Jun 30, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Rep. James Clyburn backs Nina Turner opponent in Ohio special election

House Coronavirus Subcommittee Chairman James E. Clyburn, (D-SC) speaks during a House Coronavirus Subcommittee hearing.

Rep. James E. Clyburn speaks during a House Coronavirus Subcommittee hearing on June 22, 2021. Photo: Graeme Jennings-Pool/Getty Images

Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) made a rare intervention into a Democratic party primary Tuesday, endorsing Cuyahoga County Councilwoman Shontel Brown in the race for the Cleveland-based congressional seat, the New York Times reports.

Why it matters: Clyburn's endorsement of Brown over progressive Nina Turner — who is surging in her campaign and is an outspoken ally of Sen. Bernie Sanders —highlights ideological and generational rifts in the Democratic party, per the Times.

  • Brown and Turner are vying for the congressional seat vacated by the housing secretary, Marcia Fudge.

The big picture: In addition to Clyburn's endorsement, Brown has received the backing of establishment Democrats, including former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray and U.S. Rep. Joyce Beatty of Ohio.

  • Turner has earned the endorsements of members of the House Progressive Caucus, including Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.), Ayanna Pressley (Ohio), Ilhan Omar (Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (Mich.).

Flashback: Clyburn endorsed then-presidential candidate Joe Biden before the South Carolina primary in 2020, catapulting him to victory in the state. The endorsement came as Sanders was surging early during the primaries.

What they're saying: "What I try to do is demonstrate by precept and example how we are to proceed as a party,” Clyburn told the Times.

  • “When I spoke out against sloganeering, like ‘Burn, baby, burn’ in the 1960s and ‘defund the police,’ which I think is cutting the throats of the party, I know exactly where my constituents are. They are against that, and I’m against that.”

The other side: "You can’t take any one race and paint it as some larger aggregate for the whole country,” Ocasio-Cortez told the Times.

  • “But I do think that Nina is a beloved leader in the progressive movement, and the degree of excitement that she’s generated and grass-roots energy and organizing in her direction is a real testament to the asset that the base of our party can provide.”

Go deeper: James Clyburn says"Defund the police" could hurt Black Lives Matter

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