On Monday, pharmacist Albert Chester filed with the FEC to run against Rep. Al Lawson in the Democratic primary in Florida’s 5th district, a plurality-Black district which hugs the Georgia border from Tallahassee to Jacksonville. Chester had announced a run last month, but this filing means he can start raising and spending money.
Lawson was first elected in 2016, defeating corrupt incumbent Corrine Brown in the Democratic primary. While Lawson’s victory over Brown (who has since been sentenced to five years in federal prison for fraud) was a relief, he hasn’t been much better. He was one of only 18 Democrats to vote to applaud ICE in June 2018, and one of only five Democrats to vote to continue to help the Saudi government commit war crimes in Yemen. Other shining moments of his include voting to roll back parts of Dodd-Frank and the ACA. Even aside from the splashy votes, his record’s been conservative for a district that is so Democratic it is, and I am not joking, the official position of the Florida Supreme Court that we should assume a Democrat will win it. Lawson has voted with Trump about a third of the time, a record roughly in line with the Blue Dog Coalition.
He even supports Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, most famously used as a defense in George Zimmerman’s trial after he murdered Trayvon Martin. You may also have heard about the Stand Your Ground Law in connection to Georgia Rep. Lucy McBath. Her son, Jordan Davis, was murdered in Jacksonville in 2012 by a white man angry about rap music, and the murderer attempted to use Stand Your Ground as a defense in his trial. The loss spurred her career in gun control advocacy and politics.
Lawson also endorsed the conservative Republican mayor of Jacksonville, Lenny Curry, for reelection this year; Curry is opposed by Anna Lopez Brosche, a Republican city councilwoman running to the mayor’s left in the March 19 election. While declining to endorse Lopez Brosche is understandable—she may be Curry’s only serious opponent, but she’s still a Republican in a purple city—endorsing Curry is indefensible. The mayor, whose reelection has been officially opposed by the Duval County Democratic Party, is a career Republican hack and former Republican Party of Florida chairman who ousted Democratic Mayor Alvin Brown in 2015. (Duval County contains all of Jacksonville, as well as a few smaller towns; residents of all of Duval can vote in Jacksonville’s mayoral election.) It may be explained by a personal grievance: Brown (no relation to Corrine) challenged Lawson from the left in the 2018 primary, and endorsing the guy who put Alvin Brown out of a job in the first place is a petty middle finger from Lawson, putting his own ego ahead of the well-being of Jacksonville’s nearly 900,000 residents.
Chester’s largest issue is that he seems to live outside the district. His FEC filing lists an address in Orange Park, a Jacksonville suburb in neighboring Clay County. Clay County is in Florida’s 3rd congressional district, centered in Gainesville. He is, however, from Jacksonville and still has connections there. We’d love to see Lawson go, but there’s plenty of time for the race to develop, and a candidate of greater stature (who actually lives in the district) could enter the race. Still, as it stands, a successful local businessman isn’t a bad get necessarily, although his proposed “$250-$300,000” budget for the campaign is not a great sign in a district spanning hundreds of miles and two highly-populated media markets.
Rep. Seth Moulton may face a primary challenge from the left. As to why, look no further than last week’s issue:
“...Seth Moulton [was] trying to convince a small army of awful conservatives (like Dan Lipinski) and, uh, “idiosyncratic personal brands” (like Marcia Fudge) to replace Nancy Pelosi with nobody, and then replace nobody with somebody who Seth Moulton wouldn’t name but might be Seth Moulton. This plan sounded a lot better in his head, I’m sure.
Then on Thursday, [former state Sen. Barbara] L’Italien confirm[ed] that she’s still looking at [challenging Moulton], and she add[ed] a dead-accurate line about Moulton to boot:
‘From the moment he became congressman he’s been looking elsewhere and clearly has set his sights on the presidency.’
Which, considering Moulton is spending his time doing events in other states that presidential contenders are also doing...spot on diagnosis. Seriously, is there a mediocre white guy who’s not running for president?”
Turns out we and L’Italien both nailed it. WGBH’s David Bernstein wrote on Friday that Moulton has decided to run for president, with an announcement expected in April or May. Moulton apparently has some staff in mind already, and Bernstein tells us that Moulton’s wife Elizabeth is leading the search for a campaign manager. Massachusetts law allows Moulton to run for reelection and the presidency at the same time, so the seat won’t necessarily be open (especially because, while we are not in the business of predicting the presidential primary, we’re reasonably sure the 2020 Democratic electorate is not clamoring for John Delaney, but from Massachusetts). Regardless of his future success or lack thereof, Moulton’s vanity run just gives potential opponents like L’Italien more to work with. If nothing else, it makes it clear that Moulton views his current job as a backup, a mere stepping stone to something flashier.
2018’s tightest primary challenge took place in Chicago and its southern suburbs, pitting homophobic, anti-abortion Blue Dog incumbent Dan Lipinski against local businesswoman and nonprofit leader Marie Newman. Lipinski narrowly prevailed, likely due to the presence of Republican voters crossing over into the Democratic primary. Even then, Lipinski required a lot of help from outside anti-choice groups like the Susan B. Anthony list and No Labels, while Newman only really got attention in the last month or so.
It’s 2019 and Newman is back. She reactivated her e-mail list to let the world know she’s trying again, and fundraising already. Technically, she’s in the “exploratory” phase, but that’s just a meaningless FEC thing. An early challenge is of course going to help her get situated earlier, but it could also be a double-edged sword. Illinois primaries are plurality winner, which means if the field gets clogged with a clown car of candidates, Lipinski could slide through against a fractured field of liberals. It’s also a possibility that Lipinski’s machine friends could help him out by finding a “Mary Newmann” or something similar to place on the ballot. That kind of bare-knuckled political gamesmanship is still common in Chicago.
She also has to watch out for the DCCC. Last cycle, they stayed out of the race, aside from a Lipinski endorsement they made it very clear was only a matter of protocol. This cycle however, the DCCC is led by Cheri Bustos, who has signaled her hostility to primary challenges, and was until recently a member of No Labels, a Lieberman-esque group who spends most of their money helping vulnerable Republicans, and a significant chunk of the remainder try to get anti-choice, anti-LGBT candidates like Lipinski and Trump-loving Pennsylvania prosecutor John Morganelli, of PA-07, through Democratic primaries.
Carolyn Maloney, who we mentioned might face a 2020 primary challenge in our first issue, spoke at an anti-sex work-decriminalization rally on Monday. The rally was a mess of misleading statements, lies, transphobia, and police manhandling of pro-decriminalization protesters. (Maloney herself falsely claimed Germany, the Netherlands, and Nevada have decriminalized sex work.)
The transphobia was especially potent. Every speaker at the rally, including Maloney, spoke in front of a transphobic banner from OBJECT, a UK-based trans-exclusionary radical feminist (TERF) organization, which stated: “NO to sex trade, surrogacy, and transgenderism.” OBJECT’s website is shockingly, virulently transphobic.The shit they put out for the world to see includes a blog post saying drag (which is done by plenty of cis people, not just trans people, but if you’re going to fear-monger, don’t half-ass it, I guess) is a favorite of pedophiles. Oh cool. It’s that old trope. Let’s go play Tetris at the local video arcade since it’s apparently 1982 and Ronald Reagan is president. I will not be linking to that absolutely horrific bullshit, but you can find their site by Googling “object uk” if you wish to subject yourself to it. I’d also recommend these two articles, at the Outline and the New York Times, for context on the terrifying transphobia that runs rampant in British media and in British feminist circles. Speaking of transphobia, remember that Donkey Kong Twitch charity stream for trans rights where the host chatted with AOC about Beaver Bother and the superiority of the N64? That was in response to Graham Linehan, an Irish-born hilarious-comedy-writer-turned-unfunny-comedy-writer-turned-obsessive-TERF who lives in England, spends what seems like more than 24 hours each day getting mad that trans women exist, and running ns in the same creepy TERF circles as OBJECT.
NY-12 includes neighborhoods that have long been havens for New York’s LGBT community, such as the East Village. The Stonewall Inn, the birthplace of the modern LGBT rights movement because of a 1969 clash with the NYPD, is located mere blocks outside of Maloney’s district. (By the way, Stonewall was a riot and trans women started it. Also, we owe the modern LGBT rights movement to trans people, drag queens, and sex workers.)
The anti-sex worker focus of the conference is less overtly bigoted than the transphobia flanking it, but that doesn’t make it less problematic. The criminalization of sex work has roots in outdated morality about sex, and is bad policy if the goal is to help those involved in the trade. These people are economically vulnerable and unable to turn to law enforcement for help if they need it. The data shows that decriminalized sex work leads to better health outcomes and fewer sexual assaults. It’s also contrary to popular opinion. Data For Progress has recently gone into the field for some polling that I would like to share with you now.
Of the general population, the prevailing view is that sex work should be decriminalized, 41%-35%, with a MOE of 2.7 percent. Among Democrats, decriminalization polls even better, with 49 percent in support and 23 percent opposed, at a 4.4 percent MOE. NY-12 is in the center of America’s biggest city, and urban residents are also in support of decriminalization, 44%-33%, with a 5.3 percent MOE. Her campaign to keep sex workers criminalized is not in the interest of her district, her party, or the workers themselves.
Powerful DC Councilman Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) is finally facing consequences for years of corruption, with extensive federal subpoenas regarding his abuse of his office to benefit friends, donors, business partners, and himself. Local activists have already begun a push to strip Evans of key committee assignments and chairmanships due to his ethics scandals.
Evans, a centrist and the chair of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (which operates most of the DC area’s subways and buses), was a key force behind the repeal of Initiative 77, which would have ended the subminimum wage for tipped workers. Along with Mayor Muriel Bowser and a majority of the DC Council, Evans overturned the will of a strong majority of DC voters. Besides denying the will of the voters, Evans also denied the dignity and livelihoods of over 16,000 workers, about two percent of the district’s employed population. The tipped minimum wage is a relic of an anti-worker, discriminatory past, and is kept alive and as low as it is by corporate greed, which Evans bowed to. Data for Progress dug much deeper into the issue, and this is another great, detailed analysis. (Speaking of corporate greed, he’s a huge fan of giveaways to ultrarich sports team owners—but he’s not a fan of reporters covering the giveaways, to the point that he’ll apparently pay them an angry phone call for having the temerity to do their jobs well, according to Deadspin’s Dave McKenna.)
Ward 2 covers areas including Georgetown, Foggy Bottom, Chinatown, downtown Washington, Dupont Circle, and the White House. It voted for Initiative 77, and it hasn’t seen a contested Council primary in over a decade. Evans is up for reelection in 2020.
The Progressive Case Against...Tulsi Gabbard
The Case Against a special feature where we single out one particular Democrat who needs to go, regardless of whether they have a challenger. The write-ups get long (trust us, we have a few in the wings), and we’ve decided to make them paid subscriber content. For this issue we’ve got Tulsi Gabbard, of Hawaii’s Second Congressional District.
Quick note: this is about her 2020 congressional run. We’re not touching the presidential primaries.
Tulsi Gabbard is a tricky congressmember to write about. Hawaii isn’t just separated from the mainland by thousands of miles of water, it’s also separated by media and political culture. Common political knowledge on the islands sometimes simply won’t make it off them. And Gabbard herself doesn’t help things. Even local outlets find her evasive. There’s good reason for that, from her perspective. She’s young, telegenic, and attempting to get in the national spotlight. To do this, she’s crafted a narrative about herself, mostly to explain away inconvenient parts of her record, so it’s best to not let that it get challenged too much.
That narrative doesn’t hold up, and there are three main reasons why. The first is that her record contains, amidst a good number of party line votes, flashes of corporatism, austerity politics, and conservative stances showing up in weird places-including guns and refugees. The second is her foreign policy. In broad strokes, her opposition to regime change is a good thing. But in practice, her aggression in the Middle East, conspiracy theorizing, and most bizarrely, meetings with multiple murderous theocrats, are all massive red flags. Finally, and this one’s evidence cannot be succinctly summarized, she appears to be tapping into (through her father) a network of conservative religious donors and relying on them for key staffing positions.
Hawaii’s second has and can do better. State senator Kai Kahele is running for this seat while Gabbard is off on her presidential campaign. So far he’s gotten the endorsement of two former Democratic governors, while Gabbard has gotten the rebuke of one of Hawaii’s senators.