House Primary Challenges

By Jim Ellis

The Justice Democrats’ logo (click on image to go to their website)

July 16, 2019 — Controversy has been arising lately from the Congressional Black Caucus as the organization leaders are charging that the left faction Justice Democrats are isolating their members for primary challenges. But the number of Democratic incumbents having to defend themselves from potentially serious nomination opponents reaches well beyond the CBC.

In fact, currently 24 Democratic House members have what appear to be credible primary opponents and at least five more could soon be in a nomination race.

What makes these challenges potentially different and is clearly one reason more ideological candidates are coming forward in what used to be no-win campaigns, is the amount of money being raised online for such contenders.

For example, though his 2016 challenge of Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) went down to a landslide 57-43 percent defeat, South Florida law professor Tim Canova raised just under $4 million for his campaign. Almost all of the fundraising came in online donations after presidential contender Sen. Bernie Sanders endorsed his candidacy. Therefore, it is possible that several of the challengers listed below could also begin to attract national electronic donations under the right circumstances.

The Justice Democrats scored heavily in 2018 when Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez upset then-Rep. Joe Crowley (D-NY) and Boston City Councilwoman Ayanna Pressley did likewise to veteran Massachusetts Rep. Mike Capuano (D-Somerville). The credibility gained in those races make their support of 2020 Democratic challengers more noteworthy.

In addition to the incumbents listed below, other members, including Democratic Conference chairman Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), are also on the Justice target list. Democratic National Committee member and former congressional nominee Rob Zimmerman confirms he is considering launching a challenge against Long Island Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove/Huntington). Observers also report that 2018 candidate Adem Bunkeddeko, who held Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-Brooklyn) to a 53-47 percent primary win, may make another run.

Also, in New York, Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-Garden City) has drawn an opponent, police officer Dave LeBlanc, but it remains unclear at this time if he is serious or will draw support from the Justice Democrats. Additionally, it appears that Missouri Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Kansas City) is another Democratic incumbent who could attract significant primary opposition, but only small business owner and poet M.G. Salazar has announced to date.

Several of the minor presidential candidates have serious primary opposition should they want to return to Congress. Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) just left the national campaign after seeing that he has credible opposition back in his East Bay Area House district. Current candidates Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) and Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA) will have to fight to keep their seats if they attempt to return to the House in the likely eventuality that their respective national campaigns soon fail.

Below is the list of incumbents and their announced primary opponents. It is probable that not all of these challenges will actually become competitive, but it is just as likely that several will.

AZ-1 TOM O’HALLERAN Ex-Councilwoman Eva Putzova
CA-15 ERIC SWALWELL Councilwoman Aisha Wahab
CA-16 JIM COSTA Councilwoman Esmeralda Soria
CA-18 ANNA ESHOO Councilman Rishi Kumar
CA-32 GRACE NAPOLITANO Ex-Mayor Mary Ann Lutz
Mayor Andre Quintero
CA-41 MARK TAKANO City Planning Director Grace Williams
CO-1 DIANA DeGETTE Ex-House Speaker Crisanta Duran
FL-23 DEBBIE W. SCHULTZ Attorney Jennifer Perelman
GA-13 DAVID SCOTT Ex-County Democratic Chair Michael Owens
HI-2 TULSI GABBARD State Sen. Kai Kahele
IL-3 DAN LIPINSKI Media Consultant Marie Newman
MA-6 SETH MOULTON Councilwoman Lisa Peterson
Engineer Nathaniel Mulcahy
MD-4 ANTHONY BROWN Retired Marine Officer Sheila Bryant
MO-1 LACY CLAY Pastor Cori Bush
NY-5 GERGORY MEEKS USMC Veteran Shaniyat Chowdhury
NY-10 JERROLD NADLER Ex-NY Cabinet Sec’y Lindsey Boylan
NY-12 CAROLYN MALONEY Media Producer Lauren Ashcraft
Attorney Erica Vladimer
NY-16 ELIOT ENGEL Educator Jamaal Bowman
NY-25 JOE MORELLE Councilwoman Robin Wilt
OH-3 JOYCE BEATTY Ex-CBFP Official Morgan Harper
OR-3 EARL BLUMENAUER Community College Dean Albert Lee
OR-5 KURT SCHRADER Mayor Mark Gamba
TX-28 HENRY CUELLAR Attorney Jessica Cisneros
WA-6 DEREK KILMER Councilman Matt Tirman

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *