On Tuesday, Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.) survived a primary challenge from Arati Kreibich, a progressive newcomer who had hoped to capitalize on the recent resurgence of energy from left-wing Democrats amid mass unemployment and nationwide anti-racism protests.
Ballots were still being counted into Wednesday morning when Kreibich formally conceded the race to Gottheimer.
“We’ve always known this would be a tough fight, and last night it became clear that we came up short,” Kreibich said in a written statement. “Josh Gottheimer will be our Democratic nominee, and I intend to vote for him and Democrats up and down the ballot in November. Trump and the GOP must be defeated.”
The Kreibich campaign was a long-shot effort to depose one of the most conservative Democrats in Congress. Gottheimer, who was first elected in 2016, has persistently pursued Republican policy priorities, earning him the ire of not only progressive activists but even centrist Democrats.
Last year, Gottheimer led a revolt of 18 conservative Democrats against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, demanding that the party strip a set of humanitarian protections for migrants detained at border facilities from a government funding bill. Gottheimer won, and the resulting budget bill funneled billions of dollars to Trump’s detention centers and roiled the Democratic caucus for months.
It wasn’t the first or the last time Gottheimer pushed a Republican line in Democratic negotiations. He has exploited his position on the House Financial Services Committee to aggressively fundraise from big banks and private equity firms. He voted for the bank deregulation bill Trump signed into law in 2018, and flatters bank executives when they appear before the committee.
Most Democrats who raise money from Wall Street and vote with big banks try to burnish their progressive credentials on social issues. Gottheimer does not. In January of 2018, he was one of just six Democrats to break with the party’s support for the Dream Act, which provides legal status to undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as children.
But Democratic leadership has consistently rewarded Gottheimer for his apostasies. Despite his repeated attacks on party leadership, he’s enjoyed the full backing of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Democratic Caucus Chair Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) in the primary, alongside such Democratic Party aligned organizations as Planned Parenthood, the Human Rights Campaign and American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, an influential labor union.
The electoral calculus for the Democratic establishment was obvious. Until Gottheimer’s victory in 2018, the wealthy, suburban district had been represented by Republicans since the 1930s and has consistently backed Republican presidential candidates. A progressive challenger like Kreibich, who supports Medicare for All, might prove too liberal for the district.
But the district has been trending blue. Gottheimer narrowly won his seat in 2016, and Trump took the district by just 1.1%. In 2018, Gottheimer defeated his Republican challenger by double digits.
Pelosi’s governing strategy convinced progressives to roll the dice. She has consistently catered to the policy priorities of centrist and conservative Democrats in high-income districts, arguing that they are the most vulnerable members of the caucus who must be protected legislatively. But with Democrats widely expected to expand on a wide House majority in November’s elections, many progressives think deposing lawmakers like Gottheimer would ultimately help the party pursue its more progressive goals in 2021.
Throughout the primary campaign, Kreibich emphasized her Democratic credentials rather than her progressive views, calling herself a “real Democrat” and assailing Gottheimer as “Trump’s favorite Democrat.”
It wasn’t enough to put Gottheimer out of a job.
The post The Most Conservative Democrat In Congress Just Survived A Progressive Primary Challenge appeared first on Huffington Post.