Last night, we saw tremendous victories and challenging losses at all levels – but even with a surge in dog-whistle narratives, fear mongering, and doomsday catastrophizing by the media – it is clear that our governing agenda has momentum. While control of Congress remains in the balance, Democrats outperformed historic expectations in a mid-term year and won governing trifectas in Minnesota, Michigan, Maryland and Massachusetts. And we are all taking some solace in knowing that whether they win or lose control, Democrats in Congress will be joined by former LP Board Co-Chair Greg Casar, along with a whole squad of new activist Congressmembers. Last night’s wave of ballot initiatives on issues ranging from affordable housing funding to abortion rights to raising wages for workers affirmed what we already know – our agenda is winning.
Many LP members are still awaiting results, and some experienced really tough losses. No matter where you are on that spectrum, we are rooting for you and have deep appreciation for the transformational impact you’ve made in your communities. Here’s a few exciting victories we are celebrating at the local level:
- In a St. Louis race that garnered the headline, ‘It’s Developers vs. Workers in a Race to Lead the Board of Alderman’, LP Board Member Megan Green was elected as the first woman President of the Board of Aldermen.
- Despite some tough losses, in a year that was predicted to be a referendum on progressive approaches to crime and public safety, we saw wins for reform candidates for District Attorney and Sheriff across city, suburban and rural communities. And the City of Los Angeles elected Eunisses Hernandez, its first abolitionist Councilmember.
- In a year where school board members faced extraordinarily challenging governing environments, we are thrilled to congratulate LP members in New York and Minnesota – Jen Mecozzi,Thomas Brooks and Sarah Davis – on their successful reelections. From advancing racial equity and restorative justice amidst a national crisis or making schools inclusive for LGBTQIA+ students, school board members are showing what it means to build a multi-racial democracy from the ground up.
- And this is just scratching the surface. If there was an exciting local election in your area we should know about or if you won a tough race, please tell us!
Now it is time to govern. The days, weeks and months after Election Day (and every other day in between) are the times that Local Progress is made for. Our network exists to transition the momentum we win in elections into governing strategies that advance racial and economic justice.
Regardless of who controls Congress, we know that at the local level we will continue to face unprecedented challenges. From the Supreme Court to Republican gerrymandered state legislatures, the rise of anti-democratic forces will continue to threaten the rights, freedoms and safety of our communities. Over the past year we’ve been inspired by the courage of LP members in Florida who have fought courageously against HB 1, members in throughout the network who have stood up for abortion rights, and members who have advanced workers’ rights and power in spite of abusive state preemption. These campaigns offer us a roadmap to resistance and a playbook we can replicate across the country.
We also know that the next few years present an unprecedented opportunity for localities with billions of dollars flowing from the federal government to state and local governments through recent federal legislation. The stakes are high and local governments must deliver. Through the State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds in the American Rescue Plan, we saw significant breakthroughs in the span and scope of what local government can do. Whether providing immediate support to families during the pandemic with direct cash transfers, scaling non-police emergency response and violence prevention models, increasing affordable housing stock or experimenting with participatory decision making that brings people into the process – so many of you have led innovative work showing what governing can look like when we center our communities. These lessons must inform our approach to governing as we look to a once-in-a-generation chance to transform how we govern at the local level.
As I was watching the returns come in last night, I was reflecting on our time together in Denver this summer. Throughout the convening, I felt an overwhelming sense of resolve and clarity that – despite tumultuous times around us – our mission remains clear. We are the long game in the fight to fully defeat right-wing extremism, to repair the centuries of racial harm and exclusion at the core of our country’s history and to build a truly inclusive, multi-racial democracy.
The road ahead will be long. There will be ups and downs. It will take every single one of us. But last night’s results show that we are already making our way together.