With Rep. Marcia Fudge's Ohio seat opening, progressives look to Bernie ally Nina Turner

One of Bernie Sanders' most beloved surrogates may run for Congress as her Ohio district sees likely opening

Published December 10, 2020 5:00AM (EST)

Marcia Fudge and Nina Turner (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)
Marcia Fudge and Nina Turner (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)

This article originally appeared at Common Dreams. It is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License. Feel free to republish and share widely.

Nina Turner, the former Cleveland city councilwoman and Ohio state senator who electrified progressives nationwide while serving as co-chair of Sen. Bernie Sanders' 2020 presidential campaign, is considering a run for the U.S. House of Representatives seat that will be open if Rep. Marcia Fudge is confirmed as President-elect Joe Biden's secretary of housing and urban development, Politico reported Tuesday.

A groundswell of grassroots support for a Turner House run followed reports on Tuesday that Biden has tapped Fudge, a Cleveland-area congresswoman and leading figure in the Congressional Black Caucus, for the top HUD post. Turner's response to the speculation was measured.

"Currently, there is no vacancy in the district and if it becomes vacant, things will unfold as they should," she told Politico. When pressed about whether she plans to run, Turner said, "Well, there's been an outcry for me to at least consider it."

"You know, I'm a public servant through and through, but I'm just going to leave it there for now," Turner said. 

Supporters of Sanders and other progressives don't want her to "leave it there."

"There is no one more popular among Bernie supporters, no one who received bigger cheers at rallies, and no one who works harder" than Turner, Ari Rabin-Havt, Sanders' 2020 deputy campaign manager, told Politico. 

Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., who was also a Sanders campaign co-chair, told Politico that he has encouraged Turner to run "if the seat is open, as that is her congressional district and she would have the immediate support of the national Bernie movement."

"She'd be a fantastic ally for the movement in Congress," Khanna added. 

On Sunday, Rep.-elect Cori Bush, D-Mo., another former Sanders surrogate who defeated longtime incumbent Rep. Lacy Clay in a Democratic primary earlier this year, tweeted that it "would be a dream to work alongside" Turner in Congress.

In an August 2019 interview with Common Dreams, Turner asserted that it was not enough for progressive candidates to run on their principles. "It's not just about who has the best ideas," she said. "It's about who can excite." 

Heather Gautney, a former senior Sanders aide, told Politico that people are indeed "super-excited" about a possible Turner run.

"Everyone around her is saying, 'Do it, do it, do it,'" Gautney said. 

Across social media, progressive reaction to the news of Turner's prospective House candidacy ranged from positively giddy to calmer endorsements, including numerous nods to her trademark greeting of "Hello, somebody" that stirred Sanders rallies from coast to coast.

Turner, who turned 53 on Monday, represented Ward 1 in the Cleveland City Council from 2006 to 2008. She was then elected to the Ohio state Senate, where she served from 2008 to 2014. In 2016 she was asked to be Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein's running mate, but declined. Turner became president of the Sanders-affiliated political action committee Our Revolution in 2017, and in February 2019 she was named a national co-chair of the Vermont senator's presidential campaign.  

"All of the great social justice advances that we ever had in this country have come not from people with big titles and not from people at the top, but just from everyday people getting together saying: 'Enough is enough. I'm going to change this, and I'm going to get involved, and I am going to be engaged,'" Turner said in a 2017 interview.

Progressive activists in Ohio and throughout the U.S. are now hoping Turner takes her involvement in the movement for social change to the next level. 

By Brett Wilkins

MORE FROM Brett Wilkins