Issue 67

So many results, so much polling, so little time

This week America rose up against police racism and brutality. We’re in full support of these demonstrations, and we hope that you wouldn’t expect otherwise by reading this newsletter. We’re an electoral newsletter; we believe that elections have enormous potential for good, and that the Democratic Party has enormous room to improve. But elections are just one part of politics. The mass movement in America’s streets is vital - it’s what a sea change in public perception and demands looks like. We’re in support of this movement when it acts in accordance with the standards polite society expects of it, and when it very much does not. The brutal, racist institution of policing in America needs to be torn down, and we stand with everyone out there right now doing the work to make that happen.


Results

Indiana

Frank Mrvan won IN-01. He was not who we wanted to win, and we expect to be annoyed by him constantly. But considering how we went into the night having pegged the favorite as absolute disaster conservative Tom McDermott Jr, Mrvan is a minor victory. While all the votes are not yet in, Mrvan leads McDermott 34% to 28%, while Harper took 10%, Borom 9%, Candelaria Reardon 7%, and Haake 5%. The other 8 candidates stayed below 2%. We were right when we pegged Jim Harper as a regional candidate. Harper actually won Porter County. The reason he only got 10% is that in Lake County, home to most of the voters, he took 4%.

In SD-40, former Congressional candidate Shelli Yoder absolutely bodied John Zody, Chair of the Indiana Democratic Party. We expected her to win. We did not expect her to demolish him 80% to 18%.

In HD-01 incumbent Carolyn Jackson turned away controversial ex-Gary Councilman Anthony Higgs 73% - 27%, and HD-03, incumbent Ragen Hatcher easily won her rematch with Jessica Renslow 66% - 34%. In HD-12, Mike Andrade won, as was expected, with 71% of the vote. Things aren’t looking good in HD-06, an open seat where progressives had the opportunity to place Garrett Blad, a Sunshine leader, in the state house from Pete Buttigieg’s home town. We don’t quite have enough results in to call it yet, but it looks bad for Blad, who trails 39% to 44% behind Margret Baeur, daughter of the retiring incumbent.

Maryland

Maryland is accepting all ballots postmarked yesterday or before, so there’s more to count. Those are generally pretty progressive, as are provisionals, so you can expect margins to move a bit left in the next week. Baltimore’s Board of Elections had an absolute meltdown, so we’ll sort through the results...whenever they’re actually figured out.

There were two uncompetitive races where we were only curious about the margins. In MD-04 Brown took a strong 82% to Bryant’s 14%. 14% is a hair more than you’d expect from a totally unheralded challenger, but there’s no real suggestion that Brown is weak from these results. However, in MD-06, Maxwell Bero, who raised almost no money and had very little presence offline, took 22% to incumbent moderate rich guy carpetbagger David Trone’s 78%. That’s the kind of number that if the left had recruited a real candidate here we would’ve had a shot. And we might next year, especially considering redistricting is coming up.

In MD-05…God, this one’s depressing. There’s no upside here. Steny Hoyer won with 74% to Mckayla Wilkes’s 17%. It’s hard to even take stock of what went wrong, because it seems like it was everything. Canvassing was hard enough in such a sprawling suburban and rural district, and then coronavirus shut it down. Like we pointed out before, Hoyer took this race seriously months ago, and spent what will probably wind up being close to a million dollars to re-elect himself, while the Wilkes campaign was absolutely starved of funds until the last few weeks. This will go down as Hoyer’s worst showing in a primary since his initial 1981 election, but that’s not saying much.

New Mexico

We had a great night in New Mexico, unambiguously, across the board. Let’s start with NM-03, where AOC-endorsed Teresa Leger Fernandez took 41% of the vote, far outstripping the field. Valerie Plame took 25% of the vote, Joe Sanchez got 13%, and no one else hit double digits. Leger Fernandez won all across NM-03, with the exception of Sanchez winning his House district and Los Alamos, a town that exists because of a government nuclear laboratory, voting for ex-CIA agent Plame. Really, it was a strong showing from Fernandez all over.

The New Mexico Senate was an absolute massacre for the center, as progressive challengers wiped out the conservative leadership who had made the chamber a roadblock for progressive legislation. It looks like George Muñoz, who is currently up 16 points, will survive. But Richard Martinez, longtime incumbent now shrouded in controversy? Lost 60-40. Gabriel Ramos, appointed in 2019 and a vote against nearly every one of Michelle Lujan Grisham’s initiatives? Went down 62-38. Clemente Sanchez, who the fossil fuel industry alone spent more than half a million dollars to protect? Tossed out 61-39. John Arthur Smith, one of the original 2009 turncoats, a 32 year incumbent who as longtime Finance Committee Chair is personally responsible for New Mexico’s horrifying lack of social spending? Gone by a 55-45 margin. Then there’s the biggest coup of them all: Senate President Pro Tempore Mary Papen was defeated 49-43.

This is a sea change in the world of New Mexico politics. Since 2009, a conservative majority has held the New Mexico Senate, as impactful as the IDC in New York, and perhaps even more so because it was born out of ideological, not personal, interest. Their hold has finally been broken, and we want to give a shoutout to five groups that worked tirelessly this election to make that happen:

  • Conservation Voters New Mexico

  • Emily’s List

  • Planned Parenthood Votes

  • Sierra Club

  • Working Families Party

In SD-03 Shannon Pinto got 80% to her nephew’s 20%, and in SD-17 Mimi Stewart held back Shannon Robinson’s 2nd comeback attempt for this seat 67% - 33%

In the house, there was also much to celebrate. Patricia Roybal Caballero, Miguel Garcia, and Matthew McQueen held on to HD-13,HD-14 and HD-50, against more conservative challengers 65% - 35%, 56% - 44%, and 73% - 27%, respectively. This year, one of the most conservative Democrats in the House, Joe Sanchez, left HD-40 open, and it looked like his successor would be in that mold - an anti-abortion and anti-gun control hardliner city councilor from Cimarron. But progressive and married gay man Roger Montoya won 59-41 instead. The 5-way open seat scramble for HD-45 ended with progressive favorite Linda Serrato on top with 33% to her nearest competitor’s 23%. The one disappointment might come from HD-42, where Mark Gallegos leads progressive Kristen Ortez by 9.2%, 54.6% - 45.4%, but much of the vote is still out.

Pennsylvania

In PA-18, Mike Doyle had faced the same primary challenger every year, and got in the high 70s or low 80s percent of the vote. This was his first brush with a well funded opponent, Jerry Dickinson, a local professor. Dickinson got 32% to Doyle’s 67%, and managed to win a couple neighborhoods in Pittsburgh and some black towns to the east. It’s a tough district considering the large number of ancestrally Democratic mill towns to the southeast of the city itself, so 32% was not bad.

Then we get to the state legislative races. We don’t know the results of most of Philadelphia’s races yet, as none of the city’s mail ballots have been counted; however, SD-01 is probably so lopsided that we can safely call the race for Nikil Saval, a socialist activist running with the endorsement of Bernie Sanders and DSA. He leads three-term incumbent Sen. Larry Farnese by a stunning 63% - 37% margin; the kind of reversal in mail ballots that would be required to put Farnese back on top is quite unlikely. Saval won the 15,196 election day votes 68% - 32%, a net margin of 4,835. There are somewhere between 40,000 and 66,000 mail in votes in this race. That requires Farnese to win them by between 7% and 12%. That’s tough, but doable. However, the first batches, totally about 7,000 votes, have been counted, and Saval won those by 8%. That means the mail ballots will be better for Farnese, but now that he has to win the rest by 9% to 16% after losing the first batch by 8%, he seems pretty close to done. Saval will probably finish with a win somewhere around 12% - 18%

In HD-188, which we highlighted as a race to watch, DSA-endorsed activist Rick Krajewski narrowly leads state Rep. James Roebuck Jr.; this one will come down to mail ballots, but Krajewski is currently beating Rosebuck 36% to 29%.

Moving into the Philadelphia suburbs, state Sen. Daylin Leach lost to challenger Amanda Cappelletti in SD-17; this race had no real ideological dimension, and was mostly about the fact that Leach is an unrepentant serial sexual harasser. Also in the Philadelphia suburbs, moderate state Rep. Carolyn Comitta easily won the nomination for SD-19 (but at least she’s not second-place finisher Don Vymazal, who is more conservative.)

In the Pittsburgh area, the left almost managed a clean sweep in state legislative races. SD-17 was the only exception, where incumbent Jay Costa beat Bill Brittain 77% - 23%, but lefty local orgs weren’t really behind Brittain anyway. In HD-20, progressive challenger Emily Kinkead defeated state Rep. Adam Ravenstahl, the brother of former Pittsburgh mayor Luke Ravenstahl by a solid 55% - 45%. In HD-34, state Rep. Summer Lee defeated her well-funded challenger, North Braddock councilman Chris Roland, by a punishing 76% - 24% margin; Roland had the support of the county Democratic Party and all the fracking money in the world, because Lee is a democratic socialist who opposes fracking. And in HD-36, Jessica Benham outpaced her two conservative opponents, Baldwin Board of Education member Ed Moeller and Allegheny County Democratic Committee-endorsed Trump supporter Heather Kass; Benham, a labor organizer who originally entered the race as a challenger to conservative incumbent state Rep. Harry Readshaw before his totally-not-scared retirement, will be the first LGBTQ woman elected to the Pennsylvania State House, the first openly autistic person elected to any state legislature, and only the second openly autistic person elected to any public office in the country when she wins this safely Democratic district in November. Benham won with 42% to Moeller’s 36%, while Kass took a truly embarrassing 15%.

Speaking of embarrassing, it was a truly embarrassing night for the Allegheny County Democratic Committee. Furious after two DSA-backed candidates toppled well-connected incumbents in 2018, and progressives won a few county races in 2019, the machine was out to crush the county’s progressive insurgency in 2020. They recruited candidates to run for the seats the socialists had won in 2018. One had to drop out, but they lined up behind the other, running against Lee. When Harry Readshaw retired, they didn’t let the fact his chosen successor was a conservative Trump supporter; they got behind her anyway because the Benham needed to be stopped. And they got humiliated. Roland lost by over 50%. Kass’s showing was pitiful, and they backing her involved press indignity after press indignity. And Readshaw, the only challenged incumbent in 2018 who’d survived that year, lost this time by 10%. 

Two appointed incumbents are in trouble in ideologically unclear races: state Rep. Mary Isaacson hangs on to a 30-26 lead in HD-175 and state Rep. G. Roni Green trails her challenger 49-29 in HD-190. State Rep. Brian Sims, a minor social media celebrity, leads his machine-backed challenger by only nine points in HD-182, which we did not see coming. And in another, the Donatucci family must be having déjà vu: longtime Philadelphia Register of Wills Ronald Donatucci unexpectedly lost to perennial candidate Tracey Gordon in 2019, and now his sister-in-law, state Rep. Maria Donatucci, has met the same fate, losing to little-known challenger Regina Young in a landslide in HD-185.

Incumbent Challenges

NJ-Sen

Larry Hamm, the chair of Bernie Sanders’s campaign in New Jersey, has cut a low profile as Cory Booker’s primary challenger. But Hamm is by no means anonymous; he gained some attention this weekend by leading the city of Newark’s huge march against racism and police brutality in the wake of Minneapolis police’s killing of George Floyd. It’s unsurprising that Hamm, a longtime activist and former school board member in Newark, was present at the protest; Hamm has been fighting against police brutality in Newark for decades. What’s surprising is that Booker, who gained national prominence as Newark’s mayor in the late 2000s and early 2010s, was absent. (Booker’s successor as mayor, Ras Baraka, spoke at the march.)

NJ-05

Yes, yes, we try to stay away from races in Trump districts, but Josh Gottheimer keeps doing things like punching cars and begging us to think of the poor, downtrodden payday lenders (the very practice he happily attacked in his successful 2016 campaign to unseat Republican Rep. Scott Garrett.) Now we find out he’s...endorsing a zoo with a long, infamous record of animal cruelty allegations (see the dozens of horrified TripAdvisor reviews), owned by a Confederate-sympathizing Republican assemblyman. (Seriously, that assemblyman named his pet groundhog Stonewall Jackson.) But the main point of this item is not that Josh Gottheimer is apparently interested in founding the Congressional Neo-Confederate Animal Cruelty Caucus. It’s that we have a poll! From our benevolent overlords at Data for Progress, no less. (Primaries for Progress does not conduct the polling, nor do we normally have access to it.)

The poll was conducted on behalf of the Kreibich campaign and shared with Primaries for Progress. The pure head-to-head is discouraging: Gottheimer leads Glen Rock Councilor Arati Kreibich 52% to 13%. However, after positive messages about both candidates are read, Kreibich closes the gap, surging to 33% as Gottheimer falls to 46%; then, after negative messages about both candidates are also read, Kreibich jumps to 39% as Gottheimer falls to 41%. There’s potential here if Kreibich can get her message out to voters; that’s difficult with canvassing out of the question, because NJ-05 is located entirely within the New York City TV market, the nation’s most expensive market for advertising. However, it’s not impossible; phone banking, text banking, radio and digital advertising, and mailers are all still available. (Even TV could be done, theoretically, but TV ads in the pricey New York market are generally only affordable to deep-pocketed outside groups and candidates like Gottheimer with obscenely bloated bank accounts.) You can view the full polling memo they released here.

We had some questions for the Kreibich campaign about the poll, and campaign manager Alex Deatrick happily answered:

Q: Has this primary been more about Councilor Kreibich’s policies or Rep. Gottheimer’s various controversial statements and activities?

A: Certainly this primary is so competitive in part because Rep. Gottheimer cares so much about earning the title of Trump's favorite Democrat for himself, but the fact remains that Arati is an amazing candidate. She's a scientist, council member, and mom. She’s smart and progressive. One of the things this poll shows is that Arati’s positions are broadly popular and voters like her when they get to know her better. That’s where any successful campaign is grounded.

Q: How has the recent outburst of police violence, which is occurring in response to peaceful protests of police brutality, changed the state of the campaign?

A: Arati has personally attended protests of police brutality in North Jersey and is a strong supporter of Rep. Ayanna Pressley’s resolution condemning it. Meanwhile, the incumbent hasn’t even used the phrase "police brutality" in a statement. Arati will continue showing up and doing the work, because that's what she does and it’s what’s needed for our community in a moment of tremendous grief and pain.

Q: How has your campaign adapted its field program to the pandemic?

A: Go where the voters are! Calls, texts, and postcards still all work really well at scale. Then you should be doing relational organizing for all of those modes too, so supporters are calling, texting, and sending postcards to their friends about Arati. Research shows those 'warm' contacts are highly effective. We have three full-time organizing staff and hundreds of amazing volunteers working hard to call and text tens of thousands of voters daily already, and we’re on track to contact hundreds of thousands by July 7.

Q: The poll shows that getting your message out is critical. How are you going to be reaching voters, and what messages are you going to be focusing on?

A: This poll shows that when voters know who Arati is and who Rep. Gottheimer is, we're neck-and-neck with a base (young and middle-aged women) and a clear path to victory. It won’t be easy and we'll need the progressive movement behind us to make this happen, but this poll shows we have a real shot. That’s very good news.

Our campaign is in a good place to talk about why Arati is such a great candidate. We earn really significant support just by communicating that Arati is a scientist, council member, and mom who's the only candidate to back popular & important policies like expanded paycheck protection, a rent & eviction moratorium, healthcare for all, and paid family & medical leave. So we're going to do that! We have a lot of momentum with Indivisible, Working Families Party, the PCCC, and Common Defense all backing our campaign and are in a good place to do significant paid media and direct voter contact in the coming five weeks to get Arati's message out. We’ve also gotten more and more great earned media coverage, like this profile last week.

Ultimately, voters also need to know that Josh Gottheimer is Trump's favorite Democrat. He crossed the line when he backed Trump’s anti-immigrant agenda by voting to fund the border wall and siding with Trump against protections for kids in cages. Now, he's leading the charge to bail out Wall Street & predatory lenders during the pandemic. Tying that in with his overall record of betraying his party to vote with Trump paints a pretty clear picture for voters.

NY-16

It’s almost too perfect, too on the nose. Eliot Engel was recently caught hiding out in Maryland for months while his campaign lied about him visiting his district, one of the worst hotspots for the coronavirus in the country. So Engel came back to his district on Tuesday to attend a news conference with many other local elected officials. And then, on a mic he didn’t know was hot, he said the nine words that may end his career: “If I didn’t have a primary, I wouldn’t care.” He said it twice, in fact. Engel tried to offer up an explanation later about how he was referring to mic time or something, but no one bought it. The story is everywhere by now. If the story about Engel not visiting his own district suggested an aloof, absentee Congressman, this confirms it beyond anyone’s wildest imagination.

This week the state of this race fundamentally shifted. The comment happened to come right as pre-primary reports to the FEC were due—so we learned that Bowman raised $204,000 in the 48 hours before the deadline, which also happened to be the 48 hours following the hot mic comment. Then the ball really got rolling as progressive groups moved in. Within a day, Justice Democrats and the Working Families Party announced a $500,000 ad buy for two spots. The first features Engel’s absence contrasted with Bowman’s presence in the district. The second, in what must have been some incredibly fast video editing, contains the hot mic moment. Bowman also picked up two New York City endorsements. The first is Brad Lander, a Brooklyn City Councilman who’s running for Comptroller. The other is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

This all comes on the tail of a decision made on Monday by the other left challenger to Eliot Engel, Andom Ghebreghiorgis, to drop out and endorse Jamaal Bowman. Bowman is now alone to reap the benefits of Engel’s poor decisions. Engel still has Pelosi, of course, who argued that voters should back him because he’s on powerful committees, and Kirsten Gillibrand—but it’s hard to imagine a worse confluence of events for Engel, or a better one for Bowman.

NY-03

Last week, NY-03 challenger Michael Weinstock was in hot water for saying he would punch fellow NY-03 challenger Melanie D’Arrigo in the throat if she were a man, a comment he has apologized for. This week, it’s D’Arrigo’s turn in the hot seat, with old tweets from her husband, Doug D’Arrigo, surfacing. They’re...not great, which is probably why his account no longer exists. However, some of them were caught in Wayback Machine snapshots; the Weinstock campaign provided screenshots of more tweets, but we were unfortunately only able to verify a handful (and find some more on our own thanks to the Wayback Machine’s limited existing archives of the account.) For a taste of what they were like, here’s this one from August 15, 2015:

"Hungry Games: Catching Fur"

Porn parody or Sesame Street Segment?

Answer: Sesame Street, but a missed opportunity for lesbian porn.

Tweets like this are, in all likelihood, nothing more than extremely poorly considered attempts at humor; they are also the kinds of things you generally apologize for when people find them.

The original version of last week’s issue failed to include necessary details, thereby incorrectly portraying the situation in NY-03. It also incorrectly said Michael Weinstock filed a lawsuit; he filed a motion to prevent Melanie D’Arrigo from withdrawing from her own lawsuit. He did not file a lawsuit. We apologize to our readers and the Weinstock campaign, and we regret the error. The corrected version of last week’s item is available here.

Open Races

MA-04

I guess it’s polls week? Our third, of four, poll is an internal for MA-04 from the Becky Grossman campaign. The Grossman campaign touts their candidate’s lead, but the main takeaway is that 60% of voters are undecided. Grossman is at 13%. That probably does mean she’s one of the top candidates in the race, but splitting hairs below that is kind of silly. And they also just didn’t include Ihssane Leckey in the poll it seems. 

Also this week, a 2016 letter from Jake Auchincloss to a high school was dug up, in which he urged them not to punish students flying the Confederate flag, and analogized it to public support of Black Lives Matter. Now, we doubt that Auchincloss is personally bigoted, it’s just that his reflexive desire to both sides everything creates an indistinguishable effect.

NY-15

We have not one but two polls from Data For Progress this week. The second is for NY-15, and it is extremely worrying. We note that Data For Progress’s methodology involves internet usage for the actual poll itself, regardless of contact, and NY-15 has some of the country’s lowest internet penetration - 29% have no internet or only dial-up. It’s not clear if that would necessarily benefit or hurt any candidate in particular, but it’s something to keep in mind. Without further ado, there are the results.

  • Rubén Díaz Sr. - 22%

  • Ritchie Torres - 20%

  • Michael Blake - 6%

  • Melissa Mark-Viverito - 6%

  • Ydanis Rodriguez - 6%

  • Samelys López - 2%

  • Others - 2%

  • Unsure - 34%

This is obviously quite bad. Rubén Díaz Sr. is a bigoted reactionary nutcase, and his election to Congress would be a disaster. The only spot of light here is the high undecideds. Even in a race with 6 candidates, it’s hard to win with less than a quarter of the vote, and Diaz is unusually well known. While half or fewer respondents had heard of the other candidates, Diaz was only unknown by 15%. For comparison Bernie Sanders was at 8% and AOC was at 25%. This suggests, hopefully, that other candidates have more room to grow that Díaz. They are, however, running out of time. Some people have voted already.

Of the remaining candidates, Torres is closest to Díaz, while Lopez has a tremendous amount of institutional leftist and progressive support, which could help her close that name recognition gap - 75% have not heard of her. But Melissa Mark-Viverito and Ydanis Rodriquez are not from the district, are starting with very little support, and don’t have the kind of money that Torres does for the final stretch. It’s hard to see what they bring that Torres or Lopez don’t, and it is beyond time for them to drop out of a race that they cannot win, but can throw to an outright bigot.

Samelys López got the endorsement of Empire State Indivisible, which means even more phone-banking backup in the final stretch.

And Rubén Díaz Sr. was caught maskless, which is a very bad look when you’re running in one of the hardest-hit communities in the country in the middle of a deadly pandemic. (He was also ignoring social distancing, because of course he was. Where did he do this, you ask? At an event handing out masks.)

NY-17

It may not be as exciting as NY-16, but NY-17 had a lot going on too.

Catherine Parker, a Westchester County Legislator, dropped out. She never brought in the big money of other candidates, and she never got the institutional support that others did either, so she was likely on her way to a pretty poor showing anyway. She has not decided if she’ll endorse anyone.

Mondaire Jones went up with his first ad Thursday of last week. It’s an introductory spot that mostly focuses on his progressive bona fides: his support of Medicare for All and his endorsements by “leading progressives”. Speaking of which, it was apparently news that Julián Castro was on that list when the ad went up. (So was Empire State Indivisible, and Indivisible groups are traditionally strongest in suburban areas like NY-17.) The ad also mentions his local roots and time in the Obama White House, but it’s primarily an attempt to distinguish himself from the field with an ideological argument.

The Westch­ester Coali­tion for Le­gal Abor­tion (WCLA), which includes many group with deep roots in the pro-choice fight, announced that it will be sending out postcards, robocalls, and live calls to Rockland County Democrats, urging them not to vote for Sen. David Carlucci, who, as they correctly point out, spent years blocking pro-choice legislation as a member of the IDC, despite his nominal pro-choice stances. Carlucci did, however, grab the Carpenters Union.

Finally, 6 of the 7 remaining candidates in the race promised to fully divest from the pharmaceutical industry if elected. The one holdout? Adam Schielfer, son of a pharmaceutical billionaire who himself is heavily invested in his dad’s company. His excuse is that he’s prosecuted big pharma companies before (ie his father’s competitors).

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