By BEN JEALOUS
People For the American Way
While President Donald Trump continues to hog media attention with his dishonest “stolen election” claims, we should devote some attention to the good news that a diverse group of young progressive leaders were elected to office all across the country this year.
People For the American Way’s Next Up Victory Fund supports young progressive candidates who demonstrate leadership ability and a commitment to making positive change. Since 2017 we have helped more than 300 promising and accomplished young progressives get elected to state and local office.
This year, some of our endorsed candidates were running for office for the first time. Some were running for reelection. Some were stepping up to a position of greater responsibility. A majority were women, and more than two-thirds were Black, Indigenous or people of color. Eighty-five of them will be serving their communities in public office next year, and some of them will be helping to lead our nation in the years ahead.
Here are a few of the 2020 success stories that can give us all hope for a brighter future.
Baltimore City Council President Brandon Scott was elected the city’s youngest mayor since 1904. He was first elected to the city council in 2011 when he was just 27 years old, and he had already built a record of community service work. Next Up endorsed Scott in the primary election based on his record of fighting for better schools, working to end gun violence, and improving opportunities and wages for working families.
Christian Menefee became the first Black person and the youngest person ever elected as District Attorney in Harris County, Texas. Harris County’s population is greater than the population of more than half the states. Next Up endorsed Menefee as part of a slate of candidates committed to stopping unjust police killings of civilians and protecting Black and Brown communities through greater accountability for law enforcement.
In Florida, Nancy Metayer was elected to the Coral Springs City Commission. An environmental scientist and public health advocate, Metayer is the first Black woman and only the second Black person to serve on the commission in the city’s history.
In North Carolina, Ricky Hurtado became the first Latino Democrat to be elected to the state legislature and Nida Allam was elected to the Durham County Commission, making her the first Muslim woman elected to any office in the state.
Rebecca Mitchell was part of the success story in Georgia this year. She was elected to House District 106, unseating the powerful Republican House Ways and Means Committee chairman.
In addition to the importance of putting a diverse group of talented people in office, the excitement generated by these candidates can have “upballot” effects – boosting congressional and presidential candidates by increasing turnout. According to TIME, part of the story in Georgia this year, where Next Up endorsed 17 candidates was “unprecedented youth voter turnout.”
The success of so many young progressive leaders is a hopeful affirmation that America’s future does not belong to white supremacists or politicians who try to delegitimize and disenfranchise Black voters. Our future belongs to Americans who embrace our destiny as a diverse, multiracial, multicultural democracy.
We all know that everyone doesn’t share that vision. Some are fighting it tooth and nail. One of the most harmful legacies of the Trump era is the way that he energized extremists and created a climate in which people could feel comfortable expressing their bigotry.
Those are all reasons why it is so important that we invest in young people who have a clear sense of where we are, where we need to go, and what it will take to get us there. We can’t wait to see the great things these young winners will accomplish in the years ahead.
Ben Jealous serves as president of People For the American Way and People For the American Way Foundation. Jealous was the youngest president and CEO of the NAACP. He was a Rhodes Scholar at Columbia University and Oxford and has taught at Princeton and the University of Pennsylvania.