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Oregon state Rep. Andrea Salinas, who is poised to win the Democratic primary for her state's 6th U.S. House District, speaks with potential voters on May 11, 2022.

Oregon state Rep. Suzanne Bonamici speaks with potential voters about her colleague, state Rep. Andrea Salinas, on May 11, 2022. Salinas is poised to win the Democratic primary for her state's 6th U.S. House District. (Photo: Andrea Salinas/Facebook)

Big Wins, Tough Losses in Key Progressive Primary Fights

Tuesday's flurry of progressive victories, said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, demonstrates the growing strength of the left's electoral movement.

Kenny Stancil

Not every left-leaning candidate was victorious in Tuesday's primary contests, but on the whole, the Democratic Party's progressive wing had a successful showing despite the best efforts of the party establishment and millions of dollars in right-wing super PAC money.

While progressive candidates came up short in North Carolina, their counterparts in Pennsylvania, Oregon, and Kentucky notched important wins that set them up to take on Republican opponents in the fast-approaching November 8 midterms, with control of Congress on the line. Below is a breakdown of key progressive triumphs, losses, and races that remain too close to call.

Pennsylvania

  • Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, a progressive Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, cruised to victory, beating corporate-friendly U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb by more than 30 percentage points. Regardless of which right-wing candidate prevails in the deadlocked GOP primary between Mehmet Oz and Dave McCormick, Fetterman said Tuesday that "this is the most important race in the country... Control of the Senate is going to come down to Pennsylvania, and we have to flip this seat."
  • Progressive state Rep. Summer Lee, endorsed by U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), has declared victory in the Democratic primary for Pennsylvania's 12th Congressional District, but the race remains too close to officially call, as Lee holds a 41.7% to 41.3% lead over attorney Steve Irwin with 93% of votes reported. If Lee is able to secure a win, it would put another Medicare for All and Green New Deal champion in the U.S. House and deal a blow to a super PAC founded by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

Oregon

  • In Oregon's 5th Congressional District, Jamie McLeod-Skinner, an attorney backed by progressives such as U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Our Revolution, appears to be on track to unseat U.S. Rep. Kurt Schrader, a right-wing Democrat who voted against his party's $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package and played a key role in sinking the Build Back Better reconciliation bill. McLeod-Skinner is currently leading Schrader, whom she described as "the Joe Manchin of the House," 61.3% to 38.7%. With just 53% of votes reported, however, final results are not expected for days. A victory by McLeod-Skinner would be significant, as President Joe Biden endorsed Schrader despite the role he played in killing Build Back Better. The incumbent also had a fundraising advantage and benefited from the deployment of $800,000 worth of attack ads funded by Mainstream Democrats, a super PAC funded by billionaire LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman.
  • State Rep. Andrea Salinas—supported by Warren, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), and $1.5 million in cash from the campaign arm of the Hispanic Congressional Caucus—is on her way to a decisive victory over lawyer Carrick Flynn in Oregon's 6th Congressional District, having accumulated twice as many votes with 72% of ballots counted. Flynn's campaign is going down in flames despite receiving a whopping $11.3 million from Protect Our Future, a super PAC largely funded by 30-year-old cryptocurrency billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried. Flynn was also backed by the House Majority PAC, a group aligned with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), which poured nearly $1 million into his losing campaign.

Kentucky

  • In a lopsided win for progressives, former state Rep. Charles Booker garnered nearly three-fourths of the vote to officially become Kentucky's Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate. Taking aim at the GOP incumbent and touting his plan to curb inequality, Booker said Tuesday night that "we're going to beat Rand Paul... [by] inspiring a vision that encourages people to believe things can be better."
  • A Democrat is likely to fill the shoes of retiring U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth in Kentucky's 3rd Congressional District, a solidly blue jurisdiction that includes Louisville. Although state Rep. Attica Scott, who was endorsed by the Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC) and Our Revolution, lost the primary, the winner—liberal state Senate Minority Leader Morgan McGarvey—is also a supporter of Medicare for All and other progressive priorities.

North Carolina

  • In North Carolina's 1st Congressional District, former state Sen. Erica Smith, endorsed by Warren and the PCCC, was unable to defeat state Sen. Don Davis, who benefited from more than $2.3 million in outside spending by the United Democracy Project, AIPAC's new pro-Israel super PAC.
  • Durham County Commissioner Nida Allam, who was backed by Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez, came up short in North Carolina's 4th Congressional District, losing to state Sen. Valerie Foushee—the recipient of more than $2.1 million from the United Democracy Project and more than $1 million from Protect Our Future—by a margin of 46.1% to 36.9%.

Despite the setbacks in North Carolina, commentators were quick to note how much better progressives fared on Tuesday compared with corporate Democrats.

The "Manchin wing of the party [is] getting utterly routed tonight," tweeted journalist Ryan Grim.

Tuesday's flurry of progressive victories, Ocasio-Cortez told The Intercept, demonstrates "the strength of the growing, organized progressive and [democratic socialist] electoral movement."

Ocasio-Cortez added that the "[Democratic Majority for Israel] and big money groups may be evolving in their tactics, but so are we in fighting back and making gains."

Correction: The Mainstream Democrats super PAC was organized by LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, not AIPAC.


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