Progressives Fare Better Than Blue Dogs In Contested Races

Isaiah J. Poole

The conservative Blue Dog House Democrats, who borrowed heavily from Republican and Tea Party themes in an effort to save their jobs, floundered badly Tuesday. Meanwhile, Progressive Caucus members in contested races had much better success at getting re-elected in spite of some strong right-wing assaults.

Of the 54 seats occupied by members of the Blue Dog coalition, 27 of them were lost to Republicans. (That includes five held by incumbents who either retired or ran for the Senate.) On the other hand, all but three of the much larger group of Progressive Caucus members up for re-election won their seats, including six out of nine caucus members whose races were rated as competitive.

The three Progressive caucus members who lost their seats to Republicans are Reps. Alan Grayson, Fla., Phil Hare, Ill., and John Hall, N.Y. A fourth Progressive Caucus member, Carolyn Cheeks Kirkpatrick of Michigan, was defeated in a primary; her successor, Democrat Hansen Clarke, won 79 percent of the vote Tuesday.

Rep. Raul Grijalva of Arizona, the co-chair of the Progressive Caucus, is ahead of a challenge from a Tea Party candidate who received not only a record level of individual contributions to a Republican in that district, but the support of Republican Sen. John McCain, who had his own reasons for going after Grijalva. Grijalva was under siege in part because of his strong opposition to Arizona’s SB 1070, the law requiring Arizona residents to prove their citizenship on demand. As of midday Wednesday, he was ahead of challenger Ruth McClung by about 2,500 votes.

In Oregon, Rep. Pete DeFazio triumphed over a conservative whose candidacy was supported by an independent expenditure campaign that DeFazio helped expose and turned into an issue in his campaign. DeFazio was targeted because of his support for Wall Street reform, as was Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts, the chairman of the House committee responsible for crafting the financial reform bill the House passed. Frank’s Republican opponent, Sean D. Bielat, raised more than $1.2 million in direct contributions, far exceeding the total money raised by general election opponents in the previous five elections combined. Bielat’s contributors included Morgan Stanley, Bank of America, and a number of venture capital and investment firms.

Reps. Maurice Hinchey, N.Y.; David Loebsack, Iowa; and Chellie Pingree, Maine, also won races that were deemed potential Republican pick-ups.

On the other hand, there were 13 Blue Dog incumbents among the 17 House Democrats identified by National Journal as the “anti-Pelosi caucus,” people who vowed not to support Pelosi’s continuation as House speaker if Democrats retained House control. Seven of them lose their re-elections.

At DailyKos, Meteor Blades sums up the takeaway:

Blue Dogs hoping their dilute-everything, obstructionist “moderation” would persuade voters to keep them in office found out that works as well as seeking bipartisan harmony with the current crop of elected Republicans. But the silver lining is that those Republicans – now in the majority – have a year or so to make good on their ludicrous vows to fix the economy they deny having done so much to wreck and to make all the other magical fixes they implicitly promised in the just-finished campaign. When this inevitably fails, the voters will be ready to throw them out (again). Liberals, meanwhile, have the same amount of time to identify districts where better Democrats than many of those who just lost their seats can be elected with the proper organizing, funding and messaging. Overcoming the deluge of money the Republicans will have at their disposal thanks to rightist billionaires and a rightist 5-4 Supreme Court ruling will be no easy task. But, as Meg Whitman just found out in California, money ain’t everything.


Eric Hunt contributed research to this post.

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