The bi-annual Future Winners program, established by Sister District and run in partnership with EMILY’s List and the DLCC for 2023, works to shore up the pipeline of progressive state legislative candidates by continuing to invest in developing exceptional candidates who came up a bit short in their last run.
Progressive donors and organizations invest significant time, energy, and resources into candidates, but sometimes even fantastic candidates lose. In these cases, losses can be the down payments on future successes. However, many candidates need encouragement and additional resources to stay in the pipeline. This is particularly true for women, candidates of color, and nontraditional candidates who faced structural barriers to running the first time.
The Future Winners program helps us move away from treating candidates as static electoral objects, and toward treating candidates as people on a trajectory of power. Using data, research, and expert insight, we expand on the strengths these high potential candidates already possess, help them to better tell their story, connect them with peers for support, and help fine-tune their platform to connect with progressive policies and the needs of the voters in their district.
Our 2021 cohort included 15 exceptional former candidates from purple districts in 10 states (average loss margin: 3.86%). The Future Winners program is committed to building a reflective democracy, and to providing additional support for candidates who might have faced structural barriers to running, including women and candidates of color. Of the 2021 cohort, 87% of participants were women and 53% of participants were people of color. The program provided these Future Winners with the skills, resources, and community they need to succeed in future campaigns.
While there are many incredible Democratic candidates across the country who should run again, the Future Winners program remains small by design, to allow for deeper skills-building and skills-transfer within the cohort. To identify Future Winners, we analyze candidates’ districts and individual characteristics, as well as the strength of their previous campaigns. We look for candidates with a clear and compelling purpose for running, the ability to build a strong campaign team, and backgrounds and experiences that build toward a more reflective democracy. We also look for candidates who demonstrated teachability during previous campaigns, as well as the ability to run strong field programs.