Primary School 6/24
Abortion is still a right.
We’re sending a second issue this week due to a very news-heavy few days (and to make it so we’re no longer working to get regular issues and primary previews out at the same time.) First, however, there’s a more pressing matter than any election.
In light of the Supreme Court’s expected but execrable decision this morning in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, overturning Roe v. Wade and putting the right to an abortion at the whims of each individual state government, we’re asking you to donate to abortion funds, which you can do through this link. With abortion now outlawed in many states, abortion funds’ work is more important than ever. Getting a safe, legal abortion now absolutely requires out-of-state travel for many millions of Americans, and that costs money which people in need of abortions very well may not have.
Outside $ Watch
$758K in unspecified advertising for Karin Norington-Reaves from Forward Progress. This may include $163K in TV ads reported by the Chicago Sun-Times and included in our last issue. Total Forward Progress spending: $758K
$102K (or possibly $154K) of mailers supporting Jonathan Jackson from DAO for America. DAO for America is the third cryptocurrency PAC spending for Jonathan Jackson, though this one has no overt ties to Sam Bankman-Fried, instead funded by the mysterious “Shrike Holdings” of Miami, and, thus far, had been mostly interested in promoting Greg Tanaka in CA-16. Total DAO spending: $154K (probably)
$65K of mailers for Karin Norington-Reaves from the Collective Super PAC. Total Collective spending: $65K
$200K in TV ads and $200K in digital ads attacking Gilbert Villegas from the Working Families Party. The TV ad focuses on Gilbert Villegas’s lobbying firm, alleging corruption on Villegas’s part, and even ties him to the ConEd bribery scandal. The lobbyist angle is similar to a Ramirez ad from two weeks ago. Total WFP spending: $638K
$34K of mailers for Delia Ramirez from End Citizens United. Total ECU spending: $70K
$32K in mailers attacking Delia Ramirez from Mainstream Democrats PAC (LinkedIn billionaire Reid Hoffman). Total MD spending: $64K
$50K in digital ads for Sean Casten, co-financed with $25K from NRDC Action and $25K in digital ads from League of Conservation Voters. NRDC is a green group that endorsed Casten months ago. The ad, which is being run by both groups, announces their endorsements and says Casten will fight climate change. It looks like the ads Total NRDC spending: $25K
$100K in TV, digital, and radio ads for Kina Collins from Justice Democrats. This buy appears to be an extension of the JD ad from last week. Total JD spending: $390K
Another $154K of “media” (again, presumably TV) for Eric Sorensen from 314 Action. Total 314 spending: $615K
$5K of TV ads for Jonathan Logemann from Democrats Serve. Total DS spending: $132K
$1.1M of TV ads and $174K of mailers attacking Donna Edwards from United Democracy Project (AIPAC). Total UDP/AIPAC spending: $1.9M
$100K in digital ads for Donna Edwards from J Street. Total J Street spending: $100K
$50K of digital ads promoting Haley Stevens from the New Democrat Coalition Action Fund. The ads are simple text pieces announcing her support from gun control groups and Planned Parenthood, as well as a brief bio. Total New Dems spending: $50K
In DC’s Democratic primary, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser, DC Council Chair Phil Mendelson, At-Large Councilwoman Anita Bonds, and moderate DC AG candidate Brian Schwalb each defeated progressive opponents by single-digit margins, underwhelming results for incumbents with broad establishment support and financial advantages. At-Large Councilman Robert White, who took 40% to Bowser’s 49%, probably could’ve toppled the mayor had the DC races gotten more attention from progressives, and that’s even more true of Mendelson challenger Erin Palmer (lost 46% to 54%), Bonds challenger Lisa Gore (28% to 37%), and Schwalb opponent Bruce Spiva (36% to 46%). Ward 8 Councilman Trayon White’s parochial, personality-focused mayoral campaign got 9% of the vote, mainly from his base east of the Anacostia, but it’s anyone’s guess who his voters would’ve opted for in his absence.
As District-wide races giveth for moderates, ward-based races taketh away: progressive incumbent Councilwoman Brianne Nadeau defeated well-funded, Washington Post-backed MPD officer Salah Czapary 48% to 32% in Ward 1, mainstream liberal Matt Frumin defeated moderate/conservative charter school stooge Eric Goulet 41% to 30% in the open Ward 3, and DSA-backed Zachary Parker won moderate Kenyan McDuffie’s open Ward 5 seat 43% to 24% over Post-backed opponent Faith Gibson Hubbard, with former Councilman Vincent Orange—who had seemed like Parker’s leading opponent—back in third place with just 16%. This gives DSA their second seat on the DC Council out of thirteen seats total; because five of those thirteen seats are at-large, one in four Washingtonians will be represented by a DSA member when the new Council takes office. The other DSA councilor is Ward 4’s Janeese Lewis George (who holds Muriel Bowser’s old Council seat.) Neither progressives nor Bowser’s bloc of moderates and conservatives had a majority on the Council before these elections, and that won’t change, but Parker taking McDuffie’s seat without any other seats changing hands—Frumin, a likely swing vote, will replace another frequent swing vote—means progressives will now have a 6-4 edge instead of a 5-5 tie, assuming progressive independent Councilwoman Elissa Silverman wins a third term in November. The moderate/conservative bloc will lose the ability to sustain a mayoral veto, which requires five votes, without getting at least one swing vote to join them.
In Tuesday’s handful of state legislative primaries—all runoffs in Alabama and Georgia—the most noteworthy result was the defeat of anti-trans Alabama state Rep. Rod Scott, who lost to Fred “Coach” Plump 51% to 49%.
Pre-Primary FEC filings
These cover the dates 4/1 to 6/8, and include federal primaries taking place this coming Tuesday, June 28.
The state AFL-CIO endorsed state Sen. Jill Tokuda for HI-02…and Ed Case challenger Sergio Alcubilla for HI-01. Case already had some weakness with labor—the state’s teachers’ union, often willing to buck incumbents anyway, backed Alcubilla weeks ago, as did some union locals representing longshoremen (and a state composed entirely of islands has a lot of longshoremen.) But individual unions, even large ones like the teachers’ union, are one thing; to convince a statewide AFL-CIO branch to back a challenger to an incumbent Democratic member of Congress is a much heavier lift. And there’s no state with a higher rate of union membership than Hawaii—more than one in five employed Hawaiians is a union member. There’s no polling publicly available, and Alcubilla’s fundraising has been modest, but HI-01 suddenly appears to be a competitive race.
HI-02, IL-01, VT-AL
The Congressional Progressive Caucus endorsed Jill Tokuda, Jonathan Jackson, and Becca Balint in their respective Congressional races. Becca Balint is the most obvious choice of the three. She’s the only non-Molly Gray candidate registering in the polls at the moment (and early voting begins soon). Jill Tokuda also makes a level of sense? It’s hard to get a grasp of Hawaii politics sometimes, but the CPC obviously likes her better than swing seat state Rep. Patrick Pihana Branco, which is understandable—labor feels the same way. Jonathan Jackson is more of a choice. While he is one of the top polling candidates, and carries the Bernie Sanders endorsement, his pro-cryptocurrency campaign is backed by substantial money from cryptocurrency investors, including Protect Our Future, which has spent millions to block CPC candidates.
In our last issue, we had this to say about Jonathan Jackson:
As far as Bernie Sanders endorsements go, we may have a real dud on our hands here. The twin PACs of cryptocurrency billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried, Protect Our Future and Web3 Forward, have been bumbling through the House primary playing field, generally using Bankman-Fried’s vast sums of apes—er, money—to aid centrist candidates, but also making some downright bizarre endorsements of candidates who don’t seem like natural choices for a crypto billionaire looking for regulators that won’t hold companies like his accountable for the mind-numbingly cringe technodystopian vaporware scam they’ve been running. It’s not guaranteed that Bankman-Fried’s help is a disqualifying red flag; in a couple races, most notably TX-30 and FL-10, Bankman-Fried has boosted a leading progressive candidate with little or no apparent reason. But the PACs’ involvement in IL-01 isn’t like that. Protect Our Future and Web3 Forward are spending a combined total of nearly $1 million on behalf of Jonathan Jackson, the son of the Rev. Jesse Jackson—and Jonathan Jackson, unfortunately, makes perfect sense for a crypto billionaire: he’s a crypto guy.
It turns out we were too kind. His response to deserved criticism of the spending from his rivals? It’s legal for a cryptocurrency billionaire to buy me a seat in Congress, so die mad, suckers. Jackson did get another endorsement of note—that of progressive Chicago Rep. Chuy García—but the endorsement that defines Jonathan Jackson’s campaign is the million-dollar endorsement from billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried. Also, for what it’s worth, Jackson now has three crypto Super PACs backing him. DAO For America has now spent six figures on him as well.
(His rivals who have been critical of the spending include progressive state Sen. Jacqui Collins, who as a legislator has spearheaded a number of laws cracking down on predatory financial products, which are exactly what cryptocurrency is.)
Danny Davis ran his very first TV ad, a week before the primary, and it’s the most jarringly low-effort TV ad we’ve ever seen. The ad is simply unedited Zoom footage, complete with the Zoom name in the bottom of the screen that no one even bothered to crop out, of the Congressmember sleepily mumbling his way through the first take of reading a cue card (dear God, we hope it's a first take), stating that the claims made in the Justice Democrats ad are false. The whole thing is astoundingly low-budget. Strike that, it's no-budget. We're in shock that this is on television. Seriously, we know we've made fun of plenty of TV ads in this newsletter, but go and watch this thing, then imagine it coming on during a Jeopardy commercial break. That the charge the clearly-just-awoken-from-a-nap Davis is trying to refute is his absenteeism and general disengagement from politics turns the whole thing into a comedic exercise. Once the laughter subsides, a more serious question hangs in the air: what is Davis's team doing? Check out those pre-primary reports again—Davis was sitting on nearly $600,000 as of last week. If there was any concern for his reelection, why not spend it on, you know, campaign things? Send out a couple mailers with a couple pictures of him and Pelosi saying "Congressman Danny Davis Delivers: [Insert Boilerplate Democratic Issue Here]". Put out some simple Facebook ads. Google "Democratic television ad firms" and hand one of them a $250,000 check. You know, anything at all. Of course, generally a campaign manager handles those things, and we’re not sure if Davis has one? He definitely did during his moderately competitive 2010 reelection, but this time around we can’t find any indication anyone’s running the show.
Again, as far as we can tell from the FCC political ad disclosure database and Davis’s FEC filings, Davis’s campaign was not on television before this, and if he's been running digital ads we can't find any evidence of them. He may have sent exactly one batch of mailers—a tiny one, if the $58 expense simply labeled “Postage” and the $300 expense simply labeled “Printing” is any indication—but it’s unclear from his FEC filings, which have unusually vague line-item descriptions and contain numerous typos. (Additionally, an expense that small is likely not for mailers.) He’s been phone-banking, at least, but has almost completely eschewed even the cheapest forms of advertising. He’s gotten some $142,000 in outside help—most of it from an obscure, shady PAC with ties to the amorphous network of PACs that swoop in to oppose progressive candidates in Democratic primaries—but Kina Collins has gotten much more: a total of $420,000, with all but $30,000 of that total coming from Justice Democrats. On top of that, she’s also been running an actual campaign, reporting to the FEC substantial expenditures for a digital presence, mailers, lots of voter contact—you know, things campaigns do. Things which, on the congressman’s side of the ledger, are curiously absent from Davis’s legally-required public disclosures, the internet, and news reports. Per the Intercept’s Akela Lacy, Davis has been using a state-level campaign committee, improperly and possibly illegally, to boost his congressional reelection campaign—and that committee, not his federal campaign committee, is the only source of advertising we’ve been able to identify prior to this week’s Zoom-recording TV ad, in the form of a single $1,000 ad buy on a local Black talk radio station back in mid-March. And that state-level committee’s reported available funds as of its last cash-on-hand report, combined with its low total of reported high-dollar donations since then, make it highly unlikely the state-level campaign committee is able to pay for much in the way of campaigning (unless there’s a groundswell of small-donor enthusiasm for Danny Davis’s reelection to the state Democratic Party committee, which we really doubt.)
U.S, Rep. Kweisi Mfume, state Senate President Bill Ferguson, and other Baltimore-area Democrats made a last-minute endorsement for Wes Moore, with early voting having already begun. Moore was already the choice of the PG County establishment, but Baltimore's establishment had been somewhat slower to weigh in. Moore had been trying to run as the candidate of Baltimore until controversy over the truthfulness of his ties to the city pushed him to lean less on that angle.
Sometimes AIPAC's electoral spending (through the United Democracy Project super PAC) can be very hard to figure out. For example, this race. Donna Edwards, both through her original four terms in Congress and in her current policy positions, is taking a very standard, center-left two-state solution position on Israel-Palestine, one that is more mainstream than Greg Casar's policy stances, which many cited as the reason UDP stayed out of his race. While she's clearly going to be part of the House's progressive flank, it's hard to argue she's overall to the left of Delia Ramirez, who they are ignoring. And yet it is Donna Edwards who they went absolutely nuclear on this week. Within the last 5 days, they've spent $1.8 million to attack her on TV, and another $174,000 to attack her with campaign mailers. Early voting may have just started, but the primary is almost a month away—there is plenty of time for them to buy more mud to sling. Edwards is taking immediate proactive steps to keep this from sidelining her. She got a previous endorsement, Nancy Pelosi, to record an endorsement video for her, and called in a new endorsement: Hillary Clinton.
MA-Gov, MA-LG, MA-AG, MA-SoS
Progressive state Sen. Sonia Chang-Díaz dropped out of the race for governor. Truthfully, the Massachusetts gubernatorial race has been over for months now, but now it’s official: state AG Maura Healey is the only Democrat still running for governor. (Republicans are not seriously contesting the gubernatorial election, even though they currently hold the office.) Chang-Díaz remains on the ballot, and has said she plans to spend the rest of the primary season campaigning for progressive candidates for state and local office in Massachusetts; in her dropout announcement she endorsed three state legislative candidates, including a challenger to one incumbent Democrat, and two district attorney candidates, one of whom is also challenging an incumbent Democrat.
Just before Chang-Díaz dropped out, however, a new poll of all the statewide races was released by the University of Massachusetts. Outside of the governor's race (53-20 Healey), the poll found high levels of undecided voters, even after learners were pushed. In the Secretary of State race, “only” 37% of voters are undecided, and incumbent William Galvin leads progressive challenger Tanisha Sullivan 38% to 25%. In the Attorney General race, Andrea Campbell leads the pack at 21%, with Shannon Liss-Riordan at 11% and Quentin Palfrey at 9%. A majority, 59%, are undecided there. Finally, for LG, Kim Driscoll leads with 17% to Eric Lesser’s 12% and Tami Gouveia’s 10%, with a whopping 61% of voters yet to make up their minds.
One more poll of this race has been released, probably the final one, courtesy of SurveyUSA. It finds Kathy Hochul leading with 54% of the vote, Tom Suozzi trailing at 18%, and Jumaane Williams in third at 11%. It’s an ignominious end to the campaign season for the state’s progressives, who started the year with hopes of taking advantage of Kathy Hochul’s obvious vulnerability, but are now facing the prospect of not only losing to Cuomo’s unelected and previously anti-immigrant, anti-gun control successor, but coming in third behind Tom Suozzi, who’s running well to the right of Hochul and almost belongs in the Republican Party. As it turns out, even running Suozzi’s Republican-lite campaign may be worth more votes than Williams’s plan of…well, we’re not sure, actually. Name recognition? Hoping for big endorsements that never came? Williams has run one of the most passive theoretically-top-shelf gubernatorial campaigns in years.
AOC endorsed progressive activist Ana María Archila, who is challenging appointed Lt. Gov. Antonio Delgado (who until very recently was AOC’s colleague in the House.) It’s late—New York’s primaries for statewide office are this coming Tuesday—but AOC is a big enough name to have an impact nearly overnight, and this race is widely seen as competitive due to Delgado’s abrupt appointment last month after the April indictment and resignation of previous Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin, Kathy Hochul’s first appointed LG, who had been running for reelection until his indictment.
The new NY-10 creates a tremendous opportunity for progressives in New York, by collecting many of their most consistent voters in one district, but it also presents a challenge for them: a deeply fractured field with multiple candidates trying to claim the progressive mantle, and only two months to make a choice. With the DSA not fielding a candidate, the organization most capable of pushing towards consolidation is the Working Families Party. On Thursday, they made their choice: Assemb. Yuh-Line Niou. While it was always unlikely that they would choose any candidate other than Niou—who the party has loved ever since she nearly defeated the Democratic nominee to win an Assembly seat in a special election on the WFP line in 2016—there was always the looming possibility that they’d freeze and issue no endorsement when faced with a choice between so many of their past and present allies. NY-17 Rep. Mondaire Jones, New York City Council Member Carlina Rivera, and even former Mayor Bill de Blasio have been close with the party in the past, and only de Blasio has really burned bridges with WFP.
Progressive groups continue to weigh in for Alessandra Biaggi’s primary challenge to DCCC Chair Sean Patrick Maloney. The Progressive Change Campaign Committee, Democracy for America, and the New York Progressive Action Network all endorsed Biaggi yesterday morning.
Nancy Pelosi fundraised for Helena Foulkes, a CVS executive who has been running a centrist campaign for months but has found herself relegated to the second tier of the race along with progressive 2018 candidate Matt Brown, while Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea and Gov. Dan McKee lead the pack in the polls.
The recount confirms Henry Cuellar is the winner of the primary, by 290 votes. We've already said our piece about this race. Democratic leadership teamed up with AIPAC and a cryptocurrency billionaire and did everything in their power to elect an anti-choice candidate to Congress. Congratulations to them—they got exactly what they hoped for, and the margin was so narrow they undoubtedly made the difference.
Hennepin County, MN District Attorney
After 24 (non-consecutive) years, Hennepin County DA Michael Freeman is retiring for good, a result of either his surprisingly tough reelection in 2018, or the criticism he faced as the George Floyd protests unfolded in Minneapolis two years later. The crowded race to succeed him contains a former Minneapolis City Councilmember (Paul Ostrow), a sitting state rep (Ryan Winkler), and a suburban municipal politician (Simon Trautmann), but progressives have turned their eyes beyond elected officeholders. Not to a Democratic judicial appointee (Martha Holton Dimick), nor to a career prosecutor (Saraswati Singh), but to Hennepin County’s Chief Public Defender Mary Moriarty. She’s already been endorsed by the county party and by Ilhan Omar last month, and this week she won another big one: State AG Keith Ellison. While Ellison was an out and proud progressive while he was in the House, he's tempered himself for statewide office. There was no guarantee he was going to make this endorsement. The LGBTQ Victory Fund also endorsed Moriarty this week.