Nina Turner, the former Cleveland city councilwoman and Ohio state senator who electrified progressives nationwide while serving as co-chair of Sen. Bernie Sanders' 2020 presidential campaign, is considering a run for the U.S. House of Representatives seat that will be open if Rep. Marcia Fudge is confirmed as incoming President Joe Biden's secretary of housing and urban development, Politico reported Tuesday.
"Who thinks Congresswoman Turner has a nice ring to it in a potentially open seat?"
—Rep. Ro Khanna
A groundswell of grassroots support for a Turner House run followed reports Tuesday that Biden has tapped Fudge (D-Ohio) for the top HUD post. Turner's response to the speculation was rather measured.
"Currently, there is no vacancy in the district and if it becomes vacant, things will unfold as they should," she told Politico. When pressed about running, she said, "Well, there's been an outcry for me to at least consider it."
"You know, I'm a public servant through and through, but I'm just going to leave it there for now," Turner said.
News w/ @hollyotterbein
Bernie co-chair @ninaturner is weighing a run for Fudge's seat if Biden nominates her.
Reached by phone, Turner was coy + noted no vacancy yet
"I’m a public servant through and through, but I’m just going to leave it there for now"https://t.co/wxrk7B102q
— Alex Thompson (@AlxThomp) December 8, 2020
Supporters of Sanders and other progressives don't want her to leave it there.
"There is no one more popular among Bernie supporters, no one who received bigger cheers at rallies, and no one who works harder" than Turner, Ari Rabin-Havt, Sanders' 2020 deputy campaign manager, told Politico.
Our ideas aren't radical, they're right on time.
— People for Bernie (@People4Bernie) December 8, 2020
No it’s not a dream, Nina Turner might run for Congress. https://t.co/8cDp6zOiAW
— SF Berniecrats (@sfberniecrats) December 9, 2020
Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), who was also a Sanders campaign co-chair, told Politico that he has "encouraged her to run if the seat is open, as that is her congressional district and she would have the immediate support of the national Bernie movement."
"She'd be a fantastic ally for the movement in Congress," Khanna added.
Happy birthday to @ninaturner, one of the most passionate fighters for justice I know. I’m inspired by your courage to speak truth to power and your commitment to this movement.
Who thinks Congresswoman Turner has a nice ring to it in a potentially open seat? pic.twitter.com/E9gRBzTBzU
— Ro Khanna (@RoKhanna) December 7, 2020
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On Sunday, Rep.-elect Cori Bush (D-Mo.), another former Sanders surrogate, tweeted that it "would be a dream to work alongside" Turner in Congress.
Hello Somebody! Secretary Marcia Fudge and Congresswoman Nina Turner. That has a great ring to it. https://t.co/fOGbQXXsJ8
— Cori Bush (@CoriBush) December 8, 2020
In an August 2019 interview with Common Dreams, Turner asserted that it's not enough for progressive candidates to run on their principles. "It's not just about who has the best ideas," she said. "It's about who can excite."
Heather Gautney, a former senior Sanders aide, told Politico that people are indeed "super-excited" about a possible Turner run.
"Everyone around her is saying, 'Do it, do it, do it,'" Gautney said.
— Heather Gautney (@HeatherGautney) December 8, 2020
Across social media, progressive reaction to the news of Turner's prospective House candidacy ranged from positively giddy to calmer endorsements, including numerous nods to her trademark "hello, somebody" greeting that stirred Sanders rallies from coast to coast.
If Marcia Fudge joins the Biden cabinet, there’ll be a special election for a safe Dem seat in Cleveland.
— Dave Weigel (@daveweigel) December 8, 2020
Just imagine what U.S. Representative Nina Turner, D-Ohio, could do to advance the cause of economic and social and racial justice, save the planet and end the forever wars.
— John Nichols (@NicholsUprising) December 6, 2020
Turner, who turned 53 on Monday, represented Ward 1 in the Cleveland City Council from 2006 to 2008. She was then elected to the Ohio state Senate, where she served from 2008 to 2014. In 2016 she was asked to be Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein's running mate, but declined. Turner became president of the Sanders-affiliated political action committee Our Revolution in 2017, and in Ferburary 2019 she was named a national co-chair of the U.S. senator from Vermont's presidential campaign.
"All of the great social justice advances that we ever had in this country have come not from people with big titles and not from people at the top, but just from everyday people getting together saying: 'Enough is enough. I'm going to change this, and I'm going to get involved, and I am going to be engaged,'" Turner said in a 2017 interview.
Progressive activists in Ohio and throughout the U.S. are now hoping Turner takes her involvement in the movement for social change to the next level.