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Justice Democrats’ Vetting Process Hinders Progressive Candidates


I don’t want to be too critical of Justice Democrats because I love the organization, and I respect and admire its two co-founders, Kyle Kulinski and Cenk Uygur. As much as I love the Justice Democrats, something happened within the organization that was simply wrong. Not just once, but twice. Something is HORRIBLY WRONG with the Justice Democrats’ vetting process. Justice Democrats passed up two excellent candidates: one to take on California Senator Dianne Feinstein, David Hildebrand, and another to take on Texas Senator Ted Cruz, Irasema “Sema” Hernandez.

California: David Hildebrand

Most progressives agree: Dianne Feinstein has got to go! Simply perusing her record on Wikipedia gives you an idea as to why. She supported the Patriot ACT; voted for Mike Pompeo to head the CIA (who said Edward Snowden should be executed..); supports the death penalty; vetoed a city council ordinance as mayor of San Francisco that would have given spousal benefits to employees that have same-sex spouses; supports the drug war, including keeping marijuana criminalized; opposes single payer; voted to fast track the TPP; voted for the Iraq War resolution DESPITE believing the CIA had provided insufficient intelligence to conclude Hussein had WMDs; voted for the Bush tax cuts; the list just goes on and on.

David Hildebrand
David Hildebrand

A couple weeks ago, Justice Democrats announced that they had a primary challenger to Dianne Feinstein: Alison Hartson. Hartson was (and still is?) the national national director of Wolf PAC; an organization dedicated to getting money out of politics. As director of Wolf PAC, Hartson lead the effort (and succeeded) to get money out of politics in California. Hartson is definitely a progressive and a good choice to oust corporate Democrat Dianne Feinstein, but there is another progressive that may have been a better choice: David Hildebrand. Hildebrand informed Truth Against The Machine that his supporters have nominated him to run as a Justice Democrat on numerous occasions months prior to their announcement of Hartson’s candidacy.  

Side note: If you would like to connect with Hildebrand, follow this link to his website or this link to his Facebook.

Hildebrand told Truth Against The Machine he has been advocating for single payer for over a decade and that he has been a legislative analyst for six years. Hildebrand’s political positions include (but are not limited to): single-payer health care (obviously), a $15/hr minimum wage, banning fracking & combating climate change, ending “right to work laws” and strengthening unions, tuition-free public universities and colleges, a new glass-steagall, rent control, a tax on wall street transactions, raising taxes on the wealthy and big corporations, ending wars of aggression and implementing an end to regime change wars, a non-interventionist foreign policy. The list of progressive policies Hildebrand has come out in support of is very long. Hildebrand has been campaigning in California and gaining name recognition since March. Hildebrand really does seem like the perfect person for Justice Democrats to endorse. So, why in God’s name didn’t they?

Well… because he’s a man.

“We are not going to run another man against her [Diane Feinstein],” Sandy Menor from Justice Democrats explanation for not endorsing David Hildebrand. “We want another woman in the senate but a younger woman with ideas to help this country out of the hole that has been dug by this administration and this Congress.”

Very, very strange. It’s an eerie reminder of when Democrats and the DNC kept saying we should support Hillary over Bernie because she is a woman.

Kuklinski, one of the founders of Justice Democrats, spoke out against the staffer for precluding Hildebrand based off his gender. However, Kulinski stood by Justice Democrats’ decision to endorse Hartson stating:

“David previously worked in transportation. Alison’s experience was crucial to our decision. Simply, we think she’s the best candidate and can win.”

“[Hartson] is a one-issue candidate that has been a salaried employee of a Super PAC controlled by Cenk for the last two years. I have worked for 6 years as a legislative analyst on transportation policy, and have been active in healthcare and labor policy for years,” Hildebrand responded to Kyle.

Just for clarification, WolfPAC is a PAC not a super PAC.

I believe Kulinski when he says Justice Democrats didn’t pick Hartson based off of her gender: he was constantly pushing for Bernie over Hillary last year. Kulinski also voted for Jill Stein in the general election. Kulinski does genuinely promote whoever he believes is the best candidate.

Despite all of that, it seems very strange to me that Justice Democrats didn’t endorse Hildebrand. Hildebrand has a history of advocating everything on their platform, he’s been campaigning for 8 months now, and he was interviewed by Jimmy Dore on TYT.

It was also very strange that Dore was sitting across the table from Uygur as he announced Hartson was going to be running against Feinstein, but never mentioned the fact Hildebrand was already in the race.

What’s done is done now, both Hartson and Hildebrand are leagues better than Feinstein. Hopefully one of them ousts her in the Democratic Primary.

Texas: Irasema “Sema” Hernandez

In Texas many on the left are eager to oust incumbent Ted Cruz. I don’t think I even need to list the reasons we want him gone like I did with Feinstein. I’ve written about why I believe the Texas Democratic Party establishment’s choice, Beto O’Rourke, is not the right guy for the job. I support his primary opponent, Sema Hernandez. I know Hernandez personally, so just know what I’m about to say came out of her mouth.

Side note: you can connect with Hernandez by following this link to her website, or this link to her Facebook.

Sema Hernandez
Sema Hernandez

In March of 2017, Hernandez was actually nominated, and vetted, to be a Justice Democrat candidate. Hernandez passed the vetting process, and was told she would be running against Gene Green (who recently announced his retirement from congress) in Texas’ 29th congressional district. Hernandez was not happy about this because she wanted to unseat Ted Cruz, not Gene Green.

Hernandez was told that they could not back her in a race between Ted Cruz because Texas was a big state and would sap all of their resources. Justice Democrats also expressed skepticism to Hernandez that Texas could be flipped from red to blue. Justice Democrats also suggested that Hernandez run as a Republican to challenge Ted Cruz, which didn’t make any sense to her. Hernandez declined Justice Democrats’ suggestion to run for the Texas 29th’ congressional district.

Recently, one of the founders of Justice Democrats, Cenk Uygur, interviewed Beto O’rourke on TYT. Uygur has come out in favor of Beto O’Rourke. When I messaged Justice Democrats directly through Facebook, they informed me that they had not endorsed Beto because he has not cosponsored H.R. 676. When I informed them Uygur appears to have endorsed Beto, they stated Uygur is allowed to support whoever he likes and that Uygur was not involved in the day to day activities of Justice Democrats. Kulinski has also expressed a favorable view of Beto O’Rourke.

While Justice Democrats has not endorsed Beto, its two co-founders have come out in favor of his candidacy. Further, Uygur expressed that he would like to see, and has encouraged, Beto to join the Justice Democrats. Uygur stated that Beto “hadn’t joined yet.” (he said this at about the 8:00 mark in the Hartson interview). Given that Uygur wants Beto O’Rourke to join the organization and Kulinski has a favorable view of him, it only seems like a matter of time until he does.

Justice Democrats not endorsing Hernandez because Texas is too big of a state doesn’t make any sense now that they have endorsed Hartson for the California Senate. California’s population is 39 million compared to Texas’ 28 million. It also makes no sense for Justice Democrats to not to try to win Texas because it is such a conservative state. Texas is actually within the grasp of Democrats.

Justice Democrats has endorsed Paula Jean Swearengin in West Virginia to unseat the most conservative Democrat in the Senate, Joe Manchin. West Virginia is a much redder state than Texas, having gone to Donald Trump in 2016 by over 40%. West Virginia has just been getting more and more red with each passing election cycle while the opposite is true for Texas. Donald Trump won here by 9%.

All that being said, Justice Democrats passed up and refused to endorse two people that will fight for their platform relentlessly. They may end up endorsing Beto O’Rourke, who has only cosponsored 2 out of 8 bills on the People’s Platform at the current time. It appears neither Kyle Kulinski nor Cenk Uygur is aware of Hernandez’s candidacy because they are not involved in the day to day activities of Justice Democrats. The vetting process for Justice Democrats’ candidates needs to be reformed and improved.  

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  1. Re: David

    While marketing tactics seem dishonest by nature (running a woman to appeal to the target market) I personally don’t give a s**t as long as the candidate has a reliably concrete record that represents my principles. Once that is determined, my next question is who has the best chance of winning.

    So, unless David can prove:

    1) He has a reliable record supporting progressive values.
    2) He has a objectively better chance of winning CA

    He needs to shut up and fall in line because pushing progressive principles is more important than David’s political career.

    Re: Sema

    A lot of the same applies.

    Show me:

    1) Who more truly and ardently supports progressive values
    And balance that with
    2) How likely they are to win.

    This article did a lot of whining that this or that person wasn’t chosen but not much informing me why one or the other will win for progressives.

    I don’t understand why you are confused about the Texas sapping more resources bit.

    It’s harder to flip a red state than to flip a blue one. For example; flipping 1 Texas Republican is like flipping 1000 California dems (Obviously not something that can be scientifically quantified but you understand the spirit of my point I hope).

    • @J
      These candidates are very clear about what they support. You can tell that they actually believe in what they’re saying because they are very clear about what they support and don’t contradict themselves.

      The candidate most likely to win is the candidate that has the most determination. Kaniela Ing, currently running for Hawaii’s first congressional district, won his seat in Hawaii’s house of representatives in the only district in hawaii that is heavily Republican. He won by personally knocking on over 15,000 doors — and he crushed his oppponnet 61% to 35%.

      Flipping districts and flipping states is a simple matter of going out and talking to people — it’s not about how much money can be raised, but your message, your character, and how you communicate it.

  2. you say “flipping states is a simple matter of going out and talking to people — it’s not about how much money can be raised, but your message, your character, and how you communicate it.”” Now let’s see, suppose you knock on doors and talk to someone every 5 minutes– and out of those 12 you see in an hour, you get 10 votes. And you work really really hard, 15 hours a day, 7 days a week, that’s 150 votes a day. And let’s say each voter converts a friend so we net 300 votes a day. So there’s maybe in some places 250 days (8 months plus) before the primary. Your retail approach then produces 250 X 300 votes or 75,000. Now that’s just fine in the Hawaii legislature district you mention, but in a Texas or Cali election with millions of votes, you don’t wind up in the picture. No, getting out the message in a big election requires money. Grass-roots unknowns need to start at the bottom of the ladder, city races, assembly districts, and get known. And not delude people that they can start as governors or senators just cuz they have the right issue stands. You’re selling snake oil (to yourself — I’m sure you’re sincere) It’s very naive

    • It’s not naive at all. In the Hawaii District Kaniela Ing won by knocking on all the doors himself to win. He was outspent 10 to 1. What works on a microscale can also work on a macro scale — if you inspire people, they’re going to want to go out an volunteer for you. Phone banking, knocking on doors, social media posts. In the age of the internet communicating to voters, especially to millennials, is getting easier and easy. There are a ton of ways to get your name out there other than expensive ads on TV and the radio.

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