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Where Will the Next Generation of Democratic Party Leaders Come From?

Amanda Litman and Ross Morales Rocketto started Run For Something not to merely resist Trump, but to shape the future

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 25:  Run for Something Co-Founder Amanda Litman speaks onstage during Global Citizen - Movement Makers at The Times Center on September 25, 2018 in New York City.  (Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images for Global Citizen)

Run for Something Co-Founder Amanda Litman speaks onstage during Global Citizen - Movement Makers at The Times Center on September 25th, 2018 in New York City.

Noam Galai/Getty Images

WASHINGTON — After Donald Trump won the 2016 presidential election, Amanda Litman, 27 years old and living in New York, started hearing from old high school and college friends. She says she was the only person they knew who worked in politics — she’d had jobs on Obama’s reelection campaign in 2012 and Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid four years later. “It seems like fucking anyone can run for office these days,” Litman recalls her friends telling her. “So what do I do if I want to run for city council?”

She didn’t have an answer. The more Litman thought about it, she tells Rolling Stone, if you were young and excited about politics and wanted to do more than vote or volunteer — if you wanted to actually lead — there was no dominant organization set up specifically to help you do that. So on Inauguration Day 2017, Litman and Ross Morales Rocketto, a 15-year veteran of progressive politics who shared many of her same concerns, launched a new political action committee called Run for Something.

It began as a one-stop-shop website where young people keen on running for office could declare their intention and get one-on-one advice from Litman and Morales Rocketto. It didn’t matter if the would-be candidate was eyeing a seat on the local school board or the state house; if they were serious, Run for Something was there to help.

Litman and Morales Rocketto figured Run for Something would be their hobby, expecting maybe 100 sign-ups in the first year. Instead, 1,000 people signed up in the first week. These people were fired up by Trump’s victory, Litman says, but they weren’t running explicitly to fight Trump. “People talked about how they were pissed off about jobs, or the opioid crisis, or about healthcare, or transportation issues in their community,” she says.

Today, nearly 20,000 millennials have told Run for Something that they want to run for public office. Litman’s group has formally endorsed more than 650 candidates in 48 states. A recent survey by Run for Something found that 30 percent of identifiable candidates who signed up and got on the ballot were women of color; 28 percent were men of color. (White men made up just 20 percent of the candidate pool and were the least likely to make the leap from would-be candidate to reaching the ballot.) And of candidates that have already appeared on the ballot, more than half have won.

Litman and Morales Rocketto helped create National Run for Office Day — the first was on November 14th, 2017, the first Tuesday of November after Election Day — which led to 2,500 people signing up in a 24-hour span. Earlier this year, Run for Something launched a campaign in Florida to recruit state-level candidates to challenge NRA-backed incumbents. All the while, the group has kept a laser-like focus on state-level, down-ballot races. The way they see it, that’s where future the Barack Obamas will get their start.

Litman and Morales Rocketto bristle when you refer to Run for Something as a “resistance” group. The way they see it, they’re not resisting Trump; they’re laying the groundwork for the future. “We’re building real power now on the Democratic and progressive side for the first time in a while,” Morales Rocketto says.

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