People For the American Way Voters Alliance PAC is proud to announce the endorsement of 10 progressive champions for federal office. These 10 candidates and officials, representing a diverse and broad swath of constituencies, are some of the best and brightest progressive champions in the country.
Overall these candidates have fought against big money in politics, promoted economic fairness and equality for all, and called for increasing educational opportunities for workers and students. They are promoters of civil rights and voting rights, supporters of marriage equality and employment protections for LGBTQ Americans, and believe women should maintain choice over their own health decisions. Many are endorsed by multiple leading progressive, labor, civil rights, women’s rights, and equality organizations.
People For the American Way Voters Alliance PAC encourages all PFAW members to consider supporting these terrific candidates’ campaigns:
Shenna Bellows, Candidate for U.S. Senate, Maine
Congressman Bruce Braley, Candidate for U.S. Senate, Iowa
U.S. Senator Al Franken, Minnesota (Incumbent)
U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley, Oregon (Incumbent)
Congressman Gary Peters, Candidate for U.S. Senate, Michigan
Rick Weiland, Candidate for U.S. Senate, South Dakota
U.S. Senator Mark Udall, Colorado (Incumbent)
State Senator Emily Cain, Candidate for U.S. House of Representatives, Maine-02
Honolulu Councilman Stanley Chang, Candidate for. U.S. House of Representatives, HI-01
Kelly Westlund, Candidate for U.S. House of Representatives, WI-07
Shenna Bellows is challenging GOP Sen. Susan Collins to represent Maine in the U.S. Senate. The former executive director of ACLU of Maine and graduate of Emerge Maine’s candidate program, Bellows has been an outspoken advocate for LGBTQ equality and against ‘dark money’ in politics.
While serving ACLU of Maine, she built bipartisan coalitions to advance privacy and civil rights legislation, establishing Maine as a national leader in these policies. Bellows was also a leader of Mainers United for Marriage, the organization that fought for full marriage equality for same-sex couples, and she worked to restore same-day voter registration through the Protect Maine Votes campaign. Most recently, she organized a successful privacy campaign to require warrants for access to private cellphone communications, and led the opposition to warrantless drone surveillance.
Originally from Hancock, Maine, Bellows graduated Magne Cum Laude from Middlebury College, where she earned highest honors in economic and environmental sustainability. She carried her academic work abroad as an exchange student in Brazil, Costa Rica, and as a Peace Corps volunteer living in Panama. She has earned accolades for her work to advance women’s health and reproductive choice from the University of Maine Women’s Studies Department, Mabel Wadsworth Women’s Health Center, the American Association of University Women, the Frances Perkins Center, and the Maine Democratic Party.
Bellows and her husband Brandon Baldwin live outside Manchester, in Augusta.
Visit Shenna Bellows’ campaign website for more details.
Congressman Bruce Braley currently represents Iowa’s 1st Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives, and is running for the open U.S. Senate seat currently held by his mentor, retiring U.S. Senator Tom Harkin. He established himself as a populist progressive, fighting for working Iowans, veterans, students, and seniors. His record of helping Iowans includes writing a tax cut for businesses that hire unemployed workers, helping small business owners compete for government contracts, advancing renewable energy programs, and his involvement in crafting the most recent Farm Bill.
Braley’s work on women’s issues includes voting for the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, support of the Paycheck Fairness Act, and working to pass the renewal of the Violence Against Women Act. He has stated he believes women’s health decisions are best made by women and their doctors. He supported the Affordable Care Act, and has continued to suggest new ways to improve the program.
The son of a Marine veteran and a school teacher, Braley grew up in Brooklyn, Iowa. He worked his way through college to earn his bachelor’s degree from Iowa State University by working as a road construction worker, working at a local grain elevator, and waiting tables. He continued on to the University of Iowa to earn a juris doctorate. He practiced law in Waterloo for 23 years, representing struggling farmers, workers facing discrimination, small business owners and more. He has been elected to four consecutive terms in Congress, representing the first district since 2006.
Braley’s accomplishments include passing a tax break for businesses that hire veterans, taking on the Pentagon to secure back-pay that was initially denied to 800 Iowa National Guard members who served in Iraq, and reversing government regulations that threatened jobs in his district. He is married to Carolyn, with whom he has three children, that all live in Iowa.
Visit Bruce Braley’s campaign website for more details.
When Al Franken won his race for the U.S. Senate against Norm Coleman in 2008 by 312 votes, he made the jump from celebrity to public official. He was well known as a former head writer for Saturday Night Live, best-selling author, and nationally syndicated radio host. Six years after being elected to office, he has established a reputation as a serious policy maker interested in serving all Minnesotans.
Only five days into his term, as a new member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Franken voted in favor of the first Latina to be appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, and took part in her confirmation. Over the years in the Senate, he has continued working hard for Minnesotans – and all Americans – authoring provisions of the Affordable Care Act, writing sections of the new Farm Bill, and fighting for net neutrality legislation. He has also devoted time to visiting the troops with multiple USO tours overseas.
Most recently, Franken has been an outspoken critic of big money in politics, criticizing the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizen United and McCutcheon decisions. Demonstrating his progressive view of women’s health, he has been an outspoken critic of the Hobby Lobby decision, even co-sponsoring legislation with fellow Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar to override the judgment’s effects.
The son of middle-class parents – a salesman and a real estate agent – Franken grew up in Albert Lea and St. Louis Park. He graduated from Harvard University, and eventually entered the entertainment business and wrote three New York Times best-sellers. His groundbreaking progressive talk radio show on Air America Radio reached 1.5 million listeners each week.
Franken has been married to his wife Franni for 37 years. They have two children and one grandchild.
Visit Al Franken’s campaign website for more details.
As a working class son of a sawmill worker in rural Oregon, Jeff Merkley still lives in the community where he went to public high school. First elected to the U.S. Senate in 2008, he spent his first term working to give all Oregonians a fair shot at sustainable energy jobs, protection from Wall Street banksters, and health care for all.
Merkley worked side-by-side with Michigan Senator Carl Levin to strengthen the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act limiting risky trading by Wall Street banks. He championed a program to drastically reduce the nation’s dependence on fossil fuels, and create thousands of sustainable energy jobs, while simultaneously guaranteeing those workers can afford their health care through his support of the Affordable Care Act. He went after shady home mortgage lenders and worked to help millions of American families save their homes through a comprehensive home refinancing plan for borrowers that were underwater.
Merkley’s service in the Senate comes after a successful run as a national security analyst in the Pentagon and Congressional Budget Office, as a not-for-profit agency leader, and serving in the Oregon State Legislature for 16 years. During his term as Speaker of the Oregon House, he earned accolades from the public and press, with The Oregonian labeling one legislative session as "Oregon's most productive in a generation."
Merkley and his wife Mary Sorteberg have been married for twenty years and have two children.
Visit Jeff Merkley’s campaign website for more details.
Congressman Gary Peters currently represents Michigan’s 14th Congressional District, having won a hard-fought battle after redistricting for the seat in 2012. When the Senator Carl Levin announced his retirement, Peters threw his hat in the ring to run for the open Senate seat. He is well known around the state for his outspoken criticism of GOP Tea Party Governor Rick Snyder’s austerity measures. In his two terms in Congress, Peters has championed the revitalization of Detroit and its suburbs as his working-class constituents have suffered economically during the recession.
In his first 4 years as a congressman, Peters has used his business background to go after wasteful spending, fraud, and abuse in the federal budget, while also protecting Social Security and Medicare for working families and seniors and demanding access to vital public services for citizens. He has called out China and Japan for currency manipulation practices that harm American jobs, and pushed for more Michigan made products to be exported abroad.
Notably, Peters has worked to regulate Wall Street to prevent another financial crisis, and pushed through legislation to allow small business tax cuts and give small business owners greater access to credit. In Washington and at home, he has continued to promote the rebuilding of Detroit and fought to return advanced manufacturing jobs to Michigan.
Peters, whose father was a World War II veteran and school teacher and mother was a nurse’s aide and union steward for SEIU, grew up in Oakland county, a county he has represented for years — despite the redistricting. Working nights to put himself through school, he graduated Magna Cum Laude, Phi Beta Kappa from Alma College; earned an M.A. in philosophy from Michigan State University, a J.D. from Wayne State University Law School, and an M.B.A. (Finance) from the University of Detroit Mercy. He was recently awarded an honorary doctor of humanities from Lawrence Technological University.
As a businessman and financial advisor for over 20 years, Peters helped families plan for their retirements and fund their children’s educations.
Peters joined the U.S. Navy Reserve and became a Seabee Combat Warfare Specialist, rose to Lieutenant Commander, and was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal and the Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal for his service in the Persian Gulf during Operation Southern Watch.
Gary Peters, his wife Colleen, and their three children continue to live in Oakland county.
Visit Gary Peters' campaign website for more details.
Rick Weiland is running to win the open seat being vacated by retiring Senator Tim Johnson. He has been a solid progressive voice for change, operating a grassroots populist campaign, visiting all 300+ towns in South Dakota to build support across the state. He has been an outspoken critic of money in politics, and has championed a constitutional amendment to limit campaign spending as a foundation of his campaign.
Weiland has fought for a more robust Affordable Care Act, calling for access to Medicare for all through his Medicare Choice Act – the effect of which Weiland says would limit insurance price gouging and bureaucratic red tape. He has called on all of his opponents to go on the record in support of raising the minimum wage, and has criticized GOP cuts to Head Start and veterans’ programs in order to keep corporate tax loopholes in place.
Weiland’s experience prior to running for Senate includes leadership positions inside and outside of government. He is the former CEO of the International Code Council (ICC), spearheading its innovative green construction codes for commercial and residential buildings, published in 2012. He served as FEMA Regional Director for six states, coordinating disaster response and emergency response services following wildfires, floods, tornadoes, and the Columbine tragedy. In this position he also led a historic conference of 28 Native American tribes that created the Tribal Emergency Management Coordination Council, improving emergency services to underserved reservation lands. He also represented 85,000 senior citizens as South Dakota state director of AARP, advancing the Senior Bill of Rights and advocating on their behalf.
Weiland began his career working for then-Congressman and later Senator Tom Daschle from 1978 through 1996, when Weiland made an unsuccessful bid for Congress. He is a fifth generation South Dakotan, growing up one of five children in Madison – his parents are the owners and operators of the local ambulance service and funeral home that served the surrounding community. He is a graduate of the University of South Dakota.
Weiland and his wife Stacy are restaurateurs in Sioux Falls, have five children and one grandchild.
Visit Rick Weiland’s campaign website for more details.
When Mark Udall was elected in 2008, the newly minted senator took office as the country was dealing with the after effects of the Bush administration. Udall took his responsibility seriously, working to bring what he calls “Colorado common sense” to Washington.
As a member of the Senate Armed Services, the Energy and Natural Resources, and the Intelligence Committees, he was a key leader in the fight to end the Pentagon’s Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy, allowing LGBTQ service members to serve openly for the first time. He has been a vocal critic of the National Security Agency’s warrantless wiretapping program, and has pushed to hold intelligence officials accountable for the highly-criticized interrogation programs used during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and at the controversial Guantanamo Bay military detention facility.
Udall takes an “all-of-the-above” perspective on energy policy, recognizing the wide range of resources in Colorado. His leadership and knowledge of renewable energy sources was critical in implementing President Obama’s green energy and energy industry jobs programs. He pushed through the Credit CARD Act to protect consumers from predatory credit card companies, giving them free access to credit scores, and stopping the IRS from viewing taxpayers’ online profiles without a warrant. He has also been a supporter of the DREAM Act and has called for comprehensive immigration reform.
Prior to becoming Senator, as a five-term Congressman representing Colorado’s 2nd Congressional District, Udall voted against the rush to war in Iraq, and voted against the Patriot Act. He has been a vocal supporter of women’s right to self-determination in their health decisions, and fought for equal pay legislation.
The son of longtime Congressman and environmentalist Morris “Mo” Udall, and pilot and outdoorswoman Patricia Udall, Mark Udall is also the former director of Colorado’s Outward Bound non-profit leadership development program. He is a graduate of Williams College. He and his wife, environmental attorney Maggie Fox, have two children and live in Eldorado Springs.
Visit Mark Udall’s campaign website for more details.
As Maine’s youngest state House Democratic Leader, Emily Cain, a member of PFAW Foundation’s Young Elected Officials Network, has established herself as a strong advocate for women and leader for expanding educational opportunities for all Mainers. She stands strong on these issues in her bid to replace Mike Michaud in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District.
While serving in the state legislature, Cain fought to protect family planning services, to prevent restrictions on reproductive choice, and to get equal pay for equal work. As the youngest woman ever to be Maine’s Senate Minority Leader, Cain authored and passed landmark legislation to prevent the escalation of domestic violence. She passed legislation to make college more affordable, negotiated to route more funding to Maine schools, and overturned a veto by Governor LePage on her bill to support critical Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education programs. Fighting for equality, Cain also co-sponsored the 2005 non-discrimination law that extended basic protections to LGBT Mainers, and led the fight to pass the 2009 marriage equality law. Cain supported land conservation legislation, raised awareness of toxic chemicals in toys and household products, promoted green technology jobs, and voted to cut greenhouse gases and address climate change in Maine. For this work, Cain now has a 90% lifetime rating from the League of Conservation Voters.
In Congress, Cain will continue to fight for the environment and equality, and will champion the needs of women and children by investing in women’s health and reproductive rights, providing life-saving assistance for survivors of domestic violence, and ensuring quality education opportunities for children.
Cain has a bachelor of music education from the University of Maine, a masters of higher education from Harvard University, and is currently studying for her Ph.D. in higher education from the University of Maine. She and her husband Danny live in Orono.
Visit Emily Cain’s campaign website for more details.
Stanley Chang, a member of PFAW Foundation’s Young Elected Officials Network, aims to be a true progressive in a crowded primary field. In the Honolulu City Council, he has led the effort to revitalize services for O’ahu and city constituents. He fought for record road repaving funding and uniform repair policies that prioritized maintenance while saving taxpayers millions of dollars. He worked hard on economic development for new businesses and existing businesses alike, streamlined access to basic services, and co-chaired the Counties of Hawaii Sister Cities Summit at APEC.
Chang’s agenda for Congress includes protecting the environment while investing in renewable energy resources and new jobs. He advocates for equality for everyone, supporting same-sex marriage in Hawaii and equal pay for equal work, and also defends women’s right to choose. His education plan includes investing in early education programs, ending predatory student loan practices, and expanding tuition for young people who invest in military service and other programs. He wants to expand benefits for veterans, ensuring the protection and expansion of Social Security for seniors, and wants to institute new legislation to prevent gun violence.
Chang has also been outspoken on lessening Wall Street’s influence on Congress, ending corporate tax loopholes and subsidies, and raising the minimum wage.
The son of two educators, Chang is a graduate of ‘Iolani School, Harvard College, and Harvard Law School, and practiced as a real estate attorney prior to entering public service.
Visit Stanley Chang’s campaign website for more details.
A member of PFAW Foundation’s Young Elected Officials Network, Kelly Westlund has taken on a tough fight against right-wing Tea Party GOP Rep. Sean Duffy. Westlund, vocal on big money’s influence in state politics, has been equally tough on Duffy’s voting record against working Wisconsinites. Westlund has been outspoken against mining deregulation in a fight for protecting environmental interests, and has drawn significant fire from right-wing interest groups for her progressive positions on economic, equality, and fair pay issues.
Westlund has been a city councilwoman in her hometown of Ashland from 2011-2014, is also a graduate of the Leadership Wisconsin program, and the first Emerge Wisconsin graduate to seek federal office. Previously, she was executive director of the Alliance for Sustainability, a nonprofit where she coordinated a regional pilot project with the Wisconsin State Office of Energy Independence designed to increase energy efficiency and renewable energy alternatives. She worked with local businesses and municipalities to reduce waste and promote more sustainability programs.
In her work, Westlund has repeatedly highlighted the problem of big money in politics during her congressional bid, pointing to Duffy as an example of a congressman controlled by big businesses and environmental polluters. She criticized Governor Scott Walker for not keeping his promise to create 250,000 jobs, and fought for a living wage and quality jobs for all Wisconsinites. She decried corporate subsidies and tax loopholes for corporations and instead supported social programs benefiting children, veterans, seniors, and people in need, including calling for an expansion of affordable health care for all Americans.
As a small business owner, Westlund helped build a strong local food system in Ashland, promoting farm-to-table events, strengthening community supported agriculture, wholesale markets, and distribution networks, and organizational efficiencies through the Bayfield Regional Food Producers Cooperative. To further strengthen and invest in the community, she helped local family farmers build sustainable food systems in Northern Wisconsin.
Kelly and her husband Caleb, a local carpenter, hunter, and fisherman, live in Ashland.
Visit Kelly Westlund’s campaign website for more details.
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