Issue #18

Cabán did it, baby!

Election Results

Queens District Attorney

Tiffany Cabán might have actually done it. Okay, so technically she hasn’t won yet. Tiffany Cabán’s lead over Queens Borough President and machine favorite Melinda Katz currently stands at 1,090 votes, with seven precincts and about 3,400 absentee votes yet to report, including an indeterminate but low number of provisionals. Those seven precincts should build Cabán’s lead; three are from the 30th Assembly district, where Cabán leads Katz nearly 3:1, while four are from the 35th Assembly district, where Katz has a slight lead. Absentees are less clear, although it’s not unreasonable to imagine Katz, who had most of the union support, doing best among those. Still, it seems highly unlikely that Katz will be able to recover enough votes from what’s out to take the lead, or even get within the .5% margin necessary for a recount. (Cabán’s margin currently stands at 1.3%; Katz would need to win absentees by 30 percent or more to pull ahead of Cabán.) Cabán and her allies have declared victory, and they’re probably right to do so, but it’s not entirely over yet.

If she has won, the implications for criminal justice reform are huge. Head over to The Appeal or The Nation for a better explanation of those than we could provide. An implication of this race, regardless of the winner, will be the body blow it struck to the Queens machine. The Queens machine has had a rough year. First, in June of 2018, Queens boss Joe Crowley was famously upset in his umpteenth reelection campaign by Alexandria-Ocasio Cortez, losing the Queens portion of the district by 17%. Then three months later, two incumbent state senators in Queens, Tony Avella and Jose Peralta, lost their primaries as well. This was the machine’s chance to reassert its footing, and they went for it, getting behind Katz entirely. New Queens machine boss Rep. Gregory Meeks even released a public statement calling Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders “arrogant” for endorsing Cabán.

Even if Katz winds up pulling ahead, she’s one of the most powerful Democrats in the borough, who had every benefit of the machine, and still only got 38% of the vote. That’s bad. It’s also a higher percentage of the vote than the machine candidate got in the other boroughwide Queens primary last night, and that one was a 2 way race. Political machines rely on dissuading potential challengers as much as they rely on beating the ones who do run. If they have trouble with a couple races at once, what will happen if they have five, six, or more in 2020?

Data for Progress actually got involved in this campaign. From Editor-in-chief Sean McElwee:

Data for Progress was proud to extend two of our models: our ecological inference model and a newly developed model for estimating candidate support using campaign IDs to the Cabán campaign. We’ll be rolling out a post-election validation soon. The models were used for the field program, as well as to inform the data and targeting program, and we are thrilled to play a small part in this vital movement.

Campaign manager Luke Hayes adds:

We were thrilled to use Data for Progress models in this race and excited by the important role they played in this movement.

The models were implemented by Ryan O’Donnell, with help from the Working Families Party. The Working Families Party and the New York DSA, who were instrumental early campaign help to Cabán and were instrumental in elevating Cabán’s platform to the point where major national politicians like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders felt comfortable getting involved. It was a huge risk for all involved, and everyone deserves commendation for their work. None, of course, as much as Cabán, a queer Latina socialist millennial who put her career as public defender (and even her health insurance) on hold to transform Queens’s criminal justice system.

New Developments

CO-01

Rep. Diana DeGette, who faces a primary challenge from former state house speaker Crisanta Duran in this safely Democratic Denver district, rolled out an imposing list of endorsements this past Thursday. Among the endorsements DeGette has DeGotten (sorry, sorry, I’m trying to remove it) includes all three of her fellow Colorado House Democrats (Joe Neguse, of the Boulder- and Fort Collins-based 2nd district; Jason Crow, of the Denver-area 6th district; and Ed Perlmutter, of the Denver-area 7th district), former Gov. Dick Lamm, former Denver mayor Wellington Webb (the city’s first black mayor), state house majority leader Alec Garnett, and state legislators including state Sens. Rhonda Fields and Brittany Pettersen.

It’s an impressive list, and it shows that DeGette will have the bulk of the Colorado Democratic establishment on her side, in spite of Duran’s handful of early, high-profile Coloradan endorsements. What it doesn’t help us figure out, however, is the ideological breakdown in this primary. There’s really no ideological pattern to these endorsements; for example, Neguse is strongly left-wing, while Perlmutter and Crow are so bad they deserve primaries themselves. Duran is probably to the left of DeGette, but we really don’t know for sure.

MA-Sen

Be honest, if you’d been asked a few months ago which Democratic incumbent Senator would have the most serious challengers, would you have said Ed Markey? It’s not that we’re in the tank for Ed - he’s progressive, yes, but also an institutionalist, and there’s certainly room for improvement. At the same time, it’s weird that he’d be the one to attract this level of attention when Mark Warner and Chris Coons exist. Ah well, the primary between him and Shannon Liss-Riordan will be an interesting one to watch and Liss-Riordan would make a great senator.

We cannot say the same about the newest potential entrant in this race. Scott Lang (yes, like Ant-Man) was mayor of the city of New Bedford from 2008-2012, and is now openly considering running for senate. Unlike Liss-Riordan, however, he sucks. While you could potentially read progressivism from his “Bernie was robbed” op-ed and opposition to Pelosi, it’s pretty clear he’s taking that position from the right. He’s a self-described “centrist” who thinks the party is too far left as it is. He said that the key to winning in 2018 was that the party should “[a]dvance a practical bipartisan proposal on immigration reform.” Bipartisanship, with the “child concentration camp” party. He also has a record of getting angry at Democrats for showing any spine at all.

Does Stevenson have much of a shot in the race? Probably not. New Bedford is the 6th largest city in the state, with nearly 100,000 people, but that’s still not a huge portion of the state. And while Massachusetts has a surprisingly sizable presence of conservatives in their Democratic electorate, it’s hard to see a candidate doing well enough with those voters to win without establishment support. Especially considering Markey already got to the Senate by beating the state’s most conservative Congressman in a 2013 primary by a 57-42 margin. As far as how he’ll affect the race, it’s not cut and dried who he’s going to be drawing more from if he runs. While he might be soaking up conservatives who would otherwise vote for Markey and against Liss-Riordan, he could also draw generally anti-incumbent/change type voters as well.

NY-15

It’s been a couple months, and we were already at 6 candidates in a New York primary, so obviously it’s time for a Crime Guy to jump in. Eric Stevenson made it to the Assembly on his fourth attempt, in 2010. By early 2014, he was already being sentenced to three years in prison for taking bribes. That’s pretty weak for Stevenson; it usually takes them decades to catch any of the notoriously corrupt goons in Albany. Stevenson spent three years in prison, so naturally it’s time for him to run for Congress. After he announced he compared himself to the Central Park Five (um, excuse me?) and made the great statement “The work spoke for itself. It will continue to speak for itself”. Which is quite the statement to make when your work is getting paid off to help out a corrupt day care owner.

Stevenson is unlikely to have too many allies and has never won a contested election, so he’s probably not in the top tier of candidates. But if his entry hurts anyone, it’s probably Michael Blake, both because his entry means that Blake is no longer the only non-Hispanic black candidate in the race and because Blake first got to the Assembly in early 2014 after they hauled the incumbent off to jail--that incumbent being Stevenson, of course, meaning they share a geographic base.

Elsewhere in New York, at City Hall, another leading NY-15 contender was raising hell about taxis—or, more precisely, about taxi medallions, the expensive permits necessary for taxi drivers to own their cabs. City Councilman Ritchie Torres was already challenging longtime progressive Rep. José Serrano from the left, before Serrano announced his retirement only a few days after Torres’s entry into the race. Now, Torres is leading a City Council investigation into a loan bubble the city’s regulatory bodies knowingly ignored. Some explanation is in order.

The taxi medallions are highly valuable, and owning one can be a financial lifesaver. However, they are also very expensive—in 2002, the price was $200,000, and that was before the medallion loan bubble. In 2014, at the height of the bubble, the price for a medallion was $1 million. In order to buy medallions, taxi drivers were taking out loans they couldn’t afford from predatory lenders; the city took no action to get prices in check or deter predatory lending. After the bubble popped in late 2014, nearly a thousand drivers filed for bankruptcy.

Torres’s committee investigation uncovered a memo from late 2010 or early 2011 in which a city employee described the bubble and noted that drivers were taking out loans they couldn’t afford. The memo is strong evidence that the city government knew about the bubble, and it logically follows that the city looked the other way in order to continue reaping the profits from overpriced medallion sales.

It's easy to see the taxi industry and predatory lenders getting involved on behalf of one of Torres’s opponents in retaliation for his investigation—but on the other hand, the increased media attention will help Torres as he seeks to become the sole progressive opponent of retrograde conservative nutcase Rubén Díaz Sr.

Díaz Sr.’s son, Bronx Borough president Rubén Díaz Jr., who has long had a complicated relationship with his father, make a veiled remark about him at Bronx Pride on Sunday, saying “We need to continue to educate the general public, but even our own family members. We all still have family members who need to be open minded and accepting of the fact that love is love. We should not only do that of informing the general population, but have those conversations locally and at home.” It doesn’t sound like he’s any closer to backing his father in the race than before.

New Primaries

NJ-06

If you read our long-form article on New Jersey, you know what county Democratic committees are and why they’re so powerful. For those of you who didn’t, here’s the quick version: county committee members are democratically elected in primaries, and they get to serve on the county committee of the party whose primary they won. Each committee member represents a single precinct; every precinct is entitled to send one man and one woman to the county committee. The county committee controls the official party apparatus within the county, most notably through their power to award a special ballot column in every primary, either directly (via a vote of the full committee), or indirectly (by a vote of municipal Democratic chairs, or by the decision of the county committee chair, who is elected by the committee members.) New Jersey’s committee-awarded ballot columns are incredibly powerful, often effectively determining the outcome of a primary because casual voters reflexively side with the party line. That’s why the entrance of a county Democratic committee member into a congressional primary is noteworthy; they sit on the committee that can decide their primary.

Edison committeeman John Hsu, just elected earlier this month, quietly filed for New Jersey’s 6th district, held by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone. Hsu joins attorney Russ Cirincione and perennial candidate Javahn Walker in challenging Pallone. Hsu made the Green New Deal a part of his county committee platform, and it looks like his congressional campaign will be no different. Pallone, for his part, is hesitant at best about the Green New Deal and Medicare for All. He also thinks it’s a bad idea to reject fossil fuel money.

Hsu’s hometown of Edison is located in Middlesex County, home to about 70% of the district’s Democratic primary voters in 2018. Pallone is from the Monmouth County city of Long Branch; Monmouth County is home to the other 30% of the district’s voters. If Hsu were to somehow steal the Middlesex ballot column (which he will have a role in awarding) from Pallone, it would instantly make NJ-06 a primary to watch. Pallone remains a heavy favorite, but Hsu’s entry means we can’t entirely write this race off.

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