I am traveling to D.C. again this week to meet with organizational allies and progressive Senators in DC to pressure, strategize and coordinate actions on a host of key priorities like Medicare for All and Trump’s tax cuts. And on Thursday morning I’ll be joining our friends at CREDO in delivering our joint petitions to Senators Feinstein and Grassley, calling on the Senate Judiciary Committee to block Trump’s court nominees.
That’s not actually why I’m writing you now, but if you’d like to hear how those meetings go, shoot me a note back and I’ll make sure to follow up afterwards.
On to why I’m writing today: Our team at Democracy for America is finalizing a strategy memo featuring the electoral work we’re doing for candidates on the local level nationwide. This year, fueled by tremendous energy in the grassroots, DFA’s vision for a 50 State Strategy is being fully realized for non-federal candidates — and that’s why I want to share one section in advance which specifically describes our strategy for choosing endorsements in gubernatorial elections:
Currently, DFA has endorsed Stacey Abrams (Georgia), Ben Jealous (Maryland), David Garcia (Arizona), and Andrew Gillum (Florida). While we’ll work to build the progressive power it will take to unseat Republicans in Governor’s mansions across the country, it’s worth highlighting why these states are the primary focus of our gubernatorial strategy.
Here’s what these four states have in common:
The Rising American Electorate is transforming the map: All of these states are in the midst of seismic demographic shifts, moving away from older, white, conservative voters and toward what author and strategist Steve Phillips calls the “New American Majority” — people of color, millennials, progressive white voters, and working class people — communities that are statistically and historically more likely to vote for progressive candidates and who traditionally have formed the base of the Democratic Party’s support.
However, these shifts have yet to be fully reflected in most of the organizing strategies, voter targeting, and get-out -the-vote operations of candidate campaigns, which means huge groups of potential voters have yet to see their values, needs, and experiences not just represented in the halls of power, but often even in the policies and message of the campaigns themselves.
Voter turnout is key: In recent cycles, voter turnout has hit devastating lows, and this trend worsens in midterm election years. There are two major factors at play — the first is active voter suppression, where rightwing legislatures have used their majorities to push for racist “voter ID” laws, eliminate early voting or close down polling locations, defund ballot translation programs, gerrymander districts, and disenfranchise folks who’ve experienced our broken criminal justice system.
Secondly, these same Rising American Electorate voters, especially voters of color, have been cyclically abandoned by the consultant class and corporate wing of the Democratic Party, whose strategy has been instead to focus resources almost entirely on persuading white, wealthier, Republican-lite voters to support Democratic candidates. This strategy has cost billions of dollars and nearly 1000 seats at the state and local level. By working with campaigns early on to fund and build effective, voter-focused grassroots organizing programs, and maintain them consistently instead of only in the final push, we can drive the voter turn-out progressives need to win.
Creating the “political layer cake”: People-powered campaigns at the gubernatorial level can build momentum for victories up and down the ballot, and we’ve prioritized places where we can not only change the top of the ticket, but pave the way for wins at the county, municipal, and ballot-initiative level as well.
In Arizona, that means that as we campaign for David Garcia for Governor, we can also support people like January Contreras, running for Arizona’s Attorney General and Mary Matiella, running for Arizona’s Second Congressional District. In Florida, it means that as we work for Andrew Gillum for Governor, we’ll bolster the statewide ballot drive to restore the voting rights of previously incarcerated Floridians.
In each of these states, this layer cake gives DFA the ability to maximize the power-building investment of supporting multiple candidates with the resources they need to win.
Powerhouse candidates running on racial and economic justice: These are not run-of-the-mill, go-along-to-get-along politicians. These candidates are formidable, authentic leaders building big, energizing, serious operations, to run on their inclusive populist values — and win. They are former House leaders, mayors, NAACP presidents, and community organizers, with incredible track records of showing up and fighting with skill, courage and conviction for their communities.
Our team and activists have invested in these races earlier than ever before. We are embedded at a much deeper and more integrated level and, in many cases, starting on day one of a candidate’s campaign. We’re delivering resources, strategic advice, messaging and outreach to make sure these transformational candidates develop effective, targeted voter contact and mobilization plans that build support and drive voters to the polls.
DFA’s vision and implementation of this electoral strategy is critical and needs your continued support. Your generosity in the past has helped make this work possible — and now I hope you can make a timely donation again of $200 today to help us fully fund the program right now.
Thank you again for all your support. Please feel free to write to me back here with any questions or comments about our work. You can also always give me a call at the number below.
Charles Chamberlain, Executive Director
Democracy for America
PO Box 1717
Burlington, VT 05402