Democrats could turn Mar-a-Lago blue

Back in October, Donald Trump declared Mar-a-Lago his official place of residence. Now we’re all focused on sending him back to his tawdry club in Palm Beach on a full-time basis, but you know what would be even sweeter? Sending him back to a Palm Beach represented by a progressive Democrat who is absolutely his polar opposite.

Jim Bonfiglio is running to represent the 89th district in the Florida House of Representatives after a razor-thin, 32-vote loss in 2018. As Democrats gear up for a run at flipping the Florida House this year, the 89th district represents their juiciest and sweetest opportunity. Bonfiglio actually lives miles down on the same street as Trump, but everything about Bonfiglio stands in stark contrast with the greedy, corrupt, and grossly incompetent president. The comparisons are pretty direct and frankly staggering:

Example 1: Trump spent his life as a predatory landlord and dirty real estate scam artist. Bonfiglio has worked as a foreclosure defense attorney for the last 32 years, fighting tooth and nail to save people’s homes.

“It’s very satisfying, trying to help people save their homes,” Bonfiglio tells Progressives Everywhere, noting that he’s helped see through beleaguered homeowners through three financial crises, dating back to the Savings and Loan Crisis in the 1980s.

“You get people at their worst and you try to save their houses for them,” he continues. “There’s usually a good reason why they fell behind on the mortgage. Most of the time it’s medical bills, loss of job or divorce. I like to try to help people get through the bad times and get to a better part of their lives.”

Example 2: Trump has a long history of bilking employees and contractors, refusing to pay them for their hard work. Bonfiglio, meanwhile, conducts free seminars to teach young lawyers across Florida how to protect working people facing unfair foreclosure.

During the 2007 economic crisis, which walloped Florida particularly hard, Bonfiglio also hosted free walk-up clinics with volunteer attorneys so that people facing foreclosure could get advice and legal counsel, free of charge.

“People would come all day long, we’d hook up an attorney with a client, and they’d sit down and talk to them and try to figure out if there’s any way they could save their house,” he says. “When foreclosure peaked in 2007 and 2008, I’d give my whole Fridays too. People would come in every half an hour and it was always illness, job loss, divorce, and if I can’t save this house, I don’t know where I’m going to stay.”

CLICK HERE to donate to Jim Bonfiglio’s campaign via Progressives Everywhere’s ActBlue page!

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Previewing the Virginia Legislative Elections and Our Candidates

Virginia has gone increasingly blue at the national level but has been hindered by Republican gerrymanders statewide. With those unfair districts vacated by courts and new ones drawn up, Democrats are well-positioned to finally flip both houses of the legislature. And if they can do that, they can make major progress on teacher pay and education funding, tackling coal companies, creating affordable housing, and making sure the state doesn’t get gerrymandered again in 2021.

Polling on the issues is looking good, but every donation and volunteer hour makes a difference. After all, control of the House of Delegates was determined by a coin flip in 2017.

I’ve spent a lot of time talking to and supporting six candidates in Virginia over the last 8 months, and each represents an important element of the new progressive coalition. Barack Obama recently put out his Virginia endorsements, which include three of the candidates below (Cole, Mallard, Hernandez). You can DONATE to them all by clicking here; info on each and links to our stories are below:

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Josh Cole is a dynamic young pastor and NAACP chapter president who is running again to represent District 28 House of Delegates after losing his race in 2017 by just 73 votes.

He’s very focused on criminal justice reform and economic inequality, and he works the kind of hours that should clear how dedicated he is to public service.

Fun note: After his religious, apolitical mom insisted he enroll at Liberty University, he worked on the underground College Dems before ultimately quitting the school.

“I thought I was going to Liberty to learn what I should believe,” Cole says, “and I actually ended up learning how to defend what I already believe.”

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Beverly Harrison is putting it on the line to change Virginia

Less than a month out from Election Day, topline numbers look very good for Democrats in Virginia, as a number of exciting candidates, including several we’ve featured here, are poised to flip both houses of the legislature. Pundits will hail that as a bellwether for 2020, but to truly ensure a brighter (and bluer) future, we have to dig past the suburban seats already trending our way and listen to candidates like Beverly Harrison, who is running for Delegate in Virginia’s rural 15th district.

Progressive activists have spent the last two cycles pushing to have (good) Democratic candidates run for every office in every district in the country, a herculean task made that much more difficult by the fact that the party largely abandoned (and was driven out from) rural America over the last 40 years. The silver lining of the endless, obvious treachery of Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell, and their cabal of thieves is that it has inspired a record number of enthusiastic Democratic candidates, many of them first-timers. We consider these cheap local races to support, but we don’t always quite appreciate the high price paid by the candidates running in the ruby-red districts.

“The stakes are high out here. You’re going to lose friends, you’re going to be ostracized,” Harrison tells Progressives Everywhere. “You’re probably gonna get some hate mail and ridiculed if you lose. That probably happens in a lot of places, but in the country, where we all end up at the same Walmart or the Food Lion every day, it’s very personal. I have Republican supporters who will not publicly acknowledge they support me, nor will they put up a sign in their front yard. When you run for office, you’re putting your name out there.”

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Rural Democrats band together for game-changing Virginia organization

In Virginia, Democrats have a fantastic chance of flipping both chambers of the legislature this fall, with some excellent candidates running against the most vulnerable Republicans. But as with everywhere else, they shouldn’t be happy with narrow majorities. Good news: A handful of candidates in rural areas have teamed up to expand the map and give Democrats a real fighting chance of taking more seats, pooling their resources under the banner Rural GroundGame.

Elizabeth Alcorn is one of those candidates, running in the state House of Delegates’ 58th district. We spoke with her this week about her campaign.

Alcorn has spent her entire career, first as a dentist and now as a small farmer, involved in her community, volunteering her time and energy to addressing the problems plaguing rural America. She’s worked in endless medical clinics and advised Medicaid boards, providing services and expertise that addressed the symptoms of rapidly expanding economic and political stratification.

When Donald Trump was elected president in 2016, Alcorn decided that instead of addressing the ongoing symptoms, she was going to step up and help cure the cause of the national illness head-on.

“When that happened, I understood exactly why it happened; it made perfect sense why he got elected,” Alcorn tells Progressives Everywhere. “I live in a rural area and rural America has been ignored by the Democratic Party for decades. Democrats have given up on rural America and that’s why Trump is in power. So I said, if we want to take our country back, we have to step up and be there and run for these offices.”

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Phil Hernandez and the rise of the Obama generation

There was a record surge of young voter turnout in 2018, in part because we have young grassroots leaders running for office across the country, providing a new wave of energy and fight. That wasn’t a fluke, either.

This spring, as I interviewed candidates running for the legislature in Virginia, I asked their staffers and other activists who else I should highlight. The answer was pretty unanimous: talk to Phil Hernandez, a young candidate from Virginia Beach running for the House of Delegates. It was a lot of hype, but he more than lived up to it.

In his early 30s, Hernandez has the sort of resume that could get him just about any high-paying corporate job he wanted. The first member of his family to graduate from college, he went on to work in the Obama White House, moving up to the Domestic Policy Council. He later went to law school at Berkeley and became a civil rights attorney, working on behalf of low-income tenants and fighting on behalf of other people facing discrimination. He used his policy know-how to develop a bill that would help tackle homelessness in the state and it was eventually signed into law by California Gov. Jerry Brown.

Instead of cashing in on his experience, Hernandez decided to move home to the Hampton Roads area of Virginia, and now he’s running to represent the 100th district in the House of Delegates. What follows is a lightly edited version of our conversation.

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