Beyond the bright lights of the presidential election, an almost unnoticed but potentially more critical political wave is becoming visible in state and local elections, as a growing number of progressive candidates, rising out of the grassroots, win key election victories. With more of them being women and people of color, they are changing the face of power.
The common link that unites many of them is their connection to People’s Action, a newly formed organization in 29 states, with 600 organizers, and a million volunteers, working to put progressive leaders into key political positions.
On Tuesday, in Minnesota’s primaries, Ilhan Omar defeated the longest-serving member of the Minnesota House, on her way to becoming the country’s first Somali-American legislator. She faces the Republican candidate in the November election. Omar, a neighborhood activist from Minneapolis, was endorsed by Take Action Minnesota.
In Vermont, home of Sen. Bernie Sanders, two of the biggest victories were claimed by candidates from the progressive side, including State Sen. David Zuckerman, who won the Democratic primary for lieutenant governor. Zuckerman was endorsed by Rights and Democracy, another People’s Action affiliate organization. Debbie Ingram, also endorsed by Rights and Democracy, won the Democratic state senate race.
Three of the candidates, including Ingram, were among the founders of Rights and Democracy.
“We could not be more thrilled with the Democratic primary results,” said James Haslam, executive director of Rights and Democracy. “Dave Zuckerman winning the lieutenant governor race is a progressive earthquake to Vermont’s political establishment.”
The key victories Tuesday come on top of earlier primary season wins – notably, that of the Washington candidate for a U.S. House seat Pramila Jayapal, the founder and former executive director of People’s Action affiliate OneAmerica, who was quickly endorsed by Sanders when she announced her campaign.
Lauded by The Nation as one of the biggest progressive victories of 2016, Jayapal’s march to Congress signals potential for a powerful political revolution and retaking of the House and Senate.
“It is incredible to witness our collective potential of how a grassroots people’s movement organization can impact the political system,” said Haslam.
“The political revolution lives and it is moving to the states,” said Ryan Greenwood, director of Movement Politics for People’s Action. “The bold change in Minnesota shows that people want very different politics from what we have. The key to upsetting establishment candidates is through permanent organizations that are supporting the progressive candidates and pushing them over the top.”