Democrats flipped Virginia’s state legislature, winning a True Blue Trifecta on November 5. But that victory didn’t happen overnight — it was more than two years in the making. Sister District MA-RI volunteers were there at the beginning in 2017, when we supported two candidates and, together with our national organization, helped Democrats come within two seats of flipping both the House of Delegates and the state Senate.
We’ve been busy this year. We began 2019 by supporting a special election in Pennsylvania in the spring (after supporting two PA candidates and one in NH last fall). By the summer, we had begun field activities and fundraising for our three assigned candidates in Virginia: Hala Ayala and John Bell (who both won this week) and Larry Barnett (who lost in a painfully close repeat of his first attempt in 2017). We also provided field assistance to Ghazala Hashmi (set to become the first Muslim woman to serve in the Virginia state house), Debra Rodman (a sitting Virginia delegate who sadly lost her state senate race), and Shanda Yates (who won in Mississippi, SDP’s first victory in the deep South). And throughout the year, we partnered with several other organizations on voter registration initiatives.
On all the elections, we were part of a nationwide effort coordinated closely with individual campaigns. Sister District Project has about 80 teams and affiliates across the country, who together supported 16 candidates in Virginia, Mississippi, and Louisiana during the second half of 2019. We basically serve as adjunct campaigns, providing whatever assistance the campaigns need: calling voters, writing postcards, sending texts, raising funds, providing post-it-notes for canvassers, and traveling to canvass ourselves.
This year, Sister District MA-RI called 17,909 voters (and spoke to 1,463), raised $39,049, and wrote 18,269 postcards. We did this at 211 events attended by more than 500 individual volunteers (with a total attendance of roughly 1,600) at 62 private homes and public venues across Massachusetts and Rhode Island, from South Hadley to Cape Cod and from Providence to Newburyport. (Check out our team’s 2019 Impact Infographic.)
State races absolutely have to be the foundational element in any long-term progressive strategy. Without blue majorities in the states, we can’t get rid of the voter suppression and partisan gerrymandering that hinder progress and afflict American democracy at all levels. And that’s not all: state houses have become the front line of assaults on reproductive rights, civil rights, labor protections, and accessible healthcare.
In 2020 we’ll continue to apply ourselves to the good fight, and remind Americans that even in a presidential year, states matter. We’re fired up!