Ex-Clinton staffer: 8,000 millennial Democrats have told our new group they want to run for office

Garance Franke-Ruta
Senior Politics Editor
On Election Day 2016, people vote at a polling place set up at the Kenter Canyon Elementary School in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Nick Ut, file)

LOCAL TALK. A postelection political action committee founded by the email director of the Hillary Clinton campaign to encourage millennial Democrats to run for state and local offices reports that more than 8,000 people have taken the first step toward becoming candidates.

“We thought we’d have to hustle to get even 100 people who’d want to run,” the group, Run for Something, reported in a Medium post Sunday.

According to the organization, “8,000 people raising their hand to say they want to run — in just two months — was beyond our wildest dreams. If even 1% of that 8,000 actually end up getting on the ballot at any level of government — what a difference that will make in our country and our party.”

Contacted by Yahoo News, Run for Something founder Amanda Litman explained what she thought was behind that astonishing number.

“People are angry is the big reason. They are angry and they are committed. They are not letting their outrage die down,” she said of the potential candidates, who have found her group through word of mouth, online ads and news stories.

Expressing interest in running for office is only first step, of course. There are many hoops to jump through on the path toward running for office, and Run for Something aims to help light the way. After registering interest in offices ranging from the PTA to city councils to statehouses and state Senates, potential candidates are invited to join an initial conference call, and then, if they’re really serious, to have a one-on-one interview with a political professional affiliated with the group.

So far the organization has conducted more than 500 one-on-one interviews with prospective candidates, “which is pretty bananas,” said Litman.

“Instead of just marching and venting, they are willing to put their lives on the line and alter their careers to do it,” she noted. These committed candidates then get added to a Slack group — an online chat program used by business to coordinate internal communications across many different topics or channels. They also are connected to resources and training on topics as diverse as how to launch a website or do a Facebook Live broadcast, as well as how to file to be on their local ballot. They have access to a digital mentorship network of experienced Democratic Party political operatives, including individuals who worked for both Clinton and her rival, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders — “free consulting from experts,” Litman calls it.

Two months after getting on ballots, the candidates can apply for funding — up to 15 percent of the average cost of the race they want to run — from Run for Something if they meet one of two thresholds: either having already raised 15 percent of the average cost of their race themselves, or presenting a very thorough campaign plan.

“It sounds like a lot of money, but … most of these races are pretty cheap — 75 percent of school board races cost $1,000 or less,” says Litman.

MEETUP GOES RETRO. This went down in February but did not get a lot of attention outside business circles until this Associated Press story over the weekend: Meetup, the group that made its name in 2003 and 2004 when Howard Dean supporters used the then-new technology to organize grass-roots support for his insurgent presidential campaign, is getting political in the age of Trump.

“For almost 15 years, Meetup has served as an organizing platform for a wide range of political parties and movements, welcoming everyone from the Howard Deaniacs to the Tea Party,” the company announced on Medium, the publisher of choice for the political technology world, in February. “‘We’re vital plumbing for democracy,’ we always said. Before today, our company had never taken a partisan stance. It’s not a decision we take lightly. But after Donald Trump’s order to block people on the basis of nationality and religion, a line had been crossed. At a time when core democratic ideals felt under attack, we looked at our members’ response, and were inspired by Meetups like SF Resist. We felt a duty to spark more activity and broaden civic participation.”

The group “literally stopped Meetup in its tracks — paused operations — to gather for a hackathon. The effort resulted in 1,000 new Meetup Groups under the hashtag #Resist. It announced the new groups to its 30 million members. And it partnered with organizations including Planned Parenthood, the Anti-Defamation League, Amnesty International, the Human Rights Campaign, the Women’s March, and many others who are contributing to a library of ideas for making change,” reported Fortune at the time.

“It’s a risky move for a tech company that has helped millions come together to share interests of all kinds, from hiking to languages to President Donald Trump himself. But it reflects an increasing willingness of some major technology firms to push back against the Republican president,” observed the AP’s Steve Peoples.

But they’re not alone in that effort. “About 40 technology companies met privately this month in New York City to brainstorm ways to push back against Trump policies on immigration, transgender protections, women’s health and arts funding, as well as more traditional technology issues like net neutrality and encryption,” he reported.