he said the same thing in September. And now, once again, he’s said that he’s thinking about it but won’t make a decision yet. We get it — you’ve got a big decision to make so play some Cities:Skylines to take your mind off it and suddenly way too much time has passed. Happens to the best of us. But Dan, you really should get to it at a certain point.

NY Legislature

It’s official: the New York City DSA will be endorsing the four state legislative candidates from Brooklyn that we discussed last week — Jabari Brisport for Senate District 25, Marcela Mitaynes for Assembly District 51, Boris Santos for Assembly District 54, and Phara Souffrant for Assembly District 57. In making these endorsements, the DSA passed on other candidates, some of whom were qualified, spirited progressives, such as Assembly District 51 candidate Genesis Aquino, a queer immigrant who has worked to reform the Brooklyn Democratic Party, or Senate District 25 candidate Sandy Nurse, a community organizer who cofounded the Mayday Space, a collectively managed grassroots event space. We can only imagine that not receiving this crucial endorsement from the DSA would put a damper in these candidates’ campaigns. While this is it for NYC-DSA endorsements in 2020 state legislative races in Brooklyn, the organization has more endorsements coming for congressional candidates and races in other boroughs.

Also this week, the NYC-DSA passed a resolution that they will not endorse anyone for local, state, or federal office that has endorsed someone for president other than Bernie Sanders prior to the New York presidential primary on April 28th. Some were quick to criticize the resolution as “undemocratic” on Twitter, since it means excluding people who identify as democratic socialists but support another progressive candidate such as Elizabeth Warren or who support some but not all principles of democratic socialism. One person tweeted, “In the long list of things a candidate should push for in their local community, support for Bernie should weigh less than their support for rent reforms or addressing food deserts or criminal justice reform or getting more💰to schools. This feels needlessly alienating.” Interestingly, New York State Senator and DSA member Julia Salazar tweeted in support of the resolution: “It’s a strategic move, between now and the April 28 NY primary, for the org to be able to run a slate of candidates who support each other and who support the top campaign priority of the org.” This resolution will likely influence upcoming NYC-DSA endorsements in New York primaries.

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Issue #31

I think we might be impeaching the motherfucker?

New Developments

HI-02/TX-28

Impeachment sure looks like it’s happening (finally.) At this point only a couple dozen Democrats are expressing any reticence towards impeachment, most of whom are swing or red-district reps. But there are a few safe seat holdouts. Vicente Gonzales (TX-15), Al Lawson (FL-05), Pete Visclosky (IN-01), and Frederica Wilson (FL-24) have all refused to say anything on the matter. Eddie Bernice Johnson (TX-30) and Terri Sewell (AL-07) have both put impeachment on the table without actually backing it. All six of those are putting themselves at risk of attracting the ire of Democratic voters, especially once things really get rolling, but they don’t have any serious primary challengers as of now.

But that’s not the case for Henry Cuellar and Tulsi Gabbard. Cuellar, known for voting with Trump more often than not, was hesitant to impeach, and became the last Democrat in the state to not even be considering impeachment by Tuesday morning, even expressing that his position was driven by what was popular, saying, “If you look at the polls, where is the American public?" Jessica Cisneros pounced and released a formal statement in support of an impeachment inquiry. This prompted Cuellar to, just a few hours later, amend his position to be open to an inquiry. Cisneros is still attacking his position as not enough, because, well, it isn’t.

One of the only five or so Democrats to outright and explicitly oppose impeachment is Tulsi Gabbard. The other four all represent districts where Trump won a majority of the vote. Gabbard went on Fox News (of course) and laid out her position:

“I’ve been consistent in saying that I believe that impeachment at this juncture would be terribly divisive for the country at a time when we are already extremely divided,” Gabbard said. “Hyper-partisanship is one of the main things that’s driving our country apart.”

That No Labels-esque drivel is probably the most infuriating thing any elected Democrat has put out about impeachment so far. Collin fucking Peterson at least said he opposed it because it would be pointless without Republicans in the Senate on board. Tulsi literally just doesn’t want to upset people. Her primary challenger, Kai Kahele, has mostly stuck to getting his name out and focusing on local issues in the campaign so far — he’s been very active in activism surrounding the TMT telescope for instance — but this inspired him to lob his first real attack at Gabbard. He put it better than we ever could:

Kai Kahele@kaikahele
Doing the following is divisive: * Calling Mexicans "rapists" * Calling Africa a "S--hole" * Saying Neo-Nazis are "Very fine people" Holding Donald Trump accountable is not divisive, its Congress doing its job of upholding the Constitution. Donate.
bit.ly/2lZkKN7

CNN@CNN

Democratic Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard said she doesn't support the move to impeach Trump because it would be "terribly divisive" for an "already very divided" United States https://t.co/KyGoFUqHHM

Impeachment’s not going away anytime soon, and any safe district Democrat not on board absolutely deserves to have a primary challenger getting in their face about it. The issue is clearly salient to the Democratic base - Data For Progress launched a fund for swing district representatives who backed impeachment yesterday, before it became the official position of Nancy Pelosi, and it’s already raised almost $10,000. Simply put, we want to make it clear to House Democrats that having a spine literally pays.

MA-01

Richard Neal is known for not making tax returns public, more famously Donald Trump’s, but also his own. As someone who is both politely asking Donald Trump to release his, and who is also literally writing the tax code in his role as Ways and Means chair, you’d think Neal would want to release his own returns, but apparently not. The ability to highlight both these faults on Neal’s part makes Alex Morse’s latest campaign move all the cleverer. Morse just released his last eight years of tax returns, covering his entire tenure as mayor. Neal, feeling pressured, says he will release his returns, just at some unspecified point in the future.

MA-04:

Joe Kennedy’s announcement has set off a scramble for his safely blue House seat. A few weeks ago, we ran down what was already then an extensive 15 name list of potential candidates, and last week Massachusetts Treasurer Deborah Goldberg filed to run. Since the seat officially came open just a week ago, a lot has happened

  • Newton City Councilor Becky Grossman is running.Grossman is a former investment banker who has served on the City Council since 2017. Newton, a city of 88,000, has 8 local and 16 at-large councilors, of which Grossman is one, so she does represent the entire city, although she was elected unopposed in an election where most voters felt their ballot blank, so she’s probably not too well known. Her campaign for the City Council was on a mostly progressive if somewhat cautious platform, and her (quickly filmed) announcement video is light on policy, although she recently told the Boston Globe her focus would be on “ prescription drug prices, gun control, and climate change”

  • Nonprofit director Alan Khazei is also running. Khazei has a long history in the nonprofit sector and is best known for City Year, an AmeriCorps-funded organization that places trained volunteers in schools. Khazei also ran for Senate in 2010 and 2012, finishing a decent third in 2010 and dropping out in 2012. Politically, Khazei kind of sucks. He’s a big proponent of charter schools and his jobs plan was based around a tax credit for businesses.

  • Jesse Mermell is running. She stepped down from her role on the Alliance for Business Leadership and will launch a campaign “within days”.

  • Deborah Goldberg has commissioned a poll of the primary. According to her team it shows her as the “clear front runner”. It sounds very much like she’s getting in soon.

  • Speaker Pro Tem of the State House Pat Haddad is considering. Haddad is a well-respected legislator who has been in office since 2001 and is known for a variety of work, most notably on women’s issues.  She supports charter schools however, and while she’s much better on the issue now, she used to call herself the “Queen of Coal” in support of keeping coal power.

  • Raul Fernandez, a recently-elected Brookline Selectman who won with the endorsement of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ayanna Pressley is considering. He’s probably better known for his non-election activities, where he has an extensive record of educating and advocating for social justice causes.

  • Dave Cavell, a former speechwriter to Barack Obama and Deval Patrick, and current Assistant Attorney General under Maura Healey is considering.

  • Progressive State Sen. Paul Feeney is out.

  • State Rep. Tommy Vitolo is out.

  • Public transit advocate Chris Dempsey is out.

NY-09

A couple months ago, Adem Bunkeddeko launched a rematch against incumbent Yvette Clarke after nearly pulling off a shocking upset in 2018 but falling short by 6%. While certainly the most prominent, Bunkeddeko is not the only challenger in the race this year, unlike last year. Housing advocate Isiah James is also running. James is new to electoral politics. Extremely new in fact. Our merciful overloads at Data For Progress looked at the voter file for New York, and they discovered that James, who has lived in the state district for three years, has been only been registered to vote there for less than a year, just since December. The time between him registering and launching his campaign was about six months.

This week we saw a third challenger enter the race as well. Michael Hiller is a lawyer who, as his press release points out, has spent years involved in fights for preserving historic buildings, and more recently marijuana legalization. He’s a progressive with a good record and such, but there is a big problem he’s going to run into. He’s a white candidate looking to unseat an uncontroversial Black incumbent in a majority-Black Congressional district. That’s just probably not going to work out, especially considering there already is a progressive Black candidate running.

We’ve said this before and we’ll say it again. If the field to challenge an incumbent in a plurality-winner primary doesn’t consolidate, the chance of the incumbent winning again skyrockets.

NY-15

Yet another New York City Council Member has filed to run for NY-15: Ydanis Rodriguez. Rodriguez lives in the uptown Manhattan neighborhood of Inwood, which isn’t even in the district or the Borough, but it’s Congress, so that’s okay, legally speaking. During his time in the City Council, Rodriguez has been decently progressive. An immigrant and a father, Rodriguez has been a strong supporter of immigrants and a big proponent of paid parental leave. He was also arrested in 2011 at an Occupy Wall Street protest while walking through to make sure protestors’ rights weren’t being violated. This arrest led to him being mentioned in Time Magazine’s 2011 Person of the Year feature about “The Protestor.” He is one of many protestors mentioned in the feature, but Rodriguez seems to have decided he was the person of the year, boasting about it in his official bio. In response, fellow City Council Member and NY-15 opponent Ritchie Torres jokingly told the New York Post, “I am ready to wave the white flag. I cannot possibly compete against Time magazine’s Person of the Year.” Rodriguez was also involved in a scandal in 2016 where the New York City Department of Design and Construction commissioner, who was friends with Rodriguez, hired Rodriguez’s wife for a job she was seemingly unqualified for and gave her a $150,000 salary for it.

Rodriguez also was a candidate in the 2019 non-partisan free-for-all special election for NYC Public Advocate in February along with NY-15 candidates former City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Assembly Member Michael Blake. Rodriguez came fifth overall (there were 17 candidates total), but he won NY-15 with 26% of the vote, so he clearly has support in the district.

Overall, Rodriguez is mostly fine as a candidate, but we cannot stress enough that if new progressive candidates don’t stop entering this race, there is no automatic run off elections or ranked-choice voting, and there will be a split progressive vote, handing a win to asshat New York City Council Member Ruben Diaz Sr. If you need a refresher, Diaz just this year alone has said that reporting sexual harassment would make him a “rat” and that his City Council colleagues don’t like him because the Council is “controlled by the homosexual community.” 

Dear Bronx (and Manhattan, we guess) lefties, please stop entering the race for NY-15. Love, Primaries for Progress.

New Primaries

NY Legislature

The New York City DSA has a complex endorsement process, which includes a recommendation by a borough-specific electoral working group, a branch-wide vote, and a citywide leadership vote. The Brooklyn DSA Electoral Working Group got the ball rolling for 2020 last Wednesday by recommending four New York State Senate and Assembly primary challengers for endorsement.

The first is Jabari Brisport, who is running in Senate District 25. The current senator for that seat is Velmanette Montgomery, but she is likely to retire. Brisport ran as an openly socialist Green Party candidate for NYC Council in 2017 against gentrification-friendly incumbent City Council Member Laurie Cumbo. Brisport, backed by the DSA in that election (in addition to Our Revolution), received 29 percent of the vote.

Another recommended candidate is Marcela Mitaynes running in Assembly District 51. Mitaynes is a Peruvian immigrant and tenant activist who was very involved in the organizing efforts to pass New York State’s historic 2019 rent control package. Mitaynes’ incumbent opponent, Felix Ortiz, was involved in a scandal earlier this year when one of his staffers was caught embezzling tens of thousands of dollars. Whoops!

The third candidate is Boris Santos, running in Assembly District 54. Santos is an organizer and the former chief of staff to New York State Senator Julia Salazar, a socialist and all-around great Senator. Assemblymember Erik Martin Dilan, who currently holds the seat, is your typical machine Democrat, aligned with the corrupt former Brooklyn Democratic Party boss Vito Lopez. He’s also the son of Martin Dilan, the state senator whom Salazar decisively defeated in a bitter primary battle last year.

Finally, the Brooklyn DSA Electoral Working Group recommended Phara Souffrant Forrest for Assembly District 57. Forrest is a Haitian-American nurse, who, like Mitaynes, organized around passing the rent legislation from earlier this year. The incumbent Assemblymember for this district, Walter Mosley, did sign onto the rent package, but he takes real estate money, something that Forrest has pledged not to do.

Since the DSA pours a ton of resources into each race it jumps into, the organization exercises caution in deciding which endorsements to make, weighing candidate viability and district size with ideological factors. There were many candidates seeking endorsement who were not recommended. All is not quite lost yet for these, since there is still more to the process before the DSA comes out with official endorsements, but having the backing of the Brooklyn DSA Electoral Working Group would have given them a leg up.

NYC Council District 18

Wouldn’t it be nice if Diaz lost NY-15 AND his City Council seat? Since Diaz’s City Council term is up in 2021, running for Congress doesn’t get in the way of his running for re-election. Luckily, he already has a terrific primary challenger: Amanda Farias, an organizer and former City Council staffer. Farias has worked with the City Council to pass legislation related to women’s health care and creating opportunity for Minority-and Women-Owned Business Enterprises. She is also the President of grassroots progressive org Women of Color for Progress, which works to put women of color in leadership roles within progressive politics. Farias was one of Diaz’s opponents in 2017 when he first ran for the seat. She came second in a five-person race, getting nearly 2,000 votes to Diaz’s 4,000. Teen Vogue did a feature and a mini documentary about her bad-ass 2017 campaign. 

If you want to help oust Diaz and elect a progressive woman, you can donate to Farias here.

TX-SD-27

Texas’s 27th Senate starts just south of Corpus Christi and stretches down to the Rio Gande, containing the large border city of Brownsville, along with part of McAllen. Eddie Lucio Jr. has represented this heavily Hispanic border district since 1993, during the era when conservative Democrats, a group he fit into, still ran the body. As those Democrats dropped away, he’s stood out more and more for his right-leaning positions, Republican allies, and strident bigotry towards the LGBTQ community. He’s particularly notorious for that last one. 

He wrote a “shell bill” to try and to stop gay marriages from happening in the state ahead of the Obergefell v. Hodges decision in 2015, the same year he also fought to allow discrimination against gay couples in adoption. In 2017, he was the only Democratic vote for Texas’s North Carolina-style “bathroom bill” to make it illegal for trans residents to use the bathroom of their gender, and came out in support of it before multiple Republicans. Just a few months ago he was the only Democrat to vote to allow religiously motivated discrimination and force San Antonio to allow discriminatory businesses in their airport (the Chick-Fil-A bill). He also doesn’t believe in the separation of church and state and has an extremist anti-choice record that includes voting for SB 5, the bill Sen. Wendy Davis is now famous for filibustering.

For the first time in decades, he has a serious opponent. Ruben Cortez was first elected to the State Board of Education in 2012 in a seat that mostly contains SD-27, along with some whiter counties further up the coast, and he recently announced a campaign against Lucio with an ad that talks about progressive values and zeros in on Lucio’s failure to uphold them. On paper, Cortez is probably as close as you could get to the ideal opponent for a Democrat like Lucio. Cortez is represents almost all of the district currently. He’s fought his way through two tough primaries, 2012 and 2018, so his campaign skills are sharp. He’s friendly with labor. He launched his campaign with the endorsement of four union locals, and in 2018 had the support of the American Federation of Teachers. He’s also earned attention for his unsuccessful fight to prevent Republicans on the Board from taking the name “Mexican-American” out of the Mexican-American history curriculum. 

The parallels between this election and the nearby TX-28 are hard to avoid noticing: a Democratic incumbent in the Rio Grande Valley with a conservative streak who supports Republican priorities, and whose political career dates back to the 80s, and now a challenger backed by progressive groups presenting incumbent’s first serious election in at least a decade. 

Miscellaneous Endorsements:

NM-Sen: 8 women state representatives for Maggie Toulouse Oliver.

NY-16: Cynthia Nixon for Jamaal Bowman

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Issue #30

So Kennedy is actually going to do this, huh

New Developments

CA-53

Janessa Goldbeck, a self-identified queer woman and Marine veteran, has announced her campaign for California’s 53rd congressional district, a deep-blue San Diego seat left open by the retirement of Rep. Susan Davis. Goldbeck left active service in the Marines just six weeks ago; prior to joining the Marines in December 2012, she was a human rights lobbyist. She is also the founder of a foreign policy-focused consulting firm, according to the San Diego Chamber of Commerce. Goldbeck calls herself a supporter of the Second Amendment who also favors gun control; she says she wants to focus on “the cost of housing, access [to] affordable health care, and [the price of] prescription drugs.” If you think that message and that biography seem like a strange fit for a very blue district (even a military-heavy district like this one), you’re not alone; a consultant running on prescription drug price reform is not something many would readily associate with the left. However, appearances aren’t everything--for example, Goldman Sachs multimillionaire and former DNC finance chair Phil Murphy has been a staunch progressive as governor of New Jersey, so Goldbeck could, theoretically, turn out to be a staunch progressive. Goldbeck joins San Diego City Council President Georgette Gómez and 2018 CA-49 primary runner-up Sara Jacobs in the race. Gómez, like Goldbeck, identifies as queer, making this the rare election where multiple openly LGBT candidates are competing for the same office.

IL-03

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez made her first endorsement of a primary challenger this week, when she backed Marie Newman over incumbent Congressman and anti-abortion fanatic Dan Lipinski yesterday morning. Lipinski then let loose with a stream of Republican talking points on the progressive ideas that Marie Newman and AOC both hold. Our personal favorite nonsense from that rambling statement is that Medicare for All would take away people’s Medicare. He then followed that attack up by saying “I think it’s always a bad idea for Democrats to go after Democrats, especially incumbent members of Congress. But I know that it happens. It’s unfortunate. We should all be pulling together against President Trump right now. It’s bad when we’re fighting each other and pulling in different directions.” You kind of have to pick one response, Dan. You can’t pair an attack on your opponent’s endorser with an appeal to unity.

MA-Sen

Joe Kennedy III is in! This is an earthquake in Massachusetts Democratic politics, on a level the state hasn’t seen in years or decades, perhaps not since the Dukakis/King primaries of 1980 and 1982. The news just broke, but it was a long time coming, and most politicians in the state have already weighed in. Kennedy has the early lead in the polls, while Markey has the establishment and environmental support. It’s going to be a long, bloody campaign, and it hasn’t even started yet.

Earlier this week, Sen. Ed Markey picked up endorsements from the DSCC (expected) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (perhaps less so). Ocasio-Cortez went all-in on her endorsement, even cutting an ad for Markey. Markey and AOC have been allied for months now in the fight for the Green New Deal, so there’s a clear motivation for her endorsement, and we were pleasantly surprised to see that most media outlets weren’t confused why she was endorsing an incumbent over a challenger. Joe Kennedy III did gain one prominent endorser: Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, a conservative (and anti-GND) Democrat from Arizona.

On Monday, money-in-politics news outlet Sludge reported on Kennedy’s financial connections to the fossil fuel industry, and it’s ugly. He owns between $800,000 and $1,750,000 worth of fossil fuel investments, mostly in Chevron and ExxonMobile, both of whom are financing large-scale efforts to kill the Green New Deal. Chevron in particular spent millions last cycle running ads against Democrats for supporting the Green New Deal. While Joe Kennedy did support the Green New Deal in the House, in the era of fossil fuel divestment, it’s worth wondering why he’s keeping those investments.

MA-06

Former Rep. John Tierney, who lost his seat to now-Rep. and erstwhile presidential candidate Seth Moulton in the 2014 Democratic primary, has informed the FEC that he does not intend to run for MA-06. Tierney could have been a serious threat to Moulton, despite his wife’s 2010 tax fraud conviction (which contributed to his 2014 defeat), as he still had $375,000 sitting in his campaign bank account after his 2014 loss, a pool of money he could have immediately rolled over into a 2020 campaign. This means that, for the time being, the field against Moulton remains limited to Salem city councilor Lisa Peterson and Salem State University trustee Jamie Zahlaway Belsito. Tierney could of course renege on his FEC statement and run, but this is a signpost in the other direction.

NY-12

This morning, Suraj Patel announced he’s running in the NY-12 primary against incumbent Carolyn Maloney. Patel, a hotel chain owner, ran in the NY-12 last cycle, in what was the most covered primary in the state before results came in and attention shifted next door to the surprise upset of Joe Crowley by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Patel raised a lot of money and ran a professional campaign, but ran into some bad press of his own making, most notably for a practice known as “Tinder-banking”, where volunteers would match with NY-12 residents on the dating app Tinder, then ask them to vote for Patel. Patel was also never on the greatest terms with labor, who largely endorsed Maloney, perhaps owing to his hotels’ labor violations. Patel even said this year that labor leaders had asked him to stay out of the race. His social media history provided some gems as well - joking about him hitting on a 16 year old acquaintance and saying that grown men sleeping with 17 year olds isn’t “that bad”. He’d also voted in another state in the previous election.

Patel, despite his money, was a very flawed candidate. And although he was making criticisms of Maloney from her left (her Iraq War vote, her anti-vax statements), he’s been a better progressive in some areas than others. For instance, he’s a supporter of single payer healthcare and abolishing ICE, but his climate plan is the same as John Delaney’s, and his plan for income inequality doesn’t involve raising his own taxes much. It says a lot about Carolyn Maloney’s hawkish, centrist record that Patel might still have been the better choice in 2018. She’s had plenty of scandals in her past (remember that time she said the n word during an interview?) Despite Maloney’s many vulnerabilities, Patel wound up losing that election 60-40.

That margin is imposing. While results are more open to changing year by year in primary elections than in generals, the expensive Patel-Maloney fight last cycle likely hit saturation point, and changing 20% of the results from last time is going to be hard. Since losing, Patel has stayed active in New York City politics, campaigning for socialist Queens DA candidate Tiffany Cabán. It’s not clear what Patel or Maloney would be doing differently this time around, and Patel’s messaging hasn’t changed in this cycle’s intro video, once again hitting the notes of his humble upbringing and the need for generational replacement in Congress. Further complicating things is the three candidates already challenging Maloney from her left (Lauren Ashcraft, Erica Vladimer, and Peter Harrison). Dawn Smalls, a candidate in the 2019 Public Advocate special election, is also considering. Patel’s entry may wind up pushing her out, but even if it doesn’t, the general rule of thumb is that the more challengers in a race, the more an incumbent has a chance to slide by on a plurality. Where is that ranked choice voting when you need it?

Note: Editor Sean McElwee, a former colleague of candidate Peter Harrison, recused himself from editing coverage of this race once Harrison entered, and continues to do so.

NY-15

Apparently, New York Assemblyman and DNC Vice Chair Michael Blake worked for Linebarger Goggan Blair & Sampson, a ruthless debt-collection firm, in 2012 and 2013. On a July 2014 ethics disclosure from when Blake first ran for the Assembly, he noted that he had consulted for the firm but failed to disclose that they also paid him tens of thousands of dollars in 2013 when asked about income over $1,000. Blake later amended the paperwork to reflect the income, but not until after he was already sworn in.

Linebarger has used such heartless tactics that it directly inspired U.S. Senator Cory Booker to introduce legislation in 2015 against abusive debt-collection practices. The firm has reportedly been big on threatening and harassing working class people who are struggling to make payments, and in 2012, the firm was hired to collect a payment from the grieving mother of a young man who had been killed by an NYPD squad car for damages to the car that killed her son. This isn’t the first time Blake’s financial disclosures have been a bad look. Only a few years ago he revealed a salary in the tens of thousands from a Bermuda political party, leading to the question of whether he needed to register as a foreign agent.

Blake’s campaign hasn’t gotten off to a great start, with the once proud fundraiser getting absolutely demolished in the money race by Councilman Ritchie Torres. Blake hasn’t been getting much news coverage for his run, and now this revelation is another setback for a campaign in search of a motivation. Blake’s one of the more moderate candidates in the race and isn’t getting a whole lot of traction. Given the looming threat of Rubén Díaz Sr. we’d very much appreciate him taking the hint that this may not be his year.

New Primaries

DE-Sen

Delaware is a reliably Democratic state. Despite that, it produces terrible Democrats—Joe Biden is the most famous, but his Senate successor, Chris Coons, works overtime to live up (down?) to Biden’s terrible record. That was on display on Monday, as he went on Fox & Friends to tentatively endorse war with Iran because Iranian-aligned rebel groups attacked Saudi oil fields. Yes, Saudi—as in Saudi Arabia, the country that murdered a Washington Post columnist less than a year ago.

We don’t have anything more to say here. Someone primary this asshole.

MA-04

On Monday, while Joe Kennedy III continued to demur on whether he’d be running for House or Senate, Massachusetts Treasurer Deb Goldberg decided to stop waiting, and filed with the FEC to run for MA-04, the district that Kennedy is going to leave open while he runs for Senate, although at the time he had yet to make a public decision. She isn’t running just yet, however. She said she will only follow through with a campaign when Kennedy actually pulls the trigger, and the news he’s running isn’t old enough for her to have reacted to yet. It may seem strange for Goldberg try and jump the gun on this, but there is a value to being in early if it helps you muscle out potential competitors. This is especially true right now, since there is an FEC quarterly finance reporting deadline coming up on September 30th, and filing with the FEC lets Goldberg start raising money. She was probably hoping for more time to herself, but if those extra two days help her post some impressive numbers in the next couple weeks, that will go far in cementing her as a frontrunner.

One potential top contender, State Senator Paul Feeney, didn’t want to fight in a pre-primary like this, and made it clear he will not be considering running until after Kennedy makes his decision. So we’ll probably we hearing from Feeney soon as well. 

Now that this seat is open, expect to see a flood of candidates, those have already expressed interest and those who haven’t.

NY-Something

Readers will remember the nail-biting Queens District Attorney race last June: on election night, the inspirational socialist public defender Tiffany Cabán led by just over 1,000 votes, but then the machine favorite and Queens Borough President Melinda Katz tragically pulled ahead by 60 votes after absentee and affidavit ballots had been counted.

Cabán, fresh off that bitter defeat, has quietly opened a new state campaign account, and all eyes are back on her. Rumors are flying: is she planning a challenge to New York State Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas? Is she going to primary AOC? Is she training for the WNBA?

The committee attached to the account was designated for a run for city or county office, so that would most likely be City Council or Queens Borough President. Cabán lives in City Council District 22, which is currently represented by Councilman Costa Constantinides. Thanks to New York City Council term limits, Councilman Constantidides cannot run for re-election in 2021. As for Queens Borough President, when Katz inevitably wins her DA race (the general election is in November), her Borough President seat will be open. 

There’s also speculation that Cabán could run for state or federal office, but she would have to set up a different committee in order to do so. As well as Councilman Constantidides’ district, Cabán also lives in Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s NY-14 as well as New York State Senator Mike Gianaris’s district, and Simotas’ Assembly district. We don’t see Cabán as likely to challenge AOC, who endorsed her campaign. Sen. Gianaris has also been happy to buck the Queens machine lately, even backing Cabán for DA, and then there’s the fact that the Cabán campaign said last month that they “unequivocally” are not considering challenging Gianaris, but have not said the same regarding Simotas, about whom Queens progressives feel very mixed.

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