On today's BradCast: A new effort by grassroots progressive activists to make sure all 27 U.S. House races and all 141 state House and Senate races on the ballot are competitive this year in the state of Florida is already yielding encouraging results. [Audio link to full show is posted at bottom of summary.]
But, first up today, a few thoughts and a quick review of some highlights from the second night of the virtual 2020 Democratic National Convention, including some mainstream media abetted confusion about Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez' role in the very cool 50-state-plus-several-territories Roll Call vote on Tuesday and more. Bottom line: to the surprise of nobody, Joe Biden is now officially the Party's Presidential nominee this year. At the same time, voters in Wyoming, Alaska and Florida took to the polls on Tuesday for statewide primary elections, which received much less coverage than they might otherwise have.
The good news, for a start: there have been few, if any, problem reports for voters at the polls in all three states as of today. That's particularly surprising for Florida, where there always seems to be one disaster or another. But, whether it's because so many ballots were already cast by mail in the Sunshine State in advance of Election Day or some other reason, it's always good news when voters aren't (to my knowledge) being disenfranchised due to chaos and failures at the polling place. As to the results, we focus today on several interesting races in Florida, the mother of all swing-states, which will once again play an out-sized role in the critical November elections.
One race was the Democratic primary contest won by former Republican software designer turned whistleblower Clint Curtis. Longtime BRAD BLOG readers will remember him well, as we broke his story in 2004 when he filed a sworn affidavit alleging that he was asked by a man named Tom Feeney --- Florida's then powerful state House Speaker (later U.S. House Rep and always close friend of the Bush Family) --- to create prototype software to flip an election on touchscreen voting systems without detection. With much less funding than his Democratic opponent, Curtis reportedly won the Democratic nomination for the U.S. House in Florida's very Republican 6th Congressional District. He'll likely face an uphill climb this year to oust first-term incumbent Michael Waltz. But, if Curtis could defeat his Democratic opponent who outspent him by about 5 to 1, anything could happen this November.
To discuss some of the other races in the rest of the state, we're joined once again today by progressive "Down With Tyranny" blogger and co-founder of the progressive BlueAmericaPAC, HOWIE KLEIN who brought along a SPECIAL GUEST today!
Last week on this show, Klein discussed an effort by activists in Florida to make sure there would be no Republicans running for office at the state or federal level without Democratic competition on the ballot. As Klein emphasizes at his blog today, in response to ABC News which finally noticed the effort as of Election Day morning, it was not the state or national party which undertook this effort, but outside activists who watched some 21 state House and Senate races go uncontested all together by Democrats in 2016. That, Klein and his special guest argue today, means that in huge swaths of the state, Democrats (who, theoretically, outnumber Republicans in Florida) don't bother to turn out at all for elections at the state level. In a state which Donald Trump is said to have won in 2016 by just 130,000 votes out of millions of registered voters, the ill-considered strategy by the Florida State Democratic Party to sit out all together in many places, has arguably been a costly one. The GOP has dominated both the state legislature and Governor's mansion for years now.
On Tuesday, thanks to the activists, Democrats were on the Florida ballot from top to bottom, including 140 out of 141 state House and Senate contests. (One candidate, who his now suing, was disqualified due to a technicality in her filing paperwork.) Klein details just some of the several actually progressive candidates who will now be competitive on this November's ballot --- even in so-called "red" districts --- and perhaps provide additional reason for Democrats to show up and vote in some cases where they may not have.
One of those candidates who won an astonishingly tight three-way primary race for the Democratic U.S. House nomination in FL's 3rd Congressional District was Howie's special guest on today's program, 26-year old businessman and very impressive progressive candidate, ADAM CHRISTENSEN. The first time candidate, who'd be perhaps the youngest ever sworn in to the U.S. House if he's successful in November, is running to fill the seat being vacated by far-Right GOP Trumper, Rep. Ted Yoho (perhaps most famous for recently verbally assaulting Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on the steps of the U.S. Capitol building.)
I must say I was exceedingly impressed with Christensen --- one of BlueAmericaPAC's endorsed progressive candidates in FL --- and his unflinching run for the seat in what has traditionally been a very "red" district. "If it was ever going to happen," he tells me today, "if this seat was ever going to flip, it was this year. So I jumped in, and a bunch of people realized we have a shot at this."
He has also taken a leadership role in the effort to run competitive candidates at the state level. "We were able to get House district candidates for every single district in the state of Florida to be able to run, so that we could actually go on a broad-based attack to be able to try to flip the Florida House. We partnered with four out of the five House candidates in our Congressional District to number one, try to turn out the vote, and number two, to try to make sure that we ran viable candidacies and we were able to cut the margins in some of the rural counties and actually win the rural counties." He cites that as one of the reasons he was "able to pull off an upset last night", with all three candidates in his race winning between 32.3 and 34.5% of the vote. Christensen came out on top by about 800 votes out of some 61,000 cast.
"There is a way that these districts can never be won, and that's if you don't run candidates in them," Klein argues. "If you don't run candidates, you don't win. And, also, if you don't run candidates the party starts to die. People don't even know what the Democratic Party means in some of these places. If you're running candidates, they're going to enthuse voters who will vote down ballot. These voters who come in are going to vote for Biden [and Biden voters will] vote for someone like Adam. That's why it pays, always, to have these candidates."
Christensen echoes Klein's thinking. "If you go on a full, broad-based attack and make them spend time, resources and energy in places that they don't want to, you are going to win. Politics is a game of attrition, and if you don't treat it that way, you will lose. If you do not run candidates everywhere, you will lose," he says.
I'd encourage you to click below to tune in for the full conversation with the candidate, as he explains how he is unflinchingly prepared to take his case --- for progressive platforms like the Green News Deal and Medicare for All --- to those who have, for years, called themselves Republicans because they (falsely) believe the party is "conservative". For example, as he explains, he supports "middle class tax cuts" because, as he details today and on his website's platform page, Americans are burdened with PRIVATE taxes such as insurance for health care and costs for universal childcare. Providing those services by public means would ultimately lower costs ("private taxes") on the middle class.
"What we do is speak in the language of Republicans, of independents. We use the terms 'middle class tax cuts', 'small business tax cuts'. What I mean by that is we are going to reduce the amount of taxes --- private taxes --- that everyone has to pay," says Christensen. "We are going to get rid of the insurance companies from the health industry --- which is a small business tax cut, because small businesses pay eight grand per employee, and 30% of that goes to an insurance company. That is a tax cut. Get rid of those, that is a tax cut. Use those terms."
Both Klein and Christensen argue that there are a lot of independent voters in the District who, along with Democrats, may go with Christensen and pull off an upset against Kat Cammack --- Yoho's Chief of Staff and the apparent winner of the 10-candidate free-for-all on Tuesday to win the GOP nomination for the 3rd District seat.
Christensen, who was raised as a Republican, also understands --- as I have long discussed --- the need to take the fight straight to them on the Right, to not flinch from the Fox "News" phony attack squad, but meet them where they live and explain, as he does in very astute detail today in response to my questions, how progressive policies are, yes, even good for Republicans!
So, can a true progressive win in a very so-called "conservative" Congressional district on his first try, without moderating his views --- but expound on them clearly to explain how they would help even so-called "conservatives --- during a general election contest? We may found out in just over 70 days. Klein points out that Rep. Katie Porter, in what had long been deep "red" Orange County, California, already proved it can be done. But I think Christensen's story, and his run --- staffed by volunteers who are all 23-years old or younger! --- should be an inspiring one for a lot of folks around the country considering the possibility of doing the exact same thing in the future, even in what are seen as so-called "red" areas of the country...
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)