In Effort to Push Dems to the Left, Sanders Is Sending Donors to Jayapal

Local congressional candidate Pramila Jayapal is one of three congressional candidates Bernie Sanders is supporting in an effort to make the Democratic Party more liberal.

State senator and national congressional candidate Pramila Jayapal. Photo from her campaign website.

The slow-motion train wreck that is the Republican presidential race has, understandably, captured the attention of the political press during the current election cycle.

But as the New York Times reported yesterday, socialist Bernie Sanders—who is looking less and less likely to defeat presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton—is concentrating less on the imploding GOP and more on using his campaign’s momentum to nudge the Democratic party leftward. From the Times:

“There is a greater goal here” [for Sanders’ campaign], said Representative Raúl M. Grijalva of Arizona, a co-chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus…“The contribution of Bernie that will be lasting for us is that we will coalesce around an agenda.”

To that end, Sanders has marshalled his impressive base of donors to support three national congressional candidates, according to Vice: Lucy Flores in Nevada, Zephyr Teachout of New York, and Seattle’s own Pramila Jayapal. Currently a state senator, Jayapal is running for the 7th District seat being vacated by longtime incumbent Jim McDermott. She first met Sanders while introducing him at his now-infamous Westlake speech, where Black Lives Matter protesters took the mic. Jayapal is running against state representative Brady Walkinshaw, King County councilmember Joe McDermott (no relation to Jim), and Seattle resident Don Rivers.

Jayapal’s campaign manager Aaron Bly says Sanders’ plea for his own donors to support Jayapal has brought her not quite 20,000 new contributors (though they won’t release dollar numbers until July). Along with actual dollars, the endorsement from Sanders could be significant in a crowded primary race where none of the candidates enjoys significant name recognition.

As Danny Westneat reported on Sunday, a recent poll found that voters feel far more familiar with Joe McDermott than either Jayapal or Walkinshaw; but that’s likely because voters think he’s actually the retiring incumbent with whom he shares a last name. A Sanders endorsement could help Jayapal make the case that she is the progressive candidate in the race and attract the same Democratic supporters who came out in droves to support Sanders during the Democratic caucuses—the figurative torch-bearer of that Sanders bern.

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