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Channeling Sanders' Call for Revolution, Teachout Soars in NY Congressional Race

Populist Congressional candidate is outpacing all other New York Democrats in fundraising this year

Zephyr Teachout during her gubernatorial run in New York in 2014. (Photo: AP/Seth Wenig)

Populist candidate Zephyr Teachout has entirely outstripped all other Democratic congressional candidates in New York in 2016 in fundraising, bringing in over half a million dollars mostly from small individual donations, according to her campaign's most recent Federal Election Commission (FEC) filings.

Teachout's fundraising success signals her continued popularity with New York progressives, who were overjoyed when Teachout shocked establishment politicians by winning over a third of the vote in the 2014 New York gubernatorial primary despite running against well-funded incumbent Gov. Andrew Cuomo on a shoestring budget, no political experience or name recognition, and an anti-corruption platform.

Teachout has attracted some wealthy donors, such as the actor Mark Ruffalo and a Rockefeller heiress, but the majority of her contributions has been from small donors—echoing the fundraising successes of the Bernie Sanders campaign, which famously boasts an average donation of $27.

Teachout's campaign raised $530,732 in the first quarter of 2016, Capital New York reports.

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"According to [Teachout's] campaign, 10,657 people had sent donations by the end of March. This trend seems likely to continue, as presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has since sent out multiple fundraising appeals asking people to make $2.70 donations that will be split between him and Teachout," Capital New York notes.

Sanders publicly backed Teachout and two other progressive women for Congress earlier this month, and Teachout endorsed Sanders for president last year, describing the Democratic presidential hopeful as "a fearless, experienced leader capable of seeing the truth, and standing up to big private power, even when it's almost impossibly hard."

"Zephyr literally wrote the book on political corruption," Sanders wrote in turn in his fundraising appeal on behalf of Teachout's campaign. "She understands better than anybody how special interests try to buy off politicians, and she's dedicated her life to fixing our broken political system."

As Tim Murphy points out in Mother Jones, "The similarities between two of the left's leading critics of corporatocracy are obvious to the point of cliché."


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"If elected, not only would [Teachout] be an ally in the efforts to revitalize our democracy, she would likely be its leading Congressional champion," writes Adam Eichen in Common Dreams.

Indeed, Teachout's campaign fundraising success mirrors Sanders' as both leftists channel widespread disenchantment with the nation's current political establishment.

However, Capital New York warns that "Teachout's fundraising advantage doesn't mean she is likely to coast into office. Past electoral history and the balance of towns like Hudson and New Paltz with vast rural expanses suggest that voters in the district, shaped like a northward-pointing bloated horseshoe encircling Albany, are just as likely to elect a conservative Republican as a liberal Democrat."

A moderate Republican, Chris Gibson, currently represents the district and is stepping down for a gubernatorial run, Capital New York reports.

The state's Congressional primary will take place June 28, and Teachout's Democratic rival is Will Yandik, a farmer and town council member in Livingston, New York. On the Republican side, former state assemblyman John Faso, businessman Andrew Heaney, and farm general manager Robert Bishop are all vying for the seat.

In encouraging news for Teachout, Sanders' best showing in New York's problem-plagued primary was in her congressional district, which he won by a sizable 18 points.

The fate of Sanders' nationwide political revolution "will be in the hands of candidates like Teachout" in November, Murphy argues, and Teachout's prospects look encouraging to many observers.

"Two years after her opponent pretended she didn't exist," writes Murphy, "Teachout finds herself in an unusual position—front-runner."

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