Primary School 3/16/23
Too Many Candidates (for FPTP mayoral primaries)
This week we’re leading with Chicago
Final results have been certified in Chicago. Out of 564,524 tabulated ballots in the mayoral contest, Paul Vallas took first with 32.9%, and Brandon Johnson came in second with 21.6%. That’s a margin of 11.3%, well below the nearly 15% margin on election night. In the end, the race for second wasn't that close—Lori Lightfoot found herself in a distant third with 16.8%, followed by Chuy García at 13.7% and Willie Wilson at 9.1%. Certification also resolved the two undecided city council races: in Ward 1, Ald. Daniel La Spata clinched a majority with late-counted ballots as expected, meaning every member of the Socialist Caucus has been reelected. In Ward 29, Ald. Chris Taliaferro was brought below 50% by a combination of late-arriving mail ballots and an unusually strong write-in candidate; in April he’ll face community activist and addiction treatment advocate CB Johnson, who is running with the endorsement of Danny Davis in the congressman’s home ward.
Wilson was the first major mayoral candidate to endorse in the runoff, but he’s far from the only notable figure to pick a side in the runoff since our last issue. Among those weighing in for Vallas:
Former mayoral candidates Willie Wilson and Ja’Mal Green, International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150, the Chicago firefighters’ union, Alds. Matt O’Shea, Raymond Lopez, Roderick Sawyer, Michelle Harris, Emma Mitts, Anthony Beale, Derrick Curtis, David Moore, Silvana Tabares, Ariel Reboyras, Felix Cardona, Nicole Lee, Samantha Nugent, Debra Silverstein, Ald.-elect Bennett Lawson, former state Senate President Emil Jones
And for Johnson:
State Rep. and former mayoral candidate Kam Buckner, IL AG Kwame Raoul, Ald. André Vasquez, Ald.-elect Jessie Fuentes, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, US Reps. Jan Schakowsky, Jim Clyburn, and Danny Davis, SEIU, AFSCME, Illinois Nurses Association, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, Cook County Commissioner Josina Morita, state Sens. Mike Simmons and Ram Villivalam, state Reps. Hoan Huynh, Theresa Mah, and Kevin Olickal
Some of these endorsements are particularly noteworthy. The Vallas endorsements that we’ll highlight are all local ones: Alds. Cardona, Lopez, Tabares, and Reboyras represent predominantly Latino wards where Chuy García did especially well in the first round, and Ald. Sawyer represents a predominantly Black South Side ward where Mayor Lori Lightfoot was the highest-polling candidate by far; Sawyer’s mayoral campaign this year was an afterthought, but that doesn’t mean his endorsement can’t sway votes. More impactful than Sawyer, seeing as they’re at least electorally successful, could be the slew of Black Chicago alders who endorsed Vallas as a group this week: Alds. Harris, Mitts, Curtis, Beale, and Moore.
Willie Wilson, the eccentric populist businessman who appealed to conservative Black voters and placed fifth in Round 1, and Ja’Mal Green, another unsuccessful mayoral candidate, also endorsed Vallas; Green’s campaign was ostensibly progressive in branding, but he’s a gadfly influencer type, and Chicago progressive organizations and activists already held him at arm’s length. Finally, Vallas got the endorsement of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150, as well as a pledge of $1 million in support; Local 150 had been a major backer of García’s campaign in Round 1.
There’s more variety in Johnson’s noteworthy endorsements, which include some national political figures (Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and Jim Clyburn), a crop of state officials in addition to local leaders and labor unions, and a defeated mayoral opponent (state Rep. Kam Buckner). Clyburn’s endorsement in particular should concern Vallas; Clyburn is very much a centrist Democrat, with immense sway in the national Democratic establishment and particularly in Congress, and his endorsement makes it far less likely that Vallas can count on the help of moderate Democratic federal politicians and national organizations.
In addition to a whole lot of runoff endorsements, we’ve gotten our first crop of runoff polls, which paint a picture of a close race. Brandon Johnson’s campaign released a polling memo from Lake Research Partners, a respected Chicago firm, showing him up 45%-40%, to which the Paul Vallas campaign released their own internal showing themselves up 47%-38%, though they declined to name the pollster. Independent pollsters Victory Research and IZQ Strategies, the two most accurate firms in the first round, also fielded polls for the runoff. Victory found Vallas up 45%-39%, while IZQ found Johnson up 46%-44%. Finally, 1983 Labs (which, suffice it to say, is not in contention for any accuracy awards in the first round) released a poll showing Vallas up 44%-32%. Putting aside the questionable results from 1983, the polling picture here is undeniably that of a close race, and one where a large proportion of voters who didn’t pick either Vallas or Johnson in February are still making up their minds.
St. Louis results
St. Louis uses approval voting, meaning voters can choose as many candidates as they want; percentages listed below reflect the share of voters in the ward who approved of each candidate, not the share of all votes each candidate received, which is why they add up to more than 100%.
Ward 1: Anne Schweitzer 53%, Tony Kirchner 49.7%, Matthew Kotraba 19%
Ward 2: Thomas Oldenburg 59%, Phill Menendez 36%, Katie Bellis 28%
Ward 3: Shane Cohn is unopposed.
Ward 4: Joe Vaccaro 53%, Bret Narayan 52%, Casey Otto 8%
Ward 5: Joe Vollmer 64%, Helen Petty 41%
Ward 6: Daniela Velazquez 66%, Jennifer Florida 40%
Ward 7: Alisha Sonnier 60%, JP Mitchom 40%, Cedric Redmon 35%
Ward 8: Cara Spencer 74%, Kenneth Ortmann 29%, Shedrick Kelley 25%
Ward 9: Michael Browning 49.8%, Tina Pihl 43.3%, Mike Gras 42.9%
Ward 10: Shameem Clark Hubbard 61%, Emmett Coleman 48%
Ward 11: Laura Keys 70%, Carla Wright 38%
Ward 12: Sharon Tyus 63%, Tashara Earl 35%, Yolanda Brown 30%, Darron Collins-Bey 14%, Walter Rush 7%
Ward 13: Pamela Boyd 54%, Norma Walker 36%, Lisa Middlebrook 28%
Ward 14: Ebony Washington 40%, Rasheen Aldridge 37%, Brandon Bosley 33%, James Page 24%
Mayor Kate Gallego, a diehard centrist, got what she wanted in Phoenix’s two city council runoffs. It’s not all bad news; Gallego-endorsed professor and ex-cop Kevin Robinson’s 62%-38% defeat of far-right Kari Lake staffer Sam Stone in District 6 is a relief. Unfortunately, the Phoenix city council lost one member of its embattled progressive faction in District 8; Gallego’s preferred candidate, Kesha Hodge Washington, defeated progressive incumbent councilor Carlos García 57%-43%.
Adam Schiff has meekly withdrawn his application to join the Congressional Progressive Caucus. For some reason, the group felt that the former Blue Dog’s reason for attempting to join them after 22 years in Congress had something to do with the Senate campaign he had just started.
State Sen. Scott Wiener has filed to run for Congress, in preparation for either a potential special election in the event of Nancy Pelosi’s resignation or an open seat in the regular 2024 election. Rumors that Pelosi will resign during this Congress have been floating around ever since 2019, when she pledged to relinquish the #1 spot in the House Democratic caucus after the 2022 elections in order to mollify a group of centrist House Democrats who threatened to deny her the votes needed to become speaker. Are you pumped for months of nonstop Bay Area housing discourse? Too bad, it’s going to happen anyway.
Alameda (pop. 78,000) City Council Member Tony Daysog has filed to run for Congress. However, Tony isn’t just a councilmember; as his campaign committee, “Vice Mayor Daysog for US Congress”, indicates, he’s the highest-ranking of the four members of the city’s council. Daysog is part of the moderate faction of politics in Alameda, already a city not known for left-wing policies. Daysog opposed efforts to build dense housing, bike lanes, a UBI pilot program, a lot for the homeless to park in overnight, and a more effective parking enforcement system. We should also mention that his boldly minimalist website is moderatedemocrats.com, as straightforward a declaration of his principles as any. Daysog has been on the Council since the 90s, and has made a handful of reliably unsuccessful attempts at higher office in the last two decades, including a prior run for Congress in the open 11th district in 2014, a bold choice considering it lies entirely outside of Alameda City and County. He got 3% of the vote.
Actor Ben Savage, who ran an unsuccessful centrist campaign for West Hollywood City Council last year, has officially launched the congressional campaign he’d been preparing since Adam Schiff jumped into the Senate race. His congressional campaign has the same bent as his council campaign: his website greets visitors with a promise of “reasonable, innovative and compassionate solutions;” his issues pages (perhaps in an unfinished form, given the multiple typos) begins with a policy to create “a robust public safety presence” and “support our law enforcement officers”, pointedly avoids supporting free undergraduate education and Medicare for All, and his laughably weak environmental platform even mentions “Reasonably regulate oil, gas, and coal companies” in case you were worried he was too much of a hippy, presumably. Savage starts out as a second-tier candidate, and his ability to rise above that will come down to his ability to fundraise from the font of money that is Hollywood.
Incumbent Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand has been telling people she thinks that Andrew Cuomo is planning on running against her in next year’s primary. Cuomo has clearly been anxious to make some sort of comeback ever since he left the governorship in 2021 to avoid the embarrassment of being removed by the legislature for repeated sexual harassment over the entirety of his governorship, among other abuses of office and personal transgressions. He was evidently looking to challenge Hochul in 2022 to gain his old job back, but polling dissuaded him. The next statewide office up for election in New York is Senate, so it would be the next obvious place for him to look, but it’s less than ideal for Cuomo for two reasons: one, his egotistical, megalomaniacal personality means he would never be satisfied with a legislative job instead of an executive one; and two, the $9.2 million sitting in his New York state campaign account is fully deployable to campaigns for state office, but not federal office, which means he would have to fundraise—and federal campaigns don’t allow individual contributions of more than $2,900 per donor or direct contributions from corporations, which are the two main strategies Cuomo used to build up his warchest.
Aside from potentially having his eye on the Senate, Cuomo has just started an organization called Progressives for Israel, which doesn’t quite have a mission statement at the moment, but seems to be a DMFI/AIPAC-style organization supporting candidates who align with Cuomo on Israel/Palestine issues.
On Monday, Rhode Island LG Sabina Matos officially entered the race for the as-yet unscheduled special election to replace David Cicilline. Matos straddles the conservative and progressive factions of the state's politics. While she was chosen by moderate Dan McKee for the office, he did so in a bid to woo progressives in the contentious 2022 gubernatorial election. Matos's skill at keeping both conservatives and progressives happy (or at least not upset) was already on display before she was chosen for LG, in her previous office as president of the Providence City Council. She was viewed as a consensus choice then, as well as during her reelection campaign for LG, when she successfully defeated two opponents, one running to her right and another to her left. She's also married to the former Providence Democratic City Committee Chair—former because he was ousted following concerns he was racist towards Italians. Matos may wind up once again be able to position herself in a lane acceptable to enough important politicians that she becomes a runaway favorite, but it’s hard to image anyone just walking into the last open Congressional seat Rhode Island will have for a while.
Mercer County Executive, NJ-LD-14
The convention intrigue that led to longtime incumbents losing the advantage of the all-powerful party ballot line started earlier this month, when Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes lost the Mercer County Democratic Committee’s endorsement for another term to Assemb. Dan Benson; Hughes ally Assemb. Wayne DeAngelo, one of the most moderate Democrats in New Jersey’s legislature, was nearly thrown off the line as well thanks to pro-Benson Mercer County Democratic Committee members backing Rick Carabelli and Tennille McCoy over him. (Due to a quirk of Mercer County Democratic Committee bylaws involving the line and close endorsement votes, DeAngelo, Carabelli, and McCoy all got the Mercer line, putting three candidates in the official party column in an Assembly primary where voters may only vote for two.) Without the Mercer line, DeAngelo and Hughes were both forced to reassess their chances; Hughes reversed course and announced his retirement, while DeAngelo chose to forge ahead, banking on being awarded the Middlesex County party line. He got it, as did McCoy, leaving Carabelli the odd man out on Middlesex County ballots; Carabelli bowed out as a result. The upshot of this drama is that DeAngelo and McCoy will win the primary uncontested in June.
Electing Benson, a liberal who’s far less machine-friendly than most New Jersey politicians and is happy to work with the left, had been Mercer County progressives’ number one goal in this primary season, while DeAngelo was something of an afterthought. With Hughes retiring rather than taking it to a primary, progressives no longer have to wait until June to celebrate their victory.
Helen Gym was endorsed by Make the Road Action this week. The group is a Latine/immigrant advocacy organization most active in New York, and while they bend progressive and were thus unlikely to endorse anyone but Gym, it is notable that they did so while the Latina Councilmember for the Latine-majority Council district, Maria Quiñones-Sánchez, is running. Former City Controller Rebecca Rhynhart, already supported by former mayor John Street (2000-2008) was endorsed by his successor, Michael Nutter (2008-2016). Nutter left office with mediocre approval ratings, and was reportedly even considering running himself this year before backing off. Grocery store tycoon Jeff Brown has apparently come under investigation for campaign finance violations by the Philadelphia Board of Ethics, but the specifics of why—whether it’s his self-funding, his Super PAC, or something else—are unclear.
The Denver mayoral election is in only two weeks—people are currently, as you read this, voting on it—and nobody has a goddamn idea what’s going on. There are a double-digit number of serious candidates, any of whom could conceivably make the runoff, and most of them would be pretty terrible business-backed picks. In an effort to make sure a progressive makes the runoff, Denver DSA and the Working Families Party both issued endorsements on Thursday for Lisa Calderón, who was a candidate for mayor in 2019, when she took 18%, enough for 3rd place. If she gets that many votes next month, she’ll likely come in first.
The Pennsylvania chapter of the Working Families Party has issued its endorsements for the Pittsburgh area’s high-stakes May primaries. They are:
County Executive: Sara Innamorato
District Attorney: Matt Dugan
County Council At-Large: Bethany Hallam (i)
County Council District 5: Dan Grzybek (unopposed)
Pittsburgh City Council District 5: Barb Warwick (i)
Pittsburgh City Council District 7: Deb Gross (i)
Pittsburgh City Council District 9: Khari Mosley
A notable omission was County Controller, where progressive activist and DSA member Darwin Leuba launched a late campaign to unseat incumbent Corey O’Connor. Not getting WFP help is going to be a major blow to his viability, especially after getting just a quarter of the delegate vote at the endorsement convention for the county party.
Philadelphia City Council
Since we’re on the topic of progressive endorsements in Pennsylvania’s municipal elections, we wanted to mention that last month the Working Families Party and Reclaim Philadelphia both made endorsements for the Philadelphia City Council. Both groups endorsed the following candidates for city council:
At-Large: Isaiah Thomas (i), Erika Almirón, Amanda McIllmurray, and Rue Landau
District 3: Jamie Gauthier (i)
District 8: Seth Anderson-Oberman
Reclaim, but not WFP, endorsed At-Large incumbent Katherine Gilmore Richardson.
In addition, Philadelphia prohibits any party from fielding more than 4 candidates for the at-large election, which returns 6 winners. In 2019, the WFP fielded two candidates, one of whom, Kendra Brooks, won, unseating a Republican incumbent; the other WFP candidate, Nic O’Rourke, came in 8th. This year both are running again, and both are supported by WFP and Reclaim.