A group of Democratic women in North Texas is embarking on a long-shot bid to help each other flip Republican seats in 2018. But their unusual organization – which has largely been written off as too underfunded to be successful – could get a boost if these contenders are included in a planned documentary about first-time female candidates.
A group of high-profile filmmakers will begin gathering footage of the women at a strategy retreat at a Dallas union hall next week.
The crew through Election Day will follow them and other women from both parties who are running for office for the first time across the country. Episodes could begin running just as voters tune into the congressional elections next fall, although it’s still not clear where the documentary will air or even which candidates will be featured.
The project, called “Surge,” has some noteworthy support. Award-winning producers Wendy Sachs and Tanya Selvaratnam, and director Hannah Rosenzweig, met campaigning for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in 2016.
Advisers on the project include Mikaela Beardsley of Half the Sky, a movie about oppressed women; Michael Epstein of MAKERS, a series that looks at how women have changed America; Wendy Ettinger of Chicken & Egg Pictures, and Simone Ward of Women Effect Fund.
Most of these first-time office-seekers in Texas face grim general election chances next fall – if they make it through competitive primaries first. But their unusual coordination on campaign tactics has already helped draw attention to their collective efforts.
The group was formed earlier this year when veteran public relations professional Jana Lynne Sanchez, who is vying to challenge veteran Rep. Joe Barton in Texas’ 6th congressional district, reached out to other candidates to team up on a meet-and-greet in Allen.
After the event, they kept in touch on the messaging service WhatsApp, offering each other moral support and advice on campaign tactics. The group has since expanded to 20 Texas candidates, running at both the state and federal level, who interact daily as they navigate their fledgling campaigns.
Next month the group will meet for a campaign strategy retreat, where Sanchez will teach a media training session. Constitutional scholar Sarah Depew, who is running in Texas House District 67, will host a discussion on constitutional matters.
“You do a lot of soul searching when you decide to run for office, and it can feel kind of lonely,” said Mica Ringo, who is running for the Democratic nomination in state House District 98. “This group is a good chance for us to learn from each other and ask questions in a safe space.”
Democrats in the state have doubts about the candidates’ chances in 2018.
“Most of the candidates in that group have not raised anywhere near the amount of money to mount formidable campaigns and are running in districts that would be very difficult to win,” said one Texas Democratic strategist.
The strategist singled out Ana-Maria Ramos in state House District 102, Brandy Chambers in House District 112 and Joanna Cattanach in House District 108, as the best prospects running in districts Hillary Clinton won.
In House races, Vanessa Adia is challenging Rep. Kay Granger, R-Texas, Lorie Burch is challenging Rep. Sam Johnson, R-Texas, Linsey Fagan is challenging Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas, and Danielle Pellett is challenging Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas.
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