Right before we were about to publish this week’s newsletter, Democratic Rep. Susan Davis announced she was retiring. Davis’s 53rd district covers roughly the inland half of San Diego, and is safely blue - Clinton won it 65-30. There are a lot of ambitious Democratic politicians in the area, and In the coming days, probably hours, we’ll hear who’s considering running. Davis is 75, but did not have any public health issues.
Rep. Joe Kennedy III has plenty of reasons to think a Senate bid would be easy. He’s got plenty of connections in Democratic politics due to his last name and his position as a fourth-term congressman; polls show him leading progressive incumbent Sen. Ed Markey. As a matter of fact, this week we got our first public poll of the race, and Joe Kennedy leads Ed Markey in it by 42-25. Steve Pemberton takes 7 and Shannon Liss-Riordan is at 5%. This poll comes with a pretty big caveat, however. It’s from Change Research, a new firm who uses an innovative online panel-only method. Change has a decent record in general elections, but their primary polls in 2017-2018 (the first cycle in which they were active) were consistently different from the polling consensus, and they had some big whiffs: they had the Michigan gubernatorial primary at Whitmer+6 when the result was Whitmer+22, the Florida gubernatorial primary at Gillum+13 when the result was Gillum+3, and the Virginia gubernatorial primary at Perriello+8 when the result was Northam+12. A grain of salt wouldn’t be a bad idea for this poll.
Markey fired a warning shot at Kennedy last Tuesday, showing off his own connections with Democratic heavyweights by rolling out the endorsements of an outright majority of the entire state legislature. 116 state legislators are included on Markey’s new list of endorsements, including state House Speaker Robert DeLeo, state Senate President Karen Spilka, and a long list of lower-profile legislators spanning the ideological spectrum. They join Sen. Elizabeth Warren, NARAL, the climate change group Sunrise Movement, and six of Massachusetts’s nine U.S. Representatives, including conservative Democrat Stephen Lynch, moderate/Trump-appeasing House Ways & Means Chair Richard Neal, and progressive stalwart Jim McGovern. As Kennedy publicly considers challenging Markey, it’s clear the senator is doing his best to dissuade him through a show of force.
Massachusetts State Senator Lori Ehrlich has decided not to run against Rep. Seth Moulton after he did his walk of shame back to running for Congress once his campaign for president flopped. In her announcement, Ehrlich said,
“With the daily barrage of unsettling headlines, I can’t shake the feeling that our democracy is in real peril, so for me it didn’t seem like the right time to ask my supporters for their dollars and volunteer hours to challenge somebody in my own party.”
Well, that’s disappointing. Especially since Ehrlich is a consistently progressive state legislator, and Moulton could be vulnerable to a challenge after his presidential run kept him away from the district. The field of challengers remains at Salem City Councilor Lisa Peterson and nonprofit director Jamie Zahlaway Belsito. At least Ehrlich’s decision keeps the number of progressives in this race down to one - Peterson.
Attorney Teresa Leger, who is already backed by EMIL’s List, picked up her second major endorsement this week: The Taos Pueblo, a Native American tribe in Taos County with membership totaling roughly 1,900, who are to many American best known for the UNESCO Heritage site on their reservation. Leger had previously helped the tribe navigate a tricky tribal-state tax agreement.
This is good for Leger, not just for the specific endorsement, but because her pitch has included her work on tribal sovereignty, so she could be well positioned to appeal to Native voters. There’s only one Native American candidate in the race, Dineh Benally, a former Navajo Nation presidential candidate, but he doesn’t appear to be actively running; months later his own website doesn’t mention it. About 17-18% of the eligible voter population in NM-03 are Native Amerians, and they’re more Democratic than the district as a whole, so winning their vote, or even coming close would be a huge leg up in a primary as crowded as NM-03 has gotten.
Illinois’s 10th Congressional district used to be ground zero for moderate Republican suburbanites in Illinois. Republican Mark Kirk survived Obama winning its predecessor 61-38 in 2008, and even though Obama won this version 58-41 in 2012, Democrat Brad Schneider barely won it in 2012 and actually lost re-election in 2014. Not too long ago, it actually was a swing district. Then 2016, the year that the suburbs lurched left up and down the ballot, happened. Clinton’s 62-33 victory in the district is the new normal, propelling Schneider to an easy 2016 victory and a stunning 31% blowout in 2018. The district has changed. But Brad Scheider hasn’t. Scheider was already an aggressively centrist hindrance to progressives when his district could be won by a Republican, but now a Blue Dog who hates financial regulation and loves voting with Republicans does not fit in with a district that blue.
This week, a challenger filed to offer a more progressive path forward. Adam Broad is a Lake County (north of Chicago and about ¾ of IL-10) healthcare activist who co-chairs Lake County Our Revolution and is active in the Chicago DSA. Broad was elected as a Vernon Township (pop 68,000) Trustee at-large in 2017, and in 2018 he ran for Lake County Clerk. He lost the primary 69.3-30.7, but did a bit better, 68.4-31.6, in the IL-10 portion of the county, which is most of it. Broad has also worked for Strategic Research Group and American Bridge 21st Century, both Democratic political firms, and was previously Political Director of the Vernon Township Democrats. Broad has a political pedigree that Schneider won’t be able to ignore. After all, Schneider’s not particularly popular with local Democrats. When he was making he comeback run in 2016 after losing re-election in 2014, he first had to face Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering who ran to his left in the primary, which he only won by 7%, despite his name recognition and the fact he outspent her $1.6 million to $1.0 million.
Dan Koh, former chief of staff to Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and current Andover Selectman, is still mulling the idea of primarying Rep. Lori Trahan. When asked about his potential run by the Boston Globe in an email he responded, “Haven’t ruled it out, still too early to tell.” Koh also ran in the 2018 10-person primary for this seat and lost to Trahan by just over 100 votes.
As undecided as Koh may seem, Trahan is already preparing for the challenge. In a recent fundraising email to supporters, she mentioned, “One former primary opponent made it pretty clear last week that he is running against me.” Trahan might be onto something, but at the same time plenty of politicians consider a race before opting out. This week alone, in completely separate incidents, Senator Joe Manchin and former Congressman Dave Reichert both considered running for governor before announcing on Tuesday they wouldn’t.
Former Clinton campaign organizer Solomon Rajput, a medical student at the University of Michigan, filed to run against Rep. Debbie Dingell on Tuesday. Rajput, per his LinkedIn profile, did his undergrad at Dartmouth, which means he likely has some Ivy League connections he can use. He was also an intern for Barack Obama’s first presidential campaign.
Dingell represents a deep-blue district that covers Dearborn and many of Detroit’s working-class southern suburbs, as well as the college town of Ann Arbor. Rajput’s rationale for running is unclear; Dingell has been fairly progressive during her time in Congress, despite her past membership in the gross Problem Solvers Caucus (from which she reportedly resigned in June, due to co-chair and noted sack of shit Josh Gottheimer killing a Democratic attempt to mandate humane conditions for children in the Trump administration’s immigrant detention camps.) She co-chaired the Medicare for All Caucus with Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), and is herself a vice chair of the CPC.
Here we’ll note that CPC membership doesn’t necessarily mean a member is actually good; Dingell’s fellow CPC vice chair, Donald Norcross, is the brother of New Jersey’s corrupt, Trump-loving Democratic machine boss. Other bad CPC members include Hakeem Jeffries, Eddie Bernice Johnson, Frank Pallone, and Carolyn Maloney. However, Dingell hasn’t been terrible like that, so if Rajput is running to Dingell’s left, he’d have to work hard to establish that.
Speaking of Norcross, he may have a primary on his hands soon enough. Sue Altman is the director of New Jersey’s Working Families Party affiliate, the NJ Working Families Alliance; according to InsiderNJ, she’s also a potential candidate for Congress. The NJWFA is aligned with labor and progressive Gov. Phil Murphy, and Altman has been a prominent progressive force in machine-dominated South Jersey for several years. Recently, she has been one of the leaders of the opposition to a billion-dollar corporate tax fraud schemeorchestrated by Rep. Norcross’s brother George, who is an anti-immigrant Mar-a-Lago member, personal friend of Donald Trump, and self-identified “conservative Democrat.”
Altman said that “it is not [her] intent to run unless the situation drastically changes.” However, InsiderNJ notes that Altman “emphasized that in the event of a seismic shift in South Jersey, maybe as a consequence of the ongoing EDA scandal, she would reevaluate.” With litigation and investigations stemming from the scandal still in progress (including a criminal referral made by a state task force to federal investigators back in April), just about any day could produce a “seismic shift”--a threshold that’s all in the eye of the beholder anyway. Ultimately, if Altman wants to run for Congress, she’ll do it. If she can count on the support of the WFP, and at least the tacit support of Murphy (whose feud with the Norcross machine is the defining story in New Jersey politics), she would be a formidable opponent for Donald Norcross, whose primary performances have never been impressive relative to the strength of his brother’s machine. While it’s probably in Altman’s interest that she sound disinterested in a congressional run, we’ll note that somebody registered the domain name suealtmanforcongress dot com on August 28th. We don’t know if it was Altman herself--theoretically, it could’ve been a Norcross ally trying to make things harder for her--but the simplest explanation would be that Altman registered it because she’s considering a run.
Should Altman run and win, New Jersey politics would be dramatically altered overnight. It’s a challenge to think of something that would be more devastating to the corrupt, conservative New Jersey Democratic machine (barring a Norcross ending up behind bars, which we also can’t rule out, tbh.)