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BAD BLUES: Some of the House Democrats Who Deserve to Be 'Primaried'

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Mckayla Wilkes could hardly be more different than Hoyer. She's young, black, working-class, a single mother, formerly incarcerated-- and committed to thoroughly progressive policies. Hoyer "has no idea what everyday District 5 folks face with excruciating commutes, lack of affordable housing, exorbitant healthcare costs and underfunded public schools," Wilkes told us.

Wilkes faults Hoyer for "not supporting Medicare for All" and "not supporting the Green New Deal" -- "we are represented by a climate delayer who refuses to support meaningful action." She adds: "His contributions alone tell us what we need to know: he privileges the wealthy and corporations over the regular people in his district. His largest donors include defense contractors, pharmaceutical companies and the fossil fuel industry."



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Now representing a Democratic, largely working-class district that includes the Olympic Peninsula and most of Tacoma, 45-year-old Derek Kilmer has been an elected lawmaker for most of his adult life. Currently in his seventh year in Congress after eight years in Washington's state legislature, Kilmer chairs the corporate-friendly New Democrat Coalition.

Kilmer's rise in power is appreciated by the US Chamber of Commerce. The anti-union, anti-environment group honored him in April with its annual "Spirit of Enterprise Award," praising his "pro-growth" policies. The Chamber's assessment of 2018 voting records ranked only a dozen House Democrats higher. Impressing corporate interests is not new for Kilmer; when in the Washington state senate, he was one of only three Democrats opposing labor on a key bill affecting unions' ability to support political campaigns.

Kilmer's increased clout on Capitol Hill means that he has more leverage against the interests of many constituents in a district where the median household income is scarcely $63,000. Meanwhile, the congressman gets plenty of corporate money. During the last term, Kilmer -- who sits on the powerful House Appropriations Committee -- received nearly a quarter of a million dollars combined from the casinos/gambling and securities/investment industries. The military and tech sectors also contributed; Northrop Grumman and Microsoft each chipped in more than $30,000. His campaign and PAC ended last year with more than $3 million cash on hand.

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In three races as an incumbent, Congressman Kilmer never finished less than 23 percent ahead of his Republican opponent. He has yet to face a serious challenge from another Democrat. But that might be about to change.

In early June, a progressive city councilman in Bainbridge announced an exploratory committee to run against Kilmer -- and lost no time drawing sharp distinctions. "We will not accept any donations from corporate PACs, trade associations or fossil fuel companies," Democrat Matthew Tirman declared on his website. Tirman's positions include support for a Green New Deal, Medicare for All and a $15-an-hour national minimum wage, as well as a commitment to "close corporate tax loopholes and ensure that the wealthiest among us pay their fair share." He told a local newspaper: "We need to define what it means to be a Democrat and what it means to be an establishment, corporate Democrat."



It took a while for Speaker Nancy Pelosi to notice that "Trump is goading us to impeach him," but activists in Illinois' heavily-Democratic 3rd Congressional District have long known that their Democrat-in-name-only representative, Dan Lipinski, keeps goading us to primary him.

In the 2018 primary, Lipinski narrowly defeated(by 2,145 votes, 51 to 49 percent) liberal challenger Marie Newman. Yet Lipinski remains mostly conservative. In January, he spoke at the anti-choice March for Life in Washington, D.C.; he cochairs the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus. He is the only Democrat in Congress who refused to co-sponsor the Equality Act, the LGBTQ civil rights legislation introduced in March. (After pressure, he voted for the bill.)

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A leading member of the "fiscally conservative" Blue Dog Coalition, the eight-term congressman is not generous toward working-class needs (he voted against Obamacare), but he's lavish in supporting military spending and domestic surveillance. He was one of a few dozen Democrats who voted against the 2010 Dream Act .

The district in southwest Chicago and outlying suburbs is so overwhelmingly Democratic that Republicans hardly contest it (the only person willing to run as a Republican last year was an avowed neo-Nazi). In 2016, Clinton beat Trump in the district 55 to 40 percent, after Bernie Sanders had bested Clinton in the primary by a nine-point margin.

Lipinski was smuggled into his congressional seat by his dad Bill Lipinski, a conservative Democrat (now a DC lobbyist) and 11-term Congress member who won the Democratic primary for a twelfth term in 2004 and then stepped aside after finagling to have his son replace him on the November ballot.

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Norman Solomon is cofounder and national coordinator of He was a Bernie Sanders delegate from California to the 2016 Democratic National Convention and is currently a coordinator of the relaunched Bernie Delegates Network. Solomon (more...)
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