In her HuffPo article, “Democrats In Illinois Just Unseated A Whole Bunch Of Republicans: They’re local races, but they fit with an emerging trend that could mean big trouble for the GOP in 2018,” Jennifer Bendery provides an encouraging report for Democrats. Some excerpts:
In a spate of local elections last week in Illinois, Democrats picked up seats in places they’ve never won before.
The city of Kankakee elected its first African-American, Democratic mayor. West Deerfield Township will be led entirely by Democrats for the first time. Elgin Township voted for “a complete changeover,”flipping to an all-Democratic board. Normal Township elected Democratic supervisors and trustees to run its board ― the first time in more than 100 years that a single Democrat has held a seat.
“We had a pretty good day,” said Dan Kovats, executive director of the Illinois Democratic County Chairmen’s Association. “We won in areas we normally would win, but we also won in areas Republicans never expected us to be competitive in. They were caught flat-footed.”
But, it’s not just Illinois, as Bendery adds:
…a Democratic congressional candidate in Kansas nearly pulled off a shocking win in a heavily Republican district. In Georgia, 30-year-old Democratic newcomer Jon Ossoff is outpacing his GOP rivals in a race to replace former Rep. Tom Price. The seat has long been Republican and was once held by former Speaker Newt Gingrich. These races come after a Democratic state Senate candidate in Delaware, buoyed by anti-Trump activism, annihilated her GOP challenger in an election that’s traditionally been close.
The mechanism that fired the grass roots victories in Illinois just may provide a workable template for local groups around the country. Bendery explains:
In the case of Illinois, a number of Democrats who just won got a boost from a program launched by Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.) called Build The Bench. It’s an all-day boot camp that offers nuts-and-bolts details for running a successful campaign. Bustos came up with the idea last year when she noticed a dearth of new Democratic candidates for Congress, and decided the best way to help build up her party’s ranks was at the local level.
She’s held two boot camps in her district so far ― The Huffington Post attended one of them in March ― and she’s already seeing tremendous payoff. Twelve Build The Bench alumni ran for local seats in this election cycle, and eight of them won. A ninth alum, Rita Ali, is currently down by one vote in her race for Peoria City Council.
“I am incredibly proud that the majority of our graduates who were on the ballot in April municipal elections won their races,” said Bustos. “If we want to be successful in the heartland, we need to connect Democratic candidates for office at all levels with the best practices, skills and expertise needed to run winning campaigns.”
Democrats face a steep, uphill battle to reverse the devasting effects of Republican gerrymandering in federal, state and local elective office districts. But it’s good to know that creative grass-roots initiatives are emerging, and good Democratic candidates are coming forward.