Long-time teacher, challenging wingnut Rep. Jim Jordan, comes out swinging with upset possible

janet garrett

It didn’t take long for the overuse of #Resistance to become a painful cliché, a punchline on Twitter used to gently mock the overly earnest and poke holes in the cynical and misinformed. But last week, we were reminded over and over that we really are in the middle of a struggle of civilizational struggle against really hateful, malevolent people and the people they exploit. The pipe bombs, the massacre at the synagogue, the endless harassment of women and minorities — it will all continue unless we do something about it.

It’s incredible to see the kind of work that is going into getting out the vote, despite the endless obstacles being thrown at them by Republicans. After a bus of black voters was pulled over by Georgia police for no good reason, ten more busses, filled with 500 voters, were sent to the polls by groups like Black Voters Matter. (You can donate to the ongoing GOTV efforts HERE.) In Texas, despite record voter intimidation and voting machines that seem to be literally changing results to the GOP, there are women in deep red parts of the state meeting in secret to help get out the vote for Beto O’Rourke.

Meanwhile, in Iowa, JD Scholten, one of our favorite candidates, continue to campaign hard against Congress’s own Neo-Nazi, GOP Rep. Steve King (IA-04). The rabid bigot just recently went to Australia to trade racist notes with a group founded by an actual Nazi, a move shitty even by his standards because his trip to Europe was financed by a Holocaust memorial group trying to get through to him. You can donate to Scholten’s campaign HERE.

“It has to be about the people”

What Scholten is doing is important because it sends a message to these hate-mongers. They have for too long been allowed to spew filth without any real challenge back home, which only encourages them to be more and more unhinged and incite the worst in America. Ohio GOP Rep. Jim Jordan is a bit slicker and less overt with his hatred than King, but he’s actually far more dangerous.

The founder of the far-right Freedom Caucus, he has made it his mission to gum up the works of government — even John Boehner has called him a “legislative terrorist” — who actively works to hurt women, LGBTQ+, minorities, and anyone who is not a rich, bigoted white man. He’s also at the center of a sex abuse scandal at Ohio State, a fact that Democratic candidate Janet Garrett only addressed when Progressives Everywhere spoke with her last week. She was trying to be respectful and keep the focus on the issues, about which she has profound differences with Jordan.

A teacher for 35 years, Garrett has been fighting for Ohio’s 4th district for the last six years. The effort has led to Nate Silver noting the race as a potential major upset, a credit to Garrett in an incredibly, grossly gerrymandered district.

This is your third run for Congress against Jim Jordan. What led you to run the first time and why continue to run?

We got gerrymandered a district with Jim Jordan in 2012. I met him in 2012 when he was running for the first time. I started a group that we called ourselves the Jordan Watch. We met weekly, there were about a dozen of us and we followed his votes and we went to town hall meetings and we tried to raise awareness because there are so many people that don’t know who’s representing them in Congress and they certainly don’t know his agenda.

In 2014, nobody stepped up to run against him. [Former Dem Rep.] Marcy Kaptur actually twisted my arm to get me to run. I was teaching full time at the time and I just had a ragtag group of volunteers. We knew that it was not a serious challenge, but I just thought that somebody had to challenge him, somebody had to raise awareness.

The reasons that I started to run in the first place still remain, because he does not do anything to help the people in the district. I was actually was in Cleveland Plain Dealer editorial board meeting with him about three weeks ago and they said to him, “Mrs. Garrett has in her campaign literature that you have no legislative successes. How do you answer to that charge?”

And he said he didn’t go to Washington to pass bills. And I thought, why you didn’t read a job description before you applied for this job? It’s just astounding. And now he wants to be the Speaker of the House. It’s even worse if he doesn’t want to pass any bills. That means he wants to stymie anything that could get through Congress.

All he does is promote the gridlock that we have and foment fear. I was in a debate with him two days ago and he kept talking about Nancy Pelosi and Hillary Clinton or Maxine Waters. And I reminded him four times that his opponent is Janet Garrett. He’s not running against any of those people and he’s not running against a generic Democrats, he’s running against me.

CLICK HERE to donate to Janet Garrett’s campaign via Progressives Everywhere’s ActBlue Page!

Tell me about your district — what have people told you over the years, what do they care about?

I believe that this district has been neglected for far too long. The average income in this district is about $40,000 a year for a household, which is not a lot of money to raise a family on. We need to give workers raises. We need to have health care for all of our people. We need to improve our educational system. We need to address our infrastructure problems. They’re just so many things that the government can and should be addressing. He’s a climate change denier, too.

They care about healthcare and social security. I think people are concerned about education as well. Whenever we talk about education, we hear people saying that we need to get a handle on the testing industry and the for profit-charter school movement. We need to get a handle on the amount of money in debt that a kid comes out of college with.

What did you learn in your first two runs about being a candidate and what it takes?

I learned a lot about how to present myself, because I am not an extrovert. And so I had to learn how just present myself as a candidate. That was huge and that continues all the time. The biggest thing that I try to communicate to people is that I care. I’m not in this for money, power, fame, or political advancement. I’m out here doing this because I care about the lives of the people in the district. And Jim Jordan is running because who wants to advance political career obviously because he’s running for speaker of the House now.

You are one of many, many teachers running for office this year nationwide. Why do you think teachers have gotten so politically involved, beyond even the protests?

People get into teaching because they are concerned about the future of our kids. I spent 35 years in the classroom preparing children for their future and now I’m running to make sure they have one. I think a lot of teachers get into these races because they are likewise concerned about the future. And quite frankly, we’re all getting very tired of the way that teachers are being kicked around. Education has become a political football and it’s not the benefit of the kids.

We just talked to three groups of high school kids this morning and I said to them that I want to severely limit the number of standardized tests that they are being subjected to and they were all smiling and nodding her heads. It’s become not about what’s best for the kids, it’s now about what’s best for the testing industry and their bottom line. And that’s not what we should be spending our money on for our educational instructional time.

It should be about the kids. If we don’t get this right and if we don’t educate our kids for the future, America’s not going to be able to compete in the long run. It’s not just about the kids, although that should be enough by itself, but it’s also about America’s future. A lot of teachers have gotten into this.

CLICK HERE to donate to Janet Garrett’s campaign via Progressives Everywhere’s ActBlue Page!

I’ve thought and said that if Democrats ran on eliminating student debt, it’d be the right thing to do, and they’d have a whole generation of voters loyal for life, like New Deal Democrats. It’s crippling.

My middle daughter came out with $30,000 in student debt. I could not convince her not to do that. She was convinced that if she didn’t do that, she wouldn’t be able to get a really well-paying job. She ended up working in a restaurant and then she went to Spain for three years to got her master’s degree over there. It’s way cheaper to get your degree in Europe than it is here.

She was studying Spanish translation, she got her degree there and she came back without adding anything to her debt, but then she got a job in a women’s shelter, which of course, that doesn’t pay very much and she’s got to make payments on her student debt before she can pay for rent or her car payment or any groceries or any of that. And it’s just horrifying. Luckily she’s got mom to fall back on if she gets an unexpected bill she can’t handle, but there are so many people that don’t.

So if you get elected, are there any other issues you plan on focusing on, along with education and climate change and healthcare?

I believe that the American workers deserve a raise. We need to raise the minimum wage and we need to strengthen unions. If you look at the graph that shows the decline of the unions, it exactly parallels the decline of the middle class and there’s a reason for that.

I was down in Marysville, where they’ve got the Honda plant, and they very proudly told me that when they first opened up they looked at what the union wages were and they gave him just a little bit more and they treat their workers well to make sure that they’re not going to unionized. I’m glad that they’re doing all of that, but the fact of the matter is if there weren’t union workers to compare the wages to there would be no standard and so there wouldn’t be any wage to try to shoot above.

We need strengthen the union movement and we need to treat our workers better. I look at our government and see millionaires serving billionaires. It can’t be just about serving the rich and the special interest groups. It has to be about the people and that’s why I’m running.

CLICK HERE to donate to Janet Garrett’s campaign via Progressives Everywhere’s ActBlue Page!


Early voting updates from key states show GOP voter suppression we must fight

A few weeks into early voting, we’re seeing both inspirational turnout and downright infuriating news. Let’s start with the good stuff.

From the 10,000 foot view, the early returns look great for Democrats. In many places where it has already started, there have been far more early votes cast in this election than in 2014, the last midterm election. The numbers, updated daily, can be found HERE, put together by the non-profit Elect Project. And according to New York Times polling, Democrats are far more enthusiastic this year, both compared to 2014 and in general.

In particular, we’re seeing big increases in battleground territories, like North CarolinaIndiana and Tennessee, the latter two home to crucial Senate races. Unfortunately, GOP-run states have not prepared for the crush of newly engaged voters (probably because they do whatever they can to make voting harder), and in Tennessee, registrations have been backed up to the point that some people won’t be able to vote early.

And wouldn’t you know it — the big backlog just so happens to be around Memphis, a majority African-American city.

So much of the progressive strategy has been to mobilize people who are eligible to vote but have felt left behind and disengaged, which is both a smarter and more sustainable tactic than trying yet again to win over Republicans. GOP officials are doing whatever they can to throttle the surge of activism and stop minority (and Democratic-leaning) voters from casting their ballots. It’s happening in Texas and of course in Georgia, where things are even worse than the chaos we described in last week’s newsletter (see the entry below).

Just last week in Georgia, a bus bringing Black voters to the polls was pulled over by police under some dubious pretense, waylaying dozens of people trying to exercise their democratic rights. The bus was a moving target, as it was emblazoned with the Black Voters Matter logo, which is sadly a kind of bullseye for vote-suppressing Georgian officials.

Meanwhile, over a thousand absentee ballots — again, mostly from Black and Latinx voters — have been rejected in Georgia for no good (or very minor, intentionally confusing) reasons. And even worse: over 100,000 voters were purged from the rolls there last year because they didn’t vote in the last few elections, which is the same lame justification Republicans used to justify Ohio’s mass voter purge (which was OK’d by the right-wing Supreme Court).

Luckily, the Democrats nominated an incredible activist in former State House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams. She began the New Georgia Project in 2014 to register close to a million voters in the state and her campaign has been vigilant about challenging both the bottleneck on new registrations and all of the irregularities at both the polls and with absentee ballots. They’ve created a network to have volunteers at every poll station in Georgia, a crucial effort that takes some real funds. And her work (and the work of the GOTV groups) is working, as Georgia is setting records for early voting turnout.

Abrams could not be more different than her opponent, GOP Secretary of State Brian Kemp, the man responsible for so much of the voter suppression. It’s really a microcosm of the choice America faces right now: a racist Republican who hates democracy enough to sabotage it, or a bold progressive Black woman who wants to make her state more equal and fair.

You can DONATE to Abrams’ campaign HERE.

In Kansas, another hub of voter suppression, polling places have been eliminated all over rural, minority-heavy districts. Kris Kobach, the architect of these schemes, is now running for governor in a neck-and-neck race with Laura Kelly, a progressive Democrat who would provide a fundamental change in a state that has been wrecked by tax breaks for the rich.

You can donate to Laura Kelly’s campaign HERE.

I have searched high and low for different groups that are giving voters rides to the polls, to combat the unfair voting site closures, but I have largely come up empty. Of course, that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. For example, an amazing grassroots group in PA called Lancaster Stands Up is doing this kind of work, but you wouldn’t know it if it weren’t for some profiles in progressive publications. (They are helping Jess King, one of our amazing endorsees for Congress, who you should seriously send a donation, because her victory would be absolutely game-changing in so many ways.) It’s just way harder to find these groups than it should be.

So one project we face beyond this November is creating an easier way to identify these groups nationwide and send them support. I am very much in favor of local activists making the decisions and leading the way, and hate when national party power brokers in the DCCC swoop in and basically install bland corporate candidates. But I also think it is absolutely necessary to support the local groups from afar with resources and money. Spotlighting and helping those groups will be a major initiative here at Progressives Everywhere going forward after November 6th. If you are part of a group doing this great work, please let me know: ProgressivesEverywhere@gmail.com!

There are a few great GOTV groups you can help right now, including the Black Voters Matter project and Vote Riders. They are doing such crucial work in the face of blatant obstruction and racism. You can DONATE to these GOTV groups HERE!

Early voting starts in Texas this coming week and obviously, all eyes will be on the race between Beto O’Rourke (a good person) and Ted Cruz (a very bad person). But there are other races in Texas where Democrats could score upsets — there are a record 15.8 million people registered to vote in Texas this year, a fact that portends well for Democrats. Along with competitive House races in suburban Houston that are listed as toss-ups, there are great progressive candidates who have an outside chance of turning long-red seats blue.

Here at Progressives Everywhere, we’ve profiled two inspiring candidates for Congress, Miguel Levario (TX-19) and Julie Oliver (TX-25), and I also wanted to flag Mike SiegelSri Preston Kulkarni, and Dayna Steele, progressives running strong races in TX-10, TX-22, and TX-36.

None of them are getting help from the DCCC, but they’ve all put together innovative campaigns — Kulkarni has phone banking in 13 languages! — and even winning one of those races would go a long way towards guaranteeing that we flip the House. Plus, are will activating progressive activists and are sure to get more Democratic votes than prior candidates, which is already great for party-building and makes donations to their races a great long-term investment even if they don’t win.

You can DONATE to Siegel, Kulkarni, and Steele via Progressive Everywhere’s main slate page on ActBlue — just make sure to select their names!

How to vote early and help end voter disenfranchisement

Election Day is technically on November 6th, but in many states across the country, voting has already begun — and in too many states, some people won’t be able to vote at all.

Early voting is an underutilized tool that can be incredibly beneficial to Democrats. The process varies from state to state, but voting casting a ballot in the weeks leading up to Election Day helps ensure a maximum number of votes, shortens lines at the polls for everyone else, and makes getting out the vote on November 6th that much easier.

There’s a reason why Republicans have sought to curtail early voting in so many states: it has historically been utilized most by working people and minorities.

Voting early helps strengthen democracy. If you’re interested in finding out if your state has opened early voting yet (or when it might start), Vote.org and the New York Times have you covered.

Trying to vote early will also help ensure that you’re not left hanging on Election Day due to the increasingly malicious schemes being run by Republican legislatures and Secretaries of State. Progressives Everywhere has focused a lot on voting rights over the last year, and this week, the national public finally took notice of an egregious but in no way atypical scam being run Brian Kemp, the Georgia Secretary of State and GOP candidate for governor.

There are currently 53,000 voter applications in limbo in Georgia because of unnamed “violations” of the Exact Match system that Georgia uses to disqualify voters. Just 10% of those registrations are from white people, while 70% belong to black voters. Kemp has since 2012 purged a whopping 1.5 million voters from the state books and closed 200 polling places, working diligently to disenfranchise the state’s growing minority population.

His history is a stark contrast to his Democratic opponent in the gubernatorial race, former State House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams, whose New Georgia Project worked to register 800,000 voters since 2014.

A coalition of civil rights groups have sued to get those 53,000 registrations confirmed in time for the election so people can fill out real ballots and not provisional ones, and Abrams is working hard to create a network of poll monitors and volunteers to make sure every vote is counted.

Here’s a pretty good summary:

Screen Shot 2018-10-17 at 5.53.58 AM

The race is neck and neck and Kemp’s only hope may be to steal this election. We can’t let that happen. You can donate to Abrams campaign HERE.

Unfortunately, this is just one of many voter suppression schemes. Here are just a taste of the others happening across the country:

How to make sure your vote isn’t stolen

The confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court is disheartening; the manner in which it went down, with misogynist aristocrats ramming through their classless manchild nominee and spitting in the face of women and assault survivors nationwide, was downright infuriating.

So let’s use that fury to change the country. First, make sure you are registered to vote HERE. In New York alone last month, there were legions of people who thought they were registered but has their names missing from the voter rolls when they went to cast a ballot in the primaries. Georgia and Ohio have purged over a million registered voters alone in the last few years. Other states are doing the same. So check to make sure you are registered, the send it to everyone you know.

If you find you aren’t registered, HERE is the registration deadline for every state in the country. Many still accept registrations.

And once you make sure you’re registered, it’s time to do help turn out the vote. Now that we are just a month away from Election Day, I want to focus on GOTV efforts. I’ve been wary of public polling, because they have been so often off the mark. But several polls released last week caught my eye not because they tracked any one race, but because they were meant to gauge voting habits by age and gender.

While the top lines look good for Democrats — a 5-10 point lead in generic ballots, a more motivated voter base (albeit a smaller advantage) — the demographics are troubling. Two separate polls showed that less than a third of young (18-29) voters are actually certain that they’re going to vote: Gallup had the number at 26%, while The Atlantic/PRRI poll put it at 28%. Compare that to older — and inherently more conservative — voters.

For context, Gallup found that 69% of voters 50-64 were certain to vote, and a whopping 82% of voters 65 and over were promising to cast a ballot. Atlantic/PRRI had the senior citizen cohort at 74% absolutely committed to voting.

Even with my skepticism about these polls, a conversation I had last week made me realize that we really do take for granted that party identification and candidate preference automatically translate into votes. I was shocked when a close friend of mine who falls into that 18-29 bracket and is definitely a liberal told me that he hadn’t registered to vote.

Now, I can’t totally blame young people (I’m 32) for feeling like voting is somewhat useless, because even with Obama in office for eight years, the deck continued to be stacked against us. Massive student debt, stagnant wages, limited opportunity, crappy healthcare — Democrats did not do enough to help young people and secure loyal and frequent voters.

But things are demonstrably worse under Republicans, who are teetering toward a mix of autocracy and terrorism, and 2018 is our one real shot at pushing back. We have to devote ourselves to turning out every potential voter we can, and there are a number of progressive organizations working to create unprecedented GOTV operations that will make that happen.

Here’s a look at some of them and how you can help them:

VoteRiders: A group devoted to both fighting Voter ID laws and helping the people who live under them navigate their complicated requirements, so that no one who shows up to vote gets turned away from some racist bureaucratic reason. You can donate to VoteRiders HERE.

Progressive Turnout Project: A grassroots organization that works in individual districts to turn out voters, going door-to-door and making phone calls to engage citizens on a local level. Their record of success is really impressive, starting with last year’s romp in Virginia.

Black Votes Matter: African-Americans are the most loyal Democratic voters, but too often they are either turned away at the polls or otherwise disengaged from what is in many cases a rigged system. But when they vote, Democrats win — 98% of black women voted for Doug Jones last year and helped make history. (There needs to be a conversation about how Democratic politicians need to work hard for their votes and not just pay lip service, which is a topic that must be addressed in 2019.) With so much on the line, Black Votes Matter has been touring the south and organizing local communities to take power, with a focus on winning elections this November.

Stand Up America: An advocacy and political action group active in the resistance over the last two years, Stand Up America has been providing volunteers to campaigns this election cycle, helping beef up Democratic presences in local races.

Make the Road Action: A New York-based advocacy group that is organizing Latinx citizens and workers to take on corporate power and corrupt politicians. The group has fanned out to states across the Northeast this election cycle to help activate Latinx and other voters.

CLICK HERE to donate to one or more of these groups via Progressives Everywhere’s ActBlue Page!

Julie Oliver, in TX-25, is running one of the most inspiring campaigns of 2018

After years of establishment Democrats running rote, indistinguishable TV ads and peddling cautious, focus-group-tested messaging, a wave of fresh, progressive candidates have decided to communicate like actual humans. Fresh faces such as Randy Bryce and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have produced a series of especially moving digital ads that have gone viral, and this week, even amidst the Kavanaugh calamity, a new progressive star was born.

Julie Oliver, who is running to represent Texas’s 25th district in Congress, narrates her own life story in the ad; she grew up in near-poverty and ran away from home as a teenager, squatting in abandoned buildings until she got pregnant at 17. Shunned by her boyfriend’s family, she returned home, where her mother agreed to help her — on the condition that she get back to school.

The rest is the sort of up-from-your-bootstraps American Dream success story that seems to only happen in movies or very hypothetical conservative scenarios: Oliver worked and raised her family while attending college and law school, and now at 45-years-old, she’s an accomplished lawyer and community leader running for Congress. Her experience makes her uniquely empathetic to the needs of working people, a quality in short supply in Washington today.

“We have a president who keeps me in this fight because we’re given reasons every day to fight or to stand in a fight with somebody,” Oliver told Progressives Everywhere last week. “Whether it’s immigrants, it’s kids who deserve a fantastic, great public education, or our veterans, I’m standing in the fight with them.”

CLICK HERE to donate to Julie Oliver via Progressives Everywhere’s ActBlue page!

Oliver felt compelled to run in the summer of 2017, during the heat of the GOP attempt to overturn Obamacare. She spent years working in healthcare finance and law and was intimately familiar with the issues facing both the system and individual patients — the cost of being uninsured, the stress on rural hospitals and clinics, and the still-too-high uninsured rate, which sits at 16.6% in Texas. The Republican obsession with exacerbating all those issues spurred her to action.

“A year ago when Congress met to repeal the ACA and didn’t have a plan to replace it, they just wanted to yank the rug out from under millions of Americans,” Oliver explained. “I said, this is so ludicrous that they would do this. Millions of people benefit from having healthcare coverage under the Affordable Care Act, and even though it’s not perfect, it works for a lot of people.”

She has personal stake in the ongoing fight, as her son has an immune system issue that would qualify as a pre-existing condition under any insurer. Her family would have been yet another to fall victim to medical bankruptcy had the ACA not guaranteed coverage. Having spent so much time in the healthcare industry, she is strongly in favor of moving to a Medicare for All system and suggests that should she win, she’d sponsor a House version of the Choose Medicare Act, which would create a public option and be a big first step toward a single-payer system.

After winning a close Democratic primary settled in a run-off election, her GOP opponent in the long, gerrymandered district is Rep. Roger Williams, who has been in office since 2011. Williams has accomplished little more than taking some photos with Donald Trump and collecting lobbyist donations. Oliver has sworn off all PAC donations and has an innovative proposal for creating a public campaign finance system, which would be funded by using Congress’s broad authority to levy taxes to tax Super PACs. It’s not a pipe dream, legally speaking — Oliver worked for years in tax law, and so she is intimately familiar with the ins and outs of our complicated system.

CLICK HERE to donate to Julie Oliver via Progressives Everywhere’s ActBlue page!

“Not taking PAC money really is so I can say that I want to be a representative for the district and for me to be able to talk to somebody who might not see eye-to-eye with me politically,” she said. “That’s a game-changer, when I say that I don’t take PAC money.”

Being in Texas means that there will be plenty of voters who are not immediately predisposed to voting for a progressive Democrat, if only due to years of fear-mongering by Republicans and half-hearted efforts by local Democrats. Oliver laments the toxicity of the current political climate and has resolved to overcome hurdles inherent to Democrats in Texas one voter at a time, even in a district that stretches over 400 miles.

While Williams has been criticized for being relatively absent from the community he represents, Oliver has dedicated herself to door-to-door campaigning, town halls and senior center visits, trying to create “the human-to-human touch that has been missing” over the last decade or more. The district, which stretches from Fort Worth to Austin, is a +11 Republican district, which is red, but not nearly as red as some of the other districts that have flipped already this year. And there is hunger for more change.

Watching the Kavanaugh hearings, as painful as they were, reminded her of just how different 2018 feels, of how the furor being experienced by women and anyone with a conscience has become so overpowering that no level of obstruction or institutional unfairness can stem the rising tide of rebellion.

“I believe that women are going to going to get woke, for lack of a better term, and they’re going to come out and vote,” Oliver, who has two adult daughters, said. “The misogyny and the patriarchy that we see that has been going on for a long time and coming down from the highest levels of office — we’ve got to smash it, smash the patriarchy.”

And no matter what happens in her race, she’s already doing her part to advance the cause of working people and inspire women with her action and her story.

“A dad reached out to me on Facebook yesterday and he said, ‘Your story is so eerily similar to my daughter’s. She’s pregnant now and she’ll be raising the baby by herself as a single mom. She didn’t think that she had a future,'” Oliver recalled. “And he said, ‘I started talking to her about you about a month ago, and then she saw your video and she texted me today and said that she had enrolled in her first college course.’ I just started crying.”

CLICK HERE to donate to Julie Oliver via Progressives Everywhere’s ActBlue page!