State Power Series

State Power Series

The State Power Series is a virtual event series.

In 2024, Sister District will be hosting virtual events in partnership with Teen Vogue, Red Wine & Blue, and Daily Kos.

State legislatures are growing ever more powerful. The most critical and life-altering policies, from reproductive justice and trans rights to fair wages and conditions for working people and families, are increasingly coming not from Washington, but from our often-overlooked state legislatures. States also have tremendous authority over election rules and administration, so they are critical to our democracy’s future.

The purpose of this Series is to start a conversation to build narratives around the growing importance of states, provide context about the historical circumstances that have placed progressives at structural and ideological disadvantages in state power-building, and emphasize the urgent need for progressives to reimagine states as radical bastions of progressive power and commit to permanent, sustained state power-building efforts.

2024 Events

Historic Firsts: Pride Edition | June 10, 2024 at 5 pm PT / 8 pm ET

During Pride Month, this virtual event lifts up trailblazing pioneers from the LGBTQIA+ community who have made history in state legislatures and beyond. This panel will discuss how important states are in protecting and expanding our rights, and why having more LGBTQIA+ leaders in our state chambers results in legislative agendas and policy outcomes that better reflect the experiences, interests, and priorities of the communities in our states.

Featuring:
Keynote address from Erin Reed, journalist and transgender rights activist
Panelists: MN Sen Clare Oumou Verbeten, and Sister District alums AZ Rep Lorena Austin and WA Sen Emily Randall

Speakers

Erin Reed (she/her) is a transgender journalist based in Washington, D.C.. She tracks LGBTQ+ legislation around the United States for her subscription newsletter, ErinInTheMorning.com. Her work has been cited by the AP, Reuters, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and many more major media outlets. You can follow her on twitter and tiktok @ErinInTheMorn.

Clare Oumou Verbeten represents District 66 (Saint Paul, Roseville, Falcon Heights and Lauderdale) in the Minnesota Senate. She ran for office to advance racial justice and build a community that is safe for all. In 2022, Clare made history becoming one of the first Black Queer women elected to the Minnesota Senate. She is an Assistant Majority Leader and Vice Chair of the Judiciary and Public Safety Committee.

Social: @clareoumou | @SenClareOumou | @ClareOumou

Lorena Austin is a 5th generation Arizonan, whose lifelong love for advocacy and leadership has been rooted in their district for over 100 years. Rep. Austin is the first Chicane, non-binary person elected to any state legislature in the country and serves the residents of LD9 in West Mesa and Tempe. They sit on the House Commerce and Appropriations committees, and serve as Secretary of the Latino Caucus and the LGBTQ+ Caucus.

Social: @LorenaAustin4Az | @lorenaaustinaz

Emily Randall: Born and raised in Washington’s 6th Congressional District, Emily is the proud product of a Union, working-class family. A Planned Parenthood staffer turned State Senator, Emily is a leader on reproductive freedom. Emily is running for Congress to protect and expand abortion access, cut costs for regular people, and develop education pathways for her neighbors. Endorsed by Planned Parenthood Action Fund and U.S. Senator Patty Murray, Emily would be the first LGBTQ Latina ever elected to Congress.

Social: @EmilyRandallWA  | @SenEmilyRandall | @senatoremilyrandall

Moderators

Gaby Goldstein is an attorney, political strategist and researcher focused on the growing importance of state legislatures and state policy. As a Co-Founder at Sister District, she builds progressive power in state legislatures. She writes and speaks often about progressive federalism and powerbuilding, including recent contributions to The New Republic, CNN, Washington Post and The Guardian. 

Social: @gaby__goldstein

Lex McMenamin is the news and politics editor at Teen Vogue. They are also a freelance writer covering politics, identity, activist movements and pop culture. They have been published by the BBC, them., i-D and elsewhere.

Social: @leximcmenamin | @leximcmenamin

How You Can Fight for Reproductive Freedom: Two Year After Dobbs

Date TBA

This panel examines what has happened to abortion in the two years since Dobbs, now that states fully control abortion access. As states gain increased authority, the panel will address the unequal impact of abortion restrictions, disproportionately affecting low-income individuals, Black, Latino, and Indigenous communities, young and LGBTQ+ individuals, as well as those in rural areas. Additionally, the panel will delve into recent and expected SCOTUS decisions on FDA’s approval of the abortion drug mifepristone, whether federal law (EMTALA) requires abortion care during medical emergencies, as well as state level decisions jeopardizing IVF. Join us as we assess the current state of reproductive rights, acknowledging both challenges and progress, and discuss collective actions needed to safeguard abortion access and advance reproductive freedom for all.

2022 State Power Series

In 2022, the State Power Series was co-hosted by Sister District and Vote Save America / Crooked Media.

Each event featured a panel of hosts from Crooked Media, political and legal experts, historians, elected officials and activists, moderated by Gaby Goldstein, co-founder of Sister District, and Shaniqua McClendon, Vice President of Politics for Crooked Media.

Getting out the Vote to Build State Power

October 25, 2022 at 5 pm PT / 8 pm ET

This panel, taking place just two weeks before the 2022 midterm elections, recapped the work done ahead of the midterms and highlighted key trends with a particular focus on critical state races and what to keep an eye out for on election night. The panel also explored differences in state power between the right and the left, and why it is so important that Democrats shift their focus to states—in these midterms and in the long-term. Importantly, the panel served as a call to arms to drive volunteer capacity to state legislative races in this critical GOTV period, as well as encourage listeners to commit to building power in statehouses every year.

WATCH NOW!

The Insurrection will be Decentralized - Election Subversion: The Role of State Legislatures in the Fight for our Democracy

Overview: This panel explored how state legislatures play an outsized role in the future of our democracy. The January 6th hearings provided us with explosive evidence of how Trump and key officials in his administration attempted to strong-arm state legislators into putting up fake electors and changing election outcomes. And in key states, Republicans are still building toward a future where they can engineer election outcomes, by modifying the laws and rules governing election administration and limiting the ability of state courts to curb partisan redistricting and subversion. On top of that, an arch-conservative Supreme Court appears likely to thwart a constitutional challenge to this state power grab via the Independent State Legislature theory — taking up a case next term which would provide state legislatures with complete control over election administration. We must pour resources and attention into state chambers. This panel explored these topics, as what we do now to build state power will determine the fate of our democracy. WATCH NOW!

After Roe: Reproductive and Civil Rights Move to States

Overview: This panel took place just a few days after the Dobbs decision was released by the Supreme Court. In the wake of Dobbs, abortion access now falls fully within the purview of states. Abortion access has never been universally guaranteed, and this development, as with prior restrictions, will disproportionately impact low income people, Black, Latino and Indigenous people, young and LGBTQ+ folks and people in rural areas. After decades of failed policies rooted in systemic racism and oppression, these folks will disproportionately lack the resources necessary to cross the expanding abortion desert to seek care. On the other hand, states including CO, CA, CT, and VA have expanded and enshrined the right to abortion services into state law. Panelists Imani Gandy, Erin Ryan and Leah Litman explored the conservative jurisprudential goal of narrowing federal protections and reverting civil and human rights issues back to states, and considered whether the end of Roe v. Wade is an example of how we may be experiencing the death of the ‘rights revolution.’ The panel explored these trends and discussed what can be done to bring the civil and reproductive rights (and justice) revolution to our states. WATCH NOW!