RFS feel-good update (6/7): Winning is good; let's do more of it
June is big Election Month for us - get excited!
I could start this update the same way I’ve started or ended many, many, many of my updates: Alerting you that democracy is at stake; that we need to focus on state & local elections because only winning in DC won’t be enough if we don’t also have sustainable structural power; emphasizing the need for a new generation of Democratic leadership that rises from both traditionally red and blue states; etc etc etc.
But I’m tired of feeling demoralized (and, honestly, at least today, I’m tired of repeating myself.)
So instead: Some happy election updates!
Jalen McKee-Rodriguez won and became the first openly gay man elected to the San Antonio City Council and the first gay Black man ever elected in Texas. This will move you.
Junior Ezeonu won his race for Grand Prairie City Council, district 8 - this is a big deal! Some context…
Roxanne Martinez handily won her run-off for Fort Worth ISD board.
Jared Williams, a science teacher, and Elizabeth Beck, a veteran (and RFS alum from her 2020 TX House campaign) both won their seats on the Fort Worth City Council. Jared specifically beat a conservative who was the longest serving member.
We have 18 candidates on the ballot tomorrow and 49 candidates running on June 22nd. There are no off years! Stay tuned for more updates.
Dedicated and appealing candidates, especially those running for local office, can gradually increase Democratic viability in conservative areas. Even if they lose the first time, or the first couple of times, their campaigns can make a difference. In local races, if a candidate is known, trusted, and has a plan to improve their neighbors’ daily lives, that often matters more than their stance on national issues. …
“The issue this always comes down to is resources,” Rocketto said, “and competition for those resources.” The money, he said, is there, but it tends to go to high-profile candidates in widely watched races, rather than to local candidates whose races cost less and who are better-positioned to win with adequate support.
“If the Party had been treating state legislative elections with the same level of priority that we treated the U.S. Senate over the last 10 years, we probably wouldn’t be struggling with [state-level voter suppression bills] today,” Rocketto said. It’s easy to convey the urgency of beating Trump, he added, acknowledging that doing so was equally critical to the Democratic agenda. It’s harder to explain that the true bulwark against Trumpism is at the state and local level. “People actually do care about this work,” he added. “They just don’t always care about it with their money.”
In other RFS candidate news…
Jennifer Kitchen is campaigning hard to bring broadband to rural communities like hers: "Broadband isn't always the sexiest issue, but it's crucial and intersectional. Universal broadband would provide better accessibility, health care, employment opportunities and economic potential for our entire region. No other development could have so many beneficial results."
NYC Council candidate Tiffany Cabán did an awful interview with Hot97 — worth the listen!
Shahana Hanif writes for Streetsblog about what it would take to make cycling more accessible for Black, brown, and working-class cyclers.
If Amit Bagga wins in Queens, he’ll be the first LGBTQ South Asian person on the NYC Council.
In RFS alumni updates…
In Travis County, TX, Judge Aurora Martinez Jones is calling out the way the child welfare system treats Black and brown kids differently than white kids and is using her role in court to do what she can to rectify it.
NY Sen. Jessica Ramos passed a bill - now heading to Cuomo’s desk - that will hold contractors responsible for wage theft by their subcontractors. It’s a huge deal that will protect exploited workers.
Amazing leadership from Rep. Francesca Hong in WI:
San Diego Councilmember Sean Elo-Rivera is working with community activists on a proposal that would work toward park equity — meaning, it would send additional money for parks projects to neighborhoods that don’t have a ton of green/community space.
This headline says it all: “How Adrian Tam beat anti-LGBTQ neo-Nazi and became the only out state rep. in Hawaii.”
A must-read profile of Rep. Jasmine Crockett, the TX Legislature’s only Black freshman this year: “The sole Black freshman in the Legislature, Crockett stood out during this year’s session for both the number of bills she filed and her passionate delivery on the House floor.”
MA Rep. Becca Rausch wants to make virtual meetings permanent in order to increase representation and accessibility.
CO Rep. Yadira Caraveo is working to curb illegal use of high-potency pot by teens — as a pediatrician, she knows exactly how important this is.
IL Sen. Robert Peters is speaking out on the need to incorporate mental health into emergency response.
Austin City Councilwomen Paige Ellis is fighting to increase the homestead exemption in order to make housing more affordable. Pretty important in Austin!
NY Sen. Zellnor Myrie is pushing for legislation that would allow New Yorkers to sue gun manufacturers who don’t take steps to prevent their products from being sold and purchased illegally: “I again ask this industry: what are you going to do about your products that are killing our people? You have experienced record profits this past year … and while you make record profits, we experienced record death.”
Raleigh City Councilman Jonathan Melton helped pass an ordinance that will end parking requirements for new developments — a small step toward making the city more livable and less car-centered.
Similarly: Sarah McBride wasn’t running to be known as "a trans state senator” — but in the process of making history, she’s blazing new trails for so many trans leaders to come next.
We hosted our first edition of “The RFS Effect” — an Instagram live with two RFS alum to talk about what they’re up to. The first edition featured Sen. Sarah McBride and OK Rep. Mauree Turner.
MI Rep. Abraham Aiyash is cosponsoring bipartisan legislation that would make public the names of state lawmakers involved in sexual harassment settlement agreements.
Gotta agree with Rep. Mari Manoogian here — the new generation of Democratic leaders are my only source of inspiration right now.I can't tell you the number of people I've spoken with since 2016 who have become numb and exhausted with the constant barrage of hate and division. But, I'm filled with hope when I meet fellow politicians from my generation; we're working together to restore faith in democracy.
Ben Rhodes @brhodesIf we’ve learned anything these last few years it’s that truly anything can happen here in America. The goal of autocratic leaders and political parties is to make you divided, apathetic and cynical - we cannot succumb to that strategy.
CA Rep. Alex Lee is featured in this overview of young Asian Americans taking on political leadership in the wake of spikes of anti-AAPI violence.
OK Rep. Mauree Turner talked with NBC News about their role as the first ever non-binary state legislator and how their gender identity informs their approach to equity.
And finally, a quick bench watch:
Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta talked with the Root about he and his fiance’s love & engagement story. It’s so beautiful.
In related reading…
Half a dozen states, including Tennessee, Montana, Iowa, and Texas, have passed legislation allowing gun owners to carry their weapons without a permit.
Texas, South Carolina, Idaho, and Oklahoma have passed legislation banning abortion when a fetal heartbeat can be detected, after about six weeks of pregnancy (before women typically even know they are pregnant); Texas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas also passed virtually complete bans on abortion. Arizona approved an extremely restrictive bill that includes barring abortions for certain genetic conditions.
Ten states have adopted about two dozen laws in total targeting transgender individuals, including legislation in seven states that bars transgender athletes from competing in school sports. In the U.S., “2021 has officially surpassed 2015 as the worst year for anti-LGBTQ legislation in recent history,” the Human Rights Campaign, an LGBTQ-advocacy group, recently concluded. “States have now enacted more anti-LGBTQ laws this year than in the last three years combined.”
Through mid-May, “14 states have enacted 22 new laws with provisions that make it harder for Americans to vote,” and many other laws are still pending, according to the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School. “At this rate,” the organization wrote, “the United States is on track to far exceed its most recent period of intense legislative activity to restrict the vote—2011.” More red states may join this push: After a walkout by state House Democrats blocked a restrictive Texas voting law this week, Governor Greg Abbott announced that he would call a special session to pass the law later this year.
Florida, Oklahoma, Texas, and about half a dozen other states have passed laws stiffening penalties against demonstrators who block traffic or cause property damage, and several of those states have simultaneously provided civil or criminal protection for drivers who hit protesters, according to a tally by the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law.
Tennessee, Oklahoma, and Texas have barred public schools from teaching “critical race theory,” which focuses on racism as an endemic feature of American history. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is moving to prohibit it through a ruling by the state board of education.
Florida, Georgia, and Texas have all passed laws penalizing local governments that cut funding for their police department. One of the measures approved in Texas stipulates that a county looking to cut police funding must first win voter approval through a referendum—but would apply only to counties with a population of 1 million or more, almost all of which lean Democratic.
Over the past year, several red-state governors have issued executive orders or signed laws barring local governments from mandating the use of face masks or limiting local businesses’ hours of operation; Florida and Tennessee have passed laws barring local governments or businesses from requiring residents to show proof of a COVID-19 vaccination. Restrictive voting laws passed in Georgia and proposed in Texas explicitly outlaw measures used to increase voter turnout in the states’ largest cities (Atlanta and Houston, respectively).
It’s always time for a TikTok.
On the Run for Something podcast this week: First, our very first voicemail!! Listen in as we respond to a caller about the 1/6 commission and talks about how to learn all the things. (Then leave a voicemail yourself at (833) 244-5382!)
Then, a conversation with Amanda Farías, candidate for New York City Council in the Bronx. She ran in 2017, came up short, then kept fighting as she worked her way through the NY Democratic party leadership elections. She always knew she'd run for city council again, but when the incumbent who had beaten her said some egregiously homophobic things, she decided to jump back in the race sooner than she expected. Now it's an open seat and she's absolutely crushing it. Learn more and help Amanda win at amandafarias.nyc.
Thanks for making all this possible. Good vibes only, because of you.