US Congresswoman Shontel Brown defeats Nina Turner in Ohio primary election

Brown came out victorious in her first reelection campaign, defeating Turner after a fierce rematch to represent Ohio’s 11th Congressional District.

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U.S. Congresswoman Shontel Brown came out victorious in her first reelection campaign, defeating challenger Nina Turner after a fierce rematch to represent Ohio’s 11th Congressional District.

Brown, who was elected to Congress in November 2021 in a special election to fill the vacant seat left by now Secretary Marcia Fudge of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, triumphed over Turner 66.3 percent to 33.7 percent, according to poll results conducted by The Associated Press.

U.S. Representative Shontel Brown and challenger Nina Turner
Left to right: U.S. Representative Shontel Brown and challenger Nina Turner. (Photo: House of Representatives /Getty Images)

Before her election to Congress, Brown served in the Cuyahoga County Council for nine years and is the current chair of the county’s Democratic Party. The 46-year-old politician picked up major endorsements for her reelection bid, including from President Joe Biden, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, House Majority Whip James Clyburn, and Congressional Black Caucus Chair Joyce Beatty.

The contest between Brown and Turner at times involved mudslinging, with Turner accusing Congresswoman Brown of being in the pocket of corporate interests. Her campaign also accused her of being the subject of an ethics investigation that Brown dismissed as “lies” and an attempt to “attack [her] character.”

Congresswoman Brown had previously beat Turner in the special election primary last summer.

“The things that have been alleged about me are desperate attacks on her part. This is a person who has stooped to an incredible low and one that I actually once had some respect for,” Brown told theGrio during a recent sit-down interview. 

“But the tactics that she has resorted to out of desperation to try to disparage me and attack my character, I just can’t sit back and continue to let that go unchallenged or unchecked. So I want people to know I am the one that has been working for you.”

While Brown will have to defend her seat again in the midterm election in November against a Republican challenger, Ohio’s 11th District is solidly democratic and she is expected to secure a full term in the House.

U.S. Rep. Shontel Brown (D-OH) speaks as Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) (2nd R) listens during a news conference in front of the U.S. Capitol December 14, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Brown said that while she is still new to Congress – having only served in the U.S. House for less than six months – she’s hit the ground running.

“It’s been like drinking from a firehose. Every day, I’m trying to soak up as much as I can, as quickly as I can,” she said, adding, “There’s so much to learn in such a short period of time. But I’m proud to say I’m a fast learner.”

During her time in office, Congresswoman Brown has voted to help pass into law the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which she noted will provide billions of dollars to residents of the 11th District. Brown also voted for other bills stalled or rejected by the Senate, including the Build Back Better Act, the MORE Act, which would legalize marijuana and expunge certain drug convictions, as well as the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act, which would reform the nation’s election systems and restore a federal provision from the Voting Rights Act that was struck down by the Supreme Court.

Democrats face an uphill battle this November, as polls and precedent indicate that Republicans could take back their majority in either the U.S. House, the U.S. Senate, or both. The party, led by President Biden, has found itself on defense amid rising prices of food and gasoline caused by inflation and legislative priorities important to the Democratic base that have yet to materialize like the massive social spending bill Build Back Better, which would’ve extended the child tax credit and provided free child care, among several other social and economic investments.

One policy issue that is getting increasingly louder among the Democratic base is student debt cancellation. While all Democrats support some level of debt forgiveness, the party remains split on how much to cancel per borrower and the White House and Congress have differed on whether or not to do it legislatively or by executive order.

As college students around the country graduate with a massive amount of debt, advocates display a hand-painted sign on the Ellipse in front of The White House to call on President Joe Biden to sign an executive order to cancel student debt on June 15, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images for We The 45 Million)

Brown told theGrio that while she doesn’t think broad debt cancellation is realistic, she does support debt cancellation, particularly on a “needs analysis.” The congresswoman said she believes Black and Brown borrowers “[who] have been most devastated” by student debt, specifically Black women, should have “the highest and first consideration.”

As for the amount, Brown said, “Ten thousand dollars…that’s the floor. That’s certainly not the ceiling.”

“I think it’s just going to take a meeting of the minds, whether it is done with Congress or if it’s done unilaterally. What we can be grateful for is the fact that the president has continued to extend the moratorium,” she added. “And while that is not the solution, it does give us another bite at the apple to try to make sure that we are bringing a solution to the table that can get done.”

On the issue of voting rights reform that Congress failed to achieve earlier this year in the face of racial gerrymandering and restrictive voting laws being passed across the country, Congresswoman Brown said the onus should not be on what Democrats were unable to do, but on Republicans who have obstructed the process.

“It’s 50 Republicans standing in the way. And of those 50 Republicans, 16 of them were in the Senate when [President] Bush reauthorized the Voting Rights Act. So what has changed since then? Well, what’s changed is Democrats have been winning,” Brown told theGrio. “Republicans, they can’t beat us so…they must cheat us. And so they’ve been creating suppressive laws over to the tune of over 400 across 49 states to do whatever they can to make it harder for people to vote because we are the rising majority.”

She added, “The January 6th insurrection is a prime example of how fragile our democracy is right now. And then the revelations around the conversations that the GOP was having prior to that is demonstrative of how destructive and dangerous that the Republican Party is.”

“People just [have] to continue to show up at the polls no matter what happens with the Voting Rights Act legislation. Just keep showing up at the polls because it’s evident the Republicans are going to do everything they can to take the vote away from us.”

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