The forthcoming elections are arguably the most important of our lifetime, and we’re not just talking about the presidential one. Thankfully, there are a whole bunch of awesome and progressive candidates out there who personify the punk rock spirit — DIY activist-candidates who have, in many cases, upset the odds by beating long time incumbents to get on the ballots; people from all walks of life who know that there’s no place for sexism, homophobia, racism or any form of bigotry in 2020 and we need to stamp that shit out. Jello Biafra isn’t on the ballot this time but his influence is. Read on, and fucking vote!
A single mother, a nurse, a Black Lives Matter activist — conventional wisdom says that Cori Bush shouldn’t have stood a chance in the Missouri Democratic primaries when she went up against establishment politician William Lacy Clay Jr. But with a DIY campaign, built on honest talk in the wake of George’s Floyd’s murder, she was able to upset the odds and she’ll be on the ballot later in the year.
“I fight because I know what it’s like to live paycheck to paycheck, to be burdened with student and medical debt, and to live day to day in St. Louis where poverty is violence, crime is rampant, and our unhoused community grows daily,” she says on her website (because she’s awesome).
Jamaal Bowman, the Democratic nominee in New York’s 16th Congressional District (the Bronx, Westchester), is a huge Wu-Tang fan. That’s super-cool and all, but he also founded his own middle school in the Bronx and has been its principal for ten years. What could be more DIY than that? And now he’s headed to Congress.
“I am running because I believe in the unlimited potential of all children and it is the responsibility of our elected leaders to place them at the top of the political agenda,” he says on his website. “This is not about good work for just a small group of kids in the Bronx, but the millions across the country.”
Mondaire Jones’ victory in the Democratic primary, New York’s 17th District, saw him replace Nita Lowey in a remarkable upset. The openly gay lawyer and activist took 44.6% of the vote with a platform of Medicare for all and ending homelessness. He’s also taken a strong stance in the face of the ongoing pandemic, stating that every American should receive $2000 per month, and every child $1000 per month.
“I’m running for Congress to fight for bold, progressive policies that will help everyday people and allow all children in New York’s 17th Congressional District to dream big like I did,” he says on his website.
When Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is backing you, you know you’re doing something right. In Newman’s case, she beat out Dan Lipinski in the Illinois primaries — one of the few anti-abortion Democrats and a 15-year incumbent. She’s pro-immigration, she wants healthcare for all, and she wants an economy that works for all. It’s not complicated, or it shouldn’t be.
“I’m running for Congress because we finally need to address ‘everybody’s everyday’ to drive innovation and invest in our people, infrastructure, mass transportation, jobs, training, and growing an ever greener economy,” she says. “We need a real vision with a real plan.”
Often dismissed by the opposition as a member of “The Squad,” Michigan’s Rashida Tlaib is in fact a bad-ass of the highest order. She simply won’t take any shit. The Detroit-born Muslim has been critical of both the American and Israeli governments, and she’s a member of the Democratic Socialists of America. Her environmentalist platform that sees her attempting to fight corporate greed is one that many of us can relate to.
“Our residents may have different needs and priorities, but at the most basic level, we must protect civil rights and voting rights and ensure a quality education for all,” her website reads. “It is also imperative that we work to help create a better pathway toward citizenship for our immigrant communities.”
Back when she was attending Ithaca College, Emily Gallagher booked punk rock gigs and wrote about them for her school magazine. Heavily inspired by Ian MacKaye — Minor Threat and the Dischord catalog — she ran with the “get off your ass and do something” ethos. Fast-forward to July 2020 and she beat 46-year-incumbent Assemblyman Joe Lentol in the Democratic primaries, New York State 50th District. MacKaye would surely approve, as she’s looking to reform criminal justice, and refers to housing as a human right.
“There’s too much at stake to put our democracy on autopilot,” she says. “We’re taking on the machine and building a campaign for North Brooklyn neighborhoods where everyone can thrive.”
The Daily Memphian referred to Marquita Bradshaw’s Tennessee primary win as upsetting the political world. That might sound slightly hyperbolic, but when you consider the fact that the environmental activist spent only $5,778 compared to the $1.5 million spent by her rival, attorney and establishment pick James Mackler, it’s pretty fair. It’s a true Rocky story, and you wonder if there are any limits to what she can achieve. She supports Medicare for all, high quality public education, a living wage, and restorative justice.
All of the good stuff then.
Another case where a talented and driven newcomer beat a much-fancied incumbent, this time in Pennsylvania as Emily Kinkead got the nod over ten-year incumbent Adam Ravenstahl. As is the case with most of the progressive candidates, Kinkead is heavily in favor of healthcare for all, a living wage, a strong public education, LGBTQIA+ rights, reproductive justice, and criminal reform. Plus, she’s very pro union.
“Emily understands that Pennsylvanians have lost trust in our democracy, and faith in the ability of their government to serve the people,” reads her website. “Our problems lie not just at the feet of Republicans in Washington and Harrisburg; we must also recognize those Democrats who are complicit by their silence and inaction.”
Progressive candidate José Garza didn’t just win the District Attorney race in Travis County, Texas — he won by a landslide 40 points, knocking off incumbent Margaret Moore in the process.
“We can transform our criminal justice system here in Travis County,” he says. “In fact, we must.” No messing around there then. He goes on to say that the criminal justice system “weighs most heavily on working class people and people of color, and it doesn’t have to be that way.”
Music to our ears.
Omaha, Nebraska candidate Eastman has racial and social justice at the top of her platform as she looks to get to Congress.
“I have spent my career fighting for racial and social justice, running nonprofit organizations that center on empowering communities of color,” she says. “In Omaha, I have focused my work on jobs creation and economic and community development, specifically in North and South Omaha. In Congress, I will work to repair the systemic inequalities people of color face in our district.”
She’s pro: healthcare for all, immigration, income equality — all of the progressive checks are in place.
Let’s hope she gets there.
For more Punk AF candidates (of which there are a reassuring amount), catch up on the It’s News to US podcast with Eddie & Jason