Let's see how big the NM-03 field gets
|Opinion Haver||May 29, 2019|
Cheri Bustos actually backed down. After announcing that she would be hosting a fundraiser for anti-choice zealot and homophobe Dan Lipinski, Bustos faced an intense backlash and eventually relented, pulling out of the fundraiser. Bustos couldn’t resist a parting shot, though, and in her press release scolded progressives that “it is a fact that every dollar spent trying to defeat one of our Democratic incumbents is a dollar that we cannot spend trying to defeat Republicans”. That’s quite the message to put in a press release about the fundraiser you planned for a race where the money will go into a primary campaign instead of “trying to defeat Republicans”. At a certain point, this kind of thing moves beyond glass houses and stones and into the shameless hypocrisy of someone who knows they won’t get called on it. And that came just hours after Lipinksi said Bustos “said she’d do anything to help me in any way.”
Dan Lipinski’s reaction to the news was to go on a rant about the left. He pulled a “so much for the tolerant left” (the actual quote was “There are people in the party who are not tolerant") and went so far as to blame abortion rights supporters for electing Trump. He also added that he was going to be attacking Newman for her support of the Green New Deal, to which she replied “Sounds like a great idea! 😉” Considering Democratic voters back the Green New Deal 92-7, we’re going to say Newman probably has the right idea about who would benefit from litigating that issue.
Newman has also picked up another endorsement: 8-term House member, current governor of Washington, and current presidential candidate Jay Inslee.
Ben Ray Luján has picked up the endorsements of a pair of the most prominent liberal advocacy groups to get involved in electoral politics. The first is pro-gun control group Giffords: Courage to Fight Gun Violence, the new name of the better known Americans for Responsible Solutions, which spent $18 million on the 2018 elections, although they’re not known for getting too involved in primaries. (They are known, however, for endorsing Republicans, even ones with fairly bad records on gun control.) The other endorsement was from End Citizens United, a PAC dedicated to campaign finance reform. If you remember last week’s dustup over campaign finance, where Toulouse Oliver had clearly positioned herself to Luján’s left on this issue, this endorsement becomes more of a clear attempt to stay on the good side of the national Democratic establishment than anything else.
We have not one but two new candidates for you this week from the country’s busiest House primary.
Aztec, NM mayor Victor Snover has announced he’s considering entering the race. Aztec is a town of less than 6,500 people in the northwestern corner of the state near the small city of Farmington. Its mayors aren’t popularly elected; rather, the position is appointed by a vote of the city council.
Snover was first elected to the council, and then appointed as mayor, early in 2018, as one of 3 newly elected progressives who have repeatedly found themselves in conflict with the more conservative citizens of the town, most recently over their refusal to pass new pro-gun measures. When they eventually voted against them, pro-gun activists in attendance nearly rioted, and the police had to break up the meeting. Immediately, a recall attempt that had been repeatedly threatened before the vote was launched. The reality is that those three progressive councilmembers won an off-timed, low-turnout election (the two who had competitors both won with less than 200 votes), and there’s a good chance that a recall would be the end of their careers in this 65% white town that, while we’re not going to add up the precinct results, definitely went for Trump by a wide margin.
This could represent an escape hatch for the endangered Snover, but as a first-term politician in a small, isolated, Republican town in an isolated, Republican corner of the district, it’s going to be an uphill climb to even get noticed in the NM-03 primary.
The other new candidate is northern New Mexico native and former USDA admin official Rob Apodaca, who we mentioned in our initial survey of the field. Apocada has been in local, state, and federal government for most of his career, with the highlight being his two years as assistant chief of the West for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a position he was appointed to by then-president Barack Obama. Since then, he’s focused on running his political consulting and lobbying firm, the Motiva Corporation, although he’s still been active in local community organizations.
Way back when José Serrano first announced his retirement, rumors abounded about potential candidates for the open primary. One of the names dropped at the time was state senator Gustavo Rivera. Rivera went quiet for a while, as the early entrants Blake, Díaz, and Torres took up the oxygen. On Friday, Rivera quietly filed for NY-15.
Rivera grew up in Puerto Rico and came to New York in 1998 for grad school. Since then he’s spent time as a community organizer, SEIU campaign manager, and notably, an aide for José Serrano Jr., the son of retiring NY-15 representative José Serrano. Rivera was first elected to the senate in 2010 and has been one of the body’s best members since then. That may sound like damnation with faint praise - after all, the New York Senate is a notoriously corrupt body that just a few years ago was full of self-dealers, the Republican-supporting IDC, calcified incumbents, Republicans, and Rubén Díaz Sr., but Rivera would stand out even by the standards of a more progressive body. He’s best known for his tireless efforts championing single payer, a legislative project entering its second year, long after Democrats in his position in the California legislature left it for dead. He’s also a big believer in restorative justice and was an early endorser of radical (and we mean that in the best way) reformist DA candidate Tiffany Cabán.
Outside of Puerto Rico’s at-large congressional district, which elects a non-voting representative, NY-15 has the second-highest concentration of Puerto Ricans in the country, with only the Orlando-area FL-09 having a larger Puerto Rican population. They make up 24% of the district’s population, but more of the voter pool due to higher rates of citizenship than other communities in the district. Mostly uniting Puerto Rican voters would have been a good way for a candidate to win a primary against a split field, but it looks like that’s not going to happen. Ritchie Torres and Rubén Díaz, until now, had been the only Puerto Rican candidates in the race (Tomas Ramos is Dominican), and with Díaz as polarizing as he is, it wouldn’t be crazy to imagine his support as more ideological than community-based, but Torres is now joined by Rivera, another powerful, well-liked progressive Puerto Rican.
Bobby Rush, once a radical Black Panther leader, has settled into political life, and has represented various versions of a black-majority district in the South Side of Chicago since his first election in 1992. Rush has the particular distinction of being the only politician to ever defeat Barack Obama in an election. In 2000, Obama, then a state senator, challenged Rush in the primary and lost 61-30. Since then, Rush has slowed down. He’s in his 70s now, and has been having health problems that have kept him away from Congress for long periods. He’s gone into personal debt after a church he founded went bankrupt, even having his wages garnished. His campaign fundraising isn’t much better. While he was never one to rake in the cash, after a recent controversy where it was noted he was kicking back large sums of money to his wife and church, his congressional fundraising has slowed to a crawl. The first quarter of this year, he brought in $3,000. That’s an astoundingly low figure. An incumbent in Congress almost has to try to raise that little. Rush is looking as vulnerable as he’s ever been right now, if only for the the looming question of how much he’d even campaign for re-election.
Enter Sarah Gad. Gad became addicted to opioid painkillers in 2012, and after a life-threatening overdose in 2015, she founded Addicted 2 Action (A2A), a non-profit aimed at fighting addiction. If you want to read more about her story, she wrote a long profile in Marie Claire. In her capacity as leader of A2A, she’s worked with various community organizations that could provide her with connections and resources for her bid. Still, while she’s filed for Congress, she hasn't announced anything related to a potential bid yet, and she’s still a JD student at the University of Chicago Law School, so like Rush, it’s unclear how much time and money she’s going to be able to devote to this bid.
No family looms larger in Massachusetts than the Kennedys. They are omnipresent in the state, and somehow “uphill battle” and the rest of the usual repertoire of phrases to describe a difficult race all feel inadequate here to describe the task on running against one. Nonetheless, democratic socialist Ihssane Leckey is willing to fight the odds. Leckey, an immigrant from Morocco, left her job regulating Wall Street for the Federal Reserve to run against Kennedy. Leckey attended the original Women’s March and was photographed in a very emotional moment. She’s a member of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), and she has attended a variety of protests and demonstrations around Brookline.
Kennedy represents a district stretching from the wealthy Boston suburbs to the working-class city of Fall River; the district went for Hillary Clinton by 24.2 points and for Barack Obama by 15.9 points, so there’s little risk of a Republican winning should Kennedy go down. Kennedy is ideologically unremarkable in most respects; however, his record on marijuana is downright cruel. He voted against prohibiting the Department of Justice from prosecuting medical marijuana providers in states that have legalized medical marijuana, while 67 Republicans and all but 10 Democrats voted to do so. He repeatedly voted to restrict veterans’ access to medical marijuana. He even voted against prohibiting the DEA from pursuing patients who use cannabidiol or cannabidiol oil, a non-psychoactive derivative of cannabis that treats some conditions traditional medicine cannot address. (In 2014, a year before this vote, a New Jersey family fled to Colorado to obtain cannabidiol for their daughter’s life-threatening seizures because the Christie administration restricted medical marijuana.) Only five Democrats opposed that measure, and 118 Republicans supported it. Kennedy recently changed his mind and timidly endorsed federal legalization, but he’ll need to do a lot more than that to make up for his horrible record.
Correction: Last week we identified the congressional district represented by Collin Peterson as MN-03, instead of his actual district, MN-07. This was a typo, and the other information we provided about his district was correct.