calling all progressives! where's the next Russ Feingold?
March 13, 2014 9:09 AM   Subscribe

I'm an extremely liberal Democrat who comes from a long line of extremely liberal Democrats, but I've become increasingly disillusioned with the national party apparatus over the past handful of years. Can you help me put together a list of progressive Democrat office-holders and up-and-coming candidates to buoy and inspire an otherwise devoted liberal's flagging enthusiasm?

I live in a state with a long history of progressivism that has been moving backward instead of forward for the past 4 years or so -- yes, it's Wisconsin, WHY DO YOU ASK? -- and we lost the best senator ever in the execrable Tea Party sweep of 2010, although we did manage to elect the amazing Tammy Baldwin in 2012. But nearly everything else about my state is pretty much fucked, and I still have a real 'wandering in the wilderness' feeling when it comes to figuring out where we are as a party in other states and at the national level.

FWIW, I'm a single-issue voter on the topic of reproductive choice.

The kind of traits I'm hoping to see, in addition to an adamantly pro-choice record:
* pro-civil rights
* pro-marriage equality
* pro-voting rights (specifically anti-voter ID)
* pro-labor rights
* pro-immigration reform
* pro-social safety net
* pro-universal healthcare, at least insofar as that is possible in modern American politics
* anti-capital punishment
* anti-prison-industrial complex
* anti-interventionist foreign policy
* anti-drug war

To give you an idea of the kind of folks I'm looking for, I'm head over heels for Barbara Lee, Keith Ellison, Howard Dean, Luis Gutiérrez, Alan Grayson, and (of course) Paul Wellstone. Primary-wise, I went for Bradley in 2000 and Dean all the way in 2004. I pulled the lever for Mike Gravel in 2008, then wrote him in because he didn't even run in 2012. 2016 is a mystery to me!

Basically, I'm hoping to make a list of progressive candidates all across the United States, to whom money, time, effort, and volunteer chow (usually pizza) can be readily donated. Door-to-door GOTV canvassing is my very favorite thing in the world, so candidates in the upper Midwest get bonus points.

Fellow progressive Democrats, who's our next great hope? Where do they live, who are their constituents? Even if you know a lone angry liberal running for dogcatcher in Wyoming, please post about them here.

Thanks, MeFi!
posted by divined by radio to Law & Government (24 answers total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
Mike Honda isn't super radical (alas) but he's at least good on major issues. (And unfortunately he's being challenged by this guy.)
posted by wintersweet at 9:35 AM on March 13, 2014

You've probably heard of him already but Oregon's junior Senator, Jeff Merkley, also ticks most of your traits.
posted by jeffch at 9:40 AM on March 13, 2014

Elizabeth Warren. Duh.
posted by Talez at 9:45 AM on March 13, 2014

Western New York's Louise Slaughter (NY-25) is the single most progressive member of Congress (according to the American Conservative Union). Check out her interest group ratings.
posted by troika at 9:47 AM on March 13, 2014 [3 favorites]

I think Minnesota's two Senators, Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken tick most if not all of your boxes.
posted by triggerfinger at 9:50 AM on March 13, 2014

What about Kathleen Vinehout or Mary Burke doesn't make them progressive enough for you? Those are the two dems with the best electoral prospects I know of in WI, but I don't know the state's politics well.
posted by Wretch729 at 10:03 AM on March 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

Maryland gubernatorial hopeful Heather Mizeur is very cool, and her liberal credentials are impeccable. Even if she's still a long shot for the nomination, she's already had a huge impact on steering the conversation in favor of marijuana law reform.
posted by Faint of Butt at 10:10 AM on March 13, 2014

The Congressional Progressive Caucus is a good place to start.
posted by zombieflanders at 10:12 AM on March 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

ABC did a story about "Warren Wing Democrats", and my current state rep, Daylin Leach, was one of them. He's running for a Congressional house seat, unfortunately where I can't vote for him, but he's the sort of progressive who fits your preferences.
posted by gladly at 10:14 AM on March 13, 2014

He's not technically a Democrat, but I love me some Bernie Sanders. When he was mayor of Burlington, he was called "The Red, Red, Duke of Burl".
posted by Rock Steady at 10:21 AM on March 13, 2014 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: These are fantastic!

And ye gods, I also completely adore Bernie Sanders. So many floating cartoon hearts around that dude.

What about Kathleen Vinehout or Mary Burke doesn't make them progressive enough for you?

Sen. Vinehout is great, but she was unsuccessful in the primaries for the gubernatorial recall election, and won't be running again -- no electoral prospects to speak of outside of the state Senate, I'm afraid.

Mary Burke is solid on the issues, but she's much more of a businesswoman than a fired-up liberal Democrat -- I'm certainly going to vote for her, but she doesn't engage like a bona fide devoted progressive politician and I don't have a lot of confidence that she'll be able to pull out a win against Walker the Boy King and his merry band of disenfranchisers. Also, too: Burke is already funding her campaign with her own money while Walker is getting backed by the full faith and credit of the Koch Brothers and the national GOP -- in 2014 (Governor) and 2016 (President). It's super-depressing, whee!

Anyone know about any ascendant candidates in very unexpected (read: historically deep red) locations, a la former Salt Lake City, UT mayor Rocky Anderson?
posted by divined by radio at 10:37 AM on March 13, 2014

Very close to home, I believe state senator Chris Larson is in agreement with most or all of your issues. I lived in his district until recently and can't remember disagreeing with the guy on anything.
posted by desjardins at 10:40 AM on March 13, 2014

Missed your update on preview. I wouldn't call Larson FIRED UP, per se. He did abscond to Illinois during that whole Act 10 mess, though, so good for him.
posted by desjardins at 10:42 AM on March 13, 2014

How about Wendy Davis in Texas?
posted by youcancallmeal at 10:55 AM on March 13, 2014

Yay, a chance to talk about one of my favorite people: Georgia State Rep. Simone Bell! She's the first African-American out lesbian to serve in a state legislature, and yes, she's doing it here in Georgia. Here's a recent video clip of a speech she gave against an anti-gay bill that will show you what kind of person she is. The White House has recognized her as a Harvey Milk Champion of Change.

Here's her official state page.

Her voting record matches your criteria. And she now has an opponent for re-election, so any help would be timely.

Disclaimer: I don't work for her campaign. I just know her and like her.
posted by southern_sky at 11:27 AM on March 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Sandra Fluke, the woman Rush Limbaugh famously called a slut after she spoke to Congress supporting insurance coverage of contraceptives, is running for the California State Senate.
posted by troika at 11:31 AM on March 13, 2014

Tom Perriello, in Virginia? Sherrod Brown?
posted by mmiddle at 11:54 AM on March 13, 2014

I totally hear you about being disillusioned about candidates, no candidate or politician is perfect because, well, no human is perfect so often we have to essential go with the lesser evil, but in a way that's what we do out whole lives with all of our acquaintances and family members. All those great politicians you mentioned (and they are) have had problems as well (because, we all have problems). even the sainted Welstone.

MN has a decent crop of politicians right now. Our two senators are pretty good, as is Ellison whom you mentioned. Overall Rick Nolan is also pretty good. This might be a good starting point.
posted by edgeways at 12:45 PM on March 13, 2014

Kshama Sawant, Seattle City Council. Fighting hard for a $15/hr minimum wage, affordable housing, and police oversight, among other things. She is an open socialist and beat a four-term incumbent city council member last fall.
posted by reksb at 12:54 PM on March 13, 2014 [6 favorites]

Russ Feingold's Progressives United PAC has a candidates page.
posted by JuliaJellicoe at 3:18 PM on March 13, 2014

Matt Damon. He hasn't even entered the political scene officially yet and many conservative talking heads are trying to discredit him before he gains any political traction. When he does, I'm hoping Afleck does do 'retainer' commercial for him.
posted by Nanukthedog at 4:41 PM on March 13, 2014

The Georgia legislature has a surprising number of good folks. State Sen. Vincent Fort has become one of the heroes of our nascent Moral Monday movement. I'm proud to have shaken his hand and stood next to him at protests (although I didn't get arrested with him because I'm not nearly as brave as him).

A lot of us in Georgia are also pretty excited about my state senator, gubernatorial candidate Jason Carter. (Yes, his grandpa is who you think he is. Yes, it's a political dynasty, but it's a political dynasty that began on a peanut farm, not in a corporate boardroom.)
posted by hydropsyche at 6:40 PM on March 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Raul Grijalva
posted by bongo_x at 8:12 PM on March 13, 2014

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