Massachusetts Senator and presidential Front-Runner-To-Be Elizabeth Warren made waves this week by endorsing two progressive Democratic challengers to sitting conservative Democrats in districts in Illinois and Texas. These insurgent candidates — immigration lawyer Jessica Cisneros for the 28th Congressional District of Texas and anti-bullying advocate Marie Newman for the 3rd Congressional District of Illinois — are supported by the Justice Democrats, the same group that backed Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in her bid to topple establishment Democrat Joe Crowley.
This is a gutsy move for Warren, who is going directly against establishment Democrats Henry Cuellar of Texas and Dan Lipinski of Illinois, who would stand to lose their seats if these two progressives win their primaries.
But I can’t help but ask — why isn’t Warren backing the Justice Democrat candidate in her own state: Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse? Morse was endorsed by the progressive group last month in his bid to unseat longtime Springfield Democrat Richard Neal.
In her endorsement of Cisneros, Warren said, “The people of Texas’ 28th district are ready for systematic change and deserve a Democrat that will be on the side of working people; not the side of big money,” and I’m sure she would agree that the same is true of the people of Massachusetts’ 1st district.
Neal has long been criticized for prioritizing his donors in the insurance and tax-preparation industries over the people of his district. In a recent pair of articles published in the Advocate, author and former Salon.com editor David Daley eviscerates Neal for his lavish spending on nights out for donors as well as on his efforts to undermine the free filing system that should guarantee those who make less than $66,000 a year no charge for filing their federal taxes. For years, those in rural parts of Neal’s sprawling district, which includes some of the more liberal communities in the state, have criticized Neal for being absent and not meeting with them.
In addition, Neal has disappointingly slow-walked the process to get President Trump’s taxes and, unlike Western Mass’s other U.S. Representative, Jim McGovern, does not support impeachment proceedings despite a clear message from the Mueller Report that congressional action is the only way to hold Trump accountable for obstruction of justice and potentially other crimes.
Through his campaign emails, 30-year-old openly gay Morse is hammering Neal using all the right arguments: Neal is the only Representative in Massachusetts not to support the Green New Deal; Neal is the reason we won’t get Trump’s tax returns before the 2020 election; Neal is taking money from unsavory donors. Meanwhile, Morse has been a progressive force in Holyoke, and while he hasn’t been perfect (and is almost impossible to get on the phone), he has taken the right stance on cannabis legalization and having needle exchanges in Holyoke.
Morse supports Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, and impeachment proceedings, all measures supported by Warren and not supported by Neal.
Warren’s rise in the polls has been welcome news, joining Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders as top competitors taking on former Vice President Joe Biden, whose electability argument seemingly grows weaker with every appearance he makes. Both Warren and Sanders are running people-focused campaigns — you can tell from the epic number of small donors both of them have. Warren’s focus on detailed plans that take political and economic advantages away from the wealthy are refreshing.
Likewise her use of her top-tier status to help progressive challengers to sitting Democrats is commendable. Cuellar, who she is targeting in Texas, has an ‘A’ rating from the sensible-gun-control-blocking Republican arm known as the National Rifle Association, has voted to ban federal funds for abortions, and has voted with President Trump 67 percent of the time, according to RollCall. Lipinski is one of the last anti-abortion Democrats in congress, and he represents a safe Democratic district in Illinois.
Neal has a 30-year history in the House of Representatives. Most recently, he dispatched challenger Tahirah Amatul-Wadud in 2018, who promised more progressive and egalitarian representation for the Massachusetts 1st District.
Warren would do well to look at the entrenched interests in her home state, and make her next endorsement here in Western Mass.
Dave Eisenstadter can be reached at email@example.com.