Bernie Sanders Gets Mixed Results With Progressive Candidates In New York Primaries

A progressive congressional candidate backed by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) defeated her opponent in New York’s primaries Tuesday night, although another Sanders-supported candidate — a Social Security expert in central New York — lost his election.

Zephyr Teachout soundly bested organic farmer Will Yandik in New York’s 19th Congressional District on Tuesday. Although she received a boost from Sanders’ endorsement, Teachout has long been a progressive favorite and was already known statewide after running against incumbent Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) in the 2014 Democratic primary. 

Although Cuomo won — 62 percent to 34 percent — the fact that Teachout pulled so much support away from a sitting governor was impressive. She had no previous electoral experience, spent nearly no money and had a bare-bones campaign operation. In that election, Teachout did particularly well in the Hudson Valley, where the moderate 19th District is located.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee did not endorse in the race, but many Democrats were excited about Yandik because of his ties to the district and his appeal to independents. He said he was in regular touch with the DCCC. Teachout will face Republican John Faso in November to replace outgoing Rep. Chris Gibson (R-N.Y.). 

Sanders’ candidate didn’t fare as well in New York’s 24th District. There, Eric Kingson lost to Colleen Deacon, who had the backing of the DCCC and both the state’s U.S. senators. Deacon worked for the mayor of Syracuse and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), and often stressed her experience as a single mother living on food stamps. She will face incumbent Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.) in the fall.

Kingson co-founded the national organization Social Security Works and started the Strengthen Social Security Coalition, which comprises more than 300 organizations focused on strengthening and expanding Social Security. He has also called for a single-payer health care system, which has been a signature issue for Sanders. 

Kingson faced more of an uphill battle than Teachout, but he received an extra boost in the form of a campaign rally appearance by Sanders in Syracuse last week. Sanders said Congress needed members “who have the guts to stand up to powerful special interests.”

Sanders has lent his high profile and considerable fundraising might to a number of progressive down-ballot candidates who he hopes will join him in Washington to push a progressive agenda. 

Some of them, such as Kingson and Teachout, waged direct challenges to the Democratic establishment in primaries against candidates endorsed by groups like the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Sanders’ most notable endorsement is in Florida, where he’s backing Tim Canova, a professor and political novice, against Democratic National Committee Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.). 

New York’s 19th and 24th Districts both are high on the Democratic Party’s list of districts they believe they can flip to blue in November. Wins by people like Teachout and Jamie Raskin — the progressive Maryland state senator who won the primary in his heavily Democratic district in April — reflect the populist mood of the electorate and could give Sanders more allies in Congress next year.

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