First, welcome to substack! I have migrated the newsletter to a new platform, after too many people were letting me know that lists were ending up in their spam folders and that they were having trouble sharing content. Now you can find links to the newsletters here: gretchen.substack.com. (Substack also allows you to comment and share directly on the newsletter landing page.) I hope this will make it easier for all of you to read/share/engage in conversation.
Second, I want to thank you! In my last issue, I shared this slate of progressive Black women running for district attorney across the country. Thanks to your generosity and outreach, we’ve raised over $4,425 for these races. (And I’m happy to report Shalena Cook Jones won her primary in Georgia, so all five women are still in the running — please keep the donations coming!)
July Question: What about long-shot races?
I’m emailing today from Ketchum, Idaho, where my family has been social distancing outside of the city, allowing my children to alternate between river swimming and bike riding while wearing as little clothing as possible, all in their quest to become fully feral. While in Idaho, I’ve been thinking especially about Paulette Jordan, who is running for Senate here. Paulette is a Native woman from the Coueur d’Alene tribe in northern Idaho, and a former member of the Idaho House of Representatives. She ran for governor in 2018, and ultimately lost by 21 points. (I encourage you to read this deep-dive on that race to get an understanding of who she is as a person and a candidate; it’s written by Anne Helen Petersen, one of my favorite writers on Western America.)
Then I got an email from a fellow donor asking about Paula Jean Swearengin, who is running for the US Senate from West Virginia. She is the daughter and grand-daughter of coal miners, with a deep focus on what West Virginia will do when the market for coal is gone. Paula Jean also primaried Joe Manchin (a general waste of a Democratic Senate seat, if not space generally) in 2018, which she lost by 39 points. (That race is featured in Netflix’s documentary Knock Down the House, alongside Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Cori Bush — definitely worth a watch.)
I believe putting your name on a ballot is one of the more courageous things Americans can do, but that is especially true when you’re a woman (of color), and even more so when the odds of victory are quite small. Both Paulette and Paula Jean are real progressives, with deep connections to their states, and both would be brilliant senators. I can’t say that giving to their campaigns is strategic, really, in service of the goal of winning back the Senate. But I will say a few more things:
Doug Jones was a long-shot candidate until the Republicans nominated a sexual predator, but he might still not have won unless he was qualified and could make a case that engaged the Black Democratic voters in Alabama. Given that Republicans continue to nominate some of the worst people, it’s worth nominating good candidates everywhere.
You don’t have to look too far back to when Virginia and North Carolina were solidly Republican states; you don’t have to look too far ahead to see that Texas and Georgia will soon be swing states. Elevating good candidates and building progressive bases takes time and prolonged grassroots effort. We can’t write off any states if we want to continue building majorities for this generation and beyond.
Joe Manchin is 72 years old. He won’t be in the Senate forever. And Paula Jean has now spent two cycles hustling across West Virginia, making connections, and building state-wide name recognition. She'd be a great successor for him when he retires (and certainly a better Senator than he is!). It’s worth considering how far into the future you want to invest by supporting her now.
Again, if you have limited resources and want to be laser-focused on ensuring a Democratic majority in the Senate in 2020, I don’t think these races are your best bets. But if you feel connected to these states or these candidates for whatever reason, I think you should feel good about supporting them, and the futures they represent for their states.
Race to Watch: Sara Gideon for US Senate, Maine
Sara Gideon is the Speaker of the House in Maine, a daughter of immigrants, and a mother of three. She ran for her first office after someone tried to recruit her husband to run, and she decided there was no way he was going to spend any more time out of the house leaving her alone with their young children. (A slightly sanitized version of that story is featured in her announcement ad above.) As Speaker, Sara ensured the Maine House was a check on hyperconservative Governor Paul LePage (who billed himself as "Trump before Trump"), pulling together bipartisan votes to override some of his most damaging vetoes.
I was so proud to host Sara Gideon last August on her first fundraising trip to San Francisco; partially because she is an Emerge alumna, partially because I was excited to back anyone challenging Susan Collins. The more I have gotten to know Sara, the more impressed I am with her. In more recent candidate events, I've seen her settle into a comfortable way of connecting with donors, speaking up for Mainers, and gently eviscerating Susan Collins. But I also know that, as a woman of color, she's working harder to fundraise than men who are running in less competitive races. We know Mitch McConnell will ensure Susan Collins has every penny she needs; we need to make sure Sara does, too. (And if you need any more motivation, here it is.)
Below in the July events, there are three opportunities to hear from Sara at different price points. You can also go to my full list of candidates and click on Sara’s name (she is, conveniently, the first one listed) and give to here there.
July Virtual Events
July 8th, 5pm PT: This is a bang-for-your-buck event. Give $100 and come meet four Senatorial candidates: Sara Gideon (Maine), Theresa Greenfield (Iowa), Jamie Harrison (South Carolina), and Senator Doug Jones (Alabama). As you know, the Senate is an absolute priority this cycle, and these races are key to ensuring a Democratic majority. If you’re new to giving to candidates and want to have a chance to hear from them directly for a relatively low price point, I really hope you’ll join this event. RSVP and contribute here.
July 14th, 5pm PT: Join me to Stand With Black Congresswomen on the Frontline, an event hosted by Congresswoman Barbara Lee, the most senior woman of color in congressional leadership, in support of Congresswoman Jahana Hayes (CT-05), Congresswoman Lucy McBath (GA-06), and Congresswoman Lauren Underwood (IL-14). Before running for Congress, Jahana was a public school teacher (and Connecticut’s Teacher of the Year!), Lucy was a gun control activist after tragically losing her son to gun violence, and Lauren was a nurse and a member of Obama’s Department of Health and Human Services. These Congresswomen are truly incredible leaders, and I hope you’ll join us to hear from them. RSVP and contribute here.
July 29th, 12pm PT. Join Electing Women Bay Area for Sara Gideon in conversation with Samantha Power, former US Ambassador to the United Nations. You can read all about Sara above; this is the best way to meet her if you want to have a more in-depth, smaller group conversation about her race while directly supporting her campaign. RSVP and contribute here.
Emerge #LeadersMatter Salon Series. Emerge's annual fundraiser was canceled this year, so I hope you'll be able to join some of these truly excellent virtual events. The salon series is open for Emerge Leadership Circle members, but I am able to bring a (free!) guest to each one (just email me if you'd like to join). Register here.
July 10th, 11am PT: “Why women for attorney general?” with Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey. (I met Maura Healey on inauguration day in 2017, and there was no one more fired up to take on Trump. Come hear from her!)
July 21, 2pm PT: A Conversation with Sara Gideon. Yes, it’s another way to hear from Sara — that’s how excited everyone is about this race! Come hear about her experience as an Emerge alumna, and what being part of a network of women has meant for her career as a politician.
July 28th, 10am PT: Making History with Pete Buttigieg. Join this conversation with Mayor Pete to learn about what breaking barriers and reflective democracy means at this moment.
I hope you all have a 4th of July that fully embraces the spirit of overthrowing tyrants, and celebrates the rights of the people to institute a new government that serves their safety and happiness.
P.S. If you’re feeling ambitious and want a deep-dive on women’s races across the country, check out this list of Women Donors for Women Candidates: 100 Races to Fund in 2020 that I prepared with several of my WDN Action sisters.
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. My goals are to help others find their networks and feel more comfortable and informed participating in the political giving space.