Written by Desi Franklin
One hot summer day two years ago, my neighbor Robert Donati and I sat on my front porch, talking politics. With so many local, state and Congressional elections coming up in 2018 and 2019, we agreed it was important to start to gather a group of politically like minded people and work to recruit, support and elect strong candidates with progressive values in these upcoming local elections.
But first, there was a presidential election to get behind us. Little did we know that day just how important it would be, far more than we could know at the time, to embark on Future901’s work to turn strategic local and state offices from red to blue.
We held our first meet and greet fundraiser on January 20, 2017, the day of Donald Trump’s inauguration, when over 100 Memphis progressives gathered at Wanda and Don Donati’s home to lick our wounds, raise a glass with friends and turn the page on that election. We committed to work hard to change the terrible course that was already being set in Nashville and Washington.
Since then, we’ve built a strong steering committee of local progressive activists who’ve dedicated hours to plotting our vision and strategy, and who are invested financially and with their time in Future901’s work.
In 2017, we recruited scores of volunteers for phone banking and canvassing to help the Tennessee Democratic Party clean up voter data for future get out the vote efforts. To date, we’ve recruited, vetted and endorsed 9 candidates for the Shelby County Commission, Shelby County Mayor and Tennessee House and Senate. We’ve held numerous meet and greet fundraisers in 2018 where we’ve raised over $40,000, both in amounts contributed to our PAC and seed money contributed directly to the campaigns we support. We’ve created a social media presence and published regular monthly e-newsletters highlighting issues that are important to progressive voters.
Why are we doing all this?
Because we believe creating the community we want, governed by progressive people and policies, requires sustained efforts on several fronts that are frequently unglamorous but are nevertheless essential. That means building relationships with other activists and educating voters locally, across Tennessee and nationally. It means creating a volunteer network to call on voters. It means raising meaningful funds to support our work, primarily from small dollar donations. It means helping candidates by providing them with seed money to run successful campaigns.
Just as it’s vital to support experienced local candidates who are running for a higher office, it’s also vital to support those stepping into the political arena for the first time who have vision and are passionate and willing to work hard to get elected. By supporting strong candidates for local offices, not only do we help creat more equitable local policies, but we also build our bench of future state and federal office holders. And by electing progressives to state office we can positively influence decisions that affect all Tennesseans in our daily lives such as voting rights, criminal justice reform, affordable healthcare, access to reproductive health services and common sense gun laws.
We’re working to elect leaders who are committed to making Memphis and Tennessee successful places to live, where everyone has the opportunity to benefit from that success. Creating a framework to support progressive candidates financially and to turn out voters to elect them is how we will start moving the needle, here in Memphis and Tennessee (and nationally).
There’s never been a more important time to turn local, legislative and statewide offices from Republican to Democratic. We need your help as we work to make this happen. Please contact us if you’re interested in getting involved. Or donate to Future901 - whether it’s $5 or $500, and especially if you can sign up for a recurring contribution, you’ll be helping our community achieve these goals.
Written by Desi Franklin