2018 Endorsement Success Stories

When we launched the first version of this endorsement guide in November 2017, our goal was simple: to give Indivisibles the tools they need to wield power in the electoral process. Over the course of 2018, we saw how local groups across the country took this guide and put their own spin on it. We’ve seen groups use endorsements as a powerful tool in both primary and general elections, in red, blue, and purple districts, in open seats and seats with an incumbent. 

We talked to Group Leaders to hear how they used endorsements and why it was the right tool for them. We’ve also added anecdotes and photos from these Group Leaders throughout the guide. As you think through the role endorsements will play in your group this cycle, we hope these stories will be helpful.

Indivisible Action Tampa Bay - Christine Hanna

 Headshot of Christine Hanna from Indivisible Action Tampa BayIndivisible Action Tampa Bay was one of the earliest supporters of Andrew Gillum’s long-shot candidacy in Florida’s Democratic gubernatorial primary. Mayor Gillum earned their endorsement in April of 2018 with 82% of their group’s vote, but they were interested in Gillum as early as July 2017. The group submitted Gillum for our national endorsements program, and by July 2018, we were happy to endorse him nationally. That’s when we hit the ground running. Building on Indivisible Action Tampa Bay’s diligent work knocking on doors, making phone calls, and sending texts, the national team directed considerable resources toward earned media (press) assistance, digital advertising, and mailers in support of Gillum’s candidacy. 

Gillum’s come-from-behind primary win surprised Florida’s party establishment and invigorated the progressive grassroots. “There is no way in hell he would have earned the nomination if it wasn’t for us. Our group did that,” says Group Leader Christine Hanna. She feels that endorsing in the primary not only gave early validation to an underdog candidate, but also gave the group a significant head start in organizing a ground game. 

“The Democratic Party doesn’t do anything in the primary in Florida - they don’t get involved. So our goal was to build an army of people that candidates could just plug into once nominated,” she said. They knew their turf, were trained on canvassing, and were willing to do the work when the party was nowhere to be found. Gillum ultimately lost to Republican Ron DeSantis by a fraction of a percent - about 30,000 votes out of over 8 million cast. But he was the right candidate to build the multiracial coalition we’ll need to win Florida in the long term, and he’s still doing that work today. Hanna considers the endorsement a victory: “It’s about having the conversations at the door. It’s about doing the right thing and living our values.”

Indivisible NW IL-Crystal Lake - Evelyn Malone

Headshot of Evelyn Malone from Indivisible NW IL-Crystal LakeIndivisible Crystal Lake first started seriously thinking about endorsements when the first version of our Endorsements Guide was released in November 2017. It was something they had considered, but lacked a framework to make it happen. As they worked their way through the guide and followed its steps, Group Leader Evelyn Malone says it became apparent that “we didn’t really have anything to lose by endorsing.” 

After the Illinois primary, and after a process that lasted about 10 weeks, they endorsed both Lauren Underwood and Sean Casten in their respective House races. Both went on to defeat their Republican opponents, flipping the seats after decades of Republican dominance. The group still stays in regular contact with both Congressional offices, and members continue to attend town halls and other in-district events, ensuring a responsive elected.

Indivisible Lumpkin - Marisa Pyle & Judy Kreps

Headshot of Judy from Indivisible LumpkinHeadshot of Marisa from Indivisible LumpkinWhen Indivisible Lumpkin first heard Josh McCall speak, they knew he had something special. “He was incredible. Literally anyone who spoke to him or listened to him was a convert,” says Group Leader Judy Kreps. The only problem was Georgia 9th is deeply red territory. It’s an area that, according to Kreps, the state Democratic party has written off for years, and rarely spends any time or money on. 

But that didn’t stop Indivisible Lumpkin from organizing. After inviting both McCall and his primary opponent to their regular meetings, the group voted on an endorsement with a threshold of 2/3rd of the vote. They almost unanimously endorsed McCall. They hit the doors hard, and ultimately McCall saw a 4% swing for Democrats on Election Day. Organizing in deep red turf like this can help Democrats upticket on nailbiter races -- the Georgia governor’s race was decided by only 55,000 votes. As Group Leader Marisa Pyle said, “We are not in our lifetime going to flip that district. But 4% is important -- that’s a win.”

Long Valley Indivisible - Brenda Sheeder Nast

Headshot of Brenda from Long Valley IndivisibleIn this northern New Jersey race, local grassroots organizations joined together to form an umbrella coalition called NJ7 Forward, focused on defeating Republican incumbent Leonard Lance. Long Valley Indivisible was among several Indivisibles in the coalition.

Group Leader Brenda Sheeder Nast felt that working in concert with other groups “definitely was a huge advantage, and it really did make our work easier.” She recalls that there were 7 excellent candidates in the Democratic primary, and being part of the coalition allowed the group to spend more time engaging voters, while the broader coalition took care of pre-screening candidates and hosting debates. By the time of the primary, there were 3 candidates left in the race. Among them was Tom Malinowski, who won the nomination, the coalition’s endorsement, and ultimately defeated Lance. Just because your group is small doesn’t mean you can’t have a significant impact on elections -- working together with allied groups can grow your influence. 

Indivisible Valley of the Sun - Pinny Sheoran

Headshot of Pinny from Indivisible Valley of the SunIndivisible Valley of the Sun endorsed Hiral Tipirneni in her race to take on Republican Debbie Lesko, who had won a special election for the seat earlier that year. Group Leader Pinny Sheoran felt that, while the process did reveal different preferences among group members, the endorsement ultimately solidified Tipirneni’s position in the race. She describes it as “like a job interview for candidates, because they’ll be working for us!”. 

Her biggest piece of advice is to stick to a fair and transparent process for evaluating and voting on candidates, so you can endorse based on reliable data. Although Tipirneni came up short in November, she outperformed expectations and made solid inroads in a district long held by Republicans. As the national party starts to take interest in newly competitive districts across Arizona, Indivisible Valley of the Sun is ready to hit the ground running in 2020.