Rematch for the soul of the Democratic Party is an even bigger loss for progressives

When moderate Democrat Shontel Brown and progressive Nina Turner faced off in Ohio’s special election last August, National Journal described it as a “battle for the soul of the Democratic Party.” Shontel Brown was endorsed by establishment figures like Hillary Clinton and Rep. Jim Clyburn while Nina Turner was endorsed by Bernie Sanders and AOC.

Early on in the race, Turner had a big lead and strong fundraising (mostly from out of state) but ultimately Brown and the establishment prevailed with a 51-44 win over Turner. After her loss, Turner compared her campaign to Moses: “Tonight my friends we have looked across the promised land but on this campaign on this night we will not cross the river.” Ironically, she may have lost the race in part because of some things she tweeted about Israel, specifically RTing a tweet calling Israel an apartheid state.

After losing the race, Turner said “We didn’t lose this race. Evil money manipulated and maligned this election.” A lot of the “evil money” she was referring to came from Democratic Majority for Israel PAC, a group set up to support pro-Israel Democrats.

Now jump forward to yesterday and the battle for the soul of the Democratic Party had a rematch as Nina Turner challenged incumbent Shontel Brown in the primary race in the same Ohio district. Unfortunately for Turner, the results this time were the same. Well, not really the same. Instead of a close race, Nina Turner ended up on the wrong side of a blowout.

U.S. Rep. Shontel Brown of Warrensville Heights won in her Democratic primary rematch against former Ohio Sen. Nina Turner, according to the Associated Press.

Cleveland’s Turner, who co-chaired Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign and touted his endorsement, had 36.5% of the votes that were tallied by the time the Associated Press called the race in her favor, compared with 63.5% for Brown, a former Cuyahoga Council member who chairs the county Democratic party and was endorsed by President Joe Biden.

How did Turner go from losing by six to losing by 30 in less than one year? According to the Intercept the leftists supporting Turner were heavily outspent by pro-Israel SuperPACs:

Justice Democrats, the group that has launched several progressive members of Congress, said it’s being “massively outgunned” by Republican donors giving millions to attack progressive candidates in several competitive races. One of those was Tuesday’s Democratic primary in Ohio’s 11th District, where incumbent Rep. Shontel Brown won with 66 percent of the vote. The defeat of Nina Turner, the former co-chair of Sen. Bernie Sanders’s 2020 presidential campaign, deals a repetitive blow to progressives who backed her run — the second Turner waged against Brown in nine months.

“Nina is a giant in the progressive movement and we’re proud to have gone all in for her campaign last year,” Justice Democrats said in a statement. “The reality is our organization has to be strategic about our priorities as we are getting massively outgunned by Republican donors funneling millions to SuperPACs like AIPAC [the American Israel Public Affairs Committee] and DMFI [Democratic Majority for Israel] against our existing candidates.”

Forward reports that Turner did her best to convince Jewish voters to give her a second look this time around, but it obviously didn’t work.

Turner in recent weeks has aggressively pushed back against the idea that she is anti-Israel. In private meetings with local rabbis and leaders, as well as in public campaign appearances, she endeavored to clarify her positions.

“I believe that Israel has a right to exist as a democratic nation in the Middle East,” Turner said during an event hosted by the City Club of Cleveland earlier this month. “I believe in justice and security for Israel, and justice and security for Palestinians.”

Turner last week published an open letter in the Cleveland Jewish News, the largest Jewish publication in the state, pledging support for Israel and explaining that she is opposed to the Boycott, Sanctions and Divestment movement, though she’s also opposed to legislation against BDS activities…

DMFI’s Mellman dismissed Turner’s attempts to win over Jewish voters as “moving an inch” towards the mainstream pro-Israel position.  “This is another example of somebody trying to move closer to our position in response to the work that we’ve done,” he said. ”​​She may have moved on BDS just for political reasons.”

Nina Turner is a progressive star and if elected would have been another addition the Squad. AOC endorsed her both last year and this year. But the results of this rematch for the soul of the party show that Squad politics just don’t work everywhere the way they do in New York. Turner tried to reassure the progressives movement with a sad little chant.

Meanwhile at the Shontel Brown victory party, Brown was clearly having a good time:

Turner had some new excuses this year for her loss. She claims members of the Squad were “threatened” not to support her.

And yes, Turner did talk about running for president in 2024. That tweet doesn’t really convey the sense of Turner’s speech. She basically threatened to run for president as revenge against everyone who kept her from winning in Ohio. Stick with this for a couple minutes and watch Turner really work herself up, comparing herself to LeBron James. “Stay tuned because this is what you all asked for…Sister Turner unleashed, that’s what they gonna get.”

It seems to me “Sister Turner” has been giving it her all for a while now and while I’ll grant that she can definitely give a good stemwinder in a friendly room, she just can’t win a race.