Progressive Races to Watch

Howie Klein, from Down with Tyranny blog, reviews the key races that will determine if there will be a progressive breakthrough in the midterms

Progressive Races to Watch

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PAUL JAY: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay.

Well, the vote, the midterm vote, is on Tuesday night, and we’re going to turn to someone who I find one of the more astute followers of politics in the United States, particularly when it comes to the House, and particularly when it comes to following progressive candidates all across the country- but not only progressive.

So now joining us from Los Angeles is Howie Klein. Howie’s a former music producer and record label executive. He was president of Reprise Records from 1989 to 2001. He’s a progressive activist noted for his stance against censorship and advocacy of free speech protections. He’s now an adjunct professor at McGill University in Montreal, serves on the board of People for the American Way, and blogs under the nom de guerre Down With Tyranny. Thanks for joining us, Howie.

HOWIE KLEIN: My pleasure. I like that nom de guerre thing.

PAUL JAY: OK. So what are the races you’re following early in the evening and then later that, one, you think are particularly interesting, and also may tell us where the evening is going?

HOWIE KLEIN: Let’s take one at a time, because interesting and where the evening is going aren’t necessarily the same. But early evening, the first one that we should be watching really closely is Kentucky 6. So that’s a race that pits a kind of an interesting candidate on the Democratic side against a, you know, not one of the worst Republicans, but not necessarily a good Republican. So the Democrat is this woman named Amy McGrath. She’s a fighter pilot, she had these great videos come out. And she’s OK. She’s not going to be you know Pramila Jayapal or Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren, but she’s not going to be bad. She’s going to- she’ll probably be good. In fact, one of her chief advisers is someone who you probably know, Donna Edwards. And you know, depending on how much sway Donna has with her, the better.

In any case, if she wins that race- that will be probably the first one that we see come in- if she wins that race, that’s the first indication that there will be a very strong wave. That’s a very Republican district, and it’s a- although it’s a somewhat tight race, Barr, the Republican Andy Barr is favored to win. If she wins it, look for very, very, very good numbers for the Democrats across the country.

The next one- similar kind of race, although more difficult for the Democrats- is in South Carolina. They close their polls a little bit earlier than everybody else does, as well. In the first district there’s an open seat that was formerly held by the ex-governor Mark Sanford, and he lost the primary to a very, very radical right Trump person. And she is currently favored to win. But there is also a very good Democrat running in this race, a guy named Cunningham. When I say good I don’t mean- in this case I mean a good candidate. He’s raised money and he’s working hard, and that kind of stuff. I’m not talking about him ideologically. He’s kind of a middle-of-the-road type of Democrat. Not terrible, not wonderful. But if he wins that race- and that’s going to come after Amy McGrath- if those two won early in the evening, you can just go to sleep, because it’s going to be a landslide.

Now. Now we’re going to get to something interesting. This is not very early, but still early in the evening, Pennsylvania 11. So I think you’ve been in that district, right?

PAUL JAY: Yeah, we’ve been covering it. That’s Jess King, who very- started off about 14 points or even more behind, but now seems to be closing in within the margin of error, which I don’t think the national media has picked up on at all.

HOWIE KLEIN: They haven’t. They have not. And all their models don’t show what she’s doing. Their models don’t account for what she’s doing, and how she’s running her race.

Now, if she wins, or even comes close, that means it’s not a wave. That means it’s a tsunami. That means that there is no Republican anywhere in the country who can be counted as safe. That means there will be districts that no one ever heard of that will be in jeopardy. It means that … You remember when Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez won, and there were people running around in the mainstream media, and the punditry, and even in the Democratic Party, who went “What? Who is she, with those three names, what’s that woman? Where is that?” They had no idea who she was, where she was. Even in New York City where she won, even the New York Times didn’t know who the hell she was.

PAUL JAY: Well, they were arguing that, once they finally had to acknowledge she won, they were arguing it’s a one-off, it’s an anomaly. And people might argue Jess King’s the same; like, Jess King is not really running against Trump, she’s running against the Republican, Smucker. And she’s running on a very Sanders-esque campaign. And she’s also just a very genuine person who’s loved in the district. She comes from Lancaster, and so on. Why is she a bellwether if she wins, and perhaps not a unique situation?

HOWIE KLEIN: Well, she’s a bellwether because it’s such a hard district. It’s so red. When when the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania redistricted and they got rid of all these gerrymandered districts, most of them became bluer. Her district is one of the only ones that became redder. So it’s even worse than it used to be. However, that’s the point I was going towards. In a district like hers- and there are many of these districts around the country- that look too red early on, the DCCC just goes- doesn’t look at them. They stop. So if it’s- if it’s a district that looks like it could really be competitive with the Republicans, then the DCCC will go in and try to wipe out progressives, and do everything they can to make sure a progressive doesn’t win. In fact, before the redistricting, Jess had a conservative Democrat backed by the DCCC as her primary opponent. Literally on the day that the new boundaries came in, Jess King’s opponent said, I’m not running, and the DCCC said this district is not winnable, and they went away.

So Jess didn’t really have a primary opponent. And that is a similar situation around the country. When you start getting districts that are so red the DCCC ignores them, then you get all these really good progressives who win them, because there’s no DCCC whispering to donors, “Don’t give them money.” They just ignore them.

So we have a bunch of good districts- you know, like go down into California. In California 50 down near San Diego you’ve got Ammar Campa-Najjar. So Ammar is the opposite of what the DCCC wants.They don’t want anything to do with him. Like, literally, nothing to do with him whatsoever. They’ve done everything they can to undermine his campaign. They do that all the time. And they’re doing around the country. But he, because they didn’t care about the district, he beat the conservative who was running against him. The DCCC didn’t really- you know, they were rooting for him, but they didn’t back him. They didn’t do anything about it. So Ammar is now the candidate. Well, guess what happened? His opponent, the incumbent Duncan Hunter, wound up being arrested by the FBI and indicted, and he’s out on bail. And Ammar could very well beat him.

And there are races like that all around the country. There’s another one, in fact, in New York, in Buffalo. It’s a very, very similar situation. It’s in New York 27. It’s not in the city of Buffalo, but in the suburbs and exurbs and rural area between Buffalo and Rochester. A big chunk of territory; it’s a rather large district. And you’ve got a, you know, it’s an R-plus 11. So the DCCC says don’t even think about that. Let them do whatever they want there. And we wind up with this guy Nate McMurry, a Berniecrat; very, very good, strong, solid candidate running on great issues. And you know, the DCCC just laughs They don’t care. And then the incumbent, who incidentally was the very first member of Congress to endorse Trump, Chris Collins, he also gets arrested by the FBI; indicted on all sorts of corruption charges. Also out on bail. He’s running for Congress out on bail.

Once he got arrested the DCCC suddenly said, uh-oh, we better get rid of that Bernie guy and get a real candidate. So they tried to pressure him- the primary had happened. So they tried to pressure Nate into leaving the race, because they had some conservative they wanted to just insert. And Nate told them to go take a walk. And you know, there’s nothing they can do about it. And now Nate has gotten- you know, the last poll showed Nate winning. It wasn’t even a tie; it was already with him ahead. So at that point theDCCC said we better, you know, run to the front of the parade here. So they’re not spending any money on his behalf, but they are now saying that they’re for him, whatever that means.

But anyway, like I said, to me these are the most interesting districts. The reason that I mention Pennsylvania 11 is because that that’s going to come in earlier than these other districts. And so if the three districts that we talked about- Kentucky 6, and South Carolina 1, and Pennsylvania 11- if the Democrats early in the evening won all three of those districts, it is a, just a wipeout. It is going to be the most historic wipeout in the history of Congress. The Republicans will lose, I don’t know, over 70 seats.

PAUL JAY: What do you think in Iowa’s 4th? Is that going to be-

HOWIE KLEIN: You went right to another district that’s exactly what I just described. Exactly the same thing. The DCCC had no interest. They don’t care. Iowa now has- Iowa has four districts now. So one of them is held by a Democrat. So let’s leave that one aside. He’s not being challenged seriously. So there’s three red seats. The makeup of the Iowa congressional delegation is three Republicans, one Democrat. We’re looking at a possibility for four Democrats and no Republicans. And that would take Steve King being defeated by J.D. Scholten in the 4th District. Can that happen? The new polling certainly shows it can happen. No one expects it. If we are, indeed, having a nice strong wave, which would be indicated earlier in the evening by those three districts, Scholten wins, and probably wins in a not insignificant way. Probably wins well, which is what I’m hoping and expecting to see.

As you know, I run a Progressive PAC. And our PAC has been backing Scholten, our PAC has been backing Jess King. Those are our kind of candidates. These are progressive candidates who are more or less running on a Bernie-type platform.

PAUL JAY: And in Pennsylvania there are some other races that are looking like there might be Democrats winning wher Republicans might have been expected to. There’s Wallace running. What do you make of that?

HOWIE KLEIN: You know, I mean, I talked to Wallace early on in the race. I was excited because of who his grandfather was.

PAUL JAY: His grandfather was the Roosevelts’ vice president.

HOWIE KLEIN: Yeah, the good Roosevelt vice president who was kicked out of the vice president’s nomination because they felt he was too far to the left. And it is a shame, because he was Roosevelt’s best guy. And so I was so excited about him that I called Scott Wallace to talk to him, and I found him to be OK. I didn’t find him to be what I was hoping him to be in terms of, like, someone who would be the right kind of person to be endorsed by Blue America, my PAC. But he’s good. He’s not, he’s not bad.

PAUL JAY: I hear it’s neck and neck in the race.

HOWIE KLEIN: He’s ahead. He’s probably going to win that race. If we don’t win districts like that it’s going to be a really, really tough night for Democrats. So I think he, I think Scott Wallace will win. You know, one of the things about a race like that that really gets me down a little bit is that he’s, he’s very, very wealthy, and he’s put millions of his own dollars into the race. And that’s the kind of thing that I think is harmful to democracy in a general way, and I don’t like seeing I don’t like seeing it on either side of the aisle. I hate when Republicans do it, and I equally hate it when Democrats do it; when they self-finance campaigns, literally spending millions of dollars. Not even a million dollars, but millions of dollars.

PAUL JAY: Apparently, according to Ad-Age, the top gubernatorial and top ten gubernatorial and Senate races, just the top 10, will have spent about a billion dollars in advertising in these midterms. That’s only 10 races.

HOWIE KLEIN: It’s pretty unbelievable. I mean, at this point there’s got to be some kind- you know, that’s one of the things that I’m hoping eventually Democrats will do. I mean, Nancy Pelosi, when she announced her- you know, her three main goals for when they win, one of them actually was addressing this incredibly corruptible system of campaign finance. We’ll see if there can be anything done about that. While Trump is president it’s could be very, very hard.

But you know, the idea is is that the Democrats win the House now, in 2020 they take the presidency and the Senate, and then the Democrats can do some real things. And that’s going to be a matter of what they decide to prioritize.

PAUL JAY: And if all these progressives actually do get elected that will be a whole other front of struggle, just what will happen in that House; will the progressives assert themselves, or allow corporate Dems to continue running the show there. Howie, let’s pick up that conversation in a separate segment. Thanks very much for joining us on this, and we’ll pick up the conversation on what might happen in the House if the Dems do win in part two of this.

HOWIE KLEIN: OK. I look forward to it.

PAUL JAY: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.