Indigenous Democrat James Singer challenging Orrin Hatch in 2018

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Indigenous activist James Singer officially launched his candidacy for the United States Senate this week. He will be challenging Senate president pro tempore Orrin Hatch as a Democrat in the 2018 Utah race.

Singer is a 34-year-old Utah native who has spent his life fighting for equality, particularly for Native Americans. He was inspired to run for office by the sickening treatment of indigenous water protectors at Standing Rock, and what that said about the American political system.

“I was moved to action as I saw my Native sisters and brothers stand against an encroachment which threatened not only their inherent sovereignty, but also their humanity,” the Navajo Mormon wrote in a campaign mission statement. “These water protectors were pummeled with rubber bullets, sprayed with powerful water cannons in freezing temperatures, attacked with dogs, and shot with pepper spray, while bulldozers cleared away sacred land and burial sites so that a pipeline could be pushed through. The love of money by a small, but powerful few, is sickening to the rest of Americans, regardless of political affiliation.”

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Singer has crafted a platform that successfully combines economic populism with equality for marginalized Americans, something the Democratic Party has struggled with, especially in the past year with the failure of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. Inequality “exacerbates racism and sexism” and “has a direct effect on many of the social problems we face in healthcare, education, and the environment,” says Singer.

Though Singer is clearly running a quite progressive campaign, he, like many other liberal candidates, is trying to brand himself as an outsider who does not fall into traditional partisan categories. In his mission statement, he criticizes both Democrats and Republicans, essentially saying that they have become one and the same by embracing corporate capitalism that exploits working Americans. Like Bernie Sanders, who Singer states he was inspired by, Singer ends his mission statement describing “A Future to Believe In” – “We can move towards a socially democratic future of shared prosperity, justice, respect, greater equality, and cooperation.”

Democrats have not seriously focused on Utah for many years now. Utah has not elected a Democrat to the Senate since 1970. No recent Utah Senate races have even been competitive. In 2016, incumbent Republican Mike Lee crushed Democratic challenger Misty Snow by a whopping 41 points. In 2012, Hatch crushed his opponent by 35 points. And the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) has already announced that it plans to focus its resources on re-electing the 10 Democrats who are running in 2018 in states won by Donald Trump. As with other Democratic Senate candidates in red states, it seems that Singer must rely on grassroots liberal enthusiasm if he is to compete with Orrin Hatch, or potentially Mitt Romney or Evan McMullin, in 2018.

So far, Singer has raised almost $3000 of his $5000 Crowdpac goal. This is nothing compared to Hatch’s $3.5 million, but it’s a start. And even if Singer doesn’t win the seat or even secure the Democratic nomination, he is still doing important work as an indigenous candidate. At his campaign launch, he told the crowd: “In 2018, there should be native people running in every contest.”

Support Singer’s grassroots progressive populism by donating to his Crowdpac here!

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Can 1,000 Democratic candidates take back the House?

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The House of Representatives had 435 seats, and they’re all up for grabs in 2018. Democrats need a net gain of 24 seats to retake the majority. And with 1,000 Democratic candidates running next year, it looks like they might actually be able to do it.

Democrats have not had a majority in the House since the GOP landslide of 2010, where Republicans capitalized on the anti-Obama sentiments of their base and the fact that liberal voters tend not to show up on off-years to pull off a net sweep of 63 seats. That left Democrats with only 193 of 435 seats. Today, they still only have 194, though some special elections this year like Georgia’s 6th could potentially give the party an edge before the 2018 onslaught.

Most of this energy is coming from grassroots activists, who have formed organizations like Brand New Congress to replace corporate incumbents in the House with progressive outsiders. So it is not just your typical elite who was primed for politics entering these races; it is just your average dedicated American. The campaigns too are driven by grassroots enthusiasm, with much of the money coming in through crowdfunding, as has been the case with Jon Ossoff in Georgia and Rob Quist in Montana. With the DCCC and other national party organizations endlessly failing to invest in races the people care about, liberal activists have realized that if you want to get something done, you have to do it yourself.

According to VICE News, there has been an almost 60% increase from 2014 in the number of Democrats who have announced their candidacy at this point in the race. And this is just the beginning.

Incumbent Democrats and Republicans alike should be scared about next year. A new wave of enthusiastic citizens is coming, and it’ll be unlike anything they’ve ever seen before.

Democrat hoping to replace Chaffetz raises over $600,000

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Democrat Kathryn Allen has already raised over half a million dollars for her campaign to replace Rep. Jason Chaffetz in Utah’s 3rd congressional district.

Allen created a Crowdpac for a potential 2018 campaign on February 11 of this year, but her campaign didn’t gain momentum until March 7, when Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz – best known for his obsession with persecuting Hillary Clinton – said regarding the GOP’s then-ongoing first attempt at repealing and replacing Obamacare: “Maybe rather than getting that new iPhone that they just love and they want to go spend hundreds of dollars on that, maybe they should invest in their own health care.”

Allen, a family physician, immediately contrasted Chaffetz’s words with her experience and compassion. “More medically trained people are needed in government,” read her fundraising page. “Congress is ailing and we have a prescription.”

Within just a day of Chaffetz’s insulting remark, Allen raised $40,000, a record for a Crowdpac campaign. At the time, her goal was $50,000. She promptly raised it to $75,000. The following day, her total was over $200,000 from over 5,000 individual donors.

By April 19, the day Chaffetz announced that he would not be running for re-election to the House of Representatives in 2018, Allen had raised over half a million dollars.

Allen was prompted to run by both Chaffetz’s awful performance in the House as well as Donald Trump’s Electoral College victory. She told USA Today: “I became very angry and interested in what I could do about it.”

The 63-year-old political outsider identifies as a progressive, but is running on a populist platform that uses nonpartisan language to appeal to all voters. This is incredibly important given that Chaffetz’s seat has not been won by a Democrat since 1994 and Donald Trump won the district with a 47% plurality to Hillary Clinton’s 23%.

“Coalitions of citizens are important for effecting change,” she writes in the 24-point principles section of her fundraising page. “It is my hope to bring together moderate democrats, moderate republicans, liberals, and concerned citizens of all stripes to fight against an administration which has threatened freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and freedom of the press.”

Her platform includes many popular bipartisan policies such as campaign finance reform, an end to gerrymandering, equal pay for equal work, healthcare as a right, and cuts to regulations that “hamper innovation and morale.” She even frames her progressive policies in in human rather than partisan terms, writing: “Empathy and respect should guide our interactions, even with those with whom we disagree.”

Unfortunately, it is unlikely that the DCCC and other national Democratic organizations will contribute to Allen’s campaign, as they tend to focus on what they consider swing districts rather than traditionally red districts, as demonstrated by their lack of interest in Jon Ossoff in Georgia and Rob Quist in Montana. As with those two campaigns, Allen will have to depend on grassroots activism if she wants to flip Utah’s 3rd congressional district blue.

Donate to Kathryn Allen’s Crowdpac here!

Iraq War vet to run as Democrat against Bob Corker in Tennessee Senate race

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Iraq War veteran and attorney James Mackler announced Sunday that he will be running for the United States Senate in 2018, making him the first Democratic challenger to incumbent Republican Bob Corker.

In a video announcement, Mackler establishes his campaign as one for the people, and not partisan politics, Wall Street, or the congressional incumbents who have failed to deliver on their promises. Appealing to both Trump supporters and those who protested Trump – even Bernie Sanders supporters, the 44-year-old veteran says that he will advocate for the everyday American who is frustrated about jobs being shipped overseas and a system that only works for those at the top.

Branding himself as a patriot, a family man, a man of faith, and a political outsider, Mackler attacks Corker for his opportunism, bringing up the numerous times Corker has discussed taking offices other than the Senate – including VP and Secretary of State to Donald Trump. Mackler asks: “How about the job you have, Senator?”

Mackler joined the United States Army after 9/11, serving as a Blackhawk helicopter pilot, where he “shared airspace with drones.” He believes that his military background is a valuable asset, particularly to helping break the partisan deadlock in Washington. “As a veteran, I know first-hand the strength of teamwork, cooperation, and the benefits of diversity to accomplish even the most difficult mission.”

Following his time in the army, Mackler worked as an attorney specializing in drone law. His LinkedIn bio reads:

I am the founder of the premier Unmanned Systems (Drone) Legal Practice. I advise governments, individuals, and corporations on managing the risks and opportunities associated with the commercial use of drones.

I also lead complex criminal litigation, regulatory compliance, and assist corporate clients in responding to law enforcement investigations.

My law practice leverages my extensive experience in civilian and military aviation including a combat deployment as an assault helicopter pilot.

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Bob Corker speaks at a Donald Trump event on the 2016 campaign trail. (Joshua Roberts / Reuters)

The last time Tennessee elected a non-incumbent Democrat to the Senate was 1984. Tennessee Democrats have struggled to find formidable candidates, with Bob Corker winning re-election in 2012 by almost 35 points and Senator Lamar Alexander winning re-election in 2014 by over 30 points. The situation has been so desperate that the Tennessee Democrat Party outright disavowed 2012 candidate Mark E. Clayton. They wrote in an official statement:

Mark Clayton is associated with a known hate group in Washington, D.C., and the Tennessee Democratic Party disavows his candidacy, will not do anything to promote or support him in any way, and urges Democrats to write-in a candidate of their choice in November.

But can James Mackler finally take back a Senate seat for Tennessee Democrats? With no polling available yet, it’s not very clear. But Mackler is clearly trying to capitalize on the anti-establishment sentiment that rose to the forefront of the political scene last year through the candidacies of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. And while Sanders lost by a miserable 33.62 points in the Democratic primary in Tennessee, Trump won the state by a massive 26 points in November.

Then again, the “political outsider” narrative might not mean all that much given that the incumbent senators in Tennessee aren’t actually unpopular. A recent Morning Consult poll showed Corker with a 57% approval rating with his constituents, up from 51% in September 2016. A lot can happen between now and the 2018 midterms, but at the moment, the 64-year-old junior senator doesn’t seem to have much reason for concern.

The question right now really comes down to how much energy Democrats are willing to invest in Mackler, or whoever the Tennessee Democratic Senate nominee may be. National Democratic organizations have already expressed that they will be focusing on defending the 10 Democratic senators running for re-election in states Donald Trump won, so it’s unlikely that the deep red state of Tennessee will be a priority of theirs. It’s up to grassroots political activists in Tennessee to ensure that Corker doesn’t go without a legitimate challenge next year.

Sen. Chris Murphy to use 2018 funds to Fight Back against Trump and GOP

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Chris Murphy and Senate colleagues advocate for gun control following the Pulse massacre. (J. Scott Applewhite / AP)

Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) has announced that he will be using the millions raised for his 2018 re-election campaign to “build on the astounding grassroots energy that has manifested since the election” to fight for progressive values and electoral engagement against the specter of the oppressive Republican Party. Murphy is calling the effort Fight Back Connecticut.

Fight Back Connecticut will connect professionals and progressive activists together “to organize volunteer networks, turn people out for protests and events at a moment’s notice, make our voices heard in Hartford and Congress, and to conduct the largest voter ID, persuasion, and get out the vote operation Connecticut has ever seen.”

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Chris Murphy at the 2016 Democratic National Convention. (Paul Sancya / AP)

It’s odd for a senator to use campaign money for something other than a campaign. But Murphy doesn’t seem to be worried about his 2018 prospects.

Murphy was first elected to office in 1998. At age 25, he ran against a 14-year incumbent Republican for a Connecticut House seat. With the support of the six largest unions in the state, Murphy defeated the incumbent with 55% of the vote. He won re-election with 68% of the vote.

He went on to win a State Senate seat at age 29 with 53% of the vote. He won re-election with 60% of the vote.

Murphy continued his winning streak in 2006 by beating a 12-term incumbent Republican by 14 points in a United States House of Representatives race. In 2012, he was elected to the Senate with 55% of the vote despite the fact that his Republican opponent spent five times more than him.

He made a name for himself across the country in 2016 following the Pulse mass shooting, the deadliest anti-LGBTQ hate crime in United States history, by launching a filibuster to force Republican leadership to vote on gun reform. The filibuster lasted almost 15 hours, making it the 9th longest in United States history at the time, recently topped by Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley’s filibuster against Trump Supreme Court appointee Neil Gorsuch.

The freshman senator’s filibuster was particularly important to Connecticut voters given that Murphy took office less than a month after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, the deadliest school shooting in American history. This and his other efforts in the Senate have made him popular in his state, with a majority consistently approving of his performance.

Democratic Lawmakers Introduce Assault Weapons Ban of 2013 Legislation
Chris Murphy discusses gun control in front of assault rifles. (Alex Wong / Getty Images)

To no one’s surprise, not a single Republican has formally declared that they are running against Murphy in 2018. So it actually makes sense that Murphy feels confident enough about re-election to use his campaign funds for another cause. Murphy is passionate about civic engagement, and Fight Back shows it. He wants to use the energy of the Trump Resistance, of which he is one of the main leaders in the Senate, to further mobilize activists and organizers.

“People all over Connecticut are so worried about what the Trump agenda will mean for their family and the people they care about,” Murphy said. “This angst has caused thousands of people to organize themselves into new grassroots organizations or informal social media groups.  Every single day, I get asked, ‘What more can I do to fight back?’  I’m launching Fight Back Connecticut because I’ve never seen such spontaneous, passionate grassroots activism and organizing before. I want to do my part to help grow this organic movement.”

But Fight Back CT aims to do more than simply oppose Trump. In 2016, though Hillary Clinton won the state by over 14 points, Connecticut experienced a minor but significant red wave. Democrats lost three Senate seats, creating an 18-18 party tie, the first since 1893. They also lost seven House seats, bringing Republicans four seats away from a majority. Hopefully, Murphy’s effort will be able to mobilize progressives in Connecticut to get involved in local races that often go ignored.

“We’re going to help give this new generation of inspiring activists the tools and training they need to organize and contact voters. By working together, we can fight back against backward policies with the biggest grassroots army Connecticut’s ever seen.”

Join Fight Back CT here!