The Potential Class of Democratic Nominees for the 2020 Election

by Brian Moniz

With mid-term elections around the corner in November, we at Matthews Place have updated our list of potential Democratic nominees for President in 2020. While there are many popular candidates who have been hinting they will be running next year (Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris), we wanted to create a list of new players in the game who could surprise us. Here is a breakdown of the most likely, the “maybe’s”, and the “long shots” of potential candidates along with the biggest challenge they will face should they run.

The most likely:

Mitch Landrieu (57)
He’s the former mayor of New Orleans and Lieutenant Governor of Louisiana who seems to be getting more and more buzz daily about his potential run for office in 2020. Mitch Landrieu may not have the star-power of a Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton, but this time next year he will be a household name. Throughout his entire career in his home state of Louisiana, Landrieu truly has been a voice of the people. Louisiana has the highest rate of cancer-related fatalities in the country, and in 1987 Landrieu was elected to the Louisiana House of Delegates where he pioneered the funding of the Louisiana Cancer Research Consortium of New Orleans. He is a strong supporter of making the justice system work in a more positive way and reformed Louisiana’s incarceration programs to make them more about rehabilitation rather than punishment. In 2008 he started the World Cultural Economic Forum, or WCEF, which brings together ambassadors and leaders from all over the world to promote cultural economic development opportunities, so much of the world already knows and respects him.

Landrieu is already being criticized for his lack of higher experience — not being a governor or senator — to which he has brilliantly countered that being a mayor helped him understand his community better — always being on the ground floor and engaging with people he sees every day in grocery stores, movie theaters, restaurants and speaking with them face to face on a daily basis in everyday life as opposed to sitting behind a desk in an office. Landrieu has said he does not plan to run yet, but it seems likely that is a ploy to get the opposition off his back for now.

Another great quality Landrieu has working in his favor is having roots in the South. Landrieu comes from a red state that went for Trump in 2016, and he can turn that state around and help to influence more red states in the bible belt to cross over, too. A big problem most of these potential candidates have is many of them come from California, New York or another blue state that usually always goes to the Democrats. We need someone from a red state who speaks their language and can flip that state and others. As of now, the buzz for Landrieu to run has been overwhelming, and he may run for the simple fact that so many people want him to. He is the most likely newcomer to run in 2020.

Cory Booker (49)
He’s the headstrong first black Senator from New Jersey with a very vocal disgust for Donald Trump and the lack of morals (and spines) in the Republican Party. Booker is a smart cookie with an MBA from Stanford and a Law degree from Yale. In 1988, he won his first political victory earning a seat on the Municipal Council of Newark. Booker is known to be a fighter who won’t back down when achieving what he wants; a perfect example of this is when he went on a hunger strike for ten days bringing awareness to Urban Development issues in New Jersey. While Corey Booker’s fame as a politician has soared over the last ten years, so has his “unfavorable” opinion among residents in his city of Newark, NJ.

According to a University public poll in New Jersey, residents were asked to give their opinion of Cory Booker and say whether they had a favorable or unfavorable view of him. When the poll was first conducted in 2008, he scored a 32% favorable versus an 8% unfavorable opinion among New Jersey residents. When the poll was last conducted in 2014, Booker’s numbers showed him scoring a 47% favorable opinion versus a 23% unfavorable opinion. Booker has overseen much progress in New Jersey as far as development with the city and infrastructure, but murder and crime rates have increased along with underemployment. Should he decide to run for President, Booker will have to answer for these trends.

Booker is all over the map with his policies. He claims to be a Democrat, but his many actions fall in line with being a Libertarian. He has been described as someone who is “fiscally conservative while also being socially progressive.” In 2012, Booker criticized President Obama when Obama attacked private equity and the Republican National Committee created a petition called “I Stand with Cory Booker”. When he was mayor of Newark, he received much criticism from the Left when he supported Libertarians in their fight to develop charter schools. He wants the U.S. government to back off major tech companies and decrease regulations to help major corporations develop new ideas, software and inventions — a plan once echoed by former Governor Chris Christie when he tried to convince Amazon to move their newest headquarters to New Jersey to boost the state economy and create jobs, even promising Amazon over $5 billion in tax breaks. Booker comes off “too open” to reaching out to Republicans and that doesn’t sit well with his Liberal base. He does have some old-school liberal beliefs, such as a woman’s right to choose, better gun control, fixing public education, believes climate change is one of our biggest threats and, like Bernie Sanders, he believes in a single-payer healthcare system.

While Booker’s beliefs are all over the place, he is very much a Democrat and fights for the rights of all Americans and has made it clear he wants to duke it out one-on-one with Donald Trump. The biggest problem with him is whether the Left will support him. The Democrat half of this country has made it clear they want new blood and a fresh face to begin the progressive movement and Cory Booker does seems to piggyback on whatever is trendy in the moment and says what he thinks his audience wants to hear. Should he receive the Democrat nomination for President, we could see a repeat of the “Bernie or bust” effect where many people will sit out the election if someone “purer” and with less baggage isn’t the nominee.

Kirsten Gillibrand (51)
She’s the under-the-radar New Yorker who succeeded Hillary Clinton as state Senator since January 2009. While her beliefs have always been very much liberal, some of her actions come off more conservative. She, like Cory Booker, has been known to be fiscally conservative while more liberal on topics like human rights and sexual assault. After Al Franken was caught posing with himself groping a female soldier’s breasts, Gillibrand spearheaded pressure for him to step down. She has advocated for a single-payer healthcare system, has been a very strong supporter of same-sex rights and believes in total government transparency. Gillibrand is one of very few members of congress who proudly releases all her personal data (tax returns, voting history, upcoming schedule, etc.) and believes anyone in office should do the same. Gillibrand is also a member of the “Hell-No Caucus” which was created by members of congress who vow to always vote against Donald Trump’s nominees for administration jobs. In her early years in the house she was known as a Blue Dog, which is a group of Democrats who are known to be much more conservative than liberal while still maintaining an overall Democratic image. Gillibrand is probably the strongest of potential nominees when it comes to women’s rights, equal pay and protection against sexual assault in the workplace.

If she is the nominee, Trump will attack her for wanting campaign contributions from him before he was President. She will look like a hypocrite for asking him for money when she is very against him as President. Granted, no one could foresee he would turn out this horrible before he was President, but it will still work against her in the 2020 campaign. Trump also once implied she was sexual towards him for campaign contributions, saying in a tweet that she would come to his office and would do “anything” for money.

*Side Note: Danica Roem, Virginia’s first transgender delegate and friend of the Matthew Shepard Foundation, told us back in December that Kirsten Gillibrand is her pick to win the 2020 election, but also said, “I’ll vote for anyone over Trump, really.”

The possible, but too soon to tell:

Hillary Clinton (70)
Yes, the previous nominee of the last election, Hillary Rodham Clinton, could run again. Hillary has spent the last year and a half promoting her book What Happened and has been trying to observe and learn from her mistakes as to why she lost. We all know she actually won the election, but thanks to the bronze-aged electoral college she was not named President. If she runs again, she will run on the platform that she won the popular vote, she was robbed by the electoral college system, and that Trump only defeated her because of meddling by the Russian government. Hillary did make many mistakes, such as not campaigning in Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, and a couple other swing-states, and she shouldn’t have angered swing voters by saying if you vote for Trump then you are deplorable. However, the main challenge Hillary will face is that she lost the last election, and when someone loses they should move along and let some other smaller trees catch some sunshine. The Democratic Party needs a new fresh face like a Kamala Harris or an Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. No one would argue that Hillary Clinton isn’t a very bright and competent woman, but do we really want to run her again with all that negative baggage and losing the last election? We have many solid female candidates running who are very capable women and they should be given their shot without Hillary fighting for more spotlight. With respect, Hillary should kindly step aside and let the Elizabeth Warrens, Kamala Harris’ and Kirsten Gillibrand’s have a shot, but that’s just my opinion.

Maxine Waters (79)
She’s the controversial congresswoman and member of the Congressional Black Caucus from California’s 43rd congressional district who became widely famous for her viral one-liner, “Reclaiming my time! Reclaiming my time!” against Steve Mnuchin in his testimony in front of congress back in 2017. Maxine Waters is a very tough, strong and intelligent woman who makes no secrets about wanting to impeach Donald Trump. Among all the potential nominees for President, Waters has been arguably the most vocal and most fearless in standing up to our corrupt President and every member of his administration from Steve Mnuchin to Sarah Sanders to Jeff Sessions. While Waters has not yet claimed a bid to run for President, she could very well run as a spark to fire up the base the same way Bernie did. She could have a shot, but as stated before, it is becoming more and more clear that Democratic voters want young blood in the game.

Maxine Waters will face trouble in the election, since it was she who said that Trump officials should not be allowed to walk down the street in public without being ridiculed and harassed. Waters was also recorded on tape at a gathering outside broadcasting to Americans that people like Sarah Sanders don’t deserve sympathy for being kicked out of a restaurant. She has said of the Tea Party, “The Tea Party can go straight to hell…and I intend to help them get there.” As much as we might agree with her passion and courage, Waters could potentially be too much of a loose cannon and cause too many waves in unifying the Democratic Party against Trump in 2020. Swing voters could potentially see these tough-but-honest remarks as divisive and unnecessary instead of passionate and productive. She does have her own positions and policies, but her hate for Trump seems to overshadow any positive message she could run on. I could be dead wrong, and she could run and get a lot of success, but only time will tell. Whether or not she runs is still uncertain.

Tom Steyer (61)
Probably the least well-known of the list of potential candidates, Steyer is the guy you may have seen on TV in random commercials calling for the impeachment of Donald Trump with his “Need to Impeach” petition. Steyer is a billionaire and founder of Farallon Capital, an investment firm in San Francisco. In 2012, Steyer left his career with Farallon to become a vocal activist for the environment, promoting alternative energy and reducing carbon emissions. Steyer and his wife are also members of The Giving Pledge, an organization founded by Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett which urges billionaires to give up at least half of their wealth to charities over their lifetime. While Steyer may come off as a good guy, he doesn’t have much experience in politics and will be a big underdog who probably won’t get too much support.

While he is on the ground hosting anti-Trump rallies and does use his own money to fund commercials calling for Trump’s impeachment, Steyer’s chances of winning the Democratic nominations are pretty much zero. Even his fellow Democratic allies like Nancy Pelosi and other prominent Democrats make it clear they do not and would not support him during the primaries and think his one-note message of “Impeach Trump” won’t go anywhere.

The looooong shots:

Oprah Winfrey (64)
Even though Oprah gave it some thought and came back to say she doesn’t want to run, there’s still no foreseeing the future and knowing for sure what time will tell come election season. Oprah Winfrey has a very solid chance at being nominated if she decides to run for the exact same reasons Trump won his primary: she is an outsider, a billionaire, a non-politician, successful business woman, and has been a powerful television celebrity with worldwide name-recognition that people have watched for decades. Oprah Winfrey would be a serious wildcard in the mix of candidates since she has no history or baggage in the political world. Being a woman and being black would garner her that many more votes, and she could swing back any voters who were on the fence and gave Trump a chance in 2016. Having been the most powerful, prominent daytime TV personality for twenty-five years will no doubt give her a strong chance at winning the white non-college-educated female vote that Hillary Clinton got crushed by. Many Americans on both sides adore Oprah and she doesn’t come across as someone who is threatening or dishonest to the more moderate Republicans who have been disappointed in Trump but also don’t want to vote for a “career-Democrat”.

The great thing about Oprah Winfrey being the Democratic nominee is that Trump won’t be able to attack her since she comes from the same boat as he did but without all the racism, misogyny, homophobia, compulsive and pathological lying, and corrupt business deals he brings to the table. Oprah also hasn’t colluded with an enemy country to steal an election. Having been someone who has united Americans of all backgrounds with her TV show, Oprah could use that personality of hers to spearhead a message of unity and inclusiveness rather than divisiveness and name-calling like the current administration. Where she needs to be careful and calculated is with whom she selects as her running-mate for Vice President. She needs to pick someone likable who has been in the game a long time whom she can fall back on to help her every step of the way the same way Joe Biden was there for Barack Obama. Selecting someone from a red state or swing state will also help her chances. If she runs and picks a very competent, strong candidate as her VP, Oprah Winfrey could be our next President of the United States.

Mark Cuban (60)
Mark Cuban is the billionaire entrepreneur, loudmouth owner of the Dallas Mavericks and star of the hit TV show Shark Tank. As a businessman himself, Cuban has had great success, founding which was later sold to Yahoo! for $5.7 billion. After, Cuban invested his wealth and time into other businesses. He now owns Landmark Theaters with over fifty venues nationwide, and Magnolia Pictures, a small independent Film distribution company. He also founded AXS TV (formerly HDnet), America’s first high-definition satellite television network. Cuban has never been very vocal in his political views, and in fact spoke highly of Donald Trump during his run in the primaries as someone who is changing things in politics for the better and shaking up the system. However, since the 2016 election Cuban has become one of Trump’s top critics, calling for his impeachment and claiming his biggest problem is his ego and his “inability to keep his mouth shut when he needs to.” Cuban hinted at running for President when he wore a basketball jersey at a celebrity NBA game back in 2017 with the number 46, which many took as a sign that he will be our 46th President since Trump is currently number 45. It is a very long shot that Cuban will run for President, but if he does, he will most likely run as an independent on the Republican side trying to take votes away from Trump to help boost the chances for a Democrat to be victorious.

Side note: There is a strong rumor going around that John Kasich and Mitt Romney are both planning to run against Trump, either together or separately, and either steal the Republican nomination from him or run independently to give Republicans who are sick of Trump a second option.

For information on the more popular candidates like Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders and others, follow this link to our previous piece about potential nominees from last year.

Think we may have overlooked someone? Let us know who you think should run and why in the comments below!

About the Author:

Brian Moniz is a 29-year-old man from San Jose, Calif. He studied filmmaking and writing at San Jose State University from 2010–2013 and got his bachelor’s degree in Radio-TV-Film. Throughout his high school and college years, he worked as a music and movie journalist and critic. Having only recently come out of the closet himself in 2014, Brian enjoys writing about LGBTQ issues. His only regret when it comes to his sexuality is that he didn’t come out sooner. Read more by Brian here.