Democrats: Who Should ‘We’ Run in 2018? Who Excites Me?

2018, run in 2018, Democrats, Democratic Party, midterm elections
The Senate race in West Virginia excites me. Although I wouldn’t want Joe Manchin’s seat to turn read, he is essentially a Republican.

Who should the Democrats run in 2018? That’s not an easy question to answer, but of course, many people have already started their races for next year.

Let’s cut to the chase: The 2018 midterm elections might be a bloodbath in favor of the Democrats, but only if they play their cards right.

A Review

After an inauspicious start, the Democrats started to make a number of surprising gains in the latter half of 2017:

  • Things started looking up for Democrats by Tuesday, September 12, 2017, the Democrats picked up two seats in state legislatures: Charlie St. Clair won in New Hampshire and Jacob Rosencrants won in Oklahoma. Those victories brought the total number of state seats flipped by Democrats to 6.
  • On Tuesday, September 26, 2017, two more Democrats won seats previously held by Republicans in state legislatures. Annette Tadeo won her state Senate race in Florida by a 51%-47% margin. Kari Lerner won a state House race in New Hampshire in a district Trump won in 2016 by 23 points.
  • November 7 brought a string of Democratic and progressive victories. Among the biggest was the turn in the Virginia House of Delegates, which previously had a 66-34 Republican advantage. After the latest recount, the legislature may have a 50-50 split.
  • And of course, there’s Doug Jones’ victory in Alabama.

A Promising Outlook for Democrats

On top of these results, there are other signs that Republicans may be a bloodbath come 2018.

For one thing, polls show that the Democratic Party has higher approval ratings.

Also, there have been a number of Republicans who have retired or announced they would retire. This includes Bob Corker from Tennessee and Jeff Flake from Arizona.

In addition, Democratic candidates in general are looking good on the money front.

This is exiting news for the Democrats, who hope to erase the GOP’s 24-seat majority in the House of Representatives, but some consultants and observers warned everyone to exercise caution.

The Challenges That Await the Party

Yes, there are reasons to exercise caution:

  • While the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the Democratic the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee are doing well, the Democratic National Committee is still struggling to raise funds, even from longtime donors.
  • Democrats have a chance to take control of the Senate, but they have to defend 26 seats in the Senate, including Al Franken’s seat in Minnesota.
  • Democrats also have to worry about gerrymandering when competing for House seats.
  • Anti-Trump strategy might not work as well as the Democrats think. According to the September CNN poll, 79% of Republicans believed Trump was leading the country in the right direction.
  • Additionally, there are a number of Republicans who refuse to vote Democratic.

Democrats will have to work hard to talk to people, register more Democratic voters, and motivate them to get to the polls.

Some Races I’m Looking At

With the above in mind, there may be too many challengers to name in this post, but I would like to focus on a few challengers to Democratic and Republican lawmakers, some of whom I mentioned in May. The lawmakers in question have disappointed or outright offended their constituents because of their disregard for the people’s wishes and best interests.

In addition, I would like to look at a controversial person the Democrats have considered as a gubernatorial candidate.

1. Is There a New Challenger for Rep. Nancy Pelosi?

Yes, House Minority leader Nancy Pelosi is facing a primary challenge for 2018. Her Democratic challenger is to the left of her and has called Pelosi out of touch.

In the spring of 2017, Stephen Jaffe, an employment attorney San Francisco, announced he was running against House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. Jaffe, a lifelong Democrat, was a “hard-core Bernie [Sanders] supporter” who served as a volunteer in Nevada for the Sanders campaign.

In an interview with the Observer, Jaffe said that he was running for office because he was inspired by Sanders. Jaffe supports issues like single-payer health care and a $15 minimum wage.

I have but one reservation about Jaffe and it’s his age. While he has said all the right things, he is roughly 6 years Pelosi’s junior. He’s also a longshot, but if he managed to win and serve well, that would be a plus.

For the record, I feel that Nancy Pelosi is out of touch. For example, when asked who the leader of the Party is, she cannot even come up with an immediate answer. And when asked why she should maintain a leadership role, she brings up her ability to fundraise.

The Other Problems I Have with Pelosi

Today, Nancy Pelosi is considered a liberal. But when she was running to become the Democratic National Committee chair in 1984-1985, she was among a group of Democrats who wanted to move the DNC in a more conservative direction. The following passage comes from page 77 of Pelosi’s biography, Lady of the House:

McCarthy and other party bigwigs, including Governor Mario Cuomo of New York, supported Pelosi later in 1984, when she ran for national party chairman against party treasurer Paul G. Kirk Jr., a former aide to Sen. Edward M. Kennedy. Pelosi thought Kirk was too liberal and would alienate southern voters, a criticism that would later be lodged frequently against her. “The Democratic Party must more to the center,” she said in a letter during her campaign. “In America, there is only one center that counts—the economic center.” She urged that Democrats become the “party of capitalism.” She was also betting that California gave her the numbers to make her a viable candidate.

Pelosi expressed a similar thought about capitalism in January 2017:

Currently, Rep. Pelosi is dealing with the fallout of the recent revelations about Rep. John Conyers (D-CA). On the morning of Sunday, November 26, 2017, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi appeared on NBC’s Meet the Press with Chuck Todd, days after it was revealed that Democratic Rep. John Conyers had been accused of sexual misconduct by multiple women. As many people who saw her appearance would attest, it was a disaster.

Pelosi didn’t give a straight answer about Rep. Conyers, but it turns out that she and other Democratic leaders worked out a secret deal with Conyers, one that didn’t include his resignation. By all accounts, she was contributing to a problem that has plagued women in workplaces for decades.

2. Should We Say So long to Joe Manchin?

I certainly hope Joe Manchin III is defeated in a Democratic primary because sucks and he gots to go.

In May, I mentioned how Sen. Manchin (D-West Virginia) was involved in a heated telephone exchange with some of his constituents. Among the reasons Manchin was challenged was his voting record on environmental issues because of his support for dirty energy, especially his ties to the dying coal industry.

Truth be told, Manchin is also too close to Donald Trump. Early on, Sen. Manchin stated his intention to vote for Gorsuch (and to allow the process to continue for that awful SCOTUS pick to advance). He voted to confirm Scott Pruitt and Jeff Sessions. And in October, Manchin voted to extend Ajit Pai, a shameless shill for corporations and a mega-troll who is doing everything to piss people off.

To Manchin’s credit, he voted against some horrible Trump cabinet appointments, namely Betsy DeVos, he voted against the efforts to repeal the ACA, he acknowledges that money in politics is harmful, and he sort of put his foot down with this tax bill. However, Manchin’s views on energy and health care (which he says should be “market-based”) stand in the way of progress. His overall record is harmful to progressives, the Democratic brand, and more importantly, to his constituents and Americans in general.

A New Challenger People Can Get Behind

Manchin is now being directly challenged by “a coal miner’s daughter” named Paula Jean Swearengin. Paula Swearengin is a Justice Democrat who is also supported by Brand New Congress. She announced her candidacy for the 2018 midterms on May 9, about two months after she appeared in a WV town hall with Sen. Bernie Sanders and MSNBC’s Chris Hayes.

Swearengin is primarily running on environmental, employment, and health care issues, because those are areas where West Virginians suffer the most. Her grandfather died from black lung disease and some of her uncles have suffered from the same illness. She said that the government hasn’t listened to the people, who have few options outside of the energy or service industries.  West Virginia is also a state with low participation in the job market.

The senator is feeling the heat. In June, a scared Manchin asked his colleagues to sign a pledge to not campaign against incumbents. (I thought homeboy didn’t care if anyone ran against him. Liar.)

I, for one, am rooting for Swearengin to win next year. However, Swearengin knows that she has a tough hill to climb. She will not get any support from the Democratic Party. And if Elizabeth Warren’s stumbling defense of Manchin is any indication, the establishment will circle the wagons to defend his butt.


Manchin’s daughter, Heather Bresch, is the CEO of Mylan. In 2016, she increased the EpiPen prices by 461% while giving herself a 671% pay raise. This caused an uproar. In response, Mylan offered a generic alternative, at half the price of the brand-name product (but still more than twice the old price of the EpiPen).

I guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

3. Is This Paul Ryan’s Last Stand?

As the Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan is a leader in the Republican Party. And he was chosen to replace John Boehner because Boehner wasn’t crazy enough.

Since then, Paul Ryan has staked his reputation on getting rid of the Affordable Care Act. In 2 ½ attempts this year, he failed. Yet he and other Republicans have put in a zombie Trojan horse ACA mandate repeal in this tax bill, which is nothing but a sloppy French kiss to Richie Rich and bloated corporations.

(Note the Democrats: Mention the mandate repeal, because Americans who use Medicare and Medicaid will feel it!)

Recently, there were reports that Paul Ryan was considering retirement when his term ended next year. Ryan has denied these reports. Yet has let it be known that he doesn’t like the Washington commute or spending time away from his family.

I certainly hope he does retire. Paul Ryan is a prolific fundraiser for his party and a shameless corporatist. After they pass this awful tax bill, it is clear that he and his GOP pals want to completely dismantle Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

(Note to Democrats: Mention this ad nauseum and directly talk to people to get them to understand how bad this is!)

This dude needs to go. And hopefully, someone to the left of him can take his seat.

Currently, there are a few people in this race for Wisconsin’s First Congressional District, even on the Republican side.

Paul Ryan’s Republican Challenger

If Ryan runs again, he will once again face Paul Nehlen, a small business who lost in a landslide in the 2016 Republican primary. Nehlen has a far-right agenda that’s tough on immigration; he supports Trump’s wall idea and he even wants to deport DREAMers.

If Nehlen were to win the Republican nomination, the Democrats would be wise to point out his use of a phrase and memes trumpeted by white supremacists and is connected to a number of them. Democrats should also mention that Nehlen stumped for Roy Moore. (I wouldn’t root for this guy anyway.)

The Democratic Challengers for Ryan’s Seat

Who do the Democrats have?

One candidate I’m excited for is ironworker Randy Bryce, a U.S. Army veteran and cancer survivor who’s running as a Democrat.

Now, Bryce has been under fire for past debts, like back child support and a lingering debt he owed to a former girlfriend. Bryce eventually paid off the debts after he was called out. Personally, I don’t believe this issue should hurt Bryce if he plays his cards right because this tax bill will put even more people deeper in debt. Honestly, Bryce should hammer that point home and bring up Ryan’s donors, and other parts of Paul Ryan’s far-right legacy.

Cathy Meyers is another Democrat running to unseat Ryan.

Meyers is an at-large representative on the Janesville Board of Education in Wisconsin, a position she’s held since being elected in April 2013. She announced her run for Wisconsin’s First Congressional District on June 22, 2017.

Meyers may be a much stronger candidate than Bryce, but he leads her in endorsements. I love Meyers’ platform and as far as I know, there are no controversies surrounded her. However, Bryce has the support of sitting lawmakers like Sen Bernie Sanders and two of my fellow Californians in Reps. Barbara Lee and Ted Lieu.

Both Bryce and Meyers look like strong progressive candidates, so I would be pleased if either wins the Democratic nomination on August 14, 2018. And the Democratic Party needs to support them.


I am bothered by Paul Ryan’s lack of accessibility. Around Presidents Day weekend, Ryan spent much of his time off from Congress meeting with donors, instead of constituents. Also, he hasn’t held conventional town hall meetings with constituents this year. While he and his spokespeople will point to phone town hall meetings and employee town halls, the former is rather impersonal and the latter is tightly controlled.

From my own experience, I called Paul Ryan’s office at least twice and couldn’t even reach his machine the first time. The second time, I reached the machine, but it had a time limit for messages.

Now, I know that Ryan and his people put emphasis on his constituents, but he is the damn Speaker of the House. When someone is a U.S. lawmaker, especially if they are a Majority or Minority leader in either house of the U.S. Congress, they affect policy. Thus their decisions affect all Americans. He should make himself available to Americans or get the hell out.

It goes to show that he does not give a damn about his constituents or the American people. If this is his last term, good riddance.

4. Will Democrats Give Pete Sessions a Run for His Money?

Rep. Pete Sessions, who represents Texas’ 32nd Congressional District, is one U.S. lawmaker who actually had the courage to face his angry constituents early this year. While I have mad respect for that decision, I do not like Sessions’ platform or his voting record. (He was ranked the 4th-most conservative member of Congress by Graphiq.) And what he touts as “The World’s Greatest Health Care Plan” is a joke.

Of course, I would like to see if Democrats could take his seat.

So far, there are three Democrats of note in the race for Texas’ 32nd district and all three are former Obama administration officials. As of early May 2017, Sessions was set to face two Democratic challengers in the 2018 midterm elections. On September 12, yet another Democrat threw her hat into the ring.

I’m not sure who might be the strongest candidate for the Democrats, but this is a sharp turnaround from 2016, because the Democrats didn’t even put up a challenger to contest Sessions’ seat in that election. However, Democrats see promise there since Hillary Clinton carried that district by 2 points.

Colin Allred

Colin Allred, a former NFL player, a lawyer, and a former Obama administration official, was the first Democrat to announce his candidacy for the district. Allred played for the Tennessee Titans for five years before pursuing his dream career as an attorney. Allred served in the Obama administration as a Special Assistant in the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of General Counsel. At Perkins Coie, Allred worked as a voting rights litigator.

Allred doesn’t have a page on his website for a platform, but his about page contains this paragraph:

At a time when the nation has never been more divided — and economic opportunity is increasingly out of reach for Texas families – Colin is fighting to empower the communities he grew up in by improving public education, encouraging economic growth, ensuring access to quality health care for all, and protecting our civil rights and liberties.

To be honest, I am intrigued by Allred’s civil rights background. Should he win, I would like to see him put forth some legislation that addresses civil rights.

Ed Meier

Ed Meier, a lawyer and former Clinton campaign staffer, announced he was running on Wednesday, May 3, 2017.

Meier started out as an attorney at the Dallas office of the international Cozen O’Conner law firm. He also served as a management consultant with McKinsey in Company in Dallas before joining the Obama administration.

Meier served as a Senior Advisor at the Department of State and he was responsible for overseeing the military-to-civilian transition in Iraq as Obama was drawing down the U.S. troop levels there. When Meier was working on Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign he served as the Director of Policy Outreach.

I took a look at Meier’s platform and it looks like his positions are very close to the party line. He has a very weak (or, I should say empty) foreign policy. If I were to hazard a guess, I would say that Meier might be the party’s preferred candidate. He has connections to Obama and Clinton and his platform is inoffensive to the DNC.

Lillian Salerno

Lillian Salerno, served as deputy undersecretary for rural development at the Agriculture Department during the Obama administration. She calls her Democratic competitors “wet behind the ears,” which caught my attention.

I did not find a comprehensive platform from her when I visited her website, but she uses her experience with the social safety net to advocate for the economically disadvantaged, small business owners, and workers. She also touts a resume that includes started a business that developed retractable syringes to help HIV/AIDS patients.

5. Does This High Schooler Have What It Takes to Win in Manhattan?

Tahseen Chowdhury, a Stuyvesant High School student in Manhattan, announced in June 2017 that he was running to unseat New York State Sen. Jose Peralta in 2018. Chowdhury was 16 years old when he threw his hat into the ring, but he received a tremendous amount of support from those who knew him and he already tapped 20 other high school students to help on his campaign.

Why Chowdhury Is Running This Early

Chowdhury said he was running because he was sick of fake Democrats like Peralta. Sen. Peralta was apparently elected under the impression that he was a progressive, but shortly after being sworn in, Peralta joined the Independent Democratic Conference. As part of the IDC, the Democratic lawmaker worked closely with Republicans in the state Senate and undermined a number of progressive bills.

Chowdhury also cited the investigations and suspicions surrounding numerous lawmakers in New York. As it turns out, Peralta is under investigation for possibly receiving a bribe in order to join the IDC.

Chowdhury’s Platform

Tahseen Chowdhury has a progressive platform, which includes his support for single-payer health care, seniors issues, immigrations issues, and measures for the environment. Overall, I’m impressed by Chowdhury’s grasp of the issues and the aggressive stances he’s taking, especially against the IDC. I hope New Yorkers give him a chance because he could be the one vote Democrats need to try statewide single-payer.

6. Is There a Challenge for Elizabeth Warren?

Yes, but not from another Democrat.

On March 17, 2017, Joshua Ford of Kingston, Massachusetts, announced he was making a run for Elizabeth Warren’s Senate seat. Ford is a 36-year-old deputy sheriff for Middlesex County, MA who is registered with the Independent Party.

Previously, Ford was a Democrat. He first ran for the Board of Aldermen when his was in high school and he was later elected to the Melrose Democratic City Committee. He also served on the Democratic State Committee.

Why is Ford running for national office? He said he had grown tired of the two-party system and the influence of corporations.

His platform is strongly progressive and it includes the following:

  • Single-payer health care
  • Raising taxes on the wealthy
  • Breaking up large corporations, including media corporations
  • Raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour
  • Drawing down the wars in the Middle East

My Thoughts

I’m going to be honest here. I like all of Ford’s positions, but I’m a little fearful that a run by him could pull enough votes away from Warren to allow a Republican to take her seat. While I don’t want to be that type of person that tells a true progressive to get out of the race, turned that seat red would be disastrous. It would be a question of whether we’re losing more than we would gain.

At the very least, I would like to see Elizabeth Warren be confronted on her tendency to waffle on various issues. I will talk about her in the next post, but for now, I will say that Warren strikes me as a person who feels that she needs permission to be progressive. I trust her on financial issues, but much of the time, I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop.

I just wish that Warren would boldly and consistently tout a platform like Ford’s and hold her party accountable. That’s what she needs to do because she quickly built up popularity with younger and progressive voters the moment she ran for the U.S. Senate. Instead of running scared, she should leverage that popularity against the centrist, corporatist elements of the party.

That said, I’m not sure if Ford will official be in the race, let alone gain enough attention to make a run. In March, he had to get 10,000 signatures just to make it on the 2018 ballot. And right now, he only has a Facebook page as opposed to a website.

Regardless, the Democrats need to support Warren.

7. It’s Round 2 for Tim Canova and Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Who Will Win?

In 2016, Tim Canova ran against then-Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz in the Democratic primary for the 23rd District seat in Florida. Although she was responsible for leading the party at the national level, Wasserman Schultz was an incumbent in the House of Representatives.

During the race, Canova and Wasserman Schultz took part in a televised debate. In that debate, Canova took Wasserman Schultz to task over her position on fracking (she said she would support it until there was scientific proof that it was harmful). He also talked about her legislation to essentially gut the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in favor of predatory lenders.

In the end, DWS won this race, weeks after she was forced to step down as DNC chair. Initially, Canova had the support of Bernie Sanders, but Sanders was silent on the race after the Democratic presidential nomination was pretty much wrapped up. DWS had the support of prominent Democrats, including President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.

Now, Canova wants to take another shot at that seat, but does he have a chance?

An Uphill Battle

Regardless of the controversies of the past year, it was clear that DWS had the edge in the 2016 race. According to one South Florida political consultant who talked to Sunshine State News, not enough people were paying attention to the infighting on the left and most of those who were following the news didn’t care. In addition, the district DWS represented skewed Democratic, white, and Jewish. (Although Canova is half Jewish, Wasserman Schultz made history as the few Jewish woman to be elected to the House from her state.)

Until further notice, Wasserman Schultz still has the advantage over Canova. She will likely still have the support of the DNC and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee because she is an incumbent in the U.S. House of Representatives and she has been in Florida Politics for over a quarter century. She is well-known, she is a breast cancer survivor who advocates for women to get tested, and she is trusted by donors.

However, are those factors enough to overcome this year’s revelations?

A New Controversy

The Christian Science Monitor looked at  Tim Canova’s case against the Broward County Supervisor of Elections, Brenda Snipes. Canova wanted access to the ballots from the Democratic primary because he was alerted to a possible anomaly in the vote totals, but he was told he would have to sue for access. Yet Snipes ordered the ballots from the August 30, 2016 primary to be destroyed.

Canova’s legal team had requested to scan the ballots, but Snipes, who also denied a request to videotape the review process. Instead, Snipes said that the ballots could only be viewed if they were held up by a staff member. However, a court reporter would be barred from producing a transcript during the entire process.

Broward Circuit Judge Raag Singhal is assigned to the pending lawsuit. He hadn’t ruled on whether Canova had the right to examine the ballots. In July, Snipes’s lawyer filed a motion to throw out the case, but a hearing on that motion was scheduled for October, a month after the ballots were destroyed.

Snipes had apparently broken the law. Under Florida law, used ballots should be left intact until 22 months after an election has taken place. During the time, members of the public should be granted access to inspect the ballots in a reasonable time frame and under reasonable circumstances. Snipes gave the order to destroy Broward County’s ballots on September 1, 2017 and to make matters worse, her attorneys only notified Canova and the court that the ballots were destroyed in October 2017.

My View

This latest controversy illustrates a lingering problem for Democrats. The party has been accused of tipping the scales for certain politicians and this is another case where there was clearly foul play.

Despite this, not enough people are paying attention and those who do know won’t care. Thus, I don’t expect this case to hurt Wasserman Schultz in the least.

I would prefer Canova, but I don’t want this seat going to a Republican.

8. McCaskill Worried About Progressive Primary Challenger

Sen. Claire McCaskill is one of the Democratic lawmakers I wrote about in May. Earlier this year, she held a town hall where she took questions about various topics, including single-payer health care.

Although the Missouri Democrat has repeatedly written off single-payer, she was cognizant of a possible primary challenge by Democrats because of her stance on that issue. She voiced her concerns on February 16, 2017. From The Hill:

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) on Thursday compared a faction of Democrats calling for their party to become increasingly progressive to the Tea Party movement that grew out of Republicans’ opposition to President Barack Obama.

That wing of the party, McCaskill said on “The Mark Reardon Show” in St. Louis, could offer up a primary challenger to take on the two-term senator when she runs for reelection next year.

“I’m for sure going to run,” McCaskill said. “And I may have a primary because there is, in our party now, some of the same kind of enthusiasm at the base that the Republican Party had with the Tea Party.”

“Many of those people are very impatient with me because they don’t think I’m pure. For example, they think I should be voting against all of Trump’s nominees and of course I’m judging each nominee on its own merit,” she said.

Near the end of March, the Missouri Republican Party released an audio clip in which McCaskill could be heard pleading the Bernie Sanders supporters:

All of you who are Bernie supporters … I need you. I want you. I want to talk to you. I want you to be a part of our effort.

We can’t get divided in a state like Missouri, or we’re cooked.

Too Little Too Late?

Now, McCaskill has a primary challenger. Angelica Earl, who once worked as a verification specialist for the Affordable Care Act, wants to take on the Democratic incumbent and she has a very progressive platform. Among the things Earl promotes is a single-payer system.

Democrats often say that we need to fix the Affordable Care Act. But when she was asked about her views of the health care law, Earl said that the ACA couldn’t be fixed because it was inherently flawed. She talked about her experiences as a verification specialist and revealed that the act of approving expirations, even for patients as young as 3 years old, was the worst part of her job. And she eventually lost her job after the marketplace for the ACA crashed in her area.

My Thoughts

I don’t know if Earl has what it takes to really challenge McCaskill or any eventual Republican challenger, but to say that the senator has disappointed me would be an understatement. She might not have voted for Gorsuch, but she voted in favor of most of Trump’s cabinet appointments, including Rick Perry for Energy Secretary. She voted for the $700 billion defense bill.

And in one of her worst moves, she voted to reconfirm the worst FCC chairman in history. I won’t forgive that, nor will I forget.

9. Who Should Replace Ruben Kihuen?

Ruben Kihuen is a Democrat who has represented Nevada’s 4th Congressional District since winning election in 2016. He was at one point seen as a rising star and somewhat of an immigrant success story.

Ruben Kihuen was born in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico (in April 1980). His family moved to the United States and settled in Las Vegas nearly two years after his father began working in the U.S. as a field laborer.

Kihuen was the first in his family to attend college. He first studied at the College of Southern Nevada then he attended the University of Nevada, Las Vega. He eventually obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in Education.

Before becoming the first Latino to represent Nevada in the U.S. House of Representatives, Rubin Kihuen served time in Nevada’s State Assembly and Senate. While in the assembly, he introduced a bill to use unclaimed gift card funds for education. While in the state Senate (as one of the youngers Senators in state history), Kihuen “worked with his Republican colleagues to pass the first ever need-based grants for low-income Nevadans seeking college degrees.”

However, this year, a series of allegations were made that put Kihuen’s political career in jeopardy.

The Allegations

Rubin Kihuen became the third Democrat in Congress to be accused of sexual assault this year. According to a report from Buzzfeed News published on December 1, 2017, Kihuen sexually harassed his former financial director, named Samantha, on at least 3 occasions. When confronted, Kihuen said he did not recall the incidents. After hearing the news, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi asked Kihuen to resign.

Initially, Rep. Kihuen said that he would resist calls to resign. Kihuen claimed that Nancy Pelosi and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Ben Ray Lujan were aware of the allegations during the campaign yet decided to support Kihuen after an investigation found no wrongdoing. (According to campaign records, the DCCC gave $3.15 million to Kihuen’s congressional race.) However, representatives for Pelosi and the DCCC disputed the freshman congressman’s claims.

Then a second woman, an anonymous lobbyist, talked to The Nevada Independent and accused Rep. Kihuen of sexual harassment. That report from came nearly two weeks after the first allegations were aired in Buzzfeed. In fact, the second woman felt the need to come forward after a friend read about the first story and told her about it.

The lobbyist said that Kihuen groped her and sent her brazen text messages via phone and on Facebook. She kept the messages on her phone and marked her calendar to keep records of the harassment. She showed the messages to the newspaper to corroborate her story. While there were no screenshots allowed, the outlet was allowed to transcribe the messages.

The lobbyist told her boyfriend about the harassment and he corroborated her story.

On Saturday, December 16, three days after the second report came out, Kihuen announced that he would not seek re-election when his term ends in 2018.

A Challenger with a Harrowing Story

I think there may be several Democrats vying for Kihuen’s seat in 2018, but there is one I would like to see take it.

In 2015, Amy Vilela lost her 22-year-old daughter, Shalynne. The young woman died after being rushed out of the ER because she didn’t have proof of insurance. Shalynne, who was biracial (Vilela was white and her first husband was black), died of what been a deep vein thrombosis (blood clot).

The tragedy eventually led Vilela to become an activist for health care reform. She argued that her daughter would have been saved if the United States had a single-payer health care system. Vilela rails against our for-profit health care system and the visible corruption from lawmakers who receive campaign funds from the health care industry.

This year, Vilela was among the Nevada constituents at a heated town hall meeting with Kihuen. The audience challenged him on the issue of health care and he refused to back single-payer. Shortly afterward, Vilela decided to run for Kihuen’s seat.

Vilela is a Justice Democrat with a very progressive platform. In addition to promoting Medicare for All, she supports the following:

  • Getting corporate money out of politics
  • Getting rid of for-profit prisons
  • Reinstating the Glass-Steagall Act
  • Promoting social equality with affordable housing, education, and job-training programs tailored for specific communities.
  • A humane foreign policy
  • An environmental policy that weans the U.S. off dirty energy.
  • Reforming American democracy

I like this platform, but like most of the “insurgent” candidates, Vilela has a tough hill to climb. For one thing, former Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid still has pull in Nevada politics. He endorsed Kihuen during the Democratic primary there and Kihuen won. Whoever has Reid’s support this go-round has a huge advantage.


In 2018, the Democrats should run and support anyone with a good platform who can beat the Republicans, even if the Democratic candidates are newcomers. But that’s easier said than done.

The Democratic Party at large will likely support Democratic incumbents who will have to deal with challenges from newcomers. However, it would behoove the party to help all challengers to Republican incumbents. Also, Democrats should look to uncontested areas to pick up a few seats.

Again, there were a series of victories early on in November and a surprise victory in Alabama; those offered a glimmer of hope for 2018. Democrats need to take advantage of the momentum by thinking outside the box and eschewing bad habits.

There are many progressives out there who want to help the party. The party should lean on them instead of ignoring their races and trying to push them away.

Next up, I will be looking at possible 2020 Democratic presidential candidates. Do I like anyone from the bunch?

Have any thoughts on the subject? Time’s yours.

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