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Nativist ties prove to be a disadvantage as candidates fall flat in primaries

Aaron Patrick Flanagan • Jul 01, 2014

Throughout this primary season, Center for New Community has provided updates and analysis here at our blog, Imagine2050.

Conducting our monitoring of Republican primaries nationwide, we have been able to show how the anti-immigrant wing of the organized nativist movement has failed almost completely in 1) punishing Republicans, especially incumbents, for holding pro-immigration reform positions and in 2) manifesting anti-immigrant and anti-immigration reform views into a nationally relevant campaign position. Expanding on the latter point, beyond a small handful of districts in Georgia and one in Alabama, powerful anti-immigrant groups have even failed to manifest their views with any regional significance.

As we have closely watched, though, the failures of those campaigning on such views continue to register significantly, though quietly.

In order to ground our analysis, we have focused on tracking and analyzing the races of those Republican primary candidates from across the country who have chosen to sign the anti-immigration reform pledge maintained by the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).

FAIR is one of the three most influential anti-immigrant organizations in the United States. Known collectively as the Beltway Big Three, FAIR stands alongside the Center for Immigration Studies and NumbersUSA as a trio of groups that have their roots in the “population control” movement and which all owe their existences to the same controversial figure, John Tanton.

This is to say, candidates who sign FAIR’s pledge should be well aware of the group’s reputation, controversial links to extremists and its place in Washington as a back-room, special interest lobbying force.

In this round of updates, we’d like to draw particular attention to strong challenger Chris McDaniel’s close loss to long-time incumbent Sen. Thad Cochran in Mississippi. McDaniel was the first candidate to sign FAIR’s pledge. A state senator with his own radio show, McDaniel is also up-front about his virulently insulting views about immigrants. He has referred to immigrant women as “mamacitas” – which he translates as meaning “You’re a fine looking young thing” – and  has vehemently declared that immigrants “destroy our Republic.”

For the media, McDaniel is a serial insulter who guarantees a quote. But for powerful GOP strategists hoping to modernize the party’s archaic social stances and attract younger voters, McDaniel is Tea Party golem who some feared would damage the party in Todd Akin-esque ways. Certainly, some Democratic strategists were salivating over his possible election, eager to consolidate their own base nationally.

For us at CNC, McDaniel would’ve proved a staunch ally for groups like FAIR and the far-Right populist media, as he would’ve joined the Sens. Cruz-Vitter-Grassley-Inhofe coalition of anti-immigrant obstructionists, led by Jeff Sessions, who are so eager to coordinate with the Beltway Big Three in criminalizing immigrants and blocking all attempts at integrative legislation.

McDaniel said as much to Breitbart News in late April regarding Sessions.

With his loss as context, here are CNC’s most recent tabulations regarding the continued failures of FAIR’s pledge singers (updated 10:57 AM CST, 6/25).

Of the 14 FAIR pledge signers that were involved in 11 elections on June 24, 2014:

  • 2 won their primary races. One was incumbent Sen. Jim Inhofe. The other, David Banach in Maryland, who ran uncontested for the GOP nomination in a district that has been represented by Democratic Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger since 2003;
  • 1 candidate forced a runoff election. Patrice Douglas came in second place to Steve Russell, but neither candidate secured 50% of the vote necessary to secure the GOP nomination in Oklahoma’s Fifth District. That runoff election will be held on August 26;
  • 11 lost their primary races. This includes Chris McDaniel.

To date, of the 82 candidates (in 66 races) that have signed FAIR’s pledge:

  • 9 candidates have won their respective primaries. This includes five incumbents and three others who ran unopposed;
  • 4 runoff elections next month will be contested solely by pledge signers, eventually increasing the total number of victories to 13*. One additional candidate faces a runoff against opposition that has not signed the FAIR pledge;
  • 53 candidates have lost their primary races.

*CNC is predicting at least 15 wins by FAIR’s pledge signers, with incumbent Reps. Lou Barletta (a FAIR Board of Advisory member) and Steve King (a close ally of the Big Three) currently running unopposed.

Aaron P. Flanagan is the Director of Research at the Center for New Community.


Image source: redjar/Creative Commons 

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