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‘Uncommitted’ Effort to Protest Biden Will Shift Its Focus to Washington State

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‘Uncommitted’ Effort to Protest Biden Will Shift Its Focus to Washington State

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After gaining some traction in Michigan and Minnesota, the next stop in the campaign to protest President Biden’s handling of Israel’s war in Gaza will be the Washington State primary next Tuesday.

Like in Michigan, which has a large Arab American population, and Minnesota, where there is a significant population of East African immigrants and their children, the Washington State effort is counting on Middle Eastern immigrants and progressives to serve as a moral voice against America’s foreign policy alliance with Israel

Rami Al-Kabra, a Palestinian-American who is a City Council member in the Seattle suburb of Bothell, said activists have been reaching out to immigrant communities and others who have expressed disillusionment with Democrats.

Some, he said, had thrown away their mail ballots, feeling like they did not have a voice. But after learning of the option to vote “uncommitted,” they have requested replacement ballots to submit.

“It gives them hope that they can make an impact and let the president and party hear their voice,” he said. “The snowball is growing.”

The effort in Washington State received a key endorsement last week from one of the state’s largest labor unions, a part of the United Food and Commercial Workers, which represents 50,000 supermarket employees. On Tuesday, a Seattle chapter of the American Federation of Teachers also endorsed the “uncommitted” campaign.

But with Washington conducting its elections entirely by mail, the late push that helped “uncommitted” efforts in Michigan and Minnesota may not have the same effect. More than 855,000 primary ballots have already been returned, according to data from the Washington Secretary of State. In 2020, about half of the state’s primary ballots were returned in the final week before the primary.

The Washington “uncommitted” effort comes after a similar Minnesota effort took about 19 percent of the primary vote on Tuesday, which was good for 11 of the state’s 75 delegates, according to the state’s Democratic Party.

Some Democrats have said the results suggest the president’s campaign has significant work to do winning back support of those angry over the war in Gaza, but Mr. Biden’s aides have expressed little concern about the long-term implications of the “uncommitted” votes.

They argue there are months left for the Gaza conflict to calm down and for Mr. Biden to win back Democrats who hoped to send him a message. They also point to 2012, when “uncommitted” won double-digit percentages against President Barack Obama in several states.

Mr. Biden’s aides have also highlighted Nikki Haley peeling off some support from former President Donald J. Trump in the Republican primaries, suggesting Mr. Trump has a larger problem with the Republican coalition than Mr. Biden has with Democrats.

Yet progressives in Washington State argue that discontent over the Gaza conflict makes it more difficult for Mr. Biden to sell his accomplishments on the economy and warn voters about the danger of Mr. Trump returning to the White House.

“If we don’t have a cease-fire, I think his time runway is very short for being able to make a dramatic shift in policy,” said Representative Pramila Jayapal of Washington State, the leader of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. “Gaza is the doorway to being able to talk about anything else.”

Washington State, while reliably Democratic, has a long history of anti-establishment left-wing politics. Lt. Gov. Denny Heck, a Democrat, recalled the violent demonstrations during the 1999 World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle. He said discontent over the Gaza war was no surprise.

“This is Washington State, so it’s completely within a reasonable expectation based on our state’s political history,” Mr. Heck said.

After Washington State’s contest on Tuesday, Arab American organizers who have backed efforts to cast protest votes against Mr. Biden in Michigan and Minnesota plan to focus their efforts on Wisconsin’s primary on April 2. New York, which has a primary the same day, allows voters to cast ballots for “blank,” though those votes are not typically counted until weeks after the election.

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