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The Weekly Bern (7/4/2020): Kentucky & Colorado Senate Defeats, Let’s Hope New Jersey is Different.

Welp, today (as in the June 30th 2020 when this was being written) was a fucking mess. We wake up to see that Charles Booker lost by a slim margin to Amy McGrath, and later on we see that Frackenlooper has a 20 point lead over Andrew Romanoff in Colorado’s Senate race. This is a feeling all too familiar to those of us that got our hopes up that the DNC wouldn’t fuck us over again in the Presidential race, but these races are yet another painful reminder of how much the odds are stacked in the establishment’s favor.

That being said, the fact that Charles Booker gained this much momentum in a state as red as Kentucky despite being dwarfed in fundraising by Amy McGrath shows how much of an impact we are making, and that this could happen again. The only problem is that most people don’t even know these progressives exist until someone like Bernie Sanders or AOC endorses them, and it makes things all the more frustrating that they didn’t endorse Andrew Romanoff in a race that could have pushed him over the edge and won.

We did end up with two Congressional victories the week prior (and possibly a third depending on how Suraj Patel’s lawsuit works out), but it looks like this week was not quite as strong a victory. That’s not to say there were no victories this cycle though. The most noteworthy victory is in the blood red state of Oklahoma of all places, where a ballot measure for medicaid expansion passed despite Republican state leaders advocating against it.

Before anyone interjects by saying how low the bar is when a medicaid expansion is considered a major victory, keep in mind that this is fucking Oklahoma. Oklahoma has a partisan index rating of R+20, has an Anti-Vaxx Governor, and its two Senators are so stupid that they brought a snowball onto the senate floor to disprove climate change and cited JK Rowling to block an anti discrimination bill for LGBT people. The fact that any of these morons are still in office speaks volumes about their electorate, so the fact that they went against them this time should hopefully be a good sign.

I’m not going to try and get anyone’s hopes up that they will finally chase Jim Inhofe back into the swamp pit he crawled out of, but it does hopefully mean that they are losing power here. On top of this, progressive candidate Kojo Asamoa-Ceasar has won the Democratic nomination for Oklahoma’s 1st Congressional district, and there’s a decent chance that Jamie Cheek from Utah’s 1st Congressional district won her primary as well (the results aren’t fully in yet). Also of note is that we saw a few new progressive District Attorneys in Colorado with Alonzo Payne and Amy Padden successfully winning their primaries against incumbent DAs, so progress is still being made even if Colorado will most likely be stuck with Frackenlooper for six years (and he will at least be an improvement over Cory Garnder).

But we got more elections to look to, and the next one will be the New Jersey primaries on July 7th. We got a lot of shit going down in the New Jersey primaries, so it’s possible that this could basically be another “Mini Pink Tsunami” piece. The short version is that we have lots of progressives to discuss, and we may as well start with the Senate race.

The incumbent Senator up for re-election is Cory Booker, who most of you may know as that one guy who really wanted to be President for all of ten seconds before dropping out of the 2020 race. Oh wait, I suppose that wasn’t very specific. Anyway here is a list of dumb things he’s done.

Being more worried about “Poverty of Empathy” than actual poverty.
Refusing to re-enter the Iran Deal if he became President.
Accepting Campaign Contributions from ICE Tear Gas Makers.
Fundraising with Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner.
Praising Jeff Sessions for Civil Rights Work.
Having close ties with Betsy Devos and accepting campaign contributions from her husband.
Comparing Elizabeth Warren to Donald Trump for wanting to break up big tech companies.
Co-sponsored legislation to make it a federal crime to boycott Israel.
Killed a Proposal to lower Prescription Drug Prices.
Referred to Obama’s criticism of Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital “nauseating.”
The Newark Watershed Scandal, Enough Said.

Cory Booker is your typical corporate Democrat; a corrupt scumbag who will give you plenty of empty platitudes and corny speeches, but only truly exists to serve his rich donors. It is only a given that he would attract a primary challenger, and said primary challenger is People’s Organization for Progress chairman Lawrence Hamm. Sadly, I don’t have much confidence in him winning.

As of the 17th of June, Lawrence Hamm has raised a total of $63,463, which is sadly nowhere near enough to compete with Cory Booker’s $10,908,350 war chest. While Hamm has successfully managed a few noteworthy endorsements, the most noteworthy being author, activist and Bernie Sanders supporter Cornel West, they are significantly less than that of of previous Senate challengers. Considering that Cory Booker’s approval numbers are significantly better than that of fellow New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez, it’s going to be difficult for Hamm to even perform as well as Lisa McCormick did in 2018. And given that the primary is in three days, it’s unlikely that Hamm will receive any additional high profile endorsements.

But the main event for Progressives will not be the Senate race. Eight of New Jersey’s twelve congressional districts have progressive challengers in them. I’d like to start with New Jersey’s 5th congressional district. Progressive candidate Arati Krebich is attempting to mount a primary challenge to incumbent Blue Dog Josh Gottheimer. I will once again quote Common Dreams for this one to save time and energy.

Very few House Democrats are more eager to align with the GOP than Josh Gottheimer. During his first two years in Congress, he voted with Trump a whopping 55 percent of the time. Gottheimer cochairs the reach-across-the-aisle Problem Solvers Caucus; his official website says he leads the group “to find areas of agreement” for such goals as “lowering taxes” and “cutting burdensome and unnecessary regulation.” Gottheimer’s generous Wall Street patrons are no doubt gratified.

A former precocious speechwriter for President Bill Clinton at age 23, he has won acclaim from corporate leaders for his congressional efforts. Last year, the US Chamber of Commerce gave Gottheimer its “Spirit of Enterprise Award”—which, his office noted, made him “one of only 13 Democrats in the House” to receive the plaudit. Gottheimer quickly returned the compliment, declaring that the anti-union and anti-environmental Chamber “has been a voice for economic growth and a champion for opportunity and prosperity for Americans and businesses of all sizes.”

Gottheimer “has deep ties to the lobbies for Saudi Arabia and Israel,” The Intercept’s Ryan Grim reported in May—and deep hostility toward the two progressive Muslims who became colleagues this year, Congresswomen Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar. After meeting with him, Tlaib recalled: “He was using a very stern tone, like a father to a child. At that moment, I realized he’s a bully. He had a goal of breaking me down.”

As the first Palestinian-American in Congress and a strong advocate for the human rights of Palestinian people, Tlaib has been a logical target for Gottheimer, who has few equals as an Israel-can-do-no-wrong lawmaker. Overall, Grim describes him as a centrist “willing to take the fight directly to the squad of freshmen trying to push the party in a progressive direction.”

In 2016, Gottheimer flipped a longtime GOP district in northern New Jersey. Since then—on a range of issues including the US-backed Saudi war on Yemen and predatory banking practices—he has maneuvered to undermine efforts by progressive Democrats in the House. A prodigious big-check fundraiser, he entered this year’s second quarter with almost $5 million in his campaign coffers.

Some may notice that the description of a conservative, Israel humping, Islamophobe sounds awfully similar to that of the recently dethroned Eliot Engel. Believe it or not though, Gottheimer is even worse than Engel. In addition to the above shit, Gottheimer has also bragged about a 100 percent approval rating from the National Association of Police Organizations two days after the murder of Breonna Taylor, blocked a bill to mandating better conditions for kids kept in ICE captivity, and voted with Republicans to lay the groundwork to ban abortions.

Unfortunately, Arati Kreibich is not in as strong a position as Jamaal Bowman given that she does not have the backing of Justice Democrats or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortex. She HAS at least received the endorsement of Bernie Sanders and Ayanna Pressley. If Arati Kreibich manages to pull through, then it won’t be a landslide like with Jamaal Bowman, but I seriously hope she pushes through regardless.

Other progressive challengers running in this state include…

Will Cunningham, who is running for the Democratic nomination to take on New Jersey Congressional District 2 Incumbent Republican Jeff Van Drew, has raised $153,370, and has been endorsed by Climate Strike New Jersey, Democracy for America, The Collective PAC, and former US Senator and 2020 Presidential Candidate Mike Gravel.
Christine Conforti, who is running for the Democratic nomination to take on New Jersey Congressional District 4 Incumbent Republican Chris Smith, has raised $26,484, and has been endorsed by the Mercer County Democratic Party, Our Revolution – Monmouth County chapter, and Youth Climate Strike New Jersey.
Russ Cirincione, who is attempting to mount a Primary challenge to New Jersey Congressional District 6 Incumbent Frank Pallone, has raised $56,512, and has been endorsed by 2020 Presidential Candidate Andrew Yang, and Nancy Pelosi Primary challenger Shahid Buttar.
Hector Oseguera, who is attempting to mount a primary challenge to New Jersey Congressional District 8 Incumbent  Albio Sires, has raised $59,182, and has been endorsed by Our Revolution New Jersey Chapter, Sunrise Movement Montclair and Morris County Chapters, and 2020 Presidential Candidate Marianne Williamson.
Zina Spezakis, who is attempting to mount a primary challenger to New Jersey Congressional District 9 Incumbent Bill Pascrell, has raised $272,629, and has been endorsed by Brand New Congress, Our Revolution New Jersey Chapter, and Sunrise Movement.
John Flora, who is attempting to mount a primary challenger to New Jersey Congressional District 10 Incumbent Donald Payne, has raised $14,011, and has been endorsed by West Orange Young Democrats, Sunrise Movement Montclair and Hunterdon County Chapters, and Youth Climate Strike New Jersey.
Lisa McCormick, who is attempting to mount a primary challenger to New Jersey Congressional District 12 Incumbent Bonnie Watson Coleman.

Let’s hope we can get back on track with our congressional wins.

Lawrence Hamm – Donation Link
Arati Kreibich – Donation Link
Zina Spezakis – Donation Link
Russ Cirincione – Donation Link
Hector Oseguera – Donation Link
Will Cunningham – Donation Link
Christine Conforti – Donation Link
John Flora – Donation Link
Lisa McCormick – Donation Link

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