Charlotte, North Ca. (April 20, 2018) – Five Brand New Congress candidates will run in primary elections across the country next month.
A goal of Brand New Congress is to, reshape Congress and also challenge various setting incumbents. Although not all campaigns endorsed by BNC are incumbent challenges in the 2018 primaries, BNC has set their eyes on several notable incumbents this cycle. The May primaries are no exception.
The BNC slate is comprised of pastors, teachers, scientists and concerned community members leading grassroots U.S. Congressional campaigns. In the 2018 election, 28 candidates across 17 states are challenging both Democrat and Republican incumbents in primaries.
Senatorial candidate Paula Jean Swearengin has squared off with West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin before as a town hall participant and concerned constituent. Since May of last year, Swearengin has stepped to the other side of the podium, campaigning against Manchin at the ballot box. The third-generation coal miner’s daughter has traveled across the state visiting local diners, bingo halls, and fish fries and meeting constituents where they live, to hear their stories first hand.
“West Virginians have been keeping the lights on for America for a 100 years,” Swearengin said, noting that many don’t understand the depth of poverty in her home state. “Yet, many of us live in conditions comparable to a third world country. No mother should have to beg for a clean glass of water for her child.”
Swearengin notes that many of the problems in her district have been compounded by representatives who vote for legislation that favor big corporate donors over the constituents. A year ago, when Swearengin launched her campaign, she refused corporate PAC donors (as do all BNC candidates). At a recent Blue Wave dinner Swearengin challenged her contenders to do the same.
“Most of our incumbents have been corporate serving and self-serving,” she said during an event in West Virginia in March. “They’re willing to sell out our health, our land, our water, our air and our heritage for PAC dollars,” Swearengin said.
Swearengin’s tour, Redneck Revolution, will end on May 6, when she and her supporters march up Blair Mountain with red bandanas in homage and remembrance of the coal miner labor movement that rocked the Appalachian mountains in the mid 19th century and continues to this day. The primary date is scheduled for May 8th.
Swearengin is not the only BNC May primary candidate challenging an incumbent.
Pastor Robb Ryerse is challenging Republican Steve Womack in Arkansas’s third district. Arkansas primary ballots are fairly thin, due in part to the highest ballot access fee in the country, at $15,000. Ryerse refused corporate PAC dollars, and through donations which average less than $20 each, Ryerse is official on the May 22nd ballot.
BNC candidate Richard Watkins, in North Carolina’s 4th district, is also challenging an incumbent. Watkins is a scientist and the founder of The Science Policy Action Network, Inc., committed to enhancing science education and advocacy for the benefit of the people of North Carolina. His platform focuses on the economy, education, LGBTIQ rights and criminal justice reform Marshall and Watkins primaries are both scheduled for May 8th.
Another North Carolina candidate, Jenny Marshall, is a public school teacher running for the U.S. Congressional seat in the 5th District. As a teacher and former factory worker, Marshall’s family have always had strong ties to Unions. Marshall has witnessed the decline of unions in her community and a rise in temp-work agencies which pay far less, offer less stable hours, and lack healthcare options.
Marshall has also been inspired by teacher rallies all across the country and agrees it’s time to pay teachers a decent wage and put America’s focus back on valuing education.
“For far too long our families and communities have been ignored, dismissed and disenfranchised,” said Marshall. “We must begin doing what’s right for us.”
High school teacher Rick Treviño, in Texas’ 23rd district, will be heading into a runoff against establishment pick, Gina Jones. In a pre-primary debate against Jones, Treviño boldly supported for Medicare for All, strengthening his district’s rural health care systems and getting big money lobbyists out of politics.
Treviño, also refusing corporate PAC dollars, only spent $3.81 per vote compared to the $24 per vote his contender spent to win the votes leading to the May 22nd runoff.
Treviño attributes his win to the veracity of his volunteers and himself as he traveled hundreds of miles visiting hundreds of communities in the largest district in the country. Last month, Sen. Bernie Sanders visited the state to campaign for Treviño, who has also received a national endorsement from Our Revolution PAC.
“The Colonias have been underrepresented for too long,” Treviño said. “That’s how I’m approaching this- how to better the people’s lives directly.”
By: BNC Press Volunteer Abby Boshart