The theme of this week is federal gender discrimination lawsuits
|Opinion Haver||May 8, 2019|
Marie Newman, the progressive challenger to homophobic anti-abortion Blue Dog Dan Lipinski, rolled out an impressive array of endorsements on Monday. EMILY’s List, NARAL Pro-Choice America, Planned Parenthood Action, MoveOn, and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee jointly endorsed her candidacy to represent this safely Democratic suburban Chicago district. EMILY works to elect pro-choice Democratic women, but it’s not common for them to go against incumbent Democrats; in 2018, they only endorsed Newman about a month before the primary. MoveOn and the PCCC are progressive groups. The endorsements should be good for Newman’s fundraising, as all of the groups have substantial email lists; additionally, EMILY, NARAL, and PP Action often spend their own money on behalf of endorsed candidates.
Another potential reason that getting EMILY’s List, Planned Parenthood, and the PCCC on board is that they do campaign work. The DCCC has been blacklisting vendors who work with primary challengers, but it’s unclear whether that blacklist extends to vendors working with third parties. If it does, then you should expect to see fireworks between the DCCC and EMILY’s List. If it doesn’t, then these groups could represent a “safe” venue for vendors in this contest, potentially picking up the slack if the Newman campaign finds itself unable to perform some function of a campaign. This also brings up the question of whether Newman could just earmark a donation to, for instance the PCCC, to spend on supporting her, and then direct vendors she couldn’t use to them. Huh, it’s almost like the blacklist wasn’t thought through very well.
The campaign of Saratoga City Councilman and Silicon Valley entrepreneur Rishi Kumar looked like it was going well. He has a position in local government to start from and was raising a good amount of money for a challenger. However, late Wednesday evening at a Saratoga City Council meeting, activists showed up to let their displeasure be known about an event that occurred on March 31 and had gone under-reported at the time. Kumar spoke at a rally for the BJP election campaign’s overseas wing.
While western politics don’t map cleanly onto Indian politics, BJP is often described as right-wing and ultra-nationalist. To get a sense of what they stand for as a party, look at their current leader Narendra Modi, the current prime minister of India. He’s a proud Hindu nationalist, and belongs to the main Hindu nationalist group, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). The most surface level American analog for the RSS is the KKK, and indeed that comparison has been made before, but we’ll go with a description of “what if the Boy Scouts were openly fascist?” The RSS leader in the 70s even said only Hindus should be citizens. Modi himself rose to fame in 2002 after he, in a role similar to a governor, either allowed or encouraged a massive Hindu mob riot attacking a Muslim community, resulting in hundred or thousands of deaths. Modi opposed many relief efforts and offered a compensation package that would advantage Hindus. His 2014 prime minister campaign was marked with a promise to deport millions of (mostly Muslim) immigrants. Since his election as prime minister, he’s mostly been known for his neoliberal economic reforms…but also for arresting dissidents and overseeing an increase in Hindu Nationalist violence.
Attention was also put on an article Kumal wrote in 2015, where he detailed attending a BJP and RSS hosted visit by Modi himself, and where he went on at length about his giddy excitement at meeting Modi and his strong support for the man, of whom he says “his track record is immaculate” and is “a man with great intentions”.
It’s unclear how Kumar plans on addressing these issues, or if he even plans on addressing them at all - foreign politics often have little sway in a primary election. But from our perspective, unabashed love for a man like Narendra Modi should be disqualifying.
Colfax County Democratic Party Chair Mark McDonald, after being one of the first candidates in, has dropped out. In his exit, he endorsed District Attorney Marco Serna. Serna is not officially a candidate yet, although he has opened an exploratory committee and is supposed to be deciding on whether to run soon. McDonald’s endorsement is one of those very, very subtle signs that Serna might be going for it.
It’s come to our attention that among the close to two dozen names we’ve mentioned by this point, we’ve actually missed one. President of the Navajo Nation Farm Board Dineh Benally is best known for his 2018 run for President of the Navajo Nation, where he came in fourth with 10.5% of the vote, and then subsequently was the vice presidential nominee for candidate Joe Shirley in the runoff, who lost 66-34. His ex-politician father claims the family is well known in the New Mexico portion of the Nation. He is now running for NM-03.
Ex-CIA agent Valerie Plame has filed with the FEC. We’ll just quote ourselves from a few weeks ago to explain why that’s bad: “Plame was a CIA operative who achieved fame after she was outed as such by a State Department employee. She was last seen in 2017, apologizing for the anti-Semitic things she’d been tweeting, including an article titled ‘American Jews Are Driving America’s Wars’, which she initially defended by saying ‘many neocon hawks ARE Jewish.’ So that’s a hard pass from us.”
This makes four official entrants to the race, with nine more considering.
The race for Virginia’s 31st Senate district has already gotten ugly, with the primary still six weeks out, and it’s mostly been on behalf of incumbent Barbara Favola. After challenger Nicole Merlene candidly shared her personal story of financial hardship and desire to fix the systems keeping her down, Favola endorsed a Twitter troll’s personal attack on Merlene, calling her desire to live in Northern Virginia after not being born rich “poor personal decision making”, and mocking her for not owning a car. At 26.
Then, on Thursday at a debate, Favola gave what appeared to be rehearsed remarks where she said of Merlene, a young woman attempting to enter politics, “I know there’s a new flavor that you can look at, maybe think about, maybe it’s tantalizing.” Was that comment sexist? You be the judge of that one. Was it part of a pattern of gleefully condescending to young people who want to change things? Definitely.
The final controversy is about Merlene’s campaign manager, Matt Royer, who, it was recently discovered, posted some racist and homophobic things on social media five years ago, when he was a teenager. What things exactly? We don’t know, as so far the Favola campaign hasn’t publicly released them. Royer seems to know, however, and has since released a statement apologizing for them.
In the last couple weeks, Merlene also picked up a couple endorsements. She’s gotten both Northern Virginia Our Revolution and HD-28 nominee Joshua Cole. After barely failing to pick up the open seat in 2017, Cole’s 2019 has become one of the hottest races in the state, so his endorsement means something. As for Our Revolution’s, well, it’s a nice logo for the website, and you should never underestimate how many votes get decided by frantic googling on election day.
Just last week we reported on the entrance of former Cobb County Democratic Party chairman Michael Owens into the GA-13 primary against David Scott. This week, it looks like we have another entrant. Jannquell Peters is expected to join the race sometime in the coming weeks. Peters was mayor of the suburban city of East Point (population 35,0000), which borders Atlanta to the south, from 2014-2018. Since then, she has taken the position of Chief Service Officer in Atlanta mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’s cabinet. While we wouldn’t expect her to run to Scott’s right, it is worth taking note of how her office described her tenure in a 2017 bio.
“Mayor Peters has been intentional in an effort to create jobs and economic opportunity in the City of East Point and through deregulation and smart growth policy implementation, has made it easier for new and existing businesses to grow.”
Unlike in most states, more candidates entering this primary does not risk David Scott winning on a plurality against a split field. If no candidate takes a majority in the first round of the primary, there will be a runoff between the top 2 vote getters.
It is a long accepted fact that Henry Cuellar sucks and is the worst. Back in March, Opinion Haver explained why in our very first long-form piece (which, unlike subsequent longer pieces, is open to non-paying subscribers.) In that piece, we told you about a staffer who claimed Cuellar fired her because she was pregnant; at the time, that staffer had filed a discrimination complaint against Cuellar. On Monday, she filed suit in federal court.
The staffer, former acting chief of staff Kristie Small, claims that when Cuellar found out she was pregnant, he notified her of a 90-day probationary period, which he claimed was standard practice for all of his employees. At a later performance meeting, he extended the probationary period by 30 days, then fired her shortly thereafter, ostensibly for failing to perform adequately on the job. When Small asked around, she learned that other Cuellar employees had never even heard of such a probationary period, much less been subjected to one.
Mistreating workers is perfectly on brand for Cuellar, who’s consistently been very conservative on economic issues. Being shitty to women is also on brand for him, as he’s been very shaky on abortion rights and women’s issues. Gentle reminder that there’s an ongoing fund for a primary challenger to Cuellar.
Denver elections were on Tuesday. The city had its elections for mayor and city council, with some going to runoffs after nobody got a majority of the vote in the first round. All elections are nonpartisan, but most of these people are pretty clearly Democrats, because it’s Denver, where Trump got 19% of the vote. Here are some big ones:
Mayor Michael Hancock will face centrist developer Jamie Giellis. Hancock was accused of sexual harassment by a former member of his security detail about a year ago, and he chose to just ignore the scandal rather than resign or retire. Giellis isn’t great, but the other choice is a sex pest, so that makes it fairly easy to decide. Round 1 result: Hancock (i) 39.1%, Giellis 25.7%
District 5 Councilmember Mary Beth Susman will face off against NIMBY activist Amanda Sawyer. NIMBY, short for “not in my backyard,” is the term given to people whose refusal to accept the need for new housing are a major part of the reason rent is spiraling out of control in every major American city: people are moving in faster than new housing units are being built, so supply and demand drives the rent up, forces residents out, and hastens gentrification. In this interview, Sawyer never admits she’s NIMBY, but she goes on to whine about the horrible neighborhood-ruining menace of a...five-story apartment complex. So she’s a NIMBY. Round 1 result: Sawyer 41.0%, Susman (i) 36.2%
District 9 Councilmember Albus Brooks faces self-identified socialist outsider Candi CdeBaca. CdeBaca had some national support; Run for Something and the LGBTQ Victory Fund endorsed her (CdeBaca would be the first LGBTQ woman of color elected in Denver.) She seems cool as hell. Round 1 result: Brooks (i) 46.5%, CdeBaca 41.0%
District 10 Councilmember Wayne New will face disability activist Chris Hinds. New is a de facto Republican, having donated to Cory Gardner and backed national Republicans’ insanely cruel Obamacare repeal bill. New has to go. Round 1 result: New (i) 42.1%, Hinds 29.0%
Hamilton County Sheriff
Hamilton County, Ohio is home to 817,000 people, roughly 300,000 of whom live in the city of Cincinnati. It’s 35% nonwhite and voted for Obama twice, and then Clinton by 10%. The office of Sheriff is elected in Hamilton, and the one they have is a Democrat, although you wouldn’t know it from observing him. Jim Neil attended a Trump rally in 2016, and offered such a level of support that a Republican elected official thought Neil had endorsed Trump. Neil never officially endorsed Trump, but also refused to endorse Clinton. He’s described himself as a conservative and said he usually voted in Republican primaries before he ran for Sheriff. In 2015, he invited the prison voyeurism show Lockup to film for three months, doing so not only over the objections of most county officials, but without telling them. He’s close friends with steadfast right-wing crank Richard Jones, sheriff of Butler County, who not only wants to round up immigrants, but deport Americans he doesn’t like. He’s similarly conservative in running his office - just a few weeks ago a judge ruled his office had violated civil liberties in the courtroom, with racial bias alleged. Worst of all, he’s defied the wishes of Cincinnati and continued to work closely with ICE to deport immigrants.
Last week, Charmaine McGuffey, a 33-year veteran of the Hamilton County police announced her primary campaign against Neil. Neil and McGuffey have a troubled history. In 2017, she was terminated from her position overseeing the county jail. She then filed an extensive lawsuit detailing her side of the story, that she was angering Jim Neil by bringing up use of force complaints, and that the hostile work environment she was officially fired for was in fact discomfort from seeing a woman, and a lesbian in particular, in a traditionally masculine role. While her claim sounds uncomfortably similar to those given by Amy Klobuchar and Sheila Jackson Lee as they attempted to explain away their abuses of staff, McGuffey is about to enter year two as plaintiff of a federal court case litigating her account of events, and it’s hard to imagine that for an entirely frivolous complaint.
In her career in law enforcement, McGuffey was known for her effectiveness in management and has particular bona fides in the area of addiction, starting a program for drug rehabilitation with remarkable successfulness that has earned universal acclaim. She’s promised a “progressive jail reform policy, with a focus on rehabilitative, rather than punitive strategies”, and has gone full throttle on attacking Neil for his Trump connections, with one of her host committee members even promoting her campaign launch by saying that Neil would wear MAGA hats on a regular basis.
McGuffey and the the progressives in the city had obviously been planning this roll out for a while. McGuffey released, with her announcement, a 60-member launch host committee, which was a list of who’s who among progressives in Cincinnati, including three Cincinnati City Council members: P.G. Sittenfeld, Chris Seelbach and Tamaya Dennard. P.G. Sittenfield is the highest profile of these three. He’s best known outside of Cincinnati for his Senate campaign in 2016, where he ran as the progressive alternative to ex-governor Ted Strickland. Considering the embarrassing disaster that was the Strickland campaign, Sittenfeld was likely the better option. He’s also seen as the progressive choice for Cincinnati mayor in 2021. These endorsements signify clear institutional progressive support for McGuffey.
Only a few days after announcing her campaign, the Cincinnati Enquirer obtained internal documents from the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office about McGuffey, revealing that she had been suspended for five days in 2010 for an incident where she had left a gay bar, been accosted by police officers, and become angry. Accounts differ after this, and she maintains she was rightfully indignant over police targeting a gay bar. This is perhaps bolstered by the charges she was cited for at the time being dropped soon afterwards. No matter how this eventually plays, this likely isn’t how she wants to begin her campaign, which hasn’t even launched yet. Given the well known animosity between Neil and McGuffey and some of her backers, this race could easily turn into an ugly grudge match.