Election Day 2017: Wins at the state and local level, fueled by the grassroots

Hi, I’m Rachael from the Outreach Team at ActBlue, stopping by the blog to talk about the (amazing) outcome we saw this past Election Day. I work with state and local candidates and teach them how to use our platform to build campaigns funded by small-dollar donors. I’ve been traveling across the country in 2017 doing this work, and I’ve gotten to see firsthand the incredible surge of folks getting involved in politics at the state and local level since the 2016 election.

We talk a lot on our blog about the huge impact small-dollar donors have on campaigns and organizations across the country, and we’re proud to make that possible with our tools at ActBlue. The 2017 elections were a great reminder that donors and activists are making a bigger difference than ever, and that when small-dollar donors chip in to support the candidates they care about, those folks have the resources to win their races. During this month’s elections, Democrats picked up Republican seats in deep-red Georgia and flipped control of the legislature in Washington. The first openly transgender woman, Danica Roem, was elected to the Virginia state house. The first black woman, Vi Lyles, was elected mayor of Charlotte, NC, and the first woman, Joyce Craig, was elected mayor of Manchester, the largest city in New Hampshire. And those are just a few of the biggest highlights.

My team and I were excited to see so many of the Democrats we work with have a successful election night. And it was amazing to see voters and activists so invested in campaigns at the state and local level. Why exactly were they so enthusiastic to help out and vote for these candidates? Voters now have a clear picture of how things go when Republicans are in charge, and thankfully, a lot of people took advantage of their first chance to show they don’t approve. What else? People ran for office. It’s that simple. Instead of allowing Republican incumbents to hold on to their power any longer, Democrats came forward to run against them. And these candidates built winning races with help from grassroots donors, who chipped in what they could to support their efforts.

In Virginia specifically, state and local campaigns raised over $12 million in 2017 from over 200K contributions made by small-dollar donors using ActBlue. And that’s compared to over $3.4 million raised from 33K contributions in Virginia’s state and local elections in 2015. (Note: There was not a VA governor’s race in 2015.) And the contributions for this year’s races paid off big time. Political strategists were pretty adamant that Democrats didn’t have any chance to take back the Virginia House this year, but of the 17 seats we needed to flip to win the majority, we flipped 15 and nearly toppled the GOP’s power. And 12 of those 15 candidates beat a Republican incumbent. To top it all off, 100% of the challengers who beat Republican incumbents in Virginia used ActBlue to raise small-dollar donations and build their campaigns from the bottom up.

We’ve been working hard to expand our reach in local jurisdictions this year, so we can help candidates in every race build winning grassroots campaigns, just like they were able to in Virginia. Our compliance staffers have cleared 100 jurisdictions so far in 2017, and those are all places where new candidates can now use ActBlue to fund their campaigns. And as we expand further, staffers like me are getting out on the ground in these areas to train candidates on the best practices of small-dollar fundraising. We truly believe in the power of grassroots donors, and we know candidates can build winning campaigns when their supporters chip in $5 or $10 online. In fact, small-dollar donations are especially impactful at the state and local level where candidates typically don’t need to raise millions of dollars in order to build a winning campaign.

That’s why we’re doing this work — so you can give to local and state campaigns in every election, at every level, and help create real change in your communities. You might not be able to volunteer to knock doors for every race, but you can make a difference in the work being done to bring Democrats and their policies to the state and local level. Groups like Indivisible, Flippable, and Run for Something are great resources for voters and small-dollar donors to learn about important races all over the US. And aside from contributing and volunteering, you can actually run for office. Since the 2016 elections, more groups and resources to support new candidates have sprung up than ever before. We even celebrated the first ever National Run for Office Day this month with Run for Something, where folks at the ActBlue office heard from Boston City Councilor-Elect Lydia Edwards, the first woman to ever hold her seat. It’s becoming clear that if you have the passion and drive you can run for office and you can win. And at ActBlue, we’ve got the tools to help first-time candidates build powerful movements. Who knows, you just may be the next state representative, mayor, or city councilor to go on to become the President of the United States.

We want to hear from you so we can help! Who are you supporting? What are you running for and where? You can check out the local jurisdictions we’ve cleared here. If you’re running for an office that we don’t currently have listed, reach out to us at info@actblue.com and we’ll work to get that cleared. And if you have questions about running for any office from the top of the ticket on down, just drop us a line at info@actblue.com.

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