7 Reasons Democrats Need to Run for Office Everywhere Every Time

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4 mins read
Graphic via Pixabay.

I saw the above tweet earlier, and it’s been bothering me ever since. I understand the inclination. I’ve almost certainly been guilty of saying similar things in the past. But today I want to focus on why Democrats need to run for office everywhere every time.

  1. You can’t win if you don’t compete.
  2. Sometimes the Republican turns out to be a really bad candidate, or a scandal breaks late in the game. If there’s not a Democrat on the ballot, Democrats can’t take advantage. (Think Roy Moore in Alabama in 2017.)
  3. If you want to build a movement you need to start by showing people that they’re not alone. There’s no better way to show Democrats in red districts that they’re part of a community than by having a candidate to rally around.
  4. Democrats who run in these districts will tell you that when they go out canvassing people tell them that NO politicians ever talk to them. Democrats stopped trying in those districts, and Republicans run unchallenged and don’t bother to campaign. If nothing else, Democrats running forces Republicans to actually come back to their home districts and talk to their constituents. Or risk losing. No representative, Republican or Democrat, should get an automatic pass to keep their job without having to come back and campaign.
  5. In 2016, in the West Virginia 3rd Congressional District the Republican defeated the Democrat 67.9%-24%. In 2018, in the exact same district, the Republican defeated the Democrat 56.4%-43.6%. Yes, the Republican still won, but that’s a huge shift in one cycle. With the right candidate in the right district anything is possible.
  6. Voter turnout in the US is low even in presidential years. In 2016, only 55.7% of the voting age population of the US voted. There are a lot of reasons for that, including voter suppression and disenfranchisement. If Democrats don’t run, Democrats don’t vote and get out of the habit of voting. If exciting Democratic candidates run, they can increase turnout, and suddenly districts can look a lot more competitive (think about Stacey Abrams in Georgia and Beto O’Rourke in Texas).
  7. Except for special elections, candidates are almost never alone on the ballot. A candidate who doesn’t win his or her own race can still affect races up- or down- ballot. Beto didn’t win the US Senate race in Texas, but his presence at the top of the ticket helped flip down-ballot seats. In a really red district in a purple state, a down-ballot Democratic candidate running a strong campaign can help bring out voters for up-ballot races. Imagine what might have happened if a few more Democratic voters had come out in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin in 2016.

So next time you’re tempted to think a district or race isn’t worth it, remember that Democrats should be running everywhere every time. We won’t win every race, and we shouldn’t expect to. But it’s always important to be in the race.


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Born on the 4th of July, Kelly has always been a firecracker, leading a revolution of girls sitting at the boys’ lunch table in 2nd grade and founding Young Independents in high school. Since earning her Masters, Kelly has spent the past 15 years as a university administrator. In the fall of 2017, Kelly co-created the Two Broads Talking Politics Podcast with her friend Sophy. As producer and co-host, Kelly quickly built the podcast into a nationally recognized interview show, featuring Democratic candidates, activists, and authors around the country. She lives in Chicago with her husband & two sons.

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