15 Under-the-Radar Progressive Wins of Election 2013

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Progressives have plenty to celebrate after last night’s off-off-year elections.  Some of those victories were national news – Bill de Blasio’s win in the New York mayoral race, Martin Walsh becoming the new pro-labor mayor of Boston and New Jersey voters both raising the Garden State’s minimum wage to $8.25 per hour and amending the state’s constitution so it will rise with inflation in the future.

But there were other, smaller wins in local races that got considerably less attention. Many pitted grassroots activists against deep pocketed corporate interests. You can’t win them all, but here’s a roundup of some under-the-radar progressive victories of election 2013…

New York City: Not only did Bill de Blasio win on a platform of reducing inequality and halting NYPD’s controversial ‘stop-and-frisk’ program, he’ll also govern with a more progressive city council, as the 21 new members of the 51-seat body are expected to double the council’s progressive caucus after aggressive campaigning by labor groups and the Working Families Party.

Sea-Tac: An aggressive campaign by business interests wasn’t enough to defeat a $15 per hour living wage ordinance for transportation workers at Seattle’s airport and residents of the surrounding community.

Whatcom County, Wash.: In a victory for the environmental movement, progressives seem to have swept Whatcom County council elections in a race that was widely seen as a referendum on a proposed new coal port terminal. (National Journal called this race “an obscure county election that could change the planet.”)

Takoma Park, Md.: It wasn’t an election victory per se, but it’s always good to see the franchise expanded and yesterday 16 year-olds voted for the first time in this city’s local elections.

Colorado: Three out of four Colorado cities with anti-fracking ordinances on the ballot passed them.  Centennial State voters also voted in two new taxes on legal marijuana, strengthening the measure enacted last year.

Boulder, Colo.: In a landslide, residents of this Colorado town voted to buy out energy giant Xcel Corporation and implement a long-term energy plan that relies heavily on renewables.

Bridgeport, Conn.: The state’s Working Families Party drubbed corporate “reformers” in the city’s hotly contested school board elections.

Other mayoral races: Left-leaning candidates won mayoral races in Charlotte, N.C., and Dayton, Ohio.  Houston, Texas re-elected its first out-lesbian mayor.

Phoenix City Council: If the unofficial results hold up, Phoenix will have the first-ever progressive majority on its city council.

Coralville, Iowa: The Koch brothers’ American for Prosperity tried to make a local election in tiny Coralville, Iowa a referendum on government spending but their candidates were defeated by this town of 19,000.

Royal Oak, Mich.: Becomes the 30th municipality in the state to bar discrimination against LGBT-Americans by upholding a human rights ordinance which passed this spring but was challenged by conservative activists.

Missoula, Mont.:  Six of the city’s 12 council seats were up for grabs, and liberals swept them, thanks in large part to the efforts of the New Party, which was a precursor of sorts  to the Working Families Party.

It’s a big country — did we miss any wins? Let us know in the comments if we did!

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  • Joseph Chmura

    NJ public question passed a new minimum wage of $8.25 and has an annual COLA.

  • zorazane

    Seattle elected Ed Murray, its first gay mayor… and the news is that no one noticed because it was never an issue in the campaign (both candidates were progressives, not news in Seattle either).

  • Anonymous

    We didn’t include Murray’s win because McGinn was a really progressive mayor.

  • Anonymous

    Yup — that’s mentioned in the intro!

  • zorazane

    What is interesting is that my perception is that the activist (left) community was split between McGinn and Murray, with Murray being perceived as somewhat more pro-business, but still with a strong progressive bent on many issues. But as I said, no news is good news in this case, this is routine for Seattle, we were discussing who was MORE progressive.

  • Guest

    Iowa City is the home to University of Iowa. They have the record of number of residents with terminal degrees, with the exception to Cambridge, MA. Very liberal town.

  • Yokie

    Iowa City is the home to University of Iowa. They come in second to Cambridge, MA for having a high percentage of residents with terminal degrees. Writers Workshop at U of I, largest land mass medical school, etc.

  • Cat-Lover

    This is all good but, really, the best news from last night was that Cuccinelli was beaten and no longer holds any elected office where he can promote his bigotry against women, gays, the poor, racial minorities. He is a miserable sort and good riddance to him and his king.

  • Anonymous

    the cuccinelli oust was the crown jewel of the evening for me, couldn’t have happened to a more deserving fellow.

  • Anonymous

    PITTSBURGH! Bill Peduto

  • Joan Harris

    Cincinnati, Ohio…victory for unions.

  • dhal9000

    Not sure who the winner is yet, but Democrat Nathan Schlicher has overcome a 9 point deficit in September to be in a neck and neck race with Republican Jan Angel, Washington State’s ALEC co-chair, in a contest that will determine the balance of power in the state senate.

  • JoeTN

    wow! So good to know that the TEA Party does not have a strangle hold on everyone!

  • DrMidlife

    Ralph Northam, a Virginia-trained MD, is Virginia’s new lieutenant governor. This is a total referendum on Tea Party madness and the Cuccinelli anti-sodomy pro-vaginal-ultrasound circus. His opponent bashed gays from church pulpits.

  • Anonymous

    let’s hope so. The Reps have practically dismantled anything good in the state…in 6 months!!

  • lifelite

    Why are San Fran “progressives” so opposed to increased height limits? I can’t imagine anything more progressive than allowing more people to live in dense climate-friendlier areas like SF. Also would help improve housing affordability.

  • DL

    Have you been to San Fransisco? It’s my home town and you would have to have knowledge of living there to understand why they don’t want to build up. And no…it would not increase housing affordability. Those developers want to build high end expensive condos.

  • Anonymous

    Awesome! I have been saying for awhile now Dems and Progressives need to get more involved in local and state elections because that is where the Tealiban are really causing problems. Seems like that is happening. Hopefully this will be a harbringer of a big turn out next Nov and a big tea flush!

  • Anonymous

    Its a new connected generation!!!

  • Owen Johnson

    As of election night, it was assumed she won. Here’s hoping after the long vote counting process, Nathan prevails!

  • Owen Johnson

    Now THIS one is a good sign! Considering how right wing politics have been dominant in Northern Idaho and even Eastern Washington.

  • Don Eichelberger

    Expected price tag of the condos being proposed: $4 million each. Not that affordable.

  • Salty_Dave

    Don’t hold your breath. The human stain that refuses to account for the slave past of this, human history’s largest slave society, is still around, still nihilist, still anti-democratic, still full of puss and bile and smiley faces and angry justifications of an infantile exceptionalism that refuses to reflect on the country’s past and present with any true sense of Judeo-Christian morality.

  • Guest

    The VA Governor
    election was always a tight fight. Women & Northern VA won this race for
    McAuliffe above the backward ignorance of @KenCuccinelli and the Tea party. #ACA/Obamacare isn’t perfectbut it’s the step in the right direction to ensure all Americans have access toHealthcare in a civilized nation. The class warfare on the poor needs to Stop.POTUS Obama and Democrats are fighting for people who can’t afford lobbyistdonations/bribes for Congress. Republicans need to get on board and truly work
    to make the program better because the law will not be defunded or repealed
    under a Democrat President 2012/2016/2020/2024 ;-) We were already paying the
    healthcare of the poor, it’s called expensive emergency care with cost passed
    on in steady outrageous insurance increases to clients. The insurance prices
    are out of control and ACA opens the Insurance Company open for competition,
    transparency and electronic files which drives down cost.

  • YolandaRThomas1

    The VA Governor election was always a tight fight. Women & Northern VA won this race forMcAuliffe above the backward ignorance of @KenCuccinelli and the Tea party. #ACA/Obamacare isn’t perfectbut it’s the step in the right direction to ensure all Americans have access toHealthcare in a civilized nation. The class warfare on the poor needs to Stop.POTUS Obama and Democrats are fighting for people who can’t afford lobbyist donations/bribes for Congress. Republicans need to get on board and truly work to make the program better because the law will not be defunded or repealed
    under a Democrat President 2012/2016/2020/2024 ;-) We were already paying the
    healthcare of the poor, it’s called expensive emergency care with cost passed
    on in steady outrageous insurance increases to clients. The insurance prices
    are out of control and ACA opens the Insurance Company open for competition,
    transparency and electronic files which drives down cost. #2014VoteNov4midterm #GOPshutdown

  • Anonymous

    I take your point that progressives should be pro-density and anti-sprawl as its the best weapon we have against climate change. But in my experience, NIMBYism is such a super-local thing that I don’t think people factor in their political outlook. “I got my slice of the city, now f**k the rest of these people” has more to do with wealth than it has to do with any one political ideology.

    Here in supposedly bluer-than-blue LA, NIMBYism has crept into almost every neighborhood. Every new rail line has to fight multiple lawsuits before its built. Plans for highrises in Hollywood are being fought by residents in the hills worried about their views. And groups in Santa Monica are pushing for a moratorium on ALL development in that city.

    The only place where there doesn’t seem to be a million NIMBY lawsuits in Downtown LA, probably because this is the one neighborhood that people move to precisely because its dense, tall, and urban, so all residents are staunchly pro-development.

  • Kurt R

    Florida’s fourth largest city, St Petersburg, flipped from GOP to Democrat.

  • Deborah Ullman

    Barnstable, MA, which contains the more famous Hyannis Port, became the 15th and final Cape Cod town to vote overwhelmingly to shut down the Pilgrim Nuclear Power plant in Plymouth, a plant of the exact same vintage as Fukushima Daichi. The power station has recently been recertified for 20 years, has had constant problems and stores many more spent fuel rods than it was ever intended to.

  • Anonymous

    Now that the Ted Cruz Tea Baggers have shown their fangs and most Americans realize how destructive these political terrorists can be, I’m really starting to see some light at the end of the tunnel in getting a Democratic super majority in the House and Senate in 2014 and the White House in 2016. That could very well happen if the Democrats stick to their guns and stand firm on protecting our core principals of defending and expanding Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid and work toward adding a public option/universal health care coverage to the Affordable Care Act.

  • Anonymous

    Portland, Maine legalized possession of up to 2 1/2 ounces of recreational marijuana, the first recreational legalization east of the Mississippi.

  • Anonymous

    Happy Days . thanks such an excellent report

  • Deb Pullan

    Cape Coral, the 3rd largest city geographically in the state of Florida, flipped from GOP to DEM by voting in Marni Sawicki… the first female mayor in Cape Coral’s history!

  • Anonymous

    This certainly supports my theory that, while the American State appears to be in steep decline, the place where you can see renewal is at the municipal level and (sometimes) at the level of individual states (no thanks to ALEC). The US needs more of this “think globally, act locally” activity, as there is really not much one can expect of a Congress and White House that have privatized their most important responsibilities. In addition to carrying water for the banks and corporations, they also have to take orders from Alexander the Great of the NSA.

  • Anonymous

    Yes, but you neglected to mention that state law runs contrary and so the vote was largely a straw poll. The police chief of Portland says he will continue to enforce the law as has always been done.

  • Theodora Crawford

    Love those green grass roots!

  • Alex Sawyer

    And yet in Washington state, we couldn’t pass an initiative to label GMO foods, after Monsanto and other argibusiness giants poured tens of millions of dollars into deceptive scare ads. And this is a state that legalized gay marriage and marijuana possession. The good guys didn’t win everywhere this time around, unfortunately.

  • Alex Sawyer

    I think the pro-522 forces were far too complacent. After seeing what Monsanto et al. did in California, the 522 campaign needed to be much more aggressive right from the start. I think there was an assumption that 522 was destined to pass in such a progressive state, and we got blindsided. Notably, at the “No on 522″ victory party, no one was there — because all the opposition came from out-of-state corporate money. All they had to do was scare enough people into voting no, and their job was done. Shameful.

  • Guest

    Portland, Maine, Legalized possession of 2 1/2 oz of pot. As goes Maine, so goes the nation.

  • Anonymous

    It will go right to the courts.

  • http://www.ferrocement.com/ Garrett Connelly

    Washington State is the second laboratory to run the same experiment and reach the same result. Corporatistas can invade democracy with professional psychological operatives with unlimited propaganda budgets and brainwash normal populations into confusion and self doubt.

  • Bridget McCurry

    Asheville, NC elected a progressive mayor and three progressive city councilpersons, two of the three were re-elected. NC isn’t all a wash, but the downside is Asheville is a very unaffordable place to live.

  • Kevyn Jacobs

    Here in Bellingham, WA (Whatcom County), we fought HARD to keep the pro-Coal politicians off the County Council. And we succeeded, despite LOTS of Big Coal money flowing into the election from outside. The Coal Terminal will not happen here.

  • Jennifer Woodard

    Yes that is where the problems begin, people listen to advertisement instead of doing some research themselves, but can probably tell you what’s going on in the lives of the hottest celebrity or reality t.v. show.

  • Karen Redding

    Agreed Jennifer.

  • Chldofthe30s

    This is encouraging but how many local elections went to the radical/right/tea party candidates?

  • Cat-Lover

    Unfortunately, the Portland police chief says he will not recognize the local ordinance and will enforce state law which makes pot illegal. Now, it’s time to throw out the local head cop
    .

  • Anonymous

    My Uncle Noah just got
    a nearly new white Kia by working part-time online. visit this page w­w­w.B­I­G­29.c­o­m

  • FC White

    Sue Peters, easily defeating her corporate/billionaire backed opponent for Seattle School Board, despite being outspent 11 to 1—yes, Eleven to One.

    A good portion of that Billionaire money went to finance some of the most egregious, scurrilous attack ads anyone has ever seen in a race for school board. Those attacks may have backfired on Sue’s opponent, who seemed to shift her opinion on whether or not she “approved” of such attack pieces, implying that she had nothing to do with it sometimes, while at others, defending it as the work of “our campaign.”

    The 10 point victory for Peters is a blow to the heart of those so-called “education reformers” who have been salivating over our tax dollars that fund our public schools, and who assume they can get control of them, and divert them into private hands, if they can first get us to swallow the nonsense about a “CRISIS!” in our schools and a related “achievement gap” that ultimately can ONLY be eliminated by turning things over to the always deified “Private Market.”

    Sue Peters is a “Giant Killer.” And the lessons learned here in Seattle, from her campaign, will help form a constellation of good ideas that citizens and taxpayers can use to fight back against privatization for years to come.