Teachers fight back in Kentucky, and a rising Democratic star soars

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.

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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.

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Local Candidates: Teachers for Kentucky Legislature

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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.

CLICK HERE to donate to Jeanie Smith and Tina Bojanowski using Progressives Everywhere’s ActBlue page

Congressional Candidate: Abby Finkenauer for Iowa’s 1st District

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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.

CLICK HERE to donate to Abby Finkenauer using Progressives Everywhere’s ActBlue page

Local Candidate: Geneviéve Jones-Wright for San Diego District Attorney

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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.”

CLICK HERE to donate to Geneviéve Jones-Wright using Progressives Everywhere’s ActBlue page

This man will take down lunatic Trump stooge Devin Nunes

Another big week of news, on every level of government. Trump tried to pull a Nixon and fire Special Counsel Bob Mueller, the man investigating whether Trump colluded with Russia during the campaign. Definitely something an innocent man would do, right?

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More significantly for our purposes, there was huge movement in state voting rights. On the positive, the Pennsylvania State Supreme Court ruled that the state’s congressional gerrymander was egregiously partisan. And even though Republicans are appealing to the national Supreme Court, because it was a decision based on the PA state constitution, their desperate plea is likely to be denied. With fair elections, Democrats could gain a handful of seats in Congress, while reinstituting a two-party system on the state level. This is incredible news, and shows what fighting for voting rights can achieve. Now, we just need to campaign hard to make sure we win those new seats!

Congressional Candidate: Andrew Janz for CA-22

It’s not surprising that Trump has proven to be a corrupt maniac in office — that’s been his thing for 40 years. But the GOP’s willingness to protect their corrupt maniac is a bit remarkable. No one has been more of a sycophant than Devin Nunes, the California congressman who has been kicking up dust and conspiracy theories for the last year.

As the House Intelligence Committee chair, he was forced to recuse himself from the Russia probe amidst allegations of ethics violations, but he keeps on meddling; he’s the one waving some misleading “memo,” which has become the GOP’s latest rallying cry. It’s a bunch of out-of-context misinformation based on top secret info, and its release would be a major ethics violation.

He coasted to re-election in 2016, but he is feeling the heat at home now. His hometown paper, The Sacramento Bee recently called him “Trump’s stooge” and said his behavior has been “nothing short of embarrassing.”

CLICK HERE to donate to Andrew Janz using Progressives Everywhere’s ActBlue page.

Luckily, there is a strong Democratic candidate who knows all about the right way to handle an investigation. Andrew Janz, a 33-year-old Fresno prosecutor, threw his hat in the ring last year, and he’s making major gains. A recent poll for his campaign showed him just five points behind Nunes, who has been in office for over 15 years.

Janz is the Deputy District Attorney and focuses on violent crimes, but is in favor of criminal justice reform, and stopping the rampage that ICE is carrying out on immigrant communities. He also has a solid sense of humor, as you can see from the billboard he took out last year depicting Trump and Nunes as toddlers being held on a leash by Vladimir Putin.

CLICK HERE to donate to Andrew Janz using Progressives Everywhere’s ActBlue page.

Local Candidate: Margaret Good for Florida House of Representatives

Nationally, Florida is the swingiest of swing states, but on the local level, it is as partisan as it gets. Republicans took control of the legislature in 2010 and immediately created a ridiculous gerrymander; while the Supreme Court struck that down, the legislature is controlled by the far-right and still making a stinkabout the reprimand.

Luckily, Democrats have quality candidates in the fight to take back control of the legislature. One of them is Margaret Good, who is running in a special election to represent Florida’s 72nd House district in a February 13th election. She’s already a local leader, as she sits on the board of directors for the Sarasota County Bar Association, and is involved with the Florida Bar Association. She’s particularly strong on the environment, a vital issue in Florida.

There was a bit of a snafu in the primary, when the Progressive Caucus rescinded its endorsement of Good because she wasn’t 100% firm on a $15 minimum wage. But she still soundly defeated a somewhat progressive opponent, so with a special election a few weeks away, we’re supporting her. She’s certainly a better choice than her opponent, James Buchanan, the son of Florida Rep. Vern Buchanan, one of the wealthiest members of a Congress filled with rich people.

Polls have them in a virtual tie, so anything you can do to help would be clutch.

CLICK HERE to donate to Margaret Good using Progressives Everywhere’s ActBlue page

The government is shut down. Help women take it over!

You know it was a busy week when the dirty and bizarre details of a porn star’s affair with the President of the United States does not register as the most prominent story of the last seven days. It’s disturbing and weird, but we have much bigger fish to fry (though we’ll leave sharks alone; they seem to really get under Trump’s skin).

Saturday was a perfect microcosm of the Trump presidency. On the year anniversary of his poorly attended inauguration, he shut down the government at the advice of his most bigoted advisers; cashed in on the presidency by charging outrageous prices to hang out with B-list cable news celebrities at his private club; and women across the country marched again, to not only protest Trump’s awful policies, but to send the message that they were organized and working to overthrow his anti-immigrant, anti-women, anti-children, anti-human agenda.

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As noxious as Trump is, the women who attended the marches across the country represent the best of America. They’re compassionate, progressive people who care about their neighbors. They want to see everyone in this country treated equally, afforded opportunity and given help when needed. They were rallying for one another, but also for every American that couldn’t make it to a protest on Saturday. They were rallying for workers, for immigrants, for children, for people without a voice.

And guess what? It’s already working! As we noted earlier this week, Democrats won another special election, as Progressives Everywhere-endorsed candidate Patty Schachtner flipped a bright red State Senate seat in Wisconsin. It was a major victory for the state party, which is working to take back a government hijacked and gerrymandered by Gov. Scott Walker, and another sign that there is a seachange — a #BlueWave, as Twitter calls it — coming later this year… if we work for it.

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Local Candidates: Karla Bingham and Melissa Wagner for Minnesota State Senate & Legislature

Schachtner’s big win in Wisconsin — she won by nine points in a district the GOP has owned for nearly two decades! — proves that Democrats aren’t irrelevant in the Midwest, and that districts they may have written off in the past will vote blue if given the opportunity. It also proves that focusing on local elections is a crucial part of this resistance — after all, state governments draw up congressional maps and, even more crucially, are the most consistent government presence in people’s lives.

But local politics can be… complicated, and the nuances of county infrastructure can be a little bit hard to follow. It requires great patience, devotion, and even passion, which is why we are lucky to have lawmakers like Karla Bingham. A former member of the Minnesota House of Representatives, and now a member of the Washington County Board, she’s doing the work that is so vital to rebuilding America on the ground level. She’s running for the vacated Minnesota 54th district State Senate seat, and the special election is on February 12th.

Read her biography, and you’ll see that she’s a get-it-done legislator who pays attention to nuance when most of us are wrapped up in reading about Trump’s spanking habits. Her focus on infrastructure and transportation is huge, given America’s crumbling infrastructure — especially since Minnesota became a poster child for that issue due to its infamous bridge collapse.

This is a crucial race because the GOP holds the power in that chamber by one seat. That’s the source of controversy, since the new Lt. Governor is also a State Senator. That may not be legal, so the balance of power is really up in the air. Beyond her qualifications, Bingham needs to hold on to this seat for Democrats, because a legal ruling could change everything. If she loses, no legal decision will change the balance of power.

CLICK HERE to donate to Karla Bingham on her site

Minnesota has another special election on the 12th, this one for a rural State House district. Melissa Wagner is a farmer and school social worker, so she’s very well-known and very beloved in Butternut Valley township. Rural America has gone to Republicans over the last few decades, which is absurd given their positions on the environment, infrastructure, public health, and big agricultural business.

People like Melissa really understand the issues faced by small farmers and rural citizens, and reading over her website, you know she’s going to be a great voice for her neighbors — and perhaps one day, large swaths of the country.

CLICK HERE to donate to Melissa Wagner using Progressives Everywhere’s ActBlue page.

Support Women Candidates through Emerge America

Unfortunately, the political system is still very much biased towards men. Due to a whole host of factors — historical, sociological, and cultural — men are much more likely to run for office. White men, who account for 31% of the population, hold 65% of elected offices. Mathematically, it’s absurd! Practically, it’s awful! It’s bad for our country for so many reasons, and it needs to change.

Luckily, women are running for office at record rates, and the organization Emerge America is playing a big part in that. It was founded back in 2005 but has really come into prominence over the past year. The group provides training, support, and expertise to progressive women who want to run for office, and was a huge factor in the Democratic wave that swept across Virginia in November.

In 2017 alone, the group helped 150 women win elected office — and that was a year without many elections. As more and more women decide to run for office, Emerge will only play a bigger role. And given how often they work with local candidates, a small donation can go a long way!

CLICK HERE to donate to Emerge America on its site.

A huge win in Wisconsin!

Not used to waking up to good news these days? Yeah, same here. But our goal is to change all that, and last night’s news qualifies as major progress. With your help, proud Democrat Patty Schachtner won the special election in Wisconsin’s 10th State Senate district, flipping a rural seat that has been Republican-held for decades.

This is not just a State Senate seat — this is a crucial victory in a state that goon GOP Gov. Scott Walker has dominated with gerrymandering, draconian voter ID laws, union-killing “reforms.” This is a crucial victory in the state that Paul Ryan, stooge of the rich and powerful, calls home. This is a crucial victory in a state that Trump — thanks to those voter ID laws — won in 2016. This is a crucial victory in a state that had long been a proud home for the worker’s rights movement.

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Schachtner didn’t just win; she crushed her opponent by 9 points, making for a massive swing — the state senator who vacated the seat to go work for Scott Walker had won with 63% of the vote in 2016. This portends both a huge wave for Democrats nationally and in Wisconsin. They’re one seat closer to taking back the gerrymandered State Senate. It proves Scott Walker has a whole lot to fear in November, when he’s up for re-election, and indicates to Paul Ryan that he should cash out now instead of running for yet another term.

This shows the power of kindness and decency. Here’s what Schachtner said last night to the Associated Press: “My message has always been be kind, be considerate and we need to help people when they’re down… We just need to be kind to people who are less fortunate and just help.”

It also shows the power of engaged citizens who decide to take a stand — both those running for office, and those who support them by donating time, money, and word of mouth. Progressives Everywhere highlighted Schachtner several times, and while we can’t any credit for her victory, our readers did send some money her way, and every little bit makes a difference in a local race.

So let’s get to work on helping more Democrats win big. Sign up for the newsletter here.

Round 5: Beto O’Rourke and a Wisconsin Special

It can be hard to sift through the idiocy; it all feels so unprecedented and yet entirely routine a year into this tragic era. Because we are now addicted to Twitter, waiting for the latest insane pronouncement, it’s only appropriate to relate our current situation to a meme: we are all that cartoon dog in the burning room, muttering “this is fine” as the flames flicker around us.

With every day comes a new story about the Trump administration that would have been a defining scandal in any other presidency. But absolutely nothing will happen about the huge amounts of dirty money being fed to Trump’s businesses, or all the porn stars coming forward to reveal they were paid off to not talk about their affairs with Trump, each of which occurred after he got married to Melania.

And yet, there’s one story this week that we cannot brush off or forget: the infamous “shithole” slur. To recap: during a meeting about immigration, Trump lamented the immigrants and refugees coming from Haiti, El Salvador, and African nations, which he considered “shithole countries.” Instead, Trump said he much preferred immigrants from places like Norway. It’s not hard to read between the lines there — the racism is blinding. And we only know this happened because Dick Durbin, the Democratic Senate minority whip, was in the room, so who knows what other hateful things Trump has said around his GOP toadies.

Not that we had any doubt that Trump was a racist — it has been the basis of his businesses and political career — but the clear confirmation is helpful. As we continue the fight for Dreamers, as well as the 200,000 El Salvadorians Trump wants to deport against all moral and economic logic, we must keep in mind that we are dealing with a president and party that are bad faith negotiators (not to mention assholes), and so ultimately, we must kick them out of office and replace them with smarter, more honest and compassionate leaders.

So let’s get to work on that. Visit our new site, and if someone forwarded you this email, sign up for the newsletter here.

Senate Candidate: Beto O’Rourke for Texas Senator

There are two reasons to support Beto O’Rourke: He’s a great leader… and he’s not Ted Cruz.

If it weren’t for Donald Trump, Ted Cruz would be a shoo-in for most noxious person in DC. He is the worst kind of faux-populist; a sneering, cynical liar who barks about populism and freedom while working to line the pockets of big business and Wall Street. He’s also pre-historic on a woman’s right to choose, immigration (ironic, since his dad’s from Cuba and he’s from Calgary), foreign relations, and just about everything else. Even fellow Republicans hate him.

For the last two decades, being a Republican has made it pretty easy to get elected in Texas. But Trump underperformed there in 2016, winning it by just nine points. Sure, he was a bad candidate, but Texans don’t like Cruz, and his opponent is far more likely to connect with the locals. O’Rourke is everything Cruz is not: affable, gregarious, generous, and Texan.

A native of El Paso, O’Rourke is a three-time Congressman from his home city. He’s made a name for himself by really putting himself out there. In 2016, he live-streamed a House sit-in on gun control, which C-Span used when Republicans shut down the cameras; last year, he broadcast a 29-hour drive across the country with GOP Rep. Will Hurd after a storm shut down airports. More importantly, he’s barnstorming across Texas, working to visit all *254* counties before the election.

As this story in Texas Monthly shows, O’Rourke is a tireless road warrior, driven to help people. After Hurricane Harvey, he drove all over the affected area, handing out supplies and checking in on people without ever mentioning the fact that he was running for Senate, or even a politicians.

O’Rourke is a bold progressive in a state where that is still considered a bit of a risk. He’s for universal healthcare and pro-choice; he has campaigned against the War on Drugs for years and doesn’t take money from PACs (while Cruz eats at the special interest buffet all day, every day). And even more bold for Texas, O’Rourke is a loud voice in favor of Dreamers and comprehensive immigration reform — and he wiped the floor with Tucker Carlson on Fox News last week by standing up for what he believes.

Oh, and he was also in a punk band, if you need any more convincing.

CLICK HERE to donate to Beto O’Rourke using Progressives Everywhere’s ActBlue page

Special Election: Patty Schachtner for Wisconsin State Senate

Update: This election is on Tuesday. Send whatever last minute help you can!

Let’s send a message to Paul Ryan, who was put on this earth to cut taxes for the wealthy, gel his hair, and little else. He’s non-committal about running for re-election this fall, and it’d be great to show him that Wisconsin, a bastion of progressivism ravaged by Ryan and GOP sociopath/governor Scott Walker, is returning to its Democratic roots.

There will be a special election for a valuable seat in the Wisconsin State Senate on January 16th. After the GOP took power, it gerrymandered the state into an unrecognizable jigsaw of districts, with racism and partisanship the only factors in their shaping.

That’s under Supreme Court review, but we can’t rely on that gerrymandered court to save us. A GOP-held seat in the State Senate, representing District 10, is up for grabs, and Democrats have a great candidate in Patty Schachtner, a civil servant and lifelong resident of the region. Her issues page is chockful of smart, local-focused ideas and promises, including an emphasis on infrastructure, the environment (she grew up on a farm), better public education, healthcare (including expanding the state’s Medicaid program) and fighting the opioid crisis.

If Dems can win this seat, it’ll put them in a better position to win the State Senate back in November, when Gov. Scott Walker, perhaps the most draconian state exec in the country, is also up for re-election. That’s huge: It’d end gerrymandering, expand healthcare in the state, and help re-enfranchize tens of thousands of people who were stopped from voting during the election by Walker’s awful voter ID laws.

Had it not been for those laws, Hillary Clinton would have likely won Wisconsin. So yeah, this race matters.

CLICK HERE to donate to Patty Schachtner using Progressives Everywhere’s ActBlue page