Up To Bat In March — Progressives In Texas And Illinois

The first two states with 2018 primaries are Texas — March 6 — and Illinois — March 20.

The thing about the Texas primaries is that in most cases they’re going lead to May 22 primary runoffs. So we’re going to be waiting for another couple of months before we know who the candidates we’ll have going up against Republicans for the blue-trending seats in Houston, Austin, San Antonio and Dallas, all of which are likely to deny any candidates 50% on March 6.

It’s a wide open race in west Houston, where award-winning cancer researcher and doctor, Jason Westin, has a bunch of establishment candidates he’s competing with, as well as another progressive. He can use some help.

Same in Dallas, where our candidate, Obama’s deputy undersecretary of rural development for the Department of Agriculture, Lillian Salerno is facing off against two pretty garden variety establishment big money careerists.

One of the Austin candidates, Derrick Crowe, (one of the best candidates anywhere in America) is likely to be forced into a runoff with a multimillionaire Republican, Joseph Kopser, pretending — although not well — to be a Democrat.

My first experience with Derrick goes back to when George W. Bush was still president and he was the organizing force behind Brave New Film’s “Rethink Afghanistan” project. He has a visceral understanding of progressive issues and appears to be someone who will be more than just a “good vote” in Congress, but someone — like Pramila Jayapal, Ted Lieu and Ro Khanna can come forward as a natural thought leader. He’s certainly running his campaign that way.

The Illinois primaries later in the month have a more crucial sense of permanence. The candidate with the most votes will face off against the Republican. The race that’s gotten the most attention is in IL-03, the Chicagoland district that starts in the southwest part of the city around Bridgeport and the Stockyards, snakes down through Marquette Manor to Midway, through Palos Hills and to Orland Park, Homer Glen and Lockport just north of Joliet. It’s one of those rare races where an excruciatingly bad entrenched incumbent, Blue Dog Dan Lipinski, is being held accountable for the first time.

Progressives in the district, in the state and across America have backed Marie Newman, who would make a much-needed and excellent addition to the Illinois congressional delegation.

The Republican in the race, Arthur Jones, an admitted anti-Semite is the former leader of the American Nazi Party. No, not every Republican is a Nazi… but it’s funny how they always find a home with the GOP isn’t it? Remember Boehner’s Nazi buddy in Ohio, Rich Iott? Anyway, whoever wins the March 20 primary — the Blue Dog Lipinski or progressive Marie Newman — will be sworn in next January because IL-03 isn’t about to elect a Nazi to Congress.

The district didn’t even vote for Trump. He couldn’t even muster 40% against Hillary, who had been defeated in the district primary by Bernie. Polling shows an extremely tight race and it’s going to be Marie’s field operation that wins this one and sends the DCCC and the Democratic old guard a message that voters are watching what they do and holding them accountable.

The only other candidate endorsed by Blue America in Illinois is Dr. David Gill in IL-13, a sprawling central Illinois district that meanders southwest from Champaign, Normal and Bloomington down through Decatur and Springfield to suburbs north and east of St. Louis. This was Bernie-country in 2016 and he beat Hillary in the district. And Gill is the candidate who has been working on Bernie issues for as long as Bernie has.

Remember, the last time Gill faced off against Republican Rodney Davis, Davis won by just a handful of votes — 136,596 to 135,309, only because left-wing spoiler John Hartman, took 21,319 votes, throwing the election to a crackpot conservative.

His message resonated last time — Help David get that message out to the few voters that got missed. He has three big-money establishment primary opponents who will probably split the establishment vote and allow Gill to face off against Davis in November. He definitely needs financial help for his field operation that will be in full swing in the next couple of weeks.

This week, we’re asking you to consider helping our Texas and Illinois candidates and leave the others for another time — just this week. Let’s make sure the progressives get into the Texas runoffs and into the Illinois general election.

Thanks for always doing what you can to make a better world.
Howie, for the entire Blue America team



Who Changed Trump's Mind About Leaving Marijuana Up To The States?

A few days ago, Roger Stone sent out a VICE News article, "The GOP has a marijuana problem only Trump can fix," reminding its readers that Trump said multiple times on the campaign trail that the issue of marijuana legalization "should be up to the states." 

It came as a bit of a surprise when Trump's Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, announced a major policy change last week that under the Trump administration, legal weed isn’t up the states at all. In another rollback of an Obama-era policy, Sessions gave federal prosecutors the authority to pursue marijuana cases at their own discretion, even in places where weed is now legal under state law. Sessions’ move has left several Republican lawmakers and Trump allies fuming. They warn that not only does the president appear to be breaking a campaign pledge and putting himself at risk of alienating a swath of his base, he’s jeopardizing the long-term future of the GOP, since young voters overwhelmingly support legalization. Former Trump campaign advisor Roger Stone, who formed a bipartisan group called the U.S. Cannabis Coalition to push for legalization, was especially irked.

“This is not only bad public policy, it’s bad political policy,” Stone told VICE News. "It’s a vote loser, and it’s inconsistent with what the president promised the American people."

Stone went so far as to speculate that Sessions may have gone rogue and changed the federal marijuana enforcement policy without running it by Trump first.

"I don’t even know if the president knows about this change," he said. "The last time I spoke to the president on this issue, which was a couple months ago, there was no change on this, he was supportive of states’ rights to make their own decision."

Asked about the discrepancy on Thursday, however, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders confirmed that Trump had changed his mind. "The president believes in enforcing federal law," she said.

Regardless of Trump’s personal beliefs, it’s clear there’s a weed schism within the GOP that could affect the party’s popularity at the polls for years to come. According to Gallup, 64% of Americans overall support marijuana legalization compared to just 51% of Republicans.

As Ted Lieu put it when we spoke with him about it last week, "It’s funny-- but not actually funny-- that states’ rights matter to the Trump Administration and Republicans only when it’s politically expedient. AG Session’s vendetta against democratically legalized marijuana is a humongous waste of federal resources and has proven to be unpopular at the state and national level."

Putting it into perspective last week, Jasper Ward of Green Wave Democrats wrote that "campaigns are what candidates make them about. The double edged sword for Democratic candidates in 2018 is that there are so, so many awful things going on that there are too many things campaigns can be about. The common denominator, of course, is Trump and the Republicans have set the train ablaze and aimed it right at the 99% of Americans tied to the tracks. Trump is insanely and angrily opening the throttle to full speed, and the GOP is standing off safely to the side counting their money and watching it happen." He asserted that "the people who are really going to save America (and maybe the world?) are the challengers out there in red districts and against horrible Democrats like Dan Lipinski and Debbie Wassermann Schultz. They are the ones who are not only going to rush the cabin and stop the train, but because they are not infected by the last two decades of greyscale that has touched everyone in Washington-- including Democrats-- they are going to chart a new path forward for the 2020s."

This week gave us a perfect example of the dichotomy of Establishment DC Dems not doing enough to save the country and Progressive Challenger Dems stepping up to chart the new way forward: When Jeff Sessions announced he was suspending the Justice Department memo that prevented US Attorneys from going after the marijuana industry in legal states, the reactions of most Establishment DC Dems showed why Democrats are in the mess we are in.

Sure, there were a few progressive stalwarts like Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-TX) who were willing to take Sessions on directly. Beto: "After our country has spent more than $1 trillion on the war on drugs, leading the world in the size of our prison population and seeing marijuana just as available today as it was at the start of the war on drugs-- and just as the majority of Americans have come to the conclusion that we must end the federal prohibition on marijuana, and most states have followed suit-- I can't understand how the Trump administration would take us back to the dark ages of the drug war.

Blue America has a new fundraising page for progressive challengers who are actively campaigning for legalization. You can check out-- and hopefully contribute to-- the candidates here.

The progressive candidate in the Illinois race to replace GOP incumbent Rodney Davis, Dr. David Gill, an emergency room physician told us that he’s “amazed by the gall of politicians like Jeff Sessions, who adhere to the concept of 'States' Rights' only when it suits their needs and desires.

“Mr. Sessions is a complete and utter hypocrite. The war on drugs has failed to decrease drug use and has cost taxpayers billions of dollars. Current policy also disproportionately impacts communities of color. It is finally time to legalize, tax, and regulate marijuana. Legalization of marijuana has proven to successfully stimulate the economy in Colorado. This policy will generate billions of dollars in tax revenue and reduce the huge financial burden posed by incarcerating non-violent offenders. As an emergency medicine physician, I rarely see adverse events related to marijuana; in contrast, trauma caused by legal alcohol always keeps my Emergency Room busy."

And Derrick Crowe is the progressive Democrat running in the Austin/San Antonio district where science denier Lamar Smith is retiring. "Marijuana should be legal," he told us, "and Jeff Sessions' obsession with destroying families and communities by jailing people for marijuana offenses is inhumane and puritanical. At the same time that Trump and the GOP are trying to cut people off from their health coverage under the ACA, Sessions is working to end folks' ability to use marijuana to alleviate terrible pain in states that allow medical marijuana. And, at a time when African Americans are almost four times as likely than Whites to be jailed for marijuana use despite similar usage rates, it's a racial justice and criminal justice reform issue. It's clear that there's no level of pain too great or injustice to deep to get in the way of Republicans' efforts to please their donors."

Here’s an idea…call it a ‘no brainer’— Let’s provide positive reinforcement for these candidates.

Let’s make sure the people driving the train are a new generation of leaders who are not afraid to take a principled stand that is contrary to DC ‘Savvy Democrats’ who assure us this issue is meaningless (and therefore will not make it a priority when we take back the majority).

Let’s support Green Wave Democrats!



People Who Say It Cannot Be Done Should Not Interrupt Those Who Are Doing It

womensmarch2.jpg“And the little screaming fact that sounds through all history: Repression works only to strengthen and knit the repressed.” — John Steinbeck, ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ (Based on last week’s election results, it’s working!)

Normally, Democrats win districts where the PVI is D+something and Republicans win districts where the PVI is R+something. The higher the "something," the more likely that party will win. But it's not always the case.

Allison Ikley-Freeman's successful campaign for a state Senate seat in Oklahoma last week-- a seat where Trump beat Hillary 61.4-32.7%-- was in a very red district southwest of Tulsa. No one thought she had any chance at all. It's the kind of area where the DCCC always says-- and always wrongly-- that only a rich Republican-lite Blue Dog could win. But Allison is a young progressive who was outspent 3-1, campaigning on a Bernie-like platform. And she's a proud lesbian, married to an African-American. She doesn't fit the DCCC model at all.

There are 5 Blue America-endorsed candidates we're always always being told are in "impossible" races. None of them are as "impossible" as Allison's race was. And all 5 are being run by exceptionally good candidates:

  • James Thompson (KS) R+15
  • Jenny Marshall  (NC) R+10
  • Tom Guild (OK) R+10
  • Derrick Crowe (TX) R+10
  • Dan Canon (IN) R+13

Since Tom Guild was the first person to tell me to watch Allison's race in Tulsa, about a week before the election, I spoke with him about what her victory meant to his race on the other side of the state. He hit the nail on the head:

"We have knocked doors for more than 5 months and visited with thousands of good, hard working, incredible people in our district. They want to earn enough money to pay their bills and provide for their families. They want affordable health care and peace of mind when they or someone they love get sick and need medical care. They want dignity and security in their golden years. They want the heavy burden of college student debt lifted from their shoulders after scrimping for years and burning the candle at both ends to attain their educational goals. Government should lighten our burdens and help us on our journey. Many times today, government frightens decent and honest people by threatening to take away their health care or jobs or affordable loans or programs like Social Security or Medicare that they have paid into for decades. We need to elect people to public office who want to help people and not hurt them. Public servants should make people’s American Dreams attainable instead of throwing roadblocks in their way. I’m willing to do everything in my power to make each person’s dreams a reality. I’m willing to provide a hand up not a cold slap in my fellow Americans faces. Together, we can create positive change in America. To go fast, go alone. To go far, we need to take our journey together and support one another.  We must help each person arrive at their unreachable star and celebrate with them as they achieve this miraculous victory."

Derrick Crowe is running in an Austin/San Antonio district due south of Tom's. "The establishment," he told us, "does not like to be proven wrong about past failures, and when you sign up to run in an ostensibly 'red' district,' the groups in D.C. will tell you that you're crazy. "Too red. Too conservative. Too long since the Democrats held the seat. Too much money on the other side"

Well, we just saw a socialist beat the former speaker of the Virginia statehouse, and a progressive member of the LGBTQIA community win in a solidly #MAGA district. It reminds me of the saying, 'People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it.' Well, we're doing it. The progressive moment is here, the wave is barreling to shore, and people who want to run for office as progressive populists should step forward right now. There will never be another time like this, and you'll never be able to do more good. And when people tell you it can't be done, tell them it's rude to interrupt."

Jenny Marshall is also running in an "impossible" district in the South, held by an entrenched multimillionaire incumbent. The DCCC won't figure it out until the day after election day, but the way things have been going lately, maybe "entrenched multimillionaire incumbent" isn't what voters are looking for right now.

Jenny:

"People wish me luck when I tell them that I am running for Congress against Virginia Foxx. I tell them there is no luck about it, just hard work and a message that people believe in. The people in the 5th are struggling to make ends meet and they want someone who will fight for them. They want someone with the courage to stand up for regular folks and take on out of control corporate greed and Washington lobbyists. As I have traveled the district I have listened to story after story of medical care that is too expensive and jobs that pay too little. I have listened to veterans who can't get the help they need and college graduates saddled with enormous debt. I sit and listen as they pour their life stories out and I can relate. I know what it is like to have more month than money, to worry about health care costs and student loan debt. As we trade stories, I talk about the changes I want to see in Congress and by the end I have another supporter. Over the past 11 months I have met thousands and thousands of people at all kinds of events. The overwhelming message back to our campaign is “run, Jenny run!”  So, I am running, but I am not alone. We are building a top notch campaign team with more volunteers and donations coming in daily so that we can knock every last door in the district to get our message out. I believe that with hard work and our grassroots organizing we will win in 2018." 

Dan Canon is an exceptionally accomplished candidate running in Indiana, a state the DCCC fears and, when they even try-- always run a Blue Dog. Dan is far from a Blue Dog. "We are seeing on the ground," he told us, "genuine excitement for real progressive politics, not just with Democrats and Independents but also with Republicans and those who have never been involved or even voted before. With Indiana's abysmal voter turnout we know that if we get more people to vote, we win. Talking to over 40,000 voters already and registering over 4,500 new voters, we know that one-on-one conversations about progressive policies are what will win this race."

James Thompson was ignored by the DCCC and the Beltway elites when he ran in a special election this year. But he came incredibly close to flipping one of those "impossible" districts, this one in the Wichita area. He's running again and the DCCC is ignoring him again. (Fine... it's an opportunity to elect a real progressive instead of the kind of retrograde Blue Dog that Luhan and Pelosi would prefer.)

James told us that "Something is only impossible so long as people believe it is so. As long as you believe in your cause and are willing to work, nothing is out of reach. No state is too red. No precinct too Republican. As Nina Turner recently told me, we need to be “hard on issues and soft on people.”

"This battle is not between Republican and Democrat; that is their narrative. The battle for our country’s soul is between the privileged princes of Wall Street/corporate class and the working people of this country. Working people exist in both parties and we need to come together as one to take back the power the billionaire boys club siphoned from us for decades with tax breaks and loopholes. When We the People stand together nothing is impossible."

These kinds of seats, in a cycle like this, is exactly where the DCCC should be making big plays. They're not. But we can. Want to help? Every donation absolutely makes a difference.



Is 2018 The Year We Break The GOP Strangle-Hold On Texas?

Over the years, Democrats let Texas slip away. When Democrats were firmly committed to representing the legitimate aspirations and interests of working families, Texas was part of their coalition.

There are Texans today-- like gubernatorial candidate Tom Wakely, Senate candidate Beto O'Rourke and half a dozen outspoken progressives running for Congress who you could call modern day "New Deal Democrats" ...and they aren't having any of the "DC Dem" bull-pucky.

Saturday, Mark Jones, a political science fellow at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy, and Joseph Jamail, chair in Latin American Studies at Rice University, penned an OpEd for The Hill, “Texas Democrats smell blood in the water for 2018.” Like every Texas Democratic candidate I've ever talked to, they bring up that Texas is less a red state than a "no vote state."

They wrote

"in non-presidential years, the Texas Democratic Primary tends to be a low-key affair, with statewide turnout involving only around 3 percent of the voting age population.

Contested Democratic congressional primaries tend to be scarcer than grass around a trough, with a plethora of safe Democratic incumbents and a paucity of seats in play." But they sense that that's not going to be the case next year. They're especially high on the prospect of Democrats taking back TX-07, TX-32 and TX-23.

In 2018 that is changing, as a talented group of high-quality Democratic candidates are coming out of the woodwork to run for Congress across the Lone Star State. And, if Democrats are to have any hope of taking back control of the U.S. House next year, they will have to flip at least a couple of Texas seats presently held by Republicans.

Tom Wakely told us that his campaign for governor will focus on 4 main issues:

1- Income inequality. I will fight for a raise in the state minimum wage to $15 an hour along with repealing Texas’s right-to-work laws. I also want to scrap the Texas business franchise tax system in favor of a Business Income Tax. It’s way past time for Texas’ largest corporations like IBM, Wal-Mart, ATT, Toyota, Dell Computer and Exxon, to start paying their fair share of taxes.

2- Healthcare. Texans need access to healthcare not access to health insurance. I will fight for the establishment of a statewide network of health clinics and hospitals similar in nature to the VA healthcare system that I am a part of. If you have health insurance through your employer and are happy with it-- keep it. If you have health insurance through the ACA and are happy with it-- keep it. For everyone else, the statewide network of health clinics and hospitals that I propose will be there for you.

3- Gun Violence Prevention programs. I will fight to ban the sale and possession of military-style weapons like the AK-47 and AR-15 in Texas. I will fight to repeal our state’s open-carry laws. I also support limiting the number of handguns and long guns that a person can lawfully own. In addition, we should require background checks at gun shows.

4- Global Warming. Through policies and practices like instituting a carbon fee on the burning of carbon-based fuels (coal, oil, gas), the carbon fee is at the core of my policy to reduce and eventually eliminate the use of fossil fuels whose combustion is destabilizing and destroying our climate. I will fight to ban fracking and flaring in Texas. I will work to see that scrubbers are installed on all cement factory smokehouses. These are all meaningful steps to mitigating the harmful effects of global warming."

Lillian Salerno, formerly Obama's deputy undersecretary of rural development for the Department of Agriculture, is running for a north Dallas Metro seat occupied by Trump rubber stamp Pete Sessions. She told us that since Trump’s election "much has been made of his rural, heartland voters, and how politicians can better serve them, with most discussion centering on international trade and globalization. But there is another political and economic disaster crushing the heartland-- one politicians could solve now, if they chose to:

For decades, rural America has been punished by bad policy that places too much power in the hands of distant financiers and middlemen through the formation of monopolies, which undermines small, local businesses and drains communities of resources... Corporate concentration has hit farmers, ranchers and agricultural workers especially hard. Many markets are entirely monopolized by a single company that dictates the terms of business to suppliers... It is a myth that the economic challenges that rural and small-town America face are caused by forces largely outside our control, like globalization or improvements in technology. We have the ability to help restore competition and economic vibrancy in rural America and beyond. The government has the authority to ensure markets are once again open and competitive so that communities have a chance to shape their own economic destinies."

Derrick Crowe is running in TX-21 in an effort to unseat the criminally ANTI-Science Chair of the House SCIENCE committee, Lamar Smith:

"At my core, I’m an organizer and an activist for nonviolent social change. I believe that we’re in a revolutionary time in the U.S., and that playing it safe could mean losing our democracy. We’re running a different type of campaign here in Texas 21, one that stands shoulder-to-shoulder with working people who are literally fighting for their lives under Trump and the GOP Congress."

The kind of economic populism Tom, Derrick and Lillian are campaigning about is a clear path to victory for enhancing a blue wave in Texas. It would be nice if the DCCC and the Texas Democratic Party would catch on, but that's not likely. This cycle-- thanks to Republican overreach and Trump's abnormality-- we can do it without them.

Turning Texas blue is going to take more than one cycle; let's roll up our sleeves and get started.



Blue America's Newest Endorsed Candidate Derrick Crowe

Blue America

Blue America has been busily vetting new congressional candidates since spring. Sometimes it takes a while since we don't base our endorsements on questionnaires but, rather, on "getting to know" the candidates and what they stand for and what their capabilities are. We've certainly gotten to know Derrick Crowe, our newest endorsee-- a progressive Texas Democrat who is running a campaign based on what he wants to do to represent the interests of TX-21 working families in Congress.

Derrick's perspective on the battle over healthcare is just what we're looking for at Blue America as well: "Health care should be a right in this country, not a privilege. Unfortunately, the bills the GOP has put on the table over the past several months would let us get sick, go bankrupt, and die early just so they and their rich friends can have tax cuts. That’s a stark vision. We have to answer that with an equally powerful vision: an America where everyone gets the care they need, achieved through Medicare For All."

The district stretches from north San Antonio up through a corridor past New Braunfels and San Marcos into Downtown Austin almost to UT,  then west into the Hill Country. It was drawn to minimize the solidly blue Travis County vote, but last year Trump underperformed past GOP nominees and barely won a majority (52.5%) in the district.

Derrick is up against one of Congress' worst-- Lamar Smith, a decrepit Science denier who Paul Ryan put in charge of the House Science Committee, where he has labored to undermine every effort to combat Climate Change. Derrick reminded us that he was also "Trump’s first donor in Congress, and thanks to him and his fossil fuel backers, every year my son has been alive has been the hottest year on Earth. I will not stand by while he ruins my son’s future. Mr. Smith has contributed to and lived off of this ugly, rigged system for three decades while the rest of us paid the price. Well, I’ve got news for him: we’re done paying."

Derrick has a very different vision of Climate Change than Smith, Trump and EPA administrator Scott Pruitt do. "A free, prosperous, just future depends on a stable environment. Climate change is already triggering severe impacts, as the recent draft climate report put it, ‘from the top of the atmosphere to the bottom of the sea.’ Folks in my district have already suffered through one of the clearest examples of a climate-change-driven disaster in the floods of 2015. More is on the way. We must act now to get carbon emissions down by electrifying our energy use, switching to renewables, and ratcheting up efficiency standards. If we do that rapidly, we have a chance to save the future."

My first experience with Derrick goes back to when George W. Bush was president.  Derrick was the organizing force behind Brave New Film's "Rethink Afghanistan" project. What I've learned in all the years since: He has a visceral understanding of progressive issues and appears to be someone who will be more than just a "good vote" in Congress, but someone-- like Pramila Jayapal, Ted Lieu and Ro Khanna can come forward as a natural thought leader.

He's certainly running his campaign that way:

"We are organizing around the solid, time-tested values of 'Liberty and Justice. For All.' Those principles are the heart of our democracy, and I’m tired of watching corporate-backed career politicians like Smith drag them through the mud," he explained to me yesterday. "Liberty means that your choices matter. It means that monopolies and corporate bosses can’t kill your small business dreams and pick your politicians for you. Justice means that trillions in financial fraud will send you to jail, a gram of marijuana doesn’t ruin your life, and that when you put in a full day’s work, you get paid a living wage. Liberty and justice for all means we respect every person and relationship, and we don’t target people for deportation or incarceration or harassment based on the color of their skin, their gender identity, or their sexual orientation."

Taking back Congress means making inroads in districts like Texas' 21st,  despite the gerrymandering. With an extraordinary candidate like Derrick it's a winnable seat, especially as more and more independent voters and even mainstream Republicans continue to sour on Trump and his enablers, like Lamar Smith, in Congress.

Please help us welcome Derrick to the Blue America ActBlue page by contributing what you can to his campaign. 

Thanks for always doing what you can to make this a better world,

--Howie, for the entire Blue America team

You can contribute to our Senate candidates on this page, our House candidates on this page, and to the brave Voices of the Resistance on this page.




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