Capuano All Shook Up by Pressley (September 14)

Update 298: Capuano All Shook Up by Pressley;
Round-up of Primary Season

It’s a wrap folks — the 2018 primary season is over, the final races done, and a vision of the next Congress increasing in color and clarity.  Below we re-cap the final three primaries and reflect briefly on what we’ve learned about Americans’ chief political concerns and preferred candidates.  

Good weekends all…




MA-07: Ayanna Pressley (MF)

  • 2016 Pres. Election: Clinton 84/Trump 12
  • 2012 Pres. Election: Obama 83/Romney 16
  • 2016 House: Capuano (D) 99/Write-in (N/A) 1
  • Cook PVI: D+34

Last week, in a Crowley defeat 2.0, Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley unseated 10-term Rep. Michael Capuano in MA-07 with 59 percent of the vote.  She will not face a general election opponent in November and is guaranteed her seat in Congress in January. Capuano’s loss to an insurgent progressive candidate was surprising considering his all but perfectly progressive voting record, notably his important opposition to bank deregulation. Pressley did not argue that her opponent was too moderate, rather that “Change Can’t Wait” and more bold action is required to push an activist agenda in congress.

Campaign finance reform emerged as a clear winner for Pressley.  As with other successful challengers this primary season, Pressley rejected corporate PAC money— whereas Capuano raised nearly $400,000 from business PACs.  Pressley coupled her anti-corruption agenda with an economic platform focused on inequality, citing the extremely high income inequality levels in the district as a rallying cry for change.  Pressley supports a $15 an hour minimum wage, an expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit, gender pay equity, and statutory paid family leave. She strongly opposes the GOP tax cuts and any cuts to social benefit programs, instead arguing for Social Security and Medicare expansion.

NH-01: Edwards vs. Pappas

  • 2016 Pres. Election: Trump 48/Clinton 47
  • 2012 Pres. Election: Obama 50/Romney 49
  • 2016 House: Shea-Porter (D) 44/Guinta (R) 43
  • Cook PVI: R+2

Next Congress will mark the end of the all-female Congressional delegation from New Hampshire — the first time that has ever happened. In November, Executive Councilor Chris Pappas (D) will face former South Hampton police chief Eddie Edwards (R) in NH-01.  Pappas emerged victorious after one of the most competitive primaries of the cycle. The establishment-backed Pappas defeated progressive challenger, Maura Sullivan, a former Obama administration official, 42 to 30 percent.

The district has seen tight House elections the last three cycles, but Pappas brings assurance of durability for Democrats here. Proclaimed by Sen. Maggie Hassan as a superstar, Pappas will try to address one of the most pressing issues for New Hampshirites — labor development.  Just as in a majority of the state, in NH-01, there is not enough skilled labor to fill the number of job vacancies. Pappas will try to address that problem as well as an issue that we have seen played-out time and again this cycle — healthcare. Pappas believes in maintaining the Affordable Care Act and creating a public option for the exchanges. He has pledged not to take corporate PAC money and supports Rep. Sarbanes “Government by the People Act” which seeks to incentivize small dollar donations.

New York: Marquee AG, Gubernatorial races

Gov. Andrew Cuomo pulled ahead of actress and activist Cynthia Nixon to secure the Democratic nomination by a comfortable 66 to 34 margin. Nixon had hoped to differentiate herself from Cuomo with a progressive platform highlighting economic and social justice but was ultimately defeated. Cuomo will face Dutchess County executive Marc Molinaro in November, with Cuomo expected to easily hold onto the office.

Letitia James beat out three other candidates to emerge as the Democratic candidate for New York Attorney General. James currently serves as the Public Advocate for the City of New York, one of only three citywide officeholders.  James will face off against Republican Keith Wofford, a New York City lawyer, in the general. Whichever candidate emerges in November will have already made history — Wofford is the first African-American candidate to receive a GOP nomination for state AG and James would be the first African-American woman elected statewide in New York.

A Look Back

We have seen many similar themes play out in Democratic primaries this season:

  • Women and minority candidates: This primary season, Democrats have nominated 180 female candidates in house primaries; the previous record was 120. Not only are Democrats electing women at record rates, they have also nominated 133 people of color and 158 first-time candidates. One thing is clear — Democrats want Congress to look a lot different after the general this November.

  • Healthcare: Healthcare protection and reform in all shapes and sizes has proven to be a crucial platform issue for Democrats this primary season. Messaging has varied widely based on district —  what works in New York city, may not work in a rural district of Florida. Democratic candidates in more urban and D-leaning districts have been focusing on Medicare-for-all, whereas in more rural and R-leaning districts, Democratic candidates instead use phrases like “affordable healthcare” and “protecting the ACA,” letting their constituents know that they care about protecting healthcare but are not planning to introduce radical change. In places like the Midwest, this toned-down rhetoric is resonating with people who don’t believe in a complete change of the system, but just want to pay less for basic healthcare needs.

  • Establishment vs. Progressive: Despite victories like Ocasio-Cortez and Pressley, progressives haven’t taken over the Democratic party, but they have taken a much larger piece of it. This year, more progressives ran and won than ever before. As of July, Vox reports, 280 non-incumbents in House primaries self-identified as progressive compared to 60 in 2014. As of August, non-incumbent progressives had won 24 percent of the time in House primaries versus 32 percent for establishment candidates, according to Brookings. Although the establishment still has a slight hold, it is clear that the progressive wing is strengthening. The progressive message is resonating with more and more democrats and it is quite likely that the entire party will shift left as a result.

A Look Ahead

With the primary season over, the focus is now squarely on the midterms. With 53 days left, the likelihood of Democrats taking back the House is extraordinarily high — the latest predictions by Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight give Democrats a 5 in 6 or an 83 percent chance of taking back control.

We are seeing pickup opportunities all across the country. Out west, the Golden State offers an opportunity to pick up upwards of nine seats. In the midwest, voters seem primed to reject Trump, as those states could give Democrats up to 17 seats. On the east coast, Pennsylvania alone offers up the opportunity to flip between four and six seats. And finally, in Texas and Florida, there are 11 possible flips between the two states. Democrats are strongly marching towards the magic number of 23 pickups to take back the House.

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