How we won in Virginia

We started this journey by saying that Democrats hadn’t been doing a lot of winning recently. Last week changed that. Not only did Democrats hold all three statewide offices in Virginia, they picked up FIFTEEN House of Delegate seats, and two races are being recounted right now. The House of Delegates went from being 34–66 in favor of the Republicans to Democrats holding at least 49 seats. EveryDistrict-endorsed candidates David Reid, Lee Carter, Schuyler VanValkenburg, Debra Rodman, Cheryl Turpin, Hala Ayala, Elizabeth Guzman, Dawn Adams, Wendy Gooditis, and Kelly Fowler all won their races, and Delegate John Bell was re-elected. Donte Tanner and Shelly Simonds are currently in the middle of recounts.

How did this happen? First, people stepped up to run for office. Not people with political ambitions, but teachers, professors, veterans, and small business owners who were frustrated with the direction of the country and who decided to make a difference. Democrats also ran the largest number of candidates in recent years. While Democrats contested 56 seats in 2015, 67 seats in 2013, and 54 seats in 2011, they had candidates running in 88 districts this year. We believe that Democrats can run and win everywhere, and last week showed it.

Second, Democrats raised money. A constellation of groups — flippable, Run for Something, The Arena, Forward Majority, Win Virginia, NDRC, Future Now, Sister District — came together to give these candidates the support they needed to run strong, progressive campaigns that focused on local issues. And while different groups chose to support different candidates, we all focused on the “Hillary 17” in some capacity, which gave Democrats a strategy. We focused on more purple races that weren’t receiving as much attention and support to help expand the map.

Third, Democrats organized. In recent years, Democrats have only focused on the top of the ticket, under the thesis that a strong top of the ticket will bring downballot gains. That hadn’t happened in Virginia. Despite winning all three statewide offices in 2013, Democrats only held 34 seats in the House of Delegates. What changed this time was not only the number of candidates running and the financial support they received, but that these candidates organized and knocked on doors. And groups like Mobilize and Let America Vote built new tools and brought volunteers to help knock those doors. Virginia proved that a strong bottom of the ticket isn’t a drag on the top of the ticket — it’s an essential part of any statewide campaign.

So, what’s next? After the 2016 election, there was a lot of soul searching in the Democratic Party about the path forward. Election Day 2017 showed that what’s really needed is a return to basics. And Democrats need to find good candidates to run everywhere because broad-based change isn’t going to happen by just flipping a handful of seats.

In other states, they key to winning will be strong candidates, early financial support, and on-the-ground organizing. Just as the “Hillary 17” paved the road map for how to rebuild power in Virginia, we’ve identified approximately 170 districts nationwide that would reshape the map across 2018 and 2019. Many of these districts are similar to those we won in Virginia on Tuesday — suburban, well-educated districts that have been trending Democratic. Others are Obama-Trump seats that will require different approaches and strategies to win back the white working class and get Democratic voters who sat out in 2016 excited about 2018. In the coming days, we’ll be writing more about how to win there — and sharing some groundbreaking maps, too.

Thanks to everyone who played a part in what happened in Virginia this year, David ReidLee CarterSchuyler VanValkenburg, Debra RodmanCheryl TurpinHala AyalaElizabeth GuzmanDawn AdamsKelly FowlerWendy GooditisDanica RoemChris HurstKathy TranKarrie Delaney, and Jennifer Carroll Foy will get to represent their constituents in Richmond next year. That’s a pretty great thing. It means real leadership on issues like health care, transportation, education, and gun safety. It’s the kind of leadership that we need in Every District.

So, join us. You can make a donation to help us get started. And follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook, and sign up for our email list to learn how we’ll take back even more seats next year.