Dem Governors Concerned Over Presidential Candidates' Leftward Lurch

Progressive policies on immigration and healthcare could hurt party's 2020 chances, Democratic governors say

(Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
July 19, 2019

A trio of Democratic governors warned their party's leading presidential candidates against embracing far-left policies on healthcare and immigration that could alienate independent and swing voters in the 2020 presidential election. 

The New York Times spoke with Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer, New Mexico governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, and Rhode Island governor Gina Raimondo this week. All three expressed concerns about the policies embraced by their party's presidential candidates. 

Asked about calls by some candidates to eliminate private health insurance, Governor Raimondo, head of the Democratic Governors Association, said, "I don’t think that's good policy or good politics."

"I think it scares people," Governor Grisham remarked on the calls by Senators Kamala Harris (D., Calif.), Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.), Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.), and New York City mayor Bill de Blasio to abolish private insurance. 

Healthcare has become a defining issue for many of the candidates running for the Democratic nomination. 

Progressive challengers in the race such as Sens. Sanders and Warren have loudly proclaimed their support for Medicare for All on the campaign trail, while more moderate candidates including former vice president Joe Biden and Senator Amy Klobuchar (D., Minn.) have advocated for policies that would seek to improve on Obamacare. 

The three governors who spoke to the Times suggested candidates focus on improving access to affordable healthcare instead of proposing overhauls of the healthcare system. 

On immigration, the governors noted that leading candidates raised their hands to support decriminalizing border crossings by illegal immigrants during the first Democratic debates. 

"That just scares too many people who don't know anything about immigration," Grisham, who governs a state that shares a border with Mexico, said on the issue.

The three governors who believe the candidates could give credence to President Trump's charge that Democrats support open borders.

"Come on, secure the borders, people need to be safe, people need to feel safe," Raimondo said, concurring with Grisham. 

Whitmer acknowledged the Democratic candidates' support of far-left policies could jeopardize the party's chances of winning the swing states necessary to win the presidency, reminding the candidates that "the road to the White House comes through the Midwest."

Raimondo and Grisham also urged the candidates to ignore the social media chatter from the progressive base, suggesting it does not reflect the realities of the Democratic and general electorate. 

Both governors said they faced criticism online from within their own party but mentioned they won their elections and have governed by emphasizing results-driven solutions to the problems facing their states.