Congressional Black Caucus takes sides in Ohio special election

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The already-nationalized special election for a congressional seat in northeast Ohio is getting even more divisive.

The political arm of the Congressional Black Caucus is wading into the race, tapping Shontel Brown, the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party chair, over Nina Turner, a progressive former state senator. Both women are Black.

It’s the latest notable group to take sides in the Aug. 3 primary, which has quickly turned into a proxy war for feuding factions of the Democratic Party.

Brown’s coalition includes Hillary Clinton, House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn and pro-Israel forces. The former incumbent, Marcia Fudge, now President Joe Biden’s Housing secretary, is staying neutral — but her mother has endorsed Brown.

Turner, meanwhile, has Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.), and other big names on the left such as Charlamagne tha God and the Justice Democrats.

Brown’s early ad against Turner cast her as insufficiently supportive of Biden, leaning heavily on inflammatory comments Turner made during her role as a top surrogate for Sanders. Those spots and Clinton’s endorsement centered the narrative of the race on the past two presidential primaries.

But the CBC PAC’s endorsement is notable because it reinforces another through line in today’s Democratic politics: the Black Caucus’ battle against the left. As Ocasio-Cortez-inspired candidates readied to take on veteran Black members of Congress last cycle, the CBC rallied to protect its own.

Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio), the current CBC chair, beat back a progressive challenger last year, as did Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.). But longtime Democrat Lacy Clay lost to now-Rep. Cori Bush in St. Louis.

Beatty has already endorsed Brown, a fellow Ohioan, saying she's “ready to call her a colleague.”

“Shontel Brown is the clear choice in this race,” Beatty said in a statement, calling her “a force in Northeast Ohio for years” who has fought “to grow the Democratic Party.”

And these 2021 specials suggest the CBC’s fight extends beyond challenges to their current members but also to their preferred successors.

In a Louisiana special this spring, outgoing incumbent and CBC member Cedric Richmond backed Troy Carter against Karen Carter Peterson, who was endorsed by progressive groups. Carter won easily.

And in this Ohio race, Clyburn made a splash when he endorsed Brown last month and slammed the left for its harmful “sloganeering” on issues such as “defund the police” and “abolish ICE.”

But Turner is probably the favorite in the primary, the winner of which is nearly guaranteed to win the general in this deep blue district. She has out-raised Brown so far and released an internal poll showing her with a big lead.

Turner also has a number of endorsements from CBC members, though they are also clearly aligned with the left. Bowman, Bush and Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) and Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y.) have all aligned with her.

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