A disappointing election night for progressives ended Tuesday with two establishment Democrats, Katie McGinty and Rep. Chris Van Hollen, winning their respective U.S. Senate primary races in Pennsylvania and Maryland.
Van Hollen won against Rep. Donna Edwards, both of whom were running to replace Sen. Barbara Mikulski, in a contest that highlighted racial, gender, and class divides in the Maryland Democratic Party.
A win for Edwards—who had grassroots support but few powerful political allies—would have made her Maryland’s first black senator and the second black female U.S. senator in history. Despite a record turnout from black voters, her campaign came up against an establishment firewall that had long backed Van Hollen, a white man and career politician, whose policies are markedly more centrist.
At a union hall in Prince George’s County Tuesday night, Edwards gave a passionate concession speech that criticized the Democratic Party’s faux-progressive mantle.
“To my Democratic Party, you cannot show up in churches before election day, you cannot sing the first and last verse of ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing,’ you cannot join hands and walk across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, and call that post-racial and inclusion,” she said to cheers and applause.
“To my Democratic Party, let me say that today Maryland is on the verge of having an all-male delegation in a so-called progressive state. So what I want to know from my Democratic Party, is when will the voices of people of color, when will the voices of women, when will the voices of labor, when will the voices of black women, when will our voices be effective, legitimate, equal leaders in a big-tent party?” she said.
Van Hollen will now face off with Republican Maryland State Delegate Kathy Szeliga of Baltimore County.
Meanwhile, in Pennsylvania, progressives saw McGinty’s win over Joe Sestak as another example of establishment game-playing.
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