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Nina Turner speaks at a rally

U.S. congressional candidate Nina Turner speaks during a rally in support of student debt cancellation on April 4, 2022 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Leigh Vogel/Getty Images for MoveOn & Debt Collective)

Progressive Champion Nina Turner Falls to Establishment Incumbent Shontel Brown

Justice Democrats, a progressive group that stayed out of the race after endorsing Turner last year, said it is "getting massively outgunned by Republican donors."

Jake Johnson

Rep. Shontel Brown, an establishment incumbent whose campaign was boosted by torrents of super PAC spending, handily defeated progressive champion Nina Turner on Tuesday in the Democratic primary for Ohio's 11th Congressional District.

Outside organizations spent heavily on Brown's behalf in the U.S. House race, a rematch of a heated special election that drew national attention less than a year ago. Tuesday's contest wasn't nearly as close as last year's: Brown prevailed this time around with just over 66% of the vote.

"This is another hard-fought victory," Brown said in a speech Tuesday night. "I'm going to continue to show up for you."

Turner's campaign, endorsed by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), decried the influence of corporate money on the race, one of several contests nationwide in which special interests are spending heavily against progressive contenders.

"The reason special interests are committed to this election is because Shontel Brown relies on their money to stay in power," Kara Turrentine, Turner's campaign manager, said in a statement Tuesday.

Cleveland.com reported that the Democratic Majority for Israel's (DMFI) political action committee—which is bankrolled by an oil and gas heir—"spent more than $1 million to help Brown during this election, on top of [the] $2 million it spent during last year's special election."

Brown's campaign was also bolstered by more than $1 million in spending from Protect Our Future, a super PAC launched this year with the support of cryptocurrency billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried.

Additionally, as The Intercept's Akela Lacy noted late Tuesday, "United Democracy Project, an AIPAC political action committee, spent more than $280,000 on the race last month, including more than $198,800 on ads attacking Turner."

"How pathetic!" Sanders tweeted earlier this week. "AIPAC and their billionaire friends are spending some $10 million to defeat Nina Turner, Summer Lee, Nida Allam, and Jessica Cisneros. Why are they so afraid of strong, progressive women of color fighting for the working class?"

While Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez endorsed Turner in both the special election and Tuesday's rematch, other high-profile progressive lawmakers and advocacy groups stayed on the sidelines in the latter contest.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, endorsed Turner last year, as did the CPC's campaign arm—but the CPC's PAC supported Brown in the rematch, sparking backlash from progressives. Brown is a member of both the CPC and the corporate-friendly New Democrat Coalition.

"As a rule, [the CPC PAC] does not back primary challenges to its existing members of the caucus, which at 98 current members, including Brown, makes the body a formidable voting bloc," Politico reported Tuesday. "Jayapal... said there is a review underway for how the group considers endorsements, including a minimum length of service before determining if one is in good standing and signing onto a certain number of bills the group supports."

Justice Democrats, meanwhile, did not get involved in the rematch after endorsing Turner and raising money for her special election campaign last year.

"Nina is a giant in the progressive movement and we're proud to have gone all in for her campaign last year," the group said in a statement to The Intercept. "The reality is our organization has to be strategic about our priorities as we are getting massively outgunned by Republican donors funneling millions to super PACs like AIPAC and DMFI against our existing candidates."


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