Tuesday, February 19, 2019

2020 Primary Challenges Could Get Pretty Ugly-- No, No... They Will Be Ugly For Sure


No one can put the Ocasio-Crowley primary in a box and sell it in other districts

Last week the New York Times published a lazy piece by Shane Goldmacher, The Ocasio-Cortez Effect: Wave of Challenges Hits Entrenched N.Y. Democrats, that defines superficial reporting. It should be lost on no one that Ocasio Cortez's stunning and successful campaign against New York's ultimate congressional insider ("the next speaker of the House"), Queens County machine boss, Joe Crowley, was utterly missed-- if not purposefully ignored-- by her hometown paper. Perhaps they're making a half-assed attempt to make up for it by covering some generally non-existent primaries in the area. "Half assed" is better described as quarter-assed... if that. The first sentence may be correct-- let's hope: "Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez may be just the beginning." But Goldmacher goes nowhere from the correct way to begin his piece.

Blue America has been involved, on one level or another, in every successful Democratic primary against a conservative incumbent since 2006-- Donna Edwards, Beto, Matt Cartwright, AOC... We have also been involved on a ton of them that haven't been successful. If I've learned one thing it's that they succeed when a determined and capable challenger (very, very hard to find, let alone invent) takes on an easily-defined villain with an established bad record. That was certainly the case with Edwards in Maryland, Beto in Texas, Cartwright in Pennsylvania and Ocasio Cortez in New York. Each of them is an extremely talented and charismatic politician and each ran against a corrupt, out-of-touch conservative who was supported fully by an establishment generally loathed by the grassroots.

Goldmacher generally neglected to look at any of that and instead spouts irrelevant nonsense like "Party insurgents are plotting and preparing to battle with the entrenched establishment-- targeting as many as a half-dozen Congress members in and around New York City-- over what it means to be a Democrat and a progressive in the age of President Trump. The coming New York uprising could result in a series of races that lay bare some of the same generational, racial, gender and ideological cleavages expected to define the 2020 presidential primary. The activist left, in particular, hopes that Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s victory will inspire a brush fire of Democrat-on-Democrat campaigns that will spread from New York across the nation."

"Party insurgents?" Really? Grass roots activists might be a better way to describe the point he's fumbling towards. As for "generational, racial, gender and ideological cleavages," which worked in Ocasio Cortez's campaign, we'll have to look at each race Goldmacher is reporting to be a potential primary battle. He's certainly right when he claims "serious primary challengers for House seats have historically been rare, and it is almost unheard of for so many to emerge in one region so early in the election cycle." And they haven't emerged, except on the page in the Times his piece was published on.

The first member Goldmacher identifies as a potential target is Jerry Nadler-- who represents a district that includes areas of Manhattan (the Upper West Side, Soho, Chelsea, the Village, the Financial District) and Brooklyn (mostly Borough Park). His super-highly educated Manhattan constituents are not likely to be persuaded he's a villain at all. His ProgressivePunch score is "A" and has always been "A" and his voting record is ranked-- and has always been ranked-- among the 20 most perfect progressive records in Congress. I don't think Nadler or his team ever thought he could be primaried from the left. His last primary was in 2016 when the far right Hassidics who run Borough Park recruited and supported a candidate, Mikhail Oliver Rosenberg, son of a millionaire, to run against Nadler when he voted for the Iran nuclear deal. It looked like if they could order their zombie followers to go out and vote against Nadler-- in what was predicted to be a low-turn-out election, they could pull off an upset. (They even persuaded racist former comedian Jackie Mason to cut a robocall for their candidate.) Instead it was the second highest turn-out primary in the state that year and Mason and the zombies were nowhere to be seen.

Rosenberg fancied himself the new generation (and a part of a strong LGBTQ community) up against an old and tired Nadler. (Nadler has been in the forefront of every pro-gay initiative in his career and gay organizations backed Nadler.) Rosenberg campaigned on a solid green energy platform, on legalizing marijuana, and as an advocate for Israel. 85% of his campaign expenditures ($366,852) came from his own bank account and, like Trump, he claimed he wouldn't be beholden to special interests. Nadler beat Rosenberg in a landslide-- 88.78% to 10.26%.

Goldmacher reports that next year "Nadler could face a primary from Lindsey Boylan, a former economic development adviser to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who appears to want to run on a platform of "I'm a woman and he's not."
She said she was considering a run after watching the 2018 midterms, as “these women decided not to wait their turn because it was never going to be their turn.”

“I just can’t justify having my daughter watch me sit on the sidelines,” she said.

A huge X-factor in any Nadler primary would be the billionaire activist Tom Steyer, who has pushed for the impeachment of Mr. Trump. Mr. Steyer has already polled the popularity of impeachment in the district and is launching a $200,000 direct mail, television and digital ad campaign this week urging Mr. Nadler to begin impeachment hearings in his committee.
Goldmacher identified Tom Suozzi, Eliot Engel, Yvette Clarke, José Serrano, Carolyn Maloney and Kathleen Rice as likely targets. Suozzi, Engel and Rice are New Dems with relatively conservative voting records. Serrano, Maloney and Clarke are members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and Engel is rumored to be buying his way into the Progressive Caucus so he will be able to use that membership to claim he's progressive. These are the crucial vote scores for all 7 candidates identified in the piece.
Yvette Clarke- 95.88- A
Jerry Nadler- 94.98- A
José Serrano- 93.71- A
Carolyn Maloney- 86.47- C
Eliot Engel- 85.30- C
Kathleen Rice- 63.16- F
Tom Suozzi- 54.05- F
"Not every challenge in New York," wrote Goldmacher, "will be run on ideological grounds. Some will be powered by more local disputes, longstanding grudges or just timely ambition. But for many progressives, the goal is to police the Democratic Party ideologically, much in the way the Tea Party pushed Republicans to the right."
“We are trying to elect more Alexandrias,” said Alexandra Rojas, executive director of Justice Democrats, the insurgent group devoted to recruiting progressive primary challengers nationally. “She is an example of what one victory can do. Imagine what we can do with more primary wins across the country.”

After Mr. Crowley’s defeat almost no one is seen as untouchable.

“They should be afraid,” Maria L. Svart, the national director of the Democratic Socialists of America, which backed Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, said of incumbent House Democrats.

Ms. Ocasio-Cortez herself appeared in a promotional video for Justice Democrats and on an organizing call for the group last November during which Saikat Chakrabarti, now her chief of staff, declared, “We gotta primary folks.”
True, but targets should be carefully chosen. It amazes me, for example, that Justice Democrats and DSA have seemingly ignored, at least so far, corrupt New Dem Gregory Meeks. Nadler and Serrano may not be perfect-- but they certainly are in comparison to Meeks, who seems to exist in Congress primarily to collect bribes. A member of the House Financial Services Committee, he's taken $3,665,788 from the Finance Sector, including $564,100 in the last cycle. What's more, Meeks' likely challenger is the ideal candidate for the seat. Khaair Morrison is a 25 year old African-American attorney born and raised in the district, which, he told me yesterday "is ripe for a fresh leadership after having ineffective leadership for 20+ years. Working class neighborhoods like South East Queens, Nassau, Valley Stream, and Far Rockaway have had an up-close seat to the major issues of our time. After Hurricane Sandy, areas are still rebuilding as we see the effects of Global Warming. We were the epicenter for the foreclosure crisis and many have still not able to get their homes back. We see the brutality of broken windows and mass incarceration as our kids are constantly targeted for low-level offenses that ruin opportunities for black and brown lives to be productive members of our society. We have seen how poor infrastructure and lack of planning can ruin a neighborhood's vitality. We have seen the decrepit state of public housing and are still without creative ideas to make housing more equitable. It is time we do things differently and that we speak truth to power." True, that-- and time for a self-serving do-nothing congressman like Meeks to bow out and let a fresh can-do kind of guy like Morrison take the seat.

Meeks is one of the New York congressmembers who Goldmacher was no doubt referring to when he wrote that they "have sought to establish personal or professional bonds with Ocasio-Cortez, signing onto her Green New Deal, for instance-- recognizing the power of her megaphone. In an interview in January, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez said she had 'put zero energy' into the question of primarying colleagues. She said the freshman class had 'already changed the opinions and commitments of a lot of incumbent members already. And I think that is something we should absolutely consider.' Whether or not Ms. Ocasio-Cortez gets personally involved, insurgent groups are plowing ahead."

Let me jump to Carolyn Maloney, a difficult target ideologically put perfect for a reformist challenger to take on based on ethics. Her corruption is just mind-boggling, even if her voting record is pretty good. She's not just a member of the House Financial Services Committee, she's the chair of the Subcommittee on Investor Protection, Entrepreneurship, and Capital Markets-- and exploits that to the max in her fundraising efforts. Among current members of the House, only 3 have been bigger Finance Sector money pigs than Maloney. A case can-- and should-- be made that these are the half dozen most corrupt members of Congress, at least in regard to Wall Street banksters, and that they should all be carted off to jail holding tanks before their trials:
Kevin McCarthy (R-CA)- $8,086,692
Steny Hoyer (D-MD)- $6,865,814
Jim Himes (New Dem-CT)- $6,376,379
Carolyn Maloney (D-NY)- $6,309,318
Patrick McHenry (R-NC)- $5,627,242
Steve Stivers (R-OH)- $5,620,077
Suraj Patel ran against Maloney in 2018 and may do it again next year. He ought to. NY-12 is a solidly blue district (D+31) that spans Manhattan (Yorkville, the Upper East Side, Midtown, Kips Bay, Gramercy Park, Alphabet City and the Lower East Side), Queens (Astoria, Long Island City, Sunnyside) and Brooklyn (Greenpoint and north Williamsburg). Interstate 278 separates Maloney's district from Ocasio's in Queens. Of the 251,604 people who voted in 2018, 190,771 were in Manhattan, 35,728 in Queens and 25,105 in Brooklyn. The district has changed-- and rapidly, as Ocasio's had-- and in similar ways. First of all, though not most important per se, the D+27 PVI in 2017 jumped to D+31 in 2019. That's a big jump and it's the other changes that account for it. The white population is smaller but still dominant, though the fastest growing demos are Asians, Latinos, Arabs and-- very significantly-- highly educated and politicized millennials. Patel: "The status quo isn’t good enough. Our values are under attack by leaders that don’t share or understand our lived experiences, and it’s going to take new ideas and louder voices to make real change... We deserve a congressperson who isn’t recklessly indifferent to the less privileged."

Patel ended up with a bit over 40% of the vote, a great accomplishment against a forever incumbent on a first try. Goldmacher interviewed Sean McElwee, who has been involved in finding primary challengers in New York and who was a co-founder of the progressive think tank Data for Progress. McElwee told him that "in deep blue states, Republicans increasingly don’t exist. We spend a lot of time thinking about why we have right-wing corporate Democrats selling out our interests." McElwee told him the push to recruit a challenger to Engel, who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee and has been in Congress for three decades (and who represents the Likud Party of Israel and their lobbyists, AIPAC, far more than he does the folks who live in the 16th district (including Riverdale, Fieldston and Eastchester in the Bronx, abutting Ocasio's district, and New Rochelle, Yonkers, Mount Vernon, Mamaroneck, Scarsdale and up to Rye and Hastings-on-Hudson in Westchester.

Blue America has been trying to find a local elected official to take Engel on for years, but with not a nibble. McElwee calls finding a primary opponent for him a "top priority" and recently commissioned a poll there. The district used to be overwhelming white but now whites only make up 39% of the population. Blacks, Latinos and Asians make it a minority-majority district. McElwee is eager to find "a younger candidate of color in 2020; only about a half-dozen white Democratic men represent a more diverse district in Congress than Mr. Engel," wrote Goldmacher.
One potential challenger mulling a run is Andom Ghebreghiorgis, a Yale graduate and 33-year-old educator in Mount Vernon, who said that Ms. Ocasio-Cortez "showed there’s a hunger, especially here in New York, for representatives who reflect the changing progressive politics of their communities."

In a statement, Mr. Engel praised the party’s "new energy" and said the fact that anyone can run "is the beauty of our electoral system." But, he added, "think we’re doing the people we represent and the country a disservice by focusing on 2020 primaries when we have so much to do right now in Washington."
Yeah-- but not in NY-16. There are 4 congressmembers who represent parts of the Bronx, Ocasio, Engel, Adriano Espaillat-- a relatively new member, a progressive and a very good fit for the district-- and José Serrano (NY-15) in the center of the borough, in some ways the furthest left district in New York. The PVI is D+44, the bluest in the state and Trump only managed to win 4.9% of the vote in 2016 (slightly better than Romney did, but still Trump's worst performance anywhere in America. Only 2% of the population is white. The last Republican who won this district was Calvin Coolidge in 1924. The Bronx Machine has been eager to take Serrano out for some time but no one wants to run against him. In 2014 his primary opponent, Sam Sloan won 9% of the vote. His 2016 primary opponent, Leonel Baez won 10.8% and in 2018 there was no primary opponent. In the 2018 general election, the Republican candidate was Jason Gonzalez and Serrano beat him 124,469 (96%) to 5,205 (4%). City Councilman Ritchie Torres, a 30-year-old often described as a rising star, is weighing a run based on the whole "it's my turn, you're too old" thing.

Yvette Clarke, who won with only 53%, is facing a rematch with Adem Bunkeddeko, the Harvard-educated son of war Ugandan refugees who had been endorsed by the New York Times. "We’re at a moment of reckoning. Some people get it and some people don’t. Maybe someone’s seventh term is the charm? But most of us aren’t holding our breath." Goldmacher spoke with her and she told him that "she had reorganized her district office following the 2018 close call and is aggressively selling her progressive credentials in the more gentrified and liberal parts of the district, such as Park Slope. 'I definitely will not be caught by surprise.' She has among the dozen most progressive voting records in Congress. Bunkeddeko's point is that she's basically just a backbencher who votes well and doesn't do much for the district.

The last two likely primary races are on Long Island-- Tom Suozzi and Kathleen Rice, both New Dems who are going to be challenged from the left. I'm going to do a separate post on these two races because both are swingy districts that could, at least in theory, flip red if the incumbents are beaten.

UPDATE: Democratic Primary In Arizona

At dawn today, the Arizona Republic reported that Eva Putzova, a former Flagstaff city councilwoman, is running for the AZ-01 seat currently held by reactionary Blue Dog Tom O'Halleran.
Putzova, who announced her candidacy in January, said her top priority in Congress would be to address the process immigrants have to go through to become citizens. She said the current system takes too long and leaves people at the mercy of Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers for far too long.

She also wants ICE restructured.

“Nobody is saying that enforcement in immigration is not important, but ICE as an agency is rogue,” she said. “It needs to be completely restructured.”

..."A #GreenNewDeal should be every candidates priority in 2020," she tweeted Feb. 10 in support of the "Green New Deal" environmental plan championed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY).

Her campaign website lists other top issues: universal health care, tuition-free college, indigenous peoples' rights, "meaningful climate action," "no more wars," women's reproductive health and workers' rights.

...O’Halleran, the two-term incumbent, appears to have the support of national Democrats.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee recently added him to its "Frontline" program.

The DCCC's Frontline program is designed to help provide Democratic members of Congress with the support they need to win re-election. O’Halleran is now one of 44 members of Congress in the program.

Goal Thermometer“Tom O’Halleran wins tough races because he understands the concerns of hard-working Arizonans, and because he never forgot where he came from,” Rep. Cheri Bustos, the 2020 cycle's DCCC chairwoman, said in a written statement.

“We’re proud to stand with Tom as a member of our Frontline program to ensure he has the support he needs to win and keep working for Arizona,” Bustos (Blue Dog-IL) added.
Blue America has already endorsed Eva Putzova and if you'd like to see another member of Congress who supports Bernie's platform replace an "ex"-Republican Blue Dog, please click on the ActBlue Primary A Blue Dog thermometer on the right and contribute what you can.

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At 11:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is "ugly" MEANT to be Freudian?

"As for "generational, racial, gender and ideological cleavages," which worked in Ocasio Cortez's campaign."

just cleavage, in AOC's case might be the answer. Her ethnicity was a plus in her district too, but you have to admit that if it was me, visually indistinguishable from Crowley, saying the same things AOC was saying, Crowley would have prevailed easily.

She projects an earnestness that seems genuine. Her courage seems refreshing. She checks all the policy boxes... rhetorically. But it is her breathtaking beauty that PROBABLY made all the difference.
Crowley probably fatally underestimated her too, which is another factor.
I cannot believe that the lefty voters in that district ONLY were smart enough to know how miserably corrupt feckless and worthless Crowley is.

After the house spends 2 years and only DOES paygo, it'll take charmers like AOC to make the pummelled, bludgeoned and disaffected lefty voters feel like bothering to vote. It will take someone with THAT much appeal to overcome another cycle of Pelosi-malaise.

If the malaise is like 2010 again (and all arrows point that way), it won't matter anyway as the anti-blue whiplash will vacuum dozens more Nazis into congress.

Look it up. 2010 was a thorough indictment of the democrap betrayal of the seminal 2008 mandate. This is worse in some ways simply because of trump and the fact that the Nazis are lined up with their tongues in his sphincter. Democrap betrayal of the 2016 anti-red mandates won't help them in 2020.

At 11:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good job, Howie. This is the kind of post you should be putting up if the goal is to replace corporatist democraps. Please continue.

At 11:48 AM, Blogger cybermome said...

great post

more like this


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