21st Century Democrats was founded as a PAC in 1985 by Iowa Senator Tom Harkin, Representative Dale Evans of Illinois, and Jim Hightower of Texas – the populist organizer, columnist, author, and Texas Ag Commissioner from 1982-1991. The founders are no longer active in the organization, but its mission remains ” to give progressive and populist candidates the support they need to win elections”
21st Century Dems has emerged as one of the most biggest PACs on the national scene. In 2004, they raised $7 million – according to Wikipedia, only three progressive national PACs raised more money that year (ACT, EMILY’s List, and MoveOn). Traditionally, PACs are all about raising money, and clearly 21st Century Dems has grown into a powerhouse in that field.
But, rather untraditionally, 21st Century Dems’ focus is recruiting and training field organizers, and helping campaigns with voter targeting, training volunteers, and supplying organizers. In 2004, they partnered with Democracy for America to organize grassroots campaign training sessions for local DFA groups around the country. Although I unfortunately didn’t have a chance to attend any of these, the reports I heard on DFA lists and blogs were very positive.
Another unusual aspect of 21st Century Dems is their endorsement program and philosophy. Rather than looking for pre-existing “winnability” or “viability”, they look for worthwhile candidates that they believe they can make viable. And, like DFA, they pick races all up and down the ballot, from municipal to federal.
We choose tough racesâraces that other political action committees shy away from because theyâre hard to win. We are guided by the core Democratic values that put people first.
Our mission is to seek out, train and support extraordinary, visionary leaders who are the courageous, risk-takers of our time standing for the greatness of our country. As part of our mission, we support extraordinary candidates who lead by example, who unwaveringly stand for their values, who reach out to all Americans, and who think outside of the box. Our candidates are not poll dependent, selfish, and power hungry. They are the bold leaders that these tumultuous times demand. Our candidates arenât afraid of fighting the tough battles, not playing politics as usual, and standing alone when it is the right thing to do. Our candidates lead. They are committed to moving the hearts and minds of Americans by inspiring them with a bold vision of whatâs possible for our country and our world, and are the kind of leaders who get things done.
In 2005, they endorsed only 7 candidates in 4 states nationwide – and 4 of those candidates won.
To summarize, 21st Century Democrats is an experienced, powerful organization that picks great progressive candidates, supplies their campaigns with significant amounts of both money and organizing strength, and makes tough races winnable. They are known for fighting tough elections and winning a majority of those they choose to compete in. Their support gives the John Bonifaz campaign significant strength and credibility.
(As I noted at the top, I’m starting a new role with the Bonifaz campaign. I’ve been volunteering for him on and off for a while. Starting this week, I will also be a part time paid campaign blogger at johnbonifaz.com. I’ll be writing a lot about election reform issues there, and will continue covering other issues and campaigns here on Blue Mass Group. I plan to write more about what I think about the role and paid blogging, in a future post here.)