Courage California in the News

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In California’s 16th District, Rep. Jim Costa, one of the most conservative Democrats in the House and a leader of the Blue Dog Coalition, is facing the first serious primary challenge in his eight-term career in Congress. Fresno City Council Member Esmeralda Soria, a daughter of Mexican immigrant farmworkers, is challenging Costa from the left. Her platform rejects corporate PAC money and includes Medicare for All. Although the 37-year-old hopeful isn’t particularly radical, her politics are more aligned with the solidly blue district than Costa’s, who has voted along with Trump’s agenda nearly half the time.

His record includes votes — alongside his mostly Republican colleagues — to erode environmental regulations, defend U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and stall action on Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen. And before entering Congress, as a state senator he led the effort to ban most kinds of rent control in California.

Despite not having raised as much money as the eight-term incumbent, Soria successfully blocked Costa from winning the California Democratic Party’s early endorsement at a party convention last November, receiving 46 percent of the vote to his 49 percent. California’s top-two primary system means that the candidates who receive the most votes will make it to the general election in November, regardless of their party affiliation. In 2014, Costa, who has only ever had to fend off Republicans, almost lost his safe seat to an obscure, underfunded GOP challenger.

Democrat Kim Williams, a former history professor and U.S. diplomat, is also running in the primary but has struggled to gain traction. Williams is to the left of Soria, identifying closer to Sanders’s politics — but has only been able to raise about $49,825 in campaign funds. The influential progressive group Courage California has lined up behind Soria.

Assemblyman David Chiu (D-San Francisco), who gets a nearly perfect score in the Progressive Voters Guide, was on hand to fire up the Warren troops. “Whether you care about what she has envisioned for immigrants, for our LGBT community,” he said, “I think most of us in San Francisco, we love the fact that she shares our progressive values.”

This is an interview with Executive Director Eddie Kurtz about Courage California's Courage Score and Voter Guide. 

Still figuring out who to vote for? Courage California has some suggestions for you.

The progressive group this morning released its statewide voter guide, offering recommendations for federal-, state-, county- and city-level races across California.

“California needs a straightforward, reliable resource to learn how to vote their values and bring progress to our communities. The 2020 Courage California Voter Guide is the solution for those who want to vote courageously, and hold our elected officials to the same standards,” said Courage California Executive Director Eddie Kurtz in a statement.

Though Courage California has yet to offer an endorsement in the race for Assembly District 57, the group has some questions about candidate Sylvia Rubio’s political sympathies.

In a strongly worded letter to Rubio, Kurtz demanded to know who Rubio voted for in the 2016 primary election; Politico recently reported that Rubio was a registered Republican from 2010 to 2017.

“Should we assume you voted for Trump in the 2016 Republican primary? And if not, for which Republican presidential candidate did you cast your vote?” Kurtz wrote in his letter. “You have stated that you now share Democratic values, which we applaud, but this does not explain your voting history. In fact, it raises more questions than answers. At what point did your values change? What happened in 2017 that caused you to register as a Democrat?”

Rubio’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

Rubio, whose sisters Assemblywoman Blanca Rubio and Sen. Susan Rubio already serve in the Legislature, is running against Lisa Calderon to fill the seat which is being vacated by outgoing Assemblyman Ian Calderon.

In fact, Waldron couldn’t have fared worse to standing up to corporate interests if she tried. She managed to vote against the people’s interests, and for corporate lobbyists, on 39 out of 41 bills graded by the Courage Campaign. One of the two votes she didn’t flunk came when she didn’t vote.

At least, Waldron is consistent. She has failed the courage test every year since the group started keeping score in 2015.

DOWNEY - A California progressive organization has named State Sen. Bob Archuleta to its Hall of Shame for a voting record “most closely aligned with the corporate lobbyists and campaign contributors that exploit Californians.”

Archuleta, from Pico Rivera, represents Downey in the state Senate.

“For far too long, Californians have suffered under skyrocketing housing costs, a failing healthcare system, a broken criminal justice system, and a deeply underfunded education system,” said Eddie Kurtz, executive director of Courage California, which produces the annual Hall of Shame. “That’s why voters made California a one-party state with a legislative supermajority: they had faith that Democrats would have the courage to stand up to corporate lobbyists and find solutions to our most critical problems. It’s time for Democrats to deliver.

“Legislators must truly represent the values of Californians, and take action to make real, bold progress on the array of challenges our state faces.”

In total, a dozen legislators from throughout California were named to the Hall of Shame.

The progressive organization Courage California named three of the 15 unopposed lawmakers to its “hall of shame” this year, complaining that the Democrats aren’t liberal enough. Yet the group now has no realistic chance of unseating them.

“Elections are the ultimate accountability tool, and if you don’t have challenges of folks that are doing a terrible job, then you can’t have accountability,” said Eddie Kurtz, the group’s executive director.

Stafford also announced her campaign is endorsed by Courage California and one of the larger labor unions in the state, California's branch of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). The SEIU has collective bargain agreements across a variety of organizations nationally and has advocated for things like the Affordable Healthcare Act and increases in minimum wages.
In making the announcement, Stafford said their endorsement was "courageous even for that organization because what you will find it that most unions stay out of it rather than get involved" in the time leading up to primaries. Stafford added along with financial assistance, the SEIU will phone bank and walk precincts.  

Costa, 67, appeared vulnerable after he was unable to win the state Democratic Party's endorsement for the seat. But he's stockpiled nearly $1 million for the contest, and his prominent supporters include Gov. Gavin Newsom and Sen. Kamala Harris, the former Democratic presidential contender.

He argues that he’s delivered in Congress, including routinely securing funds for farm programs in a district where agriculture is the backbone of the economy. His campaign declined a request to interview Costa but provided a written statement in which the congressman said he's “focused on the issues that matter.”

His main Democratic challenger, Esmeralda Soria, 37, a lawyer and Fresno City Council member, sees it differently. She calls Costa, first elected in 2004, a captive of big-money politics and argues that “nothing has changed” in the farm-belt district that struggles with drinking water problems, poverty and homelessness.

Echoing Sanders and Warren, she says health care is a human right. And she's rejecting corporate PAC funds that she blames for corrupting Congress. “Washington is broken, corrupted by the greed of those at the top. It's time for new leadership,” she says on her campaign website.

In an interview, Soria, the daughter of Mexican immigrant farm workers who is backed by labor icon Dolores Huerta and the liberal group Courage California, called Costa a friend but also ineffective and too close to corporate interests, particularly in farming.

“Just because you have a D after your name,” she said, referring to Costa’s Democratic affiliation, “that’s not enough.”

The progressive group Courage California inducted 12 lawmakers into its “Hall of Shame,” calling out four senators and eight assembly members “who are most out of step with their constituents, and most closely aligned with the corporate and wealthy special interests that exploit Californians.”

Democratic Sens. Bob ArchuletaSusan Rubio, Glazer and Dodd all received an “F” grade from the group’s annual Courage Score Report Card, as did Democratic Assembly members Patrick O’DonnellTimothy GraysonFreddie RodriguezBlanca RubioTom DalyJim CooperJim Frazier and Rudy Salas.

If you haven’t read the scorecard yet, it’s flush with witty digs at the lawmakers, i.e. Dodd’s: “This wine country rep’s coziness with corporations uncorks a bitter vintage of bad votes.”

Courage California spokeswoman Madison Donzis described the report card as “a progressive north star” for liberal groups based out of California. The report card measures how legislators voted on “critical statewide bills and the extent to which elected officials accurately reflected the values of their constituents.”

As for who got an “A,” more than 20 senators and assembly members were listed as “Courage Score All-Stars.”

The full report card will be released Tuesday morning following a 9:30 a.m. rally at Southside Capitol, 1400 10th St., where Courage California Executive Director Eddie Kurtz will speak.

“Legislators must represent Californians, and take action to make real, bold progress on the array of challenges our state faces,” Kurtz said in prepared remarks. “Until then, Courage California will continue to call out state leaders—and we’re happy to name names—for their complicity, and make sure voters hear our message loud and clear.”

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