The Democratic party leadership is center-right in its ideology and hopelessly locked into the corporate-military structure. It needs to be transformed by getting more progressives elected at all levels. While much attention is being paid to the Democratic race to be the party’s presidential nominee, we should not ignore the progressive candidates who are vying to replace either right wing Democratic incumbents in safe Democratic seats or Republicans. They face tough odds because the party establishment supports these Democratic incumbents even though many of them vote with Republicans on key issues, especially when it comes to the rights of women, the LGBT community, and minorities. Defeating those incumbents would send a strong signal to the party leadership of the need to change and give a shot in the arm to a stodgy party, similar to the way that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez did.
Here are some new faces that are worth following.
We have Georgette Gomez.
SAN DIEGO City Council President Georgette Gómez will face off against former Hillary Clinton adviser Sara Jacobs in the race to replace Democratic Rep. Susan Davis in California’s 53rd District in November. Gómez has been endorsed by the most prominent progressive politics and groups in the country, while Jacobs has the backing of members of the centrist wing of the Democratic Party.
Despite being members of the same party, both Gómez and Jacobs will appear on the November ballot under California’s top-two primary system, which allows the top-two vote getters to advance to the general election, even if they belong to the same party. On Tuesday, Jacobs came in first with 29.5 percent of the vote, followed by Gómez with 18.6 percent.
Then we have Lulu Seikaly.
IN TEXAS’S 3rd Congressional District, a steadily diversifying Republican district that Democrats are hoping to flip this year, employment attorney Lulu Seikaly and trial attorney Sean McCaffity are headed to a runoff on May 26. The winner of that election will face incumbent GOP Rep. Van Taylor on November 3.
The district, which covers the suburbs north of Dallas and a large swath of Collin County leans 12 points Republican, but Democrats think they can harness the state’s flourishing progressive energy to flip the seat. In Texas, if no candidate garners 50 percent of the vote, the top two candidates face off in a runoff election. On Tuesday, with 84 percent reporting, Seikaly and McCaffity were in a virtual tie, with 44.4 and 44.5 percent of the vote, respectively. Seikaly, who would be the first Arab American congresswoman from Texas, made it this far despite running largely outside the party apparatus — signaling that a new brand of candidates is becoming viable in the state.
Then we have Mike Siegel.
WITH A COMMANDING performance in the early vote, Mike Siegel, a civil rights attorney running on a Texas progressive populist platform, has moved to a runoff in the state’s 10th congressional district. Siegel won 47 percent of the roughly 40,000 early votes cast, according to a county-by-county assessment, and with nine percent of election day precincts reporting, was pulling in 39 percent. Both totals put him on top of his two rivals, but short of the 50 percent needed to avoid a runoff.
In 2018, the 10th Congressional District — which stretches from the Austin suburbs to the Houston suburbs — was written off by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, having gone to incumbent Michael McCaul in 2016 by 19 points. But Siegel, with a focus on organizing a major field operation, closed it to within 5 points. That drew the attention of deep-pocketed donors, who fielded corporate management lawyer Shannon Hutcheson to challenge Siegel for the nomination. Pritesh Gandhi, a doctor who is running to the left of Hutcheson but to the right of Siegel, also jumped into the race, setting up what looked like it could be a rerun of a knockdown, drag-out primary in California that followed a similar trajectory.
Then we have Rebecca Parsons.
Rebecca Parson—DSA member, activist, and substitute teacher—is one of these exciting young DSA insurgent candidates you’ve been hearing so much about. The U.S. Congressional seat she’s running for, Washington’s 6th, fits the bill for a reliably “blue” district, having been represented by Democrats for the past 55 years. Derek Kilmer, the Democratic incumbent, sailed to reelection in 2016 with over 63 percent of the vote. Republican candidates have only broken 40 percent of the vote in two elections since 2000.
Parson, however, is vying for the nomination against a powerful incumbent. Kilmer is chair of the right-wing “New Democrat Coalition”—a deficit hawk “pro-growth” group within Congress that backs, among other things, balanced budget measures like “[maintaining and strengthening] pay-as-you-go budget rules” (aka keeping social benefits as impoverished as possible while never challenging our country’s bloated military spending). And yet Parson is running against him on one of the most ambitious, pro-labor platforms of any Congressional candidate, including Medicare for All, a Green New Deal, and a suite of other progressive proposals.
And of course we have Marie Newman challenging the truly awful Dan Lipinski.
In 1990, Patti Ernst was 35 years old and 16 weeks pregnant and found herself in a devastating medical situation. Her water had broken five months early, during a prenatal procedure testing for abnormalities that went horribly wrong.
Her doctors, at a Catholic hospital in southwestern Chicago, said there was nothing they could do. Ernst said they essentially told her “the baby is going to be terribly deformed and probably won’t come to term, but you are just going to have to wait and be pregnant and give birth to a child that is either terribly deformed or …”
“I have a big issue with anybody that feels they get to legislate what I get to do with my body,” she said. She ultimately went to a different hospital to have an abortion.
Her congressman is Rep. Dan Lipinski, one of the last remaining anti-abortion Democrats in the House. He has voted to defund health clinics that offer abortion services, and to ban abortions at 20 weeks. He opposed the Affordable Care Act and its mandate that employers cover birth control. He speaks at the annual March for Life and attends fundraisers for anti-abortion groups.
Ernst supports Marie Newman, a progressive who supports abortion rights and is mounting a primary challenge to Lipinski. “It just never felt [Lipinski] was a Democrat,” Ernst, now 63, said, sitting in a Chicago Ridge, Illinois, home where Newman was holding a meet-and-greet.
How these races turn out will be an indicator of the extent to which progressive ideas are entering the Democratic party.