Issue #37

Coming down from that off-off year election buzz

New Developments


Gavin Newsom, the slick ex-mayor of San Francisco, was never the dream governor in the minds of progressives, but he’s a party guy and not truly conservative on any issue, so his tenure thus far as governor had been about as good as we’d hoped: he signed most of the important legislation and didn’t get in the way of anything. That’s changed, because he’s now getting in the way of something. Newsom has announced a fundraiser for endangered Blue Dog Democrat Jim Costa, who faces a serious challenge from fellow Democrat Esmeralda Soria. Costa is clearly feeling the heat from Soria, a Fresno city councilor, due to her strong fundraising and important endorsements, most recently state Sen. Anna Caballero, who represents most of CA-16 outside of Fresno, which is home to both Soria and Costa. Costa, generally a lazy campaigner, is calling in the big guns to save him, while he himself was heading to Iowa for a Kamala Harris dance party. Yes, while simultaneously going viral on Twitter for dunking on Trump over climate change, Newsom was also trying to make sure the only fully pro-fossil fuel Democrat in the state got re-elected over his progressive primary challenger.


In 2018, Illinois Rep. Jan Schakowsky—one of the House’s most progressive members—endorsed Marie Newman over her colleague Rep. Dan Lipinski in the Democratic primary, which Lipinski went on to win narrowly. Newman is going for a rematch in 2020, and on Tuesday she got Schakowsky’s endorsement once again. Newman already has the support of Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, Jay Inslee, Kirsten Gillibrand, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Justice Democrats, and EMILY’s List, but Schakowsky provides a valuable local endorsement.

The endorsement also serves as a reminder that while two other candidates, attorney Abe Matthew and activist Rush Darwish, are also seeking to unseat Lipinski, progressives in Illinois and outside it do not view them as viable candidates. We share this view; if Matthew and/or Darwish actually get on the ballot in 2020, we fear they will allow Lipinski to win renomination with a weak plurality of the vote by drawing progressive votes away from Newman.


Honolulu Civil Beat’s Chad Blair has written a summary of the political talk around HI-02 and finds that in addition to current candidate Sen. Kai Kahele, three other names are getting serious attention.

  • Ex-Sen. Jill Tokuda: Tokuda served in the state senate 2007-2019, and made an unsuccessful run for Lt. Governor in 2018, and while we don’t have exact results, by eye it looks like she carried HI-01 in her 31-29 loss and struggled in HI-02. The Washington Post also reports Tokuda is actively considering a run. Tokuda is an outspoken proponent of education, which unfortunately includes charters.

  • Bernard Carvalho Jr, former mayor of Kaua‘i County: Kaua‘i is a county made of three islands in the west of the state and has a population of about 72,000, which Carvalho was mayor of 2008-2019. Carvalho was also a candidate in the 2018 Lt. Governor race, receiving 19%. While Carvalho’s tenure has been largely uncontroversial, he’s not someone we want in the seat. He’s a political ally of social arch-conservative and would-be-a-Republican-anywhere-but-Hawaii Mufi Hannemann, who you may remember as Tulsi Gabbard’s main competition for HI-02 in 2012.

  • St. Rep. Chris Lee: Lee has been in the State House since 2009 representing the community of Waimanalo. He’s pretty progressive, but he’s held much more of an interest in rising up leadership ranks than running for a promotion.

Meanwhile Kahele has been attempting to box out all potential competitors. He’s released some impressive fundraising numbers for October, over $105,000, and unveiled a new round of endorsements, including 12 sitting state legislators. He’s also picked up the endorsement of former State Rep. and 2018 HI-01 candidate Kaniela Ing, who was seen as a potential left-wing candidate for the seat, since despite running in HI-01 last year, his district is not just fully in HI-02, but off the island of O‘ahu entirely.


Now that some time has passed since the loss of Rep. Elijah Cummings, local politicians have begun to publicly express interest in his seat. His widow, Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, an established politician in her own right who chairs the Maryland Democratic Party and was running for governor in 2017 until Rep. Cummings’s health took a turn for the worse, has said she’s “thinking seriously” about running. Rumors have swirled about her interest in the race since before the funeral, but this is the first time she’s said anything publicly. Meanwhile, former MD-07 Congressman and NAACP president Kweisi Mfume has officially entered the race. Mfume was a well-liked progressive Congressman in his day, and unlike a lot of politicians from the 80s and 90s (he served 1987-1996), his voting record stands up to modern standards; he voted against Clinton and Regan era disasters like Welfare Reform, the Crime Bills, and financial deregulation, among others, and always championed progressive causes. Mfume would be a good Congressman, and has stayed politically active. His major hurdle will be his age and his time out of office. The last time he was on a ballot was 13 years ago, and he’s now 71. 


It’s not often that we can say this, but… we agree with the Democratic establishment? It looks like the powers that be within the Democratic Party, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and DSCC Chair Catherine Cortez Masto, are lining up behind Sen. Ed Markey. The only exception is conservative Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, who was already supporting Rep. Joe Kennedy. Because Markey is actually a pretty good incumbent, this race has created plenty of strange bedfellows (AOC and Chuck Schumer!?) It just goes to show the extent of people pissed off by Kennedy’s entitlement here. The DSCC’s universe isn’t getting behind Markey for the same reasons we and other progressives are, of course, but their support matters nonetheless.


It’s been over three months since Representative Seth Moulton dropped out of the presidential primary and announced he’d run for re-election to Congress, surprising exactly zero people. In that time he’s been dealing with two primary challengers: businesswoman and recovering Republican Jamie Zahlaway Belsito, and Salem City Councilor Lisa Peterson. Lisa Peterson has now dropped out of the race. Also this week, Governor’s Councilor Elieen Duff, who had been considering running since summer, has also officially announced she’ll be sitting this one out.

Peterson’s exit doesn’t necessarily mean that this race is going to lack anyone better than Moulton. Angus McQuilken, a gun control advocate from the district, says he’ll be making an announcement soon, and considering that he filed with the FEC to run for Congress a few days, we’re have a guess as to what that announcement is. State Senator Barbara L’Italien, who was making a lot of noise over a potential challenge in the spring, has been silent about this race for a while now.

New Primaries


Today, Congressman Pete Visclosky announced that he won’t be running for re-election. While Visclosky is the age many members of Congress choose to retire (70), he’s the third longest serving Democrat in the House and just two weeks ago was performing opposition research on a potential primary opponent. We’re going to start asking members of Congress to not announce their retirement on Wednesday, so we have time to talk about their potential successors. RIght now there’s just one, Thomas McDermott, the mayor of Hammond, Indiana, who was already considering as of last month (he’s the one Visclosky was doing opposition research on), and who filed with the FEC to run just hours after Visclosky announced his retirement. As we wrote last week, he’d be a significant downgrade from Visclosky, who was already average at best.

Election Results

Allegheny County DA

Conservative incumbent DA Stephen Zappala won his sixth term on Tuesday, fending off a challenge from progressive independent Lisa Middleman, a public defender. Zappala was the nominee of both major parties, but really his policies should only fit with one party — the Republican Party. Shame on local Democrats for working overtime to reelect him.

Zappala may have been the Democratic nominee as well as the Republican one, but his coalition looked more like a Republican’s, with most of Pittsburgh and its inner suburbs backing Middleman. Zappala won 57-43, which may not have been a razor-thin margin, but is an incredible accomplishment for an independent candidate, and considering most Republicans got about 1/3 of the vote last night, it means Middleman likely won a majority of usual Democratic voters, and there’s a good chance that if she had been in the primary instead of Turahn Jenkins, she would have won it.

Boston City Council

In 2009, Ayanna Pressley was the first woman of color to get elected to the Boston city council in the council’s 100-year history. As of last night, that number has been quintupled. Boston just elected the most female, most diverse, and most progressive council in the city’s history. This is huge, especially in terms of Boston’s next major municipal election: the 2021 mayoral race.

Michelle Wu, the top vote-getter on the ballot and potential future candidate for Mayor, now has several more allies on the City Council towards enacting an agenda that is fundamentally different from incumbent Mayor Marty Walsh’s. Wu campaigned on making the MBTA free for all residents, support for overturning the statewide ban on rent control, abolishing the Boston Planning and Development Agency, and fixing the city’s housing crisis, as did Liz Breadon, Julia Mejia, and Ricardo Arroyo — who are some of the newcomers that won last night. 

Michelle Wu could very well be Boston’s next Mayor — and it’s hard to read last night’s results as anything other than a ringing endorsement of her progressive vision.

Also noteworthy: the city council is officially nonpartisan, but as of last night, there are no more conservatives on the city council. Althea Garrison, a Trump supporter and opponent of basically everything good, was not re-elected last night. Good riddance.


Last night, ranked-choice voting (RCV) was on the ballot in New York City, and it passed! Starting in 2021, all New York City primary and special elections for city offices, including Mayor, Public Advocate, City Comptroller, and City Council, will be decided using RCV.

If you didn’t already know about RCV, the way it works is that instead of just voting for one candidate, voters get to rank candidates in order of preference. New York passed a version where voters can rank up to five. If one candidate gets over 50 percent of first-choice votes, that candidate wins just like in any other election. If no candidate gets over 50 percent, the lowest vote-getting candidate among first-choice votes is eliminated, and the votes of anyone who ranked this candidate first are reallocated to their second choices. This process continues until a candidate has over 50 percent of the vote, and then that candidate is declared the winner. New York City joins 20 other cities in the US as well as one state (Maine) in adopting RCV, but New York is by far the most populous place to do so.

The Primaries for Progress team is very happy New Yorkers voted in favor of this measure. RCV will make it easier for minorities and women to run for office, discourage negative campaigning, make voting in New York more democratic (since no candidate will be able to win an election with under 50 percent of the vote), AND get rid of the “spoiler” effect of having multiple progressive candidates in one race splitting the vote! New York City has an abundance of strong progressives, and it’s frustrating to see them have to either wait their turn and not run or run but undermine other great progressive candidates and hand power back to the establishment. Having RCV in 2021 will mean that a great New York City Council candidate like Amanda Farias doesn’t have to worry about who else might get into her race and can put more energy into obliterating incumbent homophobe Ruben Diaz Sr.

Of course, we wish the measure could go farther and apply to state and federal races in New York as well (we’re looking at you NY-15…), but having RCV implemented at the city level is an excellent start.

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