Issue #19

Massachusetts is shaping up to be something this year, huh?

New Developments


The latest right-wing outrage flare-up is over a shoe design. Nike was planning a limited run of shoes with the original 13 stars American flag on them. After Colin Kaepernick informed them that the cryptos on the alt-right have been adopting this symbol as code, Nike dropped the design, causing the right to have a predictable meltdown. Joining in on the boycott of a shoe company because they listened to Kaepernick about the type of American flag on a pair of sneakers he was never going to buy is Dan Lipinski. This isn’t really campaign news, but man fuck Lipinski.


Did you watch the second Democratic presidential debate on Thursday? We were tuning in for Marianne Williamson, of course, but the big news from the night wound up being the spirited back-and-forth, sparked by Kamala Harris, and centered around Joe Biden’s opposition to school busing. This put busing back in the national conversation, which wasn’t good for Ed Markey. Why? Let’s check out this Harvard Crimson article published in 1976 about his first Congressional run:

Markey supports a constitutional amendment to prohibit abortion, and opposes busing to achieve racial integration in public schools. He says his abortion position is a matter of conscience, because he thinks abortion is wrong. His busing position is based on his belief that busing doesn't improve the quality of education. Instead, Markey advocates increased funding of inner-city schools and non-discriminatory hiring and assignment policies on the part of local school committees. The abortion and busing issues are volatile in parts of the Seventh District, and Markey's stands on these issues probably lost him few votes.

Neither of those are particularly good positions to take. Of the two, Markey’s shift on abortion is better known. His position on the issue got gradually more liberal, and by the 1990s he was staking out a pretty consistently pro-choice view. He also made his evolution on that issue earlier than a lot of other Democrats who followed a similar trajectory. For instance, he voted against the 1993 Hyde Amendment; yes votes include Dick Durbin, Sherrod Brown, Pete Visclosky, Richard Neal, Marcy Kaptur, and Jim Cooper. Current senator Bob Casey was so anti-choice in his 2002 governor run that eventual primary winner Ed Rendell convinced 15,000 pro-choice Republicans to change party registration to vote against Casey in the primary. Markey’s 2013 Senate primary against famously anti-choice Democrat Stephen Lynch firmly established him as part of the party’s mainstream liberal wing on the issue, and no doubt helped make him less vulnerable on that front.

But busing? That’s an interesting one. It’s harmful for Markey for the same reasons it’s harmful for Biden. It’s been out of the news for a long time, so there’s no smooth change in opinion. It’s just the voters of today getting confronted with conservative racial politics from over 40 years ago. And the timespan only underlines one of Markey’s big issues in this race: age and the potential impression that his time is up. Challenger Shannon Liss-Riordan brought this up on Twitter, prompting news coverage of Markey’s old stances.

Meanwhile, another candidate is considering entering the fray. Four weeks ago, we discussed businessman Steve Pemberton’s potential entry into the race, and noted that he hadn’t talked about much policy. A Politico article published yesterday quotes an advisor of his talking about the dynamics of the race, name-checking Ayanna Pressley and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as guiding examples of the political moment they want to emulate, giving us the best idea yet of Pembleton’s political perspective. As we’ve said before, split fields are very much not a good thing in states without runoffs, which includes Massachusetts, so we hope Pemberton and Liss-Riordan are not both on the ballot next year.


The country’s busiest primary just got even busier with the entry of Sandoval County Treasurer Laura Montoya. Most residents of Sandoval County live in Rio Rancho, a small city suburban to Albuquerque. The county itself has 145,000 or so residents, most of whom live in NM-03, and it’s still something of a swing county, putting it to the right of the district. In last year’s uncontested NM-03 primary, Sandoval cast 11.9% of the Democratic ballots in the district. Montoya has been the county’s treasurer since her first election in 2012. Treasurer isn’t a very ideological position, and her issues page for her Congressional run is pretty moderate.

Montoya has some baggage. In 2014, she and her ex-boyfriend got into an altercation over pictures on his phone she wanted him to delete. She bit him on the elbow and left teeth marks in his skin. When the police arrived, her ex-boyfriend said she had done so when he reached for his phone, then punched him. She said she had bitten him because he put her in a chokehold. The police officer on the scene said he did not believe her story matched the bite mark, so he issued her a summons for battery. Her ex-boyfriend wanted nothing to do with the case, and his refusal to show up to the hearing led prosecutors to drop the charges. She maintains she acted in self defense.

Montoya also has a well-documented rocky relationship with other local county politicians. Her re-election campaign leaned heavily on her disagreements with the County Council. Recently, she’s also fought them over ethics reform. A particularly nasty clash occurred in late 2016, during a County Commission meeting inquiring into how she’d been conducting her office, including missing meetings, leaving appointments vacant, and not responding to records requests. The meeting got heated, and at one point she told a commissioner "Mr. Chairman you are at a point where you are being disrespectful. I am an elected official by the entire county. You were elected by one fifth of it". Additional context for that remark is that it was said to the county’s only Native American Commissioner, and his district contains the County’s Native American reservations.

At this point, the size of this field is in the double digits. There are plenty of better options.


Robert Zimmerman, a DNC member and a longtime figure in the Long Island political scene, has been openly mulling a run against incumbent Tom Suozzi for months. Now, Newsday reports that “someone” has commissioned a poll testing out the waters for that race, and what’s more that whoever commissioned it like the results enough to pass it around behind the scenes. Who commissioned the poll? Well, no one’s taking ownership of it, but when Newsday asked Zimmerman, he didn’t deny it. If a politician won’t deny they ran a poll, chances are very high they did.

As previously mentioned, Zimmerman’s been around for a while. He first ran for a predecessor to NY-04 in 1982, and then made a couple attempts at the Assembly that decade. He’s been popping up here and there in the political scene since then. In its reporting on the poll, Newsday notes that in 2014 he supported Republican state senator Jack Martins, who had just had a close call in 2012 and was looking like he might be in danger again that cycle (well, before it became apparent that 2014 would turn out like 2014 turned out). Still, Zimmerman has attacked Suozzi for being close to Republicans, saying, “Suozzi has been so supportive of Trump and the right wing that the only group not polling in the 3rd C.D. is the Republican Party.” That’s Long Island politics for you. Suozzi sucks and the two candidates running to his left are a guy who loves the Citizens United decision and another who backed a prominent Republican five years ago.


Councilman Ritchie Torres picked up an endorsement on Thursday from the Equality PAC, which is run by the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus. While most of the 165 members of the Caucus are not members of the LGBT community, all of the candidates backed by the PAC’s independent expenditures are. The PAC also gives contributions to a variety of candidates, but those are limited to $5,000. The Equality PAC usually spends more on general elections - the most they’ve spent in a primary to date is about $79,000, but with the necessity of defeating vicious homophobe Rubén Díaz Sr. looming large, they might want to be a real factor in this race.


Dave Weigel of the Washington Post reports that EMILY’s List is interested in TX-28. However, they do not seem to be sold on Jessica Cisneros and are looking at a variety of potential candidates for the race. It is unclear if they are considering Cisneros or not. This is very interesting. EMILY’s List has been known to be a very establishment friendly organization - their last-minute endorsement of Marie Newman in 2018 was their first attempt at primarying an incumbent. This could signal an organization that’s more willing to play hardball. It doesn’t, however, signify that they’re taking a huge leap left. Jessica Cisneros, a pro-choice woman, is certainly eligible for their endorsement, but EMILY’s List isn’t biting just yet. 

It’s not hard to see why they might want their own candidate. Cisneros appears to mostly be tied to the Justice Democrats, which has publicly sparred with EMILY’s List. Additionally, she doesn’t have any connections to the established political scene that EMILY usually works in, or with the local Laredo establishment. This is her first electoral work aside from her time interning in Henry Cuellar’s office. That doesn’t make her a terrible candidate, but it does make her the type of candidate EMILY’s List avoids.

Texas has primary runoffs, which means unless a truly perfect candidate emerges, every group is going to be incentivized to run their own candidate in hopes of being the one to make it to the runoff. Cisneros has gained media and social media traction, meaning it may be less fertile ground for a new candidate to jump into. This will also be an early test of EMILY’s List donors thirst for primaries. On one hand, it’s not going to be great if all the progressive efforts are split between a dozen candidates so no one could enter a runoff in good shape, but on the other, having a few progressives test their mettle in the primary to send the best to the runoff isn’t a bad thing.

Cuellar, meanwhile, does not seem to be giving a fuck what anyone thinks of his record, primary challenger or not. He just broke with Congressional Hispanic Caucus and voted to send another $4.6 billion to border detention facilities, you know - the child concentration camps. Much of that will go to private detention facility companies, who in turn have invested tens of thousands of dollars in Cuellar.

New Primaries


Maebe A. Girl holds the distinction of being the first, and only, drag queen elected to public office in the United States. She had been known for years as a political parodist, doing impressions of many of the women in the Trump administration, when, this April, she was elected to the Silver Lake Neighborhood Council. On Saturday, Maebe announced her candidacy against Rep. Adam Schiff, chair of the House Intelligence Committee, member of the centrist New Democrat Coalition, and cringe king of Resistance Twitter. The Silver Lake Council isn’t very large, but the 28th covers Burbank, West Hollywood, and large portions of Los Angeles. In other words, a lot of gayborhoods, and specifically rich gayborhoods. There’s a financial and voter base to be had if she plays her cards right.

You might be tempted to look at Maebe’s performances as Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Ivanka Trump, and conclude that she is a parody of the worst political profiteers. However, you can say the same for Adam Schiff.


On Monday, attorney Kristine Schanbacher jumped into the Democratic primary for this very blue Chicago seat held by Rep. Danny Davis, a former democratic socialist who’s now mostly known for ties to various fringe right-wing religious sects. Schanbacher, who helped with a case that got Wisconsin abortion restrictions struck down in court, is being advised by former Vermont Gov. and DNC chair Howard Dean, who works at the DC branch of Dentons, Schanbacher’s employer. Schanbacher’s issues page is very moderate and bland, so we’d advise you to stick with one of Davis’s other two primary challengers, Kina Collins or Anthony Clark.

Illinois does not have primary runoffs, and Schanbacher is the only non-Black candidate in a seat that’s barely majority-black; given how overwhelmingly Democratic this district is, non-Black voters must be nearly as Democratic as Black voters, so Schanbacher could conceivably win if she united non-Black Democrats while the three Black candidates split Black voters. That would be bad.


Dan Koh, a former chief of staff to Boston mayor Marty Walsh, expressed interest in challenging freshman Rep. Lori Trahan for this blue seat northwest of Boston. Koh, who lost to Trahan by a margin of just 145 votes in the open primary for this seat last year, criticized Trahan on Sunday for not backing an impeachment inquiry, and told Politico’s Stephanie Murray it was “too early to tell” if he would primary Trahan.

During his 2018 campaign, Koh faced accusations of carpetbagging, because this seat isn’t even particularly close to Boston. In a March 2019 election, he easily won a seat on the Andover Board of Selectmen (essentially a city council); Andover is split between MA-03 and MA-06, so this should help shield him from carpetbagging attacks should he run for MA-03 again.

In 2018, Trahan was ostensibly one of the more moderate choices in the primary, but only two of the top-tier candidates were clearly progressive: then-state Rep. Juana Matias and then-state Sen. Barbara L’Italien, who finished third and fourth in that primary, behind Trahan and Koh. L’Italien is currently considering challenging presidential contender and US Rep. Seth Moulton from the left; while she ran for MA-03 and represented much of it in the state senate, she actually lives in Moulton’s MA-06. Given Koh’s criticism of Trahan, it seems he’d be challenging her from the left this time. Trahan faces allegations of some fairly serious violations of campaign finance law, similar to the ones that contributed to New Hampshire Rep. Frank Guinta’s 2016 loss in an Obama-Trump district.


Salem State University Trustee Jamie Zahlaway Belsito has gone from exploring a primary bid against incumbent Congressman and guy-who-somehow-managed-to-miss-the-debates-when-there-were-20-fucking-slots-available Seth Moulton, to pulling the trigger and announcing she’s in. Her announcement focused mostly on how much Moulton is neglecting the district. As we mentioned previously, she got her current job through a Republican appointment and campaigned for the Republican in this seat in 2014, so we’re not even sure if she’d be an upgrade. Still, the race is on.

We recently talked with former Speaker of the Colorado house and current CO-01 primary candidate Crisanta Duran. We’ll publish the entire interview for subscribers only soon, but here’s a teaser for everyone to enjoy

Opinion Haver:

Who are some of those representatives specifically that you look up to and see yourself as somewhat modeling your approach after?

Crisanta Duran:

I think Representative Joe Neguse from Colorado itself has been doing a great job being able to represent a new generation of leadership and make great strides very quickly. I also know Representative Ayanna Pressley, and have had the opportunity to meet her. We were actually in the past both received awards from EMILY's List as being up and coming trailblazers. I think that she has been incredibly strategic in the work that she has done, as well. I think there's a lot of new folks that are really making great strides to change the conversation to issues that are very important.

For me, this race is about the people. It's the reason why I got into politics in the first place. It's the reason why I believe even in my first race when I was 29 years old running for the state house, and we were outspent, and a lot of people didn't think we had a chance, that we were able to win by a very significantly large margin, was being willing to listen and have a grassroots movement to be able to make change. I know that right now, there's a lot of frustration around all of the money that we see coming into politics. It's in part why I decided not to take any corporate PAC money in this race. 

I learned a very long time ago that there's only one thing that's more powerful in this country than all of the special interest money that we see in our political system, and that's the power of people. It's the power of people working together to collectively be able to make change and build community, and that is why throughout this campaign, we look forward to be able to organize and mobilize people in a different way, but also be bold and tenacious and proactive around the solutions that we need to see for the future. I look forward to getting on and talking with every person who will listen to me in Congressional District One in hopes of earning their support.


[regarding the Green New Deal]


This is the first issue, that when I announced to run for Congress, that I came out in favor of. I came out in favor of it because I think, again, that we need to be bold in our approach to be able to combat climate change head on, and that we are also working to ensure that as our economy changes and as we hope to be able to combat climate change, that there will be people who are able to get the training they need to really benefit from some of the careers that would be possible by passing something like the Green New Deal.

I appreciate the vision and the goals that were laid out in the Green New Deal. That's why I came out in favor of it at the very beginning. I'm still the only candidate in this race who has the position that I have on the Green New Deal, and I think we have much, much more to do to be able to combat climate change. The cost of doing nothing is literally the life and death of many people in this country, and we must do more to be able to ensure that we are protecting people's health, and that people have the opportunity to be able to breath fresh air and drink clean water. We have to be bold to be able to take the necessary steps to see the change that we need to in this country.

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