Promising to continue the fight for justice that animated her campaign, Nina Turner conceded defeat Tuesday night to establishment opponent Shontel Brown in the special election to fill a vacant seat in Ohio’s 11th congressional district, marking the close of a heated Democratic primary fight that drew national attention and a late torrent of super PAC cash.
“Tonight my friends, we have looked across the promised land, but for this campaign, on this night, we will not cross the river,” Turner, a former Ohio state senator, said in her concession speech. “Tonight, our justice journey continues, and I vow to continue that journey with each and every one of you.”
“We are going to continue to travel all over this country to ensure that progressives are not left alone when evil lurks,” she continued. “Until justice rings for all, justice rings for none.”
At press time, Turner trailed Brown by just under six percentage points. Business owner Laverne Gore prevailed in the Republican primary, but she stands little chance of overtaking Brown in Ohio’s solid-blue 11th congressional district.
Bolstered by strong grassroots fundraising and the support of both national progressive organizations and local leaders, Turner appeared to be in control of the race early on, with internal polling showing her with a massive lead over Brown and other Democratic contenders.
But the contest’s momentum shifted as establishment forces quickly consolidated behind Brown, the chair of the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party. In June, Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) — the third-ranking Democrat in the House — threw his support behind Brown, as did former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
The political arm of the Congressional Black Caucus soon followed, touting Brown’s “commitment to affordable and quality healthcare, strong unions, fair wages, and a thriving public school system.” While Brown has said she would support Medicare for All legislation if it reaches the House floor, she has also criticized the proposal as an attempt to “eliminate employers from providing care for their employees.”
HuffPost’s Daniel Marans argued Tuesday that “the most important factor of all” behind Brown’s late surge “was an influx of outside support from the pro-Israel super PAC Democratic Majority for Israel,” a group founded by longtime Democratic pollster Mark Mellman and bankrolled by an oil and gas executive. The organization has also received money from Republican donors.
“At the end of June, the group initiated a $1.9-million TV, digital, and field effort attacking Turner and bolstering Brown,” Marans noted, a push assisted by a $500,000 digital campaign by Third Way, a corporate-backed Democratic organization.
Last month, Democratic Majority for Israel circulated mailers falsely characterizing Turner as an opponent of a higher minimum wage, universal healthcare, and immigration reform. Former Ohio Democratic Party chair David Pepper said at the time that the mailers were a “bankrupt and twisted” attempt to “fool people into thinking she holds the opposite views.”
In a tweet late Tuesday, Turner said her campaign was unable to “overcome the influence of dark money.”
“We knew this would be an uphill battle from the moment we started this campaign,” Turner wrote. “While we didn’t cross the river, we inspired thousands to dream bigger and expect more.”
The youth-led Sunrise Movement, which endorsed Turner in May, applauded the progressive firebrand for running a campaign that centered “a Green New Deal, Medicare for All, raising the minimum wage, and more.”
“Thank you Senator Turner for running a people-powered movement,” the group added. “Big donors and PACs fought to keep your progressive values out of Congress, but the fight isn’t over. We’re committed to doing what it takes to ensure we pass a Green New Deal to make a better world for all of us.”