Freedom Over Fascism
Freedom Over Fascism
41. Amanda Litman, Co-founder Run for Something, on recruiting and training the next generation of state and local Dem candidates

41. Amanda Litman, Co-founder Run for Something, on recruiting and training the next generation of state and local Dem candidates

As we approach the filing deadlines in a lot of states for state and local campaigns, I want to talk about just how important it is to run candidates in every district for state legislator, and in as many offices as possible in local government. It’s impossible to overstate the importance in candidates contesting every state and local race.

Amanda Litman, co-founder Run for Something
Amanda Litman, Co-Founder Run for Something

Currently, there are a lot of states where MAGA has a supermjority in the legislature or even just a strong majoirty. In these captured states, Republicans gained power by winning seats in the legislature when Democrats were focused elsewhere, then with a majority they re-draw the districts so its harder for a Democrat to win, then they pass legislation that makes it harder to vote. The end result of this process is a system in which state legislators are much more extreme than the people in those states, and one where Republicans create a lock on power that’s tough to break. They pass extreme, cruel, and anti-democratic legislation. And since MAGA republicans have outsized representation and supermajorities, there’s nothing that democratic lawmakers can do about laws that restrict the freedom of individuals. The cycle then continues as they cement their power with a gerrymandered district and voter suppression that keeps turnout low among the opposition.

How do we reverse this in MAGA-captured, or even battleground states? It takes a long time…Pro-democracy organizations need to work together to build a strong coalition, develop a strategy for countering the extreme legislation AND communicating to the voters of their states with a consistent, powerful message. They need to make the voter the hero of the story that the entire state coalition of democratic power uses. It helps if there’s a high-functioning coordinating organization in the middle, helping candidates, officials, and advocacy organizations with message construction and delivery. We talked a little about that last week with Stephanie Schriock making the case for more progressive ownership of news and distribution.

This week, I want to focus on another, extremely important element of this power-building strategy that takes many, many cycles and requires year round work. And that’s recruiting, training, and supporting candidates to run in every single race. In our first season, we talked to David Pepper, Jonathan Zucker, Jess Piper, and Kim Allen, who are all affiliated with Every State Blue, which helps support and crowdfund money for candidates. As a reminder, in episode 10, Jonathan Zucker emphasized that the goal of running in extremely red districts is to get the most votes, give the voters a choice, and turn out more progressive voters than would turn out if they didn’t have someone to vote for on the ballot. This brings out more voters, which can really help the top of the ticket, statewide candidates with what some call reverse coat-tails or bottom up approaches. But how do you find and support candidates for state and local offices?

That’s where Run for Something shines. I talked to Amanda Litman, the founder of Run for Something, about the revolutionary effectiveness of that organization. Since their founding on Trump’s inauguration day 2017, nearly 150k people have said they wanted to run for office. Run for Something has helped elect more than 1000 people across the country and even more who have helped galvanize the voters to make up the margin of victory in state level races at the top of the ticket.

Unfortunately, between the time we recorded this episode on Jan 24 and when we are releasing in on Feb 7, Run for Something announced the layoff of 14 employees. As you’ll hear Amanda discuss, 2023 was Run For Something’s best year programmatically, but also was the hardest fundraising year.

The services Run For Something offers, which you’ll hear Amanda describe, are invaluable for first time candidates, and the progressive movement can’t build the power we need to protect our freedoms without organizations like this helping candidates who have little experience get on the ballot and run strong campaigns.

As we know, with the dual challenges of a presidential campaign and running in battleground and red states, we can’t afford to get complacent or take our foot off the gas. And I say it all the time—hope is an action verb. So I’m asking all of you, and your friends in real life, to keep on supporting organizations like Run For Something, encouraging people to run, running yourself, volunteering, and stay in this fight for our country, our freedoms, and our dreams.

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Freedom Over Fascism
Freedom Over Fascism
Freedom Over Fascism hosted by historian, comms consultant, and activist Stephanie Wilson, investigates what it takes to rebuild power and freedom for people in MAGA captured states. MAGA is waging a full-out war against Americans to gain authoritarian power, and we must reclaim our freedom and our power.
We talk to authors, experts, activists, historians, and officials who sound the alarm and work to build freedom over fascism. Together we’ll discover what it takes to win in parts of America dominated by MAGA extremists.