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Mixed Results For Sanders-Backed Democrats

Tuesday was a bittersweet night for candidates endorsed by Bernie Sanders, with one win and one loss for the so-called Berniecrats.
Image: Bernie Sanders - Burlington, VT
Presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders prepares to speak for a video to supporters at Polaris Mediaworks on Thursday June 16 in Burlington, VT.Matt McClain / AP Pool

Tuesday was a bittersweet night for candidates endorsed by Bernie Sanders, with one win and one loss for the so-called Berniecrats that competed in primaries held in New York State.

The two congressional primaries offered one of the first real-world tests of Sanders’ endorsement power. So far, only one other Sanders-backed congressional candidate has competed in a contested primary, unsuccessfully.

Sanders has given his seal of approval to only a small handful of progressive Democrats across the country, even as he’s increasingly spending his time supporting down-ballot candidates as the embers of his lingering presidential bid fade.

Candidates who receive an endorsement from Sanders can expect to receive a windfall of cash, sometimes in the six-figures, from his massive network of national donors and instant esteem in the pro-Sanders movement.

In an upstate New York primary Tuesday, Zephyr Teachout scored a decisive win in the 19th congressional district, according to returns from the New York State Board of Elections. Teachout will face off against Republican former State Assemblyman John Faso in an open-seat race in the tossup district this fall.

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Teachout, a professor and activist, had a high profile before Sanders made her one of his first endorsements, thanks to a primary challenge against Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2014 that galvanized the left.

“Score one for the political revolution,” said Bill Lipton, the state director for the pro-Sanders Working Families Party.

But Eric Kingson, a professor whom Sanders not only endorsed but campaigned for this month, lost his primary in the 24th Congressional District. Colleen Deacon, a former aide to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, easily prevailed in the three-way race, boosted by support from most of New York’s top Democrats and party leaders in Washington, D.C.

Sanders in 2016 has officially supported six congressional candidates and five incumbents, along with one Senate candidate (Wisconsin’s Russ Feingold) and one incumbent (Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley). Sanders has also backed 8 candidates for state legislature seats, including incumbents.

Teachout was among Sanders’ first three endorsements, which also included congressional candidates Lucy Flores in Nevada and Pramila Jayapa in Washington state.

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Flores, a former state assemblywoman who had attracted national attention in previous races, lost a competitive primary to State Sen. Ruben Kihuen two weeks ago. Kihuen was backed by establishment Democrats, including Bill Clinton and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada’s most powerful politician.

Jayapa’s primary in the heavily Democratic Seattle-area district is scheduled for August 9.

Sanders has also backed Tim Canova, who is running against Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz in an August 30 primary.

Sanders has turned his focus to down-ballot races in the latter days of his lingering presidential campaign, telling supporters that electing like-minded progressives is the best way to continue the political revolution. In addition to campaigning with candidates, Sanders has encouraged supporters to run for office themselves.