Earlier this spring, we met Marni Rubin, a wine seller and educator from San Carlos, who channeled her frustration about the 2016 election into political activism. She helped launch the South Bay chapter of the Sister District Project, a fledgling female-led progressive group determined to turn America blue—one state-level district at a time.
Well, results from the most-anticipated midterm elections in living memory are in, and Sister District-backed candidates managed to push a blue wave (or depending on your sense of scale, a ripple) to take back the House, and some state legislatures along with it.
“Though we have a mostly blue California, we were able to help the big blue wave nationwide through organizations like Sister District,” Rubin said in a follow-up interview with San Jose Inside.
Through phone-banking, texting, canvassing, fundraising, an appearance by former presidential candidate Martin O’Malley, and even an arts and crafts fair, the local Sister District chapter raised over $157,000 for progressive candidates across the nation. They mailed out 7,500 postcards, made 4,476 phone calls and sent over 6,000 texts. “The really fun part,” Rubin said, “is letting people plug in to do something for democracy.”
At Sister District South Bay, Rubin’s main goal was to flip two seats in the Colorado State Senate—a District 16 race supporting challenger Tammy Story and a District 24 race supporting incumbent Faith Winter—to hand the state’s legislature to Democrats.
Sister District’s plan is part of a larger initiative to achieve more blue “trifectas”— states in which Democrats control the governorship, the state senate and the assembly—in toss-up districts across the nation. That often means leaving pristine Tahoe-blue districts in California behind and pursuing assembly and state senate races for swing districts in red-to-purple states like Virginia and New Mexico.
“Since we have a Democratic legislature, many Democratic congressional representatives and two Democratic senators here in California, it often feels like we can't really make a difference,” Rubin said. “Knowing that we can help candidates outside of California with resources and voter contact helps me, and our volunteers, feel much more effective, and that's there's something we can do to bring about progressive change.”
Rubin joined her fellow Sister District compatriots at a local Round Table Pizza last month to watch the 2018 midterm results come in. As the night continued, it was apparent that Democrats would indeed—as predicted—win the House.
“There were about six or seven of us [Sister District South Bay members] there,” Rubin said. “It was very exciting to get live results.”
But, most importantly, both Story and Winter would win their state races and give Colorado a trifecta. That’s a farm team victory which Rubin hopes will set up a major league-win in 2020. All from the ground up.
For Sister District, that’s where the big wins lie. “[Sister District] candidates won 16 of 24 races,” Rubin said. “Overall, we achieved our goal of moving the needle left.”
Dems did however, lose ground in the U.S. Senate, and they’re still split between a progressive and legacy-driven caucus both in the House and in state legislatures in the South and Midwest. Despite all that, Rubin believes Sister District has paved some critical inroads to a more progressive government. Post-midterms, Sister District is looking to partner with fellow progressive organizations and more organizations led by people of color to diversify their political push.
“We’re trying to start a movement that will last,” Rubin said. “I’m really proud of it. It’s something to last past any election.”