State Power Series

State Power Series

The State Power Series is a virtual event series co-hosted by Sister District and Vote Save America / Crooked Media.

Each event will feature a panel of hosts from Crooked Media, political and legal experts, historians, elected officials and activists, moderated by Sister District Co-Founder Gaby Goldstein and Crooked Media Senior Political Director Shaniqua McClendon.

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.

Progressives face an existential need to explore and develop resonant narratives around state power. 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.

Overview: This panel is planned for the week we expect the Dobbs decision to be published. After Dobbs, abortion access will likely fully fall 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. This panel will explore the conservative jurisprudential goal of narrowing federal protections and reverting civil and human rights issues back to states, and consider whether the end of Roe v. Wade is an example of how we may be experiencing the death of the ‘rights revolution.’ The panel will explore these trends and discuss what can be done to bring the civil and reproductive rights (and justice) revolution to our states. WATCH NOW!

After Roe: Reproductive and Civil Rights Move to States

Imani Gandy

Imani Gandy is Senior Editor of Law and Policy for Rewire News Group, where she covers law and courts and co-hosts the RNG podcast Boom! Lawyered. Imani is a recovering attorney turned award-winning journalist and political blogger. She received her JD from University of Virginia School of Law in 2001.

Social: @AngryBlackLady

Erin Ryan

Erin Ryan is a Daily Beast columnist, the host of Crooked Media’s Hysteria podcast, and a writer for It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. She is based in Los Angeles.

Social: @morninggloria

Leah Litman

Professor Leah Litman teaches and writes on constitutional law, federal courts, and federal sentencing at University of Michigan. Her recent work appears in the California Law Review, Michigan Law Review, Virginia Law Review, Texas Law Review, Duke Law Journal, and Northwestern Law Review. Her writing for popular audiences has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and Slate. She is a co-host of Crooked Media’s Strict Scrutiny podcast.

Social: @LeahLitman


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 focuses on building progressive power in state legislatures. She writes and speaks often about progressive federalism and progressive state powerbuilding, including recent contributions to CNN, The Guardian, The Hill, Washington Post, Ms. Magazine, and Salon. She frequently participates in lectures, events and podcasts, from UC Berkeley and Columbia University to Netroots Nation and Getting Curious with Jonathan Van Ness. She holds a BA from UC Berkeley, JD from Boston University School of Law, and PhD in health policy from UC Berkeley.

Social: @gaby__goldstein

Shaniqua McClendon is a political strategist and speaker and commentator on media, politics, voting, and race. She is the Senior Political Director for Crooked Media (home to the popular podcast, Pod Save America) and currently a fellow at the USC Center for the Political Future. At Crooked Media, McClendon leads their political strategy and civic engagement program (Vote Save America). Prior to Crooked Media, McClendon served on Capitol Hill as a policy advisor to Senator Kay R. Hagan and Legislative Director to Congresswoman Alma S. Adams. She began her career as a White House Intern for President Barack Obama. McClendon’s B.A. in Journalism and Mass Communications and B.S. in Business Administration are from UNC Chapel Hill. She received her Masters in Public Policy from the Harvard Kennedy School. Shaniqua serves on the board of Fund Her.

Social: @__Shaniqua_

Future Events

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

August 30, 2022 at 5 pm PT / 8 pm ET

Overview: This panel will explore how state legislatures play an outsized role in the future of our democracy. In key states, Republicans are 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 through the Independent State Legislature theory. We must pour resources and attention into state chambers. What we do now will determine the fate of our democracy.

State Power: Exploring Progressive Reluctance to State Power – Part 1

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

Overview: This panel will examine the historical differences in state power-building between the right and the left. Panelists will speak to the gap between the right and the left’s investment in states and explain the ideological beliefs that have historically prevented the left from substantially investing in state-level power-building infrastructure. The panel will explore how and why we got here – and importantly – what we can do now. 

State Power: Reversing Progressive Reluctance to State Power – Part 2

December 13, 2022 at 5 pm PT / 8 pm ET

Overview: This panel will continue the conversation in Part One, and will explore how to reclaim the positive power of states, embrace the idea of state power itself, and move toward a vision of progressive federalism.

To join the State Power Series