Whenever there’s any kind of legislation put forward to help working families, you can always count on 2 things– Republicans will vote NO and a certain number of reactionaries from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party will join them.
In the forefront of that group of reactionaries is always Central Valley Blue Dog Jim Costa. Despite representing a strong blue district, Costa always acts out of fear– fear of Republicans. 2020 is giving him a reason to start fearing Democrats instead. The only close calls he ever had are not because of a strong Republican but because he has been unable to motivate Democrats to turn out.
ProgressivePunch grades Costa a very low “F.” His lifetime crucial vote score is an excruciatingly low 43.57%. Only 3 non-freshmen have lower scores. Blue America has had him on our radar for a very long time, waiting for a strong progressive challenger to come along. And now one has!
Kim Williams grew up in a working class family in rural Georgia where she attended community college and then earned her BA while working three jobs. She went on to become a tenured history professor and U.S. diplomat. She’s a single mother who understands the difficult challenges working families face and is committed to bold solutions that dismantle income inequality, combat poverty, and hand political power back to the American voter.
She is dispelling the myth that this solidly blue district needs to lean conservative to win elections. She is walking neighborhoods that other campaigns have neglected and connecting with voters of all stripes on the need for a Green New Deal, universal Pre-K, and Medicare-for-All.
I asked her to introduce herself with the guest post below. If you like what she has to say and would like to help her replace the worst Democrat from the entire West Coast, please consider contributing what you can by clicking on the 2020 Blue America congressional primary thermometer on the right.
Can a Progressive Win in the Central Valley?
By Kim Williams, Congressional Candidate, CA-16
When I look around my district, I see poverty. We are situated in the middle of California, the world’s fifth largest economy, and yet one in four adults lives below the poverty line, and two in three children are on some form of federal assistance. We are one of the poorest congressional districts in the U.S. with some of the highest high school dropout rates and some of the worst pollution.
But in spite of this, many people question whether there’s an appetite for change. I’ve encountered several folks who skeptically ask me, “Can a progressive really win in this district?”
It is generally assumed that area is ultra-conservative and that voters only care about policies that preserve our AG economy. The assumption is that good schools, a fair justice system, a clean, healthy environment, and economic opportunity are secondary to ensuring that resources and policies are in place to bolster and protect right-leaning farmers.
But the fact is this district leans blue. The Cook Partisan Voter Index placed CA-16 as D+9 in 2018, which means that our district is nine points more Democratic than the national average. It’s even higher on presidential election years.
A Progressive Vision for the Valley
With unemployment high above the national average, we need to rethink how we invest in the Valley’s human capital. Just as FDR’s New Deal delivered a “direct and vigorous” response to the crisis of the day, a Green New Deal could be a double win for CA-16. Programs and projects that clean up the environment and stave off climate change can also bring better-paying alternatives to retail jobs and other low paying positions that lack worker protections. An expanded national service program could put our young people to work modernizing schools while boosting employment prospects of individuals without a high school degree (currently ⅓ of our workforce) by 50%. With increased wages, our community could support more small businesses and improve the overall economy.
Progressive policies could further help working families in need by subsidizing jobs. Recently enacted in 39 states and Washington D.C., these programs benefit workers and business by injecting money into hard-hit economies like ours. It also protects families on the brink of homelessness from teetering over the edge.
A progressive representative could enact legislation that would expanded income tax credits that are paid to more people on a monthly basis instead of yearly. This would ensure that those in need can rely on an advance on their taxes instead of sinking into an inescapable cycle of debt waiting for spring. They could reduce debt burdens and medical bankruptcies by finally removing the profit motive from healthcare and passing Medicare for All.
Progressive policies can also place the next generation on a solid path towards the American dream. Universal Pre-K, paid for through taxes on the ultra-wealthy, would relieve parents of the high cost of childcare, create better paying, federally-funded jobs in the middle of a childcare desert, while ensuring our youngest residents get the care and attention they need to succeed. Even better, we can guarantee funding for higher education, incentivising more people to grow their careers, achieve financial independence, and support a thriving economy right here in the Central Valley.
This vision for the Valley can all be achieved by enacting a fair tax plan and protected by ensuring publicly funded elections. So that never again will we have to settle for representatives who take campaign contributions from the very companies that move middle class jobs overseas, attack worker protections, and pollute our air and water.
The Writing is on the Wall
In short, it’s not risky to run as a progressive. Progressive policies offer the surest path to prosperity and consider the needs of the many over the desires of the few. It is our best shot at bringing economic justice and security to the district.
Valley voters are ready for change, and the incumbent knows this. He would not suddenly be seeking progressive endorsements otherwise. But these endorsements aren’t likely to save him now. Costa seems to see the “hundred year wave” coming in 2020 and recognizes that voter turnout could be the highest in a century. But he might be missing the point that high turnouts rarely occur during times of prosperity. This “wave” will be driven by the large numbers of voters who feel they’ve been left behind. Disquieting news, no doubt, from “forgotten” California.
Costa has not stayed in office all these years because he has addressed the needs of his constituents. He has stayed in office because our voters have had to choose between the party of Trump and a man who spent last Congress voting with Trump 47% of the time.
This March, however, voters will finally have a choice, and this Valley will finally have a chance. A progressive agenda can lift our families out of poverty and grow our middle class, but only when we elect change candidates who commit to change policies.
Thanks for always doing what you can to make a better world,
Howie, for the entire Blue America team