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Meet the Sandernistas Running for Congress

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For readers of CounterPunch the candidature of Bernie Sanders has generated mixed feelings. On the one hand he has pushed for progressive policies in economic issues, on the other hand he hasn’t been as antiwar as much of the progressive community wish he had been. But he has inspired young people tired of neoliberalism and imperialism of Hillary Clinton. And not necessarily only young people, there is a list of what has been called the Bernie Congress including progressive challengers inspired by Sanders to run Democratic primaries for Congress. Some would face a relatively easy election in heavily Democratic districts while others would try to compete swing districts and others try to win even in Republican districts with a populist message.

Nobody among the Sandernistas running for Congress call themselves socialists and frankly they speak more about economics than foreign policy but the fact the several of them are challenging warmonger Democrats and Republicans may be a good sign. Contrary to the Clinton narrative, these Sanderistas are not only white, some of them are Hispanic and Asian. Bill Perkins of Harlem was the only African-American in original list but he has dropped out. Here is the complete list of Sanderistas running for congress.

Alex Law (NJ-01)

The 24 years old millennial is running against moderate Democrat Donald Norcross who opposed the Iran deal and supported Keystone XL Pipeline. In a safe Democratic district he has a tough battle in the primaries against a better funded candidate with establishment support. He studied finance at NYU and worked for IBM before starting his progressive campaign. The brother of his opponent has a big name in New Jersey politics so it would a real surprise if Alex Law could win the primary.

Tom Guild (OK-05)

A professor of legal studies at the University of Central Oklahoma is running against an incumbent Republican. Having had a hard childhood, he grew up trusting that the federal government can do well. He has ran in the past for the same position, in 2012 was the candidate in the general election against the Republican James Langford and in 2014 he was defeated in the Democratic primaries by State Senator Al McAffrey. These is a solid Republican district, so it would be an uphill battle.

Angela Marx (WA-03)

A self-describe political junkie is running on a progressive platform that includes protect social security, restore tax fairness, tackle climate change, invest in infrastructure, unburden the students and raise the minimum wage. In the Democratic primaries he would face David McDevitt, a veteran focused on the healthcare issues and if she passes to the general election she would ran against Jaime Herrera Butler, the Hispanic Republican incumbent. Herrera has a heterodox voting record having vote for cutting the military spending while being pro-life and against the EPA. In these swing district, a victory is not impossible, given that after all is an election in a blue state and in a presidential year.

Tom Fiegen (IA-Sen)

More a McGovern Democrat than a Sanderista, these former State Senator is a truly agrarian populist and Bernie Sanders closer allies in Iowa. He would be facing a crowded field in the Democratic primaries against State Senator Rob Hogg, former Lieutenant Governor and former Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Patty Judge and former State Representative Bob Krause. In the general election he could be facing incumbent Senator Chuck Grassley, a crony capitalist and member of the Washington establishment. While in the polls, Grassley is the favorite, in the year of insurgents Fiegen could win with his outsider credentials.

Peter Jacob (NJ-07)

Son of immigrants from India, a social worker who is running to defend the American Dream. He is campaigning on a platform focused on campaign finance reform and environmental issues. These young progressive is activist candidate having worked on causes from fighting human trafficking and child abuse to opposing the Iraq War and supporting homeless shelters. He is vying for open seat in heavily Republican district where the incumbent congressman is Leonard Lance is facing a primary against two businessman and former Rand Paul volunteer of the 2010 campaign.

Tim Canova (FL-23)

A lawyer who specializes on the intersection between law and economics is the progressive challenger to Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the congresswoman and chair of the DNC. Wasserman Schultz is among the explicit corporate democrats who support the Military Empire, the War on Drugs and crony capitalism. Maybe the most intelligent and articulate of the Sandernistas, Canova has an antiwar civil libertarian platform that could reach across the aisle. He has been a professor in several law schools and specializes in the Federal Reserve which he hopes to reform. Is a safe Democratic district but he is running against one of the most powerful incumbents, however the Sanders success could predict a move of the Democratic Party to a more populist direction with his victory.

John Fetterman (PA-Sen)

The mayor of the former steel town of Braddock is serving his third term. His mayoral ship has been a success story having able to make a once desolated area in a recover place. While Fetterman had a Master in Public Policy from Harvard University, he is not an average politician beginning with his look, a 6-foot-8 and 320 pounds with his arms filled with tattoos, his clothing is very casual, a shirt and shorts. His proposals are legalize marijuana, receive Syrian refugees, protect Social Security and support a restraint foreign policy. He would be facing a crowded field against former Secretary of Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Kathie McGinty and former Congressman Joe Sestak but he still could be a surprise as he says while he doesn’t have a big campaign budget, he has a story to tell.

Diana Hird (NY-18)

A lawyer is the progressive challenger of incumbent Democrat Sean Patrick Maloney who supported Keystone XL Pipeline and deregulation of Wall Street. The district is a swing district in the suburbs of New York City but in a presidential election year in a blue state, Democrats had an advantage. Six Republicans are competing in the primary and there is also an independent running. Given the fact that Maloney is a well-funded and experience candidate he is the favorite.

Mike Manypenny (WV-01)

A former state legislator known for his effort of legalize medical marijuana is running against the incumbent Republican David McKinley. Sanders popularity in the state is big, that’s why Mannypenny is having a momentum running on platform of restore Glass-Steagal and a living wage. Is a safe Republican district but the angry about Washington may give him a chance.

Lucy Flores (NV-04)

An assemblywoman is the progressive challenger against incumbent Republican Crescent Hardy. She was one the big allies of Bernie in the state. Her platform is close to Sanders especially in education and minimum wage. She would face a competitive primary State Senator Ruben Kihuen, former Assemblyman John Oceguera and philanthropist Susie Lee. There are big probabilities that she wins these race.

Wendy Reed (CA-23)

A manager is challenging the incumbent Republican Kevin McCarthy. Given that McCarthy is the House Majority Leader these would be a difficult race. He would have establishment support from his party in a heavily Republican district where Reed has basically no chance.

Bao Nguyen (CA-46)

The mayor of Garden Grove would try conquest the seat left open by Loretta Sanchez who is running for Senate. In the open primary he would face two Democrats like State Senator Lou Correa State Senator Joe Dunn and three Republicans like Irvine Councilwoman Lynn Schott and Loui Contreras and Rudy Gaona both former Democrats. Is expected that two Democrats would pass the runoff and is possible that Nguyen is going to be one of them.

Pramila Jayapal (WA-07)

The State Senator is by far the most progressive of the Sanderistas running for Congress. Born in India, she come to America at 16 and had a longtime history of community activism. A prominent defender of immigrant rights, women rights and worker rights, she define herself as a bold progressive. Running on platform of defending Social Security and Medicare, supporting free higher education and fighting against Wall Street. She is hoping to win the seat vacated by Jim McDermott however she would face crowded primary with challengers that also hold public office. If she wins the primary, she could easily beat the Republican in the general since these on safest Democratic districts.

Zephyr Teachout (NY-19)

The Professor of Law at Fordham University is probably one of progressive insurgents with better name recognition given the fact she ran against the corporatist Andrew Cuomo in the Democratic gubernatorial primaries in 2014. Her main campaign point is put money out of politics. She is favorite in the Democratic primaries where she is running against music executive John Kehoe and Livington Councilman Will Yandik. In the Republican primaries the favorite is former Assemblyman John Faso. While the seat is vacated by Republican Chris Gibson like many districts in the suburbs of New York City these is swing district and a presidential election year when the turnout among Democrats is big, Teachout has strong possibilities to win.

Eric Kingson (NY-24)

The Professor of Social Work at Syracuse University and national advocate for Social Security is running against incumbent Republican John Katko. He is making his defense of Social Security the central part of his campaign. In the primary he would face Colleen Deacon, former top aide for Senator Gillibrand and Steve Williams, former US Navy prosecutor. The district which includes Syracuse is considered the top swing district in the nation. If he wins in primary, he could in the general election.

Jonathan Clarke (NY-03)

A young lawyer running for open seat after the retirement of Republican Steve Israel. The district include North Long Island and parts Suffolk County and Nassau County. There are small chances for his victory there is crowded field in Democratic primary and in general election David Gurfein, a former marine and specialist in foreign policy is looking as strong in these swing district.

Screen Shot 2016-03-17 at 5.07.13 PM

Lou Vince (CA-25)

A former marine and currently police lieutenant and member Agua Dulce Town Council is running against incumbent Republican Steve Knight. The district includes Simi Valley, Santa Clarita, Palmdale, Lancaster and Agua Dulce. In a swing district against a weak incumbent, he has a good shot.

Eloy Delgado (NJ-08)

A young library board president is running against incumbent Democrat Albio Sires. The current Congressman is a former Republican that could be categorize as centrist in a heavily Democratic district. There a some opportunities for a victory.

Dave McTeague (OR-05)

A former State Legislator is running against incumbent Democrat Kurt Schrader. A McGovern Democrat inspired by Bernie Sanders to go back in politics is making his opposition to TPP which Schrader supported the center of his campaign. Is a swing district and there is a crowded Republican primary but these progressive had experience enough to get elected.

Camilo Gómez is a political writer at The Mitrailleuse. Twitter: @camilomgn.

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