Ohio's 11th District Congressional Nina Turner speaking with supporters of U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders during his campaign at a house party in Des Moines, Iowa. Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore on Flickr

Nina Turner, a progressive Democrat aims for congressional seat in Ohio special election

Turner reenters into politics after a long, hard look at the party system following her work on Sanders’ presidential campaign. This time, it’s her turn to run. 

Fresh off of an endorsement from Rep. Alexandria Ocasia-Cortez (D-NY), former national co-chair of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (D-VT) presidential campaign, Turner is looking to fill an Ohio congressional seat left vacant by the newly appointed Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Marcia Fudge. With the primary elections scheduled for August 3, Turner has been on the ground to earn votes in Ohio’s 11th District.

While Turner, a former state senator, is the favored progressive candidate with multiple endorsements from Ohio elected officials, organizations and faith leaders, her toughest opponent, Shontel Brown, is also backed by a considerable amount of local establishment Democrats, community leaders and faith-based institutions in and around Cleveland. Currently, Brown serves as the chair of the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party, and is the first Black woman to occupy the position.

Turner, who has been one of the leading voices in a shift in the Democratic party that tackles social justice issues such as universal healthcare and the wealth gap, at one point thought about leaving the party. Her “disappointment” with what she calls a “corporatist wing of both parties that control America,” and the “excessive greed” she’s witnessed working in politics, placed her at a crossroads at the end of her tenure of the Sanders campaign. With Fudge leaving her seat, Turner saw the opportunity to grow the progressive-wing of the Democratic party.

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“Sometimes in the progressive movement, we believe that good ideas are enough because our policies are the ones that will change people’s lives for the better. The reality is that we need to build a lot more power. . .  organizing matters,” explained Turner to Jacobin.

In the last two elections, the progressive wing of the Democratic party picked up several important congressional seats. Some of them now support Turner’s campaign such as Black Lives Matter activist Rep. Cori Bush (D-KY), and outspoken Muslimas, Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), and Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MI). While all three are midwestern congresswomen with respect and growing political clout, is that enough?

With the increase of progressive representation, also came the clash with more moderate and conservative Democrats. Last November, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and House Majority Whip Jim Rep. Clyburn (D-SC) warned of the possible damage of Dems depended on issues that might appear far-left agendas. With Ohio being once a swing state that holds tight to the GOP in many parts, with Turner’s left-leaning position, though she advocates for closing the wealth gap, fair housing, and environmental justice, might be a risk in capturing enough voters in the coming primary race. However, if she does win, the 11th District, a heavily Democratic area due to gerrymandering, will be in her favor in November elections.

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