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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Flipping Texas blue means lifting the cloud of dark right wing money

The most malignant and reviled Republicans in Texas is retiring in 2020, which is good news in and of itself. The even better news is that we have a chance to flip his seat blue.

I mentioned him briefly a few newsletters ago, but I really want to give district 92’s Rep. Jonathan Stickland’s record of neanderthal, hateful politics its proper humiliation and exposure, because it’s part of a much larger problem that still threatens millions of people and democracy in general.

Stickland himself is best known for killing countless bills in the legislature, voting against public education and public health, and boorish persona (the guy even voted against declaring June Veteran Suicide and PTSD Awareness Month). His Facebook page is a swirling cesspool of smug, far-right “jokes” and conspiracies, the sort of stuff that should get someone a place on a government watchlist, not a government salary. Here are a few “highlights” on different issues.

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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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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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Joshua Cole is running on divine inspiration in Virginia

Whether or not you believe in a higher power or divine influence, it’d be hard to argue that Joshua Cole wasn’t born to lead his community and help create progressive change in government.

Not yet 30, the Virginia Democrat has been involved in the legislative process since he was a teenager serving as a page in Richmond, first for the House of Delegates and then for then-Governor Mark Warner. He now works as a chief of staff for a delegate there, which is somehow only one of his public service gigs — Cole is also an associate pastor, community activist, and the head of his local chapter of the NAACP in Stafford County. That’s all in addition to running to represent the 28th district in Virginia’s House of Delegates, which he is doing for the second time after shocking everyone by nearly flipping the districting in 2017.

“I work an hour from where I live, so typically I get up in the mornings at about six and I’m on the road by seven,” says Cole, who has spent years making that commute from Stafford to Richmond. “I do call time on my lunch break. I come back home and typically every evening we have events. So whether it’s knocking doors, going to fundraisers, going to some community meeting, or something church-related, I always have something going on every day after work. And I’m normally not home until after nine or 10 o’clock and get right back up to do it all over again.”

It’s an exhausting schedule, though Cole is pretty good at keeping up the energy levels — we spoke after his work in the capitol was done for the day, and he was all geared up to talk about the campaign and the policy goals he wants to pursue; big focuses include criminal justice reform and ending the playground-to-prison pipeline, improving public schools and teacher pay, and access to affordable prescription medication. He talks with the excitement and confidence of a guy who knows he’s got a real chance of winning and doesn’t want to leave any stone unturned or ounce of energy untapped — after all, Cole knows better than anyone else that every vote counts.

Last time around, Cole, then a first-time candidate, lost his race by an excruciatingly minuscule 73 votes. Lawyers wound up getting involved, and there were enough irregularities that Cole could have easily been the rightful winner. The close call was especially brutal because it left Democrats just shy of flipping control of the legislature. Now, Cole is running again to finish the job — he’s just not going to be getting a rematch.

The Republican who beat him, Del. Bob Thomas turned out to be far more wingnuty than advertised — he’s the guy who said he’d welcome Georgia’s abhorrent new abortion policy in Virginia — and yet somehow, he was not quite insane enough for the local GOP. In part because he begrudgingly voted for Medicaid expansion (with work requirements!), Thomas got primaried by his 2017 GOP opponent, Paul Milde, and in a tight decision, the insurgent came out on top.

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