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California Has A Special Election In 3 Weeks With The Same Dynamics As The Nina Turner Race



The special election for California's 18th Assembly district is a race much like the Nina Turner contest-- a super-blue area contested by a progressive fighter and a status quo establishment place holder. Only about 7% of the registered voters are Republicans. The 18th AD includes areas of Oakland, Alameda and San Leandro and the special election primary yielded two candidates, progressive Janani Ramachandran and the more conservative wife of the former assembly member, Rob Bonta, now Newsom's appointed Attorney General. The runoff is on August 31.


Bonta's wife, Mia claims to be fighting for the working families of the district, but she is being financed by big donors who are aligned against the working families of California. For example, Bonta claims to believe healthcare is a human right, but she has taken hundreds of thousands of dollars from corporations and PACs that are fighting against universal healthcare. She claims to fight for climate and environmental justice, yet she has taken thousands of dollars from the CEO of Park Street Capital, a $2.5 billion firm that invests in oil and gas, industrial agriculture, logging, and mining. She claims to stand up for workers, but she has taken thousands of dollars from corporations like DoorDash, which led the campaign for the anti-worker Prop 22. She has taken thousands from Oportun Inc., which is being investigated by the Biden Administration for aggressively suing thousands of low-income Latino borrowers during the pandemic. She claims to stand up for LGBTQ+ rights, yet takes money from the same corporations that support Republicans who have drafted anti-trans legislation like Anheuser Busch (which has a notoriously poor record on labor rights). You see a pattern?


On top of that, Bonta has taken hundreds of thousands of dollars from shady gambling interests that need political favors from her and her Attorney General husband. And all this, of course, has allowed her and her allies to flood the district with misleading ads paid for by the weapons industry, the insurance industry, big tech, giant beverage corporations, big developers... Not unlike what just happened in Cleveland's/Akron's congressional election. Please consider contributing to Janani's campaign by clicking on the Blue America state legislative thermometer on the left and electing a real progressive champion. Keep in mind, the other Democrats who ran in the primary and who got to know Janini and Mia have spoken with one voice: "elect Janini Ramaschandran." They have all endorsed her, as has local congressman, Ro Khanna.

Guest Post

-by Janani Ramachandran

If you follow progressive politics in America, there’s a very clear pattern: the establishment candidate thinks they have it locked up, the progressive candidate mobilizes the people of their district to mount a serious campaign, and then the establishment candidate calls in the cavalry and receives a flood of corporate money as they attempt to drown out a progressive political movement. Cue Nina Turner.

That is what’s happening right now in my District, California Assembly District 18 (Oakland, Alameda, and San Leandro), which has a special election on August 31st to replace newly-appointed California Attorney General Rob Bonta.

I am determined to break this cycle.

The establishment was stunned that I made it this far, because I’m not an elected official nor wrapped up in the party political machinery. Political pundits were shocked that an activist, former community health worker, and legal aid attorney could win out against multiple elected officials.

District 18-- one of the most progressive Districts in the state, perhaps in the country-- deserves a progressive leader who won’t make empty promises about healthcare or housing being a human right, but then goes around accepting corporate contributions from the very industries blocking those rights from becoming realities.

For example, McDonalds franchises caught wind of my proposal to raise the minimum wage to $22/hour-- and therefore donated $25,000 to my opponent.

Health insurance companies and big Pharma heard about my staunch commitment to Medicare for All-- and contributed nearly $200,000 to my opponent.

Large corporate real estate developers heard about my commitment to protecting tenants and extending our eviction moratorium-- and poured thousands of dollars to my opponent.

Doordash heard about my commitment to workers’ rights and overturning Prop 22-- and donated thousands of dollars to my opponent.

And the gambling industry poured in over $150,000.

There’s a reason California is still lagging behind on progressive policy despite having a Democratic governor and Democratic supermajorities in both chambers of the state legislature. For all the (well-deserved) criticism Republicans receive for taking corporate money, most Democrats in Sacramento rely on the same corporate donors to maintain their grip on power. Why should we expect these politicians to support the progressive policies their voters want when the corporations who put them in office have a vested interest in pushing California to the right? When you take their money, you take their side.

I am the only candidate in this race who has never accepted a cent of corporate money, and I never will. For too long, corporations and corporate executives have poisoned our political system by buying elected officials who go to Sacramento with the sole purpose of pleasing their corporate donors.

My big donors are the people: real-working-class Californians making small-dollar donations because they believe in our fearless fight for justice. I will have nobody whispering in my ear when casting votes except the voices of my own constituents.

Recently, we’ve seen what happens when we elect community activists. Rep. Cori Bush spearheaded a movement to pressure the White House to extend the national eviction moratorium after Democrats in Congress let it lapse. Those same Democrats received millions of dollars from corporate real estate interests.

Rep. Bush’s leadership is exactly why the establishment will work so hard to defeat progressive candidates like me. They recognize how powerful our movement is-- and know that if we win, so can progressives across California fighting for state 2022. Which is especially salient because one-third of the current state legislature will be termed out by 2024.

This is a historic opportunity to break the cycle of corporate power in politics. If we can’t elect a corporate-free progressive in one of California’s most progressive districts, what hope do we have for dozens of Congress races next year?

In the primary, our campaign spent less than $14 per vote, while Mia Bonta spent about $35 per vote. What this shows is that the thousands of voters, volunteers, and activists who support our campaign have made it so that every single dollar donated to our campaign makes a huge difference.

The August 31 Special Election is coming up in 3 weeks. We invite you to be a part of this historic race, and help set the tone for progressives across the country next year. We are neck and neck with our corporate-backed establishment opponent, so absolutely every dollar helps. Join our people-powered movement today- https://secure.actblue.com/donate/jananiforca. You can also volunteer to phonebank, text, walk precincts, or write postcards here: https://www.mobilize.us/jananiramachandranforassembly2022/event/401592/

If you are tired of witnessing true progressives build local, grassroots movements for change, only to be steamrolled by the Democratic establishment and their corporate funders, join my fearless fight for justice. As Californians, my special election is our last opportunity this year to take on the establishment and WIN a seat for the people, not corporations-- are you in?