Progressives want to clear out the dead weight in their party, targeting five Democrats they say have been hampering their efforts, while they still control Congress, to reimagine America, according to a new report in The Hill.
In their crosshairs are a handful of lawmakers who, in the wake of a struggling Build Back Better (BBB) package and failed voting rights bill, they say will be the death of the liberal vision they’d imagined they would bring to fruition when President Biden took office.
As things ran more amok last week, leaving the president and congressional Democrats scrambling to salvage their two main agendas, progressives saw their way out: primary challenges ahead of November.
“We need strong progressives in Congress to have some sort of counterweight and leverage against the conservative, corporate-backed Democrats who are an obstacle to delivering results,” said Waleed Shaheed, a spokesperson for Justice Democrats, a progressive group that, in recent years, has backed several liberal challengers to Democratic incumbents.
“These primaries are where those seats come from, where that leverage comes from,” Shaheed said.
The left’s outrage last week at Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) for joining Republicans in opposing a rule change to the filibuster — effectively killing the voting rights bill — was on full display for the American people, made worse when the same two holdouts sank Biden’s social and climate spending package.
While both failed bills have defined Biden’s disastrous first year in office, progressives see them as just the start.
For them, the moderate duo in the Senate, along with many more in the House, will vote against their radical proposals as often as possible in 2022 and 2024, creating a sense of urgency from within their own ranks to oust them before that happens.
And while neither Manchin nor Sinema are up for reelection in 2022, the left has identified five moderate Democrats to target:
Rep. Henry Cuellar (Texas)
Jessica Cisneros has attracted a lot of progressive energy this cycle, as she seeks to remove longtime moderate, Rep. Henry Cueller (TX) from his role as a key centrist negotiator on Capitol Hill.
Cuellar, a ten-term incumbent, is currently caught up in an FBI investigation for alleged improper ties to Azerbaijan, and he is ranked high on the progressives’ political hit list.
Cuellar was viewed as a major barrier against the left’s goal of keeping Biden’s social safety net package linked to the bipartisan infrastructure bill in November.
Cisneros gained some notoriety in 2020, when she challenged Cuellar for the same seat in Texas’s 28th Congressional District. Her firm stands against corporate money in politics, especially when it comes from the fossil fuel industry, stood in stark contrast to Cuellar’s ties to Big Oil.
While Cisneros has the backing of liberal lawmakers, Cuellar, who’s held his seat since 2005, has the endorsements of established Democratic heavy-weights, including Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (MD), the Number 2 Democrat in the House.
So far, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has remained neutral, but she did support Cuellar last cycle against Cisneros.
Rep. Carolyn Maloney (NY)
Progressive eyes are looking at Rana Abdelhamid, a 28-year-old Muslim woman, to unseat Rep. Carolyn Maloney, a House veteran of nearly 30 years, in a bid for the 12 Congressional District of the state that saw AOC and Jamaal Bowman defeat their better-known, better-funded incumbents.
Abdelhamid hopes to stand in stark contrast to her establishment rival, who she says “has held this seat for as long as I have been alive.”
“We saw how important it is to have real progressives in Congress during the fight for Build Back Better,” Abdelhamid said. “We need leaders who will fight as hard as the people of this district already do.”
Rep. Danny K. Davis (IL)
Progressives have high hopes for social justice warrior, Kina Collins, a young, Black gun violence activist with ties to community organizing, as she squares off against Rep. Danny K. Davis, a 13-term lawmaker and member of the Congressional Black Caucus, in Illinois’s 7th Congressional District.
Davis is being targeted, progressives contend, for his ties to corporate money, which they say has long influenced his decision-making.
Collins, who relies exclusively on small-donor donations, says that the contested district “is one of the most unequal districts in the country, yet our representative Danny Davis has stopped showing up in the community, misses votes, and takes money from corporate donors.”
Rep. Tim Ryan for Ohio Senate
Columbus native Morgan Harper, who has been compared to Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) is challenging Rep. Tim Ryan in the state’s Democratic Senate primary, a race that is attracting national attention.
Harper hopes that populist policies like “Medicare for All” and the Green New Deal will inject much-needed optimism and concrete results into the struggling areas of Ohio.
She is facing a formidable foe in Ryan, who has long enjoyed the support of the party’s establishment wing.
Rep. Jim Cooper (TN)
And finally, there’s the underdog among the progressives’ 2022 dream draft: Odessa Kelly.
The Nashville native is challenging Rep. Jim Cooper, a 16-term conservative Democrat and member of the Blue Dog Coalition in the House.
While Kelly has the support of Justice Democrats and progressive groups like Indivisible, Brand New Congress, the Working Families Party, and numerous local and community leaders in Tennessee, her district has been recently gerrymandered to lean toward Republican control, making her battle against the establishment a decidedly uphill one.
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