Seventy-one-year-old attorney Stephen Jaffe doesn’t think so. The former Bernie Sanders supporter is challenging the House minority leader in 2018.
Jaffe was so much a supporter of the democratic socialist, in fact, he volunteered his services as a lawyer – filing an injunction to request re-votes and a voter registration extension in the 2016 California primary. He hopes to mirror his left-wing candidacy.
Jaffe appears to be gearing up a typical strike-from-the-left attack usually seen when Democratic heavyweights are challenged in a primary. The employment attorney is a supporter of universal healthcare, wants to abolish the Democratic Party’s super-delegate system and has been very critical of corporate donations. He feels the minority leader has strayed away from these progressive values and no longer best represents the voters of California’s 12th District.
Speaking in interviews since his announcement, Jaffe is convinced a well-orchestrated grassroots campaign can deliver him, at least, to a runoff with Pelosi. It is yet to be seen how he, a political newcomer who has never run for office before, can muster up the sort of campaign apparatus needed to unseat the woman who has been a fixture of San Francisco politics for decades.
Nancy Pelosi hasn’t exactly had issues getting re-elected over the years.
She fist entered Congress after winning a special election in 1987 – also the last time she ever participated in a candidate debate. Pelosi has gone on to win every election with an average of over 80 percent of the vote. She holds the distinction of being one of the highest contributors of campaign donations to Democratic House candidates – not only because she is the leader of her party, but because her own elections don’t require much money.
Whenever Pelosi is challenged by anyone, her campaign team has a policy of simply ignoring them.
California conducts a jungle primary system, meaning candidates of any partisan stripe face each other in an open primary. The top two candidates, regardless of party affiliation, make it to the runoff. With one of the strongest Democratic voter registration advantages in the country, Republican candidates are hard pressed to make it to a runoff in the 12th District.
The congresswoman received her hardest challenge in years amid the 2016 runoff. However, the final tally still resulted in an 81 to 19 percent trounce over left-wing independent candidate Preston Picus.
When questioned on the probability of defeating the incumbent representative, Jaffe actually cited President Trump as an example – making the point that anything is possible. This argument could actually hold more merit than it normally would in recent history. Political insurgency is more rampant than ever and being labeled a member of the “establishment” is synonymous to wearing an albatross around your neck.
Rep. Dave Brat shook the political world when he successfully primaried then-Majority Leader Eric Cantor in 2014. The unexpected defeat of Cantor still inspires dark horse candidates across the country.
However, the Democratic Party can not always be compared so haphazardly with the GOP. Republicans tend to succumb to grassroots insurgency much more than their liberal counterparts. As Trump was handily making his way to the presidential nomination of his party, the DNC was actively working to suppress Sanders’ success in Democratic primary elections. Not long after, former DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz easily beat back a primary challenge from the left in her Florida district.
Jaffe is working against the leader of a party that is not warm to such insubordination.
Much like Tim Canova’s challenge against Debbie Wasserman Shultz or Paul Nehlan’s futile attempt to primary Speaker Paul Ryan – this race is one to watch, but not one to expect surprises.