Election results: Mixed results for progressives, confusion in California
Pro-labor Gavin Newsom won the gubernatorial primary in California. | Gregory Bull/AP

The slew of primary elections on June 5 produced mixed results for progressives, and cases of confusion in the mega-state of California.

On the winning side, the Golden State’s lieutenant governor, Gavin Newsom, led all 27 candidates in the gubernatorial field with 33 percent of the vote. Newsom, a strong supporter of unions and advocate of Medicare for All, will face GOP businessman John Cox, who previously ran for state offices in Illinois.

Cox, backed by GOP President Donald Trump and former GOP House Speaker Newt Gingrich, finished second with 26 percent in the state’s “jungle primary” where everyone, regardless of party, runs and the two top finishers face off in November.

Newsom’s campaign provided a rare show of unity between progressives and party regulars in a year when the two have often jousted: Progressive unions such as the Service Employees and National Nurses United endorsed him. So did the California Labor Federation.

And the California Federation of Teachers enthusiastically backed Newsom while slamming a third contender, former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, for his waffling on public schools. “Despite an astounding $22 million of support from anti-public education billionaires, Antonio Villaraigosa has failed to advance in California’s race for governor!” the union, an AFT affiliate, tweeted.

“California’s vision and America’s values are one and the same,” Newsom said. “But our values, as you know, are under assault. We’re engaged in an epic battle, and it looks like voters will have a real choice between a governor who will stand up to Donald Trump and a foot soldier in his war on California.”

Meanwhile, diversity flourished in New Mexico. Democratic U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Latina, won the party’s gubernatorial nomination. And voters nominated former state Democratic Chair Deb Haaland to succeed Lujan Grisham in the Albuquerque-based district. Haaland’s favored in November. If she wins, she’d be the first-ever Native American woman U.S. House member.

And it wasn’t just in New Mexico. Female Democratic hopefuls won, with few exceptions, notably the Iowa governor’s race. South Dakota will have a female governor, regardless of which nominee wins in November. And Emily Cain, executive director of Emily’s List, said 40 of the group’s 48 pro-choice female candidates, at all levels, won. Lujan Grisham faces a right winger, U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce (R).

But then there was California’s U.S. Senate race. The progressive, Democratic State Senate President Kevin de Leon, barely made it onto the November ballot against the first-place finisher, incumbent Democrat Dianne Feinstein, 84. She won 44 percent of the vote. He won 11 percent. The top Republican finished third, out of the running for November, with nine percent.

De Leon’s departure for the U.S. Senate race cleared the way, however, for Maria Elena Durazo, a former top Unite Here officer and Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the L.A. County Federation of Labor, to seek his State Senate seat. She got 70 percent of the vote in the jungle primary and Republican Peter Choi got 30 percent, but both advance to the November election.

Progressives criticized Feinstein for her mild support for comprehensive immigration reform. And she’s no fan of single-payer government-run health care, which de Leon pushed through the state senate. Feinstein wound up moving leftwards during the primary campaign.

The confusion came because some 118,000 voters in Los Angeles County were mistakenly removed from the rolls and had to cast provisional ballots. The outcome of those votes could affect several close congressional primary races.

Iowa SEIU State President Cathy Glasson, a registered nurse and a strong backer of raising the minimum wage, single-payer and repealing a GOP-passed anti-union law, won’t advance, either. She finished a distant second to businessman Fred Hubbell in the Iowa Democratic gubernatorial primary. NNU endorsed her, too. Glasson nonetheless told supporters “we’ve built a progressive movement that will be a force in state politics for a long time to come.”

Both the AFL-CIO and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee hailed the results.

“The labor movement’s Working Family Agenda continued to dominate primary elections as candidates campaigned on issues such as affordable health care in California and New Jersey, and more funding for public education in Iowa and New Mexico,” the federation said.

Polls show 75 percent of voters favored getting public health insurance, and that Trump’s tax cut for the rich and corporations is losing by 2-to-1 margins, the AFL-CIO added. “An overwhelming percentage of voters want to hold Wall Street accountable,” the AFL-CIO added. It promised to roll out “a powerful electoral plan to fight for the candidates who fight for us in key states from coast to coast, so we can elevate leaders committed to writing new economic rules that allow regular working people to thrive.”

“Success this year of candidates who support the priorities of working families demonstrates that the best way to get elected is to support working families over Wall Street and powerful corporations.”

“Tuesday’s results serve as a harbinger of the big blue wave to come,” predicted Marissa Barrow, spokeswoman for the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. “This was a referendum on the popularity of bold economic-populist ideas like Medicare for All, holding Wall Street and Big Insurance companies accountable, and fighting for working families — and those ideas won,” added PCCC co-founder Stephanie Taylor.

“Elizabeth Warren endorsed exactly one House candidate this year — Katie Porter. Katie’s victory shows voters are energized and inspired when Democrats actually stand for something and campaign on a bold economic-populist message. After Katie’s win tonight, ‘New Dems’ should think twice before funneling Wall Street and Big Insurance industry money to weak candidates in order to push their unpopular, pro-corporate agenda,” Taylor said. Porter is Warren’s former student at Harvard.

Two other PCCC-backed Democratic U.S. House hopefuls, also single-payer backers, won in California:

Mike Levin in the 49th District and Ammar Campa-Najjar in the 50th, both in southern California.


Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but a holy terror when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners. El galardonado periodista Mark Gruenberg es el director de la oficina de People's World en Washington, D.C. También es editor del servicio de noticias sindicales Press Associates Inc. (PAI).