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Heading into the highest-stakes election of our lifetimes, The Appeal is launching a newsletter called Our Future on the Ballot covering insurgent candidates across the country, their elections, and what’s at stake.

In today’s issue, we’ll cover:

  • The growing movement of congressional candidates shaking up the Democratic establishment.
  • Plus: a transformational challenger for PDX Mayor is up 11% in a new poll; L.A. Mayor withdraws endorsement of District Attorney Jackie Lacey and endorses her reform-minded challenger; and other news from key elections across the country.

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Millions of Americans are disinterested in politics, correctly believing that the business-as-usual policies pushed by both parties will not deliver the changes our country needs. That’s because Congress is out of touch with ordinary people. We know that because:

  • The congressional job approval rate is at 17 percent.
  • Congress is woefully out of touch with the policies American people really want enacted — regardless of which party happens to be in power.
  • Most Members of Congress are millionaires, not nurses, waitresses, or high school principals.
  • Rather than taking their cues from everyday people in their districts, members of Congress are driven by multi-national, multi-billion dollar companies seeking to maximize their own profits.

Across the country, out-of-touch establishment Democrats who support policies that maintain the status quo are increasingly facing intense primary challenges and, in many cases, are losing. These insurgent candidates primarying establishment Democrats are engaging those who are not interested in what the establishment is offering, which is, at best, incremental change.


  • IT’S NOT LEFT VS. RIGHT — “I’m not running ‘from the left.’ I’m running from the bottom. I’m running in fierce advocacy of working class Americans.” — That’s what Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said before she won in 2018. She showed the establishment that a newly energized movement of working class people were not going to settle for their inaction any longer and that this fight was broader than antiquated notions of left versus right.
  • A NEW MOVEMENT CRYSTALIZES — That same year, Ocasio-Cortez was joined in Congress by Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, and Ayanna Pressley, who all ran on similarly transformative platforms uplifting policies that serve communities that have been long ignored by both parties.
  • “NO ONE IS AFRAID OF THOSE NERDS” — Even after these transformative wins in 2018, establishment Democrats continued to shun this growing movement and underestimate it. A senior Democratic source said in 2019 that “no one is afraid of those nerds,” referencing the very group of transformative candidates who were just beginning to beat back the establishment. “They don’t have the ability to primary anyone.”
  • NOW, IT’S REVENGE OF THE “NERDS”– Just a year later, Jamaal Bowman, Marie Newman, and Cori Bush all focused on popular, grassroots-backed policies and won primary challenges to incumbent Democrats.



Insurgent candidates mounting these campaigns aren’t just uplifting the needs of everyday people — they ran because they are everyday people. They ran because of experiences in their own communities, as working people, as activists, organizers, and local elected officials.

  • RASHIDA TLAIB — Rep. Tlaib filled John Conyers’ open seat in the 13th district of Michigan in 2018:
    • “Most of us didn’t run to unseat someone. We ran because of our lived experiences. We were tired of standing on the sidelines and thinking that change was coming, and it wasn’t.”

JAMAAL BOWMAN — Bowman beat 14-term incumbent Eliot Engel in the primary for the heavily Democratic 16th district of New York:

  • “There are tens of millions of people across this country who are not consistently politically engaged, because we haven’t done a good enough job of engaging them. This is not on them. This is on us.”

CORI BUSH — Bush beat 10-term incumbent Lacy Clay in the primary for Missouri’s heavily Democratic 1st district.

  • “I’m not going to rub off the rough edges of being an activist. Those edges are going with me.”


BETH DOGLIO — Doglio is running for an open seat in Washington’s 10th district. She’s advocated for Medicare for All, immigration reform, and the Green New Deal. The Intercept recently wrote about how her race “lays bare the Democratic divide on tackling [the] climate crisis.”

JAMAAL BOWMAN — When asked about how he would fund Medicare for All, Bowman responded, “It’s not a matter of resources. It’s a matter of values. When we want to fund something we always find a way to fund it. When the stock market crashed at the beginning of the pandemic, we wrote a $1.5 trillion check. Done! Save[d] the stock market. One, make sure the wealthiest among us pay their fair share into the system; right now, they’re not doing that. Two, make sure large corporations like Amazon pay federal taxes, so that they can also contribute to the system. Number three, tax Wall Street speculation capital gains at 2%. That will generate enough revenue to begin the federal jobs guarantee. There are a lot of ways to pay for it. The issue is not resources. The issue is values.” (NBC New York)

CORI BUSH — Bush supports the Green New Deal, Medicare for All, Housing for All and raising the minimum wage. In a 2018 joint interview with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Bush fiercely defended raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

“People who make $7 or $8 an hour don’t work less hard than people who make $30 an hour. Making sure that people have what they need to support their families, pay their bills, and still have money left over to save should not be something that we should have to beg for. We have companies that have moved to $15 an hour wage, and they’re prospering. We can come up with money to be able to build these tent cities and pay $800 a day per child, to be able to house thousands of children; we can come up with that — millions of dollars per day to have people in these detention centers — but we can’t make sure that people who are working hard every single day are able to take care of their families. I think that we can do better.” (MSNBC)

  • Expanding the court.

MONDAIRE JONES — Jones filed to run against an incumbent in New York’s 17th district. The incumbent ultimately dropped out and Jones won an 8 way primary in a heavily Democratic district. He supports a Green New Deal, Medicare for All and a $15 minimum wage. On a recent episode of Our Future on the Ballot, Jones made the case that any fight for ordinary people necessarily includes addressing the Supreme Court. “We cannot tie our hands with antiquated norms that the Republican Party has long since abandoned.” [If Trump Replaces RBG, Congress Must Expand The Court]

MARIE NEWMAN — Newman beat incumbent Dan Lipinski in the 3rd congressional district of Illinois. She supports Medicare for All, the Green New Deal and a $15 minimum wage. On the Supreme Court, she said: “I certainly will support expanding the Court. And here’s what’s at stake. And this is what everybody has to get really focused on. It’s not just that they will repeal the Affordable Care Act, not just that. They will repeal every worker’s right and make this a right to work nation. Which will suppress wages, take away benefits and take away our right to organize. Which is one of our most American rights. So, you know rights, workers’ rights, will go away completely. A woman’s right to choose. And on and on. And all of our civil rights.”


  • Los Angeles Mayor endorses George Gascón for District Attorney. After teasing his un-endorsement of incumbent Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey on an episode of The Briefing, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has made it official, throwing his support to progressive challenger George Gascón.
  • California state Senator Holly Mitchell joined The Briefing to discuss why she’s running for LA County Board of Supervisors — to advocate for families in a way that is bold, transformative, and informed by personal experience. This race is so important because the LA County Board of Supervisors is the largest local government board in the country, responsible for more than 10 million residents. The roughly $30 billion annual budget covers services like foster care, jails, and the sheriff’s departments, making it a focal point in the efforts to reduce police violence.
  • An article in The Appeal profiled Carroll Fife, a candidate for Oakland City Council’s third district. Fife is a co-founder of Moms 4 Housing and the executive director of the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment – Oakland. She supports climate and environmental justice, economic justice, and divesting from militarized policing. She also recently came on The Briefing to discuss how she’s fighting to make the Bay Area a more inclusive, affordable place.
  • Julie Gunnigle is running against incumbent Allister Adel, who is finishing the term of long-time prosecutor Bill Montgomery in Maricopa County, Arizona. The pressure in the race to be a reformer is so great that Adel released a misleading ad portraying herself as a reform candidate. The Appeal recently examined these claims leading into the last weeks of the race.
  • Boston, MA city councilor Michelle Wu joined The Briefing to discuss city-level environmental justice initiatives. Wu, who is challenging incumbent Mayor Marty Walsh, has made environmental justice a key part of her campaign and is proposing a local Green New Deal for the city of Boston.
  • A new poll of the Portland mayoral race found challenger Sarah Iannarone leading incumbent Ted Wheeler by 11 points.
  • The Appeal published a story on Eliseo Santana, a sheriff candidate in Pinellas County, Florida who is challenging the status quo. He would end collaboration with ICE, reduce arrests, and shift funds from the sheriff’s department toward services and agencies outside of law enforcement who are better equipped at handling mental health and other treatment issues.
  • Data for Progress released its Green New Deal Slate, highlighting climate champions running in national and local races across the country.

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