The Sister District Project harnesses the energy of volunteers in deeply blue (or red) places and channels it to where it can make a real impact. We are a network of local teams that support strategically important, winnable races across the country.
In 2017, our focus is down-ballot on critical state and local races where Democratic control hangs in the balance.
Together, we will ensure that all Americans have equal representation and our government works for all people, not just the minority in power.
We envision a model of civic engagement that is national in its reach and local in its intensity. Our plan is to build a grassroots network of volunteers to channel blue resources to nearby red areas where small, focused boosts can make an impact. When you sign up to volunteer, you will be connected with your local Sister District team, which is led by volunteer District Captains. Your team will be matched with a strategically important and winnable race that needs your help, and you will be given specific actions to take to support that race. Actions may include (but are not limited to) donating money, spreading the word on social media, phone banking, and canvassing. Sister District will be in direct contact with the campaigns we support and we will have specific action items from the campaign for volunteers to take on.
In 2017, we are building regional teams to support a small number of down-ballot races across the country. We will choose winnable races that have significance to the progressive mission, though they may not be "sexy." Winning these races will help us build a strong bench of compelling progressive candidates immediately, and will help us to win national races in the long-term.
In 2018, we will continue supporting key local and state elections, and we will also channel volunteer resources toward swing districts with the goal of taking back the House.
On November 8, 2016, Democrat Hillary Clinton won the popular vote for president by almost three million votes. Over the past decade, Democrats have, in several instances, won more net votes than Republicans in elections for Congress and state legislatures, yet Republicans continue to dominate both legislative bodies. Despite the majority of the country's voters voting Democrat, this year Republicans claimed 55% of the seats in the House of Representatives and 32 state governments. Republicans are now just six states short of having the power to amend the Constitution. What is happening?
State governments have the power to draw congressional districts. After President Obama was elected in 2008, Republican elites enacted a plan called REDMAP where they began spending millions of dollars to take control of what is now 32 state governments. Their plan worked, and gaining control of state governments allowed them to gerrymander congressional districts, pass voter suppression laws, and grasp a disproportionate amount of power in the House of Representatives and state legislatures. As a result of these tactics, the majority of American voices are being silenced on both the state and federal levels.
The geographical separation of blue and red voters and the "packing" of progressive voters into dark blue districts leaves many blue voters feeling helpless. Those who live in dark blue areas are often choosing between two progressive candidates; those votes feel wasted and volunteer efforts are not particularly necessary. There is a desire in blue communities to help progressive counterparts in red districts, particularly swing districts, across the country, but the opportunities seem largely abstract.
The Sister District Project aims to allow people to transcend the lines drawn by partisan politicians and bring communities together based on the issues and values they share. It is designed to target significant local, state, and national elections that could swing blue (or need help staying blue) and provide them with volunteers in close geographic proximity that can channel their energy toward the goal of winning specific important elections. With this targeted, individualized approach, volunteers will have a discrete and specific goal with measurable success. One by one, we will flip and secure these races for progressive candidates. In so doing, we will re-build the pipeline of progressive candidates at the state and local levels, we will win back state governments and bring fairness to redistricting, and in 2018, we will take back the House and ensure that all Americans have an equal voice in Congress.
Since the election, we have spoken with dozens of people, including elected officials, candidates, political operatives, activists, entrepreneurs, and other engaged individuals, who are determined to change the electoral map. Through these discussions as well as our independent research, the following three principles emerged that will guide the direction of this project.
1. STATE ELECTIONS ARE KEY
Our original plan was to flip 24 seats in the House of Representatives in 2018 to give Democrats the majority. However, because of Republican gerrymandering, there are structural barriers that will make this difficult no matter how many volunteers we have. We believe the better approach right now is to focus on local and state races that would give democrats a strategic advantage and, if we win, will make it easier to win national elections.
2. the democratic pipeline needs work
In order to win seats at the national level, we have to cultivate and support good Democratic candidates at the local and state levels. The Democratic party has largely abandoned state and local races, which leaves us with few good national candidates, making it hard or impossible for us to win those races. We need to focus on sub-national races and candidates in order to grow the pipeline for national office.
3. Democrats need to donate more money
Republicans outspend Democrats on state elections by a ratio of four to one. Money is the single most important factor that will determine whether a candidate will succeed, especially early in the campaign, and a donation goes much further for a candidate with a small budget than a national candidate. If you can, open up your checkbook.