‘We chew people up’: Left hits back at primary attacks

It’s a sign of fierce competition within the party on a playing field opened up by redistricting and more than 30 House Democratic retirements across the country. The winning team will end up with increased influence in the last two years of President Joe Biden’s term.

Tuesday, said Douglas Wilson, a longtime Democratic strategist in North Carolina, “will be a big test for progressives.”

John Fetterman, the progressive frontrunner in the main U.S. Senate primary from Pennsylvania, is the favorite to win in what would be seen as a huge victory for the left. But across the map — in hotly contested House primaries in several states — progressive Democrats are beleaguered, battered by millions of dollars pouring in from outside interests.

For the Democratic Party’s left flank, this month’s primaries are a potential pivot, following a string of defeats dating back to Sanders’ 2020 presidential race.

Last year, progressives grimaced when moderate Eric Adams won the Democratic primary in the New York mayoral race and then again when Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown ran a successful write campaign against a socialist Democrat who had beaten him in the primary.

In Washington, they saw progressive political priorities set aside by two party moderates, West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin and the senator from Arizona. Kirsten Sinema. The “defund the police” movement has collapsed. And in an Ohio House primary this month, Nina Turner, one of the leading voices of the progressive left, was beaten – beaten for the second time in two years by the establishment pick, Democratic Rep. Shontel Brown.

In the next round of primaries this year, said Larry Cohen, chairman of the Bernie Sanders-aligned group Our Revolution, progressives have an opportunity to “define the party in every state.”

The Democrats are expected to lose the House in November. But the large number of Democrats retiring this year has created an unusual opening for progressive Democrats to swell their ranks in Congress, reshaping the party from within.

The primary season so far has largely revolved around Republican contention, as the GOP charts its identity in the post-Donald Trump presidential era. With the calendar now bringing more high-profile Democratic contests, it will put more emphasis on the future of the left.

In several primaries — including in North Carolina on Tuesday and a runoff in Texas the following week — progressive Democrats are testing the importance of abortion rights as a motivating issue for the party’s base, after the revelation of a draft opinion of the Supreme Court annulling Roe vs. Wade. In Texas, challenger Jessica Cisneros was called up for Speaker of the House this month Nancy Pelosi and other executives to withdraw their endorsement of Rep. Henry Cuellaran anti-abortion Democrat.

And then there is outside money. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, through a super PAC, is spending big on an open house race in Pennsylvania against state Rep. Summer Lee and entering contests in Texas and North Carolina, where he helps State Senator Valerie Foushee in a Democratic Neighborhood safe.

A cryptocurrency-backed super PAC, Protect Our Future, is also heavily involved in primaries across the country.

In Oregon, Andrea Salinas, the state legislator Warren endorsed in the open 6th congressional district, said what she faced was nothing less than a “billionaire” effort. out-of-state cryptocurrency…to buy this election for one of my opponents.”

Similarly in North Carolina, one of Foushee’s opponents, Nida Allam, a County Durham commissioner who worked on Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign – and is now endorsed by the Vermont senator – called her run open seat of “test for Democrats as a whole, for us as a party, what are our values ​​and what kind of elections do we want to hold, and what are we actually fighting for.

“It’s a safe Democratic neighborhood. … It’s the bluest seat in North Carolina,” Allam said. “And for us to see an outpouring of funding coming into a seat like this from right-wing super PACS and crypto billionaires, that shouldn’t be what this Democratic Party as a whole is.”

representing Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), a prominent member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said he doubted outside spending could overcome “grassroots activism” in the election of the progressive candidates he endorsed — Pennsylvania’s Lee and Erica Smith, who is running in a primary House contest in eastern North Carolina.

“Money matters less and less compared to grassroots activism,” he said, “and they’re going to see it in some of these races.”

Still, Khanna said, “It’s a shame you have super PACs in a Democratic primary. We should save our money to sue Republicans, not one after another.

Progressives running next week and into the summer are largely competing in open seats, or in heavily Democratic districts where the primary winner is all but guaranteed to win in November. But that’s cold comfort for moderate Democrats, who have seen Republicans burden even the most moderate party members with left-wing rhetoric and policies.

“Each new member of the ‘Squad’ endangers moderate Democrats a little more,” said Matt Bennett of the center-left group Third Way.

In already competitive ridings, he said, the results of electing a progressive could be disastrous in the fall.

“And we’ll see for the Senate race in Pennsylvania,” Bennett said.

If Fetterman wins the nomination, he said, in November, “it will test their theory that a Liberal candidate like Fetterman can cause some sort of magical turnout wave that we’ve never seen.”

An internal poll suggests Cisneros is ahead of Cuellar in Texas and, in Oregon’s race to unseat Schrader, Warren-backed Jamie McLeod-Skinner is closing in on the incumbent, according to a Democratic strategist familiar with the poll.

Beyond that, given the number of progressive Democrats running in districts that are certain to turn blue in November, said Mark Longabaugh, a progressive publicist, the baseline odds are that when the House meets next year , “you’re going to have some members of Congress more strongly on the left.

But it’s the open seats where progressive Democrats face heavy outside spending that Longabaugh, who worked on Sanders’ campaign in 2016, called “really bad dynamics for the Democratic Party.”

“We chew people up,” he said. “We are creating bitterness within the party. And it will last. It will persist in Congress and it will persist in the 2024 presidential campaign.”

He said, “There’s going to be all kinds of bitterness.”


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