Tomorrow's Non-Presidential Primaries
The corrupt Democratic establishment has been far more successful shutting down primaries than has the corrupt Republican establishment. Primaries are usually the only way it ever challenge entrenched incumbents in gerrymandered safe districts. All Americans actually owe the Tea Party a debt of gratitude for scaring the congressional Republicans and for cleaning out some trash, particularly Wall Street whore Eric Cantor. This cycle, the most comparable action on the Democratic side of the aisle is Tim Canova's challenge to a Democrat as vile and deserving of ignominious defeat as Cantor was: Debbie Wasserman Schultz, although head Blue Dog Kurt Schrader (OR) and So. Jersey machine corruptionist Donald Norcross are also being pounded, respectively, by reformers Dave McTeague and Alex Law.
Tomorrow, though, there aren't many primaries in either party against incumbents that are likely to yield surprises. The one exception might be in northeast Ohio-- (OH-14) between Cleveland's eastern suburbs and the Pennsylvania state line west of Erie-- where dull backbencher David Joyce is being challenged by a crackpot extremist again. In 2014, Joyce fended off the very same crackpot extremist, ex-state Rep. Matt Lynch, 27,547 (55%) to 22,546 (45%). This year though, election officials in Lake, Cuyahoga, Geauga and Summit counties are expecting much, much larger turnouts because of the simultaneous presidential primary. Lynch is counting on Trump and Cruz voters figuring out that he's their man, while Joyce is counting on Kaisich backers voting for him. Lynch has been spending money on tarring Joyce as a compromiser afraid to shut down the government while making it clear that the radicals and extremists back his race against Joyce.
Unfortunately for Lynch, by the Feb. 24 reporting deadline Joyce had already spent $1,058,471 and had another $549,665 ready to deploy, while all he had managed it raise was $173,406. He's getting free airtime on Hate Talk Radio (especially on Beck's show) but will it be enough? Few think so and the establishment and all the newspapers in the area have endorsed Joyce. The DCCC is once again ignoring the race although, presumably, if Lynch wins tomorrow, they'd jump in to try to bolster Michael Wager, the progressive who ran against Joyce in 2014 and is on the ballot again. With Bernie-- or even Hillary-- at the top of the Democratic ticket in November, particularly against Trump, Wager would likely be a shoo-in.
There's also a far right extremist running against John Shimkus in the sprawling, empty southeastern district (IL-15) that skirts all cities and big towns that might have a library. It was Obama's worst-performing district in the state and the last Democrat who ran for the congressional seat, spent $24,243 and won 25% of the vote. This cycle there isn't even a Democrat running at all. Instead, Shimkus, the congressman who repeatedly allowed Mark Foley access to the underage pages he molested for years, is facing far right state Sen. Kyle McCarter, who's being supported-- to the tune of $345,650) by Club for Growth. This is the completely deceptive-- and probably ineffective-- ad they're running in the district:
Shimkus had spent $1,764,009 by Feb. 24 and reported another $995,864 in the bank, while McCarter had spent $245,018 and was getting ready to spend $106,985. American Action Network-- a Chamber of Commerce establishment group run by notorious anti-Semite Fred Malek and ex-Jew Norm Coleman-- spent $200,485 helping Shimkus. Shimkus doesn't appear to be in any real trouble.
The races where there actually could be upsets are both Democratic primaries, a Senate race in Ohio and a House race in Illinois' 10th district. The DSCC and DCCC had each mandated a candidate, the elderly and feeble conservative Ted Strickland in Ohio and the corrupt conservative New Dem Brad Schneider in Illinois. Schneider and his DCCC backers appear to be about to lose to Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering, who is strongly backed by Se. Dick Durbin and endorsed by all the local newspapers.
The Ohio race is a much bigger longshot and Blue America has strongly backed challenger PG Sittenfeld against the NRA's top Democrat, Ted Strickland. Paul Rosenberg covered the primary in great detail forSalon over the weekend. He noted that "when 78-year-old former Ohio governor Dick Celeste endorsed Sittenfeld recently, he directly invoked what was happening in the presidential race. 'What we’re seeing in the presidential campaigns across the country is a growing level of discontent with party leadership in both parties. And I think it was a mistake for the Democratic Party of Ohio, for example, to make an early endorsement in the Senate race,' Celeste said. 'PG Sittenfeld represents a fresh way of moving forward,' he said, pointing to Sittenfeld’s hands-on engagement in dealing with a multitude of urban issues. 'What we have here is a race between the future and the past,' Celeste continued. 'When I say the past, I’m talking about the Democratic Party itself. It is trying to operate in an old way. And that old way was insiders who tried to make decisions and insiders who tried to call the shots. And that’s not what people want.'"
At the most obvious level, this race pits an aging, backward-looking insider against a young, forward-thinking outsider. As Celeste said, it’s “a race between the future and the past.” But the past also means an aging candidate significantly at odds with his party’s voting base-- though with varying degrees of obfuscation-- who has repeatedly refused to debate his opponent… for good reason, it would seem.
On guns, Strickland bragged to a radio caller last year, “As a Congressman I had A and most of the time an A+ rating with the National Rifle Association.” He went on to brag that he voted against the 1994 assault weapons ban that Ohio Gov. John Kasich voted for. As governor, he signed a so-called “castle doctrine” law that was opposed by Ohio prosecutors and police chiefs associations, who said it would provide legal cover for bad guys hurting folks who had no intention of harming them. He also supported a bill that would allow firearms in family restaurants and bars-- a measure opposed by police groups, which was blocked by the speaker of the state assembly at the end of the 2010 session. He now claims to have undergone a conversion, but even so he admitted, “My record is mixed and spotty and I could be criticized for that.”
On the environment, Strickland got a 100 percent rating from the League of Conservation Voters just one year out of 12 he spent in Congress, as opposed to seven years with scores in the 60s and 70s, and four in the 80s. He voted repeatedly for coal and fossil fuel subsidies (1993, 1994, 1997, 2001), against higher fuel economy standards (2001, 2003, 2005), and against protecting public forest lands (1999, 2000, 2003), along with a range of other anti-environmental votes.
Although Strickland calls himself “pro-choice,” his record is more multiple-choice. He did score 100 percent twice on NARAL’s scorecard, but also scored in the 30s twice, and 60 or lower five times. He cast multiple votes that would restrict abortion rights, including a 1998 vote to override a Clinton veto. As governor, he signed an abortion-ultrasound bill that drew anti-choice activists’ praise.
The state's newspapers are all disgusted with Strickland for ducking debates and have almost all endorsed Sittenfeld. Hillary Clinton, who makes believe she opposes the NRA and cares about families, is strongly behind Strickland despite his very Republican record that spans decades. Summing up months of coverage, the Columbus Dispatch closed Saturday by noting that "Ted Strickland, a 74-year-old veteran politician, has been employing a rope-a-dope strategy ... Meanwhile, Sittenfeld, a 31-year-old Cincinnati councilman, has pressed for debates, held news conferences and traveled the state." And the final Toledo Blade editorial reported that "Strickland...has largely limited his campaign appearances to friendly audiences, and even other Democrats have noted his overall lack of visibility... In a year in which voters are turning to insurgent candidates at every level, in search of new voices and fresh faces, such a contrast could work in Mr. Sittenfeld’s favor."
On all three of these issues, Sittenfeld’s progressive positions signal a clear-cut break with Strickland. He’s pledged that he will only support a Supreme Court nominee who pledges to uphold Roe v. Wade. He’s got a comprehensive agenda to reduce gun violence: first, by closing loopholes to make background checks truly mandatory; second, by holding gun manufacturers and dealers accountable; and third, by keeping violent weapons out of dangerous hands. On the environment, Sittenfeld has a proven leadership record on the city council, chairing the committee overseeing all environmental issues. When a GOP plan was launched to defund the city’s Office of Environmental Quality (OEQ) as part of a cost-cutting plan, he alerted local activists to fight back, pointing out that “OEQ saves tax-payers more money each year than the Department costs-- so axing it would represent broken fiscal management and in no way be productive for our budget situation.” Regarding global warming, he supports Obama’s Clean Power Plan, opposes the Keystone Pipeline, and says “the need to act has never been more urgent or more important.”
But beyond these key issue positions, reflecting the vast majority of Ohio’s Democratic base, Sittenfeld has a mature sense of how intricately different issues and ideas interweave and synergize with one another, based on his own lived experience. Before being elected to city council, Sittenfeld served as the assistant director of the Community Learning Center Institute, which played a key role in dramatically transforming the city’s public schools. He described the result in a speech laying out his urban agenda last year:
Virtually all of our schools are new. But instead of using them only during the school day-- and then shooing the kids out of the building and into the streets-- we’ve turned them into bustling, round-the-clock community centers.Rather than seeing education through the narrow lens of high-stakes testing of individual students, destroying neighborhood schools in the process, as has happened in Chicago and other major cities, Cincinnati’s approach was the complete opposite, seeing education as the process of a whole community creating a better future by investing in its children holistically, synergizing different support systems that had previously been disconnected, or even absent. Similarly, a careful reading of his issue agenda shows a constant awareness of how different pieces of the progressive policy puzzle fit together.
Co-located health and dental facilities…. adult education programs… and enhanced cultural and recreational opportunities have removed barriers to student learning, boosted academic achievement, and sparked broader neighborhood revitalization.
Under the heading of “rebuilding the middle class,” he says he will “fight for a livable minimum wage, expanded overtime pay, better child care assistance, family leave, and paid sick days,” and “reject bad trade deals that create an uneven playing field for American workers,” pledging to “always be steadfast in standing up for workers’ rights, including collective bargaining,” which Ohio Republicans have fiercely attacked since 2010. At the same time, he won’t be pigeonholed as defending dying industries of the past, saying, “We won’t rebuild the middle class by yearning for yesterday or clinging to a past that will never return. We must embrace innovation, champion change, and understand the tools of tomorrow, including ensuring fast, affordable internet for all Americans.”
His positive stance toward innovation is reflected in other issue areas he stresses as well-- most notably education and the environment. And he has a detailed urban policy agenda, encompassing four major components: ending mass incarceration, improving police-community relations and better gun safety, jobs and economic opportunity, and improving urban schools and making college affordable. This is not a laundry list of issues in his view, but a tightly interrelated set of concerns. Being grounded in the reality of that interrelation is arguably Sittenfeld’s greatest strength-- and given the nature of the Democratic Party’s diverse constituency, it’s just the sort of leadership strength the party desperately needs. “All of us want our best selves represented by who we cast a vote for,” Celeste said. “And I believe PG Sittenfeld represents the best of us.”
But the party also needs leaders who can bring people together in different ways. And that’s precisely where the outsiders excel over the anointed insiders in the other three states as well.
But Chuck Schumer doesn't want energetic and committed independent thinkers like Sittenfeld in the Senate. He wants tired old conservative hacks like Strickland who will just do what they're told. Schumer has no realistic hope that a doddering and incoherent Strickland could actually beat Republican incumbent Rob Portman and he and Tester are just gambling that November will see a battle between Hillary and Trump and that she will be seen as the lesser evil and have the coattails needed to drag Strickland's NRA carcass across the finish line. Ohio Democratic primary voters should give Chuck Schumer the finger tomorrow and nominate PG Sittenfeld. Beyond tomorrow's primaries... in Illinois and Ohio: