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Rep. James Clyburn speaks at a news conference

Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) speaks at a news conference on September 17, 2020 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

Clyburn Intervention Seen as Latest Salvo in Dem Establishment's Bid to Stop Nina Turner

"Nina Turner is surging and the big money interests are pulling out all the stops to defeat her."

Jake Johnson

Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina, the third-ranking Democrat in the U.S. House, threw his support behind Shontel Brown on Tuesday in the race to fill the vacant seat in Ohio's 11th Congressional District, the latest salvo in the party establishment's effort to forestall the momentum of progressive firebrand Nina Turner.

"People are chipping in $5, $10, $27 at a time because they know our grassroots movement cannot be stopped."
—Nina Turner

Brown, the leader of the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party, is Turner's top opponent in the August 3 special election, which observers have come to view as a proxy battle over key policy issues such as Medicare for All and over the broader ideological direction of the national party.

A top congressional recipient of pharmaceutical industry cash, Clyburn has long been a vocal opponent of Medicare for All despite polls showing the proposal is popular among his South Carolina constituents.

During an interview on Tuesday, Clyburn "took a swipe at what he called the 'sloganeering' of the party's left flank, which has risen to power with calls for 'Medicare for All,' and to 'abolish ICE' and 'defund the police,'" the New York Times reported.

While Brown told the Cleveland Plain Dealer earlier this month that she "certainly would be in favor of Medicare for All" if it reached the House floor for a vote, the Ohio Democrat went on to criticize the proposal in the same interview, characterizing the policy as an attempt to "eliminate employers from providing care for their employees."

"I know when I'm out in the community there are some people who are satisfied with the healthcare they're being provided," said Brown. "I certainly don't want to be the person to end that.”

By contrast, Turner—a former Ohio state senator who served as a national co-chair of Sen. Bernie Sanders' (I-Vt.) 2020 presidential bid—has campaigned as an unabashed supporter of Medicare for All. In a 30-second ad released earlier this month, Turner said she is fighting for Medicare for All on behalf of her late mother, who died at the age of 42 with "no insurance" and "no money in the bank."

"The poor, the working poor, and the barely middle class should live a good life," Turner said. "Wealth should not dictate whether or not you have access to healthcare."

As the Daily Poster's David Sirota and Julia Rock wrote Wednesday, corporate lobbyists held a fundraiser for Brown the day after Turner's ad dropped.

"Among those headlining the fundraiser was Jerome Murray—a registered lobbyist for the Pharmaceutical Researchers and Manufacturers Association, which has been backing a nationwide campaign to reduce support for Medicare for All," Sirota and Rock noted. "The fundraiser was also headlined by a CVS Health lobbyist, as well as seven Democratic lawmakers who have raked in more than $5 million from donors in the pharmaceutical and healthcare sectors—including two whose top donating sector is the pharmaceutical industry."

"Now, U.S. Rep. James Clyburn—one of the Democratic Party's most outspoken opponents of Medicare for All—is intervening to try to halt Turner’s rise in the polls," the pair added.

Clyburn's endorsement of Brown came two weeks after erstwhile Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton announced her support for the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party chair.

"First Clinton and now Clyburn," tweeted The Daily Poster's Walker Bragman. "Corporate Democrats really don't want to see Nina Turner elected to Congress. Pretty good selling point for Nina Turner, honestly."

Turner, for her part, has garnered high-profile endorsements from national progressive figures and advocacy groups, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), the youth-led Sunrise Movement, and Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

While polling for the contest is scarce, Turner appears to be the frontrunner in the race as she continues to outraise Brown and other contenders by a long shot.

Earlier this month, a survey paid for by the Turner campaign and conducted by the outside polling firm Tulchin Research found that Turner has the support of 50% of likely Democratic voters in Ohio's 11th Congressional District. Brown polled at just 15% support, a distant second.

And according to Politico, Turner has raked in $3 million since her campaign kicked off in December. The progressive champion "has some 47,000 donors with an average contribution of $27," Politico noted.

In the wake of Clyburn's endorsement of Brown on Tuesday, Turner tweeted that "our campaign is seeing a SURGE in fundraising from donors across the country."

"People are chipping in $5, $10, $27 at a time because they know our grassroots movement cannot be stopped," Turner added.

Marisa Nahem, Turner's press secretary, announced Wednesday morning that the campaign brought in six figures in donations over just the last 24 hours.

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