Primary polls for house districts are such rare treats, and ones from established firms that aren’t released by a campaign even more so. That’s exactly what we got yesterday from Democratic superfirm Public Policy Polling, who went into the field for HI-02. Overall, the results are bad but not disastrous for incumbent Tulsi Gabbard. In a poll of Democratic primary voters of HI-02, Gabbard’s approval rating only sits at 44-34. Considering that most Democratic voters tend to approve of most Democratic politicians, that number is weak. Another big warning sign for Gabbard is that she’s currently only leading State Senator Kai Kahele 48-26. While that’s a large margin for Tulsi, Kahele is far less known than Gabbard, and it’s a long-running rule of thumb that incumbents who are polling at less than a majority are in the danger zone.
The poll also finds that by a margin of 50-38, voters “Prefer to vote for someone else” over Gabbard. While this does speak to a low floor for Gabbard, this is a notoriously unreliable question because voters can have very different ideas of what they want from “someone else”, and in the case we have an actual someone else to poll against. While this poll doesn’t show Tulsi losing, it does show her with underwhelming support and a lot of voters up for grabs, which considering Kahele is campaigning at home an Tulsi is in Iowa, means things could easily move much further from her before the primary date.
Last week there was an explosion of interest in the newly open MA-04. This week, three candidates moved further on the path to running.
2018 Democratic sacrificial lamb in the governor’s race Jay Gonzalez has begun looking into this race, and he is at the very least making calls. Gonzales is a new name to the race. He ran on a mostly progressive platform for governor, but since the Massachusetts Democratic Party had essentially decided to re-elect Baker, Gonzalez’s campaign attracted little attention.
Just like she promised to do last week, Jesse Mermell launched her campaign. Mermell doesn’t give much in the way of policy, but does say she wants to run a “progressive grassroots” campaign and touts her time working for former governor Deval Patrick and Planned Parenthood. Overall, a pretty boilerplate campaign announcement.
Samelys Lopez officially launched her campaign this week with a speech and a fundraising page. For more on Lopez’s background as an activist and organizer, you can look back a few issues to what we wrote when she first filed. We guess she didn’t read the part of the newsletter last week where we said that people should stop entering this race, but looking at her experience and platform, we can’t be too mad. In her announcement, Lopez named a Homes Guarantee, a Green New Deal, Medicare for All and building Dual Power as part of her platform and openly embraced socialism. She also has pledged to reject corporate PAC money and donations from developers or landlords. It’s also worth noting that Lopez seems to be already be pretty popular with the AOC/Caban crowd. We’ll be looking out to see how she does with early fundraising when her Q3 report is made public.
Other candidates in this race have spent their week disappointing us. For one, it came out this week that New York State Assemblyman Michael Blake introduced legislation in 2015 that was being pushed by Airbnb, while at the same time Hilltop Public Solutions, a “strategic communications” (AKA lobbying) firm, was paying Blake to help with “out of state” clients, and Hilltop was also being paid by Airbnb to push for the very bill that Blake sponsored. In other words, “In 2015, Blake was being paid by Hilltop; Airbnb was paying Hilltop; and Blake introduced legislation Airbnb had been pushing.” Also, the Hilltop lobbyist that Airbnb had on retainer was Bill Hyers, a good friend and campaign consultant to Blake. The whole thing just has the appearance of a massive conflict of interest — as a freshman Assembly Member with little legislative influence at this point, why else would Blake have been chosen to lead on this legislation of great importance to Airbnb? Blake’s campaign insists, though, that this is all just very coincidental: “Mr. Blake has never worked as a lobbyist during his time with Hilltop or any other organization. Any bills that Mr. Blake introduces are of his own volition and for the betterment of the people of the state of New York.” If you say so...
Okay, so we weren’t too surprised to find out that Blake was up to something sketchy yet again, but it was a bit of a shock when we learned that progressive New York City Councilman Ritchie Torres accepted donations from executives of a real estate contracting company with a history of screwing over workers. Joel and Alan Mounty of Mountco Construction & Development each gave Torres the maximum $2,800, as did Joel’s wife Aideen Mounty. Joel Mounty also gave money to Torres’ opponent and known bigot Ruben Diaz Sr., also a New York City Council Member. Mountco is on a city watchlist for wage theft. As of 2014, Mountco owed workers $910,000 in wages. The fact that Torres accepted donations from such a company concerns us. Cea Weaver, a tenant organizer who arguably orchestrated the passage of New York’s historic 2019 rent legislation package single-handedly, best explains why: “It makes you question the progressive credentials of the campaign… I certainly wouldn’t want to be represented in Congress by somebody who is running on money that they got that [a company] stole from workers... You can’t serve your donors and the people who voted for you if you’re fueling your campaign with real estate.”
Last but not least for this race, Cynthia Nixon decided this week to endorse former New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. We would have expected that as the progressive 2018 challenger to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, Nixon would have chosen, well, someone better to endorse. Like, maybe someone who didn’t spend her career helping gentrification along or who hasn’t tried to use the racism faced by an opponent in a past race to score some political points? Mark-Viverito did endorse Nixon’s run for governor, so that’s probably the reason. Regardless, we’re mostly annoyed that the progressives in this field are splintering 4 ways while the threat of Ruben Diaz Sr. still looms.
Milwaukie mayor Mark Gamba began his challenge to conservative Democrat Kurt Shrader back in April. Since then, Gamba’s been running a fairly quiet campaign. He’s done events and gotten a fewlocal profiles, but he’s worried us with his low fundraising, pulling in only $37,000 during his first quarter in the race which might be passable for an upstart activist but for the mayor of a town of over 20,000 isn’t a good sign. It looks like Gamba might be getting more support coming his way soon. He just announced a fundraiser hosted by 4 sitting state legislators: Shemia Fagan (SD-24), Michael Dembrow (SD-23), Kathleen Taylor (SD-21), and Alissa Keny-Guyer (HD-46). All four legislators are Portland-based, and while none of them live in OR-05, it overlaps with parts of both Fagan and Taylor’s districts. Taylor is Gamba’s state senator.
The fundraiser itself will likely net Gamba much needed campaign funds and, perhaps just as importantly, establish him as a serious candidate in the race to parts of the Oregon political world skeptical of him. There are only 18 senate Democrats, so this announcement means that a full ⅙ of them have endorsed Gamba in this race. The list for the fundraiser also includes a collection people active in progressive Portland politics: 2016 Working Families Party US Senate nominee and lawyer Shanti Lewallen, Portland-based activist and Precinct Committeeperson Sally Joughlin, 2018 Portland City Council at large candidate Julia DeGraw, 2014 HD-45 candidate and Oregon Health Care For All board member Tom Sincic, and about a dozen more. It’s hard to look at a list like that and not conclude that a significant portion of the Portland progressive community hasn’t taken an interest in Gamba. OR-05 includes almost none of Portland, but having highly engaged and connected activists right next door supporting you cannot be a bad thing.
If you’re following Dan Koh’s statements on a potential MA-03 run, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Groundhog Day was getting a Massachusetts-based reboot. Koh finished a ridiculously close second to now-Rep. Lori Trahan in a wild six-way primary for this open seat in 2018 (one that it now appears that Tahan committed some egregious campaign finance violations to win). Koh has been a critic of Trahan’s since the start of Congress. In July, he told reporters that he was considering running for MA-03 again, but that it was too early to tell. And then he said the same thing in September. And now, once again, he’s said that he’s thinking about it but won’t make a decision yet. We get it — you’ve got a big decision to make so play some Cities:Skylines to take your mind off it and suddenly way too much time has passed. Happens to the best of us. But Dan, you really should get to it at a certain point.
It’s official: the New York City DSA will be endorsing the four state legislative candidates from Brooklyn that we discussed last week — Jabari Brisport for Senate District 25, Marcela Mitaynes for Assembly District 51, Boris Santos for Assembly District 54, and Phara Souffrant for Assembly District 57. In making these endorsements, the DSA passed on other candidates, some of whom were qualified, spirited progressives, such as Assembly District 51 candidate Genesis Aquino, a queer immigrant who has worked to reform the Brooklyn Democratic Party, or Senate District 25 candidate Sandy Nurse, a community organizer who cofounded the Mayday Space, a collectively managed grassroots event space. We can only imagine that not receiving this crucial endorsement from the DSA would put a damper in these candidates’ campaigns. While this is it for NYC-DSA endorsements in 2020 state legislative races in Brooklyn, the organization has more endorsements coming for congressional candidates and races in other boroughs.
Also this week, the NYC-DSA passed a resolution that they will not endorse anyone for local, state, or federal office that has endorsed someone for president other than Bernie Sanders prior to the New York presidential primary on April 28th. Some were quick to criticize the resolution as “undemocratic” on Twitter, since it means excluding people who identify as democratic socialists but support another progressive candidate such as Elizabeth Warren or who support some but not all principles of democratic socialism. One person tweeted, “In the long list of things a candidate should push for in their local community, support for Bernie should weigh less than their support for rent reforms or addressing food deserts or criminal justice reform or getting more💰to schools. This feels needlessly alienating.” Interestingly, New York State Senator and DSA member Julia Salazar tweeted in support of the resolution: “It’s a strategic move, between now and the April 28 NY primary, for the org to be able to run a slate of candidates who support each other and who support the top campaign priority of the org.” This resolution will likely influence upcoming NYC-DSA endorsements in New York primaries.