Round 3: Lauren Underwood and Ryan Torrens

This was not an easy year. In many ways, it was tragic. But 2018 can be a historically great year — if we work to make it happen.

As we have seen in recent special elections, and as polls continue to show, we have the opportunity to ensure that 2017 was a turning point in American history, when the systemic inequities in our democracy were finally exposed to the mass public and the many wrongs began to be righted.

recent CNN poll gave Democrats a whopping 18 point lead in the generic congressional ballot for the midterm election. Even if that’s an outlier, FiveThirtyEight finds that the Democrats have an average advantage of 12 points in the generic ballot, which would be the largest advantage held by any party since 1938.

At this rate, Democrats are favorites to take back the House of Representatives, and with strong candidates, the Senate. That would stop Trump’s agenda — the awful laws, the unqualified judges, the agencies stocked with lobbyists and idealogues — dead in its tracks.

Sure, gerrymandering, local politics, and the power of incumbency often give entrenched candidates an advantage that helps them overcome some level of national sentiment. But Doug Jones proved that no district is impossible for a Democrat to win when the base is motivated and the GOP candidate is exposed as a fraud. And it’s unlikely that the GOP — with its unpopular policies, the Mueller investigation, and Trump’s itchy Twitter finger — is going to see its position improve over the next 10 months.

So it’s up to us to keep the momentum going, and power great progressive candidates to victory. Not just on the national level, but as the Working Families Party has shown — and as was highlighted in the New York Times this week — on the most local levels, as well.

Congressional Candidate: Lauren Underwood for Illinois’s 14th District

Lauren Underwood is the sort of young, progressive, public service-oriented candidate that should be the core of a new Democratic Party.

A registered nurse, she worked as a senior advisor for President Obama’s Department of Health and Human Services, helping prepare the nation for outbreaks and implementing the Affordable Care Act.

Now, the 31-year-old teaches nurses in a Georgetown online course and works full-time for a Medicaid plan in Chicago, helping low-income families get the medical treatment they need. Plus, she was born with a heart condition, so any attempt to undo Obamacare is not just political to her — it’s personal.

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 highwater mark of universal health care.

For two decades, Illinois’s 14th Congressional district was represented by Dennis Hastert. We know how that turned out. A Democrat won the seat in a special election with help from hometown hero Barack Obama, but it’s been held since 2011 by a Republican named Randy Hultgren. The GOP’s hold on the district is no huge surprise; Obama’s 2008 election was the only time it voted for a Democrat in a presidential election this century.

But Trump only won it by four points last year, and this suburban Chicago district is the perfect example of a moderate, very flippable target. The Democratic primary for the district is in March, and Underwood is in a competitive five-way race. She gave a great quote to the Chicago Defender about why her candidacy is so important, beyond the issues she plans to pursue if elected:

  • “It’s the gatekeeper’s comfort levels—by that I mean local party structures, traditional funders, their comfort levels with that kind of representation. Even in the Democratic party—that’s where I start to get angry. When you look traditionally at Democratic voters, at the core constituency of the party, what do you see? People of color, so why is there this active movement to keep our voices off the table?”

CLICK HERE to donate to Lauren Underwood using Progressives Everywhere’s ActBlue page.

State Candidate: Ryan Torrens for Attorney General of Florida

As America continues to grapple with the opioid crisis, it’s become clear that politicians really have no clue how to discuss, let alone handle, the epidemic of addiction. Ryan Torrens, a 32-year-old consumer protection lawyer from Tampa, says he’s uniquely positioned to buck that trend — because he himself is an addict.

A sober and recovering alcoholic, Torrens understands the cycle of substance abuse, and is putting that experience — married with a legal career spent protecting citizens from big corporations — front and center in his campaign. If elected Attorney General, he promises to sue big pharmaceutical companies, which have made record profits off of pain drugs, and has already put together a task force on the addiction crisis.

As an attorney, he’s also been focused on battling foreclosures, which makes him the rare politician willing to stand up to both drug companies and banks.

Winning this race would be even sweeter, considering that he’s running against Pam Bondi. Why does that name sound familiar?

Back in 2013, Bondi solicited illegal campaign contributions from Trump’s “charity,” and got a sweetheart deal on office space at Mar-a-Lago. The payoff? She dropped Florida’s investigation into  “Trump University,” which was sued by kids across the country for swindling them with a fraudulent “education.”

Other Attorneys General were not as openly corrupt as Bondi, and Trump wound up agreeing to pay a $25 million fine shortly before the election.

Now, Bondi is working for Trump, in addition to serving as the Attorney General of Florida. Ironically, she’s serving on Trump’s federal opioid panel, which has done little to solve the problem.

There could be no greater contrast between candidates than there is between Torrens and Bondi.

CLICK HERE to donate to Ryan Torrens using Progressives Everywhere’s ActBlue page.

Round 2: Patty Schachtner and DD Adams

Not that we needed more evidence, but this week’s passage of the Tax Bill proves that GOP has no shame. Not only were they authorizing a criminal looting of the American middle and working classes to enrich their rich donors, many in the GOP were voting to enrich themselves.

The party is filled with wealthy businessmen, and Congress carved out several last-minute clauses that would specifically reward particular lawmakers, including Bob Corker. In the past, that sort of revelation — called the Corker Kickback — could have killed a bill; instead, Corker lied through his teeth, called it “fake news,” and not one Republican senator voted against the tax cuts.

Nothing can stop them from ruining America to enrich themselves — except for us, booting them from office. Corporate money props up the Republican Party, so it’s up to us to support the Democratic candidates that share our values. Let’s give these two candidates some early Christmas gifts!

Special Election: Patty Schachtner for Wisconsin State Senate

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.

Congressional Election: DD Adams for North Carolina’s 5th District 

The Doug Jones victory showed that black women are the beating heart of the Democratic Party. The party must recognize that, but not only during the run-up to election day. There are precious few black women in elected office, and that needs to change.

DD Adams is an accomplished businesswoman and public servant who has served in the Winston-Salem City Council since 2009. Adams has fought to raise wages for city workers, building infrastructure, and stood up for LGBTQ rights at a time when they were under attack in the state.

Adams also has name recognition in the district, which spans parts of 11 North Carolina counties (the state is heavily gerrymandered) and while Trump won the state, it also elected a Democratic governor in Roy Cooper. She’s also really active on Twitter, which is cool.

Adams’ opponent is incumbent Virginia Foxx, who wants to destroy public education across the country. She must be stopped.

CLICK HERE to donate to DD Adams using Progressives Everywhere’s ActBlue page.

Round 1: Conor Lamb and Stacey Evans

Republicans are in denial over the Roy Moore fiasco, and are trying to pin this loss on Steve Bannon. And while Bannon deserves to be buried under a landslide of criticism (yelled at him in Spanish, preferably), the Alabama loss isn’t just his fault, and Republicans clearly don’t yet understand what it means.

The GOP is hurrying to pass a tax bill that is so nakedly regressive that it almost qualifies as trolling. Republicans don’t get that there are going to be consequences to their looting of America, so let’s make them pay for it as soon as possible.

National Candidate: Conor Lamb for Congress in PA-18

There’s going to be a whole lot of special elections in 2018 at this rate, and the first big one will be in March, in Pennsylvania’s 18th congressional district, outside of Pittsburgh. The long-time incumbent, Tim Murphy, resigned in October after it came out that he urged his mistress to have an abortion — despite his being a vocally “pro-life” lawmaker.

Running for Democrats is a young candidate with an incredibly impressive resume. Conor Lamb attended the University of Pennsylvania, joined the Navy, and prosecuted sexual assault cases in the military. Since 2014, he’s been an assistant US attorney, working on fighting the opioid crisis.

Remarkably, Lamb is just 33-years-old, and is the kind of bright young Democrat the party needs as it looks to energize, connect with young voters, and build its base. Democrats haven’t even run candidates in this district the last two cycles, and Trump won it by 19 points in 2016. That makes Lamb’s candidacy extra important, as it’ll help re-establish the party in a working-class district that is filled with union voters.

CLICK HERE to donate to Conor Lamb using Progressives Everywhere’s ActBlue page.

State Candidate: Stacey Abrams, for Governor of Georgia

The Alabama upset proved that women and minorities are now the backbone of the Democratic Party. And in Stacey Abrams, the former Georgia General Assembly Minority Leader, they have an incredible candidate who is vying to become the first black woman governor in US history.

Abrams has an amazing resume: she got a job as a political speechwriter at 17, went to Yale Law School, got hired as Atlanta’s Deputy City Attorney at the age of 29, has won a gaggle of local and national awards (including from the Kennedy Center), writes romance novels under a pen name (really!), and has an unapologetically progressive and inclusive vision for Georgia. She’s also been endorsed by the big national progressive groups, including MoveOn and the Working Families Party.

The Alabama race changes everything. Democrats should no longer be afraid of the south — but they have to run smart and activate the base. Black women drove Jones to victory, and Abrams represents a perfect candidate for the time and place, and a new era in American politics.

CLICK HERE to donate to Stacey Abrams using Progressives Everywhere’s ActBlue page.