There were primary elections in Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, and Washington on Tuesday. And a special election in Ohio for a traditionally Republican House seat.
It was a big night for labor and an even bigger night for women running for office.
While I wouldn’t bet the farm on the long-term significance of elections held mid-summer, on balance it was a good night for those of us rooting for Democrats come November. Team Blue had a lot of wins and a few close losses. What encourages me is the hard work of the campaigns and the resulting voter turnout.
I am excited about the results for Missouri’s Proposition A, asking voters to affirm a so-called “right to work” bill signed in early 2017 by now ex-Gov. Eric Greitens. The two to one rejection came despite the Show Me state’s GOP weasels putting the measure up for a vote what they assumed would be a low-turnout primary rather than November’s general election.
Organized labor spent big and worked hard to drum up voter turnout to block yet another step backward for workers. Whether or not it’s a step forward remains to be seen until November, when the GOP Legislators and Governor who pushed this garbage must face voters.
Watch for labor to start putting more issues like this directly in front of voters in other states, especially since the Supreme Court’s Janus decision.
Another big win in Missouri came in St. Louis, where Wesley Bell, a Ferguson City Council member who promised to pursue criminal justice reform, will replace seven-term incumbent Bob McCulloch as County Prosecuting Attorney.
The upset vote came on the week of the fourth anniversary of the police shooting of Michael Brown.
From the Riverfront Times:
There are plenty of people who are tired of McCulloch. Critics say his decision to conduct the investigation into Michael Brown’s fatal shooting using the grand jury was intentionally designed to produce a no-bill. McCulloch, 66, has also thrown the book at protesters, including those arrested as part of the recent demonstrations following the Jason Stockley “not guilty” verdict in St. Louis. Then there’s this: In his 27-year career in public office, McCulloch has never prosecuted an officer-involved shooting to the point of an actual indictment.
The race is officially still too close to call (the GOP candidate leads by 1,754 votes) in the big deal election in Ohio’s 12th District. Voters are choosing a replacement for Representative Pat Tiberi, an eight-term a Republican who’s going to work in the private sector rather than continuing to hold his nose.
The likely winner, Republican Troy Balderson, who was endorsed by the President last week will serve a grand total 19 days in the House of Representatives and faces a rematch with Democrat Danny O’Connor in the November general election.
Beyond the almost-winner story for the Democrats was a big deal detail about turnout.
From the New York Times:
The most significant harbinger from the Ohio race may not be the narrow margin, but the turnout gap between the most and least heavily populated parts of a district that absorbs the close-in suburbs of Columbus and rural stretches of central Ohio.
In both Franklin County, which includes Columbus, and Delaware County, the fast-growing suburb just north of Ohio’s capital, 42 percent of voters turned out. But in the five more lightly populated counties that round out the district, turnout ranged from 27 to 32 percent.
This is an ominous sign for Republicans: The highest-income and best-educated elements of the electorate — those deeply uneasy with President Trump — are showing the most interest in voting.
This week’s primaries were great for women candidates, who have signed up in record numbers to run for office since 2016..
Women who have already broken through the barriers facing female candidates, like Sewell and Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), predict that momentum from this cycle will carry through to 2020, when President Donald Trump will likely be on the ballot again.
“It’s hard for me to say that Trump is helpful for anything,” said Jayapal, the first woman to represent her Seattle district. “But the urgency of the moment, what he has put at stake with his cruelness and discrimination … does clarify for people how important it is that we have their voices.”
The success of female candidates this year isn’t limited to historic firsts like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a democratic socialist from New York set to become the youngest woman ever sent to Congress once the general election is done.
Victories for candidates Gretchen Whitmer in Michigan and Laura Kelly in Kansas bring the number of women nominated for governorships this year to 11, a record.
The 185 women running as major party nominees for the House of Representatives is at an all-time high, also. And Michigan Democrats will have an all-female ticket running statewide.
After winning the Democratic primary in Michigan’s 13th Congressional District, former state Rep. Rashida Tlaib is on track to become the first Muslim woman elected to Congress.
Two years ago today, Rashida Tlaib was kicked out of a Donald Trump speech in Detroit for asking him if he'd ever read the Constitution.
Now, she's on the verge of becoming the first Muslim woman elected to Congress.
They won't be able to kick her out anymore.
— Nick Jack Pappas (@Pappiness) August 8, 2018
Tlaib’s winning campaign has got a lot in common with that of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the democratic socialist who pulled off a stunning upset against Joe Crowley earlier this year.
Much like Ocasio-Cortez, Tlaib captured the primary by running an unabashedly progressive campaign to the left of the competition, and she picked up much of her fundraising from a strong grassroots campaign. “I’m going to be a woman, a mom, a Muslimah, a Palestinian, an Arab and so many of these other layers of these identities depending on who I’m talking to and what they want to identify me as,” Tlaib told CNN.
While Congress has become more diverse in recent years, it’s still only made up of 20 percent women and 19 percent people of color. Next year, if the record number of women running actually win, that could change.
In Kansas, ex-MMA fighter and attorney Sharice Davids won the Democratic nomination in the 3rd congressional district. If elected, she’ll be one of the only female Native American members of Congress and one of the few lesbians.
The leading candidates in four Republican-held congressional districts in Washington State are all women, and Democrats outperformed expectations everywhere.
Here’s Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat
Democrats dramatically outperformed the norm in many of their districts up and down the ballot. Maybe it’s from a backlash to President Donald Trump or a record influx of new Democratic candidates, or both.
“As a rough guide, Republicans in R+15 or less districts should be panicking,” wrote G. Elliott Morris, a data journalist for The Economist magazine, about the trend around the country.
Whether that trend washes all the way down the ballot to state legislative races is another big question. But on Tuesday, there were signs that it was just as strong, maybe even more so.
In California, by the way, there are 14 female newcomers challenging incumbent congressional representatives this year.
Finally, a word about some really good Democratic candidates who didn’t win. And a local Democratic candidate who sees the big picture.
Abdul El-Sayed’s second-place finish in the Michigan Democratic governor’s primary — even after a highly publicized appearance days before the election with superstar Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Bernie Sanders is something to celebrate. He came from nowhere politically, built a great campaign organization, and had a good showing at the ballot box.
Kansas third district congressional nominee Sharice Davids beat Bernie-blessed candidate Brent Welder 37.3% to 33.9%, in a crowded Democratic field.
What I saw during the campaigns for these seats coming from some Bernie Bros was the threat of the kind of resentment Republicans (and Russians) were able to exploit in 2016. The difference between good and better candidates is something that needs to go away once the votes are counted.
Locally, I saw the same chickenshit arguments coming from people who upset about Ocasio-Cortez not endorsing the Democratic candidate for the 71st District State Assembly.
James Elia, proving once again he’s a more than a good candidate, dismissed the pouting in a Facebook post I’m quoting an excerpt from:
I understand that there was a big push to get her to endorse or support myself and Maria Estrada. Again this was done by organizers at the event. It’s very humbling to me that good folks in LA are passionate in supporting a young arab progressive like myself in rural san diego, and people are supporting my sister maria too. But I want to be clear about something because I don’t want anyone in our movement to fight over endorsements or lack there of:
AOC’s visit was not about candidates. It was not about endorsements. It was about ALL OF YOU, and ALL OF US. She came here to see how she can make a difference. She came here to listen to California progressives. She came here because she CARES. For that, she’s a woman that I truly admire and aspire to be like every day when I myself campaign in my district.
As Emily Singer notes in a Mic article about Tuesday night’s losses of Bernie-backed candidates, progressives are winning even when candidates lose.
However, such losses aren’t a sign progressive Democrats are failing to shift the party’s message.
Nathan Gonzales, a nonpartisan political handicapper with Inside Elections, said progressive candidates are moving the needle of the party left — similar to how the Tea Party pushed Republicans to the right in the 2010 midterm elections.
“Just because those candidates didn’t win doesn’t mean that the progressive wing of the party doesn’t have any influence,” Gonzales said in an interview. “With the Tea Party, there weren’t a ton of victories, but sort of the energy behind the movement and the threat of the movement, I think, influenced behavior from the party and other candidates.”
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