Breaking News: Wade Horn Resigns

Tyler LePard

Two major resignations from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in under a week! Wade Horn, considered the point man on abstinence education for the Bush Administration, resigned today as Assistant Secretary for Children and Families at HHS. (Abandon ship, anyone?)

Two major resignations from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in under a week! Wade Horn, considered the point man on abstinence education for the Bush Administration, resigned today as Assistant Secretary for Children and Families at HHS. (Abandon ship, anyone?)

From the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association:

As Assistant Secretary, Horn ran the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), which administers both the Abstinence Education Grants to States program (Title V) and the Community-Based Abstinence Education (CBAE) program. During Horn's tenure, the CBAE program saw major funding increases, bringing the current total for federally funded abstinence-only-until-marriage education programs to $176 million per year. Horn also oversaw a dramatic tightening of HHS restrictions on how abstinence-only funds can be used, and promoted an increased emphasis on marriage and faith-based initiatives. Horn, who was confirmed as Assistant Secretary in 2001, is reportedly leaving to work for Deloitte & Touche LLP.

My favorite commentary so far on this breaking news is from Echidne of the Snakes:

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I always thought of him as our daddy, because he used to be the head of the National Fatherhood Initiative before his appointment to run the lives of the poor families. It's all very symbolic of what the administration wanted to achieve: To put a Real Daddy in charge of everything, especially in charge of women's lives. Yup. That's what I think.

It's true that Horn has been closely tied to Religious Right money and founded the National Fatherhood Institute. Hey wait a sec, the National Fatherhood Institute is one of the recipients of HHS grants, drawing allegations of cronyism and discrimination. In fact, Legal Momentum and the National Organization for Women (NOW) filed complaints last week with HHS alleging Title IX violations in 34 of the first 100 programs funded by Bush's "Responsible Fatherhood" initiative. Coincidence?

Also, Horn is scheduled to speak at the World Congress of Families, an extremely conservative coalition with a far-right bent (see Allan Carlson from the Contraception Is Not the Answer conference).

Stay tuned for more breaking news and updates…

Update: The Monday evening AP story "Welfare, Abstinence Chief Resigns" has a great quote from Bill Smith:

''Because (the abstinence funding) is so contrary to public health, our hope is the next assistant secretary there can have a firmer footing on what the evidence says.''

Analysis Abortion

‘Pro-Life’ Pence Transfers Money Intended for Vulnerable Households to Anti-Choice Crisis Pregnancy Centers

Jenn Stanley

Donald Trump's running mate has said that "life is winning in Indiana"—and the biggest winner is probably a chain of crisis pregnancy centers that landed a $3.5 million contract in funds originally intended for poor Hoosiers.

Much has been made of Republican Gov. Mike Pence’s record on LGBTQ issues. In 2000, when he was running for U.S. representative, Pence wrote that “Congress should oppose any effort to recognize homosexual’s [sic] as a ‘discreet and insular minority’ [sic] entitled to the protection of anti-discrimination laws similar to those extended to women and ethnic minorities.” He also said that funds meant to help people living with HIV or AIDS should no longer be given to organizations that provide HIV prevention services because they “celebrate and encourage” homosexual activity. Instead, he proposed redirecting those funds to anti-LGBTQ “conversion therapy” programs, which have been widely discredited by the medical community as being ineffective and dangerous.

Under Pence, ideology has replaced evidence in many areas of public life. In fact, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has just hired a running mate who, in the past year, has reallocated millions of dollars in public funds intended to provide food and health care for needy families to anti-choice crisis pregnancy centers.

Gov. Pence, who declined multiple requests for an interview with Rewire, has been outspoken about his anti-choice agenda. Currently, Indiana law requires people seeking abortions to receive in-person “counseling” and written information from a physician or other health-care provider 18 hours before the abortion begins. And thanks, in part, to other restrictive laws making it more difficult for clinics to operate, there are currently six abortion providers in Indiana, and none in the northern part of the state. Only four of Indiana’s 92 counties have an abortion provider. All this means that many people in need of abortion care are forced to take significant time off work, arrange child care, and possibly pay for a place to stay overnight in order to obtain it.

This environment is why a contract quietly signed by Pence last fall with the crisis pregnancy center umbrella organization Real Alternatives is so potentially dangerous for Indiana residents seeking abortion: State-subsidized crisis pregnancy centers not only don’t provide abortion but seek to persuade people out of seeking abortion, thus limiting their options.

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“Indiana is committed to the health, safety, and wellbeing [sic] of Hoosier families, women, and children,” reads the first line of the contract between the Indiana State Department of Health and Real Alternatives. The contract, which began on October 1, 2015, allocates $3.5 million over the course of a year for Real Alternatives to use to fund crisis pregnancy centers throughout the state.

Where Funding Comes From

The money for the Real Alternatives contract comes from Indiana’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant, a federally funded, state-run program meant to support the most vulnerable households with children. The program was created by the 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act signed by former President Bill Clinton. It changed welfare from a federal program that gave money directly to needy families to one that gave money, and a lot of flexibility with how to use it, to the states.

This TANF block grant is supposed to provide low-income families a monthly cash stipend that can be used for rent, child care, and food. But states have wide discretion over these funds: In general, they must use the money to serve families with children, but they can also fund programs meant, for example, to promote marriage. They can also make changes to the requirements for fund eligibility.

As of 2012, to be eligible for cash assistance in Indiana, a household’s maximum monthly earnings could not exceed $377, the fourth-lowest level of qualification of all 50 states, according to a report by the Congressional Research Service. Indiana’s program also has some of the lowest maximum payouts to recipients in the country.

Part of this is due to a 2011 work requirement that stripped eligibility from many families. Under the new work requirement, a parent or caretaker receiving assistance needs to be “engaged in work once the State determines the parent or caretaker is ready to engage in work,” or after 24 months of receiving benefits. The maximum time allowed federally for a family to receive assistance is 60 months.

“There was a TANF policy change effective November 2011 that required an up-front job search to be completed at the point of application before we would proceed in authorizing TANF benefits,” Jim Gavin, a spokesman for the state’s Family and Social Services Administration (FSSA), told Rewire. “Most [applicants] did not complete the required job search and thus applications were denied.”

Unspent money from the block grant can be carried over to following years. Indiana receives an annual block grant of $206,799,109, but the state hasn’t been using all of it thanks to those low payouts and strict eligibility requirements. The budget for the Real Alternatives contract comes from these carry-over funds.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, TANF is explicitly meant to clothe and feed children, or to create programs that help prevent “non-marital childbearing,” and Indiana’s contract with Real Alternatives does neither. The contract stipulates that Real Alternatives and its subcontractors must “actively promote childbirth instead of abortion.” The funds, the contract says, cannot be used for organizations that will refer clients to abortion providers or promote contraceptives as a way to avoid unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections.

Parties involved in the contract defended it to Rewire by saying they provide material goods to expecting and new parents, but Rewire obtained documents that showed a much different reality.

Real Alternatives is an anti-choice organization run by Kevin Bagatta, a Pennsylvania lawyer who has no known professional experience with medical or mental health services. It helps open, finance, and refer clients to crisis pregnancy centers. The program started in Pennsylvania, where it received a $30 million, five-year grant to support a network of 40 subcontracting crisis pregnancy centers. Auditor General Eugene DePasquale called for an audit of the organization between June 2012 and June 2015 after hearing reports of mismanaged funds, and found $485,000 in inappropriate billing. According to the audit, Real Alternatives would not permit DHS to review how the organization used those funds. However, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported in April that at least some of the money appears to have been designated for programs outside the state.

Real Alternatives also received an $800,000 contract in Michigan, which inspired Gov. Pence to fund a $1 million yearlong pilot program in northern Indiana in the fall of 2014.

“The widespread success [of the pilot program] and large demand for these services led to the statewide expansion of the program,” reads the current $3.5 million contract. It is unclear what measures the state used to define “success.”

 

“Every Other Baby … Starts With Women’s Care Center”

Real Alternatives has 18 subcontracting centers in Indiana; 15 of them are owned by Women’s Care Center, a chain of crisis pregnancy centers. According to its website, Women’s Care Center serves 25,000 women annually in 23 centers throughout Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin.

Women’s Care Centers in Indiana received 18 percent of their operating budget from state’s Real Alternatives program during the pilot year, October 1, 2014 through September 30, 2015, which were mostly reimbursements for counseling and classes throughout pregnancy, rather than goods and services for new parents.

In fact, instead of the dispensation of diapers and food, “the primary purpose of the [Real Alternatives] program is to provide core services consisting of information, sharing education, and counseling that promotes childbirth and assists pregnant women in their decision regarding adoption or parenting,” the most recent contract reads.

The program’s reimbursement system prioritizes these anti-choice classes and counseling sessions: The more they bill for, the more likely they are to get more funding and thus open more clinics.

“This performance driven [sic] reimbursement system rewards vendor service providers who take their program reimbursement and reinvest in their services by opening more centers and hiring more counselors to serve more women in need,” reads the contract.

Classes, which are billed as chastity classes, parenting classes, pregnancy classes, and childbirth classes, are reimbursed at $21.80 per client. Meanwhile, as per the most recent contract, counseling sessions, which are separate from the classes, are reimbursed by the state at minimum rates of $1.09 per minute.

Jenny Hunsberger, vice president of Women’s Care Center, told Rewire that half of all pregnant women in Elkhart, LaPorte, Marshall, and St. Joseph Counties, and one in four pregnant women in Allen County, are clients of their centers. To receive any material goods, such as diapers, food, and clothing, she said, all clients must receive this counseling, at no cost to them. Such counseling is billed by the minute for reimbursement.

“When every other baby born [in those counties] starts with Women’s Care Center, that’s a lot of minutes,” Hunsberger told Rewire.

Rewire was unable to verify exactly what is said in those counseling sessions, except that they are meant to encourage clients to carry their pregnancies to term and to help them decide between adoption or child rearing, according to Hunsberger. As mandated by the contract, both counseling and classes must “provide abstinence education as the best and only method of avoiding unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections.”

In the first quarter of the new contract alone, Women’s Care Center billed Real Alternatives and, in turn, the state, $239,290.97; about $150,000 of that was for counseling, according to documents obtained by Rewire. In contrast, goods like food, diapers, and other essentials for new parents made up only about 18.5 percent of Women’s Care Center’s first-quarter reimbursements.

Despite the fact that the state is paying for counseling at Women’s Care Center, Rewire was unable to find any licensing for counselors affiliated with the centers. Hunsberger told Rewire that counseling assistants and counselors complete a minimum training of 200 hours overseen by a master’s level counselor, but the counselors and assistants do not all have social work or psychology degrees. Hunsberger wrote in an email to Rewire that “a typical Women’s Care Center is staffed with one or more highly skilled counselors, MSW or equivalent.”

Rewire followed up for more information regarding what “typical” or “equivalent” meant, but Hunsberger declined to answer. A search for licenses for the known counselors at Women’s Care Center’s Indiana locations turned up nothing. The Indiana State Department of Health told Rewire that it does not monitor or regulate the staff at Real Alternatives’ subcontractors, and both Women’s Care Center and Real Alternatives were uncooperative when asked for more information regarding their counseling staff and training.

Bethany Christian Services and Heartline Pregnancy Center, Real Alternatives’ other Indiana subcontractors, billed the program $380.41 and $404.39 respectively in the first quarter. They billed only for counseling sessions, and not goods or classes.

In a 2011 interview with Philadelphia City Paper, Kevin Bagatta said that Real Alternatives counselors were not required to have a degree.

“We don’t provide medical services. We provide human services,” Bagatta told the City Paper.

There are pregnancy centers in Indiana that provide a full range of referrals for reproductive health care, including for STI testing and abortion. However, they are not eligible for reimbursement under the Real Alternatives contract because they do not maintain an anti-choice mission.

Parker Dockray is the executive director of Backline, an all-options pregnancy resource center. She told Rewire that Backline serves hundreds of Indiana residents each month, and is overwhelmed by demand for diapers and other goods, but it is ineligible for the funding because it will refer women to abortion providers if they choose not to carry a pregnancy to term.

“At a time when so many Hoosier families are struggling to make ends meet, it is irresponsible for the state to divert funds intended to support low-income women and children and give it to organizations that provide biased pregnancy counseling,” Dockray told Rewire. “We wish that Indiana would use this funding to truly support families by providing job training, child care, and other safety net services, rather than using it to promote an anti-abortion agenda.”

“Life Is Winning in Indiana”

Time and again, Bagatta and Hunsberger stressed to Rewire that their organizations do not employ deceitful tactics to get women in the door and to convince them not to have abortions. However, multiple studies have proven that crisis pregnancy centers often lie to women from the moment they search online for an abortion provider through the end of their appointments inside the center.

These studies have also shown that publicly funded crisis pregnancy centers dispense medically inaccurate information to clients. In addition to spreading lies like abortion causing infertility or breast cancer, they are known to give false hopes of miscarriages to people who are pregnant and don’t want to be. A 2015 report by NARAL Pro-Choice America found this practice to be ubiquitous in centers throughout the United States, and Rewire found that Women’s Care Center is no exception. The organization’s website says that as many as 40 percent of pregnancies end in natural miscarriage. While early pregnancy loss is common, it occurs in about 10 percent of known pregnancies, according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

Crisis pregnancy centers also tend to crop up next to abortion clinics with flashy, deceitful signs that lead many to mistakenly walk into the wrong building. Once inside, clients are encouraged not to have an abortion.

A Google search for “abortion” and “Indianapolis” turns up an ad for the Women’s Care Center as the first result. It reads: “Abortion – Indianapolis – Free Ultrasound before Abortion. Located on 86th and Georgetown. We’re Here to Help – Call Us Today: Abortion, Ultrasound, Locations, Pregnancy.”

Hunsberger denies any deceit on the part of Women’s Care Center.

“Clients who walk in the wrong door are informed that we are not the abortion clinic and that we do not provide abortions,” Hunsberger told Rewire. “Often a woman will choose to stay or return because we provide services that she feels will help her make the best decision for her, including free medical-grade pregnancy tests and ultrasounds which help determine viability and gestational age.”

Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky told Rewire that since Women’s Care Center opened on 86th and Georgetown in Indianapolis, many patients looking for its Georgetown Health Center have walked through the “wrong door.”

“We have had patients miss appointments because they went into their building and were kept there so long they missed their scheduled time,” Judi Morrison, vice president of marketing and education, told Rewire.

Sarah Bardol, director of Women’s Care Center’s Indianapolis clinic, told the Criterion Online Edition, a publication of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, that the first day the center was open, a woman and her boyfriend did walk into the “wrong door” hoping to have an abortion.

“The staff of the new Women’s Care Center in Indianapolis, located just yards from the largest abortion provider in the state, hopes for many such ‘wrong-door’ incidents as they seek to help women choose life for their unborn babies,” reported the Criterion Online Edition.

If they submit to counseling, Hoosiers who walk into the “wrong door” and “choose life” can receive up to about $40 in goods over the course their pregnancy and the first year of that child’s life. Perhaps several years ago they may have been eligible for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, but now with the work requirement, they may not qualify.

In a February 2016 interview with National Right to Life, one of the nation’s most prominent anti-choice groups, Gov. Pence said, “Life is winning in Indiana.” Though Pence was referring to the Real Alternatives contract, and the wave of anti-choice legislation sweeping through the state, it’s not clear what “life is winning” actually means. The state’s opioid epidemic claimed 1,172 lives in 2014, a statistically significant increase from the previous year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. HIV infections have spread dramatically throughout the state, in part because of Pence’s unwillingness to support medically sound prevention practices. Indiana’s infant mortality rate is above the national average, and infant mortality among Black babies is even higher. And Pence has reduced access to prevention services such as those offered by Planned Parenthood through budget cuts and unnecessary regulations—while increasing spending on anti-choice crisis pregnancy centers.

Gov. Pence’s track record shows that these policies are no mistake. The medical and financial needs of his most vulnerable constituents have taken a backseat to religious ideology throughout his time in office. He has literally reallocated money for poor Hoosiers to fund anti-choice organizations. In his tenure as both a congressman and a governor, he’s proven that whether on a national or state level, he’s willing to put “pro-life” over quality-of-life for his constituents.

Commentary Politics

The Contenders to Watch in the Fight for the California Democratic Party’s Soul

Asher Huey

Many people expect Sen. Dianne Feinstein to join Sen. Barbara Boxer in retirement in 2018, the same year Gov. Jerry Brown will be termed out. The ensuing scramble for California’s top three seats could determine whether the state’s dominant Democratic Party swings in a conservative or progressive direction.

The retirement of California Sen. Barbara Boxer, while not unexpected, heralds the first of several big changes the state is likely to see in the next few years. Many people also think Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who was elected along with Boxer in 1992, will retire in 2018, the same year Gov. Jerry Brown will be termed out. The ensuing scramble for California’s top three seats could determine whether the state’s dominant Democratic Party—which controls every statewide office and has a large majority in both chambers of the legislature and in 39 of the 53 congressional districts—swings in a conservative or progressive direction.

California may be a deep blue state, but it is by no means a unilaterally left-leaning one. Fortunately, legislators do have fairly settled, progressive stances on certain key topics—namely LGBT and reproductive rights. However, other issues, such as as economic justice, support for public education, or environmental advocacy, will be sure to separate the state’s politicians along an ideological spectrum in the coming years.

As discussion ramps up about Boxer’s replacement, it’s vital to keep an eye on possible contenders for the seat, as well as those who could run for Senate or governor in 2018. Here’s a list of potential candidates in California we should be keeping an eye on in the next few election cycles:

The Progressives

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California Attorney General Kamala Harris: Pundits and commentators widely see Harris as the top prospect for Boxer’s seat in the state, so her announcement to run was no surprise. As a prosecutor, Harris has charted a progressive path. She tends to look at society as an ecosystem, making the case for a holistic approach to issues of social justice and policy. She has said, for example, that in order to reduce crime and have safe neighborhoods, civic official must invest in public schools. In her first race for attorney general, her opponent promised to defend Prop 8 to the Supreme Court, while Harris refused to do so; after the Ninth Circuit overturned the law, Harris moved swiftly to usher in marriage equality throughout the state. One of Harris’ most impressive accomplishments, though, has been her response to the mortgage crisis. She secured more than $18 billion from big banks to help California homeowners with underwater mortgages and introduced the California Homeowner Bill of Rights to prevent unfair practices from banks and lenders in the future.

Harris’ legacy is not without controversy, however; advocates for abolishing the death penalty have been disappointed in her office’s support for the law, though Harris says she is personally opposed to it. Thus far, activists have drawn particular attention to Harris’ office’s actions surrounding the Daniel Larsen case: When a federal judge declared Larsen, who had been convicted and sentenced under California’s draconian three-strikes law, to be innocent, Harris’ office held him for an extra four years based on the technicality that he missed a filing deadline. She may also have to clarify her statement to BuzzFeed that “in general” the police have not become too militarized.

Harris should address those very serious issues; without dismissing those, though, she is also one of the leading progressive figures in the state. Furthermore, the importance of having another woman of color in the Senate cannot be understated.

Rep. Jackie Speier: San Francisco Bay Area Rep. Jackie Speier is a dream figure for progressives. After decades in county office and the state legislature, Speier was elected to Congress in 2008. Speier is one of the strongest advocates for reproductive freedom in the House, and her voice could certainly be used in the Senate. NARAL Pro-Choice America and Planned Parenthood have given her 100 percent approval ratings; she has also discussed her own experience with having an abortion on the floor of the House. In addition, Speier has been an advocate for gun safety, including background checks and safety locks. She is a member of the LGBT Equality Caucus and has stood up for marriage equality. And she has fought for strong environmental regulations and an energy plan that focuses on creating green jobs, addressing climate change, and regulating polluters.

Tom Steyer: It’s unusual to put a white male hedge fund manager in a list of progressives. Still, Steyer is a big environmentalist; he’s pumped millions of dollars into campaigns in California and around the country for pro-environmental candidates and ballot measures. He put $2.5 million into the campaign against Prop 23, helping defeat the Dirty Energy Prop, which would have rolled back clean energy standards in California. Through his NextGen Climate PAC, he’s supported candidates across the country with mixed success. That said, he has yet to take sides publicly about other issues, such as corporate education reform—a hot-button topic that other hedge fund managers tend to approve of. And will he favor economic and labor regulations for companies, the way he favors environmental regulation? Plus, some activists worry that spending big on his own underdog campaign could be a waste of money that he could put toward competitive races around the country.

John Chiang: Chiang was elected state treasurer in 2014, having previously served two terms as state controller. He has a good record as an economic progressive, including a pivotal moment in 2008, when he refused to allow then-Gov. Schwarzenegger to use state employees’ pay as a bargaining chip during a budgetary battle. He could be a strong alternative if a conservative or neoliberal Democrat makes a push for one of the seats.

The Conservatives and Neoliberals

Antonio Villaraigosa: As he publicly considers running for Boxer’s seat, the former Los Angeles mayor has been more frequently referring to himself as a progressive. Villaraigosa’s record, however, suggests otherwise. He has embraced corporate education reform, even holding an event with corporate education lobbyist Michelle Rhee during the 2012 Democratic National Convention. He’s also joined the board of Campaign to Fix the Debt, a corporate group dedicated to cutting Social Security and Medicare, which prompted progressive organizations such as Courage Campaign to call on him to resign from it. He did not do so; he has, to date, refused to meet with the tens of thousands of constituents who started and signed a petition about their concerns about his involvement.

Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom: Lt. Gov. Newsom has already bowed out of the race for Boxer’s seat, leading some people to believe that he’ll either running for governor or Senate in 2018. Newsom is known to both state and national audiences for his bold stance in favor of marriage equality while he was mayor of San Francisco. But while he has a generally liberal track record on social issues like those, as well as environmental ones, he has a history of being not-so-great on economics. Alarmingly, Newsom has embraced a Silicon Valley “tech-bro” mindset on regulations—in his book Citizenville, he made the argument that government should get out of the way of corporate innovation. He also sent an email during his re-election campaign claiming regulations hurt tech businesses. When Democrats want to loosen regulations—which, in turn, widens the inequality gap throughout California and puts workers at risk of exploitation—then you have to ask what Democrats actually stand for.

Mayor Kevin Johnson: Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson has signaled that he may seek higher office in the next few years. When his wife, Michelle Rhee, stepped down from her position at StudentsFirst, she said it was to support her husband’s future plans. There are many reasons progressives shouldn’t support Johnson. He’s embraced corporate-style education reform and bills. Local news outlets have reported his improprieties with fundraising, noting that he was using his office for his own pet projects: In 2012, the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission fined him more than $37,000 for failing to report contributions to these nonprofits from Wal-Mart’s foundation and other groups. While progressives in California were fighting against Prop 8 in 2008, Johnson opposed marriage equality, stating that he believes marriage is between a man and a woman. He eventually switched to opposing Prop 8, but the statement was worrying nonetheless. In addition, he has a shady history involving allegations of sexual misconduct, which came to light during a federal investigation.

Rep. Raul Ruiz: Rep. Ruiz is a second-term member of Congress from the Palm Springs area, holding a decidedly moderate swing district. He’s broken with the Democratic Party on some key decisions, including recently voting with Republicans to condemn Barack Obama for a prisoner exchange that freed a U.S. soldier who had been held captive for nearly five years. In fact, CQ Weekly found that he was one of the most likely House Democrats to vote against the Democratic leadership.  He either believes in his conservative voting record or he does it because he thinks it makes good politics. Either way, he’s not the candidate progressives will want.

The People No One Is Talking About—But Should Be

Rep. Mark Takano: Rep. Takano is serving his second term for a moderately Democratic district based in Riverside, Calif. Takano is one of those true gems: a genuine progressive who works hard and is committed to maintaining his values. He’s gained headlines for his clever use of social media, including highlighting his past as a teacher by taking a red pen to Republican letters. Takano is the only openly gay minority member of Congress and has spoken about the intersection of the LGBT and labor movements. He’s a proud member of Democrats for Public Education, and he’s also worked hard to protect taxpayers and seniors from unscrupulous lenders where reverse mortgages are concerned. Unfortunately, as of now, no one has discussed him as a potential candidate for Boxer’s seat in the Senate. If progressives are looking for a strong candidate, Takano should be a top draft pick.

Rep. Karen Bass: Rep. Bass has served as a member of Congress from Los Angeles since 2010. She’s been outspoken on gun safety issues and has supported rules that would require gun dealers to report their sales to the Justice Department. She’s used her position on the House Foreign Affairs Committee to push for domestic job creation rather than overseas outsourcing, and she has voted against unfair trade deals that would harm workers in California. In addition to her position as secretary of the Congressional Black Caucus, she’s a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, the LGBT Equality Caucus, and several other caucuses that matter to many progressive California voters. Electing a progressive Black woman to the U.S. Senate would be a win for California.

Supervisor Hilda Solis: Supervisor Solis was elected to her seat in November, so it’s too early for her to run for another office just yet. If progressives push, though, we may be able to convince her to run for one of the seats in 2018. Solis has a long history in California and national politics. As the U.S. secretary of labor from 2009 to 2013, she focused on workplace safety and veterans’ workforce issues in addition to overseeing the Labor Department’s successful fight for back wages for employees who had been cheated by their employers. Prior to her stint as labor secretary, she served as a Los Angeles member of Congress and was an active member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. As a Latina in an increasingly diverse state, Solis would be a strong pick for progressives. Hopefully, her name will be floated for future cycles.

Rep. Ted Lieu: Rep. Lieu was elected to his first Congress term in November, so like Solis, it’s too early for him to run for Boxer’s seat. But Lieu would be a valuable contender for progressive votes if he ever decided to move up. With strong environmental, labor and economic credentials, Lieu would be able to unite the left around a progressive vision. Notably, as a state senator in 2013, Lieu authored California’s ban on harmful anti-gay conversion therapy. His record in the state legislature also includes combating cyber-bullying and standing up for survivors of domestic abuse.

There are a wealth of options for progressives to support and to urge to run for office, both in this election cycle and those to follow. For a progressive victory, it will take us working together. Environmentalists, for example, will need to screen candidates for education reform, because privatization often means not teaching science. LGBT groups will need to push for labor advocacy, because workers’ groups have a track record—including concerning California’s anti-equality Prop 8—of being financially strong allies in the fight for LGBT rights. Reproductive rights organizations will need to screen for environmental support, because fracking matters to the quality of life of families throughout the state. If and when progressives come together to hold these candidates accountable for all of these issues, California will be able to elect fantastic progressives to top offices.

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