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The Weekly Bern (6/14/2020): Paula Jean Swearengin Wins Primary, Charles Booker & Jamaal Bowman Surging.

As predicted, we did in fact see some more progressive victories in the June 9th primaries, and most of them were in West Virginia. While Stephen Smith did not manage the nomination, several West Virginia Can’t Wait candidates still have, including Senate candidate Paula Jean Swearengin. While Paula Jean’s nomination is a pretty big victory in and of itself when compared to the defeats of Erica Smith and Kimberly Graham earlier this year, it should be noted that she was not the only West Virginia Can’t Wait candidate to win her primary.

All three of three House nominees not only are part of the West Virginia Can’t Wait movement, but have each signed on to the People’s Platform, a collection of 30+ progressive plans and policy positions, some of which include the legalization of cannabis, a freedom dividend, and publicly funded college tuition. This is in addition to three State Senate candidates and 11 State Assembly candidates that have also advanced to their respective general elections.

But the important thing to remember is that it will be a completely different story for whether or not Paula Jean is able to beat Shelley Moore Capito in the general. In order for that to happen, she would need a lot more donations and at least a few key endorsements. Paula Jean’s victory can be most attributed to the fact that her primary opponent Richard Ojeda refused to take corporate PAC money, and was running mostly off of his own brand recognition. There is a good chance that Paula Jean if she had to face another incumbent Democrat like Joe Manchin, and it is for this same reason that she is at risk of losing to Shelley Moore Capito in a landslide.

But on the other hand, if she gets the kind of support that Charles Booker has been getting, she could have a serious shot at victory. I have been following Booker’s campaign for quite some time, and prior to last week, I had pretty much written him off. Neoliberal Amy McGrath has raised over $40,000,000 as of June 3rd of 2020, and Charles Booker hadn’t even broken $1,000,000 at that point.

But then a bunch of shit happened. I ca only assume that Booker’s volunteers must have worked their asses to the bone to make the kind of progress they have, because they not only broke one million in donations on June 6th, but they have then secured the endorsement of the Lexington Herald-Leader, the Louisville Courier-Journal, LEO Weekly owner Aaron Yarmuth, Kentucky Sports Radio host and political commentator Matt Jones, former Kentucky Secretary of State and McConnell challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes, and a number of labor Unions and state officials. But perhaps the most significant endorsements came from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders themselves.

To think it was only about a month ago that everyone was claiming that both AOC and Bernie sold out, yet both of them have started to throw their weight around with endorsements in the wake of these protests. I also can’t help but notice how they candidates they are endorsing are also people of color. And it seem that this has worked out quite well since Booker is only slightly behind McGrath in the polls despite not being outfunded 40 to 1. If this momentum keeps up, then Charles Booker could seriously win this, and believe me when I say that we need a candidate with genuine enthusiasm behind them if we want to send Prick McConnell packing.

Charles BookerDonation Link

But in addition to Kentucky’s Senate primary, we also have congressional primaries in New York coming up. 2018 saw AOC’s legendary victory against Joe Crowley, so it is only inevitably that even more progressives would start mounting primary challenges against their Neoliberal incumbents as well. And boy do we have a lot to talk about.

We could talk about AOC’s neoliberal primary challenger, but she’s not in any serious risk of losing her seat. She’s one of the most popular incumbents in he country, and the irony in the same party that tried to blacklist people who don’t endorse incumbents trying to mount a primary challenge to oust and incumbent is hilarious and bound to fail.

The biggest race in New York is instead in its 16th district, where Justice Democrat Jamaal Bowman is taking on Neoliberal Chair of the House of Foreign Affairs Committee Eliot Engel, who has held his seat for over 30 years. Normally I’d go into detail about all the shitty things each incumbent does, but I’ll save time by quoting Common Dreams since I don’t have as much time to put this together.

For someone in the Democratic leadership, this 16-term Congressman and chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee is notable for repeatedly breaking with his own party to support Republican foreign policy positions. In 2003, when most House Democrats refused to authorize an invasion of Iraq, Engel voted for President Bush’s disastrous war. In 2015, he was one of only 25 House Democrats to join Republicans in opposing President Obama’s historic Iran nuclear deal.

Engel’s support for hawkish Republicanism has continued into the Trump era. Engel sided with President-elect Trump’s machinations and against President Obama by castigating Obama for not vetoing a UN resolution (the US abstained) against Israel’s expansion of illegal settlements. He was one of the few House Democrats to applaud Trump’s destabilizing move of the US Embassy to Jerusalem. A defender of strong US-Saudi relationsEngel helped delay a Democratic initiative last year to end US support for the devastating Saudi bombing of Yemen. His ascent to House Foreign Affairs chair was cheered by Republican-aligned hawks, including one who called Obamaa Jew-hating anti-Semite.”

Congressman Engel has long affiliated with the corporate wing of the party, as part of the New Democrat Coalition and formerly the Democratic Leadership Council. Although liberal on many domestic issues, his militarism and support of ever-higher military budgets subvert the possibilities for an expansive domestic agenda.

Engel, whose district borders that of Ocasio-Cortez, is active in the intraparty battle against progressives who question the foreign policy status quo. When Muslim-American Representative Ilhan Omar challenged the Israel-right-or-wrong lobby, Engel was one of two Democrats who sparked the effort to censure Omar for supposed “anti-Semitism.” A few years earlier, Engel was a featured speaker at a “pro-Israel” rally that also featured infamous right-wing anti-Muslim bigot Pamela Geller. No resolution was proposed to censure Engel.

Similarly to Charles Booker, Bowman was also recently endorsed by both AOC and Bernie Sanders, in addition to that of Elizabeth Warren, Katie Porter, Daily Kos, and The New York Times. This came after he was heard on a hot mic saying “If I didn’t have a primary, I wouldn’t care” at a press conference following the George Floyd protests, which itself followed him lying about taking part in Covid-19 events.

Since Engel has recognized that he is now in trouble, every establishment organization and politician under the sun is now endorsing him, including Nancy Pelosi, Adam Schiff, and Hillary Clinton. On top of that, he’s also accepting money from Republican Super PACs! The last Democratic incumbent we saw accepting money from Republican PACs against a primary challenger was Dan Lipinski, and we all saw how that ended for him.

This could very well be the beginning of the end for Engel’s career. And to think that about a month ago, that we thought the progressive movement was over. With how much of a significant roll that Bernie and AOC’s endorsements are playing, I have to genuinely wonder whether or not the protests made an impact. AOC was previously stated that she didn’t plan to get involved in primaries against incumbents except for cases like Henry Cuellar and Dan Lipinski where they were conservative even by Neoliberal standards.

But Charles Booker and Jamaal Bowman are still not the only candidates to have received these crucial endorsements. District 17 candidate Mondaire Jones has also been endorsed by both AOC and Bernie, in addition to receiving the endorsements of Julian Castro, Elizabeth Warren, Ayanna Pressley, Ro Khanna, Pramila Jayapal, Barbara Lee, the Working Families Party, Daily Kos, and The New York Times.

Unlike Bowman, Mondaire Jones is running for an open seat, and up to this point he has been neck and neck with State Senator David Carlucci, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Evelyn Farkas, and former federal prosecutor Adam Schleifer. It is entirely likely that these endorsements could give Mondaire Jones the necessary boost in funding and name recognition to push him over the finish line. Hell I’d argue it’s even more likely for him to win than for Jamaal Bowman, simply none of his opponents have the same type of name recognition as Engel, nor is there a candidate for the establishment to coalesce around.

And then there is also the subject of New York’s 15th district, where we have another open primary. According to a poll taken in late May of this year, the current front runner is Rubén Díaz Sr, a blue dog who is viciously homophobic and has compared abortion to the holocaust. The person in 2nd place is your standard neoliberal establishment candidate Ritchie Torres. While it may seem concerning that Díaz is ahead in the polls, it is important to keep in mind two things.

The first is that the poll in question had Díaz at 22%, Torres at 20%, and 34% undecided. The sample size is also only 323, which means that this particular poll might not decide everything. The second thing to consider is that Torres is outfunding Díaz almost 10 to 1, and has a fuckton more money on hand than him. When you combine these two factors, in addition to the fact that the same poll lists 73% of Democrats in this district being pro-gay, it comes across as rather hard to believe that Díaz has any shot at winning the nomination.

My own theory is that Díaz is only in the race to prevent another progressive insurgent from clenching the nomination. I mean, a gay neoliberal against a homophobic scumbag is basically liberal fetish fuel, and they can shut down any ideas of a progressive challenger by saying “you don’t want Díaz to win, do you?” My advice is to not fall for it. The worst that happens is that we are stuck with Díaz until he inevitably gets primaried in 2022. If Joe Crowley and Eliot Engel can’t survive primary challenges, there’s no way a doofus like Rubén Díaz can.

The progressive in question is Samelys Lopez, and she has also been endorsed by Bernie Sanders and AOC, Unfortunately she is not as likely to win given her low funds and polling data compared to Ritchie Torres, but hopefully she can pull through. Even if she doesn’t win though, there are STILL more progressives congressional challengers that deserve your vote.

Hell there are even a few districts that have the difficult choice between voting for the lesser known progressive with better policies, or the more well known progressive that has a better shot at winning but technically isn’t the best option. In New York’s 12th district, the choice is between Suraj Patel who managed 40% of the vote against incumbent Carolyn Maloney in 2018, and has raised $819,887 to Maloney’s $2,067,628 in this cycle, or you could go with first timer Lauren Ashcraft who has better endorsements, but has only raised $141,250. Either way, Patel currently has more money on hand than Maloney does, so it’s entirely possible that he can win this. I slightly prefer Ashcraft based on non policy related things because I don’t have enough time to actually research this in depth, but it seems like Patel is more strategic option.

Same sort of dynamic occurs in New York’s 9th and 10th districts respectively. In the 9th district, you can choose between Adem Bunkeddeko who managed 47% of the vote against incumbent Yvette Clarke in 2018 and has raised $439,300 to Clarke’s $781,294 in this cylce, or you can go with first timer Isiah James who has only raised $21,415 but has more significant endorsements. In the 10th district, you can choose between Lindsey Boylan who has raised $933,276 to incumbent Jerry Nadler’s $1,288,989, or you can go with Jonathan Herzog who has only raised $52,959 but has… oh wait, Boylan has the better endorsements to.

On a more serious note, I do have my suspicions about Patel, Bunkeddeko, and Boylan. Particularly, I remember there were pieces speculating that Bunkkeddeko and Boylan were doing Wine Cave fundraisers in secret, but I can’t find the pieces in question so I can’t varify them. It is for this reason that I would trust Ashcraft, James, and Herzog over Patel, Bunkeddeko, and Boylan, but would also vote for the latter three simply because they have a better chance at unseating the current incumbent, which they’d all undoubtedly be a serious improvement over. Shit like this is why we need ranked choice voting.

We still have more progressives to cover though. The rest of the candidates have less of a chance of winning than the six I covered up to this point, but they nonetheless deserve your votes. These candidates are Melanie D’Arrigo (CD-3), Shaniyat Chowdhury (CD-5), Mel Gagarin (CD-6), Paperboy Prince (CD-7), James Felton Keith (CD-13), and Robin Wilt (CD-25). Additionally, there are State Senate candidates Jabari Brisport (SD-25) and Thearse McCalmon (SD-46), and State Assembly candidates Marcela Mitaynes (AD-51) and Phara Souffrant (AD-57).

Jamaal BowmanDonation Link
Mondaire JonesDonation Link
Samelys Lopez Donation Link
Suraj Patel – Donation Link
Lauren Ashcraft – Donation Link
Adem Bunkeddeko – Donation Link
Isiah James – Donation Link
Lindsey Boylan – Donation Link
Jonathan Herzog – Donation Link
Melanie D’Arrigo – Donation Link
Shaniyat Chowdury – Donation Link
Mel Gagarin – Donation Link
Paperboy Prince – Donation Link
James Felton Keith – Donation Link
Robin Wilt – Donation Link
Jabari BrisportDonation Link
Thearse McCalmonDonation Link
Marcela Mitaynes – Donation Link
Phara SouffrantDonation Link

No wonder they wanted to cancel the primary.

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