Fresno City Councilwoman Esmeralda Soria’s challenge to longtime Blue Dog Rep. Jim Costa scored a major victory at the California Democratic Party’s convention. Soria held Costa to a weak plurality, 48.75% for Costa to 46.25% for Soria, in the convention’s endorsement vote. Long-shot progressive candidate Kim Williams picked up the last five percent of delegates (and it’s likely Williams’s delegates would prefer Soria to Costa.) The endorsement requires 60% of delegate votes, and it comes with money, organizational support, and inclusion in official party communications. A longtime incumbent like Costa, who was a state legislator for a quarter of a century before his 2004 election to Congress, should have no trouble winning party support. Costa, however, isn’t just any incumbent.
Costa is, by every measure, among the most conservative Democrats in Congress, and worst of all, he’s a former co-chair of the nihilistically conservative Blue Dog Coalition. (The caucus’s webpage is still hosted on his House website.) He’s also one of the first in line to chair the House Agriculture Committee should fellow Blue Dog Rep. and current chairman Collin Peterson lose reelection in his blood-red agricultural Minnesota district. In this Central Valley district, where agriculture is vital to the economy, the value of the agricultural chairmanship cannot be understated—but neither can the value of keeping the chairmanship out of the hands of a congressman in the pocket of massive agricultural corporations.
A few weeks ago when AOC endorsed Marie Newman, incumbent Rep. Dan Lipinski said that Newman was “an extreme candidate who is completely out of step with the voters.” This week a group of 17 Illinois state and local elected officials, who were literally chosen by the voters of Illinois and some of whom will be voters in the upcoming primary, announced they were endorsing Newman as well. Among those officials endorsing Newman is the proud democratic socialist Chicago Alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, who was for a time the only DSA member in Chicago government, is a loud and prominent voice for progressive change on the Chicago City Council, and was a vocal critic of former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
Newman also announced this week that she raised a jaw-dropping $350,000 in the third quarter, which is up from the impressive $327,000 she raised last quarter. Lipinski has yet to release his numbers yet for this quarter, but if they’re at all similar to his second quarter when he raised $363,000 (which is apparently an inflated number), Newman will be hot on his trail. It is rare for a challenger to outraise an incumbent, so the fact that Newman’s fundraising numbers are even close to Lipinski’s is very impressive. As Data for Progress’s own Sean McElwee said to the Intercept about Newman and other challengers’ fundraising, “These are pretty astounding numbers. If I were an incumbent, I would be scared shitless.”
This week saw the entry of another candidate into the open MA-04. Jake Auchincloss is a former Marine who was elected to one of the 16 at-large council positions for the city of Newton (pop 88,000) in 2015. He was re-elected in the same election that fellow MA-04 candidate Becky Grossman was to also elected to her at-large Newton City Council spot. They weren’t actually running against each other, because Newton elects its 16 councilors in 8 separate positions of two councilors each, each position based in one ward of the city, which also each elects a local councilor. If that sounds absurdly complex and inefficient for a city this small, well, welcome to Massachusetts, where every local government was designed by an obscure duke in 1696 as he was recovering from a fever in India or something. Newton’s system is comparatively sane for the state. Essentially the situation is that most of the at-large positions aren’t contested by more than the minimum number of people. Auchincloss’s actually had a third candidate in the race in 2017, but that guy had a habit of doing things like saying his female opponent was “a pretty face”. He tanked and Auchincloss came in second. Auchincloss also took second in the 2015 four-way race that brought him to the Council, but that race had abysmal turnout. All that’s to say that his electoral record is nothing special.
Which is a good thing, because he sucks. You can kind of tell he’s not bringing the best perspective from his website, where he says things like “Today, the future first Hispanic CEO of the Dana-Farber may be in a cage at the Mexican border.” The fact that they might grow up to be a CEO is perhaps the worst reason not to put a child in a cage we’ve ever heard. Similarly, he thinks the reason we should be giving children an education is to “invest in human capital”. His consistently awful framing might be worth it were Auchincloss good on the issues, but he’s not. He was never even a particularly strong Democrat. Going back at least a decade, he’s only voted in one state primary - the Republican one in 2014. In 2014, he also donated to the Republican State Committee and Lewis Evangelidis, the Republican Sheriff of Worcester County. He called himself an independent in his 2015 race. On Twitter, he’s not just made eye-rollingly inane comments like “Constitution first, politics second”, he’s also gotten angry about cancel culture, managed to rail against socialism, not understand socialism, and condescend to millennials in the same tweet, supported platforming Steve Bannon, and claimed that the benefits of automation go to the workers. He’s also retweeted notorious race-science promoting blog Quillette, known for publishing obvious hoaxes and keeping friend of violent fascist gangs Andy Ngo on staff to write posts blaming fascist violence on antifa. That is when they’re not just promoting phrenology.
Dave Cavell, who had previously said he was considering the race, filed with the FEC, but has not confirmed his intent to run.
Another Justice Democrat, Morgan Harper of Ohio’s Columbus-based 3rd congressional district, announced an impressive fundraising quarter, raising $323,000 since launching her campaign in early July. Her campaign has additionally shared with us that they had 2,675 individual donors, donations from every state, and from 37/41 of the zip codes in OH-03. As of right now, this is the best opening quarter for any primary challenger this cycle, and one of the best of any recent cycle. Harper’s campaign emphasized to us that this was all done without PAC money. An early demonstration of strength like this proves Harper’s campaign against low-profile Rep. Joyce Beatty must be taken seriously. Harper, a former advisor to Consumer Financial Protection Bureau head Richard Cordray, is running on a bold left-wing platform which includes a living wage, Medicare for all, a Green New Deal, reparations, and rent stabilization laws. (We interviewed Harper in the first month of her campaign, and subscribers can read that here.)
Jessica Cisneros, the Justice Democrats-backed immigration attorney challenging notorious Blue Dog Rep. Henry Cuellar, announced she raised an impressive $310,000 in the third quarter of 2019. We look forward to the Cuellar campaign calling these small donations (average donation $32) “dark money” and threatening to sue the authors of this newsletter again. Today, Cisneros also announced the endorsement of 10 local government officials and community leaders in the district, as well as the Working Families Party, who just sent out an email blast for her. Cuellar, for his part, picked up the endorsement of Nancy Pelosi, who said, among other things, “I’m proud to support him — even if I didn’t have a policy of endorsing incumbents”, a statement that reportedly prompted the crowd at the Texas Tribune’s festival to boo her.
Another Democrat has filed to replace retiring Rep. Susan Davis: Marisa Calderon. Calderon is the Executive Director of National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals. From what we can tell so far, Calderon seems very mixed. Given her job, Calderon probably has a lot of experience with housing policy, but the fact that she’s tied to the real estate industry makes her pretty iffy as a candidate. We’ll have to wait and see when she rolls out a policy platform. She also wrote an article on LinkedIn five years ago encouraging people to vote in the 2014 midterm elections, which sounds good until you read to the end and see that she quotes Rudy Giuliani.
Leon Panetta is an interesting guy. A liberal Republican, he was forced out of the Nixon White House for refusing to slow-walk civil rights enforcement. He switched parties and not soon after was elected to Congress, serving 16 years before being tapped for the Clinton White House, where he was Bill’s chief budget guy. Under Obama he was first CIA director, then Secretary of Defense. Jimmy Panetta, Leon’s son, is one of the most boring guys in Congress. He spent most of his adult life as an assistant DA, then was gifted CA-20 when it opened up in 2016. He has done absolutely nothing newsworthy in Congress since then. Ideologically, there are far worse offenders in the caucus, but Panetta been pretty moderate. He co-sponsored the Medicare for All and Green New Deal resolutions, but he regularly sides with Republicans on little things, including the Blue Lives Matter bill and allowing James Mattis to take his dad’s old job. He’s just painfully mediocre.
Jimmy has only ever faced a single Democratic opponent, a perennial candidate who says he’s the Ron Paul of Santa Cruz County. On Thursday, it looks his streak of never having a serious opponent came to an end with the FEC filing of Adam Scow. Adam Scow is the California Director of Food and Water Watch, an international organization that fights for environmental justice. In that capacity, he organized the Farmers Against Fracking coalition, seeking to ban fracking in Monterey County (pop 436,000), an effort which was ultimately successful in 2016 after a ballot measure passed despite over $5 million in oil company money pouring in. Scow was also a Senior Consumer Advocate at Consumer Watchdog, a national consumer rights organization, until very recently. California has a particularly well-developed collection of political advocacy organizations, so Scow likely knows a lot of progressives with money, if fundraising is going to be an issue. Under the top 2 system California employs, the top two finishers in the March primary will face off in the general election in November. CA-20 went for Clinton by margin of 70-23, so as long as Scow runs a competent campaign, he should finish ahead of any potential Republican and be able to take this race to November.
Former Marty Walsh Chief of Staff, 2018 MA-03 primary runner up, and current Selectman of Andover Dan Koh has spent the year making noises about running a rematch for MA-03. And he’s only been making noises about it, nothing further, something we noted last week. He obviously read our witty Groundhog Day reference and was determined to prove us wrong, because it was reported this week that he is polling the district for a potential primary challenge. No word on what the results were.