We are getting closer to the next big special congressional election, and there could not be a starker choice. In the race to replace disgraced Trent Franks as representative from Arizona’s 8th district, the Republicans nominated Debbie Lesko, a state senator who is the epitome of modern corruption.
Lesko serves as the state chair of ALEC, the corporate front group that bribes politicians to let them write egregious bills that largely benefit racists and CEOs. She’s carried their sparkling water for years, and in 2016 was even named ALEC’s Legislator of the Year.
This is gross:
“I ran for office to make a difference and that is why I take on big issues. I am very honored to be named ‘Legislator of the Year’ by such a respected national organization. Thank you ALEC for your decades of work with state legislators to promote limited government, free markets, and states’ rights,” Lesko said.
What’s even grosser is how ALEC has dominated Arizona. The group has used Arizona as a testing ground for noxious policies that target immigrants, restrict voting rights, and helped destroy campaign finance restrictions. If she goes to Washington, she’ll be a card-carrying Trumpster and steady vote for corporate interests — and they won’t even have to foot the bill for her trips to DC anymore.
In a close primary election, Arizona Democrats ultimately nominated Dr. Hiral Tipirneni, an emergency room physician and cancer researcher who emigrated to the United States from India with her family when she was just three years old. As you might expect, she’s strong on issues like health care — she wants a public option for Medicare buy-in — and immigration, which is a hot point of contention in Arizona.
Tipirneni spent her career in emergency medicine, so she knows how to responds to people’s concerns with compassion. Lesko, on the other hand, would be working to help corporations and bigots. It’s a deep red district, but that doesn’t seem to matter in 2018, and with such a difference in candidates, we need to go all-out to help team blue.
Happy Easter! This Sunday is a holy day for millions of Americans, who pause their busy lives to participate in traditions forged by ancient religious text and cultural evolution. Inspired by a message of love and kindness, people worship, reflect, hunt for Easter eggs, enjoy big family dinners… and then in far too many cases, return to the work of demonizing and denying human rights to millions of their fellow citizens, while pushing millions more into poverty.
Over the last 50 years, the Religious Right has hijacked Christianity in America, turning the pulpit intended to preach love and charity into a platform for hate speech and punishing capitalist propaganda. Huckster preachers like Jerry Falwell and organizations like Focus on the Family have weaponized faith and its intimate place in people’s psyche to create generations of soldiers in a war on women, LGBTQ Americans, racial minorities, and anyone who cannot afford massive donations to their ministries.
To help them in this hijacking of America, they have trained and financed several generations of radical politicians, who have passed decades worth of laws that have hurt Americans in every possible way. Thanks to Donald Trump, they have more power than ever before — but as we are seeing, our energy and determination is already starting to change that. Just look at how we beat Roy Moore, the pedophile Bible-thumper who everyone thought would be the next senator from Alabama!
This week, we’re taking aim at some of the most intolerant “Christian” lawmakers, who are really false prophets. They may be tweeting Bible verses on Easter, but they’re preaching hate and afflicting the powerless, so it’s time they’re taught a lesson.
Rep. Mark Walker, of North Carolina’s 6th congressional district, is the head of the influential Republican Study Committee. What do they study? How to make life hell for anyone that’s not a god-fearing straight white man born into wealth.
His issues page talks about protecting women in the workplace, equal pay for equal work, and guaranteeing a woman’s right to choose, all of which stand in stark contrast to Walker, to say the least. He’s also for a Medicare public option and gun control, making him a mainstream progressive.
Rep. Vicky Hartzler, of Missouri’s 4th district, was called “the most anti-gay candidate in the country” when she first ran for office, and during her tenure in Washington she has lived up to that billing. And it’s not just the LGBTQ community that she has worked to punish. Not by far.
Hartzler boasts a perfect score from the National Association of Awful Monsters, for taking up every vile far-right position possible over the last decade. She’s a birther, anti-gay marriage, voted against the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, voted in favor of cutting food stamps, supports Trump’s “Muslim Ban,” pushed hard to have transgender soldiers banned from the military (she actually equated them to Putin, North Korea and ISIS) and voted against hate crime legislation. She is literally the worst.
Running against her is Renee Hoagenson, a single mother and businesswoman who is pushed toward a progressive platform by her Catholicism. OK, so her website isn’t much to look at, but her positions are firmly in our wheelhouse. She believes in Medicare for All, forcing pharmaceutical companies to pay their fair share in combating the opioid crisis they helped start, and ending partisan redistricting. And this passage, from her website’s section about family values, really speaks to the difference in both the candidates in this race, and the larger cultural conflict still raging in America.
“To reverse the decline of family values we must first create more good-paying jobs and increase wages for the thousands of Missourians whose wage increases have been outpaced by inflation,” she writes. “When our parents can afford to spend more time with their children they will have the time to help rebuild the moral foundation of our country.”
All you need to know about Randy Hultgren, the congressman from Illinois’ 14th district, is that he said in 2010 that he believes in Intelligent Design. That should enough to disqualify him for national office. It’s insane, but what’s crazier is that he has also been recognized for his work promoting science and STEM education. So what are we to make of this guy?
Well, whatever his stance on the evolution might be, he’s clearly a regressive vote on just about every other issue. He’s an Evangelical Christian who believes God guided him through his initial race for Congress, and presumably, thinks the big man upstairs told him to oppose green energy policies, work against a woman’s right to choose and stem cell research, vote against reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act, and fight to dismantle Obamacare. He chairs the National Prayer Breakfast, but after finishing his omelet, goes to work to make life miserable for just about everyone.
Underwood is also focused on bringing down prescription drug costs and increasing access to health care, because as every progressive (or anyone who has used the American healthcare system) knows, Obamacare should have been just the start, not a high water mark of universal health care. She is on the opposite side of Hultgren on just about every issue, and is building a great coalition in Illinois after winning the Democratic primary.
Students, parents, and people with souls flooded streets across the country on Saturday to demand drastic changes to gun laws that have turned the United States into a war zone. Organized by the incredible survivors of the Parkland school massacre, the March For Our Lives featured a central protest in Washington, DC and satellite events in at least 800 other cities and towns, coordinated marches of angry footsteps that should ring in the ears of lawmakers across the country.
If lawmakers were interested in listening to their constituents, the March For Our Lives would be a clear message to those who have thus far refused to do anything about the scourge of school shootings, mass killings, and everyday gun violence that has drenched the nation in blood. But unfortunately, Republicans have sold themselves out to the NRA, which has showered them in money in exchange for their support for evermore insane gun laws. There has been hardly any movement toward the slightest of reforms in Congress, because the lives of children don’t factor into an NRA voting record or pay for 30 second TV ads. And so after we march, we must take on these corrupt Republicans head-on.
But of course, that’s not what happened. The NRA insulted the brave kids from Parkland and actually tried to make money off the march.
“To all the kids from Parkland getting ready to use your First Amendment to attack everyone else’s Second Amendment at your march on Saturday, I wish a hero like Blaine Gaskill had been at Marjory Douglas High School last month because your classmates would still be alive and no one would know your names, because the media would have completely and utterly ignored your story, the way they ignored his,” he said. “I have to ask, what are you really marching for? Because from where I’m standing, it looks like a march to burn the Constitution and rewrite the parts they don’t like in crayon.”
This scumbag actually said that about the teenagers who are taking a selfless stand, fighting through incredible pain to try and make the country a better place. Their lives will never be the same; they’ve become targets for hateful, dangerous people. And yet, they push forward, working every moment to save as many lives as they can.
And what is the NRA doing? Calling the whole thing a conspiracy theory and trying to raise money with a membership drive.
“Today’s protests aren’t spontaneous,” it wrote on Facebook. “Gun-hating billionaires and Hollywood elites are manipulating and exploiting children as part of their plan to DESTROY the Second Amendment and strip us of our right to defend ourselves and our loved ones.”
Republicans were just plain silent. And that’s no surprise. There has been hardly any movement toward the slightest of reforms in Congress, because the lives of children don’t factor into an NRA voting record or pay for 30 second TV ads.
In honor of the March For Our Lives, Progressives Everywhere has created a fund devoted specifically to Democratic candidates running against Republicans who serve the NRA, not their constituents. We are calling it — surprise — Progressives Everywhere vs. the NRA. Because just look at what they did yesterday:
Rep. French Hill in Arkansas’s 2nd congressional district. Hill has taken over $1 million from the NRA over the course of his career.
Hill didn’t tweet anything.
Clarke Tucker is running against him. Tucker, a brilliant young lawmaker who currently serves in the Arkansas legislature, has proposed several gun control laws during his time in Little Rock. They include prohibiting people convicted of domestic battery or stalking from owning guns, as well as making it a misdemeanor offense to negligently allow a child access to a firearm. What’s more, independent polling has put him within single digits of Hill.
Ken Buck represents Colorado’s 4th congressional district. He has taken over $800,00 directly from the NRA to vote against gun laws. He hasn’t tweeted in three days. His opponent is Karen McCormick, who been active in supporting school walkouts and the Parkland teens in their fight for sanity. Buck faces a primary challenge, which could leave him extra vulnerable.
David Young represents Iowa’s 3rd congressional district. Young has taken over $700,000 in the NRA’s blood money over the years. Young did not tweet on Saturday. On Friday, he tweeted about open office hours. Let’s hope people go in there and ask him why, exactly, he supports murder weapons.
Lloyd Smucker, who has taken over $200,000 from the NRA, was with young people on Saturday — but it was the Young Republicans, and they were talking about international relations. Nothing about guns. Meanwhile, several thousand people rallied in Lancaster, which is at the heart of his district.
As students across the country participated in walkouts and marches to protest America’s epidemic of gun violence on Thursday, their inspirational mass movement was met with impotent mockery by smug conservative politicians and internet pundits. It was largely the same cynical, fringe talking points that Republicans always trot out in response to anyone that might challenge the NRA’s reign of terror, but this time, perhaps inspired by the pained pleas of children begging for their own lives, some on the right wing rose to the occasion to offer more vile insults and truly unhinged policy proposals.
Niraj Antani, a state legislator from Ohio, became one of the most notable of these next-level lunatics when he suggested that not only should teachers be allowed to have guns, but students should also be permitted to carry firearms in school.
“Students deserve a chance to stand their ground and defend themselves,” Antani, who represents Ohio’s 42nd house district, wrote on Twitter. He later doubled down on the dystopian suggestion, tweeting (incorrectly) that gun-free zones don’t work and telling the Dayton Daily News that 18-year-olds, who are permitted to have long guns in Ohio, should be allowed to bring them into the classroom.
One of his prospective Democratic opponents in the race, Zach Dickerson, seized on the comments during a tense Twitter exchange that gained local notice. Antani tried to clarify that he wasn’t proposing legislation to arm school children, but in a conversation with Progressives Everywhere, Dickerson used Antani’s comments and record on guns to tie the Republican to several terrifying gun proposals that are currently making their way through the Ohio legislature.
“There are a couple of other really dangerous pieces of legislation that I want to make sure get stopped,” Dickerson said. “One says that anybody can have a concealed weapon. Right now under current law, you’ve got to have an eight-hour safety training and a background check from the sheriff. It is informative and easy. I know because I took the class, I have a concealed carry permit. They want to do away with that. And then the other says that if you’ve got a concealed carry permit, you can take your gun anywhere you want. So you put those together, anybody can have a concealed weapon and they can take it anywhere they want — that’s crazy. It’s scary. It’s a dangerous policy and so I want to make sure that those things don’t get pushed through and get to the governor’s desk.”
Dickerson, a first-time candidate who works as a researcher for LexisNexis, is originally from Texas, where he learned to hunt with his father, who is a Republican. So he thinks “there’s a place for guns in America,” but also believes in common sense gun reform. He’s been moved by the students from Parkland who have led the protests and echoes their calls for raising the age on gun purchases, the banning of bump stocks, red flag laws and extreme risk protection orders, and looking at larger laws around weapons of war.
“It gets a little trickier when you start talking about banning assault weapons, but I personally don’t think that an AR-15 and similar rifles need to be marketed for purchase by civilians,” he said. “It’s gonna be hard to define what an assault weapon is in that sense, but I think that’s something we need to look at.
Gun control has taken center stage in his campaign, but was not the initial inspiration for his run. Dickerson is part of a mass wave of local and state-level Democrats who have gotten personally involved in politics in response to the GOP’s lurch to the far right.
“I’ve always been engaged in politics, but there has been a slow creep of this really just corrosive, toxic partisanship,” he said. I like a lot of Democrats sat home on election night in 2016 and watched Donald Trump get elected, and I was like, OK, I gotta get off the bench. I come from a Republican family, so I’m a pretty moderate Democrat, and more importantly, I know how to disagree with people without demonizing them. I really think I could do a better job than the guy that’s in there. And I think I will bring a much more collaborative, cooperative atmosphere to the Ohio House of Representatives.”
Cooperation is always on Dickerson’s mind. One of his first focuses, both on his campaign site’s issues page and when prompted in conversation, is ending the partisan gerrymander in Ohio, which has one of the most brazenly anti-democratic maps in the country. In May, voters will have the opportunity to approve a bipartisan proposal that would give the minority party more influence in drawing new districts after the next census.
As Daily Kos has noted, the bill is not at all a perfect solution, and a new Cleveland.com analysis shows it may not solve the problem, but voters turning out at the ballot box to state that they do not want their democracy manipulated is a strong step and one that Dickerson fully embraced. Given the 42nd district’s population, which includes a “pivot county” that switched from backing Obama in 2012 to Trump in 2016, fair representation is crucial.
“I think you’ll get a more moderate reasonable people because if you have to appeal to people in both parties and you cannot gerrymander yourself into a safe seat where you can take extreme positions, then you’re going to get better policy and things are going to get done,” Dickerson said. “And I don’t think somebody like Niraj Antani would be able to maintain the really extreme irresponsible gun positions he has if we had a more fairly drawn district.”
Antani is also virulently anti-abortion, which gets Dickerson more audibly outraged than even the gun proposals. “I think it’s a false choice to say is people are pro-life or pro-choice. I don’t agree with the framing of that argument. Everybody’s pro-life. There is nobody that is pro-abortion. Maybe that’s the small government conservative coming out in this Democrat, but I don’t want the government telling coming between a woman and her doctor telling her what she can and cannot do.”
Other major issues of concern in the district include the opioid crisis that continues to ravage the state — he’s in favor of more addiction treatment centers and helping former addicts with job training, “to help people build a life they want to run toward instead of, away from, because the majority of the people that are arrested for these kinds of drug issues are in poverty. If you want to get to the root of solving the opioid problem in Ohio, addressing poverty is a big part of it.”
In the same way, he preaches compassion in healthcare and social services, and would vote against job requirements for Medicaid, a pernicious policy that the Trump administration has granted waivers to states to begin imposing. “The people that are on Medicaid are in poverty and you’re kicking somebody when they’re down. It doesn’t encourage somebody to be employed to say ‘I’m gonna take away your healthcare.’”
Dickerson’s campaign is focused on local issues, but the national attention is beginning to build. He took off from work on Friday to handle the surge in phone calls and emails, and as always, hit the pavement in the evening.
“Money is obviously important in politics, but I know that the most powerful and persuasive thing I can do to convince people to vote for me is to knock on their door and introduced myself,” Dickerson said. “I go out after work and I may only get to 10 or 15 houses, but you know, 10 or 15 a day, five days a week, it adds up.”
The Democratic primary election is on May 8th. Dickerson faces off against Autumn Kerns, who has no obvious campaign infrastructure or website.
You did it. Despite the incredible odds stacked against him, Democratic candidate Conor Lamb pulled off a remarkable victory in last night’s special election in Pennsylvania’s 18th district. This is more than just a victory. This is history — and the promise of even more to come.
Lamb, a 33-year-old former Marine and prosecutor, defied so many odds. He won a district that voted for Trump by 21 points in 2016 and did not even field a Democratic congressional candidate in 2014 and 2016. And he did it despite the GOP throwing everything they had at trying to salvage the race, including visits from Donald Trump and Mike Pence, as well as $10 million in corporate money meant to tarnish Lamb and prop up their dopey GOP nominee, Rick Saccone.
How did Lamb do it? Well, Trump being a massive failure helped. But Lamb’s campaign would have been doomed if it weren’t for you. Grassroots Democrats donated to his campaign in droves, unions rallied to his cause, and locals walked the streets for months to knock on doors and talk to their neighbors. And Lamb won by less than 1000 votes, which goes to show that every vote really does count, as does every dollar. Progressives Everywhereraised nearly $1000 for Conor Lamb in just our first few months of existence, thanks to your generosity and vision.
We’ve now raised over $10,000 for bold progressive Democratic candidates, and we’re just getting started. You can read more about our current candidates below, and know we’ll be adding new ones throughout the rest of the year!