The biggest wins for progressive Democrats on Election Day

The headline here is obvious: Democrats took back the House of Representatives, overwhelming Republicans in suburban districts and introducing a vital check — and hopefully a motherlode of investigations — on the Trump administration.

Take a moment to breathe, smile, and take a sip of coffee (or something else, no judgment here, it was a long night).

The Blue Wave was powered by victories by so many of the candidates that Progressives Everywhere readers supported on a variety of fundraising lists. The list of candidates and their results, which I’m still updating, can be found HERE.

I’m specifically excited by victories by early endorsees Lauren Underwood (IL-14), Abby Finkenauer (IA-01), and Cindy Axne (IA-03); history-making victories by candidates such as Sharice Davids (KS-03), an openly gay former MMA fighter who became the first Native American woman in Congress; and New Jersey endorsees Mikie Sherrill (NJ-11) and Tom Malinowski (NJ-07), who ran in the district where I graduated high school. I’m also excited to see Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14), who we endorsed and interviewed when no one thought she’d win, finally take her seat in Congress.

Ballot initiatives

It was a great night for progressive policy in direct democracy!

True populist economic policy won big on Tuesday. Medicaid expansion passed in Idaho, Nebraska, and Utah, while Missouri and Arkansas overwhelmingly passed an increase in the state minimum wage.

Voting rights also got a huge boost. Michigan and Missouri passed initiatives to create fairer, non-partisan redistricting. Michigan also passed same-day and automatic voter registration. Nevada passed automatic voter registration. And Florida made the groundbreaking decision to return the right to vote to 1.5 million former felons who fully finished their sentences.

Oh, and Missouri legalized medical marijuana, while Michigan just straight up legalized it for recreational use.

What we learned tonight is that progressive legislation is popular. Medicaid expansion, minimum wage increases, legalizing marijuana, redistricting reform passed in very red states and it wasn’t even close. So going forward, the goal has to be branding Democrats as the party of those ideas, to cut through the racist fear that the GOP spews to stoke tribalism and force people to vote against their own interest.

State legislatures

Democrats flipped seven chambers and took back over 300 seats this cycle — making up about a third of the ground we lost during the Obama years. It’s a good start!

New York made history by turning blue — really. After nearly a century of being controlled by Republicans, the State Senate is now in Democratic hands. The real fight for the chamber came earlier this fall, when brave progressive candidates took on the cynical turncoat members of the IDC, a group of former Democrats who colluded with the GOP. They finished the job on Tuesday, giving Democrats full control of the state government. I’m proud that Progressives Everywhere helped raise a lot of money for these bold progressive real Democratic candidates!

New York now has the potential to be a leader in progressive policy, but it’ll take ongoing pressure on newly re-elected Andrew Cuomo to make it happen. Perhaps his presidential aspirations will make him more likely to work with his own party towards producing real results. I can promise you that local organizations like the Working Families Party, which worked so hard to win back the State Senate, won’t let him get away with talking a big game but stymying legislation.

Democrats also won a trifecta in Colorado, where Progressives Everywhere-endorsed State Senate candidates Faith Winter and Tammy Story both came out on top. Maine Democrats flipped the State Senate, as well, which we pushed to make happen.

Small progress was made in North Carolina, where we broke the GOP’s super-majorities in both houses of the legislature, which was a crucial step toward stopping the Republicans from absolutely obliterating democracy in the state. They also broke a State Senate supermajority in Michigan. Meanwhile, they won their own supermajorities in both houses of the Oregon legislature.

Governorships

Kansas did the right thing and handed slick huckster Kris Kobach a resounding defeat, electing Democrat Laura Kelly governor. A loss here would have been incredibly dispiriting and I’m very excited that Kansans saw through this Kobach and banished him after years of his embarrassing the state.

Equally monumental and soul-affirming was Wisconsin’s ultimate rejection of Governor Scott Walker. He tried to break the spirit of that proud progressive bastion by hammering labor unions and throttling voting rights, but the people there rose up to defeat him in a close race, handing the government to the infinitely more compassionate Supervisor of Schools, Tony Evers.

Democrats also took over the Governor’s mansion in Maine, where Janet Mills takes over for the hateful windbag Paul LePage. Medicaid will finally be expanded in the state, well over a year after voters overwhelmingly approved it.

It was a great night for Democrats in Michigan, including newly minted Governor-elect Gretchen Whitmer. She survived a tough primary and romped in the general election against the truly odious Bill Schuette.

Nevada elected a Democratic governor as well as flipping its Senate seat from red to blue, moving the state one step closer to being a safe member of the Democratic coalition.

It was a disappointing night in Florida, Ohio, and Iowa, where Democrats lost close races — excruciatingly close in the case of Florida. I’ll never give up on any state, but there are a lot of questions to be answered about how Ron DeSantis, a proud and vile racist, won after running such a terrible campaign.

As for Georgia, it was always going to be tough to beat Brian Kemp, who spent eight years disenfranchising voters to set up his eventual victory. Stacey Abrams put up an epic fight and this is not the last we will hear from her after such a close race in Georgia.

Every single candidate that I spotlighted with an interview was running an underdog campaign, the sort of race that Democrats in the past wouldn’t have even bothered to contest. I chose these candidates because they were inspirational progressives willing to fight for their principles in the face of long odds and corporate-funded Republican opponents in deep red districts. And while they largely fell short in their races, they uniformly outperformed Democrats from past cycles, paving the way for future successes.

I named this newsletter Progressives Everywhere because I believe that to truly build a national majority and a better America, we need to build a bold Democratic Party in every single district in the nation. That is not an overnight (or single campaign cycle) proposition. It takes endless devotion and dedication to doing the sort of grassroots work that is its own reward when nobody’s writing magazine profiles or sending campaign checks.

So many of our Progressives Everywhere were chosen because they put in that kind of work. Jess King (PA-11) helped build an entire movement and won nearly 43% in a rural Pennsylvania district that got more red during the Supreme Court’s redistricting. J.D. Scholten toured around his rural Iowa district in a Winnebago for over a year and gave Nazi Steve King the race of his life. Julie Oliver (TX-25) ran in an unbelievably gerrymandered Texas district and won 45% of the vote. These were all first-time candidates who have bright futures as leaders of a new Democratic Party.

So, what’s next?

Well, we continue to work. In states where Democrats took over the levers of government, we pressure them to pass progressive legislation that materially helps people. Where we fell short, we put pressure on Republicans and fight back against regressive policy. And we continue to organize and build grassroots energy and infrastructure to further our gains and restore fairness to a still deeply unbalanced country.

If you are working on one of those campaigns, volunteer for one of those groups, are acquainted with a potential political candidate, or just care about an issue you want to see addressed, please reach out to me at ProgressivesEverywhere@gmail.com!

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