Progressive Democrats claim victory in Pennsylvania and Oregon primaries
- Progressive Democrats had a good night in Tuesday’s primaries after defeats earlier this year.
- The Progressives are poised to win three important House primaries in Oregon and Pennsylvania.
- But a deluge of outside spending to defeat them shows the deep divisions within the Democratic Party.
Progressive Democrats took a much-needed break on Tuesday night after failing in a previous round of elections this cycle.
The progressive left claims victory in three key House races in Oregon and Pennsylvania, though votes are still being tallied. If their candidates win, it would give them momentum ahead of a busy summer of primary elections, in which Democrats across the party’s ideological spectrum battle to ensure their side has the upper hand.
Democrats who took the lead Tuesday night “weren’t ashamed to define themselves as progressive,” said Kristal Knight, a Democratic strategist who has worked with candidates and political groups across the party spectrum. “It’s something that has won over many voters, saying, ‘This is where I stand, this is what I believe in, and this is the kind of Democrat I am. “”
In Pennsylvania, state Rep. Summer Lee looks set to defeat her more centrist opponent, Steve Irwin, to win the Democratic nomination for a seat representing the Pittsburgh area. The race has yet to be announced, but Lee leads Irwin 47% to 41% Wednesday morning. Progressives also celebrated John Fetterman’s victory in the Pennsylvania Senate primary, though the candidate tried to avoid labels like “progressive” or “centrist” on the trail.
Meanwhile, in Oregon’s 5th District, incumbent Rep. Kurt Schrader, a member of the centrist Blue Dog Democrats in Congress, trails progressive challenger Jamie McLeod-Skinner by about 20 percentage points.
McLeod-Skinner ran a campaign that portrayed Schrader, a 13-year veteran in the House, as an out-of-touch establishment figure who had championed key parts of the Democratic agenda. She won despite an infusion of support for Schrader from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and President Joe Biden himself.
In Oregon’s 6th District, Decision Desk headquarters and Insider predict state Representative Andrea Salinas will win against well-funded political novice Carrick Flynn, who had enjoyed the largesse of a cryptocurrency billionaire.
Flynn also won the support of the majority PAC in the House of Democrats, thus naming him the establishment’s preferred candidate. Meanwhile, Salinas had the support of Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, one of the progressive movement’s standard bearers.
“I saw the power last night,” said Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, who won his primary on Tuesday. “The voters said you better go out there and tackle the special interests.”
“Democratic voters sent a clear message last night that we are done with sending people to Congress who sabotage our entire agenda,” said progressive organizer Kai Newkirk, who nominated the Sens Democrats. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema for their votes against Biden’s agenda items. .
“Democrats want our representatives to be at least real Democrats,” Newkirk continued. “And the strong progressive credentials of Summer Lee, Fetterman and McLeod-Skinner show that there is a real hunger among most Democrats for Representatives who will fight to do big things that make a real difference on the huge issues facing our democracy, our planet, and working class people.”
But taken as a whole, Tuesday night’s primaries revealed a much deeper fissure within the Democratic Party.
Earlier in May, incumbent Rep. Shontel Brown defeated former Bernie Sanders adviser Nina Turner for the second time in what was billed as a showdown between centrist and progressive Democrats.
Moderate Democrats were successful in the Kentucky and North Carolina home races on Tuesday. And not everyone was thrilled with the Progressives’ gains this week.
“It’s just too bad, it really is,” said Manchin, a conservative Democrat from West Virginia, Schrader’s loss told CNN. “Kurt is a good man. A really good man.
“It’s a really sad scenario when you lose people who are willing to work, find solutions and not just retreat to their corners,” Manchin continued. “And that’s why people are losing faith in our ability to solve problems here in Congress.”
Progressives who performed well in Tuesday’s primaries faced millions of PAC dollars spent against them — and to support Democratic candidates who identified as more centrist.
Senator Bernie Sanders, who backed Lee in Pennsylvania, praised his campaign and railed against the huge amount of outside money that was spent trying to derail it.
One PAC, the United Democracy Project, spent nearly $2 million attacking Lee and backing Irwin in the final weeks of the race, The Washington Post reported.
“Summer ran a brilliant campaign, a really strong campaign,” Sanders told reporters on Capitol Hill. “I think without that super PAC money, she probably would have won by 20 points. It was just a huge flood of money.”
Oregon’s 6th District has become a textbook case of excessive political spending. It was the third most expensive primary home in the country to date, thanks to nearly $11 million in donations to Flynn that POLITICO traced back to cryptocurrency CEO Sam Bankman-Fried.
“What we know for sure is that there is infighting within the party,” Knight told Insider. She didn’t see the party settling the issue anytime soon, but instead predicted the debate would continue to play out at the ballot box all year.
“Even in other races that will continue to pop up over the summer, these will be the defining questions for Democrats,” Knight continued. “Which side do you want to be on? Which side is going to be able to beat a Republican in November? And which side is going to vote on the President’s agenda?”