Ohio-11 Democratic primary deals heavy blow to progressives and big win to GOP donors

Cleveland, Ohio – The results are in, and establishment favorite Shontel Brown passed Nina Turner in the polls on Tuesday to become the Democratic nominee to represent Ohio's 11th Congressional district in the US House.

Nina Turner remained committed to a grassroots, people-funded campaign throughout the Ohio-11 race.
Nina Turner remained committed to a grassroots, people-funded campaign throughout the Ohio-11 race.  © IMAGO / ZUMA Wire

The eyes of the nation watched as progressive powerhouse Nina Turner took on establishment pick Shontel Brown on Tuesday in the Democratic primary for the special election to represent Ohio-11.

The House seat had been left vacant after its previous occupant, Marcia Fudge, was confirmed as Biden's Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

The results have been tallied, and Brown received 37,666 votes (50.2%), while Turner came in at 33,420 votes (44.5%), the New York Times reported.

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Throughout the race, Turner campaigned as a progressive poised to become the next member of "The Squad."

Brown, on the other hand, portrayed herself as a Biden loyalist closely aligned to establishment actors within the party, including prominent members of the Congressional Black Caucus.

Turner's loss was a stunning blow to the progressive wing of the party seeking transformational change rather than business as usual.

Shontel Brown receives a heavy influx of big money

Shontel Brown was endorsed by the Democratic Majority for Israel PAC, which funneled huge sums of money into the race.
Shontel Brown was endorsed by the Democratic Majority for Israel PAC, which funneled huge sums of money into the race.  © IMAGO / ZUMA Wire

The election results are not only a win for establishment forces within the Democratic Party. Brown's success is also a victory for big-money groups and GOP donors.

In the United States, corporations and big-donor groups have carte blanche to spend as much as they want on elections, so long as they don't coordinate directly with candidates or campaigns.

The money is often used on advertising in critical moments leading up to an election.

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Brown's top rival, Nina Turner, had big-name recognition as the former national co-chair of Bernie Sanders' 2020 presidential campaign. She championed policies like Medicare for All, a Green New Deal, and reinvestment in a variety of social programs.

Like many progressives, Turner eschewed big-money donations and remained committed to an entirely grassroots, people-funded campaign.

Meanwhile, the PAC/super PAC Democratic Majority for Israel (DMFI) spent around $2 million on opposing Turner and supporting Brown, while The Third Way, a centrist think tank, spent an additional $505,000.

That money, much of which was spent in the final days leading up to the election, appears to have had a devastating effect on Turner, who was the frontrunner for the majority of the race.

Democratic Majority for Israel endorses Shontel Brown

Shontel Brown emphasized her commitment to US-Israeli relations in her victory speech.
Shontel Brown emphasized her commitment to US-Israeli relations in her victory speech.  © IMAGO / ZUMA Wire

DMFI, which invested the largest share of money into beating Turner, is a pro-Israel group that supports candidates with pro-Israel stances.

Nina Turner earned the ire of DMFI and others after she expressed solidarity with Palestinians following the recent resurgence of violence in the region. She said she supports conditioning US aid to Israel on ending the state-sponsored human-rights violations.

DMFI endorsed Turner's rival early and began pouring money into the race, especially in recent weeks. Much of that funding actually came from Republican, not Democratic, donors, The Intercept revealed.

In her victory speech, Brown emphasized the importance of strong US-Israeli relations, saying, "When you stand on the land where you see a person who has a firecracker that was dropped by a drone near the Gaza Strip and you walk within a few feet of a bomb shelter, you can appreciate the vulnerability of a state and that has given me the understanding of the importance of the US-Israel relationship."

Meanwhile, in conceding the race, Turner said, "While we didn’t cross the river, we inspired thousands to dream bigger and expect more. We couldn’t overcome the influence of dark money, but we left our mark on OH11 and this nation."

The Ohio-11 general election is set to take place on November 2. As the district is solidly blue, Brown is expected to win easily.

Cover photo: Collage: IMAGO / ZUMA Wire

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