|Opinion Haver||Jul 11, 2019|
Eric Swalwell dropped out of the presidential race. It’s shocking that Generic White Guy Congressman #3 couldn’t distinguish himself by being the only blond one, we know. Despite earlier pledging to not run for re-election, Swalwell is now doing just that. Really, the warning signs were clear last month when he floated the idea of running for Congress again if things didn’t work out. This now puts him into a contested primary with Hayward City Councilwoman Aisha Wahab. Wahab had said she would “reassess” if Swalwell ran again, but the day that Swalwell dropped out, she also retweeted a tweet saying it would be nice if Swalwell lost to her, so it doesn’t sound like she’s going anywhere.
Normally we’d be psyched about this race, but Wahab gave an interview a couple days ago that gave us pause. Two statements stand out.
“We need to conduct background checks on immigrants arriving in the United States. State security is important, but the Democrats are avoiding these questions. We need to be holistic and honest in our approach.”
“Several of the Democratic presidential candidates spoke in Spanish during the debate─that is trying to play to identity politics. Some people feel that their message should only resonate with certain segments of the population. Now, if you take a look at what’s happening today in this country, you are getting far more polarizing viewpoints.”
Neither of those are particularly good, and together they’re worrying, especially the vaguely authoritarian phrasing of “state security” and her belief that speaking Spanish constitutes not wanting to reach everyone, but that speaking English - a language not universally spoken in America - does not. (Her worry about background checks is a moot point: we already have background checks for all immigrants.) Considering that Eric Swalwell voted for Kate’s Law, we’re not ready to call Wahab worse on immigration than him, but she’s certainly not better. Additionally, though the vast majority of Latinx voters are not Spanish-only speakers, it does not speak to great political instincts to come out against politicians speaking Spanish in a district where 17% of eligible voters are Latinx.
Today, a coalition of progressive organizations in IL-03 endorsed Marie Newman in her run for the district. The group, which calls itself the Coalition for Change IL3, includes four Indivisible chapters, Grab the Wheel Western Suburbs, Illinois 123GO, and a number of other local progressive organizations, in total comprising over 2,500 members. Notably, this coalition is experienced with voter contact, having sent its members to knock doors, phonebank, and send postcards for candidates it’s supported in the past; it could be a big help to Newman in getting out the vote. It’s a good sign that she continues to have a total lock on progressive organizations. Unlike 2018, there are three candidates running in the 2020 primary for this district, and, as we mentioned a few weeks ago, Illinois doesn’t do automatic runoffs. Conservative incumbent Rep. Dan Lipinski could win with, say, 45% of the vote if the non-Newman challengers take at least 10% of the vote.
Newman also released her second quarter fundraising numbers this week, and they good news as well. In the first quarter she outraised Lipinski $211,424 to his $128,612, and in the second quarter she raised even more: $328,478. Lipinski has not yet released his numbers for the second quarter. While Newman did get in a quarter earlier this time around than in 2017, she had only raised $143,000 at this point in the last cycle, $22,500 of which came from her.
Hamilton County, OH Sheriff
It’s beginning to look like the primary for Sheriff of Hamilton County, OH will be fought just as much in the courtroom as it will be on the stump. A couple months ago, we explained the complicated mess this race already was. In short: Jim Neil is the conservative, pro-Trump Democratic Sheriff of the Clinton+10 county, containing Cincinnati and many of its suburbs. Recently, he fired Charmaine McGuffey from her position running the county jail for abuse of authority. She is now suing him for wrongful termination, because, according to her, after she reported excessive force being used, he started only collecting the opinions of men working under her, without considering information she provided, until he had enough to terminate her. Charmaine McGuffey is now running against Neil in the primary.
Local Cincinnati news station WCPO has examined the testimonies taken so far, and found a large inconsistency on Neil’s side. In one testimony, he claimed the man McGuffey reported for excessive force quit before he could be fired, but in another a month later, he said the man quit during the process of termination. In one transcript he also made the strange statement “I'm not in love with Charmaine, but I love Charmaine." Meanwhile, Internal Affairs documents show they came to the conclusion that McGuffey had engaged in favoritism, retaliation, and bullying behavior, including, saying in part “Internal Affairs investigators concluded McGuffey had yelled at employees and described them with words like worst, horrible and incompetent.” McGuffey says Internal Affairs had it out for her and refused to consider her testimony.
Things are getting muddier, not clearer, and there’s a good chance we’re in for an ugly, ugly race.
Prominent labor attorney Shannon Liss-Riordan faces an uphill battle in challenging Sen. Ed Markey, the chief Senate sponsor of the Green New Deal, from the left. However, she’s gotten off to an unexpectedly strong start. She got the early endorsement of a group of union locals with a combined 5,000 members in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, then followed up with an attack on Ed Markey’s past opposition to desegregation busing that drew renewed media scrutiny of the senator’s past stances, with busing a hot topic due to Kamala Harris’s attack on Joe Biden’s record on the issue at a Democratic presidential debate. Today, she filed a report with the FEC showing that she raised $145,000 in individual and union contributions since entering the race in mid-April, and loaned her campaign an additional $1 million. Self-funding can be a double-edged sword for those who lean on it, but this is a demonstration that Liss-Riordan is in it to win. Markey would be foolish to ignore her.
MA-08, NJ-06, VA-08
Politico published an article about primaries in the house. It’s mostly a profile of intra-party gossip and tensions right now, but it does contain one interesting tidbit.
“Justice Democrats is eyeing challenges to Reps. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.) and Don Beyer (D-Va.), according to a source close to the group.”
This is nothing if not interesting. Stephen Lynch, who voted against Obamacare and has a long record of anti-choice and anti-gay bullshit, is an obvious target. Lynch’s last primary was in 2018, and he did pretty well, getting 71% of the vote. However, his main opponent, was less than ideal. She didn’t raise much money, publicly said she was deciding which district to run in before choosing the 8th, and wound up finding her campaign often overshadowed by an unfortunate tweet she sent out in February 2017. Wu probably agrees with us that her 2018 campaign had room for improvement, as she is running again. It’s unclear if Justice Democrats are in talks with Wu, who is decently left-wing, or if they’re looking to run their own candidate, which could lead to a pretty difficult split field situation. Earlier this year, Lynch had another primary challenger, local doctor Mohammad Dar, who had even outraised Lynch in the first quarter, but he has dropped out over family concerns.
Don Beyer, as well, is a pretty good target. He’s an older white man in a district, VA-08, which is now less than ⅔ white. He’s also been in politics since the 80s, and has a built up a record of stances that probably won’t play well today.
Frank Pallone, however, is a tougher lift. New Jersey’s party line designation system makes it extraordinarily difficult to win without machine support, because the ballots are literally designed to guide a voter to their county party’s choice. Pallone, though he doesn’t have an especially conservative voting record, remains an alluring target for the left over his repeated fights with the more progressive members of the party.
House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler’s primary has flown under the radar, but that should change in the wake of his challenger’s fundraising report. Lindsey Boylan, a former Cuomo administration official running to Nadler’s left (he’s quite progressive, but there’s still room for improvement), raised more than $264,000 since entering the race in early April, and loaned herself an additional $75,000. Boylan has hammered Nadler for his unwillingness to defy Nancy Pelosi and conduct stricter oversight of the Trump administration, up to and including launching an impeachment inquiry, which is well within his power as Judiciary chair. Demand Justice and Take Back The Courts have also been critical of his refusal to ask the National Archives to release the full documentation of Kavanaugh’s time in the Bush White House. Her platform includes standard progressive planks like Medicare for All and the Green New Deal, as well as more ambitious proposals like abolishing ICE and ending cash bail. (We take it her old boss doesn’t like her anymore.)
Nadler, who has served in Congress since the early 1990s, faces his first real challenge since taking office. As the person besides Nancy Pelosi most responsible for the House’s embarrassing, pathetic deference to the Trump administration’s criminality and human rights abuses, he should watch his back.
New York state Sen. Mike Gianaris, a key opponent of the Amazon tax giveaway and a supporter of Tiffany Cabán’s insurgent reformist bid for Queens DA, is getting a primary challenge from the right. It’s...honestly a little sad?
Justin Potter, a registered Republican until this year, got so mad at Gianaris over his role in torpedoing a massive tax break to a company headed by the world’s richest man that he changed parties, started a very whiny Twitter account, formed a sad astroturf centrist group, and filed to run against Gianaris. Potter, who openly switched parties to run for office, calls Gianaris an “opportunist” for supporting Tiffany Cabán (who won by landslide margins in the neighborhoods that make up Gianaris’s western Queens district.) The Queens machine might be inclined to try and knock out a few opponents, so it’s possible Potter could get some outside support, but this would be an awkward place to try to stake their claim, since the district is mostly in northwest Queens, the epicenter of anti-machine voting in the borough.
The DCCC’s attempt to box out progressive challengers by using the brute force of a blacklist to deprive them of vendors continues, and so does the counter-movement of vendors choosing to embrace the blacklist and take their business straight to candidates. NBC checked in with those vendors, and it seems like things have been going pretty well for them. Vendors are on record saying that their business is up and that they’ve been finding customers through their self-identification with the blacklist. As we’ve pointed out before, we obviously don’t know what’s happening in the heads of DCCC leaders such as Cheri Bustos, but it does look like the blacklist is specifically well-tailored to the goal of protecting Dan Lipinski.
Kim Daniels represents a very blue Jacksonville district in the Florida state house, and yet she is, bar none, the worst Democrat in the state. It goes beyond being an ally of Republican mayor Lenny Curry, which is unacceptable on its own. She proposes bills that obviously violate the separation of church and state, and regularly breaks state ethics laws. She has all the political signifiers of being a right-wing theocrat, including being anti-gay and supporting school-sanctioned prayer. Her personal religious views are also extreme, including claiming that she’s a prophet, faith healer, and an exorcist. To top it all off, she’s an anti-Semite who once declared that “Jews own everything!”
Now she’s being sued for wrongful termination by an employee who had the courage to report Daniels for misuse of state resources. Karen Riggien told the Florida House’s Director of Administration that she was forced to help Daniels with home insurance and her son’s college admissions, and she alleges in her lawsuit that Daniels forced her out in retaliation.
Daniels survived a 2018 primary challenge because Florida, where primaries are normally closed, makes primaries open if all candidates in a district are from the same party. Daniels faced Duval County School Board chair Paula Wright, a fellow Democrat who had the support of the local Democratic establishment; no other candidates filed, making the 2018 primary open to Republicans, independents, and voters registered with third parties. Daniels won, no doubt aided by the presence of Republicans and independents in the primary electorate. A primary for Daniels should be a high priority for Florida progressives.
House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey became the latest high-ranking New York Democrat to draw a primary challenge from the left, with former Obama administration official and local NAACP leader Mondaire Jones announcing his candidacy on Monday. Jones, a graduate of Stanford University and Harvard Law School, should have the connections needed to run a serious campaign.
In his announcement post on Medium, Jones sharply criticizes Lowey for her lead role in the February border funding deal, which gave over a billion dollars in funding for a border wall. Mitch McConnell described it as a “pretty good deal” for Donald Trump, which is not so much a red flag as it is a giant neon sign that reads ARE YOU FUCKING WITH ME PLEASE DON’T DO THIS YOU DUMBASSES. While Lowey ultimately voted against the far more controversial June border bill (the one Nancy Pelosi is currently at war with AOC over), letting the Trump administration walk all over House Democrats in February undoubtedly helped pave the way for the same thing to happen in June, with grave consequences. With ICE raids imminent in the district, Jones’s criticism of Lowey could strike a nerve. She also doesn't support impeachment, which an overwhelming majority of Democratic voters (and a plurality of all voters) support.
Jones also notes that Lowey has been on the wrong side of issue after issue, opposing the Iran nuclear deal, voting for the Iraq war, voting for welfare cuts, and voting for the infamous 1994 crime bill. She’s been around since 1989, and she’s used her time to really earn a primary challenge.
University of Pittsburgh law professor Jerry Dickinson, who admittedly wasn’t on our radar, announced he had raised $100,000 in the second quarter (April through June.) Dickinson is challenging longtime Rep. Mike Doyle in this very blue Pittsburgh district; while Doyle isn’t bad, Dickinson, whose platform is mostly his opposition to a border wall, is at least somewhat serious. Money isn’t everything, but it does matter (a lot), and it can be an indicator of how credible a campaign is. We’ll need more policy specifics from Dickinson before we can actually judge what kind of member of Congress he’d be, because right now his issues page is painfully thin.