Fighting Back and Advancing Step By Step: Our April 2024 Primary Analysis

Member of Amistad Movement Power and allied groups give out literature on election day

When the dust settled from the April 2024 primary, Cass Green, a candidate who supported criminal justice reform and struggles for workers rights and affordable housing, had lost by 42 votes and Amen Brown, a candidate who supported legislation that would create new mandatory minimum sentences, was elected to a third term. It would be easy to chalk this up as progressive community organizations and unions coming up short and in the very real sense of the ultimate victory we did. However, we got within striking distance of an incumbent backed by wealthy interests who had been in office for two terms. We mounted a real fight and lost honorably. Incumbency is powerful and to get this close to defeating a state rep who has already been in office for two terms demonstrates clearly that our movement put in the work. Once people get in office they often gain favor through constituent services, patronage or tangible policy victories that impact people in their district and that makes them hard to beat. While Amen Brown has no tangible policy victories to speak of he has curried favor in other ways. 


An analysis of the election, however, also showed us that Cass made significant progress this election. Compared to 2022 she gained in wards that are more Black and more working class, but she lost votes in the part of the district that is in Center City.  When the margin of defeat is only 42 votes one could say that any one element could have brought her and our movement to victory. However, it’s our main assertion that Cass lost due to the 8th ward in Center City reversing its position from 2022 and backing Amen this time. Rather than finger point we should -while prioritizing organizing in working class parts of the district- do our best to support left organizations and leaders who have bases in these areas to make the case for progressive politics and to out organize or mitigate the reactionary political currents in these wealthier areas. But this is a dynamic we should pay close attention to as it underscores a current of political reaction that is taking place in more well heeled parts of the city and also in the national context. This is yet another sign post that the left-liberal coalition that grew massively with middle class and wealthy liberal ‘resisters’ after Trump’s election in 2016 has been waning for a few years now.

While we lost that battle of 10th, in other areas we held ground and advanced. Incumbency being powerful cuts both ways and this election saw progressives solidifying their political camp even more. Rep. Chris Rabb was elected to a fifth term, Rep. Elizabeth Fielder was elected to a fourth term, Rep. Rick Krajewski was elected to a third term and Senator Nikil Saval was elected to a second term. While all the state representatives were challenged by candidates backed by Democratic City Committee last time they were not challenged by the machine this time and neither was Senator Saval in his first reelection. This shows that our movement isn’t a flash in the pan, but rather a sustained force that is continuing to build momentum.

The victory of Andre Carroll shows that we are also advancing even if it is at a slower pace than we would like. Andre ran a powerful campaign and in the end he ran unchallenged as no candidate was able to get on the ballot and Rep. Kinsey also decided not to seek another term. He has made real pro-public education, pro-worker and anti-mass incarceration commitments. We are looking forward to seeing what he accomplishes with other progressives in Harrisburg. 


Last, but not least in the round up from the election is that our preferred candidate for Attorney General Keir Bradford-Grey did not receive the votes needed to advance to the general election. She ran a valiant campaign and raised many important issues and we are grateful for her efforts. Our movements showed up for her in Philly which she won handily with 10,000 more votes than any other candidate. However, we won’t miss a beat. We are excited that Eugene DePasquale, a great justice-minded candidate, will be squaring off against the Republican in the general election. Eugene’s father was incarcerated and he has made it clear he stands for second chances and a justice system that is focused on rehabilitation not pure punishment. He was our clear second choice in the crowded field and we will be thrilled to support him. 


With these small progress notes, we would be remiss if we did not speak about the crisis mounting on the horizon. As a genocide unfolds in Gaza the coalition that undergirds the Democratic party is in absolute disarray. The national Democratic party and especially the centrists have absolutely failed to provide meaningful support to a ceasefire while also punching down at student protesters and being dismissive of Muslim and Arab communities and anti-Zionist Jews all of whom traditionally vote with the Democratic Party. This is unacceptable. 


One part is structural. With hawkish military support for Israel within the centrist camp of the Democratic Party (and within both parties generally) on one hand and leftists, young voters, Muslim and Arab communities and others who sympathize with the the struggle of Palestinian people on the other, a wedge has been driven into the coalition that under grids the Democratic Party that portends a political realignment. The other part is a massive failure of morality and leadership. The Biden administration has done little of substance to check the absolutely unhinged aggression and war crimes of Netanyahu and the Israeli regime. 

This has caused a fracture within the party which threatens to split off the left wing of the party especially in urban centers around the country in an extremely high stakes election year. Grassroots organizers attempted to ring the alarm bell through the Uncommitted campaign in Pennsylvania (and other states) which helped contribute to a surge of write in votes. Over 59,000 write-in votes were counted in Pennsylvania, with over 5 times the amount of write-in votes in Philadelphia as we saw 4 years ago. While the actual numbers of ‘uncommitted’ votes are still being tallied, the political dynamics are undeniable and volatile. 

Make no mistake, Trump must be defeated in the fall. He has promised to set up mass immigrant concentration camps on the US border and there is no doubt that he will give even more of a green light for genocide in Gaza which will fuel even more killing. If he is elected, a good deal of the federal government that deals with people’s everyday needs will be dismantled and he will repurpose other parts of it to concentrate undemocratic power. We don’t imagine an outright fascist dictator, but rather a scenario in which the gutting and repurposing of power at the federal level leads us to a situation in which we have a far right institutional ruling party and a Democratic opposition party that is defanged and functionally shut out of power for decades leading to massive setbacks for Black and brown communities, the rights of sexual and gender minorities and working class people writ large. The stakes are clear to us. 

But just because we must resist Trump’s ascension to power does not mean we will fall in line. The slaughter that Joe Biden is enabling in Gaza must absolutely be resisted. If we do not fight and create a left realignment in the Democratic party it’s just a matter of time before the centrists help bring a far right populist to power through their accommodation of right wing politics and their orientation towards a political center which exists less and less in not only American politics, but also globally. We must fight to build our movements and a left political alternative that can actually deliver equality and freedom for our communities. 

What we know is this: when we move with authenticity and do deep organizing and thoughtful campaigning we can change what is possible. We must refuse reactivity and despair and lean into the fight for our people. There are no simple solutions, but there is us; people yearning to live free and to live in peace. We absolutely must stand in our power and to fight for our lives. The times call for nothing less. 



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