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New report targets 15 House Democrats who ‘deserve’ progressive primary challengers

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As progressive candidates continue to announce their intentions to oust corporate Democrats, a new report names 15 House Democrats to unseat in primary challenges.

Published Monday by the left-leaning group RootsAction, the new report is entitled Bad Blues: Some of the House Democrats Who Deserve to Be ‘Primaried.’

The list, the report notes, “is by no means exhaustive—only illustrative.”

“There may well be a Democratic member of Congress near you not included here who serves corporate interests more than majority interests, or has simply grown tired or complacent in the never-ending struggles for social, racial, and economic justice as well as environmental sanity and peace,” the report notes. “Perhaps you live in a district where voters are ready to be inspired by a progressive primary candidate because the Democrat in Congress is not up to the job.”

Among the well-known names on the list: Rep. Eliot Engel of New York. He’s already facing two progressive challengers: educators Jamaal Bowman and Andom Ghebreghiorgis.

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Engel, the report says, has long been “affiliated with the corporate wing of the party” and is “notable for repeatedly breaking with his own party to support Republican foreign policy positions.” In Congress since 1989, Engel’s “support for hawkish Republicanism has continued into the Trump era.”

Another primary-worthy House Democrat on the list: Illinois’s anti-choice Dan Lipinski.

The report describes him as a “Democrat-in-name-only representative” who was “smuggled into his congressional seat by his dad Bill Lipinski.” It offers this snapshot:

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A leading member of the “fiscally conservative” Blue Dog Coalition, the eight-term congressman is not generous toward working-class needs (he voted against Obamacare), but he’s lavish in supporting military spending and domestic surveillance. He was one of a few dozen Democrats who voted against the 2010 Dream Act.

He’s facing a challenge from the left in the 2020 primary by Marie Newman, who narrowly lost to him in the last cycle.

Also named in the report is Rep. Steny Hoyer (Md.), who’s facing a challenge from progressive Mckayla Wilkes.

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Hoyer has been in Congress 1981, and “has long served as the number-two Democrat in the House, often using leverage for policy agendas that are unpopular with the party’s base but popular with Wall Street and the military-industrial complex.”

RootsAction references a number of right-wing actions he’s taken, such as his 2002 vote for the war on Iraq and pushing, a decade later, a so-called “grand bargain” budget deal that would slash safety net programs.

“These days,” report states, “he’s busy obstructing progressive initiatives from Medicare for All to a Green New Deal. (Only 15 House Democrats have a lower lifetime environmental score from the League of Conservation Voters.)”

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The other dozen House Dems named in the report as deserving a primary challenge are Cheri Bustos (Ill.), Jim Cooper (Tenn.), Jim Costa (Calif.), Henry Cuellar (Texas), Josh Gottheimer (N.J.). Jim Himes (Conn.), Derek Kilmer (Wash.), Gregory Meeks (N.Y.), Brad Schneider (Ill.), Kurt Schrader (Ore.), David Scott (Ga.), and Juan Vargas (Calif.).

Ousting incumbents like those detailed in the report is an uphill battle, the report notes, especially given deep-pocketed corporate backers—as well as the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s (DCCC) new policy of cutting off funds to primary challengers.

That doesn’t mean they’re not fights worth undertaking.

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“While most insurgent primary campaigns will not win, they’re often very worthwhile—helping progressive constituencies to get better organized and to win elections later,” the report says. “And a grassroots primary campaign can put a scare into the Democratic incumbent to pay more attention to voters and less to big donors.”


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