Inside-the-beltway pundits and journalists have been making the same mistake for decades: discounting the power and importance of winning local elections. This Washington-centric view of which races matter and which can be ignored is how both political parties have grown out of touch with the issues that regular Americans care about.
Our Revolution and the populist progressive movement that evolved from Sen. Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign is prioritizing local down ballot races because this is where movement building begins and where we can actually adopt progressive policies.
Big money is polluting every open House and Senate seat as recent examples in Montana, Kansas and even Georgia demonstrate. Nearly every voter―independent, Democrat and Republican is fed up with Congress and the bankers and billionaires that fund them. Our Revolution will continue to support progressive congressional candidates not only to win but to build progressive political organization. Our main goal is to change the system from the bottom up, not the top down.
This method is yielding wins across the country at the ballot box and within the Democratic Party. Our Revolution’s endorsed candidates are winning in unlikely places. Christine Pellegrino’s election to the New York State Assembly proved that it is possible to win on issues like health care for all, public education, and a $15 minimum wage, even in a district Trump won handily. New York is currently considering Medicare for All and a sanctuary bill that would protect vulnerable communities from Trump’s xenophobic agenda. Gaining a progressive champion increases the chances of these critical bills becoming law.
In Philadelphia, Our Revolution took on the party establishment that refused to hold District Attorney’s responsible for their role in perpetuating our broken criminal justice system. Larry Krasner’s victory represents a real change from the city I grew up in where District Attorney, Police and Magistrate Courts often pressured young adults, often Black, into guilty pleas and sentencing. Little has changed in the decades since. Krasner’s victory is an opportunity to change the lives of thousands of young adults at risk of abuse by our criminal justice system.
To say that these races are less important than congressional seats misses the point that Democrats have lost a net of more than 1000 state legislative seats in the last eight years. State legislatures control districting, and can then stack the deck in both state and congressional elections.
We are in this fight for the long haul. Our strategy is to change who is running as well as Democratic Party decision making by increasing participation at the precinct level and electing new leadership. We have helped elect new leaders in many states including Colorado, Hawaii, Washington, Nebraska, and Wyoming.
In just six months, Our Revolution has been involved in recruiting candidates for, and driving voter turnout in, Democratic Party reorganization in 17 states and many Democrats Abroad member countries. Over 12,000 people have been encouraged to run for party office as a result of our outreach.
Hundreds of Our Rev groups are organizing around issues like Medicare for All, free college tuition, and combating climate change and supporting candidates who will join us on those national and local issue campaigns and not just their own election.
Our local groups are part of a much bigger movement sustained by resistance and a vision and strategy for change. We will collaborate with other political, racial and gender justice, environmental, faith and community organizations to build that movement. Building the movement, as well as winning, measures our success.