The following report is by no means exhaustive -- only illustrative. There may well be a Democratic member of Congress near you not included here who serves corporate interests more than majority interests, or has simply grown tired or complacent in the never-ending struggles for social, racial and economic justice as well as environmental sanity and peace. Perhaps you live in a district where voters are ready to be inspired by a progressive primary candidate because the Democrat in Congress is not up to the job.

It isn’t easy to defeat a Democratic incumbent in a primary. Typically, the worse the Congress member, the more (corporate) funding they get. While most insurgent primary campaigns will not win, they’re often very worthwhile -- helping progressive constituencies to get better organized and to win elections later. And a grassroots primary campaign can put a scare into the Democratic incumbent to pay more attention to voters and less to big donors.



Few Democrats in Congress have earned faster or fiercer notoriety among progressives nationwide than Cheri Bustos. Just 10 weeks after becoming chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in early January, she imposed a new policy that blacklists any consultant or vendor who works for a primary challenger against an incumbent House Democrat. Despite withering and ongoing pushback from a wide range of progressive forces, including dozens of chapters of College Democrats and leaders of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Bustos has been immovable. “We are an incumbent-friendly organization,” Bustos told College Democrats of Illinois leaders who challenged her about the DCCC blacklist at their convention in May.

“Incumbents are being protected, even when their policies are out of step with their constituents,” Our Revolution board member James Zogby wrote. “The Democratic Party is hurting itself with this policy, but more importantly, it is hurting millions of Americans who need radical change right now.” Activists warn that the Bustos blacklist policy will actually undermine party growth, jeopardizing rather than protecting the party’s hold on the House. “This isn’t about keeping a majority, it’s not about Democratic priorities, and it’s not about real representation,” said a statement from Justice Democrats. “It’s about powerful insiders protecting powerful insiders against the true will of the people, no matter what the cost.”

Bustos is in her fourth term representing the sprawling 17th District in northwest Illinois -- a (slightly altered) district that was represented by the late populist Democrat Lane Evans, one of six co-founders of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Bustos, a member of the corporate-allied New Democrat Coalition, is out of sync with large numbers of progressive constituents. After defeating her GOP opponent by more than 20 points in November 2016 (in a district Donald Trump won by less than 1 percent), Bustos went back to Capitol Hill and voted with President Trump more than one-third of the time in 2017-18, according to FiveThirtyEight’s tally. Whether her record at the DCCC and on the House floor will cause her problems with a progressive primary challenger next year remains to be seen.



With Nashville as its main population center, the 5th Congressional District is something of a progressive oasis in Tennessee; Hillary Clinton topped Trump there by 18 points. Yet voters have been saddled for more than 16 years with Jim Cooper, an old-style GOP-type deficit hawk who supports austerity economics that hurts the vast majority of his constituents.

Cooper, a longtime leader of the almost-Republican “Blue Dog Democrats” and member of their “Budget Taskforce,” is a staunch proponent of “PAYGO,” a conservative policy designed to stop new federal expenditures unless offset by budget cuts or tax increases. PAYGO undermines Congress’ ability to confront major challenges, from funding a jobs-producing Green New Deal to providing universal healthcare -- both of which are broadly popular with voters, especially Democrats. In 2009, when the country was reeling from recession, Cooper was one of just 11 Democrats to vote against the stimulus bill. In 2010, Cooper sponsored the PAYGO bill; he’s the kind of Democrat who helped keep the austerity measure in place this year when Democrats took control of the House.

In 2010, Nashville experienced the sort of disaster that climate change fuels, when the Cumberland River flooded, killing 11 in the Nashville area. Cooper decried the Army Corps of Engineers’ decision not to produce a post-flood report. But for a future safe from ecological catastrophe, government will have to make big infrastructure expenditures, the kind Cooper frowns on. In 2012, Cooper underscored his refusal to spend what it takes to confront warming-intensified disaster when he was the only Democrat to vote against $51 billion in federal relief for areas hit by Hurricane Sandy -- leading to a Daily Kos headline: “Democrat Jim Cooper's Vote Against Sandy Relief Shows, Once Again, Why He Needs to Be Primaried."

Cooper is in no way stingy when it comes to limitless war spending; last year, he supported Trump’s record-breaking $717 billion Pentagon budget. Nor is Cooper a cost-cutter when it comes to federal surveillance; in 2013, he was one of three dozen Democrats on The Atlantic’s list of “Exactly Who to Blame in Congress for Authorizing Government Spying."

As far back as the early 1990s, during an earlier 12-year stint in Congress representing a rural district that did not include Nashville, Cooper fought healthcare reform that might impinge on insurance company profits. In turn, the industry heavily backed his failed US Senate bid in 1994; Cooper tried to make light of his donors: “I thought about only accepting money from Mother Teresa -- but then she's in the healthcare business.”

A primary challenger would have little trouble explaining to voters why Cooper should be retired after 30 years in Congress.



In 2018, Data for Progress found that 64 percent of Democrats support a Green New Deal, reflecting the view that a massive government commitment to fighting climate change is the only way to save the planet -- while providing jobs and economic justice. A Hart research poll pegged support at 83 percent among likely Democratic primary voters. Given these numbers, how can a congressmember in a Democratic district stay in office when plainly doing the bidding of our nation’s largest polluters?

Eight-term Congressman Jim Costa is a fossil from another era. Representing a Latino-majority district in California’s central San Joaquin Valley, Costa has extracted a political career from the pockets of big oil and big agriculture. In 2015, he was one of 28 House Democrats to vote with the GOP to authorize construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. In 2011, he was one of only 19 House Democrats who voted to prohibit the EPA from regulating greenhouse gas emissions. He has a lifetime score of just 49 percent from the League of Conservation Voters -- the third lowest among all Democrats in the House.

Costa’s decision to side with big business over planetary health makes sense when you glance at his campaign coffers. Last election cycle, agribusiness donated $492,047 to Costa and the energy sector chipped in another $174,055. Together, that represents 36 percent of his contributions. He is a member of both corporate-allied Democratic caucuses in Congress -- the New Democrat Coalition and the Blue Dog Coalition. The right-wing Koch Industries PAC made him one of only four Democrats in Congress to receive its funding in the 2018 cycle.

Costa has also been allied with Saudi Arabia in its horrific war in Yemen. Last year, he was one of just five House Democrats to join with Republicans to pass a farm bill that included a provision preventing Congress from blocking Saudi military assistance. “Jim Costa’s Unconscionable Yemen Votes” was the headline of a Sacramento Bee editorial .



Henry Cuellar is in his fifteenth year of representing a south Texas district that’s now two-thirds Hispanic. Yet, mis-representing this thoroughly Democratic district (which went for Clinton over Trump by a margin of 20 percent), Cuellar voted with Trump 68.8 percent of the time in 2017-18 as calculated by FiveThirtyEight -- including on bills weakening the Dodd-Frank Act, privatizing veterans’ healthcare and opposing a carbon tax. No Democrat in Congress had a higher vote-with-Trump score than Cuellar; none had a higher ranking in 2018 from the US Chamber of Commerce.

Although nominally a Democrat, he is close to Texas Republicans like former Governor Rick Perry, now Trump’s Secretary of Energy. Cuellar crossed party lines to endorse George W. Bush for president in 2000. He’s one of the rare Democrats to receive Koch Industries PAC funding, including a donation in 2019.

Roughly 25 percent of Cuellar’s constituents live below the poverty line, and Cuellar often votes to make their lives more difficult. In 2015, for example, he was one of only a dozen Democrats who voted with Republicans to eliminate Obamacare coverage for employees who work 30 to 39 hours a week. Last year, he supported a bill that would result in a $3 wage cut for agricultural guest workers, to $8.34 an hour.

On immigration, Cuellar is also out of touch with a district in which 22 percent of residents are foreign-born (almost all from Latin America). In 2014, Cuellar joined Texas GOP Senator John Cornyn in launching a bill to speed up deportation of unaccompanied minors from Central America, allowing border patrol agents to turn away vulnerable children at the border. (Fox News hailed Cuellar for his “hardline talk” and for being “One of Obama’s Biggest Critics on Border Crisis.”) In 2017, he was one of 11 House Democrats who voted with Republicans to allow the government to deport or detain immigrants “suspected” of gang membership, even if never arrested for any crime.

Cuellar has regularly voted to restrict abortion rights. Both NARAL and Planned Parenthood Action Fund rank him among the worst Democrats on women’s reproductive health.

Cuellar has a lifetime environmental ranking of 42 percent from the League of Conservation Voters, the second-lowest among all Democrats in the House.

While Cuellar’s district includes urban areas like Laredo and part of San Antonio, he votes in line with the NRA, which gave him 93 percent ratings in both 2016 and 2018; he also collects checks from the NRA Political Victory Fund, leading to headlines like this: “Meet the Last NRA Democrat.”

Cuellar's vote-like-a-Republican dance is an old routine. What’s new is that he’s facing a progressive primary challenger -- immigration lawyer Jessica Cisneros, endorsed by Justice Democrats. 



For someone in the Democratic leadership, this 16-term Congressman and chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee is notable for repeatedly breaking with his own party to support Republican foreign policy positions. In 2003, when most House Democrats refused to authorize an invasion of Iraq, Engel voted for President Bush’s disastrous war. In 2015, he was one of only 25 House Democrats to join Republicans in opposing President Obama’s historic Iran nuclear deal.

Engel’s support for hawkish Republicanism has continued into the Trump era. Engel sided with President-elect Trump’s machinations and against President Obama by castigating Obama for not vetoing a UN resolution (the US abstained) against Israel’s expansion of illegal settlements. He was one of the few House Democrats to applaud Trump’s destabilizing move of the US Embassy to Jerusalem. A defender of strong US-Saudi relations, Engel helped delay a Democratic initiative last year to end US support for the devastating Saudi bombing of Yemen. His ascent to House Foreign Affairs chair was cheered by Republican-aligned hawks, including one who called Obama “a Jew-hating anti-Semite.”

Covering parts of the Bronx and Westchester County, NY-16 is a thoroughly Democratic district where Clinton beat Trump by 75 to 22 percent. The district is now more than 60 percent black, Latino or Asian. It’s 12 percent Jewish, and Engel’s hardline views on Israel (and Iran) are out-of-step with most Jewish Democrats.

Since entering Congress back in 1989 by primarying a Democratic incumbent, Engel hadn’t faced a serious primary challenge himself in two decades. Until now. Two progressives have entered the primary, both highlighting their opposition to Engel’s pro-war record -- special education teacher Andom Ghebreghiorgis and middle school principal Jamaal Bowman, who is endorsed by Justice Democrats, a group that was crucial to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s 2018 victory.

Congressman Engel has long affiliated with the corporate wing of the party, as part of the New Democrat Coalition and formerly the Democratic Leadership Council. Although liberal on many domestic issues, his militarism and support of ever-higher military budgets subvert the possibilities for an expansive domestic agenda.

Engel, whose district borders that of Ocasio-Cortez, is active in the intraparty battle against progressives who question the foreign policy status quo. When Muslim-American Representative Ilhan Omar challenged the Israel-right-or-wrong lobby, Engel was one of two Democrats who sparked the effort to censure Omar for supposed “anti-Semitism.” A few years earlier, Engel was a featured speaker at a “pro-Israel” rally that also featured infamous right-wing anti-Muslim bigot Pamela Geller. No resolution was proposed to censure Engel.



Very few House Democrats are more eager to align with the GOP than Josh Gottheimer. During his first two years in Congress, he voted with Trump a whopping 55 percent of the time. Gottheimer cochairs the reach-across-the-aisle Problem Solvers Caucus; his official website says he leads the group “to find areas of agreement” for such goals as “lowering taxes” and “cutting burdensome and unnecessary regulation.” Gottheimer’s generous Wall Street patrons are no doubt gratified.

A former precocious speechwriter for President Bill Clinton at age 23, he has won acclaim from corporate leaders for his congressional efforts. Last year, the US Chamber of Commerce gave Gottheimer its “Spirit of Enterprise Award” -- which, his office noted, made him “one of only 13 Democrats in the House” to receive the plaudit. Gottheimer quickly returned the compliment, declaring that the anti-union and anti-environmental Chamber “has been a voice for economic growth and a champion for opportunity and prosperity for Americans and businesses of all sizes.”

Gottheimer “has deep ties to the lobbies for Saudi Arabia and Israel,” The Intercept’s Ryan Grim reported in May -- and deep hostility toward the two progressive Muslims who became colleagues this year, Congresswomen Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar. After meeting with him, Tlaib recalled: “He was using a very stern tone, like a father to a child. At that moment, I realized he’s a bully. He had a goal of breaking me down.”

As the first Palestinian-American in Congress and a strong advocate for the human rights of Palestinian people, Tlaib has been a logical target for Gottheimer, who has few equals as an Israel-can-do-no-wrong lawmaker. Overall, Grim describes him as a centrist “willing to take the fight directly to the squad of freshmen trying to push the party in a progressive direction.”

In 2016, Gottheimer flipped a longtime GOP district in northern New Jersey. Since then -- on a range of issues including the US-backed Saudi war on Yemen and predatory banking practices -- he has maneuvered to undermine efforts by progressive Democrats in the House. A prodigious big-check fundraiser, he entered this year’s second quarter with almost $5 million in his campaign coffers.



“Wall Street’s Favorite Democrat.” That’s how a Bloomberg profile described Jim Himes in 2011, with a subtitle: “Jim Himes works to dial back laws that get in the big banks’ way.” During his decade in Congress, the Connecticut congressman has done much to win Wall Street’s favor.

Himes hails from Goldman Sachs, where he worked in its Latin America division and eventually became a vice president. His ties to finance run deep: in 2008, while the industry pillaged low-income and middle-class homes, bankers made sure to steer funding to their ex-colleague’s congressional campaign. That election cycle, Himes raised $500,000 from the finance sector, including $150,000 from his old cohorts at Goldman Sachs.

That’s proven to be a sound investment. Upon arriving in Washington in 2009, Himes promptly joined the aggressively pro-business, light-regulation New Democrat Coalition, where he served on its “Financial Services Task Force.” Himes remains Chair Emeritus of the NDC.

During the Obama years, Himes worked to undermine the mild regulations that Democrats implemented in the wake of the financial crisis. In 2013, just three years after Congress managed to pass the Dodd-Frank Act, Himes cosponsored legislation to undercut one of its key elements, a provision separating federal insurance from risky swap trades. The Treasury Department opposed the change pushed by Himes and Republican colleagues. The New York Times exposed that two key paragraphs of the bill were literally written by Citigroup, at a time when Himes -- then the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s finance chair -- received more Citigroup funding than any other member of Congress.

Mercifully, that bill died in the Senate. But Himes had more allies when he took his next big swing at financial regulations in 2018, with Trump in the White House and a Republican-controlled Congress. This time, Himes was one of 33 House Democrats who joined Trump’s GOP in loosening a host of regulations that included “reporting requirements used to counter racial discrimination in lending practices.”

Connecticut’s 4th district -- largely middle class in the southwestern corner of the state -- is strongly Democratic and unfriendly to Trump collaboration. Clinton won the district by 23 points in 2016. A savvy challenger could spotlight Himes’ subservience to corporate interests and the 29 percent of the time that he voted in line with Trump’s positions in 2017-18.



Consummate power broker Steny Hoyer has long served as the number-two Democrat in the House, often using leverage for policy agendas that are unpopular with the party’s base but popular with Wall Street and the military-industrial complex. In late 2002, he was among the minority of House Democrats voting to authorize war on Iraq. In 2008, he angered civil-liberties advocates when he helped draft a “compromise bill” with Republicans that expanded government surveillance power and immunized telecom firms for privacy abuses. (Senator Russ Feingold called it “a capitulation.”) In 2012, he urged a “grand bargain” budget deal that would cut entitlement programs.

Hoyer’s prodigious corporate services haven’t flagged. These days, he’s busy obstructing progressive initiatives from Medicare for All to a Green New Deal. (Only 15 House Democrats have a lower lifetime environmental score from the League of Conservation Voters.)

And Hoyer’s heavy hand extends well beyond Capitol Hill. Last year, as heard on secretly recorded audio, he overtly pressured a progressive candidate to bow out of a Denver-area congressional primary in deference to an opponent anointed by party leaders.

At age 80, Hoyer represents a southern Maryland district that is two-fifths people of color. For nearly four decades, he has routinely coasted to re-election while lavishly funded by corporate interests. Next year he’ll face at least one primary challenger. 

Mckayla Wilkes could hardly be more different than Hoyer. She’s young, black, working-class, a single mother, formerly incarcerated -- and committed to thoroughly progressive policies. Hoyer “has no idea what everyday District 5 folks face with excruciating commutes, lack of affordable housing, exorbitant healthcare costs and underfunded public schools,” Wilkes told us.

Wilkes faults Hoyer for “not supporting Medicare for All” and “not supporting the Green New Deal” -- “we are represented by a climate delayer who refuses to support meaningful action.” She adds: “His contributions alone tell us what we need to know: he privileges the wealthy and corporations over the regular people in his district. His largest donors include defense contractors, pharmaceutical companies and the fossil fuel industry.”



Now representing a Democratic, largely working-class district that includes the Olympic Peninsula and most of Tacoma, 45-year-old Derek Kilmer has been an elected lawmaker for most of his adult life. Currently in his seventh year in Congress after eight years in Washington’s state legislature, Kilmer chairs the corporate-friendly New Democrat Coalition.

Kilmer’s rise in power is appreciated by the US Chamber of Commerce. The anti-union, anti-environment group honored him in April with its annual “Spirit of Enterprise Award,” praising his “pro-growth” policies. The Chamber’s assessment of 2018 voting records ranked only a dozen House Democrats higher. Impressing corporate interests is not new for Kilmer; when in the Washington state senate, he was one of 


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