Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez will head to Kansas on July 20. They’ll begin in Wichita, where James Thompson, who narrowly lost a special election in 2017, wants another chance to win the 4th Congressional District. They’ll continue with an event in the Kansas City suburbs for Brent Welder, a former Sanders delegate now seeking the Democratic nomination in the 3rd Congressional District.
Both districts are now held by Republicans who’ve voted reliably with their party — Reps. Kevin Yoder and Ron Estes. The 3rd District voted narrowly for Hillary Clinton in 2016; the 4th District, which is strongly Republican outside of Wichita, voted for Trump. In a short interview, Thompson said he would relish it if Estes and Republicans criticized him for campaigning with self-identified Democratic Socialists.
“I’m extremely, extremely excited to have the senator and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in town for an event,” Thompson said. “They can say that, but my opponent here is a corporate socialist who’s been redistributing wealth to people who don’t need it.”
Sanders, who first talked to Ocasio-Cortez the day after she won her upset primary victory in New York, said that the tour came about after both realized they wanted to head to Kansas.
“All over this country, you have people who understand that we need to [change] the minimum wage to a living wage; that health care is a right; that we need to rebuild our infrastructure,” Sanders said. “Those are popular issues in the Bronx. These are popular issues in Vermont. In Kansas, they’ve gone through the [former governor Sam] Brownback agenda, and they do not believe you should give tax breaks to the rich and cut Social Security.”
Ocasio-Cortez’s win, which came in a deep-blue New York district, has been galvanizing for left-wing candidates in red and purple states. Earlier this week, Ocasio-Cortez dispatched campaign staff to help Kerri Harris, an insurgent challenger to Sen. Thomas R. Carper (D-Del.). Later this month, Ocasio-Cortez will also campaign in Michigan, where former Detroit health commissioner Abdul El-Sayed is running an underdog campaign for governor.
“Alexandria’s victory was a proof of concept for campaigns like ours,” El-Sayed said in an interview.
Sanders compared the Kansas campaigns to the races left-wing candidates had run in other Democratic primaries this spring and summer.
“Alexandria’s victory took place after hundreds of volunteers elected two progressive women in Pittsburgh,” he said, referring to two members of Democratic Socialists of America who ousted incumbent Democrats. “It worked in Baltimore, where three incumbent state senators were defeated by progressives. That is really something. It’s happened in Chicago, where not only did Chuy Garcia win a primary for Congress, but he brought more progressives into the state legislature. What this is all about is the political revolution.”