Progressives focus on local-level wins to counter setbacks

April 15, 2023  -CHICAGO (AP) — For many progressives, the past decade has been littered with disappointments. But recent down-ballot victories are providing hope of reshaping the Democratic Party from the bottom up, rather than from Washington.

In Chicago earlier this month, a former teacher’s union organizer unexpectedly won the mayor’s race. In St. Louis, progressives secured a majority on the municipal board. The next opportunities could lie in Philadelphia and Houston, which also hold mayoral elections this year.

The focus on lower-level contests already has helped progressives gain power and influence policy at a local level, organizers say, shaping issues such as the minimum wage. It also may help the movement find future stars, with today’s city and county officials becoming tomorrow’s breakout members of Congress and only moving further up the political ladder.

“Progressives have taken a look at how to be strategic and how to build power,” said Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants who was a leading national voice for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders ’ 2016 and 2020 presidential bids. “If you look around and you say, ‘Who is ready to run for president?’ If your field is shallow, what do you have to do? You’ve got to build the bench.”

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