Establishment prevails as Brown beats Turner in Ohio special election

Brown's victory in a special election primary for Congress marked a striking defeat for the Democratic Party's liberal wing.

8/4/2021 5:21:00 AM

Shontel Brown defeated Nina Turner in a special primary election for Congress on Tuesday, a victory for establishment Democrats over the party’s combative liberal wing

Brown's victory in a special election primary for Congress marked a striking defeat for the Democratic Party's liberal wing.

Link CopiedBEDFORD HEIGHTS, Ohio — The Democratic establishment dealt a crushing blow to the progressive movement Tuesday, with Shontel Brown, the preferred candidate of party stalwarts, triumphing over Nina Turner, a face of the insurgent left, in a special congressional primary election.

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Turner conceded shortly after 10 p.m. with a biblical reference: "On this night, we will not cross the river."The Associated Press had not yet called the contest, but Brown led Turner 50 percent to 44 percent.Brown’s victory in the primary, which is tantamount to the general election in this deep-blue, Northeast Ohio seat, brings an end to a contentious summer of internecine squabbling for Democrats over the direction of their party with Joe Biden in the White House. The establishment forces leave the race with a blueprint for how to blunt progressive enthusiasm this cycle. The outcome is another setback for the liberal wing, which has struggled to put wins on the board this year.

Turner, a former Ohio state senator who became a chief surrogate for Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential bids, entered the special as a well-known figure with a huge financial edge; her own internal polling from late May had her with 50 percent of the vote, and she had endorsements from Sanders, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and the Justice Democrats, a leading progressive group.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez talks with a reporter as she protests the expiration of the federal eviction moratorium on the House steps of the U.S. Capitol. | Drew Angerer/Getty ImagesBut that notoriety was perhaps as much a hindrance as an asset for Turner. Her impassioned speeches on behalf of progressive policies won her a cult-like status on the left, but her tendency for taking aim at fellow Democrats brought more than a few enemies.

Brown, a councilmember and Democratic party chair in Cuyahoga County, is a protege of the former incumbent Marcia Fudge, who vacated the seat to serve as Biden’s housing secretary. Among her boosters were Hillary Clinton, who thwarted Sanders for the 2016 presidential nomination; Jewish Democrats wary of Turner’s comments on Israel; and the leaders of the Congressional Black Caucus, including Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) and chair Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio).

To chip away at Turner’s early momentum, Brown’s allies bombarded the airwaves with ads dragging up unfavorable Turner comments about the Democratic Party. (Some spots included a now-notorious interviewTurner gave comparing voting for Joe Biden to eating excrement.) The Democratic Majority for Israel super PAC was the main spender, dropping nearly $1 million on TV to boost Brown.

The CBC, eager to blunt liberal insurgents from challenging their own members in primaries, went all-in for Brown. Their political arm formally endorsed her, and Beatty, Clyburn and Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.) and Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) spent the final weekend of the race storming the district, which includes parts of Cleveland and Akron.

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In this May 22, 2019, file photo Rep. Gregory Meeks waits for a town hall forum to begin at LaGuardia Community College in New York. | Bebeto Matthews, File/AP PhotoTheir heavy-handed involvement drew protests from progressives confused why the group would get involved in an open-seat race between two Black women. But the caucus took special umbrage at a June exchange between Turner and the rapper Killer Mike, in which the two suggested Clyburn had not extracted enough in return from Biden in exchange for his powerful endorsement of his presidential campaign. Clyburn endorsed and cut an ad for Brown shortly after.

For progressives, it’s another stinging lost after their candidates flopped in off-year nominating contests in Virginia, New York City and Louisiana, spreading concern that they had lost some of its urgency with Donald Trump out of office. And Turner’s starring role in the movement — and inherent early advantages — make the outcome even more painful.

The race united several establishment forces in the party, including pro-Israel groups and the centrist organization Third Way — partnerships that will likely continue throughout the cycle. Redistricting will create a swath of open seats over which the different ideological factions will spar. But it’s worth noting the moderate attacks against Turner did not take aim at the progressive proposals she supports, such as Medicare-for-all or a Green New Deal — an indication they are popular with the base.

It may not be quite as easy for the establishment to tear down a progressive candidate with a thinner public record. Turner was a staple on cable TV and did not hold back her distaste of Clinton and Biden and the Democratic Party’s leaders. That left behind a trove of footage that her detractors used to cut ads.

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A bump in the road,Obama would say ! So No progress? Awesome “Combative liberal wing” you mean the establishment? The establishment is liberal, the people actually fighting for change aren’t liberals. For an outlet called “Politico” you’d think you’d understand that simple distinction. We want an educated, secure, healthy, humble, empathetic nation and you call us combative lol

The difference between Brown and Turner was slightly more than 4000 votes. I’m sure pundits will go all in on interpreting this as a rebuke to progressives like they did with Eric Adams primary win, which was by 1%. Why do you have frame them as “combative” I mean I know why but like can we pretend to be neutral 🙄

Voter turnout for this race in Cuyahoga County was 17.4 percent. davepell Corrected: A victory for establishment Republicans over the Democratic Party's Progressive wing. Shontel Brown's campaign was funded & directed by Republicans. Shontel's a Republican who won by labeling herself as a Dem, using Republican cash 💵 Shontel's a Trump wh⭕re true

Tea Party history repeated, this time on the Left.

Nina Turner Leans Into Establishment Criticism: ‘I Want Them To Be Uncomfortable’At the close of a heated congressional race where Turner has courted a wide range of Democrats, the Ohio progressive is embracing her reputation as a can... Pro Israeli pac spending 1.9 million dollars to defeat a Congressional candidate. I would vote for Ms Turner. Ms Sellers is bought and paid for. 📢💰💰💰🐷💋😎

Looks like the white suburbanites got their way! Do you mean 'leftist' wing? The 2020 election should be considered the Dawning of the Age of Establishment… Thank God! Go get em Shontel! 'combative liberal wing' ken__stern Do not call Nina Turner part of the 'combative liberal wing' of the dem party. She spent YEARS railing against democrats and making sure everyone knew she was not a dem, and wanted to destroy the party. She is not part of the party. Its part of why she lost.

Very Pro-America & Pro-Dem to vote for the candidate funded by foreign-backed donors *and* the oppositional political party. TF, OH?! 🤷‍♂️🤦‍♂️ Minority voters usually prefer normie candidates. Turner was a bad candidate and that matters in big league elections. The Clintons send their regards

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Congrats ShontelMBrown and too bad ninaturner We Democratic women are StillWithHer 😉 Nina Turner will never get a support from Democrats after what she did to Hillary Clinton. The Clintons send their regards White supremacy and the black misleadership class win the OH11 election today It's not a defeat of liberal wing only Nina Turner

😒 Ohio deserves what they voted for. I don't remember a time in my life when the voters of this country did what was good for them. Let's keep electing more of the same people, it's been doing wonders for this country so far. GOP funded Democrat Black people don't like the progressive wing of the Democratic party...when will Bernie, Turner, AOC and Warren get it.

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Combative liberal wing? Lol! The time is now for all the Congressmembers that won their elections because of Black voters to show the urgency we deserve. HR40 must be passed immediately. It's just a damn study it's disrespectful that it's taken 30yrs! WhipClyburn SpeakerPelosi LeaderHoyer ReparationsNow

The Nazi left wing has been beaten back into the gutters. 🤗 as far as i’m concerned Nina is the real winner! Green Party Turner lost. Bernie Bros do not know how to win elections Congratulations to ShontelMBrown !

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