The Hill’s Campaign Report: Progressive candidates face make-or-break moment ahead
Welcome to The Hill’s Campaign Report, your daily rundown on all the latest news in the 2020 presidential, Senate and House races. Did someone forward this to you? Click here to subscribe.
We’re Julia Manchester, Max Greenwood and Jonathan Easley. Here’s what we’re watching today on the campaign trail.
LEADING THE DAY:
The lead-up to next Tuesday’s primaries is emerging as somewhat of a make-or-break moment for progressives seeking to break into U.S. congressional office.
After spotty performances in Democratic nominating contests up to this point, the left flank of the party is in need of a win, and the June 23 primaries may be one of their last best chances to get it.
In three races — Kentucky’s Democratic Senate primary and the primaries for New York’s 16th and 17th congressional districts — progressives have surged in recent weeks, raising hopes among some that next Tuesday could send a message of liberal ascendancy in the Democratic party.
In Kentucky, state Rep. Charles Booker (D) has emerged as a powerful voice amid protests over police brutality and racial injustice, raising his profile at a critical time in the race for the Democratic Senate nomination.
He’s facing former Marine combat pilot Amy McGrath, whose backing from Senate Democratic leaders and staggering fundraising hauls have made her the favorite to win. But there are signs that the gap between Booker and McGrath is closing. A recent internal poll from Booker’s campaign showed him trailing McGrath by 10 points. And while that’s not an insignificant lead, a similar internal poll from April showed him down more than 50 points.
In New York’s 16th District, Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), the chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, appears in danger of a losing his primary to Jamaal Bowman, a former school principal who has the backing of progressives, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). A poll released on Wednesday by the liberal think tank Data for Progress showed Engel trailing Bowman by 10 points.
And in New York’s 17th District, where a crowded field of Democrats is vying to replace retiring Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), a recent survey from the left-leaning Public Policy Polling showed progressive Mondaire Jones leading his two closest rivals, Evelyn Farkas and Adam Schleifer, by double digits.
Progressives running for federal office have had only limited success so far this year. Sanders ultimately bowed out of the Democratic presidential race after former Vice President Joe Biden built up a nearly insurmountable delegate lead. And that was on top of a handful of losses for progressives in down-ballot contests.
That’s not to say that progressives haven’t seen any successes. Marie Newman beat out Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.), one of the few remaining conservative Democrats in Congress, in the March primary to represent Illinois’ 3rd District. And in California’s 53rd District, progressive Georgette Gomez will advance to the general election in November along with a more moderate Democrat, Sara Jacobs.
Still, next Tuesday will give the liberal wing of the Democratic Party a chance to make a big mark.
FROM THE TRAIL:
Campaigns up and down the ballot are adjusting to the new normal amid the coronavirus pandemic, holding Zoom fundraisers and phone banking from home. The Hill’s Reid Wilson takes a closer look at how the pandemic has changed campaigns in 2020.
The Biden campaign is looking to put President Trump on defense in the critical swing state of Florida ahead of November. Trump won Florida in 2016, but Biden has hit Trump over his response to the coronavirus pandemic as cases spike in the Sunshine State. He has also attacked Trump over his hurricane preparedness response. The Hill’s Amie Parnes reports.
Keith Naughton: Boring is Biden’s ‘Trump’ card
Stuart Shapiro: For Trump regulations, it all comes down to November
Andy Langenkamp: Despite winner, US will face a very turbulent period after the election
CONGRESS & STATES:
Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna Pressley became the latest progressive lawmaker to endorse former middle school teacher Jamaal Bowman on Wednesday. Her endorsement follows endorsements from Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.). The Hill’s Tal Axelrod reports.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on Wednesday that he would not accept a position in Biden’s cabinet if he defeats President Trump in the general election. Cuomo said that instead of going to Washington, he wants his focus to be solely on New York State. Tal reports.
Democracy for America (DFA), a top progressive group, endorsed state Rep. Charles Booker (D) in Kentucky’s Democratic Senate primary as Booker prepares to take on establishment favorite Amy McGrath in the party’s primary. Tal reports.
Adam Schleifer, a former federal prosecutor running to succeed Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) in the House, is calling on his Democratic primary opponent Evelyn Farkas to return a $5,000 contribution from a political action committee (PAC) that has given hundreds of thousands of dollars to Republicans over the years. The contribution from Gen Equity Federal PAC was made in January, according to Federal Election Commission (FEC) filings.
Reached for comment on Wednesday, Farkas’s campaign said they were unaware that the group had given primarily to Republicans, but noted that its affiliated organization GenNext is nonpolitical and that Farkas has a relationship with the organization through work on issues like criminal justice reform.
Gen Equity Federal PAC made only one other political contribution in the first quarter of the year, a $2,500 donation to Project West PAC, a leadership PAC chaired by Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), who’s facing a tough reelection bid this year.
MARK YOUR CALENDARS:
(Keep in mind these dates could change because of the outbreak.)
New Jersey primaries
Alabama Republican Senate primary runoff
Democratic National Convention
Republican National Convention
New Hampshire primaries
Rhode Island primaries
First presidential debate
Vice presidential debate
Second presidential debate