The Other Big Runoff Election in Georgia: Daniel Blackman Explains Why the Public Service Commission Matters

In the ultra-tight runoff election scheduled for January 5th, a progressive Democrat has the chance to break the GOP’s years-long lock on policy-making, a hegemony that has left the environment polluted, working people gouged by big corporations, many Black communities robbed of opportunity, and lawmakers increasingly unresponsive to the demands of their constituents.

Oh, and there will also be two US Senate elections on January 5th as well.

It’d be an understatement to say that the race for a spot on the Georgia Public Service Commission hasn’t received the same level of attention as the Ossoff-Perdue and Warnock-Loeffler showdowns, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t important. In fact, it’s the sort of down-ballot position that has an outsized impact on people’s lives but has been largely ignored by Democrats over the last few decades. Thanks to the energetic campaign of activist, nonprofit leader, and Obama administration vet Daniel Blackman, that’s now changing. (It also doesn’t hurt that instead of appearing 13th or 14th on the ballot, it was just below the Senate races this year.)

Georgia’s Public Service Commission oversees all utilities, from power production to broadband internet. Its members play a huge role in setting environmental policy and helps determine the utility rates paid by millions of people in the state. Their decisions have wide-reaching implications, with racial justice, environmental pollution, and economic opportunity all directly impacted.

One quick example: Georgia is the only state in the country building new nuclear power plants. Republicans continue to green-light the projects, which accrue huge cost overruns which in turn get passed to Georgia consumers. They continue to invest in these projects, funneling money to the privately held Georgia Power monopoly, gouging people on their monthly energy bills instead of investing in the solar and wind power that would help the environment and save people money.

“Folks in Georgia have been footing the bill for a long time, not just on nuclear, but on our coal ash cleanup [another $525 million], and its really been a burden on folks,” Blackman says. “That people are struggling COVID-19 has amplified that a thousandfold.”

Continue reading “The Other Big Runoff Election in Georgia: Daniel Blackman Explains Why the Public Service Commission Matters”

These Progressive Groups Helped Democrats Win the White House

Last week, I co-wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post that focused on the Democratic Party’s ground game (or lack thereof) in 2020 and how activist organizations in several states picked up the slack and helped Joe Biden vanquish Donald Trump.

It’s impossible to understate just how important a role that the work of progressive groups in Georgia, Arizona, Wisconsin, Nevada, and Pennsylvania played in the triumph. If Democrats want to turn around the down-ballot disappointments and overcome the gerrymanders that Republicans will enact in many states next year, we need to help these groups grow in ambition and scope.

To that end, I’ve put together an ActBlue page that features a dozen great groups, which I’ve listed right below. You can use the page to donate to one or more of them!

AAPI Victory Fund | Four Directions | Black Voters Matter PAC | Mijente | Citizen Action of Wisconsin | Pennsylvania Stands Up | Reclaim Philadelphia | Progress Michigan | Jolt Action | Texas Rising | Down Home North Carolina | Working Families Party

Donate to Progressive Activist Groups!

Continue reading “These Progressive Groups Helped Democrats Win the White House”

Donald Trump is Done. Cue the Party.

After more than four exhausting days, it’s official: Donald Trump’s reign of terror is ending.

Joe Biden clinched the presidency on Saturday morning, putting an end to one of the darkest epochs in our history.

We have so, so much work to do in order to fix a larger Democratic Party that suffered so many losses on Tuesday. We still need to save the future of American democracy. We’ll have to push Biden to make big reforms where possible. COVID-19 is still raging. Racism is rampant. Millions are without jobs as billionaires continue to rake in cash. Progressives Everywhere raised over $5 million for Democratic candidates and causes over the last few years, but I have to get smarter about how we target candidates and amplify movements. Over the next few months, we will be examining ways to overcome these challenges.

But today, we can celebrate a massive first step toward a better tomorrow.

If there’s one thing to remember, it’s that we owe our deep gratitude to the grassroots activists that made this possible. This is a victory for amazing grassroots activist organizations in Pennsylvania and Georgia. These groups, largely run by people of color, have worked 24/7 to empower their communities in the fight against Republican treachery, far-right foul play, and corporate greed. And whether or not we win Arizona, groups there deserve the credit for making it so, so close.

You also deserve some credit — you donated money, gave time, and pushed hard to overthrow this diaper dictator. Enjoy today and this weekend, then let’s get back to it.

Did Democrats Do Enough to Get Out the Black Vote?

While much has been made about the suburban shift toward Democrats over the last half-decade, the reality is that Democrats cannot win elections without massive turnout in Black communities. Knowing this, Democratic candidates tend to spend October and then early November visiting Black churches and anonymously fretting to political reporters about whether it’ll be enough to win.

This year’s unprecedented early voting turnout has left us with reasons for both optimism and concern. There are indications of a big turnout of new Black voters in Georgia, despite the egregious voter suppression in the state, while there is a lot of energy in both Pennsylvania and North Carolina, as well. On the other hand, numbers look a little bit dicey in Florida thus far.

Black voters requested fewer absentee ballots and tend to vote in person (46% say they plan on voting in person in Florida), so we shouldn’t read too far into any early numbers, but given the stakes, it’s impossible not to obsess over every little data point. Thankfully, there are a number of activist groups, non-profits, and grassroots organizations out in communities, doing the hard work of getting out the vote in the face of Republican voter suppression (and, as we saw yesterday, racist police violence). A lot of money is also part of the equation.

Yesterday, I caught up with Kevin Harris, the Chief Campaigns Officer at the venerable progressive institution People for The American Way. He’s helping spearhead the group’s Defend the Black Vote campaign, which is trying to overcome voter suppression and help set record turnout for Black voters. An edited version of our conversation is below.

Tell me about the Defend the Black vote campaign.

Our Defend the Black Vote campaign is a nonpartisan effort inspired by the fact that we know that African American men are a demographic that is skeptical in many ways about our institutions and skeptical about the importance of voting and whether or not it really makes a difference. We see that as a direct threat to democracy. Our democracy is stronger when more people participate in the process. And our democracy is stronger when we have a system that doesn’t work against people voting, but actually urges people to vote.

The focus is on this community, to make sure that they understand what the stakes are, that their vote does matter, and that there are ways in which to overcome voter suppression. The fact that there is voter suppression is not ever something that we should ever allow to become normalized in our society.

Continue reading “Did Democrats Do Enough to Get Out the Black Vote?”

Julie Oliver Is Running to Flip the Jalapeño Heart of Texas Blue

NBC News officially moved Texas to “toss-up” status today, indicating that Joe Biden has something close to a 50/50 chance of winning a state that used to be a Republican anchor. And if he does, a lot of the credit will go to remarkable candidates like Julie Oliver, who is running herself to flip the state’s 25th Congressional district.

The district is a product of egregious gerrymandering, so much so that despite all the focus on Texas, no one paid all that much attention when Oliver first ran in 2018. We covered the race here at Progressives Everywhere anyway — she was just too inspiring and impressive a candidate to ignore. And Oliver way exceeded expectations, eventually losing by less than 9 points, the first time a Democrat had come within single digits in the district since it was reshaped by Gov. Rick Perry (some years, there wasn’t even a Democrat on the ballot).

Now, Oliver has a legit chance to finish the job and flip the district blue. To be transparent, I’d be rooting for her no matter what, given her party affiliation and the fact that she’s in Texas. But Oliver is also running a full-on progressive campaign — she’s proudly in favor of Medicare for All and the Green New Deal, for example — and is devoting more of her life to the cause not because she ever wanted to be a politician, but because she feels the moral calling to help in such dire times.

“I’ll be honest with you, after the 2018 election, I felt like, Oh my gosh, I didn’t do everything I could I have done and I let people down,” she told me earlier this week. “I just felt this tremendous weight on my shoulders. I looked at my husband in March [2019] and was like, ‘Honey, I have a terrible idea. I think I’m gonna run for Congress again.’ And he was very apprehensive because it’s a huge family commitment.”

First, it’s absurd to think she let anyone down, but Julie Oliver is pretty used to defying the odds — she’s done it all throughout her life. You can read her story here, but here are the basics: Oliver grew up poor, dropped out of high school and ran away from home, then got pregnant at 17 years old. She moved back home on the condition that she continue her education, which she did all the way through law school.

Now she’s a mother of four, a successful executive, and a candidate running a smart, data-driven campaign for Congress. And a campaign with really good ads:

The first thing that Oliver did after the conversation about running again was research whether there was a viable path to victory. She met with a friend and together they analyzed the 2018 election results, combing through the data to see where they might be able to turn out or swing more votes in 2020.

Oliver’s goal is to turn out more voters in suburban Travis County and Hays County while cutting into Williams’ margins in the much more red Johnson County. She’s even running to get the veteran-heavy Bell County to get out and vote, calling it the campaign’s “secret weapon.”

(The fact that she’s running against Roger Williams, a slick Trumpian millionaire Republican who took millions in PPP money for his car dealership while the rest of the district missed out on stimulus money, makes it a little bit easier, too.)

Donate to Julie Oliver’s campaign!

It’s unconscionable that there are so many (13!) large counties in the district, but that’s the power of gerrymandering. The 25th district stretches from Fort Worth down to Austin, covering nearly 2500 square miles. The shape of the district is preposterous — as Oliver puts it, “it looks like somebody took a jalapeño and smashed it on top of the middle of Texas and then pixelated the edges.”

Given the fact that the district was engineered to be a GOP stronghold, you’d expect Oliver to play it cautious with her policy prescriptions, as many Democrats in the state have done. But she sees it the other way around — Texas has long been turning purple, demographics are working in Democrats’ favor, and people are looking for major change.

Before COVID hit, Texas already had the most uninsured people of any state, and that number has spiked during the pandemic — at this point, just about 30% of all Texans under the age of 65 don’t have health insurance. As a former healthcare executive, Oliver says she “knows how to explain Medicare for All” in a way that makes the problems with the convoluted and indubitably stupid way medical coverage is financed easy to understand.

And let’s be real, no matter their political convictions, people aren’t clamoring to deal with Aetna or Blue Cross Blue Shield.

“People want health care coverage, they don’t want a health insurance company,” Oliver says. “In fact, I have yet to meet the person who actually likes to be on the phone with their insurance company. If they loved their insurance company that much, then you would find somebody who likes to talk to the insurance company. And so far, I haven’t found that person.”

Instead, she hears story after story from people who are drowning in medical debt, desperate just to even consolidate the bills they get from various providers, let alone not have to go into financial ruin to deal with an emergency. One family told her on the campaign trail that they lost their employer-based insurance due to the pandemic, which has put them on the hook for the tens of thousands of dollars being billed for their young child’s cancer treatments.

“It’s just so sad that we’re in a pandemic, you have a child with cancer, the last thing you should be thinking about is, oh my god, how are we going to pay for this?” she says.

Early voting has already started in Texas, with a record-setting 8 million ballots already filed. Oliver’s campaign is running TV ads and fanning out across the massive district to get out the vote with canvassing, dropping off literature at people’s doors in as many target areas as possible. It’s also working with Sisters United, a data-driven organization in Texas that tries to turn out women who are registered to vote but rarely do so.

And with a week left, she’s not only feeling good about her chances, but also satisfied that she won’t have any regrets this time around.

“I can tell you that two years ago when I ran, the week before the election, I was like, Oh my gosh, I need three more months to campaign,” Oliver says. “I can honestly say that I feel like we have done absolutely everything you could possibly do, especially in a pandemic. It’s just so cool, feeling like, wow, we’ve really connected with hundreds of thousands of voters. It’s amazing.”

Want to help Julie and her campaign finish off the flip and win a huge victory for progressive Democrats?

Donate to Julie Oliver’s campaign!