|Formation||January 23, 2017|
|Type||Political action committee|
|Headquarters||Knoxville, Tennessee, U.S.|
Alexandra Rojas, Executive Director
|Affiliations||Brand New Congress|
National Nurses United
The Young Turks
Justice Democrats is an American progressive political action committee founded on January 23, 2017, by Kyle Kulinski of Secular Talk, Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks, and former leadership from the 2016 Bernie Sanders presidential campaign. Uygur and Kulinski are no longer affiliated with the group. Alexandra Rojas became executive director of the organization in May 2018. The organization formed as a result of the 2016 United States presidential election and has a stated goal of reforming the Democratic Party by running "a unified campaign to replace every corporate-backed member of Congress" and rebuild the Democratic Party from "scratch" starting in the 2018 congressional midterm elections.
Justice Democrats describes its views as being held by most Americans, but deemed "politically impossible" by the current political establishment because of systemic political corruption. Members of the Justice Democrats comment that as all campaigns need donations and that candidates who hold policies viewed as unfavorable by corporate interests and wealthy individuals will be denied funding by corporations. Therefore the system actually ends up forcing politicians to change their policies to suit the current business environment.
In the 2018 elections, 26 of the 79 candidates endorsed by Justice Democrats won their respective primary elections. Seven of these candidates won in the general election: Raúl Grijalva, Ro Khanna, Ayanna Pressley, Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Pramila Jayapal. Districts won ranged from D+13 to D+34 on the Cook PVI, meaning solid Democrat. No swing districts were won, though Kara Eastman and Ammar Campa-Najjar came close in their respective races.
After the 2016 presidential election resulted in a victory for Donald Trump, many progressives pointed to the perceived loyalty of politicians to large donors as a major contributing factor to Clinton's loss to Trump. These critics contend that a campaign finance model more similar to that of Bernie Sanders, whose 2016 presidential campaign was funded by small individual donations, will increase public trust in politicians and accountability to constituents.
On January 23, 2017, Cenk Uygur and Kyle Kulinski founded Justice Democrats with ten others, including former staffers from the Sanders campaign such as its Director of Organizing Technology, Saikat Chakrabarti, and MoveOn.org fundraiser Zack Exley. According to the organization, they seek to create a left-wing populist movement to support alternative Democratic candidates beginning with the 2018 mid-term elections, in order to either defeat the incumbent Democrats or cause them to become accountable to their constituents. They require their candidates to take a pledge to refuse financial contributions from billionaires and corporations. In addition, they hope to rebuild the Democratic Party on a national level and to defeat President Trump if he runs for re-election in 2020.
The Democrats used to represent something wonderful – voters. We want you to represent just us, not your donors.— Cenk Uygur explaining the name of the group
As of March 20, 2017, Justice Democrats have reported they have received 8,300 nominations and raised $1 million.
Representative Ro Khanna of California's 17th congressional district announced on May 9, 2017, that he had become a Justice Democrat, and the first sitting member of Congress to join the organization. On November 1, 2017, Justice Democrats announced on social media that fellow progressive group AllOfUs had merged with the group.
On December 22, 2017, it was announced that Uygur had resigned from his position at the organization, following the revelation of previously deleted but archived controversial blog posts he had written when he was a Republican almost two decades earlier that were featured in a report by TheWrap that were reported to have been posted in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Uygur apologized the day prior and revealed that he deleted the "ugly" posts over a decade ago because he no longer stood by those principles. The following day, Kulinski announced that he had stepped down from the organization as he disagreed with the opinions of the Justice Democrats staff members that pressed for Uygur's dismissal over the blog posts. He said his decision came as a result of a personal dilemma as he saw the posts in question upon re-reading them as being satirical due to them dealing with Uygur complaining about his inability to attract women. Kulinski noted that the decision to ask for Uygur's resignation came from Justice Democrat staff, not the candidates, and as such he asked his supporters to continue backing the organization's candidates.
Ideology and political issues
According to Justice Democrats, their highest priority is to effectively eliminate the role of money and conflicts of interests in politics. As such, any candidate running with Justice Democrats must pledge to refuse any donations from billionaires or corporations. Declining money from corporate PACs and supporting Medicare For All have both been described as litmus tests for the organization. Justice Democrats support the idea of publicly funded elections, banning Super PACs as well as banning private donations to politicians and campaigns. In addition, they advocate the reinstatement of provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and a ban on gerrymandering for partisan gain. Several members have voiced support for a constitution amendment aimed at removing money from American politics.
To accompany its launch, Kulinski and Uygur published the following set of progressive founding principles for the coalition. Adjustments have been made since 2017, resulting in a slightly different platform appearing on the Justice Democrats webpage at a given time.
- Creating a new infrastructure program called the "Green New Deal"
- Discontinuing arms sales to countries that violate human rights such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt
- Enacting a federal jobs guarantee, which would promise all Americans a job paying $15 per hour plus benefits
- Ending the death penalty
- Ending the practice of unilaterally waging war, except as a last resort to defend U.S. territory
- Ending the War on Drugs in favor of legalization, regulation, and taxation of drugs, and pardoning all non-violent drug offenders and treating all drug addicts
- Ensuring free speech on college campuses and supporting net neutrality
- Ensuring universal education as a right, including free public college and university education
- Ensuring universal healthcare as a right
- Establishing paid maternity leave, paid vacation leave, and free childcare
- Expanding anti-discrimination laws to apply to homosexual and transgender people
- Expanding background checks on firearms and banning high capacity magazines and assault weapons
- Funding Planned Parenthood and other contraceptive and abortion services, and recognizing reproductive rights
- Implementing electoral reform and publicly financed elections nationwide to make irrelevant and obsolete fundraising from large corporations and the wealthy
- Implementing instant-runoff voting nationwide in an effort to make third-party and independent candidates more viable
- Implementing the Buffett Rule, ending offshore financial centers, "chain[ing]" the capital gains and income taxes, and increasing the estate tax
- Making the minimum wage a living wage and tying it to inflation
- Pardoning Edward Snowden, prosecuting CIA torturers and DoD war criminals, shutting down the Guantanamo Bay detention camp and all other extrajudicial prisons, and ending warrantless spying and bulk data collection by the National Security Agency
- Passing the Paycheck Fairness Act
- Abolishing the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE)
- Reforming police by mandating body cameras, establishing community oversight boards, eliminating broken windows policing, ending stop and frisk, and appointing special prosecutors to hold police accountable in courts
- Renegotiating other free trade deals CAFTA-DR, and NAFTA and opposing the Permanent Normal Trade Relations with China and the World Trade Organization
- Stopping any reductions to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, and establishing single-payer universal healthcare
- Stopping anthropogenic climate change through an ecological revolution and upholding the United States' participation in the Paris Climate Agreement
- Uncompromisingly rejecting President Trump's immigration proposals and policies, particularly the Executive Order 13769 and deportation of illegal immigrants, and implementing comprehensive immigration reform which will give non-criminal illegal immigrants a path to citizenship
As of August 22, 2018, there were 79 candidates officially endorsed by Justice Democrats in the 2018 election cycle.
|Candidate||State||Office||Primary date||Primary result||%||General result||%|
|Ben Jealous||Maryland||Governor of Maryland||2018-06-26||Won||39.8%||Lost||43.5%|
|Abdul El-Sayed||Michigan||Governor of Michigan||2018-08-07||Lost||30.2%||Did not qualify||N/A|
|Cynthia Nixon||New York||Governor of New York||2018-09-13||Lost||34.4%||Withdrew[n 1]||N/A|
|Matt Brown||Rhode Island||Governor of Rhode Island||2018-09-12||Lost||34.3%||Did not qualify||N/A|
|Christine Hallquist||Vermont||Governor of Vermont||2018-08-14||Won||48.4%||Lost||40.4%|
|Candidate||State||Office||Primary date||Primary result||%||General result||%|
|Aaron Regunberg||Rhode Island||Lieutenant Governor of Rhode Island||2018-09-12||Lost||49.2%||Did not qualify||N/A|
|Candidate||State||Office||Primary date||Primary result||%||General result||%|
|Deedra Abboud||Arizona||U.S. Senator from Arizona||2018-08-28||Lost||19.5%||Did not qualify||N/A|
|Alison Hartson||California||U.S. Senator from California||2018-06-05||Lost||2.1%||Did not qualify||N/A|
|Kerri Evelyn Harris||Delaware||U.S. Senator from Delaware||2018-09-06||Lost||35.4%||Did not qualify||N/A|
|Paula Jean Swearengin||West Virginia||U.S. Senator from West Virginia||2018-05-08||Lost||30.3%||Did not qualify||N/A|
Summer for Progress
Several progressive organizations, including Our Revolution, Democratic Socialists of America, National Nurses United, Working Families Party, and Brand New Congress, announced in July 2017 a push to encourage House Democrats to sign on to a #PeoplesPlatform, which consists of supporting "eight bills currently in the House of Representatives that will address the concerns of everyday Americans." These eight bills and the topics they address are:
- Medicare for All: H.R. 676, the Medicare For All Act
- Free College Tuition: H.R. 1880, the College for All Act of 2017
- Worker Rights: H.R. 15, the Raise the Wage Act
- Women’s Rights: H.R. 771, the Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance (EACH Woman) Act of 2017
- Voting Rights: H.R. 2840, the Automatic Voter Registration Act
- Environmental Justice: H.R. 4114, the Environmental Justice Act of 2017
- Criminal Justice and Immigrant Rights: H.R. 3227, the Justice Is Not for Sale Act of 2017
- Taxing Wall Street: H.R. 1144, the Inclusive Prosperity Act
- On May 9, 2017, Ro Khanna of California's 17th congressional district announced that he was a member of Justice Democrats and supported the organization's agenda.
- On December 6, 2017, Justice Democrats announced that Raul Grijalva of Arizona's 3rd congressional district had joined the group.
- Justice Democrats pushed for Keith Ellison of Minnesota's 5th congressional district to run for the Senate seat once occupied by Senator Al Franken. Ellison declined to run for the Senate seat. Ellison, Deputy Chair of the Democratic National Committee, has not announced whether or not he supports Justice Democrats, and has left Congressional politics; although subsequently running for, and winning, the 2018 Minnesota Attorney General election.
- On April 16, 2018, Justice Democrats announced that Pramila Jayapal of Washington's 7th congressional district had joined the group.
- On January 3, 2019, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York's 14th congressional district, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota's 5th congressional district and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan's 13th congressional district were sworn in as members of the House of Representatives and as Justice Democrats.
- Despite losing the primary, Nixon had a slot in the general election as the nominee of the Working Families Party. On October 3, the Working Families Party offered their party's ballot line to the incumbent governor (and winner of the Democratic primary), Andrew Cuomo, and he accepted on October 5.
- Ran unopposed
- Special election to replace Trent Franks, who resigned on December 8, 2017
- Running for the Arizona Senate in the 22nd district
- California and Washington use a jungle primary system, where all candidates run on one primary ballot, regardless of party affiliation, and the top two finishers advance to the general election.
- Due to a logistical error in his campaign filing, Morgan was unable to appear on the primary ballot. As he was the only Democrat to file to run in this district, he was able to win the primary with write-in votes.
- Special election to replace John Conyers, who resigned on December 5, 2017
- Special election to replace Pat Tiberi, who resigned on January 15, 2018
- Texas uses a two-round primary system. If a candidate receives above 50% of the vote in the first round, they become the party's nominee; otherwise, the top two finishers advance to a second round.
- In Utah, a state convention was held on April 21; of the 381 delegates present from the 4th district, McDonald won 25% of the votes and Salt Lake County mayor Ben McAdams won 72%. Since McAdams cleared the 60% threshold, he became the party's nominee, with no primary election taking place on June 26.
- "FILING FEC-1195264". Justice Democrats. Federal Election Commission. December 22, 2017. Retrieved December 24, 2017.
- "FEC, Form 3X, Justice Democrats", p. 2, , accessed January 17, 2019
- "Justice Democrats - committee overview". Campaign Finance Data. Federal Election Commission.
- "Justice Democrats: Frequently Asked Questions". Justice Democrats. Retrieved September 26, 2017.
- "Platform". Justice Democrats. Retrieved January 25, 2017.
- McKay, Tom (January 23, 2017). "Cenk Uygur, Bernie Sanders staffers team up to take over the Democratic Party". Mic. Retrieved January 27, 2017.
- "Progressives Are the New Silent Majority – BillMoyers.com".
- Tesfaye, Sophia (July 5, 2015). "5 'Radical' Bernie Sanders Ideas Many Americans Strongly Support" – via AlterNet.
- Schwarz2015-07-30T16:23:50+00:00, Jon SchwarzJon. ""Yes, We're Corrupt": A List of Politicians Admitting That Money Controls Politics". The Intercept.
- "One graph shows how the rich control American politics".
- Weigel, David (January 23, 2017). "Progressives launch 'Justice Democrats' to counter party's 'corporate' legislators". The Washington Post.
- Scott Hough (January 23, 2017). "Justice Democrats: Cenk Uygur, The Young Turks, Progressives Launch Party Takeover". Inquisitr.
- Tom McKay (January 23, 2017). "Cenk Uygur, Bernie Sanders staffers team up to take over the Democratic Party". Mic.com. Retrieved January 25, 2017.
- Haines, Tim (January 24, 2017). "Cenk Uygur Launches A "New Wing" Of Democratic Party: Justice Democrats". The Young Turks. RealClearPolitics.com. Retrieved March 25, 2017.
- Seitz-Wald, Alex (March 20, 2017). "Democrats Beware: Sanders 'Movement' Turns to Midterms". NBCNews.
- Wire, Sarah (May 12, 2017). "California politics updates: Gov. Brown's adds cash to budget; McClintock calls for independent prosecutor for Russia investigation". Los Angeles Times.
Khanna's decision to join Justice Democrats, along with his pledge not to take PAC or lobbyist money, are unexpected establishment-flouting moves for a man who just started his political career and hopes for a long term role in the party.
- "Justice Democrats candidates". Twitter. November 1, 2017.
- "Justice Democrats Merge With AllOfUs.org". YouTube. November 1, 2017. Retrieved November 2, 2017.
- "Justice Democrats". Facebook. Retrieved June 13, 2018.
- Secular Talk (December 23, 2017). "Statement On Cenk Uygur & Justice Democrats". YouTube. Retrieved June 13, 2018.
- Godfrey, Elaine (August 23, 2018). "Why so many Democratic candidates are dissing corporate PACs". The Atlantic. Retrieved February 28, 2019.
- Harding, Douglas (February 25, 2017). "Justice Democrats becoming the (actual) party of the people". Charleston Gazette-Mail. Retrieved February 28, 2019.
- Eggerton, John (January 23, 2017). "Ex-Sanders Officials Launch Justice Democrats". Multi-channel news. Retrieved March 2, 2019.
- Uygur, Cenk (January 24, 2017). "Justice Democrats Platform". Medium. Retrieved March 2, 2019.
- "Platform for Justice". Justice Democrats. 2018. Retrieved March 2, 2019.
- "Candidates". JusticeDemocrats.com. Retrieved August 22, 2018.
- Taylor, Anderson; Tanner, Courtney (April 28, 2018). "Utah Democratic front-runners Ben McAdams and Jenny Wilson defeat challengers to avoid primary elections". The Salt Lake Tribune. Retrieved October 14, 2018.
- Roche, Lisa Riley (April 28, 2018). "McAdams, Wilson, easily win nominations at Democratic state convention". KSL.com. Retrieved October 14, 2018.
- "Summer for Progress Petition". Retrieved July 23, 2017.
- 115th Congress (2017) (January 24, 2017). "H.R. 676 (115th)". Legislation. GovTrack.us. Retrieved July 23, 2017.
Expanded & Improved Medicare For All Act
- 115th Congress (2017) (April 4, 2017). "H.R. 1880 (115th)". Legislation. GovTrack.us. Retrieved July 23, 2017.
College for All Act of 2017
- 115th Congress (2017) (May 25, 2017). "H.R. 15 (115th)". Legislation. GovTrack.us. Retrieved July 23, 2017.
Raise the Wage Act
- 115th Congress (2017) (January 31, 2017). "H.R. 771 (115th)". Legislation. GovTrack.us. Retrieved July 23, 2017.
Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance (EACH Woman) Act of 2017
- 115th Congress (2017) (June 8, 2017). "H.R. 2840 (115th)". Legislation. GovTrack.us. Retrieved July 23, 2017.
Automatic Voter Registration Act
- "H.R.4114 - Environmental Justice Act of 2017". Congress.gov. Retrieved December 8, 2017.
- 115th Congress (2017) (July 13, 2017). "H.R. 3227 (115th)". Legislation. GovTrack.us. Retrieved July 23, 2017.
To improve Federal sentencing and corrections practices, and for other purposes.
- 115th Congress (2017) (February 16, 2017). "H.R. 1144 (115th)". Legislation. GovTrack.us. Retrieved July 23, 2017.
Inclusive Prosperity Act of 2017
- Justice, Democrats (December 6, 2017). "BIG NEWS: Progressive populist @RepRaulGrijalva is joining the Justice Democrats! Grijalva has a career fighting for working families, immigrant rights, and taking on the billionaires who want to divide us. Unity!". Twitter. Retrieved December 6, 2017.
- Coolican, J. Patrick (December 13, 2017). "Rep. Keith Ellison won't run for U.S. Senate in '18". Star Tribune. Retrieved December 13, 2017.
- Justice, Democrats (April 16, 2018). "We are excited to announce today, one of Congress' most fearless progressive has joined our Justice Democrats family. Please welcome @RepJayapal – a champion for women of color, immigration rights, and racial and economic justice". Twitter. Retrieved April 16, 2018.