A liberal political group says it will spend a half-million dollars helping progressive candidates win city and municipal races, part of a broader effort under way among activists and the Democratic Party to refocus on state and local elections that Republicans dominated during President Barack Obama’s time in office.
Officials with Democracy for America, an advocacy group based in Vermont, say the two-year investment is an important part of resisting President Donald Trump’s agenda, even if the positions themselves have little say in federal policy-making.
“Municipal government and local leaders have a huge amount of power over our lives and neighborhoods,” said Annie Weinberg, Democracy for America’s electoral director. “And in this moment, American cities, and who governs them, is more urgent than ever.”
Democracy for America, a political action committee, was founded by Howard Dean, the liberal former presidential candidate who later went led the Democratic National Committee. It touts itself as an member-driven advocate for progressive politicians and ideas – frequently against the wishes of Democratic Party leadership.
Weinberg said the money will be used for mayoral, district attorney and city council races, all of which she hopes will create “bastions of resistance” to Trump. Already this year, DFA – whose unapologetic brand of liberalism often clashes with leaders in the Democratic Party – has endorsed Tishaura Jones, a candidate for mayor in St. Louis. It’s donated $2,000 to her campaign and plans to raise money for her this week with its members. (Jones also has been endorsed by MoveOn.org and former Missouri U.S. Senate candidate Jason Kander.)
Weinberg said the Democracy for America money can also be used for races as little-noticed as local water boards and regional transportation committees.
Identifying and supporting progressive candidates at the local level, she said, is important to build a “pipeline” of candidates for higher office.
“Cities are the labs of progressive policy,” Weinberg said.
The group plans to pay extra attention to cities along the Mexico-United States border, which have become a flashpoints of controversy amid Trump’s promises to build a wall and crack down on illegal immigration.
Democratic Party leaders agree that they lost focus on non-federal races since Obama first took office, leading to massive losses in state legislative and gubernatorial races. Republicans control the legislatures and have governors in more than 30 states.