Candidates for Congress in the Midwest (October 3)

Update 303: Congressional Endorsements 2018;
Candidates for Congress in the Midwest

Last week, 20/20 Vision endorsed 29 candidates for Congress this year, the first round of such endorsements.  Almost all of these candidates are in margin-of-error-tight races in districts currently held by Republicans. Not only are they terrific candidates, but they have potential to be future leaders in the House and Democratic Party.

This week we review the 2018 endorsed candidates running for Congress in the Midwest region.  We will be covering the other regions of the country weekly over the course of this month.




United States Senate

Senator Sherrod Brown (Ohio)

Senator Sherrod Brown recalls the late Sen. Paul Wellstone in style and substance as a full-throated progressive populist and defender of working people in his state and nationally.  Sen. Brown, as Ranking Member of Senate Banking, led the opposition to S. 2155, the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act. Throughout the process and as bill manager in opposition, Sen. Brown kept a majority of the caucus together and focused on the larger issues of systemic risk and the damage that the bill does to the American consumer.  As a member of Senate Finance, Sen. Brown was also one of the primary voices of opposition against the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act” (TCJA), a catastrophe of inequity.

Sen. Brown is in a tough reelection campaign.  The two-term Senator is going up against Trump sycophant, Rep. Jim Renacci.  Sen. Brown is currently enjoying a double-digit lead in polling but has said that the number of Trump voters that turn out in Ohio will dictate the way the race breaks. President Trump currently has a 45 percent approval rating in Ohio, above his national average.

Senator Tammy Baldwin (Wisconsin)

Senator Tammy Baldwin has been a beacon of leadership and creativity in championing progressive economic legislation since her election to the Senate in 2012.  She has taken on the big banks, voting against S. 2155. She has also been a fierce advocate against special interests by introducing amendments and bills to tackle corporate greed and political corruption.  Sen. Baldwin’s commitment to accessible, affordable healthcare is signature. Her leadership on the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) and Appropriations committees has put her at the forefront of the fight against the junk health plans created by the Trump administration to destroy the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Wisconsin has not had a statewide Democrat elected in a midterm election since Sen. Herb Kohl in 2006.  President Trump turned the state red in 2016 and the state GOP has deep pockets and a strong organization, Sen. Baldwin has been the main target of the Koch and Uheline networks, who have spent more in her race for State Senator Leah Vukmir than any other in the country.  But with healthcare the top issue on voters’ minds here, Tammy’s service and dedication should be rewarded.

U.S. House of Representatives

Abby Finkenauer (IA-01)

  • Cook PVI: D+1
  • 2018 Democratic Primary: Finkenauer 67/Heckroth 19
  • Total amount raised 1H 2018*: Rep. Blum $855K/Finkenauer $469K

Abby Finkenauer is a skilled first-time candidate who dominated her primary, securing over two-thirds of the vote.  Her fairly humble background gives her experience of the plight of families struggling to get by. Finkenauer’s father was a union pipefitter and welder who went through periods of precarious employment.  During her time in the state legislature, Finkenauer fought to make high-quality healthcare available for all Iowans and supported affordable education for students.

On the campaign trail, Finkenauer has argued for progressive economic policies, such as infrastructure reform and raising the minimum wage, and has been a vocal critic of the 2017 GOP tax plan which she views as giveaway to the richest Americans.  On Monday, President Obama endorsed Finkenauer and a recent September Emerson College poll has her ahead of her challenger, Rod “Clerical Error” Blum, by 5 points.

Cindy Axne (IA-03)

  • Cook PVI: R+1
  • 2018 Democratic Primary: Axne 58/Mauro 26
  • Total amount raised 1H 2018*: Rep. Young $1.13M/Axne $263K

Another Iowan and first-time candidate, Cindy Axne, had an impressive primary.  A small business owner and former state official, Axne is focused on a number of progressive economic policies, including healthcare for all, equal pay, protecting Social Security and Medicare, and campaign finance reform. GOP Super PACs, such as Paul Ryan’s Congressional Leadership Fund (CLF), are spending big on TV ads in the district, leaving Axne at a fundraising disadvantage compared to her rival, Rep. David Young.  Axne was also endorsed on Monday by President Obama. Should both candidates win in November, they will be the first Democratic female members of Congress from Iowa and would shift the state’s delegation from 3-1 R to 3-1 D.

Liz Watson (IN-09)

  • Cook PVI: R+13
  • 2018 Democratic Primary: Watson 66/Canon 31
  • Total amount raised 1H 2018*: Watson $794K/Rep. Hollingsworth $444K

Despite its recent red trend, Indiana’s 9th is a purple district and has flipped back and forth between parties since its inception. Rep. Trey Hollingsworth is the incumbent in a seat that was vacated by now-Senator Todd Young in 2014. Hollingsworth, who will face Liz Watson in November, is seen as a vulnerable candidate. A multi-millionaire business owner, he moved to Indiana just one year before he was elected in 2016.

Liz Watson is a fifth-generation Hoosier who was raised in Bloomington, the biggest city in her district. As a former Labor Policy Director for congressional Democrats, Watson is a staunch pro-labor candidate who is advocating for a $15 minimum wage and the right to organize. She also supports specific infrastructure revitalization programs, raising the low income housing tax credit, and expanding Medicare to all Americans. Watson does not accept corporate PAC money and has advocated for campaign finance reform to combat Citizens United and congresspeople with special interests like Hollingsworth. IN-09 is the type of working class, Trumpian-toned district that Democrats need to win back in order to take the majority in 2018.

Elissa Slotkin (MI-08)

  • Cook PVI: R+4
  • 2018 Democratic Primary: Slotkin 71/Smith 29
  • Total amount raised 1H 2018*: Slotkin $2.85M/Rep. Bishop $1.02M

Elissa Slotkin is a first-time candidate who cruised through her primary with over 70 percent of the Democratic vote.  She is facing incumbent Rep. Mike Bishop, who won over 90 percent of the Republican vote in his primary. Slotkin and Bishop are going head-to-head in Michigan’s 8th District, with FiveThirtyEight predicting Bishop marginally ahead at this point in the race.

Slotkin is a born-and-bred Michigander who has federal-level experience in national security and intelligence initiatives and has worked under both Republican and Democratic leadership.  She is strongly committed to bipartisanship and what she calls a “straightforward, commonsense” approach to crafting policy. She supports an efficient and responsible budget, and has come out against the TCJA. In a similar vein, Slotkin wants to overturn Citizens United and has pledged not to accept corporate PAC money during her campaign.

Haley Stevens (MI-11)

  • Cook PVI: R+4
  • 2018 Democratic Primary: Stevens 27/Greimel 22
  • Total amount raised 1H 2018*: Stevens $526K/Epstein $275K

Former Obama Administration official and leader in advanced manufacturing, Haley Stevens is running in MI-11 for a seat left open by Republican incumbent David Trott. MI-11 is an overwhelmingly suburban district located northwest of Detroit that narrowly voted for Trump and Romney in 2016 and 2012, but voted for Obama in 2008. Stevens’ opponent, Republican Lena Epstein, is a businesswoman and self-funder who has largely tied herself to President Trump.

Stevens has emerged as one of the star candidates this election cycle, having won a crowded primary against four other competitive candidates.  She served as chief of staff for the Treasury Department’s Auto Task Force under President Obama, which is reported to have saved 200,000 Michigan jobs.  Haley played a key role in managing the Recovery for Automotive Communities and Workers initiate in the Obama White House Office of Manufacturing Policy. Her work helped save General Motors and Chrysler in 2009 by assisting with the arrangements for financing and creating a structured bankruptcy plan.  Stevens has also campaigned hard on reducing healthcare costs in her district, primarily by strengthening the ACA. Pundits are calling this race a “toss-up” or leans Democratic.

Angie Craig (MN-02)

  • Cook PVI: R+2
  • 2018 Democratic Primary: Uncontested
  • Total amount raised 1H 2018*: Craig $2.43M/Rep. Lewis $896K

Minnesota business leader Angie Craig faces a rematch with Rep. Jason Lewis in November. Craig, whose first run at this seat in 2016 ended in defeat, is poised to change the dynamic in MN-02 this time around. Rep. Lewis has defined himself as an unapologetic Trump Republican, who some in Minnesota have called “Trump before Trump.”  In a district largely located in the suburbs of the Twin Cities, who narrowly voted in favor of the President in 2016, voters seem poised to reject Rep. Lewis, and Craig looks set to overcome her 2016 defeat. Craig’s business background is well-suited for suburban voters in MN-02, and she is running on kitchen table economic issues, such as investing in small business entrepreneurship and fighting to make fixes to the Affordable Care Act.

Kara Eastman (NE-02)

  • Cook PVI: R+4
  • 2018 Democratic Primary: Eastman 52/Ashford 48
  • Total amount raised 1H 2018*: Rep. Bacon $1.05M/Eastman $370K

Nebraska, a reliably Republican state in presidential elections, is now on the forefront of the Democratic Party’s ambitions in the 2018 midterms. NE-02 lies on the periphery of the Omaha Metropolitan area and is currently represented by Rep. Don Bacon, who was elected in 2016. He is now facing stiff resistance in the general election from the insurgent Democratic candidate, Kara Eastman.
Eastman was born and raised in the Midwest with her mom and grandparents. She started her career in public service earnestly through her own start-up.  Her non-profit, Omaha Healthy Kids Alliance, is a nationally-recognized, award-winning organization, and has raised over $13 million to support healthy housing in Omaha.  The non-profit serves over 4,000 Nebraskan families and has created dozens of jobs for the local community. Eastman wants to take her service experience to the next stage and make healthcare-for-all a reality, end irresponsible gun legislation, and ensure that incoming generations of students can attend college affordably.

Aftab Pureval (OH-01)

  • Cook PVI: R+5
  • 2018 Democratic Primary: Uncontested
  • Total amount raised 1H 2018*: Pureval $2.03M/Rep. Chabot $507K

A first-round Obama endorsee and current Hamilton County Clerk of Courts, Aftab Pureval is running to unseat longtime incumbent Rep. Steve Chabot. While Pureval faces a tight race against Rep. Chabot, he has experience playing the underdog in Ohio. His unexpected county clerk victory in 2016 landed the Democrats a seat that they had not controlled for over a century. Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley called Pureval the Democrats’ best chance to reclaim OH-01, a seat controlled by Republicans for the past decade. Sen. Brown also called the race one of the best opportunities Democrats have to flip a seat in all of Ohio.The mainly rural district makes up a large section of Cincinnati, which is a part of the district Pureval will have to work hard to turn out.  Pureval is running his campaign with a progressive economic policy focus — vociferously opposing the GOP tax cuts, arguing for the protection of Social Security and Medicare, implementing a $15 federal minimum wage, and supporting the rights of workers to collectively bargain with their employers.

*Total campaign receipts compiled according to FEC Data from Jan. 1, 2018-Jun. 30, 2018

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