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Ohio Democratic primary becomes a test for progressives


CLEVELAND (AP) – Amid relentless sunshine and rising humidity, Nina Turner led a small procession of voters last week to a polling station on the east side of Cleveland, leading the group on a long block to the crosswalk although running across the street would have been easier.

“We don’t want you to break the law,” one aide chided. “Let’s go down to the light.

Turner has built a national reputation as a leading voice for Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaigns, leading crowds in crowded auditoriums to rise with enthusiastic calls for universal health care and bold action to fight against climate change. But as she faces her own election next month, Turner focuses on more mundane aspects of the campaign, like avoiding jaywalking as she encourages supporters to vote and offers reassurance that her politics still have a place. within the Democratic Party.

“Something I can add, whether the Main Democrats understand this or not, is that I can speak the language of people from all walks of life,” Turner said in an interview. “It is important for the expansion of the Democratic Party.”

Turner is best known of more than a dozen Democrats vying to replace former Rep. Marcia Fudge, who left Congress to become the housing chief of President Joe Biden. The August 3 primary is shaping up to be one of the last tests this year for the Progressives, who have suffered setbacks in other races, including the Democratic primaries for the governor of Virginia and the mayor of New York.

With just a six-seat advantage in the House, some Democrats are taking aggressive steps to dull Turner and support more centrist alternatives.

House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, the highest ranking black member of Congress, whose support helped Biden win the Democratic nomination last year, County Councilor Shontel Brown argues against Turner. Hillary Clinton, the political wing of the Congressional Black Caucus, several large unions and over 100 local leaders are doing the same.

Federal rules prohibit Fudge from supporting the race, but his mother appeared in an advertisement for Brown.

As the contest is emerging as a proxy for the future of the Democratic Party, local leaders say voters are more concerned with issues such as creating jobs, fighting crime and improving the access to health care, which remains elusive for many, despite the high concentration of Cleveland hospital chains.

“People are trying to make it moderate rather than gradual. I don’t see it that way, ”said Cleveland City Councilor Blaine Griffin, who has supported Turner but is friends with everyone who runs. He added that, whatever the ideology, no one “likes poverty, high speed cars on the street, bad roads or bridges.”

The neighborhood is ax-shaped with an oversized head, winding from Cleveland to Akron, nearly 40 miles to the south. The population is 53% African-American and almost a quarter of the inhabitants live in poverty. The winner of the primary in the solidly blue district will likely go on to win in the November general election.

A 53-year-old community college professor, Turner served on Cleveland City Council, served as a state senator and unsuccessfully ran for Ohio Secretary of State before touring the country with Sanders in his presidential candidacies of 2016 and 2020.

Her signature phrase, “Hello, someone!” has become a campaign staple, making crowds across the country scream for joy. But those who worked with Turner years ago in Cleveland remember her for another catchphrase, “Do you feel me?” which she first used to address an audience of otherwise insensitive young people.

As she speaks to voters, Turner explains her support for universal health insurance coverage under “Medicare for All” by highlighting the experience of her mother, who was uninsured and died while she was only 42 years old. Turner also says she wants to eradicate student debt because she knows her sting: she and her son owe nearly $ 100,000 combined in loans that she still pays off.

But the bitterly contested presidential primary between Biden and Sanders has left resentments lingering. The Democratic Majority Advocacy Group for Israel produced ads grabbing Turner comparing support for Biden to be forced to eat feces.

Brown pointed to moments like this to assert that she will be able to accomplish much more, much faster in Washington.

“I don’t need to start with a long letter of apology,” Brown said from his campaign office at a former pet store. “I can just walk through the door with a good relationship and get down to business on behalf of the voters. “

The Reverend Aaron Phillips, executive director of the Cleveland Clergy Coalition, criticizes Sanders and Turner for dividing Democrats so much, which he says helped Republican Donald Trump win the presidency in 2016.

Brown, meanwhile, “has been a loyal Democrat her entire life,” Phillips said. “She never changed.”

Turner says she remains a proud progressive. And while some like-minded contestants haven’t won their races lately, she said they “are pushing the narrative forward in this country nonetheless.” The van that serves as his mobile campaign office is adorned with the slang phrase “Corporate Democrat wants a puppet.”

As Turner lingered briefly in the shade of the van after the ride to the polling station, Sam Cooke’s “Everybody Loves Cha Cha Cha” by Sam Cooke sounded over the speakers and she started dancing.

“I can do it. But no vocals,” she laughed. “There are people with that talent. I’m not one of them.

Reverend Regis Bunch of the Fifth Christian Church in Cleveland said Turner makes personal connections with voters and insisted most aren’t afraid of big progressive goals, which he says “aren’t as far apart as many believe “.

“We need something bigger than this liberal paradigm we live in,” said Bunch, 34, who said he supported Sanders in the primary and only voted for Biden last fall. “by force”.

Turner denies, however, that she will be a Congressional provocateur, arguing that she has worked well with both sides in the state legislature. She has also aired television commercials promoting her past work as the engagement chairperson of the Ohio Democratic Party.

Brown retorts that she can actually achieve the kind of two-party politics that Turner only talks about.

“I feel like the ‘all or nothing’ approach ends with nothing. We must therefore be able to find compromises, ”she said. “Being a partner doesn’t mean being a puppet.”


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