Democrats Openly Back Establishment Candidates for 2018 Primaries

January 15, 2018
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By Michael Sainato

This week, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee announced its support for seven more congressional candidates as part of its Red to Blue program, an effort to flip congressional districts with open seats currently held by Republicans. According to the DCCC website, the endorsements include “organizational and fundraising support to help them continue to run strong campaigns.”

But the DCCC’s support comes before the candidates have even won their primary races, in many cases against progressive candidates. Despite the competitive primaries many of their backed candidates face, the DCCC is pouring resources and funding into their campaigns before voters can even decide on who to nominate.

In contrast to these endorsements, the DCCC sent out a memo to all Democratic Congressional candidates in December 2017, that stipulated every candidate must refrain from attacking other candidates in primary races, and go on a unity tour after the primary election ends.

For Utah’s 4th Congressional District, the DCCC formally endorsed former Salt Lake City Mayor Ben McAdams, though he currently faces three Democratic primary challengers. “I would like to point out that Ben McAdams currently has no public platform and has not given the constituents of this district a reason to support him other than he’s not Mia Love,” Tom Taylor, a progressive Democrat running in Utah’s 4th District, told the Real News. “If he or the DCCC think they can beat Mia Love on name recognition alone, they are mistaken.”

In Illinois, the DCCC chose to support State Prosecutor Brendan Kelly ahead of the Democratic primary, where Kelly will face two other Democrats vying for a seat in Illinois’ 12th District. “The DCCC has been recruiting nationwide, moderate/centrist candidates. It’s a policy which they believe will attract moderate Republican voters to switch sides,” David Bequette, one of Kelly’s Democratic primary opponents, wrote in an email to the Real News Network. “Unfortunately we believe that it further ignores progressives and minority voters that are looking for candidates to get behind and participate in the process with. Any pre-primary endorsement by the establishment in contested races is disappointing and misses an opportunity for Dems to fire up the base with early primary participation.”

Jason Crow was picked by the DCCC early on to take on the Republican incumbent in Colorado’s 6th District, while Democratic candidate Levi Tilleman, who served in the Department of Energy under Obama, claimed that House Minority Whip. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) urged him to drop out because the DCCC was backing someone else.

“It’s about the DCCC not trusting the judgment of their own people, not trusting the efforts of local party officials who have worked assiduously to make sure it’s a fair fight,” Tillemann said in an interview with Colorado Politics. “It’s about a systemic effort to disenfranchise Democratic voters. The DCCC is acting like these contests are fair fights, and they’re not.”

“The real tragedy of this type of collusion is that it ignores the needs of the voters of this district, who have been forgotten by the Washington establishment,” another Colorado Democratic candidate, David Aarestad, told the Real News Network. “Our community deserves to have its voice heard in Washington, not the other way around.”

In Minnesota’s 3rd District, the DCCC has backed Dean Phillips in a three-candidate primary race. ”In my opinion it is absurd and disheartening for the DCCC to formally endorse a candidate before the local DFL members get through the endorsement process,” said Alicia Donahue, who was a Democratic candidate before dropping out of the race late last year.

“What we hear from activists and voters all over the district, every day, is that Adam Jennings is the candidate that shares their values,” progressive candidate Adam Jennings said in an interview. “The candidate who will face Erik Paulsen will be chosen by Democratic Farm Laborers in Minnesota, not the DCCC.”

The DCCC has chosen Mikie Sherrill to support in New Jersey’s 11th Congressional District race against her three primary opponents. “I am disappointed that the DCCC would formally endorse a candidate before the Democratic voters of New Jersey’s 11th District had a chance to vote in the June 5th Primary,,” said Mark Washburne, a political science professor running for Congress in New Jersey’s 11th District as a Democrat. “It is a sad day when party elites in Washington and not voters decide who should represent our Democratic Party in the General Election in November.”

Another Democratic candidate in New Jersey’s 11th District brought up additional concerns. “It is unfortunate that the DCCC would back a candidate who can’t even vote for herself since she does not live in the congressional district,” Tamara Harris said. “Democrats throughout North Jersey deserve a progressive candidate who will represent their interests while running a credible and winning campaign.”

In the open race for New York’s 11th District against incumbent Rep. Daniel Donovan (R-NY), the DCCC is backing Max Rose over progressive candidate Omar Vaid and several other primary challengers. Vaid has fundraised over $100,000 through small donations and is running on a progressive platform.

“Our grassroots campaign is strong. Our positive message is bringing people together to fight for our common values,” said Karen Eastman, a non-profit organizer running for Congress in Nebraska’s 2nd District. “I am not trying to win over a party, I am trying to win for Nebraskans.”

Eastman has focused her campaign on grassroots efforts, having knocked on over 14,000 doors so far. The DCCC is supporting former Rep. Brad Ashford in that primary race.

Justice Democrats’ candidate for Iowa’s 1st District, Courtney Rowe, and two other Democrat candidates were snubbed by the DCCC, who is backing Abby Finkenauer for the seat. “I don’t think the DCCC should be weighing in on primary contests. It’s inappropriate,” said Rowe. “We have a 1st District organized for the party, and the DCCC could be helping it prepare for whoever wins the nomination.”

Though Susie Lee came in 3rd in the 2016 primary in Nevada’s 4th Congressional District, the DCCC is backing the wealthy philanthropist in her 2018 bid for Nevada’s 3rd District to replace Rep. Jacky Rosen (D-NV), who has opted to run for Senate instead of seeking re-election. “One example of the corrupting influence of money in politics is the Democratic Party supporting candidates because they can fund their own campaigns, have wealthy backers, or are friendly to corporate donors—even if they have no published platform,” said Hermon Farahi, one of Lee’s Democratic primary opponents in the 3rd District race. “My district is a crucial one in the balance of power in the House and we should allow people to decide the nominee without interference.”

The DCCC did not respond to multiple requests for comment on this story.