It was a brief truce amid a nasty campaign battle between the two main candidates in a Congressional Democratic Primary special election in northern Ohio that turned into a proxy battle between the party establishment and the progressive wings.
Nina Turner, former state senator and top deputy for Senator Bernie Sanders’ 2016 and 2020 presidential campaigns, and Cuyahoga County Councilor Shontel Brown shook hands as they gathered on stage in a mega-mega. predominantly black church in the suburbs of Cleveland.
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The brief moment of peace came two days before Tuesday’s primary elections in special elections in the 11th Congressional District of Ohio, a predominantly black and predominantly Democratic district that includes large parts of Cleveland and its southern suburbs. and is, as well as parts of the city of Akron.
Turner and Brown, who are both black, are the top two candidates in a group of 13 candidates in the race to fill the seat left vacant when longtime Democratic Representative Marcia Fudge resigned earlier this year after have been confirmed as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. in President Biden’s administration.
“As soon as the church is finished, you will return to the fight,” Senior Pastor RA Vernon of Word Church said as he prayed for Turner and Brown.
Turner, the 53-year-old favorite in the contest, supports Medicare for All and the Green New Deal, two major goals for progressives. And she’s raised nearly $ 6 million in fundraising since launching her campaign in December, more than double what Brown has raised.
The battle between Brown and Turner – always tense – has become even more negative in recent weeks.
The narrator in a Turner ad noted that Brown “voted to give himself a $ 7,000 raise while opposing Biden’s $ 15 minimum wage plan.” The narrator then brought to light a report questioning Brown’s ethics before accusing that “Brown could face charges, if convicted, jail time.” Brown’s campaign criticized the ad as bogus.
Brown, 46, targets Turner as a Democratic foreigner far too critical of President Biden.
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“In Congress, I will bring people together and work with Joe Biden to end gun violence and bring economic relief to families. It’s different from Nina Turner,” Brown said in a May campaign ad. The ad then shows a brief excerpt from an MSNBC interview with Turner where the anchor points out that Turner was “very critical” of then-president-elect Biden. “
An outside group supporting Brown went further, running a spot that highlights Turner’s critical comments from July of last year when she argued that for Sanders supporters there was basically a minimal difference. in the vote for Biden over President Trump, comparing him to eating half a bowl of crap instead of a bowl full of feces.
Outside groups and campaigns have spent more than $ 4.5 million to run ads since early May, according to national ad tracking company AdImpact, in what is expected to be a low-turnout election.
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Further highlighting the gulf between the establishment and the progressive in the race – the endorsements from top politicians. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez campaigned with Turner a week ago, and Sanders clashed with his former advisor and surrogate mother over the weekend.
“If you want someone who will not be just another member of Congress, but someone who has the courage to speak out on important issues and stand up for the workers, I urge you to elect @ninature to represent Ohio’s 11th district, ”Sanders tweeted.
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Brown – who was backed by 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton as well as the Congressional Black Caucus, was joined last weekend in the campaign trial by House Majority Whip Rep James Clyburn from South Carolina, a key ally of the president whose backing helped spur Biden’s bid to win the nomination in 2020, and by longtime representative Bennie Thompson of Mississippi.
Another disagreement with the aftermath of the campaign in a constituency with a large number of Jewish voters – the candidates’ disagreement over support for Israel. Turner, unlike Brown, does not support unconditional US aid to Israel and has expressed sympathy for the Palestinian people. Pro-Israel groups back Brown and target Turner.
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The progressive wing of the Democratic Party, which watched Biden suspiciously in the 2020 primaries, has strongly supported his party’s candidate in the 2020 election and has so far minimized criticism of the party. of the current president. But the ugly battle in northern Ohio is a sign that the tensions that have long divided the party have not subsided.
Regardless of who wins on Tuesday, the Democratic candidate is almost certain to win the November general election in a district where Fudge won 80% of the vote in her re-election last November, and Biden won a similar amount in the presidential race.
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