Gretchen's List: April 2022
Last week, I had a conversation last week with a Senator about the current gap in Democratic messaging. I used the Postal Service Reform Act — which President Biden is signing today! — as an example. This is a sweeping bill to modernize the post office, ensure 6-day service, and provide ongoing support for the agency. No one knows about this! Why, I asked this Senator, aren’t Democrats talking about this in a values-based way? The Postal Service is as old as the country — it represents a commitment to keeping the American people connected to people and the free exchange of ideas. It reaches every community in this country; it delivered your ballot last November and all of your holiday presents last December; it delivered your COVID tests in January. Next month, it will take your Mother’s Day card wherever it needs to go, whether that be to Alaska on a seaplane or to the Grand Canyon on a mule. USPS actually completes the last-mile delivery for many for-profit companies in rural parts of the country, where maintaining the full routes is deemed not profitable. And we saved it! The Democrats saved it! This is a commitment to American connection and innovation and we should be celebrating it as such and messaging it everywhere we go! This was, I pointed out, one very specific example. The Democrats should be doing this for everything, was my point. You can make something as routine as mail delivery exciting and rooted in American values when you do it correctly. Please, I asked this Senator, could they go forth and encourage their colleagues to do so? In follow-up conversations, my enthusiasm for the postal service was, apparently, noted. “Do you think they understand this was just an example? And that I think they should be doing this for everything?” I asked my husband. “Whatever, stamp nerd,” he replied.
I believe we are doing much of the work that we can be doing right now. But I do not know that we are winning elections.
I feel like these frustrations — the political headwinds of the moment, this lack of unified messaging and deliverable purpose — are keep many of us from being excited about many of the leaders that we have helped to elect. It’s hard to stayed galvanized and feel a sense of excitement and urgency.
But! This is why I am here. I am truly very inspired by the leaders that I connect with regularly — they are smart, principled, candid, and passionate; I would not recommend a single person I didn’t believe in. Thus, I present: How To Actually Be Excited and Not Just Doing this Because Democracy Is in an Ongoing Existential Crisis, or Gretchen’s Guide to Donor-Candidate Matchmaking.
If you’re excited to fund Stacey Abrams because you want to elect a Democratic ticket to statewide office in Georgia, you should consider also funding Jenn Jordan for Attorney General and Bee Nguyen for Secretary of State.
If you’re excited to fund Gretchen Whitmer because you believe in a pipeline of women in executive office, consider investing in fellow once-and-future women governors Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire for her Senate re-election and Katie Hobbs for her gubernatorial race in Arizona.
If you’re excited to fund Mark Kelly or Raphael Warnock because you were excited to support them in 2020 and help flip the Senate, do not forget to support Catherine Cortez Masto, Maggie Hassan, and Cheri Beasley as soon as possible, to ensure they have as much of a majority as we can manage.
If you’re excited to fund Beto O’Rourke then Gretchen Whitmer (Michigan), Steve Sisolak (Nevada), and Tony Evers (Wisconsin), also need your support in their gubernatorial races in swing states.
In general, if you’re excited to fund any gubernatorial candidate also consider any efforts to make sure that that governor will have a more favorable or competitive state legislature with which to work. For example, I love Represent PA to help flip the Pennsylvania statehouse with more women candidates, which would ensure a future Governor Shapiro can get a lot more done, and also makes me less irate about the fact that both the Senate and Governor nominees in Pennsylvania will, once again, be white men.
Let me know if I can help you find a race that will help you be excited this cycle. Or if you need someone to wax poetic to you about the postal service.
Planning Your 2022 Political Giving
It’s now been just over two years since I started writing this newsletter, with the aim of helping people be slightly more strategic, considerably more confident, and much more excited about their engagement in political giving. A lot has changed in the last two years: Donald Trump is no longer President, so he’s no longer fueling the fire of rage and anxiety giving on a daily basis. Most donors, at every level, are feeling burnt out, or disillusioned, or both. More resources (Blue Tent, for example), have popped up to try to fill the exact same gap in the conversation, and more coverage is devoted to the various ways that donors could have and should continue to spend their money more wisely. Plus — so much of the polling was off just enough in 2020, and so many of the races were so saturated with money (especially the Senate races, and especially after Justice Ginsburg’s death), that I look back at my own recommendations and roll my eyes. (As Jon Lovett said on this week’s Lovett or Leave It when asked about the lack of a secure Senate majority (around 28:00): “When we only got 50 seats, because Cal Cunningham likes to fuck, and I don’t know what happened in Maine… the result is we have to find out what Kyrsten Sinema is doing 24 hours a day.”)
The net result is that we’re all working in a smarter ecosystem, but we’re all tired, and we’re all jaded. What I’ve heard from people is the need to keep things simple. You don’t want to spend a lot of time and energy on this — so I’m going to work to give you tools to move money to candidates who need it, and in as few transactions as possible. And, if I can help you find someone running who does spark excitement at this moment, all the better.
The Three Buckets: State Governance, US Senate, US House
I suggest that you think of you high-level giving as split between state governance (governors, secretaries of state, attorneys general — this could also include lieutenant governors, controllers, but for my purposes, here, does not), US Senate, and US House. (There are also state legislatures. I have to save something for future months.) For your quick reference, here are my giving slates:
State Governance Giving Slate. Focus here to gain or retain a gubernatorial veto on Republican-held legislatures; elect Attorneys General that will provide a check on any potential Republican administration; elect Secretaries of State to protect election security and access to the ballot in key Electoral College states.
US Senate Giving Slate. Focus here to maintain and grow the Senate majority so we can stop talking about Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema; protect our ability to confirm federal judicial nominees, including SCOTUS.
US House Giving Slate. Focus here to maintain, grow, or at least minimize losses to our House majority, so that we can pass as much of President Biden’s agenda as possible, and — should the majority be lost — regain it in 2024.
State Governance. I wrote extensively about state governance giving in December. I’ve updated the slate with additional races that have gained clarity or competitiveness since then. Below is a tentative list of gubernatorial funding priorities, based on my subjective assessment of competitiveness, need for funding, and importance of holding the seat. Most of these candidates (those in bold) are on the current state governance slate, as are their corresponding Secretary of State and Attorney General candidates.
2022 Funding Priorities: Governors
Tony Evers, Wisconsin
Gretchen Whitmer, Michigan
Steve Sisolak, Nevada
Stacey Abrams, Georgia
Josh Shapiro, Pennsylvania
Katie Hobbs, Arizona
Tim Walz, Minnesota
Beto O’Rourke, Texas
US Senate. Again, with a lean towards incumbent protection and a less bullish assessment of the map, here is where I would lean towards funding Senate candidates at the moment based on vulnerability and need for support. Those in bold are all on this Senate slate; I will add the Pennsylvania nominee next month, and I will consider adding Bennet should polling put him close enough to a challenger to justify the need. I am watching the Wisconsin primary closely.
2022 Funding Priorities: The US Senate
Catherine Cortez Masto, Nevada
Maggie Hassan, New Hampshire
Mark Kelly, Arizona
Raphael Warnock, Georgia
Eventual Nominee, Pennsylvania
Cheri Beasley, North Carolina
Eventual Nominee, Wisconsin
Michael Bennet, Colorado
Val Demings, Florida
Eventual Nominee, Ohio
US House. I’ve written a lot about the House already, including the odds the we will lose the majority (probable, not definitive), what all these retirements mean (not as much as everyone else is saying they will), how we’ve done in redistricting (pretty well!).
This first list of House candidates reflect the intersection of frontline priorities and my personal priorities, in that I chose the ten most vulnerable incumbent women in the House. They are all champions, and they are all exceptional candidates who I expect to run above the generic Democratic ballot — which they will likely have to do to hold their seats in their new districts. All ten of them were first elected in 2018, and are fighting for their third term.
2022 Funding Priorities: US House (Protection)
Susan Wild (PA-07)
Elissa Slotkin (MI-07)
Abigail Spanberger (VA-7)
Sharice Davids (KS-03)
Cindy Axne (IA-03)
Kim Schrier (WA-08)
Susie Lee (NV-3)
Angie Craig (MN-2)
Chrissy Houlahan (PA-06)
Lauren Underwood (IL-14)
But in our concern about losing seats (see all of the above races), I think we’ve neglected to consider where we aren’t playing the full board like we should. There are now 16 Congressional seats held by Republicans where Donald Trump won only 50-54% of the vote in 2020, and where Democrats haven’t mounted a credible, well-funded challenger. These seats would be tough to win in 2022, but they could be very winnable in another cycle or two. Neglecting to even run a solid candidate with a well-funded campaign in these districts — while overfunding challengers to Marjorie Taylor Greene, who will never lose to a Democrat in her district — represents a concession that Democrats cannot afford to make in the long run. It means neglecting the pipeline, losing contacts with voters, allowing ground game to atrophy. It’s why investing in campaigns that are riskier bets this cycle is still worth your money, especially if it’s a strong candidate who could come back stronger in 2024. That’s why I added this second groups of candidates that I think are longer-shots for 2022 wins, but who are running smart campaigns in districts where Democrats must be ready to play for cycles to come. We are leaving enough Republicans without meaningful challengers — we need to make sure those who are offering credible challengers are well-funded.
2022 Funding Priorities: US House (Growth)
Christina Bohannan (IA-1)
Liz Mathis (IA-2)
Hillary Scholten (MI-3)
Emilia Sykes (OH-13)
Jackie Gordon (NY-1)
Yadira Caraveo (CO-8)
Thanks to redistricting, some of these seats may be easier wins than some of our holds.
On April 12th, meet and greet conversations in both San Francisco and Palo Alto are planned with Nan Whaley, candidate for governor of Ohio. Later this month, on April 27th and 28th, Katie Hobbs, candidate for governor of Arizona will be in the Bay Area. If you’re interested in meeting either of these candidates, please let me know and I can pass along the details once they are finalized!
Otherwise — it’s spring break, and we’re still recovering from a March Marathon before end-of quarter, so we’re light on events. Take a breather and we’ll see you soon!
Donor, sociologist, researcher. Board member at WDN Action and Emerge America, and steering committee member at Electing Women Bay Area -- but all content here is mine alone and not on behalf of any organization or business. My goals are to help others find their networks and feel more comfortable and informed participating in the political giving space.
Currently reading: Torn Part: How the Child Welfare System Destroys Black Families — And How Abolition Can Build a Safer World by Dorothy Roberts