Florida’s new Jim Crow gets the Democratic challenge he deserves

I hope that this edition of Progressives Everywhere finds you healthy, comfortable, and royally pissed off. Pissed off that Donald Trump and his lackeys in DC have committed an American genocide by ignoring and now playing politics with the coronavirus pandemic. Pissed off that Republican governors are still refusing to protect their citizens. And pissed off that the GOP is using the pandemic as cover for the desecration and destruction of democracy.

What happened in Wisconsin is the Republican model: a gerrymandered legislature refuses to protect voting rights and then rigged courts uphold the voter suppression, sentencing tens of thousands of voters to death and stopping many more from voting. This is the only way Republicans will win — they’ve said as much. And so we have to fight back with everything we have this year, because it may be our last chance.

Here’s the good news: There is a very juicy target in Florida, a Republican legislator who is behind the most pernicious voter suppression scheme in the country and a score of other anti-democratic abuses.

Jamie Grant, the son of a former state senator, has “represented” Florida’s 64th legislative district since 2011. From the moment he got to Tallahassee, he got to work screwing over Floridians, loosening gun laws and fighting tooth and nail to stop a Medicaid expansion (his quotes about it are gross). And now he is known locally as Jim Crow Jamie, a nickname he has more than earned.

In 2018, Floridians voted overwhelmingly to approve a ballot initiative known as Amendment 4, which was intended to return the right to vote to a whopping 1.4 million people who had served time in prison. It was the single biggest extension of the franchise in decades… until Jamie Grant led the charge to eviscerate it almost entirely.

Grant was the lead sponsor on the bill that gutted the amendment, requiring that everyone who stood to regain their constitutional rights pay off every single fine, fee, and court cost levied against them by judges, even though they rarely had anything to do with their sentencing and were almost never actually tracked by the courts. It amounts to a poll tax, a revival of Jim Crow tactics meant to bar people of color from exercising their rights that could stop a million people from registering. The law is now winding its way through the court system and could decide whether Democrats or Republicans win the White House this year.

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Sara Bitter’s Ohio race is a chance to rethink government

I hope this edition of Progressives Everywhere finds you safe and healthy. As a New Yorker, I’m fortunate to report that I’m healthy and hanging in there, even as I enter the fourth week of quarantine inside my apartment. The chaos and human suffering unfolding around the city is beyond tragic, and it’s frustrating that all people can do to help immediately is donate money to hospitals and worker funds (donate to our fundraiser for workers here) and order take-out from struggling restaurants.

While long-time readers will know that I’ve never been a fan of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, I can give him credit for taking charge and executing a plan with focus and something like compassion (we will talk about his proposed Medicaid cuts and refusal to tax the rich later). But the COVID-19 pandemic has made it crystal clear that no level of government is prepared to handle the demand for healthcare or other needs of working people or small businesses. Congress just doesn’t seem to grasp the seriousness of the pandemic — the focus there is still on ego and big corporate handouts. The kind of out-of-control ego and big corporate handouts that wind up exacerbating these problems and killing people.

We need people in government who understand what it is to struggle. We need representatives who are ready to advocate for disadvantaged groups that don’t have big money lobbyists or even the ability to fight for their own causes. We need people like Sara Bitter, an incredible candidate for the Ohio House of Representatives.

I first spoke with Sara before the outbreak really hit the United States, but I don’t think it could be more relevant to what we’re experiencing right now, when so many people are being left to struggle on their own. Sara is a lawyer in Ohio and a mother of two children with developmental disabilities. Instead of practicing law in the courtroom, she’s become a professional advocate for families with special challenges, fighting for policies that will help the millions of people in similar positions live with dignity and be full members of their communities.

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Gerrymandered protection gone, one of NC’s most anti-abortion legislators is facing heat

Many modern GOP lawmakers are by nature whackjobs, but it’s their overwhelming job security that brings out the truly evil stuff. North Carolina, where a racist gerrymander allowed Republicans’ most reactionary lawmakers to run wild, is a prime example.

From the infamous “bathroom bill” to voter ID and abortion restrictions, it’s been a true conservative nightmare. Since 2015, State Senator Joyce Krawiec (R-SD-31) has taken advantage of her gerrymandered seat to push some of the worst Republican laws, including the noxious “born alive” anti-abortion bill, which she introduced and sponsored (it was later vetoed by Gov. Roy Cooper).

Thankfully, the gerrymander was finally thrown out by a state court last fall, leading to redrawn maps that made Krawiec’s district significantly more competitive and give Democratic challenger Terri LeGrand a real chance at flipping it.

LeGrand, a lawyer who has spent years working in higher education, first ran for State House in 2018 and swung an extremely gerrymandered House district by 20 points; she made it competitive for the first time in years and drove its Republican into retirement this cycle. Now, in a fairer district, she’s got a chance to straight-up take down a far-right Republican and turn North Carolina blue.

“I always paid attention to politics, but before I ran in 2018, I just kind of assumed that there was a bold line between two groups of people and there were stark differences [between Democratic and Republican voters],” LeGrand tells Progressives Everywhere. “But as you’re out on the trail and you’re talking to voters and listening to voters, you realize that we’re all united in far more ways than we’re divided.”

CLICK HERE to donate to Terri LeGrand via Progressives Everywhere’s ActBlue page!

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This Georgia election proves why every race matters, win or lose

Donald Trump being elected president is one of the worst things that has ever happened to the United States. It’s been a full-on catastrophe in all ways but one: The resistance to his regime also provided a jolt of new energy and determination to a Democratic Party that desperately needed it, motivating millions of activists and candidates to build grassroots infrastructure that generally takes years to grow.

Luisa Wakeman is a perfect example of this progressive revival. A resident of the Atlanta suburbs, she’d long figured most of her neighbors were Republicans, so she never spent too much time on politics; instead, she focused on her family and her dual career as a flight attendant and cardiac care nurse (really!). But when Donald Trump mocked of Gold Star families and disabled reporters in 2016, it pulled her off the sidelines; she began volunteering for the Clinton campaign that summer, and when Trump scored his unlikely victory, Wakeman vowed to get even more involved.

Fast forward a few years later and Wakeman is one of the most promising Democratic state legislature candidates in Georgia. She’s running a strong campaign in the rapidly changing and very flippable HD-43, a seat Democrats desperately need to win.

CLICK HERE to donate to Luisa Wakeman’s campaign via Progressives Everywhere’s ActBlue page!

“My parents were immigrants, my family is originally from Holland, and my grandparents were in the Dutch Resistance during World War II. I grew up with stories about what can happen when people look away,” Wakeman tells Progressives Everywhere. “I knew I had to get involved when I saw hatred infused without repercussions.”

This is Wakeman’s second run for the State House. In 2018, Wakeman came less than 800 votes of unseating long-time State Rep. Sharon Cooper, a Republican who hadn’t faced any electoral opposition since 2010. It’s a familiar story; for a decade, Democrats just ceded legislative seats like this one to Republicans, allowing them to enact all sorts of racist, sexist, homophobic, and anti-democratic laws in states throughout the country. That’s especially true in Georgia, where extreme anti-LGBTQ laws and mass voter suppression have become the norm.

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Akilah ‘Brass Balls’ Bacy is a Texas badass

Flipping a state blue significantly improves peoples’ lives. Turning Texas blue has long been a brass ring for progressives, and as we get closer, Republicans are starting to fight back. Such was the case in the special election in HD-28, where Democrats had a great candidate and lots of energy but were overwhelmed by the Republican’s money (newly elected Rep. Gary Gates self-funded over $1 million) and every statewide elected official’s help.

We can’t be discouraged. There’s too much at stake — and some important math. There are 15 seats that were decided by closer margins than HD-28 in 2018, and Democrats only need to take 9 of them. Plus, they have an awesome candidate in HD-138, a suburban Houston district that was decided by just 47 votes in 2018.

Normally, a candidate who loses by just 47 votes decides to run again, especially after the incumbent announces they’re retiring. But in this case, 2018’s Democrat decided to step aside and back Akilah Bacy, a tireless legal warrior for the community and one of the most compelling candidates I’ve interviewed here at Progressives Everywhere.

When I called Akilah last Sunday, it was 7pm and very dark outside, but she was just wrapping up a weekend of door-to-door canvassing in her western Houston community. I was drained from a weekend of hanging with friends; she was bubbling with energy after two days spent walking and talking with voters.

“While I’m a new candidate, I’m not new to the community,” Bacy told me. “I grew up around the area and I’ve always been involved, working in the legal field first as a prosecutor and then doing defense work and then employment discrimination work. I always believe that you grow where you’re planted.”

CLICK HERE to donate to Akilah Bacy’s campaign via Progressives Everywhere’s ActBlue page!

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