SoCal progressives are growing in numbers — but can they get a candidate elected?
Ahead of next year's midterms, a growing number of grassroots organizers are throwing their support behind political outsiders. We followed one.
California Democrats have been some of the most vocal critics of the Trump administration to date — and it's not just the lawmakers.
Ahead of next year's midterms, a growing number of grassroots organizers are throwing their support behind political outsiders.
In Southern California, one group of activists is hoping to flip the last Republican-held seat based primarily in L.A. County. They're called Indivisible 2.9, and they gathered on the deck of a private home in the Hollywood Hills earlier this month to discuss their next steps.
They're throwing their weight behind congressional hopeful Katie Hill, a 29-year-old political newcomer.
"She's young, she's smart, she's progressive, she's incredibly committed to her district in a way that I think is quite unusual," says Michele Mulroney, who is hosting the meeting. She's backing Hill as the one who can beat incumbent Republican Steve Knight. She thinks Hill's knowledge of the district and her work in the nonprofit sector more than make up for her lack of traditional political experience.
"Yeah, she's technically 29, but her wisdom goes way beyond her years, and I think it's time — frankly — to turn this country over to the young and passionate candidate," Mulroney says.
Indivisible is a political advocacy group started by a few Democratic congressional staffers after the 2016 election. Their mission: resist the Trump agenda.
To do this, they put together a playbook of best practices for organizing. They say they were inspired by another, more infamous grassroots organization: the conservative Tea Party, which rose in prominence in 2009 during the Obama presidency.
Now, Indivisible members crash town halls, knock on doors and raise money – about $2 million since last year. Their website says there are 5,800 chapters of the group registered in the country, including many in California — each in places where they hope to replace a Republican with a Democrat.
Hill and her supporters (Indivisible 2.9) are after District 25 in Northern L.A. County, which includes cities like Santa Clarita, Simi Valley, Palmdale, and Lancaster.
Incumbent Steve Knight won re-election in November by about 16,000 votes — but voters in his district chose Clinton over Trump. Results like these give this group hope, but Hill faces some significant hurdles, such as campaign financing. Her campaign says it will cost $3 million to flip the seat. And money is just part of it.
Overcoming political hurdles
Democrats face long odds in Republican districts, in part, because the party itself is less than united: There's still a rift between progressives who supported Bernie Sanders and more traditional Democrats.
Another challenge: Progressives are also political outsiders. They’re up against people who know how to play the game.
"The fact is [the] Democratic Party's been around a long time. It has rules and procedures and people who have really dedicated their lives to it — blood, sweat and tears for a long time," says Matt Rodriguez, former western states director for the Obama campaign.
Rodriguez says enthusiasm is generally a good thing in politics, but it's not enough.
"Their issue set might not be enough for large swaths of voters. That means you have to work within that system. That's the system that exists. And that's gonna take time," he says.
Indivisible's organizers continue to work on plans to get their candidates elected, but it's not clear if they'll have enough support (and enough money) to put political newcomers like Hill into office.
Despite these clear challenges, the people gathered at Hill's event say they want change. And to them, change is only something an outsider can bring.
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Correction: A previous version of this post stated that Hill must raise $200 thousand by June 30 to "unlock" assistance from the DCCC. This is a goal set by the campaign and not explicitly agreed upon with the DCCC.
This post has been updated.