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Rep. Hakeem Jeffries

Chair of the House Democratic Caucus Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) speaks to reporters, as vice chair of the House Democratic Caucus Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.) looks on, following a House Democratic Caucus meeting in the Capitol Visitor Center on June 15, 2021 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

Progressives Slam Corporate Dem PAC's First Slate of Endorsements

"It is extremely alarming that critical resources from Democratic Party leadership are going to protect incumbents from having to face any competition in deep-blue districts instead of protecting the swing seats we're in danger of losing in November," said one organizer.

Julia Conley

A slate of endorsements for corporate Democratic incumbents was met with indignation from progressives on Thursday, with critics accusing a political action committee started by the fifth-ranked House Democrat, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, as prioritizing a defense against challengers from the left rather than fighting to retain seats in swing districts.

Team Blue PAC, started last year by Jeffries and Reps. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.) and Terri Sewell (D-Ala.), announced on Wednesday its first endorsements in the 2022 Democratic primary elections. The PAC offered support and $5,000 campaign contributions to Reps. Shontel Brown (D-Ohio), Danny Davis (D-Ill.), Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), Donald Payne Jr. (D-N.J.), and Dina Titus (D-Nev.), all of whom face challenges from progressives who are campaigning on broadly popular economic justice and climate policy proposals.

As Sludge reported earlier this month, Team Blue PAC received more than half of the $152,000 it raised in the second half of last year from other political action committees associated with corporations like Comcast, UBS Americans, New York Life Insurance Company, and NextEra Energy, and trade associations representing realtors and consumer creditors.

The endorsements come amid concerns that Democrats face slim chances of maintaining their majorities in the U.S. House and Senate as Congress has failed to deliver President Joe Biden's domestic agenda, the Build Back Better Act—largely due to obstruction from two of the most conservative Democrats on Capitol Hill, Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.).

Progressive groups including Justice Democrats, which has endorsed two of the challengers to Team Blue PAC's slate, have repeatedly warned that the party has damaged its chances to maintain control of Congress as it's allowed the expanded Child Tax Credit to expire—resulting in a surge in child poverty in January—and as Biden has refused to use his executive power to cancel student loan debt.

"It is extremely alarming that critical resources from Democratic Party leadership are going to protect incumbents from having to face any competition in deep-blue districts instead of protecting the swing seats we're in danger of losing in November," Waleed Shahid, communications director for Justice Democrats, told Rolling Stone on Tuesday.

Corporate Democrat-held seats that pollsters expect to be competitive swing seats in November include those held by Reps. Jared Golden of Maine, Elaine Luria of Virginia, and Elissa Slotkin of Michigan.

"I agree with what Rep. Jeffries said in 2011 after his third primary challenge against an incumbent Democrat: Some incumbents have had decades to make a difference. It's time to move in another direction."

While some of the candidates endorsed by Team Blue PAC have co-sponsored legislation proposing a Medicare for All system, Sludge reported, their challengers have made the policy central to their campaigns and have strongly supported a Green New Deal and economic justice.

"I agree with what Rep. Jeffries said in 2011 after his third primary challenge against an incumbent Democrat: Some incumbents have had decades to make a difference," Shahid told Rolling Stone. "It's time to move in another direction."

The progressive challengers to Team Blue PAC's slate include community organizer Kina Collins in Illinois, former state senator Nina Turner in Ohio, organizer Rana Abdelhamid in New York, Medicare for All advocate Amy Vilela in Nevada, and working families advocate Imani Oakley in New Jersey.

Rather than focusing on defending Democrats who are vulnerable to challenges from the right, journalist Ryan Grim said Thursday, "Hakeem Jeffries appears to want to be the leader of a corporate-controlled permanent minority opposition."

"Democratic leadership should be spending every dime of our party’s resources on helping frontline incumbents in swing districts and protecting our majority instead of coming into a deep-blue district that is clamoring for new leadership," Collins told Rolling Stone.

Critics also noted on Friday that members of the corporate media appear prepared to watch Republicans take control of Congress in November and are preemptively blaming progressive Democrats rather than the party's conservative faction.

At Axios, Mike Allen quoted Team Blue PAC co-founder Gottheimer and centrist think tank Third Way as he reported that social justice advocates' push to "defund the police"—a proposal that's openly backed by progressives like Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), both of whom easily won reelection in 2020—and to protect transgender people's rights are hurting Democrats' chances of staying in power.

The article failed to include "literally any evidence of the key claims," said New York Times columnist Jamelle Bouie.

Meanwhile, he tweeted, "centrists have been in the driver's seat since last September, and have gotten virtually everything they want."

"Progressives in Congress spent the last year doing everything they possibly could to pass the president's own agenda," said Indivisible co-founder Leah Greenberg, "and they're rewarded with this constant stream of logic-free bad-faith 'the problem is the left, not us, the people who are actually in charge' attacks."


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