After a pair of U.S. Senate candidates backed by the Sunrise Movement was defeated by more corporate-friendly centrists in recent Democratic primary races, the youth-led climate group's political director expressed hope Wednesday that the losses would serve as "a moment of reckoning for the progressive movement, and that all of us reflect on what we can do to build power and take advantage of these races going forward."
"These were winnable races if more organizations decided to prioritize them."
—Evan Weber, Sunrise Movement
"I'm not going to say these races are important moral victories that mean we need to work harder next time; the truth is, these races were ours for the taking and progressives blew it," the movement's Evan Weber said in a statement. "These were not races that progressives could afford to sit out, but too many organizations did."
Sunrise had endorsed former Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, who was beat Tuesday by former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper. They were competing to challenge Republican Sen. Cory Gardner in November.
The movement had also supported Kentucky state Rep. Charles Booker. After all the votes of last week's election were tallied, he was defeated by Amy McGrath, who will face off against GOP Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
"The final results show we could have won," Weber said Wednesday. "Despite being outspent by almost $20 million in Kentucky, and 7-to-1 in Colorado, we fell only just short. These were winnable races if more organizations decided to prioritize them."
He further warned of the potential electoral and political consequences of these two losses, explaining:
Voters are tired of cookie cutter Democrats who pretend they're Republicans and who listen to consultants and donors, instead of working people. When voters learn they have a choice and hear about our candidates, they want to vote for people like Charles and Andrew. These candidates need us to have their backs and help them get the resources they need to spread their message.
That didn't happen in time for Charles and Andrew, and because of that, Democrats' chances of flipping the Senate seats in Colorado and Kentucky just went way down. That makes everything else we're fighting for a lot harder, from a Green New Deal to Medicare for All.
Weber urged U.S. progressives to get "serious" about matching the party establishment's discipline while also acknowledging that the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC), which works to elect party members to the upper chamber, "is not an easy beast to take on."
When Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) "decides to anoint somebody, he pulls out all the stops, and puts so much money in their bank account that they don't even know what to do with it," Weber said, referencing the DSCC's support for the victors in Colorado and Kentucky.
"We've proven in these races that we don't need to match their spending dollar for dollar if we run candidates who better speak to the electorate," Weber added, "but we will keep losing these races if we don't come in early enough to make a difference, if we refuse to support movement candidates together when they make the brave, difficult choice to step up and run for office without bank accounts full of cash."
Despite the recent defeats, Sunrise celebrated victories in New York last week when first-term Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the lead House sponsor of the Green New Deal, swept her primary race in the 14th Congressional District and former middle school principal Jamaal Bowman won his race in the 17th District.
Sunrise has endorsed Dr. Arati Kreibich—a city council member and neuroscientist who is facing off against right-wing Democratic Rep. Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey's 5th District on July 7—as well as Mike Siegel, a civil rights attorney and former public school teacher who will take on Pritesh Gandhi in Texas' 10th District on July 14.
The movement is also supporting other progressives in upcoming Democratic primaries, including Alex Morse's challenge to Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.) on September 1 as well as Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich), whose election is on August 4, and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), the lead sponsor of the Green New Deal resolution in the upper chamber, whose primary fight against Rep. Joe Kennedy III is on September 1.