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2021 Recruitment Messaging Memo

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Toplines for 2021

The fragile Democratic majority in Virginia needs our help — let’s protect the Blue Trifecta in VA! In our first electoral test since Democrats gained a Federal Trifecta in 2020, we need to support state legislative candidates running for election or reelection to the Virginia House of Delegates this year. The blue majority in the House is fragile; we must protect and expand it in order to pass critical progressive legislation including expanded voting access, criminal justice reform, raising the minimum wage, and continuing to advance gun safety policy.

It’s time to get started on the 2022 midterms! Next year, 83% of the nation’s state legislative seats will be up in the general election. If history is any precedent, the GOP will come out swinging in the midterms – and we’ll need to pull out all the stops to protect our gains at the state and federal levels. Here’s what we’re doing to build power for 2022:

    • State Bridges Program. Fundraise to support partner organizations doing year-round, community based work located in our 2022 target states.
    • 2022 State Funds. Raise money now into our 2022 State Funds to help our eventual candidates in target states to hit the ground running as soon as we endorse them next year.

Introduction

We have an exciting two years ahead of us! In 2021, we’ll be supporting candidates in Virginia’s general election, who will help protect and expand the Democratic majority in the Commonwealth’s House of Delegates. We’re also already preparing for the 2022 midterms, by raising money for eventual candidates and current partner organizations in our 2022 target states.

The following messages are our suggestions, but we encourage you to think of them as ingredients in a recipe. The exact format you might use with a specific person or group can be tailored to whatever might resonate with them. For more on our orientation to recruiting and tailoring invitations, please see On Recruiting & Inviting and other articles in the Resource Library.

Before we jump in, it’s important to highlight one general rule: we believe that communicating what we’re fighting for is more effective than focusing on what we’re fighting against. For more on this, please see this 2021 Summit presentation on messaging from keynote speaker Anat Shenker-Osorio.

Why States Matter

Topline Message: The road to advancing progressive policy and power runs through state legislatures. States we have helped flipped blue have been able to make huge progress. Virginia expanded healthcare to over 400k people, ratified the ERA, and outlawed the death penalty. Colorado passed sweeping environmental protections, police accountability measures, banned conversion therapy, ensured equal pay for equal work, and provided universal state-funded all-day kindergarten. Washington state expanded long-term care benefits, raised the smoking age, closed vaccine exemption loopholes, and committed to eliminating coal as an energy source by the end of 2025.

Supporting Messages:

Building the bench. . .

State legislatures are also the “farm team” for promising leaders who will advance to higher and higher office. In fact, half of United States Presidents had once been state legislators! And this year, Sister District alumni Jennifer Carrol Foy and Lee Carter are running for governor in Virginia.

Sister District takes a holistic, “full cycle” approach to building state power. . .

In the last four years, we’ve seen firsthand that working exclusively on the electoral phase isn’t enough. Building power requires working with candidates over multiple cycles, helping elected legislators become more effective, and investing in deep, community-based organizing. Sister District has expanded with new programs to help train candidates, raise funds for community-based organizers, and connect and educate legislators.

The GOP will work aggressively to take power at the state level – we can’t let down our guard. . . 

With Democratic control of Congress and the White House, Republicans have no other recourse than to come out swinging in the states. During Obama’s presidency, Democrats lost hundreds of seats in state legislatures. The GOP is already mounting attacks against voting rights, reproductive rights, and more. But we’re not going to take our foot off the gas — we’re going to continue fighting the good fight together for a more equitable & just America.

Why Virginia Matters

2021 General Election in Virginia: “Help us Protect Virginia’s Blue Trifecta”

Topline Message: This year, we’ll be returning to Virginia for the third time, supporting candidates who will help protect and expand Democrats’ majority in the House of Delegates. This will be a banner general election year in the Commonwealth, with a competitive gubernatorial race and important progressive legislation at stake including banning assault rifles, raising the minimum wage, expanding voting rights, legalizing cannabis, and the public health response to and economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

For a deeper dive into the makeup of the Virginia General Assembly, check out our newly updated Virginia page!

Supporting Messaging:

Democrats have done so much good with their power in Virginia. . .

After we helped Democrats take control of the VA state legislature in 2019, the legislature was able to:

  • Expand Medicaid to over 400,000 Virginians
  • Ratify the Equal Rights Amendment to the US Constitution
  • Pass a groundbreaking slate of common sense gun control laws
  • Expand voting rights through no-excuse absentee voting, removing ID requirements, and increasing access to early voting
  • Become the first state in the South to enact comprehensive protections for members of the LGBTQ community
  • Become the first state in the South to abolish the death penalty
  • Overturn laws designed to restrict women’s reproductive rights
  • Ban workplace discrimination tactics
  • Become the first Southern state to commit to a transition to clean energy by 2050
  • The Virginia legislature is currently in session until the end of February; more legislation is coming down the pike!
  • See our blog for more information.

But there’s still more to do. . .

Democrats need our help to protect and even expand their power in order to:

  • Raise the minimum wage, which is currently tied to the federal minimum wage at $7.25. Democrats were able to pass a $15 wage bill in 2020, but because they didn’t control enough votes, were forced to include a delay that means the raise won’t take effect until 2026. Virginian families are hurting now, and can’t wait until 2026. We must expand the Democrats’ majority in order to pass a minimum wage increase sooner.
  • Legalize cannabis. The legislature will likely pass legalization in 2021, but there is a clause in the bill that it will have to be voted on again next year in order to continue. We must protect the Democratic majority to make sure cannabis legalization will pass again in 2022.
  • Fully protect voting rights. Since gaining the majority, Democrats have reformed voter ID laws in Virginia, including passing no-excuse absentee voting and expanding early voting. But there is still more to be done to ensure all Virginians have equal access to the vote. Here are great messaging suggestions for how to talk about voting rights.
  • Ban assault weapons. Democrats were able to pass sweeping gun safety legislation in 2020, but the GOP prevented a ban on assault rifles, and they are still legal in Virginia.

Our work will also help elect a Democratic governor in Virginia. . .

  • Governors are not allowed to serve for consecutive terms in Virginia, so the governorship is an open seat. Having the governor at the top of the ticket should drive enthusiasm and interest in the general election.
  • Note that the gubernatorial primary is competitive this year, with many Democrats running including Sister District alumni Jennifer Carrol Foy and Lee Carter. Although Sister District doesn’t endorse gubernatorial candidates, this is an example of how our work at the state legislature level builds the pipeline for candidates who will eventually seek higher office.

The GOP is coming back for the seats they lost in 2019. . .

Democrats currently have 55 seats in the House of Delegates, to the GOP’s 45. The Democrats who flipped red seats in 2019 are up for their first reelection campaigns; this is a particularly vulnerable time for an incumbent. The GOP has a path to take back the House of Delegates and they’re going to give it their best shot. We’re here to play defense and also play a little offense!

Getting a Head Start on the 2022 Midterms

Topline Message: If history is any precedent, the GOP will come out swinging in the 2022 midterms. Let’s start on 2022 now. In addition to our critical work in Virginia, we’re going to raise money for partner organizations on the ground (State Bridges) and for our eventual candidates (2022 State Funds) in our 2022 target states.

Supporting Messaging:

Let’s dominate the 2022 midterms, when 83% of the nation’s state legislative seats will be up in the general election. . . 

We’ll need to pull out all the stops to protect our gains at the state and federal levels. That’s why we’ll prioritize states with nested competitive Senate, House, and Gubernatorial elections. Our target states are currently AZ, FL, GA, MI, NC, NH, PA, TX, WI, MN, CO, and NV.

State Bridges: Love Fair Fight and other community-based movement organizations? Let’s raise money now for our partners in our 2022 states. . . 

With greater resources, our partner organizations on the ground can do more, which helps our 2022 candidates tremendously. Building on the successes in Arizona and Georgia in 2020, we know that long-term community-based organizing, often led by people of color, is bedrock for our ability to build progressive power in state legislatures. This program will activate volunteers across the country to fundraise for organizations doing year-round power-building work in our 2022 target states.

2022 State Funds: Let’s raise money now so we can hand our 2022 midterm candidates warchests right when we endorse. . . 

Early money is so critical for candidates that we’re working in 2021 to fundraise for our eventual candidates in 2022 target states. We want intend to hand over money right when we endorse to help them hit the ground running; hire talented staff, pay for advertising to get their message out, and so much more. Our work to build our state funds this year will pay off tremendously for our candidates competing in 2022.

Why Sister District

Topline Message: Sister District is the only national grassroots organization dedicated exclusively to state legislatures. We were founded in the wake of the 2016 election, and have been laser-focused on getting Democrats elected to state legislatures. As we’ve grown, we have expanded to fill critical gaps at every point in the political lifecycle. The overall Sister District strategy involves four pillars to build progressive power in state legislatures: winning elections, supporting organizers, developing legislators and the pipeline, and educating and empowering the public and our community.

Note: This is an important message to “show not tell.” For example, use a personal story to illustrate how the Sister District community has been meaningful to you.

Supporting Messaging:

We’re small but mighty and our work really matters . . .

Illustration: Shelly Simonds in Virginia. In 2017, Sister District supported Shelly Simonds in her bid for Virginia House of Delegates. The race ended in a literal tie, and Simonds ultimately lost when her opponent’s name was drawn from a ceramic bowl. We supported Shelly again in 2019 and on Election Night 2019, she was our first candidate to declare victory. Sister District volunteers made well over half of Shelly’s phone calls, sent 100% of her texts, and raised $83,000, which was 6% of her total raise.

Illustration: Josh Cole in Virginia. Josh Cole also ran in 2017 and lost by 82 votes. Sister District supported him in 2019 knowing it was going to be a difficult race in a Trump district. Sister District volunteers raised $82,500, which was 7% of his total raise, made over half of his phone calls, and sent over a third of his postcards. On Election Night, in another close race, he became the first Black person, and the youngest ever person, elected to this seat.

Folks stick with us . . .

Sister District has some of the most passionate, friendliest, and most rockstar volunteers in its ranks. Many of our leaders have been with us since the beginning in 2017 and will be helping Virginia candidates for the third election cycle!

Leaders, fellow volunteers, and staff are just a phone call away . . .

We’re big enough to make a real impact, but small enough so we’re tightly connected and work together closely. You’ll get to know other leaders and volunteers by working together, and experienced Sister District staff are just a phone call away to help with training and execution.

We’re creative and have fun . . .

Not only will you have a real impact by volunteering for Sister District, you’ll have fun doing it and build lasting friendships! This is a great place to highlight some of the events your team has thrown or are planning.

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