Progressive ‘Squad’ reshaping Democratic Party
Primary results suggest Democrats are moving farther left; congressional correspondent Chad Pergram reports from Capitol Hill.
Minutes after progressive Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota was projected as the winner of a Democratic primary where she was vastly outraised by one of her more moderate challengers, fellow "Squad" member Rep. Rashida Talib took to Twitter to celebrate.
"Our squad is big!" wrote the congresswoman from Detroit, who defeated a formidable primary challenger in Michigan’s primary just a week earlier in another contest that like Omar's grabbed national attention.
Omar’s victory essentially guarantees that the quartet of first-term progressive Democratic congresswomen of color will be returning to Capitol Hill in January. And thanks to a string of progressive upsets so far this primary season, it's likely the "Squad's" membership will grow.
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Omar ended up crushing her main rival, Antone Melton-Meaux, by a wide double-digit margin.
"In Minnesota, we know that organized people will always beat organized money," the congresswoman emphasized on Twitter after her victory. "Tonight, our movement didn't just win. We earned a mandate for change. Despite outside efforts to defeat us, we once again broke turnout records. Despite the attacks, our support has only grown."
A week earlier, Tlaib trounced Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones by a two-to-one margin.
Fellow "Squad" member Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez faced a well-financed Democratic primary challenger in the New York State's June primary. Former CNBC correspondent and anchor Michelle Caruso-Cabrera hauled in roughly $2 million ahead of the contest. But Ocasio-Cortez dramatically outraised her rival and crushed Caruso-Cabrera and other challengers in the contest.
The fourth member of "The Squad" – Rep. Ayanna Pressley who represents Massachusetts' 7th Congressional District – doesn't face a Democratic primary challenge in the state's Sept. 1 primary. And she may not face a Republican in November’s general election, as none qualified to place their name on the primary ballot.
The "Squad's" victories are far from the only ones the left is enjoying this primary season.
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Progressive challenger Cori Bush defeated longtime incumbent Rep. William Lacy Clay last week in a high-profile Democratic primary rematch in Missouri's 1st Congressional District – a race that grabbed national attention as a party fixture and Congressional Black Caucus member tried to fend off a younger activist who came up through the Black Lives Matter movement.
The 10-term Clay was defending a seat that’s been represented by his family for more than half a century. The incumbent succeeded his father – the late Rep. William Clay Sr. – who held the St. Louis-area seat for more than 30 years and was one of the founders of the Congressional Black Caucus.
In New York, progressive educator Jamaal Bowman ousted Rep. Eliot Engel, the powerful chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee who's served in Congress for more than three decades. Bowman's victory was compared to Ocasio-Cortez's 2018 blockbuster primary upset of longtime Democratic Rep. Joe Crowley and Pressley's ouster of veteran Rep. Michael Capuano a few months later, both of which created political shockwaves.
Progressive candidate Mondaire Jones won a three-way primary in the race to succeed longtime Democratic Rep. Nita Lowey in New York's 17th Congressional District, which includes parts of suburban Westchester and Rockland counties. Another progressive, New York City Councilman Ritchie Torres, won the Democratic primary for a Bronx-based seat to replace retiring Democratic Rep. Jose Serrano.
In March, progressive candidate Marie Newman took down longtime moderate Democratic Rep. Dan Lipinski in Illinois' 3rd Congressional District. Lipinski and his father have represented the Chicago area seat for nearly four decades.
While candidates on the left have enjoyed a flurry of high-profile victories, there are plenty of cases where progressives have fallen short this year.
Establishment-backed Amy McGrath brushed back a serious threat from progressive candidate and state Rep. Charles Booker this summer in Kentucky's Democratic Senate primary.
Longtime Democratic Reps. Yvette Clarke and Carolyn Maloney of New York fended off ferocious progressive primary challengers. So did veteran Reps. Henry Cuellar of Texas, Jim Costa of California, Joyce Beatty of Ohio, Kurt Schrader of Oregon, and Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey.
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