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A hard-fought primary ends Tuesday in Ohio’s 11th Congressional District, a race that has seen National Democrats descend on the Cleveland area to take sides as two competing party factions battle for a historic Democratic seat.
While 13 people are on the ballot box, two have emerged at the head of the pack:
- Shontel Brown, chairman of the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party and member of the county council;
- and Nina Turner, former Ohio State Senator and co-chair of Bernie Sanders’ 2020 presidential race.
The two are vying for the Democratic nomination for the seat until recently held by Marcia Fudge, whom President Biden named his housing and urban development secretary.
In this solidly blue quarter, the winner of the Democratic primary is likely to win the seat.
The primary caught the attention of many national politicians, with supporters appearing to align themselves with progressive versus moderate lines. Turner garnered support from Sanders, as well as Liberal House members of the so-called Squad. Brown, meanwhile, has the backing of Hillary Clinton and House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, not to mention Fudge’s mother.
Seen in this light, the race is a showdown between liberal, anti-establishment Democrats and more moderate establishment Democrats.
However, some mentions do not correspond perfectly to this characterization.
“Nina has been here and done the job for so long, and I know her as a lawmaker,” said Bakari Sellers, who co-chaired Kamala Harris’s presidential race for 2020 and supported Clinton in 2016. “We have need people who can get into this field. Congress and get things done. “
Likewise, Jeff Rusnak, an Ohio Democratic strategist who was Ohio state director for Bernie in 2016, said he would vote for Brown.
“If you want someone on Marcia Fudge’s footsteps, you vote Brown,” he said. “She won’t be a flamethrower, she won’t be a confrontational person in that regard.”
What the race for money and the polls say
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Turner’s fundraising far exceeded Brown’s. A spokesperson for Turner told NPR the team’s fundraising is around $ 5.7 million, while Brown’s campaign says it is around $ 2.6 million. of dollars.
In mid-July, there was also a difference in how this money came in: the majority of Turner’s money was in donations of less than $ 200, while the vast majority of Brown’s Money came from larger donations.
However, this did not translate into a massive advance from Turner; on the contrary, poll reports campaigns and spending by outside groups for the race have shown that Brown has won over Turner in recent months.
Brown’s campaign told NPR that their internal poll from a week ago put her 3 percentage points ahead of Turner and that they expected it to be a close race. Turner’s campaign declined to provide polls.
But there are plenty of other funds flowing into the competition beyond what the contestants have raised. Ads by outside groups supporting Brown or opposing Turner total about $ 2.9 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, compared to nearly $ 900,000 spent to support Turner or oppose Brown.
The Democratic Majority Advocacy Group for Israel spent $ 2.2 million on the race to support Brown or oppose Turner, and Washington, DC, center-left think tank Third Way, also argued Brown.
Political action committees work on behalf of Turner include the Progressive Party of Working Families and the Democratic Action PAC.
“No one is used to voting in August”
Participation is perhaps the key factor that makes this race unpredictable. A spokesperson for the Brown campaign told NPR that lower turnout is likely to benefit them more than Turner, but that they believe they may do well in some areas where turnout is rising. The Turner campaign, meanwhile, says it’s working hard to try to increase turnout.
“Honestly, it takes work, and the reason is that this election is in the middle of the holiday season,” Sellers said. “No one is used to voting in August.”
While this is a closely watched contest, it is not the only special election campaign going on right now.
Voters will also go to the polls on Tuesday at 15th District of Ohio, to choose the candidates in the race to replace Republican Rep. Steve Stivers, who left office in the spring to become president and CEO of the Ohio Chamber of Commerce.
Former President Donald Trump weighed in in the GOP primary, lending his support to coal lobbyist Mike Carey.