Ohio’s 11th Congressional District special election primary is over and, after winning over Nina Turner, Shontel Brown prepares to fill the role left by Marcia Fudge. The 2016 and 2020 presidential elections were a particularly heated topic in this race, and there was a lot of conversation about negative campaigning and the role of funders from outside of the district and state. But it is the concession speech of Nina Turner that I think warrants some attention.


I want to begin by saying I’ve spent plenty of time around Nina Turner, having attended the Unity Commission meetings as well as national party meetings. I’ve had time to meet with Shontel Brown once, at an event in Ohio. I found them both to be decent people. I understand that a primary can be hard fought, but there are some statements you can make after an election loss, whether it’s a primary or general election, that do absolutely nothing to help your cause.

In recent weeks, Turner has repeatedly mentioned the “dark money” she claims funded opponent Shontel Brown’s campaign, on Twitter and in speeches. 


In her speech last night, Nina Turner again referred to “evil money” that “manipulated” and “maligned” the election. She pinned her loss to a failure to overcome “the influence of dark money” on Twitter around the same time.


But was “dark money” Nina Turner’s biggest obstacle to winning this election? Money can most certainly influence political races. We have a lot of proof to that. In a party primary, however, you are running in a smaller crowd—not working to influence independents who will become Democratic party members, but people who are already part of the party. These individuals can be influenced by outside spending, sure. But in my experience, the influence doesn’t work to the extent it might on independent voters who are open to wider influence.

The reason for Turner’s loss is likely far less conspiratorial than a shadow-funded campaign. What influenced voters in Ohio’s 11th State Congressional District? They like Joe Biden. This comment, which Yahoo News reports ran in several ads, bothered voters:

“It’s like saying to somebody, ‘You have a bowl of shit in front of you, and all you’ve got to do is eat half of it instead of the whole thing.’ It’s still shit,” Turner said. Turner is a former Ohio state senator and longtime ally of Sanders.

Upon winning office, Joe Biden turned more progressive than Nina Turner or many Democrats could have hoped for, working to clean up things in D.C., advancing a solidly progressive agenda, and having wide support among his own party base.

This is where concessions can hurt. Nina Turner could still have a significant role going forward. That role cannot begin in good faith with undercutting the person who defeated her in a Democratic primary. In 2020, she misjudged Joe Biden and assumed he would be the centrist she didn’t want. Now, she is pre-judging Shontel Brown for the kind of representative she will become.

This is a bad standard to hold. Concession speeches inside the party are about acknowledging that sometimes the other side just works harder or gets more votes because their message resonated more effectively. It isn’t all about evil money or being torn apart. Many voters aren’t paying attention to TV or campaign ads at all anymore, and in a U.S. House District race, there is enough time to make yourself known so that you can win over the voters.

Shontel Brown prevailed with a considerable margin. She will be the next representative for Ohio’s 11th Congressional District. 

You can lose an election or a primary and feel hurt by it—that happens. To quote Kacey Musgraves:

Pouring salt in my sugar won’t make yours any sweeter
Pissing in my yard ain’t gonna make yours any greener
I wouldn’t know about the rocks in your shoes
So I’ll just do me and honey you can just do you

The right thing to say is: Congratulations! I look forward to doing whatever I can to help you succeed in serving the Ohioans in OH-11, our great state, and in this country.

Nothing “happened” to Nina Turner. She lost a race. Voters voted. They decided. Now, it is time for Ohio—and Nina Turner—to move forward.

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This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.


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