Issue #68

If you haven't heard about the GA-13 results, you're about to be delighted and confused in equal parts

Election Results

For more context on these races, see our primary preview

Georgia

GA-13

One of the authors of this newsletter remembers Georgia filing day very clearly, because he looked at GA-13 and saw Keisha Waites had pulled papers to be on the ballot at the last moment. That was great news! Waites had been around in Atlanta politics for over a decade, and had nearly won a primary in 2018 for Fulton County Commission president against a David Scott-like DINO incumbent. If you needed someone to jump in mid-March for a primary that was going to happen in three months, she was basically as good as you could do if you wanted someone with good politics. She’s no socialist, but she’s been on the right side of all the big issues in Georgia politics recently, and has always been willing to buck the flow of Atlanta politics. 

But she hadn’t announced anything about a campaign, or even discussed it publicly, so we waited for her launch to talk about her campaign. And waited, and waited. She raised essentially no money: only $875, and didn’t spend a cent. She put up a website that was basically a splash page where you could sign up to help the campaign. It looks like what someone might put up until they have their real website ready. We can find no evidence she did any campaigning. She filled out a single questionnaire from a local newspaper (in which she confirmed she supports ‘a “single payer” Medicare For All-type system of universal healthcare’), and went to a challengers’ debate (Scott was also invited but did not show). She’s barely mentioning her campaign on social media, isn’t spending money, and can’t do in-person events because she began her candidacy after a global pandemic started. It really seemed to us like she was just putting her name on the ballot to see how far she could get on name recognition alone.

Turns out it’s pretty damn far.

David Scott currently leads Waites 50.7% to 27.9%, and if he fails to clear 50%, then there will be a runoff election on August 11 between him and Waites. There’s a lot of uncertainty right now. We’ve got a lot of mail ballots out, and those have tended to be more conservative (or at least pro-incumbent) than election day ballots in other states, but the election day vote isn’t totally in yet, and what’s left seems to favor Waites. We’ll know in a few days whether we’ve been gifted an opportunity to take out one of the House’s worst Democrats. If so, we hope Waites will take this opportunity, actually raise some money, and campaign. In a runoff, the 13% of voters who picked Michael Owens, the most progressive choice in the primary, are probably easy targets for Waites, while the 8% who chose former East Point mayor Jannquell Peters are more wildcards. 

We’re in uncharted territory for this primary, though. At over 100,000 votes, what’s already in has shattered the current turnout record of under 60,000 votes. And we’re likely going to get tens of thousands more. The last time David Scott had a runoff was in 1974, in his first election to the state house.

Fulton County DA: There was one good candidate out of the three - Christian Wise-Smith, and he didn’t make the runoff. In fact, the current leader, Fani Willis, has the cop endorsement. Willis currently leads incumbent Paul Howard 42% to 36%, meaning that we’ll see them in a runoff in August.

Clarke County Sheriff: John Q. Williams, a reformist sheriff candidate, currently holds a 2.1% lead over pro-ICE incumbent Ira Edwards. Clarke has counted what appears to be all of its mail ballots, so Williams is probably out of the range of what provisional ballots could change.

Macon District Attorney: Incumbent David Cooke was crushed by challenger Anita Reynolds Howard, who swept all three counties located in this district attorney circuit centered around Macon. This could be about racial politics more than anything; this is a mostly Black jurisdiction in the heart of the Deep South, and Cooke is a white man, while Howard is Black. Howard seems fairly moderate, but she was clearly running at least a bit to Cooke’s left, criticizing him for failing to set up diversion programs for juvenile offenders and zealously prosecuting ultimately harmless coin-operated gambling machines. Howard is at least a modest upgrade from Cooke.

HD-42: In a real surprise, Asher Nuckolls, a socialist who was running for Congress until he realized he couldn’t afford the filing fee, is down only a few percent to incumbent Teri Anulewicz, a moderate former Smyrna City Councilor who ascended to this district in 2017 a special election after Stacey Evans vacated it to run for governor. This one was just called a few hours ago, but mail ballots have inspired several premature calls, so we’re waiting for more official word. If Nuckolls wins, Georgia will have a rare open leftist in the state legislature.

HD-56: Mesha Mainor, the candidate with the least obvious policy stances of the three, is up 55% to 33% right now on gay activist John McNair. As long as moderate Darryl Terry is out of the running, we’re fine.

HD-57: Moderate 2018 gubernatorial candidate Stacey Evans appears to have successfully carpet-bagged into this Atlanta district, as she currently sits at 57% of the vote.

HD-84: Renitta Shannon turned back moderate challenger Harmel Codi 65% to 35%

HD-86: 30 year incumbent Michele Henson will be headed to a runoff with her main challenger, immigration attorney Zulma Lopez. Henson currently leaders Lopez only 37% to 30%, so anything could happen in this runoff. But generally when an incumbent is weak enough to get pulled that far below 50%, things do not look good for them one-on-one.

HD-99: Marvin Lim, the progressive choice in this open seat, currently leads opponent Jorge Granados 58% to 42%. That result is changeable by mail ballots, but we doubt Lim loses.

HD-128: We were hoping against hope that Mack Jackson, the lone Democratic yes vote on the extremist anti-abortion “heartbeat bill” that passed the legislature last year, would be vulnerable to even a largely unheralded challenger, but Jackson won 76% to 24%.

HD-153: HD-153 actually decided to re-elect an incumbent. CaMia Hopson is currently leading her aggressively bipartisan opponent Henry Mathis 57.5% to 42.5%.

HD-163: First a quick note - this race has two candidates with very similar names: Marc Smith and Mac Sims. We mixed them up in the writeup. Smith is the cop and Sims is the Buttigieg-style pol, not the other way around. Not that it wound up mattering too much, since it looks like the runoff will be between gun control activist Anne Westbrook and Derek Mallow, who has been endorsed by the incumbent. Westbrook leads Mallow only 34% to 28%, so this runoff could be quite unpredictable.

South Carolina

Incumbents fared pretty well last night. It was mostly easy wins across the board, from SD-17 where conservative former state rep. MaryGail Douglas lost 68% to 32% in her effort to unseat troubled incumbent Mike Fanning, to SD-40, where white incumbents in majority black districts Brad Hutto and Lucas Atkinson both cleared 60% of the vote, to HD-90 and HD-111, where Bernie endorsed incumbents Justin Bamberg and Wendell Gillard both got more than ¾ of the vote. The one exception, and boy was it an exception, was in HD-80, where Jeremiah Johnson, a former Andrew Yang campaign chair didn’t just beat incumbent Jimmy Bales, he absolutely destroyed him 76% to 24%. 

Washington DC

Whoops. We messed up. We forgot to recap DC’s primary results in last week’s issue--which is a shame, because they had one big piece of very good news.

Incumbent Ward 4 Councilman Brandon Todd was Mayor Muriel Bowser’s protegé, and the mayor previously represented this very ward on the DC Council. Ward 4 was the heart of the DC machine known as the Green Team; aligned with former mayor Adrian Fenty, the Green Team got Muriel Bowser into the mayor’s office, and it ushered Todd through elections in 2015 and 2016 to hold the Ward 4 seat after Bowser vacated it to assume office as mayor. Overcoming the Green Team in Ward 4 is a tall order; even in 2016, when Green Team candidates went down hard across the District, Todd fended off a tough primary challenge. Last Tuesday, his luck--and the Green Team’s--ran out; as the city choked on clouds of tear gas fired by Bowser’s Metropolitan Police Department, Brandon Todd fell to democratic socialist challenger Janeese Lewis George, a former DC Assistant Attorney General. Lewis George was a formidable candidate, to be sure; she boasted an impressive range of endorsements, from DSA, the Working Families Party, and Sunrise, to organized labor, to prominent DC politicians like her former boss, DC Attorney General Karl Racine. And Todd was clearly the most vulnerable incumbent in the District from the moment Ward 2’s Jack Evans resigned amid a corruption scandal. But incumbency and association with the Green Team are powerful things, things which are supposed to be very difficult to overcome.

Janeese Lewis George made it look easy, winning by 12 percentage points and nearly sweeping every neighborhood. The left’s detractors like to claim the left can only win young, urban whites, and Lewis George’s strongest areas were indeed the gentrifying neighborhoods on the ward’s southern edge, such as Petworth. But Ward 4 cannot be won with those neighborhoods alone; Lewis George defeated Todd by (easily) winning the middle- and working-class Black and Brown neighborhoods that make up the majority of Ward 4.

With DC statehood a real possibility if Democrats take unified control of the federal government in 2020, it matters a great deal who is on the DC Council today, because they could very well be the ones tasked with leading the transition to statehood. People like Muriel Bowser and Brandon Todd, who have overseen unchecked MPD expansion (which Bowser intends to continue) and repealed a referendum establishing a living wage for all DC workers, are not who should be at the helm in potentially the most important few years in the District’s history. People like Janeese Lewis George are.

Elsewhere in the city, attorney Brooke Pinto defeated Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Patrick Kennedy and Klobuchar-staffer-turned-progressive favorite Jordan Grossman to succeed disgraced councilman Jack Evans in Ward 2; Pinto is the sort of business-friendly moderate DC is all too used to, but at least she’s not a crook like Evans. In Ward 7, former mayor and current councilman Vincent Gray prevailed with a plurality against a crowded field of challengers, including progressive favorite Anthony Lorenzo Green. And in Ward 8, first-term incumbent Trayon White faced a field as crowded as the one in Ward 7, but won with a convincing majority. Outside of Ward 4, the results were something of a continuation of the status quo (though the loss of Evans’s seniority will still upend the council.) The Ward 4 result, however, could send shockwaves through DC politics for years to come.

Maryland Update

The original discussion of Maryland and Pennsylvania occurred last week

MD-05: It’s not like the later ballots made the race close, per se, but we weren’t expecting them to shift this race all the way from a 74% to 17% win for Hoyer to a 65% to 27% win, though we’re very happy they did. There are still a handful left to count, so it might even get a little tighter, even, but this will be close to the final result.

Baltimore: Baltimore has finally figured out its results from last week’s primary, and they’re...kind of all over the place. First, the really good news: city council president Brandon Scott has won the Democratic nomination for Baltimore Mayor, narrowly outpacing former mayor Sheila Dixon. (Barely registering in the race was incumbent mayor Jack Young, who placed a very distant fifth with just six percent of the vote.) And city councilman Bill Henry has unseated 25-year incumbent Baltimore City Comptroller Joan Pratt. The city council races were more of a mixed bag. State Delegate Nick Mosby won the nomination for Baltimore City Council President, trailed by more progressive city councilwoman Shannon Sneed; Nick and his wife Marilyn, the Baltimore State’s Attorney, are the city’s preeminent power couple, and this just gives them a tighter grip on Baltimore.

Every incumbent seeking renomination got it: Zeke Cohen in District 1, Danielle McCray in District 2, Ryan Dorsey in District 3, Yitzy Schleifer in District 5, Sharon Green Middleton in District 7, Kristerfer Burnett in District 8, John “Doc” Bullock in District 9, and Robert Stokes in District 12. (Incumbent Eric Costello was unopposed in District 11.) This is mostly good news, but Stokes’s victory over progressive challenger Phillip Westry, who was on Scott’s Forward slate, is disappointing.

In open seats, the results were a bit better--Mark Conway, one of the better candidates in the race, took District 4, while Forward candidates James Torrence and Phylicia Porter took District 7 and District 10, respectively, and progressive Odette Ramos easily took District 14. Of the open seats, only District 13 was disappointing, with Antonio Glover--an employee of Marilyn Mosby’s State’s Attorney’s office--defeating Forward candidate Jacqueline Addison.

Pennsylvania Update

We are not sure why Philadelphia has counted only 40,000 votes in the last week, but it sure seems like they just forgot they were going to have to count a lot of mail ballots. Regardless, enough has come in for us to be sure of the three results that weren’t quite decided last week.

SD-01: Only about 8,000 of the remaining 33,000 to 59,000 outstanding ballots were counted, but Saval won them by nearly 20%, so that’s the end of that. Congratulations to Senator Nikil Saval.

HD-182: New mail updates have gradually bumped up incumbent Brian Sims’s lead over his machine challenger a couple tenths of a percent. He's essentially won at this point, but this surprise close call has to give him some pause, especially after his weak 40-34 primary re-election in 2016.

HD-188: Rick Krajewski’s vote share has swelled since we last checked in, from 38% to 44%. That’s solid for a 4-way race by itself. But when the incumbent is in second, at only at 28%, that 44% is damn impressive. James Roebuck, the incumbent, had won his 2018 primary 56-26, so while he was clearly vulnerable, he was also no pushover. Krajewski obliterated him. Let’s repeat that: Roebuck got 28% as an uncontroversial incumbent.

In HD-22, in Allentown, mail ballots were extremely favorable to activist Enid Santiago in her bid against longtime incumbent Peter Schweyer in this majority Hispanic district. It’s not clear how many votes are left out, or whether they’re even still counting, but as it stands currently, Schweyer is up only 50.7% to 49.3%. (And a Lehigh County election judge says she marked ballots after they were left by the voter--which is almost certainly illegal--so this race may not be decided for a while.)

Incumbent Challenges

NY-09

Adem Bunkeddeko has scored a union endorsement, his first of either this campaign or last: United Auto Workers Region 9A. While there aren’t any car factories in Brooklyn, the UAW does contain a handful of smaller creative unions and guilds

Meanwhile, conservative City Councilor Chaim Deutsch has gone full Law And Order and released an ad that is honestly reminiscent of Nixon’s famous Law And Order President ad from 1968. Deutsch has been running a campaign particularly focused on the conservative part of the district, ie his Council district, and this looks like more of the same, although if there are any anti-protest voters in the Democratic primary elsewhere, they’d probably like this more than Clarke’s more moderate stance of supporting the curfew.

NY-16

The past month has probably been the worst of Eliot Engel’s career, and it keeps getting worse. Last week, progressives unified around one candidate, Jamaal Bowman, as the Working Families Party convinced the other progressive, Andom Ghebreghiorgis, to leave the race; then Engel made a fateful comment on a hot mic, admitting at a Bronx press conference that “if I didn’t have a primary I wouldn’t care.” Shortly afterwards, Bowman got the endorsements of AOC, New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, and New York state Sen. Alessandra Biaggi (who represents much of this district in the state senate.)

This week’s biggest blow came in the form of Bernie Sanders endorsing Bowman. A Sanders endorsement is a very valuable source of small-dollar contributions; Mondaire Jones, who was endorsed by Sanders on the same day as Bowman, reported raising $35,000 in just a few hours. There was also another embarrassing moment for Engel: when asked about the NY-16 primary at a press conference, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer pointedly said he had not endorsed in NY-16. Engel’s website, however, had touted Schumer’s endorsement. It’s quite unusual for the Senate Minority Leader to so publicly snub a House committee chair of his own party, and in his own backyard, too. We’re curious how dire things must be behind the scenes for Schumer to ditch Engel. 

Engel didn’t need Schumer to embarrass him like that, since he’s doing a good enough job of it on his own. On Sunday he had a truly disastrous campaign forum with Jamaal Bowman, where he first bizarrely compared AOC to a dictator for endorsing Bowman, and then claimed he had the endorsement of the Nurse’s Union, only to be told by Bowman that they had in fact endorsed him instead.

NY Legislature

AOC endorsed a slate of New York legislative candidates. Most are incumbents, and most of those incumbents are very good; Manhattan Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou and Brooklyn state Sen. Julia Salazar, in particular, face tough primaries from the right, and the two are among the loudest voices for progressive policy in Albany. AOC also endorsed three non-incumbents, all in Brooklyn: Jabari Brisport for SD-25, Marcela Mitaynes for AD-51, and Phara Souffrant-Forest for AD-57. SD-25 is an open seat vacated by retiring state Sen. Velmanette Montgomery, while AD-51 and AD-57 are held by machine incumbents Felix Ortiz and Walter Mosley, respectively.

TX-SD-27

Texas runoffs are coming up soon, July 14. The most important state level race is SD-27, where lawyer Sara Stapleton Barrera is challenging arch-social conservative incumbent Eddie Lucio Jr. She earned the endorsement of the Sierra Club’s Texas’s chapter, another signal that progressive groups are trying to win this fundamentally winnable race, despite the lack of much news coming out about it.

Open Races

MA-04 

Jesse Mermell, one of the two progressive candidates in this race (the other being Ihssane Leckey, whose proposals go further, but whose viability other candidates appear to doubt), has scored some big labor support: the SEIU. While they don’t keep (or don’t release) membership totals by district, the SEIU likely has at least 10,000 members in the district, and those workers will disproportionately be Democrats. Even if they don’t spend a cent on her, this is a big deal for a campaign in a highly unionized state like Massachusetts. The SEIU generally backs fairly progressive candidates in Massachusetts, and this endorsement could be a sign they’re working to keep Auchincloss and Khazei, two money-rich and relatively moderate (or worse in Auchincloss’s case) candidates, away from the nomination.

NY-15

Samelys López received the endorsement of Bernie Sanders yesterday. López’s campaign is a long shot, with the only poll (conducted by our friendly overlords at Data for Progress) having her at just 2% of the vote, but in such a crowded field, a late surge could put her into contention.

Meanwhile, a coalition of three LGBTQ groups, LGBTQ Victory Fund, Equality PAC and the Stonewall Democratic Club of NYC, all called for unification behind Torres in order to defeat Diaz. Alphonso David, the head of the Human Rights Campaign, said something similar, though he was not part of that coalition. Torres also scored an endorsement from Chris Cooper, now best known for a viral encounter in Central Park, where Amy Cooper (no relation), called the police on him in an obvious attempt at racial intimidation, one that you could justifiably call attempted murder if you have a passing familiarity with how the police treat Black men in America.

NY-17

Mondaire Jones got two big endorsements this week: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders. Besides being big names in their own right, and play very well for Jones’s message that he is the only progressive in the race, they helped the campaign raise over $85,000 ($50,000 in the two days after AOC’s endorsement, according to an email, and $35,000 the day of Bernie’s endorsement). Jones also picked up the endorsement of four Westchester County legislators this week, most notably Catherine Parker, who ended her candidacy for NY-17 last week.

David Buchwald also earned an endorsement this week, from a decidedly more establishment source: Westchester County Executive George Latimer.

The other David in the race, Carlucci, launched a digital ad on Friday, which he says is his first. For a campaign with money, waiting that long to seriously go up on digital is an odd choice, as is the ad itself, a cheap spot about Carlucci’s work on COVID-19. It’s timely and features Trump, but it’s also generic and feels like it’s half stock footage. It contrasts poorly with a digital ad campaign the Congressional Progressive Caucus launched for Jones this week, with $100,000 going to a spot that stresses Jones’s local roots and work in the Obama White House.

Yet more drama is brewing around the pharma divestment pledge from last week. Candidate Allison Fine, the only candidate besides pharma heir Adam Schleifer to have pharma investments, first pulled out from the pledge that she and all candidates besides Schleifer had signed, and then went on the attack against fellow candidate Evelyn Farkas, accusing her of cooking up the pledge as an ambush on Adam Schleifer.

Oh, and we have a poll of this race, from our benevolent overlords Data for Progress. It shows, unsurprisingly, an unsettled and messy field. Undecided leads with 38% of the vote. The poll shows a rough top tier: Carlucci, at 15% is the top candidate, followed by Farkas and Schleifer at 13%, and Jones at 12%. Buchwald, at 6% follows them, and Asha Castleberry Hernandez trails badly at 1%. Carlucci, who caucused with Republicans for most of his career, winning this race would be a disaster, so him leading is obviously a problem.

Evaluating the poll a bit more thoroughly, we find good news for Jones and bad for Carlucci and Schliefer. With learners, Farkas, Jones, and Schleifer are all at 14 or 15%, which, for Jones, is pretty good considering that only 36% have heard of him. Farkas is at the same vote share, but at 45% name rec, and Schliefer might be in trouble considering he’s at the same level as Jones and Farkas, but Schleifer is benefiting from being able to use his pharma fortune to blanket the airwaves. While he's getting noticed - 54% name recognition - opinions of him are still meh, 30% somewhat favorable compared to 12% very favorable. Both Jones and Farkas have higher “very favorable” numbers despite having much lower name recognition. There are clearly voters who only recognize him and maybe Carlucci or another candidate. He's not really building support.

Carlucci, meanwhile, has the highest name recognition, 58%, but not all attention is good attention. His favorability numbers are 37% favorable to 21% unfavorable among Democratic voters. Democrats usually don’t say they dislike other Democrats in polls, so Carlucci is clearly a more factional candidate. If the field coalesces to two or three person race, he should have trouble getting enough of the vote to win, but in its current 6-way state (Castleberry-Hernandez has almost no support here), he can lead with a low plurality of the vote. Of those the remaining candidates, Jones seems like the best candidate to get voters to coalesce around him, but he'll need to seriously up his name recognition, and fast.

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