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DNC Favors Democrat Incumbents Over Bernie-Backing Primary Challengers

 On September 29, Politico published an article claiming that Bernie Sanders Supporters have opted not to primary Democratic Party incumbents. “Democrats have long been terrified that the Sanders-Clinton slugfest of 2016 would set off a prolonged civil war in the party, forcing incumbents to fight off primary challengers from the left in Senate and gubernatorial races,” Politico reported. “It hasn’t happened.”

Except it has. Politico is opting to lazily ignore primary challengers Democrats face, or willfully push the narrative that they don’t exist. The report went on to cite a Democratic Party strategist claiming that Sanders backers refrained from filing to primary Democrat incumbents because it would somehow help Republicans. This notion, that primaries are a nuisance or politically damaging, is a grossly undemocratic narrative that the Democratic Party continues to push. Incumbents are beholden to voters, they don’t get free passes to coast into re-election based on party loyalty.

The congressional primary challengers from progressives that Politico failed to cite include;

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez against Democratic Caucus Chair Rep. Joe Crowley (D-NY),

Marie Newman against Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-IL),

Anthony Clark against Rep. Danny Davis (D-IL)

former Bernie delegate Daniel Clark against Rep. Dave Loebsack (D-IA)

Paula Jean Swearengin against Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV),

Single-payer advocate Angelica Earl against Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO)

David Hildebrand against Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA),

Stephen Jaffe running against House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)

Dustin David Peyer against Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND),

Mary Jo Walters against Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI)

Thereasa Black against Rep. Anthony Brown (D-MD)

Amy Vilela against Rep. Ruben Kihuen (D-NV),

Cori Bush against Rep. William Lacy Clay (D-MO)

former Bernie delegate Jenna Squires against Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO)

Tim Canova against Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL)

Chardo Richardson against Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-FL)

Sarah Smith against Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA),

Brad Westmoreland against Rep. Ami Bera (D-CA)

Jon Pelzer against Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA)

Sean Thom against Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ)

Jason Kishineff against Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA)

Kaisar Ahmed against Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-CA),

Bryan Kim against Rep. Susan Davis (D-CA)

Joshua Sauberman against Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-NY)

former Bernie delegate Alexis Edelstein against Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA)

Richard Rice against Rep. Terri Sewell (D-AL)

Reuben D’Silva against Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV)

former Bernie delegate Sue Spicer against Rep. Andre Carson (D-IN)

Talia Fuentes running for the now vacant seat of Rep. Kristen Sinema (D-AZ)

Veronica Escobar running for the vacant seat of Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-TX)

Andrew Duck running for the vacant seat of Rep. John Delaney (D-MD)

Michael Weiss running for the vacant seat of Rep. Jacky Rosen (D-NV)

Johnny Akzam running for the vacant seat of Rep. Tim Waltz (D-MN)

Dennis Dinge running for the vacant seat of Rep. Michelle Lujan Graham (D-NM)

David Sedbrook against Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO),

Dr. Ann Marie Adams against Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT),

Tykeim Booker against Senator Tom Carper (D-DE),

Demond Drummer against Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL),

Tamika Lyles against Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL),

Jennifer Ferguson against Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA),

former Bernie delegate Miguel Zuniga against Rep. Maxine Waters (D-FL),

former Bernie delegate Angelica Duenas against Rep. Tony Cardenas (D-CA).

For every Sanders-backer running against a Democratic incumbent in congress, there are also dozens of Bernie Sanders supporters challenging Republicans or running for vacant seats as well. Many Bernie supporters are just beginning political careers across the country by winning elections at the local level, which place them in a better position to eventually seek congressional positions.

These candidates face an uphill battle in defeating incumbents in their own primaries; In 2012,90 percent of incumbents in the house, and 91 percent of incumbent Senators won re-election. That re-election rate has increased to 97 percent since.  In addition to likely out fundraising their primary challengers through name recognition and established connections with wealthy donors, incumbent Democrats are afforded endorsements and resources for their campaign from the Democratic Party, creating an unfair playing field in primaries. “The establishment coalesces around the incumbent. I have called for that not to be the case,” said Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) in an interview with me in June 2017. Khanna defeated Democrat incumbent Mike Honda in 2016 for his seat in congress. Other Bernie backers who won seats in congress for the first time in 2016 include Rep. Nanette Barragan (D-CA), Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD), and Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA). “I’ve said the DNC should not be taking sides in primaries. We shouldn’t default to incumbency. We should encourage new voices, we should encourage progressives and others to run. What I believe is the rules, unfortunately, favor incumbents.”

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Michael Sainato’s writing has appeared in the Guardian, Miami Herald, Baltimore Sun, Denver Post, Buffalo News, the Hill, Alternet, and several other publications . Follow him on twitter: @MSainat1

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