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California 2020 Elections: The Progressive Candidates to Support (Pink Tsunami)

Well, it looks like all the primaries are over. Now all that remains is the General Election, and holy shit, there a lot riding on this one. I’m sure more than enough has been said about how we need to kick Donald Trump out of the White House and back to Hell where he belongs. I’ve been debating back and forth whether or not to dedicate an entire piece to shit show that is the Trump Administration, but it seems like literally every human being with a conscience has beaten me to that. Plus I’d need to talk about Joe Biden, who is kind of a terrible person as well, but most of you probably already know that to.

It’s quite difficult to get people excited about a race where both candidates are absolutely abysmal, and after how hard the Bernie campaign got screwed, many people are starting to say “fuck it all” and refusing to support either party. To those people, there IS still a silver lining; Nancy Pelosi has a leftist challenger.

Some people may be wondering how “radical socialist” Nancy Pelosi could possibly have a challenger to her left? Isn’t she supposed to be this social justice crusader leading the fight to institute Shakira law and turn all straight men into sissified, cock craving, bimbos… you laugh, but you just know that someone out there actually believes that. But yes, the Republican Party has a depressing habit of making Corporate Democrats sound so much better than they actually are.

In reality, Pelosi is emblematic of the worst qualities of the Democrat Party. She isn’t the worst Democrat in congress, and while researching her record, I was pleasantly surprised to see that she that she voted the right way on bills that a lot of incumbent Democrats fucked up on. I can see why she may be mistaken for progressive by neoliberals who don’t understand the system.

I recall a comment in response to my Maryland Piece where I discussed House Majority leader Steny Hoyer’s record, and some neoliberal was not pleased that I referred to Hoyer as a closet Republican. One of the ways he tried to refute me was by pointing out that Hoyer voted with the Democratic Party consensus over 90% of the time, so he couldn’t be a Republican. What him and many neoliberals fail to understand is something that should be obvious; Just because the majority of Democrats support it does not mean that it’s a good position.

The “Democratic consensus” includes things The Patriot Act, The Bush Tax Cuts, the repeal of Glass Steagal, and the 1994 Crime bill. Contrary to popular belief, the US wasn’t a shining utopia until Trump came along, and these problems aren’t going to go away just by getting rid of all the Republicans. While yes, the Republicans Party is almost infinitely more scummy in every conceivable way, it’s a misconception that Democrats are all well meaning and honest people with a few bad apples.

Democrats will pretend to stand for what’s good and act like the Republicans are their worst enemies, but damn near everyone in congress is basically the Get Along Gang. It’s in the very nature of our government for everyone to work together and to “compromise,” but the Republicans have been taking advantage of this for decades. The party has continued to push the overton window further and further to the right, and the Democrats have continued to meet them half way every time while pretending to “resist.”

This result is a party where our Democrats are the equivalent of 80s Republicans, and our Republicans are basically fascists. For fucks sake, we are at the point where Republicans are headlining the Democratic National Convention. This may have been the right approach back in the 90s following the Reagan/Bush Sr administration, but now that we have high ranking Democrats getting primaried by bartenders and High School Principals, it’s safe to assume that it’s time to stop “compromising” with fascists.

And yes, Pelosi may have had a better voting record than someone like Steny Hoyer, but as House Speaker, she has consistently refused to take action when it was most needed. Pelosi knew firsthand that George W Bush was lying about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, but decided against impeaching him over the illegal war. 10 years later, when she does decide to impeach a sitting President, she chooses to do so because Trump uncovered some incriminating information on Joe Biden, as opposed to funding genocide in Yemen or keeping immigrants in concentration camps.

Every once in a while, Pelosi will make a meaningless, performative gesture against Trump like tearing up his a copy of his speech or calling him fat, so as to make it less obvious when she approves Trump’s military budget or gives him more NSA spying powers. It’s reasons like this that people my age are so tuned out of politics; because we already know that Democrats and Republicans have a lot more in common with each other than they claim.

There is so much shit that needs to be fixed in this country, and people like Pelosi are content to sit there eating expensive ice cream while pretending there isn’t even a problem. And if that wasn’t tone deaf enough, she went full Karen earlier this month when she entered a hair Salon without wearing a mask at a time when Salon visits were prohibited, and then claimed the Salon “set her up.”

It would be bad enough if Pelosi was really just this out of touch, but referring to Pelosi as “weak” or incompetent was actually a mistake on my part, as it falls into the false perception that Pelosi seeks to protect her constituents. In reality, Pelosi may have a better voting record that Mitch McConnell, and she may not be as bigoted, but she is every bit as corrupt, and is every bit as willing to let countless people die as long as she serves her corporate overlord.

Why else is it that establishment Democrats put so much more effort into stopping Bernie Sanders than stopping Trump? Why is it that Republicans pull scumbag tricks like refusing to have a hearing for Merrick Garland for nine months only to try and confirm a Trump Judge less than two months before the election, Democrats instantly capitulate and place the responsibility on voters, but when it comes to progressives, they will quickly resort to voter suppression, media smears, and will actively try to ruin the lives of anyone who dares to challenge them?

If you have not heard of him yet, Pelosi’s leftist challenger is a legal advocate, national non-profit leader, grassroots organizer, and movement musician, to quote his campaign page. His name is Shahid Buttar, and he is running on a vast array of progressive policies, including Medicare for All, a Green New Deal, Decriminalization of Sex Work, abolishing Immigration an Customs Enforcement, and investigating the crimes of the CIA.

Thus far, the Buttar campaign has raised over $1,000,000 as of June 30th, and has secured the endorsements of many figureheads of the progressive movement, such as former US Senator and 2020 Presidential candidate Mike Gravel, actress and activist Susan Sarandon, Arab American Association of New York former director Linda Sarsour, Philosopher and activist Cornel West, and Real Justice PAC co-founder Shaun King.

It’s worth noting that Buttar pulled this off without the backing of any National progressive groups like the Sunrise Movement, Justice Democrats, Our Revolution, or Brand New Congress, nor has he been backed by someone like Bernie Sanders or AOC. I can almost guarantee that if Buttar ran against any other corporate Democrat, those groups would be backing him, and he’d steamroll his opponent. But the fact that he’s running against Pelosi is what makes all the difference.

While the $1,120,667 that Buttar raised is impressive in its own right, Pelosi’s position as House speaker means she has raised a whopping $14,231,299 to use against Buttar. Also unlike any other corporate Democrat, damn near everyone in her district is bound to know who she is. Name recognition plays an important role in elections, and the most successful progressive challengers have usually won because they had the backing of the aforementioned National Groups and grassroots organizers, and received a serious surge in name recognition. AOC and Jamaal Bowman didn’t win by the skin of their teeth in their primaries, they won in an absolute landslide! Pelosi, on the other hand, is known around the country, and Buttar has a fuckton of catching up to do if he wants to compete with her.

And if that was not enough, there’s also the issue of Buttar’s…. accusation, which I have already touched on previously. I should note, however, that the situation is significantly more complicated than I initially thought. While I stand by what I said in regards to the flimsy allegations of sexual assault by Elizabeth Croydon, it’s significantly harder to deny the allegations of staffer abuse and mistreatment.

From personal experience, I know that well meaning people are capable of saying and doing shitty things without realizing it. A lot has been said about “cancel culture” these days, and I find most discourse surrounding it rather trite. Almost all critics of “cancel culture” tend to feel as though they have the authority to determine what is and isn’t “cancel worthy,” and simply use “cancel culture” as a convenient excuse to invalidate criticism they don’t agree with.

Even in cases where I am not personally offended by something a “canceled” person is doing, I will almost instantly start sympathizing with the canceler whenever the cancelled pulls the “I was wrong about a few things, but you overreacted” card, and they will almost always pull some variation of it, if they admit fault at all. As a trans person, I tend to get this a lot from ignorant cis people who think that trans activists are “too angry” and should be nicer to cis people. They say we are “too angry” because they don’t consider things like being misgendered or deadnamed to be a big deal, and of course they don’t because they are the ones fucking doing it!

So why did I bring this up, one may ask? The reason for this is that Buttar has addressed criticism of his behavior surprisingly well, and displays self awareness of his faults and mistakes. And I can’t help but find it ironic that some leftists are going to outright disqualify Buttar for his behavior towards staffers, yet won’t refuse to support Bernie Sanders despite his war record, or won’t refuse to support Ed Markey for his entire career prior to working with AOC.

I mean yes, there are probably some ultra lefties who do refuse to support any of them, but mostly it’s some weird double standard since most of us have been conditioned to not think of votes as significant actions that have dire consequences. Like how people would consider it more shocking if Trump killed someone with his bare hands than if he ordered a drone strike that killed hundreds of innocent civilians. The point is, Shahid Buttar has displayed far more accountability just in regards to his staffers than someone like Pelosi EVER has! If that isn’t enough to earn your vote, then I don’t know what is.

Shahid ButtarDonation Link

As much as I’d love to end this piece on such a powerful last line, Buttar is not the only progressive to have made it to the general election. We have quite a few races that still need to be discussed. And what better race to start with than California’s 1st Congressional district?

2018 saw Incumbent Republican Doug LaMalfa win against progressive Democratic nominee Audrey Denney with 54.9% of the vote, the lowest margin in his tenure. This year, Audrey Denney is set for a rematch with LaMalfa, and a lot of signs are pointing to this being a closer race. The first of these signs is that Denney has already out raised her previous campaign by over $200,000. The second sign is that Denney won her primary with 39% of the vote, which is a pretty drastic increase from her 17.9% in 2018.

While these signs do point to a competitive race, it should be noted that the most recent poll still had Denney behind LaMalfa by 4 points. It should also be noted, however, that the poll showed that more informed voters overwhelmingly preferred Denney, which means that Denney just needs to get the word out to enough voters in order to win. And that takes us to the third sign that this will be a tough re-election for LaMalfa; Bernie Sanders just endorsed Denney.

We have seen in earlier races that Bernie Sanders endorsements have often given candidates a significant boost in donations, and considering that Denney has already outraised LaMalfa this cycle, this means that Denney will likely be able to spread her reach far enough to take the lead in the polls. And we still have over a month left until election day. Who knows what else can happen?

The next race is a bit complicated, and I’m not sure which direction to go on it. The two candidates, Sara Jacobs and Georgette Gomez, are both claiming to be progressive, but in actuality have been exposed as frauds. The current front runner is Sara Jacobs, a billionaire’s daughter who is bribing PACs and incumbent representatives to endorse her. Georgette Gomez, on the other hand, was a former Bernie delegate who was endorsed by Justice Democrats, only for her to have since flip-flopped and now be supported by AiPAC. The fact that she dodged questions in a Reddit AMA about her increasing police funding by 27 million does not help her case. Both of them claim to be supporting Medicare for All, so it seems like both of them will effectively serve the same purpose in congress. It’s no wonder why Justice Democrats seems more focused on Kara Eastman.

Thankfully, California still has five more races with progressive candidates. The down side is that they are all in long shot territory. California’s 18th congressional district has Rishi Kumar, a Saratoga city councilman running against Democratic incumbent Anna Eshoo, who has taken more money from big pharma than any other representative. As of June 30th, Kumar has raised $426,228, which is unlikely to be enough to compete with Eshoo’s $1,674,921.

In California’s 34th congressional district, we have David Kim, who is running to unseat incumbent Democrat Jimmy Gomez. Just watch the video linked below if you want to know what David Kim stands for. And yes, the stuff about Jimmy Gomez is pretty spot on to considering who his campaign donors are. And there could very well be an opening for David Kim considering that the Green Party candidate managed over 25% of the vote in the general election against Gomez in 2018, and the combined totals between David Kim and fellow progressive Frances Yasmeen Motiwalla was at 34.6% in the 2020 primary.

This indicates that the electorate of this district could very well be more progressive than average, but the downside is that David Kim has only raised $79,188 as of June 30th. Thus far, it ultimately comes down to whether or not Kim can run a campaign better than Kenneth Mejia.

In California’s 42nd Congressional District, we have Liam O’Mara, who is running to unseat Incumbent Republican Ken Calvert. In 2018, Ken Calvert won re-election by the lowest margin since 2010, and the 2020 primary saw a significantly higher Democratic turnout than 2018. The downside is that O’Mara has only raised $55,687, which is absolutely dwarfed by the $1,098,246 that Calvert has raised from corporate Wine Cave dollars.

California’s 29th Congressional District has former Green Party candidate Angelica Dueñas running, this time as a Democrat, to unseat Democratic incumbent Tony Cárdenas. While Dueñas almost quadrupled her 2018 primary performance this year, she still has ways to go in fundraising if she wants to catch up to Cárdenas.

Lastly, in California’s 38th district, we have Michael Tolar, who is running to unseat Democratic incumbent Linda Sánchez. Considering that Tolar’s financial info isn’t available, and the fact that he likely only advanced to the general because he was the only other candidate on the ballot, it unfortunately seems like Tolar has no shot.

Liam O’Mara (Left), Angelica Dueñas (Middle) and Michael Tolar (Right)

Audrey DenneyDonation Link
Rishi KumarDonation Link
David KimDonation Link
Liam O’MaraDonation Link
Angelica DueñasDonation Link
Michael Tolar Donation Link

On the subject of state legislative election, there are four progressive candidates running for State Senate, and thirteen running for General Assembly. The most important of these races will undoubtedly be the Our Revolution endorsed Jackie Fielder’s attempt to oust neoliberal Democrat Scott Weiner, and it is also looking to be the most competitive. John Laird is running against a Republican in a deep blue district and is basically guaranteed the seat.

Things aren’t looking so easy for Pamela Swartz, who is running in California’s 1st Senate district against Republican Brian Dahle, in a district that re-elected former Republican incumbent Ted Gaines by close to 30 points in 2016. While progressives have generally fared better in red districts post 2016, it’s still a long shot for Swartz to flip this seat. Although perhaps not as much of a long shot as Elizabeth Castillo, who is running against Democratic incumbent Lena Gonzales, and only advanced to the general through a write-in campaign when no one else was on the ballot. I actually have no idea how her campaign is doing because I couldn’t find much info on it, but if that’s the case, then it’s probably not doing well enough to win.

Jackie FielderDonation Link
Pamela SwartzDonation Link
Elizabeth CastilloDonation Link

The General Assembly is also heavy on races involving insurgent progressives trying to oust neoliberals. In fact, only three of the 11 Assembly races even have a Republican candidate in the general election. One of them is California’s 25th Assembly District where the Republican candidate advanced because he was the only Republican on the ballot in a race with eight Democrats. The Democrat with the most votes in the primary was Alex Lee, and it looks like he’s set for an easy win against Republican Bob Brunton.

The other two races won’t be as easy for progressives. The first of these candidates is James Henson, who is running in a deep red district against incumbent Republican James Gallagher (No, he’s not related to me, and if he is, he’s not anymore). Considering that James Gallagher won his last re-election by over 20 points, and the fact that there is a significant gap in fundraising, it’s safe to assume that Henson doesn’t have much of a chance. The second is Liz Lavertu, who is running against Republican incumbent Randy Voepel. Voepel also won his last re-election by over 20 points, but the fact that Lavertu has outperformed the 2018 nominee’s primary performance by almost 7 points indicates that Lavertu may have better luck. Whether it is enough to win remains to be seen.

James Henson (Left) Alex Lee (Middle) and Liz Lavertu (Right)

Liz LavertuDonation Link

The rest of these candidates are running to oust incumbent Neoliberal Democrats. In an eerie coincidence, California House Speaker Anthony Rendon has a progressive challenger who is better than him on policy, but also has some controversial baggage. Said candidate is Maria Estrada, who managed 45% against him in 2018. Estrada decided to challenge Rendon due to his decision to shelve California’s Single Payer Healthcare legislation that would have probably saved a lot of lives if it was implemented before the pandemic hit.

The controversy of Estrada’s candidacy comes from her opinions on Israel and Louis Farrakhan. I’m sure we are all familiar with the obnoxious habit of painting opposition to Israel’s human rights abuses as “antisemitic” in spite of the fact that anti-Zionist Jews are much more common than these establishment hacks would have you believe, but nonetheless I do think that some parts of Estrada’s views need to be discussed.

It’s pretty much a rule of thumb that whenever any politician mentions Farrakhan in any capacity, they will almost always say something stupid. It is almost always some jackass who choose to cherry pick the parts of his sermons they like while ignoring all the Nazi-like shit he believes, or some right winger attempting to tie him to someone they don’t like as a gotcha!

Estrada’s response seems to lean towards the former, since she says that he’s “no doubt wrong on many issues” and that people should instead listen to him speak on other issues such as imperialism and the American Media. While this isn’t the worst response I’ve heard from a politician trying to justify their ties to a man who compared Jews to Termites and thinks Hitler did nothing wrong, it’s still pretty head desk worthy.

Like seriously, can we maybe NOT minimize Black Hitler’s bigotry because he says shit that should be obvious to anyone with a conscience? I’m sure there are a fuckton of people who have plenty of shit to say about why imperialism is bad that don’t think Jews and LGBT people should be mass murdered. And yes, Estrada did at least admit that Farrakhan is “wrong” about Judaism, but that’s putting it pretty fucking lightly!

So that begs the question of, should we not support Estrada because she doesn’t condemn Farrakhan strongly enough? Well… I got nothing. It ultimately varies from person to person, but that just begs further questions of “does that make me a bigot if I don’t condemn Estrada enough for not condemning Farrakhan enough.” And while I’m generally more “pro cancel culture” than most these days seem to be, I think it gets dangerous when not condemning something strongly enough is treated with the same severity as outright supporting it.

Don’t get me wrong, Estrada’s response certainly warrants criticism, but let’s not treat that the same as if she outright said she supports ALL of Farrakhan’s beliefs! And even then, Estrada is still the lesser evil in this race by virtue of policy, so by neoliberal logic that means if you don’t vote for her, then you want people to die because they can’t afford healthcare. And by decent human being logic, it means that voting for her and supporting her is as justified as voting for Joe Biden to get rid of Trump.

Maria EstradaDonation Link

California’s 65th Assembly District has the Our Revolution endorsed Fatima Iqbal-Zubair, a school teacher who was inspired to run due to the awful air pollution in her district, and is attempting to unseat former cop and big oil puppet Mike Gipson. Given Gipson’s atrocious record on environmental votes, replacing him this cycle is absolute essential.

California’s 10th Assembly District has Vernonica Jacobi, who is running to unseat Incumbent Mark Levine. She has previously challenged Levine in 2014 where she didn’t make it past the primary, and in 2016 where she managed 31.79%. In 2018, she instead opted to run for State Senate, and managed 32.8% against incumbent Democrat Mike McGuire. Seeing as how she won her primary at about the same rate as in 2016, it looks like it may be difficult to win this time, but it’s nice that she’s still trying.

California’s 15th Assembly District has Sara Brink, who is running as an Independent against Incumbent Buffy Wicks. Considering that her campaign page is a rather cynical but sadly not inaccurate tirade against liberals for letting things get this bad and leftists for not taking things seriously, and that she outright says she “can’t win this race” and that we should focus on getting as many Republicans out of federal office as possible, I will do as she suggests. But a reminder that she is still on the ballot for those who live in this district.

California’s 20th Assembly District has Alexis Villalobos, who was inspired to challenge incumbent Bill Quirk by a local housing crisis that the incumbent has basically ignored. The fact that Bill Quirk did not manage more than 50% in his primary, and the fact that the Republican challenger under performed previous Republican candidates in this district, indicate that the district could very well be receptive to Villalobos’s campaign. What remains to be seen is if he can spread his message effectively enough to be Quirk.

Sara Brink (Left) Alexis Villalobos (Middle) and Veronica Jacobi (Right)

California’s 53rd Congressional District has Godfrey Santos Plata, who is running to unseat incumbent Miguel Santiago. Plata is an openly gay man and an immigrant, and he’d be one of only two renters in the California Assembly if elected. This is significant because Plata’s district consists of 85% renters, and the incumbent has only sponsored one rent related bill in his tenure. Plata has also managed 37% in the primary, and has secured the endorsements of Our Revolution LA, Sunrise Movement LA, Healthcare for All – Los Angeles Chapter, and Run for Something. He also had raised $90,000 as of December 5th of 2019, and he’s likely raised a lot more since then. This indicates that Godfrey Santos Plata may have a serious shot at this.

California’s 58th district has Margaret Villa, a Green Party candidate who is attempting to unseat incumbent Cristina Garcia. I unfortunately am not able to find much information on this specific race, aside from the fact that Villa managed only 22.7% in the primary, despite being the only candidate aside from Garcia. Unless something changes quick, it looks like the odds will be against Villa.

Lastly, there is Sarah Davis, who is running for an open seat in California’s 78th State Assembly district against the neoliberal, and more well known, Christopher Ward. While Christopher Ward isn’t an incumbent, he is basically running this race with an incumbency advantage due to the fact that both of the previous incumbents have endorsed him. The plus side is that Sarah Davis has been endorsed by Micah Perlin, an environmental activist who ran in the same primary.

Margaret Villa (Left) and Sarah Davis (Right)

Considering that Davis and Perlin’s combined total was 44.4%, this gives Davis a pretty significant springboard to jump off of. On top of this, former Assembly Speaker Pro Tempore Lori Saldaña wrote an Op-ed for the San Diego Times endorsing Sarah Davis, in addition to Davis being backed by Imperial Beach Mayor Pro Tempore Paloma Aguirre, The San Diego Democratic Socialists of America, the San Diego Progressive Democratic Club, the California Nurse-Midwives Association, California Women’s List, PawPAC, and Run Women Run!

Fatima Iqbal-ZubairDonation Link
Veronica JacobiDonation Link
Alexis VillalobosDonation Link
Godfrey Santos PlataDonation Link
Margaret VillaDonation Link
Sarah DavisDonation Link

Yes, that’s a lot, and a few of them are bound to win in the general election, ensuring that California has a more progressive legislature. But that’s STILL not all there is to discuss; there’s also ballot measures… a lot of ballot measures, and most of them are for good things.

The ones to support would be Proposition 16, which repeals a ban on Affirmative Action, Proposition 17, which restores voting rights for people on parole, Proposition 18, which allows 17 years olds, who will be 18 by the time of the next general election, to vote in that elections respective primary, Proposition 21, which will allow local government to put limits on rent increases, and Proposition 25, which will replace cash bail with risk assessments for detained criminals.

There are two ballot measures however, that would be wise to vote down. The first of these is Proposition 20, which would re-classify a number of crimes as “wobblers,” which means they could be charged as either misdemeanors of felonies depending on the case. This bill would allow a felony charge for theft crimes, where the value is less than $1,000, and will require people convicted of certain misdemeanors to submit to collection of DNA samples. In short, this law would make it easier for the pigs to impose harsher sentences on minorities, and thus prevent them from voting. It’s disgusting, and it ABSOLUTELY has to be voted down!

The other one is Proposition 22, which would classify app-based drivers as “independent contractors” instead of employees, which is basically corporations trying to wriggle their way out of paying their employees minimum wage and providing insurance. Once again, it needs to be voted down!

So obviously there is going to be a lot riding on the California during the 2020 Election. Don’t assume there’s no reason to show up to vote just cause Trump has no chance of winning. Either way, it looks like California is going to become more progressive as well given all these significant races. Hell I think it’s worth mentioning that the reason I did not cover California before the primaries happened is because there was too much for me to cover and I would have been overwhelmed.

There are 53 Congressional district in California, and 38 of them had progressive candidates at one point. Of course, some of them didn’t make the ballot, but covering them would have been exhausting. Hell I couldn’t even cover anything more than the Congressional Elections in Texas because I had to go into crunch time to get that piece out before the primary, and California had a shit ton more going on than that. And in 2022, there’s probably going to be even more of it, maybe even sooner if Biden wins and there’s a Special Election to fill her Senate seat.

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