Building Power at the Polls: A Primary Election Round-Up

Hi community,

Bahieh and Ash here from TakeAction’s political team. We’ve spent the past few months working in deep partnership with TakeAction members and leaders to elect our endorsed candidates.

TakeAction movement politics manager Bahieh Hartshorn (she/her) leads our political committee and the work of connecting our base to our endorsed candidates and elected champions, as well as supporting leaders who want to step into public leadership.

Progressives – and our endorsed candidates – won big. Here’s what we think these elections mean for Minnesota’s future and where we go from here.

The landslide victories across the state in Tuesday’s Primary Election are solid evidence that Minnesota voters are ready to take back our democracy and demand that government officials put our needs at the center of how our systems work.

Minnesotans showed up in full force to vote for TakeAction-endorsed candidates who have pledged to fight for bold solutions that address the compounding crises we’re facing: a Green New Deal, Medicare for All, Housing for All and student debt relief, just to name a few.

Building political power is about organizing people. We believe in deep and transformational relationships that allow us to put our stories, experiences, and dreams at the center of what we’re building. When we build these relationships, we don’t just build the power to win big – which we did this week – but we build the power to create a government that works for all of us.

Ash Northey is TakeAction’s statewide field manager, leading our field work for our endorsed candidates.

To create the world that we believe in and that we deserve, we must create a system of governance that actively centers the lived experiences of those most directly impacted.

When we talk about co-governing and people centered governing, it looks like people’s organizations, like TakeAction and our partners, working in deep partnership with elected officials to advance a shared vision and agenda for structural change. No matter what crisis or opportunity we face, our values and ideology point us toward the same action.

We – the people – are the government. This is where we can create structural change.

Minnesotans have had enough.

Minnesotans are fed up with being told to wait our turn, fed up with being told our ideas are too radical, and fed up with racist, patriarchal systems created to keep us quiet.

The people are hungry for leadership that leads with us and actually represents us.

Minnesotans know that we’re in a moment of layered crises. We’re in a public health crisis, an economic crisis, a crisis of police brutality and white supremacy, and a climate crisis. And when blatantly faced with how the current system is not serving us – particularly Black, Brown and indigenous communities – and only serving the top 1%, we’re forced to make a choice.

We can choose to stick with the status quo, or we can choose to lead with courage and bold new ideas. Our people are choosing the latter, whether it’s stepping up to run for office or voting for what we believe we deserve as Minnesotans.

This week’s progressive sweep signals that in November we will hold a more progressive House and flip the Senate. Beyond that, it signals that we are ready to pass bold legislation in 2021 – from climate action to health care access – that will transform the lives of working families in Minnesota.

Every election matters

Politics is about more than winning elections. It’s about investing in community, cultivating relationships, and caring for one another. Elections are tools, and campaigns are vehicles we use to build our people-centered movement. National elections are important for setting the overall direction and tone of our country, but state, county, and municipal level races have a much more direct impact over our daily lives.

Who we elect into these positions matters. We need leaders who are accountable and accessible to their communities .These are leaders who will be on the ground in the trenches with us, fighting for the future we all know we deserve: a future where everyone has access to food, shelter and health care, where the water is clean and the air is pure, and where people come before profits.

Breaking down the results

At the federal level, TakeAction fought hard to reelect Congresswoman Omar in the fifth congressional district. We saw millions of GOP dollars funneling into our state, directed to racist, fear-mongering attack ads, but that didn’t deter our movement. We talked to voters and built community with one another. And we won.

Minneapolis voters showed up in force, and we saw explosive turnout in the middle of a pandemic. 27,206 more voters showed up to vote for Ilhan in this primary than in the 2018 general election, leaving no question that Congresswoman Omar is well loved by her community. Her district loudly declared that she is here to stay, and we will continue fighting together.

Ilhan’s victory signals that Minnesotans are ready for the movement of policy on a federal level that will benefit our working families on the ground. Folks in Minneapolis – and all over the state – who support Ilhan know that it’s beyond time to win Medicare for All, student debt relief, and a Green New Deal.

Our movement also made significant gains in state-level elections across Minnesota. Jen McEwen in SD7 won with over 73% of the vote, ousting an incumbent whose track record proves his interests lie not with improving our lives, but improving the profit margins for corporate polluters.

Jen Post-Primary MPR Interview

"Duluth voters are ready and asking to move forward in some really big ways." Listen to Jen's full interview with Cathy Wurzer on Minnesota Public Radio this morning:

Posted by Jen McEwen for State Senate on Wednesday, August 12, 2020

We saw similar results in races across the state. Athena Hollins won her primary in St. Paul’s House District 66B with over 60% of the vote. Lindsey Port won in Senate District 56 in Burnsville, Cedrick Frazier won his bid in Brooklyn Center for HD 45A, and John Thompson won in HD 67A on the East Side of St. Paul.

Minnesotans need champions like these fighting for us at the legislature. We’re facing a budget shortfall, which will only perpetuate false narratives that say we don’t have enough. We can’t afford cuts to services Minnesotans rely on for survival. We need to focus our resources on investments in public housing, public education, healthcare for all, universal base income, clean and renewable energy. Our legislators need to fight for meaningful investments in closing disparities that Black, brown and indigenous families experience every day, and that have only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis.

Real change starts locally.

Local elected officials have much more impact over our daily lives than what’s happening at the federal level. Above all else, being in relationships with our neighbors is what feeds and enacts change in our communities. When we fight together, we win together.

That’s exactly what happened in cities and counties across the state on Tuesday. TakeAction-endorsed candidate Ashley Grimm won handily in her primary for St. Louis County Commissioner. In St. Cloud, TakeAction-endorsed candidates Buddy King and Hassan Yussuf will be going on to the November general election. Laura Dorle in Columbia Heights, Sizi Goyah and Alfreda Daniels in Brooklyn Center, and Nikki Villavicencio in Maplewood are all also advancing to the general election. Sending these candidates, who are deeply connected and committed to their local communities, ensures that decisions made about us are not made without us.

Our cities and municipalities are the first line of defense for our Black, brown and indigenous communities. Municipalities hold the budgets for cities and are the decision-makers on where investment and disinvestment happens within those cities. We see this in bloated police budgets and minimal funding for safe and affordable housing. When we have movement leaders in these seats, we can make investments that improve lives instead of putting them at risk. So much more becomes possible for communities.

The political power in Minnesota is shifting.

It’s clear that the old guard and old ways of doing things no longer serve us, and voters across Minnesota are ready for real change. We are building a new vision and a new reality, led and fed by – and for – the people.

The primary election victories we witnessed on Tuesday didn’t happen overnight. Our people-centered movement put in hundreds of hours, talking to voters over the phone, via text, and on social media. We had thousands of deep conversations about what we care about and our shared vision for a just future.

This is how movements work. We organize, we care for our communities, and we fight for what we believe in. For years we have been told we are too radical, too extreme, too soft. While Minnesotans have languished – dying from neglect and abuse at the hands of our own government – decisionmakers clinging to power have told us to stay quiet and fall in line.

No longer.

While they were busy telling us why we couldn’t create the world we deserve and why we weren’t invited to their table, we got busy building our own table. And we invited everyone to join. This week’s wins are significant because they tell the story of how politics are shifting across the state.

People want transparency and access to their elected officials. We want to be in relationship with those we elect to represent us, and we want them to unapologetically fight for us in City Hall, at the Capitol, and in Washington, D.C.  The days of the good ol’ boys club have ended. The dawn of the revolution is here.

Minnesotans are ready.

Tuesday’s results signaled that Minnesotans are ready for bold and courageous people-centered leadership. We’re ready for some political imagination. Now, we must continue to move with clarity towards November and win big.

This primary election was one step toward realizing our shared vision for a better future, but we’re not done. We need to get right to work electing the right people in the November general election.

Get in touch with one of our organizers to get plugged in – just send an email to Sign up for shifts to get out the vote for your favorite candidates, attend a monthly member meeting, and start connecting with our statewide community.

The real work begins after we win in November, when we’ll have the opportunity to work in deep alignment with our movement electeds to win the things our communities need and deserve, including Medicare for All, fully funded public education, funding affordable and public housing, increasing the minimum wage statewide, substantial relief for working families harmed by the impacts of COVID-19, and moving from a system of policing that is violent and harmful to a system of safety that is life-affirming.

Our electeds can’t get this done on their own. We must be there with our stories and our expertise, and provide them with the public support they’ll need in order to make change happen.

We win with people power.

Join us! Send us an email to start getting involved with our work. Together, we can continue to build the sustained people’s movement beyond the elections. We can’t wait to hear from you!

Posted in Our Blog

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