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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Disgraced Anti-Gay Judge Announces Senate Run

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Both pro- and anti-gay activists protest outside of Moore’s 2016 ethics trial. (Julie Bennett / AL.com)

Roy Moore, the once-removed and currently-suspended Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, announced today that he will be running for the United States Senate in the 2017 Alabama special election to replace now-Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Moore became Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court in 2001, but was removed two years later for intentionally ignoring a federal court order to remove a monument of the Ten Commandments from the Alabama Judicial Building.

Moore went on to run for Alabama governor twice, losing the Republican primary by large margins both times. He considered running in the 2012 presidential election, at first as a Republican candidate and then as a Constitution Party candidate, but ultimately chose to return to the Alabama Supreme Court.

In 2014, just a year after his reinstatement as Chief Justice, Moore tried to organize a constitutional convention to ban marriage equality, reaching out to all 50 American governors to enshrine the belief that marriage is “the union of one man and one woman” into the United States Constitution. Obviously,  Moore’s efforts failed, but that did not deter from his crusade against equality.

In 2016, he gained notoriety nationwide for ordering all Alabama probate judges to violate the United States Supreme Court’s marriage equality decision by enforcing the state’s nullified marriage equality ban. He was subsequently charged with six ethics violations and unanimously found guilty on all six by the Alabama Court of the Judiciary. Moore appealed to the special Arkansas Supreme Court, but it upheld the Judiciary decision.

But now Roy Moore is back, more disgraced and desperate than ever. “I share the vision of President Donald Trump to make America great again,” he told an audience at the State Capitol. “Our families are being crippled by divorce and abortion, our sacred institution of marriage has been destroyed by the Supreme Court, and our rights and liberties are in jeopardy.”

Moore is one of several Republicans to announce their candidacy for this Senate seat. His biggest opponent so far is Sen. Luther Strange, who was appointed on February 9 to replace Jeff Sessions by then-Alabama Gov. Robert J. Bentley. Moore and Strange will face off in the primary on August 15. The primary runoff is on September 26, and the general election is on December 12.

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.

Bernie Sanders most popular senator, Mitch McConnell least

Senate Democrats Hold News Conf. On Genetically Engineered Food Labeling
Vermont senators Bernie Sanders and Patrick Leahy. (Mark Wilson / Getty Images)

A new Morning Consult poll found that Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is the most popular senator in the country with a 75% approval rating, while Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is the least with only 44% of his constituents approving his performance in the Senate.

Notably, the most popular senators are far more popular than the least are unpopular. All of the top 10 least popular senators but Mitch McConnell have the approval of a plurality or even a majority of their constituents. Not a single senator actually has majority disapproval.

And though McConnell remains the least popular senator, his approval ratings has actually improved from 39% in September. Now only a plurality, rather than a majority, disapprove of the Senate Majority Leader.

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The top 10 least popular senators.

Other prominent Republicans have also seen improvements in their ratings. Marco Rubio of Florida has risen by 10 points, bringing him to a 52% majority approval rating, while fellow 2016 presidential candidate Rand Paul of Kentucky has risen by five points, bringing him to a 53% majority approval rating. 2008 Republican presidential nominee John McCain of Arizona has risen two points to a 51% majority approval rating.

While Bernie Sanders of Vermont remains the most popular senator, his approval has actually dropped by 12 points since September. Tim Kaine of Virginia, who ran as Hillary Clinton’s running mate in the 2016 election, also saw his approval rating drop by 10 points.

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The top 10 most popular senators.

Of the 76 senators with a 50% or higher approval rating, 37 are Democrats, while two – Angus King of Maine and Bernie Sanders – are independents who caucus with Democrats. This isn’t a particularly good sign for Democrats hoping to take back the Senate in 2018, especially given that they have to defend 10 seats in states won by Donald Trump.

Most constituents surveyed by Morning Consult actually knew their senators. However, Democrats planning for 2020 are likely disappointed to see Kamala Harris of California on the top 10 most unknown list. If she is to have a real chance of denying Donald Trump a second term, the freshman senator will need to make herself more known to both her constituents and the country. Still, a 52% majority still approve of Harris.

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The top 10 most unknown senators.

Many of the other Democratic senators speculated to run for president in 2020 have the same problem. While Chris Murphy of Connecticut, Cory Booker of New Jersey, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, and Sherrod Brown of Ohio all have a 50% or higher approval rating, between 13% and 22% of their constituents do not know of them. On the other hand, speculative candidates Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Al Franken of Minnesota are incredibly well-known to their constituents.

However, we still do not know who will run in 2020, and much can change from now till then. For the moment, Democrats should focus on attempting to win back the Senate in 2018, which, as this survey shows, is quite a long shot.

View the full results of the Morning Consult survey here.