RDI held a briefing for our funding partners to reflect on the midterm elections.

We learned about rural wins from Megan Hess, Todd Zimmer, Dreama Caldwell, and Carrie Santoro, the amazing leaders of We the People MichiganDown Home North Carolina, and Pennsylvania Stands Up. These victories changed the trajectories of their states – cementing progressive majorities in all three branches of government in Michigan, flipping the State House in Pennsylvania, and thwarting a conservative supermajority in North Carolina. RDI’s Sarah Jaynes presented the numbers and analysis behind exciting rural gains, and what this means for our 2024 plans.

Images: We the People Michigan (at top); Pennsylvania Stands Up (above)

Key takeaways

  • Long-term organizing matters. Winning rural legislative candidates in all three states started as volunteers with these grassroots groups 3-5 years ago, where they developed their skills, profiles and relationships with voters in the community.
  • With working-class candidates who are well known and active in the community, we can win in rural places while sticking with progressive values. For example, migrant farmworkers mobilized 1000+ voters in their community for northern Michigan’s Betsy Coffia, who they knew would be a champion on their issues.
  • We should not shy away from talking about economic issues. Pennsylvania Stands Up described how the Winning Jobs Narrative helped their canvassers have more persuasive conversations with working-class voters.
  • Increasingly diverse small towns and small cities, as well as “country-politan” districts that include metro areas mixed with lots of rural turf that is often ignored by campaigns, offer some of the best opportunities for political gains.
  • Early investment is key. With $10,000 in April, you can hire an organizer who can recruit dozens of volunteers and leaders and have exponential impact compared to $10,000 in October.