Across America, Sanders-inspired left-wingers — many of the them Occupy veterans — are contesting local elections, challenging the establishment Democratic machine as well as the GOP, and they're making enormous progress.
It started in the south, with the mayoral races in Birmingham and Jackson (with Atlanta up for grabs), and then onto the midwest, where the Democratic establishment is in retreat in Colombus, faced with progressive candidates backing a municipal minimum wage rules that will defy state law.
Now there's a live fight in Minneapolis, where establishment Democrats simply halted the nomination process when the machine-chosen candidate was drubbed in early voting by candidates backed by the Sanderist Our Revolution movement.
Then there's an upcoming runoff election for the mayoralty of Albuquerque, where an Our Revolution-backed candidate is running ahead of the incumbent mayor.
Interestingly, the Minneapolis race has favored the insurgent candidates thanks to the ranked choice ballots, which make it politically inadvisable for politicians to deliberately offend anyone, which means that the traditional incumbent tactic of smearing new entrants with negative advertising isn't on the menu in the Twin Cities.
In Albuquerque, Keller champions investing in local economy, especially small businesses. He also says he has a "long history of fighting subsidized sprawl" and insists on engaging the community. Like Woodfin, he doesn't seem all that radical, just different, with an ear for his constituents, and with the backing of Our Revolution.
That backing is proving to be key. In Woodfin's Birmingham race, Our Revolution mobilized with the Working Families Party to coordinate massive get-out-the-vote efforts. Together, their volunteers contacted tens of thousands of voters by voice and text message.
Yet of these candidates, Dehn and Fort seem to hit the ball closer to the working-class home, resonating across racial lines: "I believe that when people in the community do well, and the small businesses do well, it lifts the whole community, and those people stay in the community as it does better," Dehn says. Their personal wealth, he explains, rises with the community. "It keeps them in their homes," and prevents displacement and gentrification.
If Dehn seems like an unusual candidate, that's because he is. A former felon who received a full pardon and became a state representative, one of the first things he did in office was get a bill passed that removed the question on criminal record from employment applications. "Every morning when I shave, I see a white man who has privilege, who can do many things because I'm white," he tells us. "The people I left behind in prison… That's why I run for office."
Nationwide, Progressive Candidates Are Leading and Winning
[Lambert Strether/Naked Capitalism]