RFS feel-good update (3/20): "I’ve looked to your campaign as a source for inspiration"
Kenyatta: Do Not Wait Your Turn premiered in London!
Hi Team - We want to start this week with a great story out of Indiana, where State Rep. Victoria Garcia Wilburn talks about being a first-time candidate in a race she won by less than 300 votes: “As a first-time, no-experience political candidate, I came out on top. I think there’s a story to be told in that, right? The hard work that it takes to knock on doors, to engage volunteers, to run a creative social media campaign.”
In discussions with some City Council hopefuls, Garcia Wilburn sees new enthusiasm to run for office.
“I see people stepping in that would have written themselves off before, and they have said, ‘I’ve looked to your campaign as a source for inspiration,’” she said.
RFS alum Derek Camp, who is now the Allen County Democratic Party Chairman, was also mentioned in the article: The chair of the Indiana Democratic Party called him “one of the best chairs we have in the state of Indiana.”
We told you this was coming a few weeks ago, but the documentary about Pennsylvania State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, Kenyatta: Do Not Wait Your Turn, premiered last week in London! If you haven’t seen the trailer yet, take 2 minutes sometime today to watch.
We had even more wins in New Hampshire! Town Elections were held last week, and three of our endorsed candidates won:
Megan Schneider: Brentwood Library Trustee
Gabbie Kelly: Brentwood Budget Committee
Cairnie Pokorney: Derry School Board (Cairnie will be the first transgender school board member in Derry!)
If it seems like we have wins to tell you about nearly every week, it’s because A) we have a ton of great candidates; and B) according to Ballot Ready, there are more positions up for election in 2023 than there were in 2022. So be prepared for wins all year long! In fact, our next big election day is April 4th, where we have candidates in Chicago, Denver, St. Louis and more! Check out this Q&A with Denver City Council Sarah Parady as a preview.
As we say all the time, representation matters. And lived experiences matter. That’s why this week we’re highlighting an RFS alum’s search for an apartment. In 2021, Chi Ossé became the youngest member of the New York City Council when he was elected at 23. He’s the only Gen-Z member of the Council. This past week, The New York Times featured his struggle to find an affordable place to live.
Council Member Ossé said that “his search had also sharpened his understanding of the city’s housing crisis, which he attributed to a housing shortage decades in the making.” When you elect someone that goes through the same experiences as the community they represent, you’re going to get better outcomes!
Mr. Ossé said housing was the top issue among his constituents. Many are grappling with double-digit rent increases, and others feel as if they are being priced out of their neighborhoods. Last year, Mr. Ossé and a handful of other council members voted against a city budget agreement negotiated with Mayor Eric Adams, a Democrat, in part because it did not invest enough in affordable housing.
Take some time this week to read Truthout’s feature on upcoming municipal races in Denver and Chicago to learn about the opportunities and challenges progressives face in the cities.
It features RFS alum and Denver Councilwoman Candi CdeBaca, who is running for reelection (E-Day is April 4th): “If CdeBaca, and the slate of insurgents allied with her, are able to win their elections in April, it will be because they succeeded in mobilizing enough renters and working-class Denverites to overcome the deluge of developer dollars.”
The incumbent, Candi CdeBaca, has championed the construction of affordable housing in Denver during her first term, and earned the ire of local developers in the process. Her reelection race, projected to be the most expensive in the city, pits her against two more development-friendly candidates who have both taken money from corporate interests in the city. Both of CdeBaca’s challengers also support Denver’s controversial urban camping ban, a decade-long, largely unsuccessful effort to curtail encampments of unhoused people.
RFS alums have been busy in state capitols, city halls, county buildings and more this month, and they aren’t slowing down, including:
Texas State Rep. James Talarico filed legislation that would shut down the state’s five remaining juvenile prisons by 2030.
House Bill 4356, filed by state Rep. James Talarico, a Round Rock Democrat, would create a new system that invests in rehabilitation rather than incarceration, he said.
“Prisons are designed, isolated, shamed, dehumanized. As a former educator, I don't know of any child who gets better with isolation, shame or dehumanization,” Talarico said.
New York City Council Member Jen Gutiérrez filed a bill to create free universal child care in her city:
Also in NYC, Council Member Lincoln Restler is co-sponsoring a bill to ease regulations to make it easier for residents to install rooftop solar panels.
“We can safely expand solar on our rooftops and significantly advance our climate goals if we get the regulations streamlined and updated to make solar installation more readily available for New Yorkers,” Councilmember Lincoln Restler who is co-sponsoring the bill, told City Limits.
New Mexico State Rep. Andrea Romero is sponsoring legislation to allow small businesses to grow more cannabis and create a social equity bureau in the cannabis division. Currently, small producers can only grow 1% of the plants that large-scale growers can.
“We have a very diverse state, and we just want, when we look at how we’re setting up the industry, it to look and feel like our culture,” she says.
And Austin Council Member Zo Qadri is supporting musicians that perform at SXSW and the Union of Musicians and Allied Workers in their efforts for fair pay. Currently, the festival offers as little as $250 to some musicians and bands, meaning many lose money by performing.
“While we’ve seen an increase in the cost of applications, we haven’t seen that same increase in what these musicians are compensated. Right now, it’s either $250 or a badge. All the musicians are asking for is $750. For a festival that generates so much money, whether it’s $750 or another number, my hope is that they can come together with the union folks and get something that’s doing right by them.”
In more great building the bench news, another RFS alum is running for statewide office! North Carolina State Rep. Wesley Harris announced his campaign for State Treasurer last week:
If you read one op-ed this week, make it Maurice Brown’s in Syracuse University’s The Daily Orange. We love to see candidates talking directly to students, and in this piece, Maurice writes about the fact that issues students are facing are also issues for the entire community that must be addressed.
In my day job, I work as a Success Coach at Onondaga Community College. In my role, I meet with students one on one and help them navigate their experience at OCC. What this job has taught me is that our young people don’t struggle with chemistry or calculus. They instead struggle with childcare, our woefully inadequate bus system and housing insecurity. … Students are a part of this community. You ride unreliable Centro buses, you rent from absentee landlords. The problems you face also confront tens of thousands of other families living alongside you in this city.
One of the most inspiring things we see each week is our RFS candidates and their volunteers knocking doors and talking to their community. If you want to volunteer for RFS or our candidates, sign up today!
Before we let you go, we want to leave you with a story out of El Paso: “Texas youth organizers take aim at the biggest oil field in the US.” In May, El Paso voters will have a chance to pass one of the most progressive climate policies in the nation, which along with accelerating the city’s transition to renewable energy would have “the potential to disrupt drilling in the Permian Basin. The proposed policy would ban the use of city water for fossil fuel activities outside of El Paso limits.”
Last July, Sunrise El Paso and Austin-based Ground Game Texas submitted nearly 40,000 petition signatures to get the climate charter on the ballot for the November 2022 election, but due to a prolonged verification process, the vote on the plan will take place in the 6 May election. Roughly half of the petition signers were people under the age of 35.
The last sentence was so great we’re going to repeat it: “Roughly half of the petition signers were people under the age of 35.” Amazing.
That’s all for this week!
Ross and Abe
P.S. We get asked all the time about how people can help RFS candidates and alums. So before we let you go this week, we’re going to give you one way you can help today: donate to our slate of women candidates running in 2023.