On Tuesday, the Democratic Party had its most successful Election Day in years. In addition to banner victories at the top of the Virginia and New Jersey tickets ― Ralph Northam and Phil Murphy both cruised to victory as governors-elect ― Democrats flipped a bunch of seats in the Virginia House of Delegates, too. In short, as an indicator of motivating voters to turn out, the 2017 elections were a very promising sign for Democrats and the various organizations that support them.
In recent years, midterm elections have been really rough on the Democratic Party. Historically, it's been difficult for the party of a sitting president to rack up wins in the midterms; that was true while President Obama was in office, when Democrats put up the kind of performances Obama himself described as a "shellacking." It was also true in President Bush's second term, when midterm elections in 2006 swept the Democrats into control of both the U.S. House and Senate.
Tuesday was an off-year election, however, not a midterm election—those won't come until November 2018. Still, 2017 provided a host of opportunities for Democrats to make both real and symbolic gains across multiple states, and they clearly made good on it. Their victories were made possible, however, by a number of groups and organizations that helped support, train and promote the party's candidates.
Leading up to Virginia's election, the pro-immigrant and pro-DREAM Act organization America's Voice mobilized to knock on doors throughout the state, hoping to increase turnout from Latino voters. Judging from the numbers, the group's dedication may have paid off: in areas where Latinos and Asians made up more than 20 percent of the population, turnout was markedly ahead of The New York Times' projections.
As Emerge America trumpeted in a statement following Tuesday night's results, a remarkable 85 women alumnae of their organization won seats in local and state government across nine different states. Supported by Hillary Clinton and her political group, Onward Together, Emerge America has established itself as a prominent organization advancing women candidates within the Democratic Party.
The political organization launched by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in the wake of his 2016 primary campaign, Our Revolution, also had a pretty good night. It supported a ton of candidates who were successful at both the state and local level. According to Collier Meyerson of The Nation, 19 candidates backed by Our Revolution were victorious on Tuesday, including nine women, two openly LGBTQ candidates, and eight candidates of color.
One of the most well-known and well-organized progressive organizations to emerge in the era of President Trump, Indivisible has played a big role in Democratic politics since bursting onto the scene after last year's election. Notably, Indivisible activists turned out in huge numbers to oppose the GOP's efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and they mobilized come election time, too. Indivisible put in a lot of work on get-out-the-vote efforts in Virginia, including phone banking and on-the-ground volunteering.
Democratic Socialists of America
The victory of former marine Lee Carter in his Virginia House of Delegates race was one of the most talked-about outcomes of the night. Carter, a candidate backed by the Democratic Socialists of America, beat the House GOP majority whip ― you read that right, a self-avowed socialist beat a member of the Virginia Republican leadership.
Carter's win has been read as an exciting sign that unapologetically leftist candidates can run and win on the Democratic ticket. According to Sarah Jones of The New Republic, the DSA added 15 more elected officials to its ranks on Tuesday, bringing its nationwide total to 35 in all.
CASA In Action
CASA in Action is a nonprofit focused on political engagement and voter turnout among Latinos, as well as advancing and endorsing candidates who support Latinos on key issues from affordable housing, to education, and immigration. Like America's Voice, CASA in Action knocked on doors and got the world out about the importance of voting for Democratic candidates in an off-year election. This year, all the candidates CASA in Action endorsed ended up winning.
One of America's best-known organizations working towards getting more progressive women into politics, EMILY's List had a good night on Tuesday, helping to elect four women mayors. All signs suggest there's an incredible number of women entering politics right now: EMILY's List says it's fielded more than 20,000 inquires from women looking to run for office since November 2016, and on Tuesday women who won the majority of state legislature seats previously held by the GOP.
The progressive activist network SwingLeft also was front and center on Election Day. Backed by Clinton and Onward Together, it boasts more than 300,000 members dedicated to flipping swing districts from Republican to Democratic control, with an eye toward the party reclaiming the U.S. House in 2018.
Run For Something
The Run for Something political action committee, which launched in February was co-founded by former Hillary Clinton email director Amanda Litman, has been recruiting, promoting, and funding young Democratic candidates for months.
Its focus is supporting and electing new Democrats under 35 years of age. The organization also aims to beat back Republicans' control over many state legislatures, and to replenish the Democratic bench that emptied out over the Obama era. And it's been super successful so far: a whopping 31 Run for Something-backed candidates won on Tuesday.
It's no stretch to say that Tuesday's elections had something for Democrats and progressives, regardless of where on the ideological spectrum they lie ― from more centrist, establishment Democrats to the more socialist left, and everything in between. But it remains to be seen whether the full-fledged midterm elections next year can produce this same kind of decisive outcome for Democrats, so these organizations have their work cut out for them over the year to come.