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Nina Turner speaks at an event

Nina Turner, former Ohio state senator and co-chair of Bernie Sanders' 2020 presidential campaign, speaks at the Women's March on January 19, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Shannon Finney/Getty Images)

Democratic Super PAC Condemned for 'Sleazy' and False Attacks on Nina Turner

One reporter described a new mailer, which falsely accuses Turner of opposing universal healthcare and a higher minimum wage, as "wildly dishonest."

Jake Johnson

A Democratic political action committee with close ties to the right-wing pro-Israel lobby group AIPAC is sending mailers to Ohio voters suggesting that Nina Turner—a candidate vying to fill the open U.S. House seat in the state's 11th district—opposes a higher minimum wage, universal healthcare, and immigration reform, an overtly false claim that drew outrage from progressive activists and lawmakers.

Produced by the Democratic Majority for Israel (DMFI) PAC, the political arm of a group headed by longtime Democratic pollster Mark Mellman, the mailer points to Turner's opposition to the 2020 Democratic Party platform as evidence that she is against raising the minimum wage, ensuring universal healthcare coverage, and revamping the inhumane U.S. immigration system.

What the mailer doesn't mention is Turner's explicitly stated reason for opposing the platform—namely, that it did not express support for Medicare for All, which progressives argue is the best way to establish a truly universal healthcare system.

Prominent progressives in Congress, including Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), took the same position as Turner. In an op-ed for Common Dreams last August, Khanna explained that while "there's much progress embodied in the platform"—including its support for a $15 federal minimum wage—he "could not vote for a platform that lacks a clear statement supporting Medicare for All."

Turner applauded Khanna's stance in a tweet at the time, declaring: "I'm right with you and the grassroots liberation base. I'm voting Hell No on @DNC Platform. #MedicareForAll."

The DMFI PAC's mailer quotes only the latter sentence and omits the Medicare for All hashtag, stripping the tweet of key context in a way that Washington Post reporter Dave Weigel characterized as "wildly dishonest."

Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), chair emeritus of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, also weighed in, calling the mailer "sleazy."

As photos of the mailer circulated on social media late Monday after The Intercept's Ryan Grim spotlighted it in a Twitter post, former Ohio Democratic Party chair David Pepper said that Turner has "advocated ideas for years that turn out to be incredibly popular in her district."

"So they're trying to fool people into thinking she holds the opposite views," Pepper added. "Think about how bankrupt and twisted that is."

Turner responded to the DMFI mailer by simply tweeting a clip of her speaking in support of the inclusion of a $15-an-hour federal minimum wage plank in the 2016 Democratic platform. Turner, a surrogate for Sen. Bernie Sanders' (I-Vt.) 2016 presidential campaign, sponsored the minimum wage amendment.

On top of distributing misleading material, DMFI's political advocacy arm is spending heavily on television and digital advertising against Turner in the days leading up to the August 3 Democratic primary, in which Turner is facing off against establishment-backed candidate Shontel Brown.

According to the DMFI PAC's latest filing with the Federal Election Commission, the group recently spent more than $415,000 on television and digital ads against Turner. The organization has also spent $6,000 in support of Brown, who not-so-subtly requested the group's assistance in early May.

The Democratic super PAC's push against Turner comes as early voting is already underway for the contest, which has drawn national attention as analysts view it as a proxy battle over the ideological direction of the Democratic Party.

Last month, former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and House Majority Whip Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.)—both prominent establishment figures—threw their support behind Brown, who is currently the chair of the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party. The political arm of the Congressional Black Caucus also endorsed Brown last week.

Turner, meanwhile, is backed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, (D-N.Y.), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), as well as high-profile advocacy groups such as the youth-led Sunrise Movement and Justice Democrats.

While polling in the race has been scarce, Turner is widely believed to be the frontrunner thanks to her successful small dollar-driven fundraising operation and grassroots campaign.

Both the Turner and Brown campaigns have paid for and released internal polling. Early last month, a survey conducted by Tulchin Research on behalf of Turner's campaign showed the progressive firebrand leading Brown by 35 percentage points.

More recent internal polling (pdf) commissioned by the Brown campaign suggests a tightening race, with Turner leading Brown 43-36. The survey was conducted between July 6-8 and included 400 likely Democratic primary voters.

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