by Scott Steward
In a previous article “MAGA Election and Abortion Deniers” I reviewed the extreme positions MAGA candidates take. Some objected, stating the review was meant to comment on Republicans generally. In general, I don’t believe people who consider themselves conservative voters are any more attracted to these MAGA candidates than those who call themselves progressives.
To inspire a more complete understanding of the choices ahead, this article outlines the thirteen candidates running against these MAGA candidates (or the races that they are a part of). This review took me through state and federal candidates and into territory that restores faith and re-asserts the dismal legacy of the current Party system. An opinion piece made by Floridian Associate Professor of Public Affairs, Stephen Neely, provides insight into our Party systems’ “poor representation” predicament. You will need to register with the Tampa Bay Times to read in full.
This “Candidates for Women’s Rights and Democracy” review is written to put as much emphasis on the election of November 8, 2022, as possible. I hope you get something out of the rest of the summary and next approximate 2,800 words*). And then I hope you volunteer with Indivisible Yolo and Sister District Yolo to write, knock, text or call into key races. Make the days, until election day, count.
Some of the most inspiring candidate stories include the universally loved Alaskan Mary Peltola who has a bond, that politics cannot break, with her congressional opponent Sarah Palin. There is also a story about Florida’s Rebekah Jones, science tech heroine, who is running for Congress against MAGA Matt Gaetz and the DeSantis defamation machine. And there is the drama of Michigan (America’s ground zero) with insurrectionists, the police shooting of Black Patrick Layoya and the “at the buzzer” inclusion of a reproductive rights amendment on Michigan’s November 8 ballot.
The drama vendors look at inciteful rhetoric as another way to increase revenue. I would give some credence to the view that MAGA is just a lot of “freedom of expression” headline grabbing—except that MAGA candidates are fully prepared to enable the extreme. Keep in mind how Trump never did try to get “Presidential” and find a way to work with anyone with whom he disagreed. So I take these candidates at their word as to what they would and would not do if given the chance.
In digging into the articles about these 13 races, I learned that Republicans in Michigan and Arizona had “primaried” out and otherwise disallowed a few MAGA extremists. That does not remedy the un-democratic path the Republicans have chosen in exchange for the gambit of absolute power. Were it not for the awful fact that there is a gun pointed at women’s rights we might not have any hope for the possibility of a pro-democracy result in November. These are treacherous times—so here is to knowing more and doing more.
*Sincere thanks to all the journalists that wrote the near hundred reports read for this article. An equal and deserving effort will be made to credit all of their work as time permits. This article is dedicated to Journalist Jeff German, slain for his reporting of bullying and favoritism in the workplace.
13 Candidates for Women’s Rights, Democracy and Putting Food on the Table
#1: Florida Gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist is running against MAGA #1 Ron DeSantis. DeSantis is an architect of the 15-week total abortion ban—no exception for rape, incest or human trafficking. DeSantis and the Florida legislature has re-removed about 250,000 recently reinstated voters from Florida’s rolls. It just so happens that DeSantis is currently shown as being ahead of Crist in the polls by an estimated figure of 250,000 voters. Crist wants voting access, DeSantis wants voter suppression.
Charlie Crist has been on most Florida ballots since 1986 having won, and lost, nominations and general elections for the Florida State Senate, Attorney General, Governor, U.S. Senate and Congress. He served as Florida’s Republican Governor from 2007 to 2011. Crist has been a member of the Democratic Party since 2012.
Crist knows how Florida works and won the Democratic nomination for governor by almost 2 to 1 over the next closest candidate. The Miami Herald made the following comment about the DeSantis administration in their endorsement of Crist. “We believe we speak for millions of Floridians who are similarly alarmed by how far we’ve fallen – into scapegoating, into the politics of threat and revenge, into wider divisions… and into meanness,”
Charlie Crist is for defending reproductive freedom, expanding Medicaid and lowering prescription drug costs, rolling back voter suppression laws, fully funding Florida’s affordable housing trust, and enabling solar installations. Florida is a solar enigma. The Sunshine State still does not have uniform solar to grid interconnection rules because of utility protectionism.
Crist most recently named his running mate to Karla Hernández-Mats, a former special education teacher and Hialeah Community Middle School “Teacher of the Year.” Hernández-Mats is a leader of her 30,000 member teachers union, her run with Crist is a full-force rebuke of DeSantis’ attack on teachers (DeSantis is a leader in the effort to make “educator” a credential of anti-American indoctrination.)
DeSantis has fueled the Trump culture war every chance he gets. Florida voters, and most voters nationally, have shown repeatedly that they want more moderate choices. Crist’s positions are moderate and workable except that, for the MAGA culture, working with those you disagree with is disloyal. The question is, will enough voters reject the less and less popular MAGA brand that DeSantis has embraced and elect Charlie Crist?
#2 The race that could usher out “Beautiful Ted” (Trump’s nickname for Ted Cruz) won’t take place until 2024. It is an unhappy legacy for Texas. Early contestants for this US Senate seat might come from twin brothers Rep. Joaquin Castro and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro. The Castro brothers called on Cruz to resign following the deadly riot at the Capitol. They were early critics of Cruz in the past, particularly in regards to his and Abbott’s response to the pandemic. Joaquin called on Republicans in Congress and across the nation to renounce their membership in the party after the attempted coup. The Castro brothers are likely to be a strong part of the opposition to Beautiful Ted in 2024.
#3 Texas Gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke is running against MAGA #3 Greg Abbott for Governor. Abbott pushed Texas to become the first state in the country to enact a 6 week near-total abortion ban and his brand of Republican believes that mass shootings are an acceptable cost of the freedom to own firearms in the US.
Beto O’Rourke identifies with unconventional Texas. He has a colorful skateboarding, punk rocker, two-stepping party past. He is a pragmatist, who learned how to make a point from his civically engaged father. The senior O’Rourke once sent, then President Regan, a bill for immigrant medical care; not to make the case against immigration, but to point out that a balanced immigration policy required funded health programs.
Beto will need to out-smart Abbott’s tenacious hate machine by laughing off the vitriol and instead make fun of the self-destructive policies that Abbott has brought to the state.
Texas has grown and will grow because Texans are innovators. They need an innovator that can keep up with cyber Texas, a Texas that combines energy industry, tech and good barbecue. Let Abbott contrast that with his frowning entourage that just wants to put women in jail and suck out all the fun of being a Texan.
#4 Florida Congressional candidate, Rebekah Jones, is running against MAGA #4 Matt Gaetz, Gaetz being famous for his theory that the Second Amendment empowers citizens to shoot Silicon Valley executives.
Rebekah Jones is an every-woman candidate who was targeted by Governor Ron DeSantis after she refused to manipulate state health data to show lower COVID infection rates that would allow the state to open. This Jones vs. Goliath battle escalated. The DeSantis government conducted a highly publicized raid at Jones’ home. Rebekah delayed the officers who then entered, with guns drawn, and took computer equipment from the house. Jones does not own a gun or have any previous record of arrest, the use of force was meant to intimidate. Jones was fired from her job with the State of Florida in what has the appearance of state retribution for her defiance. The case is in the courts and will go on for some time.
DeSantis has awoken another education and science champion in Jones who decided to run for Congress in 2021. The former civil science technician and mom is determined to beat Gaetz and in so doing, beat DeSantis. Rebekah Jones would be a voice for repealing federal restrictions on disease control and medicine research and wants to return the US to the forefront of scientific excellence. Jones is firmly for women’s reproductive rights.
#5 Nevada incumbent US Senator Catherine Cortez Masto is running against MAGA #5 Adam Laxalt. Laxalt is infamous for being known as “Nevada’s Rudy Giuliani” and his campaign is heavily funded by Mitch McConnel.
Cortez immediately divides from Laxalt on abortion. Laxalt has said, “It’s sad that Nevada supports abortion rights.” Cortez Masto does not think Nevada feels sad about supporting women’s reproductive rights. Immigration and gun issues are also important in Nevada, but Masto continues to be successful in keeping the conversation on jobs and women’s reproductive rights. In an August local college poll among women, Cortez Masto now leads by 23 points, 53%-30%, compared to a six-point lead in April. Overall the race has reversed to show Masto ahead.
#6 Arizona Secretary of State candidate Adrian Fontes is running against MAGA #6 Mark Finchem, Finchem is a January 6th Stop the Steal insurrection attendee and Qanoon conspiracist. Fontes is a former Marine and attorney who runs ads saying he would protect voting rights for all Arizonans. Fontes blames election deniers like Finchem for making a full-fledged attack on democracy. Mr. Fontes fortunes are not entirely linked to Democratic Gubernatorial candidate Katie Hobbs. His path to victory seems more direct. The work for Fontes is to make sure Arizonan’s are paying attention to who is running for Secretary of State and that Arizonan’s vote.
#7 Michigan incumbent Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson is running against MAGA #7 Kristina Karamo for Secretary of State. Benson is a teacher’s teacher in the world public administration. She wrote a book about Secretaries of State in 2010 and served as Dean of the Wayne State University School of Law from 2012 to 2016. Benson does not seek controversy as a strategy for winning elections, but she is also not a stranger to lawsuits and challenges to voter access. She successfully oversaw the defeat of Republican attempts to prevent popular “no-reason” absentee voting.
Benson is devoted to fairness and, prior to serving as Secretary of State, she served as the CEO of the Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality (RISE), a venture by professional sports organizations to improve race relations. Her opponent, Karamo, is a Stop the Steal conspiracist and is trailing in the polls even with fierce support from Trump and Michigan’s mainstream Republican political leadership.
#8 Ohio US Senate candidate Tim Ryan is an Ohioan Democrat running against #8 MAGA JD Vance. Vance is attempting to copy the MAGA culture warrior styles of Ted Cruz and Ron DeSantis. Ryan has been an Ohio US congressional representative for 8 years. He is the Buckeye in this race and Vance is not. Vance is famous for living in San Francisco and flying into Ohio to campaign.
Ryan is another devoted Catholic that does not feel his faith calls him to use the state to interfere with important personal/family decisions. “I have come to believe that we must trust women and families – not politicians – to make the best decisions for their lives.”
Tim Ryan looks to make Ohio work for everyone: “we prosper” means “white, black and brown, gay and straight, urban and rural will benefit from government and private sector investments in jobs and infrastructure.” Part of his vision is to “get wealth out of the coasts and into the industrial Midwest and start creating real jobs by the hundreds, if not by the thousands.”
#9 Nevada Congresswoman Susie Lee is running against Republican newcomer April Becker (R). The former #9 MAGA candidate Noah Malgeri (who asked for public execution of a US General) was defeated by April Becker in the primary. Let’s hear it for Republicans choosing
to have MAGA step aside.
Susie Lee is the incumbent and a conventional Democratic candidate that champions affordable health care, education and veteran services. Lee is not prone to seek division, but seeks to emphasize her pro-choice position that is the biggest difference between her and the otherwise equally middle of the road Republican candidate Liz Becker. Becker is running a walk soft Republican campaign and is listed as a Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America Candidate Fund recipient. This congressional race is listed as tied.
#10 Michigan Governor incumbent Gretchen Whitmer is running against MAGA #10 replacement, Tudor Dixon. MAGA #10 had been Mellissa Carone, but the Stop the Steal candidate was not selected to be Dixon’s Lieutenant Governor running mate. Dixon is MAGA enough for Michigan’s Republican ticket. Dixon’s abortion ban will not have an exception for pregnancy by rape or incest. Whitmore is for women’s reproductive rights.
Great Lake Sate residents responded to the Dobbs ruling and to Dixon, and other ban-abortion- supporters, by petitioning to place “a fundamental individual right to reproductive freedom” amendment on the November ballot. Ultimately the Michigan Supreme Court had to intervene after a Republican contrived Canvassing Committee deadlocked to prevent the amendment from reaching the ballot. The deadlock did not succeed and the 750,000 petition signatures were honored and amendment made it on to the November 8th ballot with one day to spare.
Michigan is special to Trump. Trump’s words have endangered Michigan law enforcement, poll workers and elected officials. Four men have been arrested for an attempt to kidnap the governor (two convicted on August 23). The arrest and conviction are not without controversy about the role of the FBI. More disturbing to most of Michiganians, and Whitmer, are the trial documents that reveal conversations, by the militia members and other militia groups, about plans and exercises conducted in preparation for a second American Civil War.
Militia incitement is just one part of what makes getting back to kitchen table issues difficult in Michigan. In June a Grand Rapids police officer shot a black person, Patrick Layoya, in the back of the head after attempting to gain control of the induvial who was avoiding arrest. The officer has been fired and a trial has been scheduled. The tragedy accelerated police reforms that have the support of police leadership and Black organizations.
Michigan is ground zero for America’s ability to deal with distressing political extremism while keeping up with good governance. Whitmer has kept a cool head and her administration has invested in job training, job creation, education and in “fixing the damn roads and bridges,” without raising taxes.
#11 Arizona Gubernatorial candidate Katie Hobbs is running against MAGA #11, Kari Lake. Neither are incumbents as current Governor Ducey (R) is terming out, leaving the seat open. Hobbs is the current Secretary of State in a state where Maricopa County was the epicenter of Stop the Steel fervor. This is where Cyber Ninja Inc. was infamously debunked. But the beat goes on and Katie is pointing to Lake’s own extreme views about abortion rights, gun control and a proposal to put cameras in every classroom to keep an eye on teachers. Katie is running a unified Arizona message where the emphasis is on getting the job done for Arizonan’s. Lake is a regional TV celebrity and Hobbs is an administrative executive.
# 12 The South Carolina US Senator, Lindsay Graham is credited for this season’s most quoted Republicans position on abortion “I think states should decide the issue of marriage and states should decide the issue of abortion.” What Graham, and what most Republicans running are saying, is that who you choose to marry, what type of health care and when a woman receives health care should be up to gerrymandered Republican State legislatures (or a one party nation.)
The race against Graham MAGA #12, will not take place until 2026. In what was one of the most expensive senate races in history Graham held out against Jaime Harrison by 2% in 2020. Harrison alone raised a remarkable sum of $57 million in the last few months of the campaign. The race is an argument campaign finance reform.
In 2022, it is South Carolina’s Democrat Krystle Matthews vs. Republican Tim Scott in race for the US Senate. Scott does not stand out or make a commotion, he would rather turn attention to his own birth being something he is grateful for. Scott is sold on the message of individualism, beating the odds, and keeping your money. These themes are interwoven with repeated messages about Christian faith. He is as quite as possible about his opposition to women’s reproductive rights.
Krystal Matthews has spent 15 years in the South Carolina State Assembly. She is not “in” with the system that Scott espouses. She is also not raising her pro-abortion rights stance above the yell line. She has focused on universal health care, lowering the cost of college education and raising the minimum wage.
Moderate incumbents are hard to beat, but Krystal Matthews is not convinced. There were no Scott v Matthews poll numbers to be found at the writing of this review.
# 13 Alaskan incumbent Congressional At Large District native Mary Peltola is running against MAGA, Sarah Palin. Palin is every bit a MAGA, drill baby drill, but the Tea Party icon is not likely to sling much vitriol in the direction of Peltola. In a rare show of grace the pair of congressional front runners prefer civil discourse while offering very different representation.
The mutual respect stems from overlap between Peltola’s decade in the Alaskan House of Representatives with that of then Governor Palin. They bonded in the state Capitol as two pregnant moms in office. When Palin left Juneau for the VP campaign trail, she bequeathed her backyard trampoline to Peltola.
Peltola has many Alaskan political admirers, “She was never bitter. She was never angry. She was never partisan… (but) you should never, ever misconstrue kindness for somebody who’s not going to stand up for what she believes in,” said Andrew Halcro (R) Alaskan House Representative.
Mary Peltola has proven to be a rare politician who is able to hold her “I’m pro-jobs, pro-choice, pro-fish and pro families” banner high without losing the ties that bind Alaskan’s together. Paltelo, having won the recent special election for the At Large US House seat, will have just a few months in Congress before the November runoff. Her chances will be greatly improved if a third candidate remains in the November ranked-choice race in November (making it a three way race with Palin)
This concludes the review of 13 MAGA candidates and the candidates that are running against them. Please do the work to assure that democracy prevails. Walk, call, text, write, vote.