Sharon Hirsch Is Going to Unseat a Texas Tea Party Fanatic

Politics can be complicated, issues can be nuanced, and choices in elections can be unclear… but none of those things are true about this uber-close Texas House race between incumbent Republican Matt Shaheen and his Democratic challenger Sharon Hirsch.

He: A devout member of the fringe-right Republican Freedom Caucus who takes gobs of corporate special interest money, posts endless “Blue Lives Matter” memes, trolls the libs on Facebook, votes against public schools and special needs children, and once said “I will die on this issue politically” about passing a grossly bigoted anti-LGBTQ bathroom bill.

She: A long-time Democratic Party activist and Executive Committee member and public school employee who relies on small-dollar donations, is focused on funding schools and expanding healthcare access, and lost to Shaheen by an excruciatingly small 391 vote margin in 2018.

The two candidates for State House District 66 are a microcosm of the kind of politicians who have dominated Texas for 25+ years and the new wave of activists and lawmakers who are entirely remaking the state’s political culture. Democrats are now just nine seats from flipping the State House and Hirsch can claim a fair amount of credit for this ongoing transformation — she’s been involved in both the Plano and state Democratic Party since 2007 and co-founded an organization called Women Organizing Women Democrats. For a while, it was an uphill struggle — then Trump came along and changed everything.

To illustrate the contrast, Hirsch notes that before late 2016, the volunteer intake system was “a process of sticky notes and notes that said, ‘Call John at this number’ and ‘Called Mary at this number’ and it was a mess,” Hirsch tells Progressives Everywhere. “And then Trump won and it was the most remarkable thing that ever happened. All of a sudden, it was standing room only in the office and people just coming in droves wanting to do something. Some ran for office, some became super-volunteers who knocked on thousands of doors. There was a rallying cry.”

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Pennsylvania’s COVID-bomb Republican has an inspiring opponent

On May 27th, Pennsylvania State Rep. Andrew Lewis (HD-105) publicly announced that he had been diagnosed with COVID-19… on May 18th. While Lewis told his GOP colleagues about his illness, the press release was the first time Democrats who serve at the State House were informed that their colleague may have exposed them to the extremely contagious, extremely deadly virus.

That brazen display of deadly selfishness should tell you all you need to know about Lewis, who has spent most of the pandemic fighting to reopen Pennsylvania’s construction sites so that his family’s non-union construction business can resume work. Just about any Democrat would be better than Lewis, who won by just 500 votes in 2018, and his opponent in this November’s election, Brittney Rodas, is far more than just any run-of-the-mill Democrat.

Just 25-years-old, Rodas has a deep understanding of the government’s complex inner-workings. She worked as a policy analyst in the state legislature beginning in college, working with fellow Democrats to meet with constituents and draft new rules and laws that touched the everyday lives of people across the state. What inspired her to run in this very swingy Harrisburg-area district, however, was the death of her father, a former steelworker and Vietnam veteran. With his passing, Rodas experienced first-hand the very real consequences constituents face when the state falls short of its promises.

CLICK HERE to donate to Brittney Rodas’s campaign via Progressives Everywhere’s ActBlue page!

“My dad died in July last year after he struggled for a lot of his life with health care,” Rodas tells Progressives Everywhere. “And a lot of those struggles were because of his time in the service. He had COPD and all these other underlying issues. So I had been fighting for insurance for him through [government programs]. Ultimately, he made $7 over the Medicaid limit, which meant he couldn’t afford prescription drugs. When he died, I felt like the system had failed him and I had spent all of my time working for this system.”

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Texas is a mess right now. Joanna Cattanach’s House campaign is a must-win if we want to help fix it.

Texas has become the US’s new coronavirus hot spot, with skyrocketing cases setting records nearly every day, hospitalizations rising, and deaths beginning to pile up. It’s both tragic and infuriating, because the situation was entirely avoidable. Instead of practicing smart public health policy, the Republicans caved to the far-right MAGA brigade, taking precious few precautions and lifting even those absurdly early. Now, it’s a runaway train, and the state’s GOP leadership might as well have tied Texans to the rails.

The silver lining is that Texans are increasingly outraged at their state government and ready to make a change. Cities are beginning to require masks, police reforms are being approved by city councils, Confederate monuments are being torn down, and Democrats are making gains. In fact, Dems need just nine seats to take back the State House, and a few of them are big, juicy, flippable targets. That includes the 108th House District, which Democrats lost by a mere 220 votes in 2018.

That’s the race we’re focusing on today — not only will it be super-close, but a win will also represent a further transformation of Texas’s big cities and proof that running everywhere is key to Democratic success.

Joanna Cattanach spent nearly 15 years as a respected journalist in Texas, covering local news and politics as objectively as possible. But after the 2016 election and the 2017 legislative session, which was bigoted and damaging even by Texas Republican standards, she’d seen enough. Instead of covering elections, she was going to run for office herself.

There were two pieces of legislation in particular that convinced Cattanach that dire action was required. As a Latina (and human), the passage of SB 4, the state’s infamous “Show Me Your Papers” Law, absolutely enraged her, while the signing of HB 3859, a “religious liberty” law that allowed adoption agencies to discriminate against prospective parents for just about anything — sexuality, religion, insufficient church attendance numbers, you name it — proved to be the last straw.

“I am a former foster care child and I thought that was unbelievably appalling,”  Cattanach tells Progressives Everywhere. “It was a breaking point for me. I reached out to some of our local media and said, ‘would you like to talk to a former foster care child?’ And that was it.”

Continue reading “Texas is a mess right now. Joanna Cattanach’s House campaign is a must-win if we want to help fix it.”

Mondaire Jones Knows How to Fight for Progress

We’ve learned a lot these past two weeks about Americans, their elected leaders, and the massive gulf in courage between the two. Yes, Republican leaders have acted as cruelly as expected, from Donald Trump’s disturbing, televised threats to send in the military on peaceful protestors to Tom Cotton’s outrageous NY Times op-ed. But we’ve also seen so many elected Democrats utterly fail this test, over and over again, indicative of problems deeper than just pure partisanship.

Congressional leadership has been just about silent, too busy on vacation to take a real stand. Worse, Democrats that run the states and cities where many of these protests and police beatings are happening have encouraged and privileged the carnage. Here in NYC, Mayor de Blasio and Governor Cuomo spent the week deploying vicious cops to clobber innocent people who dare violate a draconian 8 pm curfew, then applauded those officers’ “restraint.” 

We are in desperate need of change, and it’s now clear that to make it happen, we need a new generation of leaders who actually experience the stakes in their own lives. And like Alex Morse a few weeks ago, New York congressional candidate Mondaire Jones certainly fits the bill.

Jones is running in the Democratic Primary for Congress in New York’s 17th district, just north of NYC, and has been endorsed by Elizabeth Warren and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, among othersHe’s one of five Democrats seeking the seat that the retiring Nita Lowey has held since 1989, when Jones was just two years old, underscoring the need for change. The welfare of the 17th district is personal to him, as Jones grew up in Lowey’s district, and understands what it’s like to have the odds stacked up against you — he is an openly gay black man who grew up poor in a starkly divided community he likens to a Tale of Two Cities. 

His resume at 32 years old is impeccable: Jones attended Harvard Law and worked in Barack Obama’s Department of Justice. He’s also long been an activist; Jones became a national NAACP leader in high school and organized against racist police while an undergrad at Stanford. After a short stint in corporate law, he returned home to work for the Westchester County Attorney’s office, where he’s served ever since. 

During our conversation last week, he not only expressed support for progressive policies — including Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, and a massive investment in public housing — but also displayed the fighting spirit that it’s going to require to actually get any of those things passed. And in a district that is guaranteed to elect a Democrat, having a progressive with a backbone in office is essential. That he’s running against a state senator who was a member of the turncoat IDC, which gave Republicans virtual control of New York for nearly a decade, makes this race even more urgent.

CLICK HERE to donate to Mondaire Jones via Progressives Everywhere’s ActBlue Page!

“I’m not someone who is still traumatized by Democratic losses in the ‘80s,” Jones said, winning me over in just one sentence. “We need to recognize that public opinion has shifted dramatically. Progressive policies are overwhelmingly supported by the American people. And now we need champions who can message it and who can fight for us without being afraid of their own shadow.”

Alex Morse is taking on Rep. Richard Neal, Trump’s Favorite Democrat

Most of the time, this newsletter focuses on flipping Republican seats blue and retaking legislatures from the GOP. But if you really want to enact progressive change, it’s not always enough to just have a Democrat in office — in seats that are comfortably blue, we’ve got to have Democrats who actually listen to voters. 

The dynamic playing out in Massachusetts provides a perfect example: Congressman Richard Neal, who represents the state’s 1st district, has time and time again blocked popular progressive priorities as the Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee. He’s received more lobbyist money and enjoyed more lavish parties than anyone in Congress and has more than returned the favor, blocking everything from the Paycheck Guarantee Act during this pandemic to Medicare expansion. He also deliberately slow-walked the request for Donald Trump’s tax returns and did not support impeachment until it became an inevitability — all while representing a district that Hillary Clinton won by 20 points and he has “represented” for 30 years.

This year, he finally faces a real primary challenge from a dynamic progressive who could not be any more different than the 70-year-old Congressman, who hasn’t held a town hall in years. And if you’re skeptical, all you have to do is compare their records.

When Alex Morse unseated a long-serving local politician to become mayor of Holyoke, Massachusetts, he vowed to revive the struggling former mill town where he’d grown up. He faced long odds and internal resistance, but he was determined to restore a community that had spent decades reeling from the same factors that hollowed out small cities across the United States between the 1970s and early 2000s. When he took office at City Hall, he was immediately faced with a decision that would set the tone for how he planned to govern.

Morse’s predecessor as mayor had requested that the US Department of Housing and Urban Development clear the way for the demolition of Lyman Terrace, one of the city’s largest public housing properties. The complex was located right in the center of downtown Holyoke, so the plan was to knock Lyman down and bring in some shiny new apartments, displacing the 167 mostly Latino residents who had no real options for relocation. When Morse took the reins at City Hall, he called HUD and told them to hold off on the required review.

“This was a community of people who lived there for generations, with ties to the local economy, and friends and family,” Morse tells Progressives Everywhere. “We called off that demolition and got a lot of pushback from city councilors from the business community that just wanted to raze the property and give it to the developer with the highest bid.”