People For the American Way

Democrats have never needed a deeper bench and never had a thinner one.

Op-Ed

So let’s fix that.

These are dark days for Democrat still sorting through the ashes of the 2016 elections.

When Donald Trump won the electoral and thus the White House in 2016, and Republicans maintained control of both houses of Congress, Democrats were faced with the prospect of being nearly locked out of power at the federal level.

But for those who wanted to look a little deeper to the balance of power in the states, the story gets even worse. Since 2010, in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision and the carefully orchestrated conservative backlash to the Obama presidency and the Affordable Care Act, more than 1,000 seats held by Democrats at the state and federal level have flipped to GOP control.

Republicans currently have full control of 32 state legislatures, compared with just ten in 2009. In that same period, Republicans have increased the number of states in which they have full control of the legislature and the governor’s mansion from eight to 25—allowing them to push through any legislation without any Democratic votes—while the number of states in which Democrats have full control has fallen from 16 to 6.

Delegate candidate Kathy Tran for District 42 welcomes PFAW to her office.

That gross imbalance of power has had devastating consequences on a huge number of people as Republicans have pressed their advantage by implementing extreme, even radical policies undermining women’s equality, workers’ rights, voting rights and the social safety net, you name it.

The problem doesn’t end there.

As Democrats work to retake U.S. Senate seats and governors mansions, we’ll need to look down ballot for the rising stars who have the background—and the experience running winning campaigns—that they’ll need to take back power at the highest levels. Bluntly put: Democrats have never needed a deeper bench and never had a thinner one.

Even as we resist the abuses of the Trump administration at the national level, progressives have to put real attention on supporting candidates at the state and local level—and young candidates in particular. We need to start preparing not just for the elections in 2018 and 2020, but the elections in the years after that.

That’s why we are so energized by an event held earlier today, where People For the American Way’s Next Up Victory Fund announced its endorsement of 12 young, progressive candidates—all under the age of 40—running for state legislative seats in Virginia. PFAW’s Next Up Victory Fund helps progressive candidates win state and local races across the country with the goal of turning states blue and building a deep bench of progressive candidates.

People For the American Way announced its Next Up Victory Fund endorsees in Virginia on Tuesday, August 29, 2017.

Every one of these candidates isa progressive champion who is taking on the tough fights in their own community. One example is the race in District 13.

Delegate Bob Marshall currently represents Prince William and Loudoun Counties in the Virginia House of Delegates. He has served for 11 terms and is part of  the GOP majority.. Among his long list of stomach-churning positions are his claims that God punishes women for abortions by cursing their later children with disabilities; that abortion shouldn’t be available in cases of incest because, as he asks, “What if incest is voluntary?;” that Obambacare is “forced economic rape;” and that gay people are unfit for government office.

But Marshall might not be in office much longer. One of Next Up’s endorsees this week is Danica Roem, a smart, tough progressive focusing on raising teacher salaries, improving local transportation, and bringing new jobs to the district through targeted economic development. Also, if she wins, she’d be the first openly elected and seated transgender state representative.

That’s because Next Up is committed not just to winning but to changing the face of power. Our endorsed candidates reflect the diversity of Virginia—and our country—because we know that if we want to build a successful movement over the long term, it needs to look like America.

These are challenging times for Democrats and for progressives, and also times of tremendous opportunity. But it’s up to us to take it.

We can make a huge difference for our country, not just now but for decades, by giving real support to candidates at the state and local level. If you’re in the area, you can volunteer to make calls or knock on doors; if you’re not, you can donate money. Because state legislative races are so much smaller than national races, even a small amount can go a long way.

Next Up Victory Fund endorsees with Va. Governor Terry McAuliffe and PFAW President Michael Keegan.

We have many amazing candidates: Jennifer Carroll Foy in District 2, Chris Hurst in District 12, Danica Roem in District 13, Kelly Fowler in District 21, Josh Cole in District 28, Donte Tanner in District 40, Kathy Tran in District 42, Lee Carter in District 50, Jamaal Johnston in District 60, Karrie Delaney in District 67, Schuyler VanValkenburg in District 72, and Jay Jones in District 89. This is in addition to our previously endorsed candidate in the state, Justin Fairfax for lieutenant governor. Learn more about how you can support these extraordinary young candidates.

Next Up will be continuing to roll out endorsements for other 2017 races across the country. Working from the grassroots up, these races represent the best chances we’ve got to build progressive change that lasts—and to win at all levels.

Watch live footage from the Next Up Virginia launch event: