Primary School 9/14

we promise no Met Gala discourse

Okay, one piece of Met Gala discourse, safely avoiding the topic of the attire and attendance of a certain Bronx congresswoman. What on Earth is Bill de Blasio wearing? What is that suit?

Is that [shudders] velour or something? (No, seriously, I can’t tell, I definitely need a stronger prescription for my lenses.) This man’s fashion sense will not be missed—nor will the gall it took him to attend the Met Gala while the Rikers Island jail complex he oversees is spiraling into a deadly health and safety crisis, a far more serious matter than his sartorial choices, and one he is paying far less attention. He can’t be bothered to save lives via clemency with a stroke of his pen, but he’s got time to awkwardly lope around an Anna Wintour soirée in a suit louder than the crowd at any of his ill-fated presidential campaign’s public events. Appalling.


Elections

California

Polls close at 8 PM Pacific (11 PM Eastern)
Governor (recall election)

The California recall isn’t really in the scope of stuff we cover—it is, effectively, a Democrat-vs.-Republican election with extra steps. However, the cost of an unlikely victory for Larry Elder, the leading Republican candidate, is so high that we feel obligated to urge our California readers to vote in person, or drop off your mail ballot at your polling place or local election office, if you haven’t voted already. Vote no on the recall, even though Gavin Newsom sucks, because Larry Elder is a terrifying right-wing extremist who absolutely cannot be given any sort of power, much less the governorship of the biggest state in the union.

Boston

Polls close at 8 PM Eastern
Mayor, Council

Boston finishes voting today for the preliminary round of local elections. Mayor and all Council positions elected by district will send two candidates to the general election in November, while the at-large field will be winnowed down to 8 candidates who will face off on a top 4 ballot. The mayoral race has seen a flurry of polling in the last month, all of which points to progressive favorite City Councilor Michelle Wu finishing first, and a three way dead heat for the second spot between City Councilors Andrea Campbell, Annissa Essaibi George, and Kim Janey (who is also acting Mayor). All three non-Wu candidates carry their own weaknesses in a potential runoff: Janey’s short-lived tenure as mayor has been beset by self-induced controversy after self-induced controversy; Essaibi George reads as considerably more conservative than the rest of the field; and Campbell has close ties to charter schools and a campaign that never really found a message. 

In the Council, most of the district races are either uncontested, or only have two candidates, resulting in both getting shuffled off to the general election with no primary needed. In District 6, progressive/DSA/labor-backed activist Kendra Hicks and moderate former school board member Mary Tamer are overwhelming favorites to move on, making this round more a test of where the candidates are than an actual election. The more interesting races with large fields are District 4, District 7, and the at-large election. In District 4, the favorite is ex-state Rep. Evandro Carvalho, while the left is excited about teacher Joel Richards. District 7 is a total free-for-all without clear ideological divisions, or many outside organizations willing to get involved in the first round. The exception is organized labor, which is behind Angie Camacho, more of a progressive than not.

In the at-large race, this round is mostly about filtering out the joke candidates. The top three spots should go to moderate incumbent Michael Flaherty, progressive incumbent Julia Mejia, and Ruthzee Louijeune, a consensus pick of progressive organizations, establishment politicians and most labor unions. There’s little consensus beyond that. Progressives like Carla Monteiro and David Halbert, while moderates and trade unions like Erin Murphy and Bridget Nee-Walsh. If we had to guess who will round out the top 8, it would be Alex Gray, Jon Spillane, and Kelly Bates, who have scattered support from some unions and electeds. The big things to watch are who comes in fourth, and if anyone behind them is close. If either incumbent places below the top 3, that should also be a big warning sign.

Cleveland

Polls close at 7:30 PM Eastern
Mayor

This is a weird one, even by the standards of Cleveland politics. Former Congressman and (very) former mayor Dennis Kucinich’s campaign has consistently been the funniest and weirdest thing happening in politics, but all these months later he’s still the frontrunner, and no one seems to know what exactly he’d do as mayor. Kucinich was a self-appointed voice of the left during the Bush years, but the campaign he’s running now is financed in large part by Republicans and pathologically obsessed with crime. He has a collection of great ideas—developing the waterfront, building new houses, cutting utility bills—but he’s shown no interest in raising the taxes to actually make them happen, let alone do so while spending millions more on police.

Who will join Kucinch in the runoff? Will it be Kevin Kelley, the sitting City Council president, creature of the city’s establishment, choice of outgoing mayor Frank Jackson, and most overtly establishment candidate in the field? Will it be Zack Reed, the former city councilman who made it into the mayoral runoff in 2017, and may not have cleared the very low bar of even being to Jackson’s left? Could it be City Councilman Basheer Jones, who has often allied himself with the progressives, but who has made extremely concerning statements about vaccines and women during this campaign? Maybe it’ll be state Sen. Sandra Wiliams, a typical Democrat whose quiet (or, one could say, boring) campaign has left her struggling in the polls but still doing well enough that Kevin Kelley attempted to buy her out of the race (allegedly)? Maybe Justin Bibb, a nonprofit exec who is taking his first crack at running for office and whose lack of any overt problems inspired the Cleveland Plain Dealer and many progressives to turn to him, in the latter’s case out of exhaustion?

Somerville, MA

Polls close at 8 PM Eastern
Mayor

Who the new council will work with (or fight with) in the mayor’s office is also on the ballot: there are four mayoral candidates, but only two general election slots. City councilors Katjana Ballantyne and Will Mbah are running as progressives (Mbah much more so, and progressive groups consequently favor him); they are joined by former city auditor Mary Cassesso and local right-wing crank Billy Tauro.

Council

Somerville is a modestly-sized city (just over 81,000) and isn’t central to a state or metro area, so you may wonder why we’re covering it. We’re covering it because Boston DSA has seven candidates running for Somerville’s 11-member city council—meaning that socialist control of an American city is actually on the table. Two of those candidates are facing preliminary elections tonight: Tessa Bridge in Ward 5 and Becca Miller in Ward 7. (The rest are in races which do not have enough candidates to require a preliminary election, meaning they automatically advance to November.)

Stamford, CT

Polls close at 8 PM Eastern
Mayor

State Rep. Caroline Simmons is mounting a strong challenge to incumbent mayor David Martin; unfortunately, she appears to be doing so from the right, with the support of the center-right Connecticut Independent Party. She narrowly won the endorsement of the Stamford Democratic Committee in July, earning her an automatic spot on the primary ballot, but Martin quickly gathered enough signatures to force a primary. The winner of this primary will face a well-funded independent candidate in former Mets and Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine, who has collected donations from prominent Republicans including Linda McMahon and George W. Bush.


News

AZ-02

After months in a holding pattern, this race saw major upheaval in recent weeks. Last week, in a development we meant to include in our last issue, state Rep. Randy Friese dropped out of the race to focus on his medical practice, leaving state Rep. Daniel Hernandez alone in the moderate lane in this primary. This week, state Sen. Kirsten Engel went in the other direction, resigning her seat in the legislature to focus on her congressional campaign. Even before Friese dropped out, Engel was the only elected official in the race who could be described as progressive; now, Engel and outsider Marcos Urrea, a legal assistant at an immigration nonprofit, both find themselves competing for progressive support. Meanwhile, Hernandez—who easily survived a 2020 primary aided by a small fortune’s worth of spending from big business, charter schools, and literal Republicans—can leisurely collect endorsements and campaign checks from the local establishment.

CA-52

San Diego Rep. Scott Peters has been way worse than his district requires for a long time, but has previously gotten away with it by reminding Democratic leadership that he won a tight race way back in 2012. (His district is much bluer today than it was in 2012, and no Republican could realistically beat a Democrat there now.) He seems intent on testing Democratic leaders’ patience, today announcing his opposition to their signature prescription drug pricing policy because it does too much to make prescription drugs affordable.

Who knows, maybe we get lucky and they just dismantle his seat in redistricting, but that’s doubtful. Here’s hoping California Democrats have grown sufficiently tired of his shit to decline to protect him if a primary emerges. (Working in tandem with Peters is OR-05 Rep. Kurt Schrader, but Schrader is a Blue Dog and a perennial contender for Worst Democrat In Congress, so there’s nothing new with that.)

FL-13

Four local mayors endorsed state Rep. Ben Diamond this week. Unfortunately for Diamond, the largest of the mayors’ four cities is Safety Harbor, with a population of just 17,072—and Safety Harbor isn’t even in the current FL-13. And only Gulfport (pop. 11,783) is a Democratic city; the other three are at least slightly Republican. Still, it’s a sign that the local establishment prefers Diamond (which is unsurprising, given he was in line to be the minority leader in the state House after the 2022 elections before he decided to run for Congress.)

NV-01

Sunrise Movement Las Vegas and the Biological Diversity Fund jointly endorsed Amy Vilela this week.

MD Comptroller

Baltimore Del. Brooke Lierman, likely the progressive choice in this race, was endorsed by Rep. Jamie Raskin yesterday. It’s a good sign for Lierman: if this race becomes regional, as Maryland primaries often do, she’s got a big name in the DC suburbs on her side (Raskin is from Takoma Park, not to be confused with the neighboring DC neighborhood of Takoma) to augment her Baltimore base.

Buffalo Mayor

Byron Brown has gone on TV with his first ad, a standard spot touting his accomplishments as mayor, including guns of the streets and kids enrolled in a reading program. Interestingly, it ends with the tagline “Byron Brown Democrat for Mayor”, even though he lost the Democratic primary. This is technically allowed, but suspect considering he lost the Democratic primary. It also doesn’t help him remind any voters that they’ll need to do something other than vote the Democratic line if they want him to be mayor.

Whether Brown will actually be on the ballot in any form is still in limbo. A federal appeals court judge stayed last week’s ruling ordering Brown on the ballot, pending a full ruling on the issue. The Erie County Board of Elections has been ordered to hold off on printing election material until a final order is issued, likely this week.

Primary School 9/7

Wumentum

Results

CA AD-18

Mia Bonta, the president of the Alameda Unified School Board and the wife of California AG Rob Bonta, won the special election to fill the Assembly seat her husband vacated to accept his appointment as AG. She did so by a 57-43 margin against leftist attorney Janani Ramachandran, a relatively underwhelming performance for someone running for her husband’s old seat—and, strangely, she did the worst in her home city of Alameda, while cleaning up in Oakland and San Leandro. Mia Bonta will likely be a fine member of the Assembly, though; her husband was generally one of the better members of the body, and she ran as a progressive.


News

Redistricting

The redistricting commissions for the states of of Oregon and Colorado both released preliminary congressional proposals this week.

In the case of Colorado, this is a second draft. It makes a variety of strange choices, but most importantly for primaries, it proposes a new district that runs from the Denver suburbs into Weld County, north of the metro area, and is ⅓ Hispanic. You can view that proposal here.

It’s unclear to what extent the Oregon map is actually a serious proposal. While there is a redistricting commission for Oregon, if it deadlocks, Democratic Secretary of State Shemia Fagan takes the driver’s seat. The Democrats on the commission have proposed a map, seen here, that could be a serious proposal for the commission, could be intended to be brushed aside once Fagan takes over, or could be a serious proposal for Fagan to consider once she takes over. It’s entirely unclear. If it does matter, what’s important to note here is OR-06, a new, safely Democratic district that runs from Portland to Bend, as well as changes to OR-05 that remove most of its rural voters and give it more of Portland, potentially making reelection for strident centrist Kurt Schrader more difficult.

MD-Gov

A pair of leading gubernatorial candidates locked down important endorsements in their quest to succeed term-limited Republican Gov. Larry Hogan. For former Obama Labor Secretary Tom Perez, it was a coalition of union locals representing more than 40,000 Maryland workers, showing that some segments of the labor movement isn’t as upset about his work for a union-busting law firm as you might expect; for former Prince George’s County Executive and 2018 primary runner-up Rushern Baker, it was the overwhelming majority of the Prince George’s County Council, demonstrating he’s still got a grip on the political establishment in his vote-rich base of DC’s predominantly Black eastern suburbs. Neither Perez nor Baker is particularly progressive, but both are establishing themselves as frontrunners (along with state Comptroller Peter Franchot) in a race where nonprofit CEO Wes Moore might be the best hope progressives have. Moore, for his part, is doing a good job of establishing himself as the Baltimore candidate; this week, he secured the endorsement of Baltimore City Councilman Zeke Cohen, the fourth Baltimore city councilor to back Moore. (Perez, Baker, Franchot, and former Obama Education Secretary John B. King all live in the DC suburbs.)

NY-Gov

Oh, God, Bill de Blasio is actually trying to run for governor. According to Politico’s Sally Goldenberg, he’s calling labor leaders to gauge support. Please no.

OR-Gov

Tina Kotek, the Speaker of the Oregon House of Representatives, is running for governor. Kotek’s interest in the office has not been a secret for a long time, and as we mentioned a few weeks ago, had matured into public statements about a potential campaign this summer, but many more politicians consider running for higher office than actually do. Kotek remains the best hope progressives have in this race, especially considering who else is inching closer to a run.

Nicholas Kristof, a NYT opinion columnist, has been searching for staff, the surest sign yet that he’s serious about running. We’re going to let our July review of his record speak for itself:

Kristof’s best-known journalistic endeavor is his longtime obsession with sex work; he has laundered stories and narratives from right-wing groups and a prominent anti-sex-trafficking activist who got caught lying about her work (even getting others to tell completely fabricated stories in interviews, claiming they had been trafficked when in reality they never were.) The disaster got him excoriated by the New York Times’s public editor (a position the Times has since eliminated, because criticism made them too uncomfy) as well as a guest op-ed writer. In short, he’s a hack and a fraud; because of his shoddy and often outright false journalism done in service of a carceral moral panic, he bears some responsibility for harmful crackdowns on consensual sex work. (He also wrote a series of columns suggesting that a scientist, Dr. Steven Hatfill, may have been responsible for the 2001 anthrax attacks; Dr. Hatfill was later exonerated by the US government, only after years of being targeted by Kristof and the Department of Justice, and granted a $5.8 million settlement by the FBI as compensation for his troubles.)

TN-05

The Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the second largest union in the US, endorsed Odessa Kelly against incumbent Jim Cooper. The SEIU is one of the less establishment-friendly of the major unions in America, but it doesn’t generally cross incumbents without good cause. This endorsement is a sign of both Jim Cooper’s long record of iffy-on-labor conservatism and the SEIU’s confidence in Odessa Kelly’s ability to beat him. Of course, it could also be a reflection of how little they think this endorsement is going to cost them politically—with Tennessee Republicans salivating at the prospect of tearing this district into small pieces, there may not be an election to endorse in anyway.

Boston Mayor

City Councilor Michelle Wu, the progressive favorite, continues to establish herself as the candidate to beat. A new MassINC poll has her at 30% of the vote in the fast-approaching first round, while Acting Mayor Kim Janey, City Councilor Annissa Essaibi George, and City Councilor Andrea Campbell are way behind with 15%, 13%, and 11%, respectively. Another poll, from Suffolk University, has Wu at 31%, Janey at 20%, Essaibi George at 19%, and Campbell at 18%. At this point, it’s fair to say that polls agree on two things: that Michelle Wu is making it to the runoff, and that it’s anyone’s game for who joins her. 

That’s probably why Janey and Campebll are at each other’s throats right now. The Hospitality Workers union, which is backing Janey, has begun a scorched-earth campaign against Campbell, who has, herself, long since gone negative against Janey. The Hospitality Workers are running a radio ad attacking Campbell for being supported by charter school interests, at one point in the ad saying "Special interests vs. kids with special needs: Andrea Campbell is on the wrong side." Campbell and Janey are now engaged in a war of press releases and press conferences regarding the propriety of these attacks.

Endorsements continue to reflect that, as another ward’s Democratic committee has endorsed Wu—this time Ward 1, in East Boston. Joining them is...Suffolk County Sheriff Steve Tompkins, nobody’s idea of a progressive; in endorsing Wu, Tompkins passed over Janey, the incumbent, and Essaibi George, who has been running the most right-wing campaign on crime (and on most other issues.)

Tompkins aside, Essaibi George may have some outside help from other cops. Former Boston police commissioner William Gross, who is backing Essaibi George, has set up a super PAC which seems connected to a Republican consulting firm, Red Curve Solutions (former clients include Donald Trump, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, and Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton.)

Buffalo Mayor

Supporting the Democratic nominee for mayor of Buffalo? A state senator from a Buffalo-area swing district that only flipped blue in 2020. Still not supporting the Democratic nominee for mayor of Buffalo? The Democratic governor of New York. This is the reception India Walton’s campaign has received from her own party (and even from corners of the labor movement, like the two public employee unions that endorsed Brown yesterday.)

Nobody disputes that Walton, a WFP-backed socialist, won the Democratic nomination fair and square, and yet high-profile Democrats like Kathy Hochul continue to dodge their obligation to support the Democratic nominee for mayor of New York’s second-largest city in the face of a Republican-backed last-ditch effort to stop her, while local Democrats who know the stakes like state Sen. Sean Ryan line up behind Walton’s campaign.

Meanwhile, Byron Brown's plan to get on the ballot by forming a party months after the deadline may actually be working. After the Erie County Board of Elections denied Brown's petitions, he appealed to a federal district court to strike down the deadline keeping him off the ballot, and the judge simply said yes. In this case, it's important to look at the judge who made the ruling: John Sinatra. Sinatra is a Republican-nominated Federalist Society member whose brother, Nick, is a major developer in Buffalo, and who regularly deals with the city, including with Brown himself, who helped Nick gain forgiveness for a large tax bill to the city. It was a major breach of judicial ethics to even agree to hear this case instead of recusing himself; in fact, the code of conduct for federal judges specifically requires recusal in cases when a judge’s close relative, such as a sibling, has a known financial interest in the outcome of a case (for example, when the case could determine whether your developer brother continues to get tax help from the mayor’s office.) Walton has filed an appeal of this ruling with the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals. Given the time-sensitive nature of this situation, there should be a ruling soon.

Cleveland Mayor

This week in That’s our Dennis!, the rascally septuagenarian ex-congressman Dennis Kucinich—now the frontrunner, and the favorite of Trump donors, for mayor of Cleveland—is asked by a reporter if he’s been vaccinated against COVID-19. His response? “I’m not going to go there”. But that’s not all! The scamp also produced a letter from his doctor, and in typical Kucinich fashion, the letter raises more questions than it answers, alluding to an “underlying chronic health condition” without saying what it is or what it means for Kucinich’s vaccine status. But hey, That’s our Dennis!

Milwaukee Mayor

Longtime mayor Tom Barrett is finally departing city hall after 17 years as mayor, and he’s doing so ahead of schedule. Joe Biden has nominated Barrett to serve as the US Ambassador to Luxembourg, a cushy post rewarding Barrett for his many years as a powerful Democrat in a key swing state. Barrett’s departure will necessitate a special election; the timing is dependent on how soon he resigns as mayor, which in turn is dependent on how quickly the Senate confirms him.

The field would likely be crowded; among the potential candidates are state Sen. Lena Taylor (who lost to Barrett last year), former Ald. Bob Donovan (who lost to Barrett in 2016), state Rep. Daniel Riemer, Ald. Marina Dimitrijevic, Ald. Tearman Spencer, Council President and soon-to-be Acting Mayor Cavalier “Chevy” Johnson, and Milwaukee County Sheriff Earnell Lucas; all are either in the various stages of considering a run (Taylor, Riemer, Dimitrijevic, Spencer, Lucas) or already running (Donovan, Johnson). The candidates span the ideological spectrum, and more candidates could join them—outsider candidates are always harder to forecast this early.

Seattle Mayor, ballot measures

Former City Council President Bruce Harrell was endorsed by the Washington State Council of County and City Employees in his runoff with current City Council President Lorena González. It’s a disappointing endorsement, given Harrell is the conservative candidate in this race, and it’s also a sign that González won’t be able to coast on Seattle’s famed progressive leanings.

The two candidates sparred on the issue of homelessness, with González arguing for a comprehensive approach to the matter—including a dedicated revenue stream from taxes on the wealthy, and programs addressing the root causes of homelessness such as poverty and housing unaffordability. Harrell, on the other hand, offered the standard boilerplate: shelters and cops. As we discussed last week, homelessness itself was going to be on the ballot if the organizers of Compassion Seattle got their way; their proposed ballot measure would have mandated the clearing of homeless encampments (and thus mandated regular police aggression against the homeless.) A King County judge threw the measure off the ballot last week, and this week a state appeals court agreed with the lower court, keeping Compassion Seattle off the ballot. This is likely bad news for conservative turnout (and, by extension, bad news for Harrell, whose position on homelessness hews closely to Compassion Seattle.)

Minneapolis ballot measures

Policing and public safety reform has been central for the entire mayoral election in Minneapolis, the city where George Floyd was murdered by a police officer, launching months of protests. While the Minneapolis City Council was ready in the summer of 2020 to abolish the police department and rebuild a new Public Safety Department from the ground up, incumbent mayor Jacob Frey has fought them every step of the wayz and eventually kept them from going down that path legislatively, Recently, after a signature campaign to put a measure to that effect on the ballot, and over multiple vetoes from Frey, the Council has announced the final language they intended to go in front of voters. Hours ago, a judge struck it down for vagueness. Given the publicity surrounding this measure, it may set the terms of debate between Frey and his main opponent, community organizer Sheila Nezhad. Frey has taken a staunchly pro-police line this election, including a major campaign plank to increase police funding, while Nezhad's campaign was part of the coalition gathering signatures to put the measure on the ballot, and much of her message is about the need to reduce police presence in the city.

Primary School 8/31

we haven't rolled our eyes at Seth Moulton in a while

Elections

CA-AD-18

Alameda Unified School District Board President Mia Bonta looked like a prohibitive favorite to succeed her husband, Rob Bonta, in the state Assembly after his appointment as state attorney general. Then, in the first round of the special election, Bonta fell far short of the 50% threshold required to win outright, setting up a runoff with a more progressive opponent, Janani Ramachandran. Ramachandran, a queer eviction defense attorney who would be the first South Asian woman in the Assembly, has earned the support of many progressive elected officials, activist groups, and labor unions, but Bonta has even more support from both elected officials and labor unions; the California Democratic establishment, from its more moderate members to its more progressive ones, has clearly chosen its preferred candidate, and that’s Bonta. (Even LGBT groups have split between the two, no doubt due to Rob and Mia’s people calling in a whole lot of favors, despite only Ramachandran identifying as LGBT.)


Results

Birmingham, Alabama

This ended up being anticlimactic. Mayor Randall Woodfin easily won a second term outright, avoiding a runoff with Jefferson County Commissioner LaShunda Scales (and, in third place, the mayor Woodfin unseated in 2017, William Bell.) But down the ballot, it was all bad news, as the DSA and WFP candidates for city council got shut out.

St. Petersburg, Florida

The ostensibly nonpartisan mayoral election will be a runoff between standard Democrat Ken Welch and racist, eviction-happy landlord Robert Blackmon, who is a Republican city councilman in his spare time. But that wasn’t the big result of the night.

Democratic socialist Richie Floyd, a teacher and activist backed by local and national DSA, progressive groups, and organized labor, got an outright majority in the race for the city council’s 8th district against a crowded field which included former councilman Jeff Danner, who placed a distant second. Unfortunately, there is now going to be a citywide runoff, as is standard in St. Petersburg; district-based seats on the city council are elected in a two-round system, with the first round being voted on only by the district in question, and the second round (between the top two candidates in the first round) being voted on by the entire city. Yes, we are aware that makes no sense; take it up with the city of St. Petersburg.

But! Even though Floyd now faces the whole city’s electorate, his 51.8%-26.9% lead over Danner is a very promising start.

Also in the city council races, Blackmon’s seat (one of the city’s reddest) will head to a citywide runoff as well, with moderate Democrat Copley Gerdes and Republican Bobbie Shay Lee each earning a spot in the general election. Blackmon won his seat in 2019’s low-turnout citywide runoff after one of his opponents, Scott Orsini, collapsed and withdrew from the race, leaving Democrats with little time to consolidate behind Blackmon’s other opponent. If Gerdes is able to defeat Lee in November—and Welch does the same to Blackmon—Republicans will be down to just one officeholder in St. Petersburg City Hall, District 3 Councilman Ed Montanari (who won’t face voters until 2023.)


News

House, TX-28

Newly-minted AFL-CIO president Liz Shuler issued an implicit warning today to congressional Democrats wary of reforming the filibuster or passing the PRO Act: don’t be surprised when member unions of America’s largest labor federation start to get tired of your shit. At an event, Shuler correctly blamed the stalling of the PRO Act on “arcane rules in the Senate” and spoke of electoral consequences for Democrats who fail to act.

This mainly serves as a warning to Kyrsten Sinema, who is already in serious danger of losing a Democratic primary in 2024, but it also applies to one Democrat on the House side: Henry Cuellar, the lone House Democrat to vote against the PRO Act this year. Labor was never his friend—many unions, and the Texas branch of the AFL-CIO, backed Justice Democrats challenger Jessica Cisneros in 2020—but with a new district, labor opposition could be even more detrimental to Cuellar in 2022 than it was in 2020, particularly if unions get in Cisneros’s corner earlier in the cycle. And who knows? Other House Democrats might cross organized labor (several members who voted to pass the PRO Act only did so after publicly opposing it), and if this comment by Shuler indicates a broader willingness in the labor movement to take on incumbent Democrats, it could spell trouble for them, too.

CO-08

State Rep. Yadira Caraveo is the first major candidate to announce for Colorado’s yet-to-be-drawn 8th congressional district, which will be allocated to the state beginning in 2022 as a result of the 2020 census. (The district is expected to be comprised of Democratic-leaning Denver suburbs with high Latino populations, but its exact form won’t be known for a while.)

Caraveo, a pediatrician, hasn’t yet staked out a clear ideological position in the race, but is largely progressive, and was even endorsed by Bernie Sanders during her state house campaign. The one exception to that is marijuana. She’s been fighting her party on marijuana since she was elected, and this year she’s been trying to crack down on THC oil. Regardless, she’s already rolled out an intimidating list of early endorsements, including two local politicians previously thought of as potential candidates: state Sen. Faith Winter and Adams County Commissioner Emma Pinter. While Winter and Pinter are out, still in the mix is former state Rep. Joe Salazar, Caraveo’s predecessor in the state House who left to pursue a progressive campaign for state attorney general (ultimately losing a very close primary to now-AG Phil Weiser.)

HI-Gov, HI-Lt. Gov.

The field to succeed termed-out Hawaiʻi Gov. David Ige is beginning to take shape. Lt. Gov. Josh Green seems to be the frontrunner, with former Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell and former First Lady of Hawaiʻi Vicky Cayetano serving as his main competition. The field to succeed Green as LG is a lot more muddled, with 2018 Democratic primary runner-up Jill Tokuda entering the race this month, joining former Honolulu councilmen Ikaika Anderson and Ron Menor, with many more potential entrants waiting in the wings. Including, according to Honolulu Civil Beat editor Chad Blair, Tulsi Gabbard??? What did anyone do to deserve this? Please make it stop we are so tired.

IL-07

Incumbent Rep. Danny Davis launched his reelection campaign recently. He was flanked by three endorsers: Cook County Assessor Fritz Kaegi and mayors Andre Harvey of Bellwood (pop. 19,000) and Rory Hoskins of Forest Park (pop. 14,000). For an incumbent who must know he’s in danger, that’s a surprisingly thin cast. Davis has a well-earned reputation for being checked out, as he demonstrated at the launch. At one point, he said that he nearly retired to write a book, and spent a long time speaking about his career, dwelling on legislation he was involved in during the Obama and Clinton eras. Not exactly the show of force one might expect from an incumbent facing a well-funded challenge from Justice Democrats-backed activist Kina Collins.

MA-06

A bipartisan pair of congressional dipshits decided to throw a wrench into the Kabul airlift, taking an unauthorized, secret trip to Afghanistan for...reasons?

Reps. Seth Moulton and Peter Meijer—the former a Democrat from Massachusetts, the latter a Republican from Michigan—saw the heart-wrenching scenes from the evacuations of Americans and Afghans from Kabul as the war in Afghanistan drew to a close, and heard alarming news in congressional briefings about the progress of the evacuations. They were moved to offer their assistance—er, did we say assistance? We meant LARPing under cover of night, without telling congressional leadership (actively deceiving them, in fact), and creating another headache for a military evacuation effort by adding the safe travel of two high-profile VIPs to the long, long list of urgent matters facing the military leaders already in the middle of orchestrating the rapid evacuation of more than 120,000 people. The Biden administration and the speaker’s office are both reportedly livid at the stunt. Moulton was never on the best of terms with his fellow House Democrats, having been a leading voice of centrist opposition to Pelosi in past Congresses; it’s risky for him to anger his fellow Democrats any further. Unfortunately for Moulton, throwing a wrench into a humanitarian evacuation effort—crossing the House Speaker and the Democratic president’s administration, and lying to a widely-respected senior House Democrat in the process, is exactly the kind of thing that pisses people off.

NY-12

Incumbent Carolyn Maloney and challenger Rana Adbelhamid got into their first public back-and-forth this week, concerning one of Maloney's stranger moments: that time she wore a burqa on the House floor. In 2001, during debates over what form the American response to the September 11th attacks should take, Maloney argued for what eventually took place: a toppling of the Taliban government in Afghanistan in an effort to build the nation on a different social order. The counter-argument from more dovish voices—that the US had no real ability to successfully engage in that kind of nation-building, and that this was an open invitation for endless war—may have been correct, which is why the war only ended this week and left no visible progress in its wake. But Maloney had no interest in engaging with those arguments. To make her case for the war, Maloney instead walked onto the house floor in a burqa and proceeded to give a speech—which aged poorly literally immediately—about the state of women’s rights in Afghanistan, praising the Bush administration for its commitment to human rights.

As the war wound to a close this week, Abdelhamid resurfaced this clip, and called Maloney out for the Islamophobic argument she made. Maloney refused to apologize, and even defended her choices, not just about the burqa, but about the war in general, which she maintains “overall helped the country”.

Also this week, Democracy for America endorsed Rana Abdelhamid.

Boston Mayor

Finally, we have our first independent polling of this race since June, courtesy of Emerson. Like every other pollster, they find progressive City Councilor Michelle Wu in the lead, with 24% of the vote. What’s surprising is who’s in second: Councilor Annissa Essaibi George at 18%, followed by acting Mayor Kim Janey at 16% and Councilor Andrea Campbell at 14%. While most polls have had Wu ahead with a tight race for 2nd place, this is the first time any independent pollster has found Essaibi George in that position. Essaibi George, the most conservative candidate in the race, is probably the best opponent for Wu’s runoff chances. As we mentioned last week, Wu managed to do this without any serious outside spending on her behalf up until this point. That is changing this week, with the entry of a new PAC, the Boston Turnout Project, whose top donors have ties to Elizabeth Warren (who has endorsed Wu) and Bernie Sanders (who has not).

Buffalo Mayor

Longtime mayor Byron Brown’s flailing, desperate attempts at getting a third-party ballot line are currently going nowhere, with the Erie County Board of Elections rejecting his latest attempt because of a minor problem: he missed the deadline to file an independent candidacy by more than three months. He’s now suing, because he’s a pretty committed sore loser, but as of this writing it appears he’ll only be able to collect write-in votes in November.

Meanwhile, the Erie County Democratic Committee finally got around to endorsing India Walton, more than two months after she defeated Brown in the Democratic primary. Indefensible that they didn’t do this immediately after she won, of course, but better late than never. (And it’s a bad sign for Brown that the stalwarts of the party establishment who run the county committee are officially giving up on his campaign.)

Today, Gov. Kathy Hochul, herself a fixture of Buffalo-area politics since her election to a suburban town council in the 90s, dodged a question about whether she’d endorse Walton. If nothing else, it’s a reminder that despite Hochul’s decent first week as governor, she was a NRA-endorsed conservative Democrat who made her name cracking down on immigrants prior to getting hastily attached to Andrew Cuomo’s statewide ticket in 2014. (Something any potential primary opponent would be wise to exploit in 2022.)

Cleveland Mayor

Justin Bibb, the most progressive viable candidate, was catching fire with his outsider-themed campaign, snagging major endorsements and showing surprising strength in the polls. And maybe that won’t change! But he got his first real bit of bad news this week: the Cleveland Plain Dealer found that he failed to report income and investments in his required state ethics disclosures for a period of several years in his capacity as a member of the area transit authority’s board of trustees.

Los Angeles Mayor

Rep. Karen Bass, the immediate former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus and a reported finalist in Joe Biden’s 2020 vice presidential search, has acknowledged she is seriously considering a run for mayor of Los Angeles, after weeks of ducking the question. Bass is respected by most people across the ideological spectrum in California politics, from centrists to progressives, and would likely bowl over the current competition: City Attorney Mike Feuer and City Councilman Joe Buscaino, the two major declared candidates. A stronger opponent than either Feuer or Buscaino would be required to give Bass a real challenge.

The redistricting situation is very, very uncertain in the LA area, thanks to the area’s anemic population growth and California’s loss of a congressional seat, so we don’t have the slightest idea what this could mean for the U.S. House, and we’re not even going to try to predict that. At least not yet.

Seattle Mayor, City Attorney, City Council Position 9, Ballot Measures

Seattle’s elections are shaping up to be pure war between the city’s moderate, well-off voters (and their business-backed candidates of choice) and the city’s more quintessentially Seattle progressive faction. In all three marquee races—Mayor, City Attorney, and City Council Position 9—progressives got their candidates into the runoff, and the moderates got theirs in as well. Liberals who tried to thread the needle between the two groups initially looked like serious contenders, but all lost painfully, including Pete Holmes in the City Attorney race, who came in 3rd place out of 3 as an incumbent.

With these stakes, moderates need things to go right, and to that end they have an ace up their sleeve: Compassion Seattle. This group seeks to channel the anti-homeless sentiment within the city to a ballot measure forcing the city to resume the violent sweep of homeless encampments that have officially been ended in the city. As a sweetener to get more well-meaning liberals on board, they also threw on a handful of requirements to build new housing, but the core of it has always been on clearing out society’s undesirables. Moderates have been hoping this ballot measure would serve to juice turnout from their side, and force the terms of debate onto their turf.

This week, it got thrown off the ballot for exceeding the scope of the charter measure program. Compassion Seattle has decided to appeal, but they don’t sound optimistic. Their initial reaction was to tell their supporters to focus on the regular offices instead, and now their website displays a message that they’ll be fighting for their goals, whether through the charter amendment or “holding the candidates...accountable”. 

Speaking of those regular offices:

Moderate mayoral candidate and former city councilor Bruce Harrell, fresh off a first-place finish in the top-two primary, has chosen to tee off the general election against progressive City Council President Lorena González by...aligning himself with the Republican candidate for City Attorney?

Harrell’s designated representative at a local Democratic committee’s endorsement meeting also spoke against the endorsement of Nicole Thomas-Kennedy, an abolitionist public defender who also happens to be the only Democrat left standing in the City Attorney race (against a Republican, Ann Davison.)

Yeah, bizarre.

Yes, it makes sense ideologically, Davison is an ex-Democrat-turned-moderate-ish Republican and Harrell is terrible, but man, what is Harrell’s team thinking? Sure, it’s good for Davison, who desperately needs Democratic support before abolitionist public defender Nicole Thomas-Kennedy (who upset incumbent City Attorney Pete Holmes, a run-of-the-mill Democrat, in the first round) can turn this officially nonpartisan race into a Democrat-vs.-Republican election. But it opens up Harrell to attacks from González, because his campaign’s official representative publicly argued against backing the Democrat in a Democrat-vs.-Republican election! (Perhaps unsurprisingly, the local Democrats decided to back González and Thomas-Kennedy after that performance. They did sit out the race for the at-large city council seat being contested by a moderate, business-aligned Democrat, Sara Nelson, and a socialist third-party candidate, Nikkita Oliver.) Getting on the wrong side of simple partisanship in a city as blue as Seattle (where Donald Trump got less than 10% of the vote in both 2016 and 2020) is a dangerous move.

Primary School 8/24

the Problem Causers Caucus

Elections

After a long drought, we finally have some elections taking place! St. Petersburg, Florida and Birmingham, Alabama hold elections today. Polls close at 7 PM Eastern Time in St. Petersburg, and 7 PM Central Time (8 PM Eastern Time) in Birmingham.

Birmingham, Alabama

Mayor

Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin unseated then-mayor William Bell in 2017 by running to his left. Bell is back for another round, this time joined by another candidate, county commissioner and former city councilor LaShunda Scales. Scales, like Bell, is to Woodfin’s right; her greatest hits include allegedly violating election law and objecting to the display of an LGBTQ rights exhibit in a civil rights commemoration. A few other candidates are also running. If nobody achieves a majority, the top two vote-getters will advance to an October runoff.

Council

Birmingham DSA has a slate of council candidates, cross-endorsed by the Working Families Party; they are Qunelius “Cory” Pettway against incumbent William Parker in District 4, Celinda Soto for the open seat in District 8, and Eric Hall against incumbent John Hilliard in District 9. WFP has also endorsed Birmingham Federation of Teachers president Richard Franklin against District 5 incumbent Darrell O’Quinn. All four of these council races have other candidates, so if no candidate achieves a majority, an October runoff between the top two is triggered, just as in the mayoral race.

St. Petersburg, Florida

Mayor

Democratic Mayor Rick Kriseman is termed out, leaving a wide-open race to succeed him in this Central Florida city of more than a quarter of a million people. St. Petersburg is pretty Democratic, but not overwhelmingly so—the baseline for a Democrat in a partisan election there is somewhere in the neighborhood of 60% of the vote. Unfortunately, St. Petersburg’s elections are nonpartisan, which is why Kriseman’s 2013 victory made him the first Democrat (and the first non-Republican) to win a St. Petersburg mayoral election in the 21st century. That’s why the campaign of city councilor Robert Blackmon can’t be written off, even though he’s a Republican in a Democratic city; especially as the only Republican, he’s got a decent shot at snagging one of the two spots in the runoff. Also in the mix are Ken Welch, a former county commissioner; Darden Rice, a city councilor; and Wengay Newton, a former state representative. All are Democrats, but the ideological differences between the three are stark. Newton was one of the worst Democrats in the state House, often taking conservative stances on social and fiscal issues. Welch and Rice are both basically normal Democrats, but Rice has positioned herself as a progressive, while Welch is the choice of Kriseman and the local Democratic establishment; each has been bludgeoning the other over their connections to Republicans. What little public polling we have says that Welch and Blackmon are positioned to advance to the runoff, and that Rice is still in the game.

Council District 8

For city council, we just want to highlight the campaign of democratic socialist Richie Floyd, who has a large financial advantage in the race for District 8; he faces optometrist Dane Kuplicki, small business owner Jamie Mayo, and former District 8 councilor Jeff Danner. Floyd’s main competition financially is Kuplicki, a Democrat running a broadly okay campaign; in terms of endorsements, however, Danner is Floyd’s strongest opponent. Danner, a centrist independent, has received endorsements from elected officials from both parties, as well as the Tampa Bay Times and the Suncoast Police Benevolent Association. In other words, exactly the set of people you’d expect to be panicking at the prospect of a socialist on the city council.

St. Petersburg uses a truly bizarre system in which each council district has a nonpartisan primary, which takes place today, before sending the top two vote-getters to a runoff—with a catch: the primary election is voted on only within the corresponding council district, but the runoff is citywide. (Why? Because fuck you, that’s why.)


News

“Unbreakable 9”

The biggest news story of the week is Joe Biden’s infrastructure bill, and the effort by 9 moderates to kill it. The convoluted backstory is as follows. So far only one big bill has been passed this Congress, the COVID-related stimulus. While that had a fairly large price tag, it actually was mostly COVID-related, and was pushed through the legislative process more with the aim of getting something out quickly than anything else. Joe Biden, along with House and Senate leadership, then began work putting together an omnibus budget and infrastructure package that would collect every spending priority Democrats had wanted to pass since they lost control of the government in 2011.

For reasons of Manchin appeasement, this package was split in two. A smaller, bipartisan infrastructure bill was proposed, and then made sufficiently terrible so that it could gain 10 Republican votes, thus letting it get passed through normal senate procedures, which require 60 votes. Then, everything Democrats decided everything they actually wanted passed would be put into a reconciliation budget bill, which requires 50 votes to pass but has a ton of stipulations that mostly boil down to how one bureaucrat thinks a dead KKK member would have thought about each line item. If this is your first time hearing about reconciliation, no that is not a joke. Budget Chairman Bernie Sanders (still feels cool to type) made the opening gambit of $6 trillion in spending for the reconciliation bill, which Senate moderates then negotiated down to $3.5 trillion, still a number that could make a huge impact. What’s actually in the bill is TBD, but since they agreed on the size (mostly, though Kyrsten Sinema is making noises about opposing it), they could pass the reconciliation bill onto the House, who, if they agree to the size, will begin a two-chamber negotiation on what’s actually in the bill. What a great system.

While these bills are technically separate, they’ve been wedded by a long series of promises. If the House gets both bills in front of them, leadership passes the reconciliation bill, the one that they actually want, and then does the bipartisan bill to mollify moderates and give Joe Biden a Bipartisan Win™. But if they pass the bipartisan bill first, Manchin may not want to pass the reconciliation bill, which it seems like he’s mostly supporting to get the bipartisan bill passed. House progressives (and a decent number of non-progressives) are thus adamantly opposed to passing the bipartisan bill first, because they want to ensure that the (much better) reconciliation bill passed, and lose their main piece of leverage if the bipartisan bill goes first. It’s a game of trust among people who absolutely do not trust each other, and they can’t just formally combine the bills because that’s against the rules. (The rules that the Senate chose for itself and could change at any time, which they refuse to do.)

Greatest deliberative body on Earth, folks!

On the House side of things, Democrats can only afford to lose 3 votes before they can’t pass a bill anymore. Theoretically, Nancy Pelosi might be able to poach a few Republican votes to get the bipartisan bill passed, but practically this could be quite difficult if House Republicans start whipping votes against it. On the reconciliation bill, there is absolutely no hope of finding any Republican votes. If more than 3 Democrats don’t vote for it, it will die. Which is why Josh Gottheimer and his merry band of assholes are taking the opportunity to toss a hand grenade into the proceedings.

We’ll just print each of their names here:

  • Josh Gottheimer (NJ-05) 

  • Jim Costa (CA-16)

  • Carolyn Bourdeaux (GA-07)

  • Ed Case (HI-01)

  • Jared Golden (ME-02)

  • Kurt Schrader (OR-05)

  • Vicente Gonzalez (TX-15)

  • Henry Cuellar (TX-28)

  • Filemon Vela (TX-34)

Additionally, a tenth regular annoyance, FL-07 Rep. Stephanie Murphy, wrote an op-ed which certainly sounded like a statement of support for her nine nihilistic colleagues, claiming “we need infrastructure funding now” as if the most foreseeable consequence of her and her colleagues’ antics isn’t the loss in trillions of future infrastructure dollars. She’s now being treated as part of the group by some.

Many of these names should be familiar to longtime readers. Gottheimer, Costa, Schrader, and Cuellar all had progressive primary challengers in 2020, the most notable being Cuellar, whose Justice Democrats-backed challenger Jessica Cisneros nearly won and is back for a rematch. Case didn’t get a challenger, though we openly hoped for one. Specifically, what this group is demanding is that the House fully pass the bipartisan bill first, and only then begin the reconciliation process, something which could easily kill the reconciliation bill. The delivery of their demands last week bagan a firestorm. Here’s some of the fallout.

No Labels, the “centrist” think tank that absolutely abhors partisanship (when Democrats do it) is aglow. Josh Gottheimer has led the Democratic side of Problem Solvers Caucus (No Labels’s formal Congressional wing) for its entire existence, and 7/9 Democrats involved in this stunt are also in the Problem Solvers. (8/9 are Blue Dogs, and the one who isn’t—Filemon Vela—is a former Blue Dog.) No Labels has termed these representatives “The Unbreakable Nine” and have taken to social media to say how wonderful it is that they’re acting like Reagan and “rejecting” AOC, statements they’ve left out of the paid ad campaign they launched in support of the group. They’ve also launched an ad to support Cuellar specifically where they give up any pretense and use a proven strategy: they’re just straight-up lying and saying that he’s helping to pass “the Biden agenda” by threatening to vote against it. 

The US Chamber of Commerce, the nation’s largest business group, which gets to say it’s not an arm of the Republican Party because it offers token support to a Democrat or two every cycle, has also launched a few thousand dollars of Facebook ads. A coalition of groups including Justice Democrats, the Sunrise Movement, and Indivisible, later joined by MoveOn, launched a counter-offensive yesterday with ads that refer to the “conservative Democrats” who are “sabotaging” and “obstructing” Biden’s agenda. They’re running the ads against Cuellar and Gottheimer right now, though they could always expand their reach. Cuellar makes sense as a target—they already have an active challenger against him. Gottheimer, on the other hand, could just be because he’s the ringleader, or it could be a sign of things to come. We shall see.

Gottheimer has taken most of the heat publicly. A coalition of local groups led by Make The Road Action has been protesting outside of his office. The New Jersey WFP chapter has not only been critical of him online, they have also said they’re “keeping [their] eyes on this situation; it could draw a lot of funding and attention for a primary challenge”. Gottheimer’s 2020 primary challenger Arati Kreibich was also quoted by the WFP attacking him, but last we heard she wasn’t looking to go for round 2. 

The pressure hasn’t just been external. Even moderate members took the time to trash Gottheimer in a piece by the Intercept’s Ryan Grim and Sara Sirota; the piece details how the entire House Democratic caucus—even (perhaps especially) Gottheimer’s fellow New Jerseyans—absolutely hates his guts on a personal level. That might explain why leadership is coming down so hard on this particular moderate rebellion, after accommodating many past centrist rebellions: those past rebellions were not led by Josh Gottheimer. Pelosi, ideology aside, is a bulldozer of a vote whip, and she’s prepared to run over these obstinate members. The DCCC has (allegedly) threatened to cut off any holdouts. The most serious threat comes courtesy of a small game of telephone. One Republican source says a Democratic member of Congress was saying Democrats were threatening to blow up his district if he voted no, as well as fire a relative of one of the members who works at the White House. As far as the redistricting side of that threat goes, Democrats only have control over Gottheimer and Schrader’s districts. Given the leanings of those two state parties, it would have to be Schrader. Schrader would make a lot of sense, considering Oregon’s getting a new congressional district and the state party has previously shown little love for him. He’s also gone a step further than his colleagues, coming out in full opposition to the reconciliation bill, not just how it’s being passed. He recently gave an interview to a local right-wing paper lashing out at his caucus.

NY-Gov

As of today, August 24, 2021, the Cuomo era is over. Andrew Cuomo’s resignation took effect when the clock struck midnight, at which time Kathy Hochul took the oath of office and assumed the governorship, becoming the first woman to lead the state of New York. Good riddance to Cuomo, and here’s hoping Governor Hochul is very different from the conservative Democrat she was in the first act of her career as a county clerk and a congresswoman.

Gov. Hochul has already stated her intent to seek a full term in 2022.

FL-20

Damara Holness, the daughter of Dale Holness (a Broward County Commissioner and frontrunner for this special election according to recent polls), has been indicted on federal wire fraud charges. Damara apparently applied for a $300,000 loan by claiming her company had over a dozen employees; in reality she had none. This scandal has been moving along for several weeks now, and Dale seems to think it could do serious damage to his campaign. He has already put out a statement calling Damara his “estranged” daughter.

NY-12

Carolyn Maloney is holding a blockbuster reelection fundraiser with what seems like half of New York City’s politicians. On that list, a few names stand out: state Sens. Jessica Ramos and Julia Salazar, and Assemb. Emily Gallagher. Salazar and Gallagher are both from the very anti-Maloney Brooklyn section of Maloney’s district (Maloney came in third in Brooklyn in 2020, behind Suraj Patel and underfunded leftist Lauren Ashcraft) and clearly identified with NYC’s left, while Ramos is almost on both counts. The fact they would be at a Maloney fundraiser is odd. Even odder is that Salazar is still claiming she’s not endorsing Maloney. 

Boston Mayor

Politico got their hands on an internal poll from City Councilor Annissa Essaibi George. It shows a different picture than the public polling, but given that the public polls are all from June or earlier, that’s understandable. Her poll shows City Councilor Michelle Wu well in front with 27%, and then a logjam below her. Essaibi George is tied with acting mayor Kim Janey at 15%, and City Councilor Andrea Campbell is at 10%. Hilariously, the campaign writes in the memo that they believe the sample was too progressive, and that’s why Wu is doing so well. Otherwise, they say, Essaibi George would be in the top 2, and headed for a runoff. The poll also finds a quarter of the vote undecided, even now. 

An analysis of outside spending in the race shows a lopsided count. Andrea Campbell has received almost a million dollars in positive air support from a business group that’s drawing most of its money from charter school advocates and wealthy executives. Meanwhile, the Janey-supporting hospitality worker’s union has raised nearly $700,000, but spent only about $254,000, mostly to air this ad featuring the union president. Wu is mostly on her own—the Environmental League of Massachusetts is Wu’s biggest outside spender at less than $100,000, and Essaibi George has had no outside help.

Buffalo Mayor

Incumbent Byron Brown’s desperate gambit to get back on the ballot after his stunning primary defeat at the hands of democratic socialist India Walton continues apace. Brown first announced a write-in campaign, but then quickly switched gears and collected thousands of signatures to run under his newly created “Buffalo Party”. Minor problem: the deadline to do that was months ago. Brown turned those signatures in last week, and this week, Walton’s campaign formally filed an objection, pointing out those small details Brown may have missed, like time being linear.  The Walton campaign also took a look at those signatures, and found that they were riddled with Republicans, from party operatives, to candidates, to right-wing splinter groups (almost as if Buffalo-area right-wing billionaire Carl Paladino hired a bunch of his friends his to get a thousand signatures inside of a week). Dozens of pages were witnessed by registered Republicans, Conservatives, and even a Libertarian.

Cleveland Mayor

As election day nears, two blasts from Cleveland’s past have reemerged. The first was Mary Rose Oakar, who represented West Cleveland in Congress from 1977-1993, in the seat that Dennis Kucinich would later occupy. Oakar, like Kucinich, may be in her 80s, but is still politically active. She came in 3rd in the 2001 mayoral primary and was elected twice to the State Board of Education, 2009-2017, so her endorsement of Kucinich is worth noting. The other was former Cleveland Mayor Michael R. White, 1990-2002. White was a popular mayor, but he vanished from public life the moment he left office. No one really expected to see him campaigning for outsider Justin Bibb twenty years later, but that’s exactly what he’s doing.

Seattle Mayor

Two weeks after coming in a distant 4th and badly missing the mayoral runoff, ex-state Rep. Jessyn Farrell has endorsed ex-City Council President Bruce Harrell for mayor. Harrell led current City Council President Lorena González in the first round 34% to 32%, while Farrell took 7%. This endorsement isn’t a huge shock—Farrell tracked closer to Harrell than González ideologically—but the speed with which she announced her endorsement is surprising. No other defeated candidate has backed anyone in the runoff yet, and that includes the other citywide races as well. 

Seattleite Jason Weill has helpfully mapped this month’s primary results. All the city elections show a consistent coalition: the more progressive candidates (González for mayor, Nikkita Oliver for City Council, and Nicole Thomas-Kennedy for City Attorney) all found support within the denser, less wealthy, more diverse inner city, while waterfront neighborhoods, mostly single family homes and middle-to-upper class residents, voted for the moderates (Harrell, Sara Nelson, and Ann Davison).


Corrections:

Last week we said interim Boston Mayor and current mayoral candidate Kim Janey lived in the Allston-Brighton neighborhood of Boston. She lives in Roxbury, which she represented on the Council along with parts of the South End, before becoming mayor.

We also said that now-Governor Kathy Hochul of NY would get to pick her replacement as lieutenant governor, but that that replacement would need to be confirmed. There is likely no confirmation required for filling a vacancy in the office of Lieutenant Governor in New York; the relevant law is unclear, but the last time there was a vacancy, after David Paterson ascended to the governorship, he got to appoint his own LG without confirmation (much to the consternation of the legislature, which thought it should have a say.) It was a low-grade state constitutional crisis last time this came up, but Paterson won out, meaning Hochul can likely do the same.

Primary School 8/18

he's actually gone

NY-Gov, NY-Lt. Gov

In a press conference filled to the brim with cynical claims that he was actually good for women, but sweetened by the fact that he looked like he was about to cry the entire time, Andrew Cuomo announced his resignation last week. To the bewilderment of everyone, including incoming Gov. Kathy Hochul, his resignation was not immediate; he gave himself two more weeks as governor, which means he’s still got a week left in office. But he’s leaving! That’s the important thing. He’s finally leaving. New York’s egotistical, self-dealing, sexually-harassing, Republican-enabling tyrant-in-chief is finally getting gone. Here, enjoy the Post and Daily News front-page headlines from the morning after his resignation: AT THE END OF HIS GROPE and KISS HIM G’BYE.

(If there’s one thing the New York tabloids excel at, it’s using their front pages to kick ‘em when they’re down.)

Governor-in-waiting Kathy Hochul is running for a full term, and she wasted no time making that clear. The gubernatorial race is such a mess that we’re separating it into its own subscriber piece (but we will note that among Hochul’s potential challengers is, according to the man himself, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, because lol.) She’s got a big decision to make as soon as possible: who will fill her job once she’s governor? As a white woman from the Buffalo area, Hochul knows she needs balance on a statewide ticket; it’s how she, then a recently-defeated congresswoman from a deep red district, got on Cuomo’s ticket in 2014, replacing Cuomo’s first LG (former Rochester mayor Robert Duffy.) To that end, she’s publicly committed to picking a lieutenant governor from NYC; reportedly at the top of her list are two younger Black state senators, Jamaal Bailey of the Bronx and Brian Benjamin of Manhattan. Bailey, the head of the Bronx Democratic Party and an ally of Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, would be a shrewd choice. Benjamin, on the other hand, is mostly known for his ethical, uh, challenges, and for a New York City Comptroller campaign that ended in abject failure; he’d be a very strange way to open a governorship that, whether Hochul likes it or not, will at least initially be defined by the corruption of the Cuomo era. Either Bailey or Benjamin would have to run for a full term in 2022—and while the new LG would be Hochul’s unofficial running mate, New York elects its governors and lieutenant governors in separate primaries, only tying them together in the general election. The new LG, like Hochul, will likely face a tough primary of their own, and a victory (or loss) for Hochul doesn’t guarantee the same for them.

Speaking of that particular Italian TV devil, Assembly Democrats are eating themselves alive over what to do with their own impeachment investigation now that he’s headed for the exit. The Assembly’s investigation, which was generally acknowledged as an effort to slow-walk accountability and protect the governor, still had a wider scope than the sexual misconduct investigation conducted by state AG Letitia James. James’s report, which was exhaustive in both its content and its conclusions, forced Cuomo’s resignation, but the Assembly investigation could unearth other misconduct of the non-sexual variety. Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie’s preference, naturally, was to kill the investigation and bury whatever it had found up to that point; pretty much the entire Assembly revolted, forcing Heastie to backtrack. While it looks like Cuomo will not be impeached after leaving office—meaning he can run for his soon-to-be-former job if he wants to—the Assembly will produce its own report summarizing the findings of its investigation, though Heastie has not provided a timeline.

MD-Gov

State Comptroller Peter Franchot stands out for centrism even in a field where no one could be labeled much of a progressive. Famously, he refused to endorse the Democratic nominee in the 2018 gubernatorial election, giving a winking non-endorsement to Republican Gov. Larry Hogan instead. Franchot knows his base is going to be suburbanites, and so has signed off on Larry Hogan’s plan to ram through more toll roads around Washington DC. This wasn’t symbolic—he was part of a three member council with Hogan and state Treasurer Nancy Kopp, an actual Democrat, who opposed the toll roads. His vote allowed the highway widening (and sprawl acceleration) to begin. It’s already cost him one supporter: Kai Hagen, an at-large Frederick County Commissioner and candidate for Frederick County Executive. In Frederick County, where one of the widenings is planned, concerns of suburban overdevelopment are a political hot topic. Similar anger was directed at Franchot from Montgomery County Democrats.

FL-10

As if having two progressive candidates, Natalie Jackson and Aramis Ayala, didn’t already create the potential for a plurality victory for establishment-oriented state Sen. Randolph Bracy, a third progressive has entered the ring. Maxwell Alejandro Frost is the national organizing director of March for Our Lives, and his campaign has the support of March for Our Lives co-founder and Marjory Stoneman Douglas survivor David Hogg.

FL-20

Filing has closed for the November Democratic primary in the special election for the safely Democratic seat left vacant by the death of Rep. Alcee Hastings. In the end, there were no surprise last-minute candidate entrances, and the big question mark still looming over this race—Miramar Mayor Wayne Messam—never appeared. Instead, the candidates will be:

  • Self-funder Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick

  • Author Elvin Dowling

  • State House Minority Leader Bobby DuBose

  • State Rep. Omari Hardy

  • Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness

  • Veteran Phil Jackson

  • Democratic Progressive Caucus of Palm Beach County Chair Emmanuel Morel

  • Broward County Commissioner Barbara Sharief

  • Doctor Imran Siddiqui

  • Former state Rep. Priscilla Ann Taylor

  • State Sen. Perry Thurston

Jackson and Siddiqui are minor candidates we haven’t discussed before. Morel isn’t entirely a minor candidate. He ran a progressive group and ran for office in 2016 and 2018, but he likely won’t factor too heavily into this race, especially since progressive energy is flowing to Hardy, and, to a lesser extent, Cherfilus-McCormick.

Some endorsements also came down this week. Progressive state Reps. Anna Eskamani, Travaris McCurdy, and Carlos Guillermo Smith all endorsed Hardy. All three are from Orlando, not South Florida, but Eskamani, in particular, has a statewide profile among progressives. Hardy, who got to the state House in 2020 after defeating a conservative Democratic incumbent in a primary, has aligned himself with the small progressive faction in the state House; the three state representatives who’ve endorsed him are members of that same unofficial caucus. Meanwhile, the Communications Workers of America Local 3104 went in another direction, endorsing Cherfilus-McCormick, and the Florida branch of the SEIU backed Holness.

Atlanta Mayor

SurveyUSA polled the primary for 11Alive News. It finds ex-mayor Kasim Reed at 17%, City Council President Felicia Moore at 10%, and everyone else in the low-to-mid single digits. This is the first public poll of the race not sponsored by a candidate. Reed, who now has a poll to demonstrate his frontrunner status, is also pulling far ahead on the money front. As of June 30, he also led every candidate in fundraising except for self-funding attorney Sharon Gay, with just over $1 million raised. He now says he pulled in another $460,000 on top of that thanks to a breakneck run of fundraisers in just a few days last week. His fundraising may be getting him into trouble, however: a watchdog group says it’s found tens of thousands in illegal contributions on his disclosure, and has lodged an official complaint with the Georgia Ethics Commission.

Mayoral candidates have been fighting over crime as the race heats up. It was the most contentious topic at a recent youth voter forum. As expected, Reed, Moore, and Gay (not quite the unofficial Republican of the race, but close to it) talked about getting tough on crime, while City Councilors Andre Dickens and Antonio Brown, running to Reed and Moore’s left more generally, took more nuanced takes on the issue. One particular sticking point was “Cop City”, a proposal to turn a massive, hundreds of acres large, prison farm into a police training facility. Activists oppose the project, and at the forum only Brown and, surprisingly, Reed, were willing to voice reservations about it, though Moore wouldn’t commit to voting for it. Yet, when there was a vote this week on preceding with the plan, the Council voted 8-7 to table it for a few weeks to allow more public comment, and among those in support for tabling was not only Brown, but also Dickens (Moore, as President, doesn’t vote except in ties.)

Boston Mayor

City Councilor Michelle Wu was endorsed by the Ward 4 and Ward 5 Democratic Committees, which include Back Bay and Beacon Hill. Wards 4 and 5 have long been two of Wu’s strongest, though in an election where many ward organizations are simply sitting the first round out, the fact that she’s the candidate who’s beginning to get ward organizations on her side speaks to the depth of her support. She was also endorsed by State House Assistant Majority Leader Mike Moran and City Councilor Liz Breadon this week. Both represent Allston-Brighton, a more western region of the city geographically separated from the bulk of Boston.

Mayor Kim Janey’s week was also eventful. The good news for her is that she got an endorsement from Tito Jackson (the Boston City Councilor, not the singer) who ran for mayor in 2017, losing to incumbent Marty Walsh 65-34. The bad news is that she wound up backing down from her previously hinted at school vaccine mandate and implemented a watered down version that employees can opt out of, something she took heat for from both Michelle Wu and fellow candidate/Councilor Andrea Campbell, who took the opportunity to launch a larger criticism of Janey’s mayoralty.

Cleveland Mayor

With less than a month until the preliminary election for mayor, we now have 2 polls of the race, and both point to the same frontrunner: Dennis Kucinich. After decades in the Cleveland political world, it's not shocking that the ex-mayor has remained a trusted voice for some in a city ravaged by economic decline and embarrassed by political corruption scandals. But the extent to which he, even in his 70s and over a decade since he's held office, has emerged as the clear man to beat is striking. In the first of those polls, from May, Kucinich led with 18%; all competitors were stuck at 13% or worse. In the poll released this week (granted, by the North Shore AFL-CIO, which is supporting Kucinich), after 4 months of campaigning, he leads with 20%, and all competitors remain stuck at 13% or worse. It's not just polling—the others only ever seem to want to go negative when it's regarding him, and the press has treated him as the likely next mayor unless something changes. For everyone else—Justin Bibb, Councilor Basheer Jones, Council President Kevin Kelley, Councilor Zack Reed, and state Sen. Sandra Williams—next month is a contest to determine who will face off against Kucinich. 

To this end, two candidates may have gotten their break this week. Kelley was endorsed by outgoing mayor Frank Jackson. Kelley, who is leading the field in campaign cash, is a moderate, establishment choice (though not the most moderate; that would be Sandra Williams, who has run a stunningly uninspired campaign so far), and was also endorsed this week by a hallmark of that type of candidate: the building trades union. (Though, even in terms of unions, Kucinich came out ahead after getting the Teamsters’ support.) The other candidate to catch a break was Bibb, a non-profit director and former Obama (Senate) staffer, who was endorsed by the Cleveland Plain Dealer. The Plain Dealer endorsement hits positive notes for all the other candidates, but lays into Kucinich, notably including a swipe at his plan to hire 400 new police officers, atypical for the centrist publication.

Los Angeles Mayor

Los Angeles will be electing a new mayor in 2022, owing to term limits prohibiting incumbent mayor Eric Garcetti from running again. The race for this powerful position has been live since City Attorney Mike Feuer announced his intention to run in March of 2020. That’s simply too early, Mike, why would you announce over two years before the election. The only other candidate is City Councilor Joe Buscaino, who will not be winning. Buscaino has two major personality traits: being a cop and being Italian. Buscaino was the only no vote on the Council against renaming Columbus day to Indigenous People’s Day because that would be “offensive” to Italian-Americans such as himself. He comes across as too conservative to win citywide, in other words. 

There’s plenty of room for more candidates, but so far everyone else has been quiet. There may be a reason for that. Rep. Karen Bass is said to be considering, and, as a progressive member of Congress who has spent two decades making allies in LA politics, would be the biggest name in the race by far. Considering her long record of progressive stances and history as a young radical, she may also be progressives’ best hope in the election as well. She won’t say if she’s running, even giving the classic nonanswer that she’s focused on other things right now when she was asked directly by a reporter if she was looking at running. Besides the rumors that have made their way to the press, the biggest indication she may enter the race is that Councilor Mark Ridley-Thomas, a heavyweight in LA politics and the only other Black politician mentioned for Mayor, just decided to sit this election out.

One more wrinkle to this saga is that Garcetti is going to be leaving soon to begin an ambassadorship to India, “soon” being a relative term when talking about the US Senate—his nomination may be over a month old, but that doesn’t mean a confirmation vote is even on the calendar. Garcetti will be leaving office (hopefully) several months before the primary, meaning that there will be an acting mayor, chosen by the City Council, running the city, who can run as an incumbent if they choose to. 

St. Petersburg Mayor

St. Petersburg will be voting for its new mayor next week, and it’s anyone’s game. Former Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch, a typical Democrat by Florida standards, has been the establishment choice since the beginning, and most expect him to make it into the runoff. A recent poll, performed by St. Pete Polls, has him leading the field with 31%, followed by the Republicans’ choice, City Councilor Robert Blackmon, at 25%. Ostensible progressive City Councilor Darden Rice follows at 16%, and conservative Democratic former state Rep. Wengay Newton rounds out the field at 10%. Solidifying his frontrunner status, Welch was endorsed by both outgoing mayor Rick Kriseman and the Tampa Bay Times.

Rice led the field in fundraising, according to recently released reports, and she seems to understand that to make it to the runoff, she’ll need to spend heavily, but it’s obviously not been enough yet. In recent weeks, she’s taken to attacking Welch, guessing that Blackmon and Newton voters are not fertile ground for her. This created a war of words between Welch and Rice about which one is the secret Republican. Newton has also been attacking Welch, but he hasn’t gotten very far with it. As for Blackmon, he’s spent the last week explaining why he posted a variety of thoughts about women and racial minorities on social media. We’d say that could sink him, but all he needs are enough elderly Republicans to come in second, and he hasn’t said anything that would upset that crowd.

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