BY KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL – THE WASHINGTON POST
Elections produce winners and losers. There are no bonus points for participation. Democrats have been frustrated by losses in high-profile congressional races — Rob Quist bested by Greg Gianforte in Montana and James Thompson falling short to Ron Estes in deep-red Kansas. In both elections, the Democratic nominees outperformed previous Democratic showings but came up short. In the nationally publicized special election in Georgia to fill the seat of Republican Tom Price, the Democratic candidate, Jon Ossoff, is still locked in a dead heat. This leads pundits and many Democrats to wonder: Is the “resistance” to President Trump a dud at the polling booth?
Before the garment-rending and hand-wringing go too far, Democrats and pundits would do well to focus their eyes a little lower on the ballot. In special elections for state and local offices, progressive insurgents aren’t just coming close — they are winning and sending a message to the establishment of both parties.
In the 9th state assembly district of Long Island, Christine Pellegrino — a schoolteacher, union activist, Bernie Sanders delegate and Working Families Party Democrat — dispatched her Republican opponent by a stunning 58 percent to 42 percent. As Newsday reported, this is usually a district where Democrats hardly compete. Trump swamped Hillary Clinton here by 23 percentage points. The veteran Republican state legislator who held the seat was reelected by a 37-point margin over a Democratic challenger. But when he stepped down, Pellegrino — a first-time candidate — swept to victory.
In New Hampshire, Edith DesMarais pulled a similar upset in a state legislative race. “Republicans should absolutely be concerned,” William F.B. O’Reilly, a Republican partner in the November Team, a political consulting firm, told the New York Times. “Two Republican canaries died in the coal mine yesterday.”
Progressive candidates are rising in Democratic primaries in Democratic areas as well. In the primary for Philadelphia district attorney, civil rights attorney Larry Krasner, who has defended Occupy Philadelphia and Black Lives Matter protesters, won on a platform calling for an end to mass incarceration, police reform and more. Supported by Sanders and a range of progressive groups, his candidacy was also bolstered by the money of George Soros. “This changes the game across the country,” William Cobb of the American Civil Liberties Union told Philadelphia magazine.
... Clearly the populist energy generated by the Sanders campaign and the Trump resistance has electoral power. Democrats — particularly the so-called Obama Coalition — have been notorious no-shows in by-elections and special elections. Now they are turning out in larger numbers, while Republican turnout is at question.