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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 and 2020, 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 Western Springs - Abby McEntee

 Headshot of Abby McEntee from Indivisible Western Springs

Indivisible Western Springs was quick to initiate an endorsement process for the 2020 primary between conservative incumbent Rep. Dan Lipinski and progressive challenger Marie Newman. They worked through the Coalition for Change in IL3 -- a coalition of Indivisible groups and progressive allies in the district -- to interview candidates, survey their membership, and with over 97% support from local Indivisibles, endorsed Marie Newman for IL-03. This wasn’t Indivisible Western Springs’ first effort to elect Marie Newman to Congress -- they also endorsed her in the 2018 midterms, about one month before her primary. Although Marie’s 2018 primary challenge fell just short of victory, group leader Abby McEntee felt the endorsement effort provided a valuable lesson for the future: it’s important to endorse early, “with lots of time to turn that endorsement into action.”

This time around, they issued their endorsement in September, a full six months ahead of the March primary, and then got to work -- knocking doors, phonebanking, and holding rallies. They had their work cut out: Dan Lipinski’s views as an anti-choice, anti-immigrant, anti-healthcare Democrat were clearly out of line with his district, but he held sway through the local political machine. After the local coalition nominated Marie for a national endorsement, Indivisible aided their grassroots work by sending mailers, buying digital ads, and running a textbanking program to get the word out about Marie. The Coalition for Change in IL3’s early endorsement in the 2020 cycle helped to engage more people, galvanize support, and hit the ground running to elect Marie Newman, who in her first term has served as a reliable progressive voice for the 3rd District.

Indivisible NJ5 - Susan Steinberg

 Headshot of Susan Steinberg from Indivisible NJ5 -

If you ask Group Leader Susan Steinberg about getting involved in elections, she’ll tell you, “The only time you’re going to make real change is in the primary.” Since his swearing in in 2017, NJ-05 has been represented by Josh Gottheimer, a conservative Democrat who has routinely dismissed opportunities to engage with his constituents, voted with Trump more often than 98% of fellow Democrats, and has a reputation for trying to derail progressive priorities.

Indivisible NJ5 was an early supporter of Arati Kreibich’s campaign to unseat Gottheimer. Indivisibles in the district knew her from the first Women’s March in 2016, worked with her on local issues, and saw her willingness to engage her community and push for progressive ideas. Susan worked with her group’s steering committee to develop an inclusive endorsement process that ensured everyone had an opportunity to offer input. Candidates were given a questionnaire to complete and return (Rep. Gottheimer did not return his), and the responses were provided to voting members to evaluate whether and who to endorse. In December 2019, Indivisible NJ5 members voted overwhelmingly to endorse Arati, and a national Indivisible endorsement followed in January 2020.

Although Arati did not win the primary, Susan feels Indivisible’s endorsement program is a huge value add for a candidate, especially if they aren’t as well known in the district. “Indivisible brings legitimacy to a candidate,” she said. “For somebody not particularly paying attention to what’s going on, they’ll hear Indivisible is involved and take a closer look and listen a little harder.”

Nashville Indivisible - Brady Watson

 Headshot of Brady Watson from Nashville Indivisible -

When Keeda Haynes announced her candidacy for TN-05, Indivisible Nashville immediately recognized her as a candidate who could represent the city Nashville had become, not the city it was when Jim Cooper took office in 2003. Keeda was a longshot -- the first serious primary contender Cooper faced since his election in 2002 -- but Group Leader Brady Watson did not shy away from making an endorsement in the race. "The whole point of endorsing sometimes is to move people on issues, even if you can’t win,” he said. “If you ever hope to make change, you gotta start somewhere."

In May 2020, Indivisible Nashville developed a questionnaire asking candidates about their stances on important local issues like affordable housing, urban development, and workers’ rights. They invited candidates who had completed & returned their questionnaires to a forum and, after the forum, surveyed their group and the attendees of the forum. Keeda was the undisputed top choice. A national Indivisible endorsement followed in June, and along with it a textbanking campaign to spread the word about her campaign.

In the end, Keeda’s longshot campaign earned an astonishing 40% of the vote, something Brady knows was made possible by the exposure Indivisible’s endorsement brought to the race. “The endorsement elevated her and shifted the conversation.” In the wake of her challenge, Rep. Cooper has shifted to the left on some issues, notably dropping his long-held opposition to DC statehood. Keeda also made a lasting impact in TN-05: Brady has already started to see strong challengers jump into the 2022 primary, something he attributes directly to Keeda. “She helped show what was possible and gave other folks the confidence that they could do it.”

Indivisible Northampton - Beth Lev & Indivisible MA Coalition Coordinating Board Member - Deb Paul

 Headshot of Beth Lev  Headshot of Indivisible MA Coalition Coordinating Board Member - Deb Paul

Ed Markey won a hard-fought primary against Joe Kennedy last cycle due in no small part to the work the Massachusetts Indivisibles did to secure a national endorsement for Markey. Indivisible Northampton, led by group leader Beth Lev, was quick to rally around Sen. Markey, issuing an endorsement for him in March 2020, which opened the door to a statewide national endorsement. “Ed was someone we were pretty pleased with, particularly his leadership around the Green New Deal,” said Lev. “We thought he was a good Senator.” Coordinating a statewide endorsement in a primary can be intimidating, but Deb Paul, who sits on the Indivisible MA Coalition’s Coordinating Board, was clear on what course of action to take: “If your incumbent is good and aligned, don’t primary them! Endorse them!” When Indivisible’s national endorsement was announced in June, Markey was trailing in the polls by as much as 16 points. He ended up winning the September primary by 11 points.

The national endorsement not only amplified Markey’s campaign, but Indivisible used its national peer-to-peer infrastructure to have volunteers send nearly half a million texts to voters for Markey. The national endorsement also came with the major investment of sending mailers to voters that highlighted Markey’s endorsements from fellow progressives. For Deb, these crucial investments “help get voters to take a closer look at who’s running. People know who to rally around and start paying more attention.”

An engaged electorate in the primary proved crucial in the general election, too. In November, Markey won a commanding victory with 66% of the vote, the highest in a MA Senate race in 14 years. Massachusetts leaders came out exhausted, but proud and ready to continue the work with their progressive Senator. Beth also notes that “endorsing was good for our organization, especially because our candidate won and we had something to do with that. We’re seen as a group that matters.”

For a deeper dive into the 2020 MA Senate race and our national endorsement, check out this resource.

Franklin County Continuing the Political Revolution - Ken Eisenstein

 Headshot of Ken Eisenstein -

When Alex Morse announced he was running to unseat Richie Neal, Franklin County Continuing the Political Revolution knew they had a powerful and accessible candidate and champion for progressive values. FCCPR quickly got to work on a local endorsement, polling their members on who should get the full backing of the group. Overwhelmingly, FCCPR members chose Alex Morse as their preferred candidate, endorsing him in December 2019. Indivisible National got involved in short order, announcing our endorsement of Morse in January 2020.

For FCCPR activist Ken Eisenstein, accessibility is huge when you have an incumbent who refuses to hold town halls or meaningfully interact with his constituents. Ken described his representative as “opposed to and antagonistic towards” progressive priorities and has refused meetings with FCCPR, sending an aide instead. “It’s our job as constituents to question what our reps are doing and make sure they’re doing a good job,” says Ken. “You should have nothing to fear, standing in front of your constituents.”

The investment from the national endorsement “legitimized the campaign and leveled the playing field. It gave this race credibility and standing and force, and made unaware people aware of Alex as a viable candidate,” says Ken. “It made us work a lot harder to know that we had wind in our sails and substantial support for this race.” Although Morse came up short, Ken knows Neal’s time in Congress is just about up and is ready to “pour effort into unseating Neal in 2022.”

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.”