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The Progressive Scorecard in the 2010 Primaries

I hate to disrupt the “GOP goes extreme” narrative the media has latched onto (hampered somewhat by the fact that Christine O’Donnell was the nominee for US Senate for Delaware, um, two years ago), but that wasn’t the only story coming out of last night’s end to the primary schedule. In fact, we saw a fair number of progressive candidates, a mix of incumbents and challengers, knock off opponents running to their right.

Like Ann McLane Kuster in New Hampshire:

In an open Democratic primary for New Hampshire’s 2nd Congressional district, progressive candidate Ann McLane Kuster handily defeated self-styled Blue Dog Katrina Swett, who co-chaired Joe Lieberman’s 2004 presidential campaign. Kuster, a lawyer, community activist and women’s health expert, had the support of progressive groups like MoveOn, Democracy for America, Progressive Campaign Change Committee and EMILY’s List. Swett ran hard to Kuster’s right and tried to paint Kuster’s progressive supporters as an electoral liability.

“Annie, you have cast yourself as the very, very progressive candidate and have been warmly supported by the far-left progressive movement,” Swett, the daughter of Congressman Tom Lantos and wife of former Congressman Dick Swett, said in the last debate. “In a year when everyone understands that the country is moving back toward the center and away from the more left, progressive point of view, if you were to become the nominee, would you try to distance yourself from your own positions?”

“Actually Katrina, I think it’s your views that are out-of-step with the voters of the 2nd Congressional District,” replied Kuster, pointing to Swett’s support for the Bush tax cuts, war in Iraq and escalation in Afghanistan, not to mention her vociferous support of Lieberman in 2004 and 2006.

Kuster won by 42 points last night, and has a good shot of defeating former Republican Rep. Charlie Bass in November.

As Jane mentioned, the primary campaign of Reshma Saujani, the Wall Street candidate, suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of Rep. Carolyn Maloney, who during the campaign took progressive stands like leading the charge for Elizabeth Warren at CFPB and fighting any cuts to Social Security.

Also in New York, a transformative progressive won the nomination for state Attorney General:

With 91 percent of precincts reporting, Mr. Schneiderman, a state senator representing parts of Manhattan and the Bronx, led with 34.3 percent of the vote, followed by 31.3 for Kathleen M. Rice, the Nassau County district attorney.

Early Wednesday morning, after Ms. Rice conceded, Mr. Schneiderman said “I am honored, I am humbled, I am revved up and ready to go.” […]

Mr. Schneiderman followed a pattern set in 2009 by Mr. de Blasio and John C. Liu, the city comptroller.

While Ms. Rice captured the support of the Queens and Brooklyn Democratic organizations, in addition to Long Island Democratic leaders, Mr. Schneiderman won the backing of a loose coalition of African-American leaders and politically potent labor unions, like S.E.I.U. 1199, with powerful turnout operations.

While the race in New York was marked by low turnout, what energy did come out did so in support of Schneiderman, who will make a crusading, reform-minded Attorney General in the mold of his predecessors.

One disappointment is that labor failed to make good on their commitment to pay back right-wing Democrats who desert the party on key issues. Not one candidate who opposed the health care bill from the right suffered with a lost primary, and very few of them even got one.

What did happen this primary season is that the progressive coalition took on a few select races, delivered knowledge and know-how along with organizing, and was mostly successful wherever they took the opportunity (with the big exception of the Blanche Lincoln race, and seeing her imminent doom in November that was a race worth contesting). But too many in the coalition fell in line, and as a result the capacity for these kinds of challenges was severely limited. Hopefully that will change in the future.

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David Dayen

David Dayen