The progressive group Justice Democrats is throwing their support behind former Ohio state Sen. Nina Turner, a top ally of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, in her campaign to succeed Ohio Rep. Marcia Fudge, who is poised to join President-elect Joe Biden’s cabinet.
Fudge was nominated by Biden in December to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Pending her confirmation, the heavily Democratic northeast Ohio district will hold a special election later this year.
The race to fill Fudge’s seat has already attracted two other candidates — Cuyahoga County Democratic Party chairwoman Shontel Brown, who is also a member of the county council, and former Cleveland City Councilor Jeff Johnson — and is shaping up as the first major test of the left’s electoral power in the Biden era. Justice Democrats’ endorsement will brighten the spotlight and add new grassroots fundraising might to Turner’s bid, which already has the backing of Sanders and a number of leading progressive organizations.
It could also help consolidate progressives behind Turner with former Ohio congressman and Cleveland Mayor Dennis Kucinich, a two-time presidential candidate, saying he might consider a run. Justice Democrats, which recruited New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez ahead of her 2018 victory and led the charge in 2020 for freshman Reps. Cori Bush of Missouri, Jamaal Bowman of New York and Marie Newman of Illinois — all of whom ousted Democratic incumbents on their way to Congress — recently began recruiting candidates for the 2022 election cycle.
“We are so proud to support Nina Turner because she has stood with our progressive movement since Day 1,” Justice Democrats Executive Director Alexandra Rojas said in a statement. “She has a strong public service record of fighting to uplift working-class people and deliver justice. We know Senator Turner will help create a mission-driven team in Congress to deliver relief during this pandemic and fight for Medicare for All, a Green New Deal, racial justice, and getting big money out of politics.”
In a video released Monday, Turner — who has been allied with the group for years and addressed potential candidates, including Ocasio-Cortez, at an early gathering back in 2017 — said she is “proud to call myself a Justice Democrat” and pledged to “take this fight from Ohio’s 11th District to the halls of Congress.”
A former Cleveland city councilor who was appointed to the state senate in 2008 and reelected in 2010 before losing a race for secretary of state four years later, Turner was endorsed by Sanders shortly after she entered the race.
“I’ve gotten to know Nina Turner over the last five years. She deeply cares for working families and she has the heart to be an effective, unwavering fighter for them in Congress,” Sanders said in December.
Turner led Our Revolution, the outside group that grew out of Sanders’ 2016 campaign, before taking a leave of absence to become a co-chair of his 2020 run. She also served as a delegate for former President Barack Obama at the 2008 and 2012 Democratic National Conventions.
California Rep. Ro Khanna, Bush and Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison have also endorsed Turner.