Early-State House Hopefuls Feel the Bern

Underdog congressional candidates in early presidential nominating states are getting a boost from their endorsements of Bernie Sanders.

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders stands with his wife, Jane, and waves to the crowd during a campaign rally at Grand View University in Des Moines, Iowa on Sunday.
AP Photo/Evan Vucci
Ally Mutnick
Add to Briefcase
Ally Mutnick
Feb. 1, 2016, 8:01 p.m.

When a polit­ic­al neo­phyte runs in a House primary against the party’s pre­vi­ous nom­in­ee and 2014 lieu­ten­ant gov­ernor nom­in­ee, it can be hard to break through.

But in­tro­du­cing Bernie Sanders to hun­dreds of po­ten­tial voters does provide an open­ing.

That’s the kind of up­grade former Sat­urday Night Live cast mem­ber Gary Kroeger has re­ceived in Iowa’s 1st Dis­trict since he pub­licly en­dorsed the sen­at­or from Ver­mont and self-pro­claimed Demo­crat­ic so­cial­ist for pres­id­ent in Oc­to­ber.

“The crowd that comes to see Sen­at­or Sanders I know is a friendly crowd to me,” Kroeger said. “I’d thought I’d be in the back of a Chuck E. Cheese in a room of a few act­iv­ists and that’s the most you’d get out of a primary.”

In­stead, Kroeger has opened for Sanders at four events, each with hun­dreds in at­tend­ance, in­clud­ing the Sanders cam­paign rally be­fore the Jef­fer­son-Jack­son Din­ner and a “Rockin’ the Bern” con­cert in Iowa City.

He’s not alone. A hand­ful of con­gres­sion­al can­did­ates have thrown their sup­port be­hind Sanders and found their cam­paigns buoyed by small dona­tions, vo­lun­teers, and so­cial-me­dia buzz.

And Kroeger is part of an even smal­ler group of Demo­crat­ic hope­fuls run­ning in com­pet­it­ive dis­tricts in early-primary states who hope to take ad­vant­age of Sanders’s ground game and fre­quent cam­paign stops in their dis­tricts.

In some ways, Sanders’s un­der­dog fight to over­take the es­tab­lish­ment front-run­ner, former Sec­ret­ary of State Hil­lary Clin­ton, is a nar­rat­ive that could also frame these loc­al races in Iowa, New Hamp­shire, and Nevada, where the can­did­ates trail op­pon­ents in money, polit­ic­al ex­per­i­ence, or name re­cog­ni­tion.

In New Hamp­shire, busi­ness­man Shawn O’Con­nor en­dorsed and went on a two-day, five-stop tour with Sanders in early Janu­ary. In Nevada, former state As­semb­ly­wo­man Lucy Flores, who garnered na­tion­al at­ten­tion after back­ing Sanders last month in a Face­book post, has since ap­peared at events hos­ted by the Sanders cam­paign, in­clud­ing a roundtable, an of­fice open­ing and a mock caucus event.

“Cam­paign­ing with a pres­id­en­tial can­did­ate—it’s a pretty smart move. You get ac­cess to thou­sands of people,” said John Row­ley, a vet­er­an Demo­crat­ic me­dia con­sult­ant. “That be­comes ex­pos­ure and es­sen­tially free com­mu­nic­a­tion with voters, and I can def­in­itely see that that could have an im­pact. I don’t think it’s a game changer, but it’s prob­ably worth a few points.”

With Sanders lead­ing in New Hamp­shire and gain­ing on Clin­ton lead­ing up to Monday’s caucuses in Iowa, can­did­ates be­ne­fit from his in­creased mo­mentum.

O’Con­nor de­scribed an up­tick of 10- to 20 per­cent in both dona­tions and vo­lun­teers since he en­dorsed Sanders on Jan. 3. Kroeger said he re­ceived a “palp­able bump” in dona­tions and gathered a list of vo­lun­teers he’d met at Sanders ral­lies who are ready to be de­ployed. One vo­lun­teer he met at a rally in Des Moines offered to over­see his so­cial me­dia, us­ing the Sanders grass­roots net­work to grow his Twit­ter fol­low­ers to 1,500.

Since en­dors­ing Sanders, Flores has done a series of events or­gan­ized by the Sanders cam­paign in Nevada, and as the caucuses ap­proach, she said, she will likely cam­paign with Sanders him­self. The en­dorse­ment also gave Flores a boost in dona­tions and vo­lun­teers.

“Whenev­er I can try to hit two birds with one stone,” she said, “if it’s an event in my dis­trict and it hap­pens to also be a Bernie event, we’ll try to com­bine those where pos­sible. … It’s def­in­itely just made my days a little — maybe a lot — busier.”

Sanders’s grass­roots net­work is eager to lend sup­port to like-minded con­gres­sion­al can­did­ates who would sup­port the pro­gress­ive agenda of a Pres­id­ent Sanders.

An Act­Blue fun­drais­ing page has gathered just over $14,000 in dona­tions to split between House and Sen­ate can­did­ates who have en­dorsed Sanders, ur­ging sup­port­ers to “thank pro­gress­ive in­cum­bents and can­did­ates with the cour­age to en­dorse him.”

“People are ex­cited about the won­der­ful mo­mentum that he’s get­ting, but they’re real­iz­ing that he’s go­ing to need al­lies in the Con­gress,” O’Con­nor said of Sanders. “I think the coun­try is look­ing for a new gen­er­a­tion of lead­er­ship.”

The can­did­ates in­sist there was no polit­ic­al cal­cu­lus in the de­cision to en­dorse—though some sent out fun­drais­ing ap­peals play­ing up their sup­port of Sanders.

All three self-identi­fy as pro­gress­ives and align with Sanders’s po­s­i­tions on col­lege af­ford­ab­il­ity, edu­ca­tion, or in­come equal­ity. They de­scribe the en­dorse­ments as a way to define their cam­paigns.

Kroeger ac­know­ledges that he is a “dis­tant third” in his primary race against Ce­dar Rap­ids City Coun­cil­wo­man Mon­ica Ver­non and former state Rep. Pat Murphy. Murphy won the five-way primary battle for the 1st Dis­trict in 2014. Ver­non was the run­ning mate for state Sen. Jack Hatch in that year’s gubernat­ori­al race.

O’Con­nor, who de­scribes him­self as “anti­es­tab­lish­ment” and “anti-Wash­ing­ton,” has largely self-fun­ded against former three-term Rep. Car­ol Shea-Port­er. By the end of the third quarter, O’Con­nor had loaned his cam­paign $1 mil­lion. Shea-Port­er has en­dorsed Clin­ton.

There are bet­ter-po­si­tioned can­did­ates who have en­dorsed Sanders. In New York’s 19th dis­trict, 2014 gubernat­ori­al can­did­ate Zephyr Teachout backed Sanders in Decem­ber, be­fore launch­ing her bid last week for the seat of re­tir­ing Re­pub­lic­an Rep. Chris Gib­son. Plus, Reps. Keith El­lis­on of Min­nesota and Raúl Gri­jalva of Ari­zona are on Team Sanders, though neither faces a com­pet­it­ive reelec­tion.

En­dors­ing Sanders could help Flores the most, al­low­ing her to dis­tin­guish her­self in the four-way primary to chal­lenge Re­pub­lic­an Rep. Cresent Hardy. She’s put up the low­est fun­drais­ing num­bers so far com­pared to her com­pet­it­ors, in­clud­ing state Sen. Ruben Ki­huen.

But Nevada-based Demo­crat­ic polit­ic­al con­sult­ant Billy Vassili­adis said he doesn’t think the needle will be moved by the en­dorse­ment, which he sees as a tac­tic to cut in­to Ki­huen’s base of young­er voters.

“I think Lucy made a very cal­cu­lated and some­what des­per­ate de­cision, in that she’s not break­ing through any­where,” he said. “I think Bernie is a unique phe­nomen­on. I don’t think he’s got coat­tails.”

Flores denies any polit­ic­al motive to the en­dorse­ment and said she con­sidered it risky. Sanders does not lead Clin­ton in many polls in later primary states or na­tion­ally.

Sanders en­dorse­ments could po­ten­tially ali­en­ate sup­port­ers of Clin­ton, who re­mains favored for the nom­in­a­tion. Plus, down-bal­lot primar­ies of­ten take place months after early pres­id­en­tial primar­ies, and it can be hard to draw out the mo­mentum.

While Sanders is polling strongly in next week’s New Hamp­shire primary, the state’s con­gres­sion­al primar­ies won’t take place un­til mid-Septem­ber—two months after the na­tion­al con­ven­tions—po­ten­tially min­im­iz­ing the ef­fect of O’Con­nor’s pres­ence at Sanders events in Janu­ary.

And align­ing him­self with Sanders can’t make up for his lack of name re­cog­ni­tion com­pared to Shea-Port­er, said former Ports­mouth May­or Steve Marchand, a Demo­crat­ic con­sult­ant.

“If you’re some­body like O’Con­nor who is an un­known per­son in a con­gres­sion­al race,” Marchand said, “they don’t know who he is and they don’t know who he en­dorsed. And by the time they would start think­ing about it, it’s just so far in the rear­view mir­ror.”

What We're Following See More »
“VAULT 7”
Additional Charges Added in Wikileaks Case
31 minutes ago
THE LATEST

"Federal prosecutors have charged a former software engineer at the center of a huge C.I.A. breach with stealing classified information, theft of government property and lying to the F.B.I. The engineer, Joshua A. Schulte, 29, of New York, had been the main suspect in one of the worst losses of classified documents in the spy agency’s history. Government investigators suspect that he provided WikiLeaks, the anti-secrecy organization, with a stolen archive of documents detailing the C.I.A.’s hacking operations, but they had not initially charged him in that crime."

Source:
BUT HE ASKS FOR $200 BILLION MORE IN TARIFFS
Senate Defies Trump on ZTE
32 minutes ago
THE LATEST

"The Senate voted Monday to reimpose the U.S. ban on Chinese telecom giant ZTE, in a rebuke to President Donald Trump and his efforts to keep the company in business. The provision targeting ZTE was part of the National Defense Authorization Act, a must-pass defense spending bill that cleared the Senate by a vote of 85-10. It must now be reconciled with the House version of the measure, which takes a narrower approach to ZTE." Separately, Trump is directing U.S Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to identify $200 billion more in tariffs on Chinese products.

Source:
OFFERED TO SELL DIRT ON CLINTON FOR $2 MILLION
Roger Stone Says He Forgot About Meeting with Russian
19 hours ago
THE LATEST

"Two longtime associates of President Donald Trump are now acknowledging a previously undisclosed contact in May 2016 with a Russian who they say offered dirt on Hillary Clinton. Roger Stone and Michael Caputo say they forgot to tell investigators about their contact with a Russian national who goes by the name Henry Greenberg — even though they say Greenberg offered to sell incriminating information to the Trump campaign for $2 million."

Source:
MCCONNELL WANTS A TREATY
Senators Want to Rubber Stamp Any North Korean Deal
6 days ago
THE LATEST

"As Trump signed a joint statement with Kim Jong Un that offered few details on how the North Korean leader would make good on his vow to denuclearize, Republicans on Capitol Hill said Tuesday that they want and expect the White House to submit any final agreement for their approval." Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called for any agreement to be in the form of a treaty.

Source:
UNLESS NEGOTIATIONS GO BADLY
Trump To Halt “War Games” On Korean Peninsula
6 days ago
THE LATEST

President Trump announced that the United States will suspend "war games" with South Korea, which are "inappropriate" given his meeting with North Korean leader Kim-Jong Un. "We will be stopping the war games which will save us a tremendous amount of money," said Trump, "unless and until we see the future negotiation is not going along like it should." The military exercises "carried out each year by the US and South Korean militaries have been consistently cited by Pyongyang as a US rehearsal for war, and a reason it needs to build a nuclear arsenal."

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login