Democratic Rising Stars

Richard Elliott, UMBC:

Until recently, it was thought that the Republicans had most of the rising stars in our political landscape. The Young Guns: current Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, and former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.  Florida Senator Marco Rubio. Kentucky Senator Rand Paul. Even Ted Cruz. But I would say their time has come and gone. I now think there are many more rising stars in the Democratic ranks, and many of them are progressives. The days of establishment politics a la Clinton and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz are coming to an end and young blood will soon remake the Democratic Party in their image. I, for one, welcome that fact.

  1. Keith Ellison, Democratic Representative from Minnesota’s 5th District

Recently, Keith Ellison lost a bitterly contested fight to become the chair of the Democratic National Committee to Obama’s Secretary of Labor and former civil rights attorney Tom Perez. This was viewed by many as the latest fight between Clinton loyalists and the Sanders/Warren wing of the Democratic Party because Ellison was one of only 10 current members of Congress to endorse Sanders. While I would’ve preferred Ellison for DNC Chair, this is not too bad. Ellison’s profile has been raised to the national level. I think a race where he is the Vice Presidential candidate in 2020 to match a more establishment candidate isn’t out of the question, nor is a Senate run when Amy Klobuchar or Al Franken runs for Governor to replace Mark Dayton.

  1. Julian Castro, Obama’s Secretary of Housing and Urban Development

Julian Castro, formerly considered  for Vice President under Hillary Clinton, is likely to be a major force in Democratic politics in the Southwest. The former mayor of San Antonio won reelection with 83% of the vote in 2011 and 67% in 2013. He also was the first Hispanic individual to give the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention, done at the 2012 DNC in North Carolina. He is considering a run for Governor of Texas in 2017 and the support of San Antonio will be a huge boon to his campaign.

  1. Chris Murphy, Junior Democratic Senator from Connecticut

Chris Murphy is most famous for standing alongside civil rights icon John Lewis to lead a sit-in on the floor of the Capitol to demand legislation on gun control. This was a smart move for two reasons. First, it raised Murphy’s profile from a Senator of a small, coastal state to a nationally-known politician. Second, gun control is a major issue in Connecticut ever since the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. By tying himself to gun control, I believe Chris Murphy has cemented himself for future success in Connecticut. I expect to see a presidential run by Murphy in 2020, which I do not expect to be successful. However, I think a governor run by Murphy in 2022 could elevate his status even further. This is especially pertinent because the current  Democratic Connecticut Governor Dan Molloy to historic lows.

  1. Tulsi Gabbard, Democratic Representative from Hawaii’s 2nd District

Army Major Tulsi Gabbard has true promise for two reasons. She showed her progressive bona fides when she resigned from the Democratic National Committee to endorse Bernie Sanders in 2016, and she is very focused on foreign policy. I expect her to continue shoring up her foreign policy credentials over the next few years. She would be an excellent candidate for Secretary of Defense in the next Democratic administration and will absolutely be in future presidential talks. She would’ve been the best candidate for VP if Sanders had been the Democratic nominee. One mar on her record is her previous opposition to same-sex marriage.

  1. Raul Grijalva, Democratic Representative from Arizona’s 3rd District

Raul Grijalva would be the strongest candidate that the Arizona Democratic Party could put forward to replace long-time Republican Senator John McCain in 2022. Grijalva is the current co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus alongside Keith Ellison, along with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, the LGBT Equality Caucus, the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, and the Congressional National Landscape Conservation System. He was also an outspoken critic of SB1070, which would have allowed racial profiling and granted wide-reaching immigration powers to local authorities  He was one of only 10 House Democrats to endorse Bernie Sanders in 2016. His credentials should easily help build a coalition of environmentalists, Latinx individuals, immigration rights activists, and more to take the Senate seat once John McCain retires.

  1. Pete Buttigieg, Democratic Mayor of South Bend, Indiana

Pete Buttigieg had little name recognition until he chose to run for the DNC Chair spot. The gay former Marine and progressive mayor has been quietly gaining political power in Indiana. He was was the youngest mayor of a town with over 100,000 residents when he was first elected and was later named Mayor of the Year in 2013. He won re-election in 2014 with over 80% of the vote in South Bend. Pete certainly has promise and he should be the future face of the Democratic Party in Indiana. That’ll definitely tick off Mike Pence.

  1. Bill de Blasio, Democratic Mayor of New York City

Bill de Blasio would’ve been the ideal candidate for Secretary of Housing and Urban Development if Hillary Clinton had won, but alas, we have a thoroughly unqualified choice with Dr. Ben Carson. Bill de Blasio now has the opportunity to run for higher office in New York  Currently in his first term, he can run again in 2018. After that, he would have an easy pathway to Senate or Governor with the support of New York City on his back. He also endorsed Keith Ellison for DNC Chair. He would be a solid replacement for Andrew Cuomo in Albany or Chuck Schumer in Washington.

  1. Kirsten Gillibrand, Junior Democratic Senator from New York

Gillibrand certainly knew what she was doing when she voted against almost all of Trump’s appointees, the most of anyone in the Senate. This upstate New York moderate is trying to establish her progressive image, likely for a 2020 presidential run. While I don’t think she’d be a great candidate for President or Vice President in 2020, I think she would be a very good Senior Senator or Governor of New York in due time.

  1. Cory Booker, Junior Democratic Senator from New Jersey

Cory Booker would’ve been the candidate that many members of the Sanders/Warren wing supported, but he voted down a bill that would allow the importation of drugs from Canada. Especially considering the major donations he receives from the pharmaceutical industry, this was essentially the kiss of death for his progressive credentials. Regardless, he is likely going to run for President in 2020 and I think he would be an excellent VP candidate.He raised his profile greatly by testifying against fellow Senator Jeff Sessions for Attorney General, the first time ever.

  1. Tammy Baldwin, Junior Democratic Senator from Wisconsin

An openly gay woman with a liberal voting record in a state that has been hammered by Republican policies imposed by Reaganite Scott Walker, Baldwin could be the next Governor Wisconsin. Especially with Scott Walker’s low approval ratings, her work could be cut out for her.

  1. Joaquin Castro, Democratic Representative from Texas’ 20th District

Joaquin, the identical twin brother of Julian Castro, will also be a force in Texas in the future. If Julian runs for Governor of Texas, Joaquin could be a competitor for the Democratic Senator race. Soon, the endorsement of the Castro brothers will be the path to success for Democrats not just in Texas, but throughout the Southwest United States. He will be a huge boon for outreach in the Latinx community in not just the Southwest, but also the Midwest and Florida.

  1. Kamala Harris, Junior Democratic Senator from California

Harris is a first-term Senator who is replacing long-serving Democrat Barbara Boxer. She is mixed-race and served as California’s Attorney General for 2 terms I think Kamala Harris will be a dark horse candidate for President in 2020. With her focus on “smart on crime” platform and because she comes form the most politically powerful state in our union, I think she can go far.

  1. Beto O’Rourke, Democratic Representative from Texas’ 16th District

This prospective 2020 Senate candidate from Texas is looking to take on Ted Cruz. Rather than coming from Houston or Austin or San Antonio, he served on the El Paso City Council for 6 years, asked the federal government to rethink the War on Drugs, and drafted a resolution to reject civilian attempts to enforce immigration law. With the support of El Paso behind him and the endorsement of the Castro brothers, he could win with the support of Texas’ largest cities, border towns with high Latinx populations, and Republicans who become frustrated with Donald Trump, particularly if there is a high import tax to try and finance his signature border wall.

  1. Zephyr Teachout, former candidate for Governor of New York and for New York’s 19th Congressional District

Zephyr Teachout, an activist who formerly worked with the Occupy Wall Street movement, could be the next face of progressivism in New York City, after Bill De Blasio. She ran against Andrew Cuomo in the Democratic primaries for Governor in 2014 and, despite having no prior political experience, received 34% of the vote. Now, she is an activist for campaign finance reform  She recently lost a race for New York’s 19th congressional district after millions of dollars were provided by Republican superdonors to her opponent, John Faso. She was endorsed by Bernie Sanders in 2016 and recently filed a lawsuit against Donald Trump for violating the Constitution. Once Bill de Blasio meets his term limits, maybe she could be a good candidate for mayor of New York City.

15.  Michael Blake, New York State Assemblyman and DNC Vice Chair

I was very impressed by Michael Blake at the Baltimore DNC Forum. His message focused on voter outreach, particularly to those who feel the most disaffected within our political landscape He was recently elected to be a DNC Vice Chair and I foresee him in the House of Representatives for New York and possibly running for mayor of New York.

16.  John Wisniewski, New Jersey Delegate and candidate for Governor of New Jersey

The former chair of Bernie Sanders’ operation in New Jersey, Wisniewski is also leading the investigation into Bridgegate. With current Republican governor Chris Christie’s approval ratings falling to record-breaking lows, a win in the New Jersey primaries would make him a shoo-in for Governor of New Jersey.

  1. Nina Turner, former Minority Whip of the Ohio State Senate

Nina could be exactly what Ohio needs to remake their Democratic Party. This Sanders surrogate is now a board person for Our Revolution, a progressive political action committee that spun out of Bernie’s campaign. With the support of grassroots activists, Latinos, African-Americans, and labor organizers in 2022, she could finally remake the Ohio map where Republican Rob Portman has dominated for years into a Democratic stronghold.

  1. John Fetterman, Mayor of Braddock, Pennsylvania

Mayor Fetterman became mayor by the slimmest of margins: one vote. He was reelected in 2011 and 2013 and focused on improving education in the city. His “renaissance” of the city has attracted developers from Chicago and Portland to borrow his ideas. The only Pennsylvania Democrat to endorse Bernie Sanders, he modeled his 2016 Senate campaign on Bernie’s and got 20% of the primary vote. Fetterman would be an excellent choice to represent Pennsylvania’s 14th District in Congress.

  1. Alan Grayson, former Democratic representative for Florida’s 8th District and candidate for Senate from Florida

Alan Grayson endorsed Bernie Sanders for President, supports Medicare for all, is an avid environmentalist, and is an outspoken critic of war in the Middle East. I think his style of politics could expand Florida’s Democratic base in rural regions of the state, along with in cosmopolitan cities like Miami and Orlando.

  1. Tim Canova, former candidate for Florida’s 23rd District

This Bernie-backed progressive took on well-connected political insider Debbie Wasserman-Schultz and lost to her by only 13 points despite her solid reputation. With Debbie Wasserman-Schultz’s reputation having been tarnished for the DNC scandals relating to Bernie, he could capitalize in 2018 and possibly take her seat.

  1. Justin Bamberg, Democratic Representative of South Carolina’s 90th District

This 29-year old could do great things in South Carolina. A Sanders supporter with a powerful and smart state party leader in Jaime Harrison, I think he could sitting in Washington as a Democratic representative in 2020.

  1. Deborah Ross, candidate for Governor of North Carolina

Deborah Ross, a former state representative in North Carolina, took on Richard Burr and lost by only a few points.Considering North Carolina’s disgusting record of voter suppression, this is a good sign. Economic policies that will hurt the working class in North Carolina along with further demographic changes, she could have a chance in 2022.

  1. Will Smith Jr., State Senator from Maryland’s 20th District

Smith is a former Obama appointee to the Department of Homeland Security, is an officer in the Naval Reserves, and practices civil rights law when the General Assembly is not in session. As a young, African-American with military and law experience, he could one day fill the gap where Anthony Brown failed against current Governor Larry Hogan.

  1. Pramila Jayapal, Democratic Representative from Washington’s 7th District

Jayapal, the first Indian-American woman elected to the House of Representatives, has an excellent political backstory. She became a citizen in 2000 and was a Seattle-based civil rights lawyer for over a decade. In the time of Trump’s bombastic rhetoric towards immigrants, Jamila’s voice will be even louder in fighting for tolerance. This former State Senator endorsed Bernie Sanders in 2016. She could consider a run for mayor of Seattle, which is within the district she represents. This would give her more name recognition in the state. Following Washington Senator Pat Murray’s opposition to drug importation (likely due to large pharmaceutical contributions to her campaign), I think Jamila would be an excellent primary challenger for Murray.

  1. Vincent Fort, Democratic State Senator from Georgia’s 39th District

Vincent Fort, an African-American who has served in Georgia’s State Senate since 1996, would be a favorite of mine to replace civil rights icon John Lewis. A supporter of Bernie Sanders, a critic of police militarization, and a proven winner, I think he’d be the best choice to move Georgia back into Democratic hands for the first time in decades.

  1. Jeff McCabe, Democratic Majority Leader of Maine’s House of Representatives

Maine has an interesting blend of political philosophy. An Independent (Angus King) and a moderate Republican (Susan Collins) as the Senators and a far-right racist Governor (Paul LePage). McCabe could be the face of progressivism to Maine’s citizens very soon and this Sanders supporter is rising for sure. Currently the Majority Leader of Maine’s House of Representatives, he plans to run for State Senate next year. Something tells me he could be the Governor of Maine before all is said and done.

  1. Timothy Smith, Democratic State Representative from New Hampshire’s 17th District

This 37-year old could make a dent in the libertarianism that is so rampant in the Granite State. An officer in the Civil Air Patrol and a member of the Veteran’s Affairs Committee, he has the credentials necessary to succeed in a rural state. He was also recently elected to serve on the state’s Democratic Party state committee. He endorsed Bernie from his Facebook page and I think Rep. Smith can help expand the Democratic message in New Hampshire.

  1. Heather Mizeur, former candidate for Governor of Maryland and State Representative for Maryland’s 20th District

Mizeur is a must for the Democratic ticket for Governor in 2018. She ran against then-Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown for the Democratic slot and got 22% of the vote in a 6-way race. Her plan to tax cannabis and use the money to fund education is currently under consideration in the Maryland General Assembly. Hogan is currently riding high approval ratings, but the “Trump effect” is likely to drag him down even further since Hogan did not call Trump out for the unconstitutional Muslim ban, his unqualified Cabinet appointees, or any of the other myriad of problems that have led Trump to have miserable approval ratings in Maryland. A ticket with this openly gay, progressive woman will help make Maryland blue again.

  1. Zeke Cohen, Education and Youth Chair on the Baltimore City Council

Running on a platform of expanded pre-K education, supporting small businesses, and community policing, Zeke is the progressive vision for the future of Baltimore. In due time, I believe he will be a great candidate for Baltimore who can move the city towards helping out those in need rather than pandering to neoliberal dreams.

  1. Jewell Jones , Democratic Representative from Michigan 10th District in the State Legislature

Jewell Jones is an Army officer candidate and representative in the state legislature of Michigan. Did I add that he’s only 22 years old? At age 20, he was elected to the City Council for Inkster, Michigan. Last year, he won the 11th District with over 66% of the vote and became Michigan’s youngest elected representative ever. The Michigan Democratic Party will go very far with him.

  1. John Kefalas, Democratic State Senator from Colorado’s 14th District

A progressive with his sights set on health care and fighting poverty, Kefalas could move Colorado forward. His policies would help to turn conservative strongholds such as Colorado Springs and rural areas bluer with his message. He won his last election by 22 points. Oh yeah, he also endorsed Bernie. I expect to see him as a primary challenger to neoliberal Michael Bennett in the near future.

  1. Liz Jaff, Democratic strategist and former DNC Vice Chair candidate

I think Liz Jaff will be a huge boon to the progressive left. In an interview with Mic, she said she wants to bring grassroots organizers from groups like Black Lives Matter and the Women’s March on Washington into the Democratic umbrella. She believes this will increase millennial involvement in progressive politics and I agree with her wholeheartedly. Her ideas could revolutionize the way that the Democratic Party engages with its youngest members and can work to prevent the alienation many millennials have felt towards the Democratic Party.



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