So, *The Memo* was released, and just as we suspected, it is both a remarkably stupid and incredibly important document. Stupid, because it’s a porous assemblage of half-truths that actually contradict the GOP’s idiotic accusations of FBI anti-Republican bias; important, because it shows just how far Republicans will go to protect their bloviating president, and thus just how far out of touch they are with their constituents.
But a wave election can only happen if Democrats give voters real alternatives. There have been far too many uncontested GOP seats over the last several election cycles, even in would-be competitive districts. And while that is starting to get better, several big events this past week shows how far Democrats still have to go.
Trey Gowdy, the South Carolina Republican who spent a half-decade obsessing over Benghazi conspiracy theories, announced his retirement. Matt Gaetz, a dunce bro and Florida Congressman, brought Holocaust-denier and pro troll Chuck Johnson to the State of the Union. And Paul Gosar, an Arizona Republican, got pummeled for asking Capitol Hill police to arrest undocumented immigrants (including Dreamers) that were attending the SOTU as official guests. All three of these seats should be in Democratic crosshairs this November, but currently, there are no compelling, progressive candidates running in those districts. Gaetz’s opponent is a former Republican.
We’d love to endorse and raise money for compelling candidates in any of these districts. Let’s hope Democrats step up the recruiting, find worthwhile candidates, and expand the electoral map even further.
Local Candidates: Teachers for Kentucky Legislature
Again, Democrats can only rebuild the party if they run for office everywhere, even in unfriendly districts and red states. Without question, it takes courage to run that kind of race. Luckily, we’re seeing courageous everyday people start to stand up and declare their candidacies, and not just for federal level office.
One example that caught my eye on Friday: teachers in Kentucky, outraged by far-right (and scandal-plagued) Governor Matt Bevin’s attack on education, are taking matters into their own hands. A record 40 teachers are running for General Assembly, with 34 of those teachers running as Democrats.
The situation for schools in Kentucky is dire. Bevin’s proposed budget cuts nearly $200 million from K-12 education over the next two years, as well as slashes at least 44 state programs related to education. He’s asking school districts to cut their administrative costs by 12% each of the next two years, and doesn’t want to fund retired teachers’ healthcare. His plans represent a continued catastrophe for families and students in Kentucky, and so women like Jeanie Smith and Tina Bojanowski are fighting back.
And it’s not just about education: Bojanowski has spoken out for living wage legislation, as has Smith, who has also spoken about a more fair tax structure that ensures the wealthy pay their fair share. They are community members — Bojanowski has lived in District 32, where she’s running, since 1968 — and understand the interests of their neighbors. Progressives win in the long-term by building from the ground up, with legislators that know their communities and are trusted by their neighbors.
Congressional Candidate: Abby Finkenauer for Iowa’s 1st District
Since the Tea Party takeover, extremists have occupied districts that they should have no business representing. Iowa’s first congressional district is a very purple district, but since 2015, it’s been represented by an extremist, Trumpian Republican named Rod Blum. He’s not exactly loved in his district these days — pre-screening constituents at one of the few town halls you hold will do that — and after winning two close elections, he’s in the DCCC’s crosshairs.
He’s got two young, energetic opponents, including Abby Finkenauer, a 28-year-old State Representative who was practically born to run this race and represent this district. She is a real-world Leslie Knope in the best way possible, having started her political career very early. She was a student page in the US Congress at 16, worked in the Iowa House after high school, was a volunteer coordinator for Joe Biden’s presidential campaign in college, and has been in state government and politics ever since.
You can see in her speeches that for Finkenauer, politics is far more than just a career or ladder to climb. She’s the daughter of a union worker and school system employee, and she has focused on issues facing working families while in the Iowa Legislature. Her floor speech during a debate over a pernicious collective bargaining bill was incredibly powerful because it was so personal. She’s been on a local listening and speaking tour, with conversations about traditionally unsexy topics such as rural nursing home closings and community colleges.
What’s most impressive is that she’s not just an energetic idealist. Finkenauer was elected to office in her mid-20s, and has already put together an impressive coalition. She’s got the endorsement of Emily’s List and a whole slew of labor organizations. And she out-raised Blum in the fourth quarter of 2017. She has to win the primary first, and has a worthy and admirable opponent in former Dept. of Labor employee Thomas Heckroth, but given her momentum and obvious progressive values, Finkenauer gets our endorsement. She would be the youngest member of Congress, but in terms of political experience, she’s far better prepared than most candidates will ever be.
Local Candidate: Geneviéve Jones-Wright for San Diego District Attorney
Though it’s technically a non-partisan position, the district attorney often sets priorities and policies that are at the center of modern political debate. As progressives push for greater criminal justice reform — ending alternative minimum sentencing, for-profit prisons, mass incarcerations, and racial bias in prosecution — entrenched powers in the law enforcement community have often pushed back. And so candidates like Geneviéve Jones-Wright, who is running for DA in San Diego County, are key to enacting the reforms.
Like many cities, San Diego has a political machine that can often steamroll reformers. Last summer, long-time DA Bonnie Dumanis retired early so that she could have her chief deputy, Summer Stephan, assume the position ahead of this summer’s election. It was a widely criticized move, and while Stephan was appointed unanimously, she has some dirty laundry. She famously bungled a murder case in the late 90s and is the beneficiary of dirty money, and she’s a registered Republican.
Meanwhile, Jones-Wright has been the Deputy Public Defender since 2006, where she has focused on criminal justice reform since before that was in vogue. It is a comprehensive approach, focused on individual needs and solving problems, not just locking people up. This Voice of San Diego interview provides a great overview of her outlook on the justice system, crime prevention, community policing, and tackling systemic racism. Here’s a solid excerpt that encompasses that larger conversation:
“I am not a former prosecutor. So I’m not a part of the status quo. I have a much-needed perspective that is new and fresh, and that is what the DA’s office needs. A district attorney should absolutely be a part of the fabric of law-making. A district attorney should absolutely be working with elected officials and other representatives to make sure that our communities are safer. But the district attorney also has to have a balance and understand that the old system of simply locking people up doesn’t work. We can’t just warehouse offenders.”