The progressive wing of the Democratic Party hasn’t had much to celebrate at the polls since populist senator Bernie Sanders suspended his presidential campaign two and a half months ago.
But the left appears to be coming back, giving more moderate Democratic candidates some serious competition in the recently competitive primaries in Kentucky and New York, two of the states that hold contests on Tuesday.
WHAT TO SEE IN THE PRIMARY ON JUNE 23
The main clashes attracting national attention are the Democratic Senate primaries in Kentucky, where the establishment-backed Amy McGrath, who had been a big favorite and enjoyed a huge fundraising lead, faces a serious threat from the progressive candidate and state representative Charles Booker.
The other big contest is in New York, where former Democratic Rep. Eliot Engel is fighting for his political life against liberal challenger Jamaal Bowman.
Both Bowman and Booker were buoyed in recent weeks after garnering the backing of the biggest names on the left: Sanders, Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, and first-term representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York. Fox News confirmed that Sanders has raised $ 750,000 for Booker, Bowman and the other progressive candidates he endorses in Tuesday’s primaries.
And the rise in both candidates, who are black and white opponents, comes at a time of protests across the country over police brutality against minorities and systemic racism.
Progressive candidates are also looking for a seat in the Open House just north of the Engel district that is solidly blue. And in addition to Engel, a trio of other New York House Democrats face primitive challenges, including Ocasio-Cortez, whose 2018 primary victory over former Rep. Joe Crowley created shock waves.
These are the key races to watch:
Kentucky Senate Showdown
National Democrats have long regarded McGrath as their best hope for finally overthrowing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who is set for reelection this year.
The former fighter pilot of the US Navy. USA It raised a whopping $ 11.3 million in the past three months, beating McConnell in the second quarter of the fundraiser. And with a massive $ 19 million campaign war chest in early June, he topped the top Republican in the Senate when it comes to available cash.
But McGrath is no longer the sure bet to win his own group’s primaries, as Booker shot himself at just the right time.
“Let’s bring him home. From the chapel to the scream. It’s time for PEOPLE to win, ”Booker tweeted when the polls opened in Kentucky.
Riots across the country sparked by the death of George Floyd, and also by the death of Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old African-American emergency medical technician who was shot dead by agents of the Louisville Metro Police Department in March, has enlightened Booker, who lives in Louisville.
“With all that has gripped the country in recent weeks, it could be turning things around,” said Jessica Taylor of the Cook Report, a major nonpartisan political impediment.
While McGrath enjoys a great fundraising and structural advantage, Taylor noted that the current climate “seems tailor-made for a candidate like Booker. … He has been able to seize the moment and speak to the moment.”
Democratic strategist Michael Ceraso, a veteran of the 2016 Sanders campaign and Pete Buttigieg’s candidacy for the White House in 2020, noted that “if Kentucky voters choose a progressive to challenge McConnell, it is because the implications of a national movement, COVID and President Trump influenced them. ” . A candidate is best served when he can turn an endorsement into campaign money that grabs the attention of the media and the community on and offline. “
Participation could end up being the crucial factor in the primaries, which was originally scheduled for May but was postponed due to health concerns about in-person voting amid the coronavirus pandemic. With all voters eligible to vote absentee, an extensive early voting by mail may mean Booker’s last-minute raise comes too late to make a difference at the polls.
There are also concerns about in-person participation because there are fewer than 200 polling stations open across the state on Tuesday, including just one in the Louisville area, the state’s largest city and the Booker base.
Progressives target Engel
The left hopes Tuesday is the end of the line for Engel, who has served in Congress for more than three decades and currently represents New York’s 16th Congressional District, encompassing parts of the Bronx district of New York City. York and parts of neighboring southern Westchester County. .
Engel, the powerful chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee, has been attacked for spending more time at his home in Potomac, Maryland, than in his Bronx apartment. And he was recently put on the defensive after being captured with a live microphone, suggesting that “if I didn’t have a primary, I wouldn’t mind” speaking at an event.
Bowman, a former high school principal, is increasing in the polls thanks to the attention and support he has received in recent weeks.
“Let’s make history,” he tweeted as he headed to vote Tuesday morning.
If successful, his victory will be compared to Crowley’s expulsion from Ocasio-Cortez.
But Engel is helping as she fights for reelection, garnering the backing of former New York Senator and 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, some House Democrats and the Black Caucus political wing of Congress.
Other opportunities for progressives
Just north of the Engel district, progressive candidate Mondaire Jones appears to be the favorite to win the primaries to succeed in withdrawing from Representative Nita Lowey in the 17th Congressional District in New York.
Jones is backed by the progressive group Democracy for America, which also backed Bowman and Booker.
“Progressives have already won simply by contending in all of these races and we will be delighted if we achieve a direct victory in any of them,” said Democracy director for American communications Neil Sroka.
He added that “winning all three would be like finding out that you had won the lottery, while getting a royal flush on the river card right after you won the jackpot on slot machines.”
Tuesday’s gains would give the left a big boost. While they’ve enjoyed a handful of primary successes so far this year – think Marie Newman ousted Conservative Democratic Rep. Dan Lipinski in Illinois and Kara Eastman’s top victory in Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District – they’ve been fell short in many other races.
Headlines facing primary challenges
Democratic representatives Yvette Clarke and Carolyn Maloney face primary challenges. But the New York City congresswoman with the most headlines is Ocasio-Cortez.
Challenger and former CNBC presenter Michelle Caruso-Cabrera has raised more than $ 2 million for her attempt to oust Ocasio-Cortez, thanks in part for the help of the US Chamber of Commerce. USA And other pro-business groups. But in the race for campaign cash, she lags far behind Ocasio-Cortez, who has built a massive war chest thanks to progressive grassroots support.
Western New York voters head to the polls Tuesday to choose a replacement for former Republican Representative Chris Collins, who resigned last year and pleaded guilty to insider trading charges.
Republican State Senator Chris Jacobs is favored over Democrat Nate McMurray, who was 1,100 votes away from overthrowing Collins in 2018. But the Buffalo-area Trump district was won by 25 percentage points four years ago.
And in North Carolina, there is a Republican run-off in the race to succeed White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows in the state’s 11th Congressional District. Lynda Bennett, backed by Trump, faces Madison Cawthorn, a charismatic former Meadows employee. Bennett got 23 percent of the vote in the Republican primary on March 3. Cawthorn came in second with 20 percent, sending the contest to a runoff because no candidate got 30 percent of the initial primary vote.
Virginia will also hold state primaries on Tuesday, with runoff contests in Mississippi and South Carolina.
Fox News’ Tyler Olson contributed to this report.