2022 Election Analysis
This year, our network of over 100 groups and leaders engaged hundreds of thousands of people in rural areas, small towns, and small cities. We changed electoral outcomes and built political power that will endure past the election. The 2022 Midterm Election had many hopeful and bright spots, along with surprises, many incredible learning opportunities, and of course some tough disappointments.
We saw an outpouring of rural and small-town voters choosing leaders who would defend their rights, help them access health care and quality jobs, bring down costs, and protect clean air and water. This powerful network changed people’s lives with decisive contributions to the Supreme Court race in Montana, legislative wins that prevented a supermajority in North Carolina, and helping Governor Evers hang on in rural Wisconsin. Groups engaged new voters to participate, forged stronger coalitions to stand up for shared prosperity, and helped support and develop new leaders to mobilize their communities. These efforts mean more families will have access to what they need to build a good life, like abortion care, voting rights, and affordable housing.
Photo Above: Down Home North Carolina
KEYS TO SUCCESS
Rural margins matter
A fundamental RDI premise is that gains of 3-5% in small towns and rural areas will swing statewide outcomes. This is exactly what we are seeing in critical Senate and Governor races in states like Pennsylvania, Arizona, Wisconsin, and Kansas.
- The Daily Yonder writes that rural voters in Pennsylvania moved 2.4% compared to the 2020 presidential race. This swing, combined with higher rural turnout for Fetterman, resulted in a net rural gain of more than 110,000 votes. Fetterman won by about 82,000 votes.
- Pinal county, Arizona, home of RAZE, improved margins for Sen. Mark Kelly by 3.6%.
- In northern and western Wisconsin, Governor Evers gained 1.5-3% compared to Biden.
- Rural and small city voters in Kansas swung 10.7% for Governor Laura Kelly, compared to 2020. That’s a 140,000 vote swing in an election decided by 15,000 votes. Meanwhile, Rep. Sharice Davids won reelection by 11 points in a very challenging gerrymandered district. Voters supported constitutional protections by voting to retain six Supreme Court Judges.
Rural voters are progressive on issues
The American Election Eve Poll shows impressive small town and rural support for issues like abortion, health care, and climate. This is reflected in resounding wins on important ballot measures in rural states.
- Ballot measures protecting abortion rights won in four rural states: Kentucky, Michigan, Montana, and Vermont
- Missouri voted to legalize marijuana
- Nebraska and Nevada voted to increase the minimum wage
- South Dakota voted to expand Medicaid
- Arizona approved tuition equity for Dreamers and protections against predatory medical debt
West Virginia Can't Wait candidate Joe Solomon engaging voters
High-quality local candidates + deep local organizing
Grassroots candidates recruited and supported by the RDI network were behind pivotal legislative and local wins that mobilized votes up the ballot.
- Betsy Coffia, rural organizing lead for We the People Michigan (on leave for the campaign), won a boldly progressive grassroots campaign in rural northern Michigan’s 103rd district. Powered by a coalition — including migrant farm workers who couldn’t vote yet passionately mobilized their neighbors who could, Coffia’s campaign, along with Jenn Hill in the nearby 109th, flipped the state House.
- Rural voters in North Carolina fended off a conservative legislative supermajority. Down Home NC knocked on 35,000 rural doors in Cabarrus County for their endorsed candidate, challenger Diamond Staton Williams, a working-class Black nurse. She won by 425 votes.
- In rural Granville County, which is 40% Black, Down Home NC members also helped elect the first Black sheriff in the 276-year history of the county.
- West Virginia Can’t Wait’s intensive organizing and non-partisan progressive populist message resulted in 11 new municipal and legislative wins, bringing the number of WVCW elected leaders to 24. Prior to the election, we partnered with Public News Service to cover these races, broadcasting on 13 West Virginia news outlets.
- Faith In Minnesota created relational organizing teams that worked closely with local and state candidates. They won 4 state House seats and 1 state Senate race, contributing to flipping the state Senate as well as statewide wins for Governor Walz and Attorney General Ellison.
- Montana Rural Voters’ endorsed candidate, Paul Tuss, head of the economic development association in the small agricultural and railroad town of Havre, defeated incumbent Ed Hill in HD 28. Biden got less than 41% of the vote in this district. Paul serves on the local hospital board and will be a leader on healthcare, tax credits for working families, education, and more.
Alaska Rep. Mary Peltola's campaign ad highlights fishing and economic messages
Rural = working people
Rural America is 70% working class. Working people want candidates who reflect their values, including hard work and taking care of their families and communities. They want economic opportunity, and also the freedom to vote and make their own healthcare decisions.
The Winning Jobs Narrative (WJN) helped many rural campaigns deliver a compelling message to working people — from the door-knocking scripts for PA Stands Up, to top-testing ads in razor-close Nevada. Contrary to what you hear from the pundits, the WJN post-election analysis of all television ad spending showed Democrats aired 200,000 more spots focused on pocketbook issues like jobs, health care, social security, and prescription drugs.
Newly elected John Fetterman opened his victory speech noting who he will fight for as Senator: "For every small town, for every person left behind, for everyone that has ever lost a job, for every factory that was closed, for every person that works hard but never got ahead."
New Alaska Rep. Mary Peltola’s campaign was a model for connecting with working class voters. Championing a “Pro-Jobs, Pro-Fish, Pro-Family and Pro-Choice” message, Peltola is currently leading the congressional race and is poised to win the instant runoff voting election.
DEMOCRACY NEVER SLEEPS!
Protecting our democracy
We are facing an ongoing battle to ensure a full and accurate vote count in states and municipalities across the country. Statewide coalitions prepared for these challenges for the past several months, ensuring that small town election officials, local media, and community leaders join together to defend pro-democracy outcomes. This year, we successfully maintained a functional and secure process where voters can cast their ballots and expect their votes to be counted. However, barriers to voting, voter intimidation, and partisan districting have limited the ability of voters to elect their preferred leaders.
Once again, the fate of the Senate rests on the powerful shoulders of the Black-led coalition in Georgia. The runoff campaigns have already kicked off, and we’ve joined with our donors and partners across the country to support this important effort. We recommend timely donations to Georgia Alliance for Progress and 1000 Women Strong.
As we look ahead, we know there are no “off years.” None of these successes would be possible without the creative, passionate, year-round leadership of rural leaders. Building off our momentum, we will continue to support rural people working to transform their lives and communities in service of shared prosperity and democracy.