The Nation opened the 2018 election season with a list of 10 candidates we were keeping our eyes on: politicians who proposed “not just a change in party, but an end to status-quo politics.” Eight of them eventually triumphed in their primaries and will be on November ballots across the country,
including gubernatorial contenders Stacey Abrams in Georgia and Ben Jealous in Maryland, as well as Wisconsin lieutenant-governor candidate Mandela Barnes. The same goes for Jocelyn Benson, a voting-rights activist running for secretary of state in Michigan, and January Contreras, an advocate for victims of human trafficking, who is running for attorney general in Arizona. Two House candidates, Scott Wallace in Pennsylvania and Liz Watson in Indiana, also won their primaries and are now mounting races vital to flipping control of Congress. So is a progressive Senate candidate we identified in April, Beto O’Rourke, who’s in a tight battle against Ted Cruz in Texas.
We’re still enthusiastic about that list, as we are about the Democrats’ prospects of retaking Congress. But the urgent challenges of the moment—ending austerity, addressing inequality, upending systemic racism, replacing militarism with diplomacy, and saving the planet from climate change—demand more than changing R’s to D’s. So here are 10 more vital races (eight candidates and two referendum fights) that we’re keeping our eyes on for signs of a progressive wave on November 6.
§ Andrew Gillum, candidate for governor of Florida: The 39-year-old Tallahassee mayor upended conventional wisdom by running a progressive primary campaign that proposed criminal-justice reform, adoption of gun-safety measures, state-based Medicare for All health care, and a plan to create jobs and address climate change by making Florida the country’s “solar capital.” Polls said he didn’t have a chance, but with a big boost from Bernie Sanders, people of color, and young supporters, Gillum beat his better-funded primary rivals. Now he faces the noxious, Trump-quoting Republican Ron DeSantis, who’s been criticized for mounting a racist campaign against the man who would be Florida’s first African-American governor. If Gillum’s progressive project prevails in this battleground state, he’ll provide a model for beating Trump in 2020.
§ Janet Mills, candidate for governor of Maine: The state’s Republican governor, Paul LePage, is one of the most Trump-like figures in the country. In 2016, he failed to respond to the state’s opioid crisis by vetoing a bill making it easier to obtain the overdose drug Narcan. Rejecting science and common sense, LePage claimed that reversing overdoses perpetuates opioid abuse. That was too much for State Attorney General Janet Mills, a Democrat, who took the lawsuit-settlement funds controlled by her office, bought the lifesaving drugs, and distributed them to first responders. “Making Narcan available to police agencies is simply part of my responsibilities to law enforcement and is in aid of their responsibility to save lives,” she explained. Now Mills is running to replace LePage. If the woman who refused to file his amicus briefs supporting Trump’s immigration orders is elected, a reactionary governor will be replaced by one who “has made it her mission to stand up to those who have tried to exploit Maine people.”