Who we endorse, why we endorse them, and what it all means

We get a lot of questions about our endorsement process, our criteria, and what our endorsement means about the candidate as well as what we’re saying about their opponent(s). We pride ourselves on transparency — accordingly, the guide below aims to answer all those questions and provide some background on our thought-process. If you’re still left wondering something, don’t hesitate to shoot us an email at hello@runforsomething.net.

The endorsement process & criteria

Any member of the Run for Something community can apply for our endorsement.

In order to be eligible for an endorsement from Run for Something, a candidates must:

  • Complete a weekly Run for Something candidate introduction call. Sign up as a candidate here. You’ll receive an email inviting you to join a call shortly after you sign up. Make sure you register for the call using the same email as when you signed up for Run for Something. If you’ve already signed up as a candidate and need the link to the call calendar, you can find that here.
  • Fill out the Run for Something endorsement questionnaire.
  • Be formally announced campaign and have a campaign committee (or a bank account) OR be officially on the ballot.
  • Submit to a basic background check — candidates will have a chance to explain anything possibly contentious. This review is not to rule anyone out, but rather to help identify any known parts of self-research. The check includes a criminal record search, a press search, a review of campaign finance records and an extensive social media review.
  • Be a Democrat and meet the Run for Something progressive criteria. For candidates running in non-partisan races, you will have a chance to identify as a Democrat on the endorsement application.
  • Be 40 years old or younger on Election Day.
  • Be a first- or second-time candidate and not running for re-election to the same seat.
  • Be running for a down-ballot office — this is defined as anything below statewide and federal office.

Additional considerations include:

  • Candidates who are prioritizing voter contact work (i.e. knocking on doors and having one-on-one conversations with voters).
  • Candidates who are rooted in their communities.
  • Candidates who are able to articulate a clear path to victory by presenting a campaign plan.
  • Candidates who are committed to running clean, above-board campaigns. We are not interested in working with candidates who are going to be blatantly attacking each other in a primary.

If a candidate meets these criteria, we will consider them for an endorsement. But this list is just the beginning…

We also keep in mind our previously-stated mission and values:

  • Recruit and support talented, passionate young people who will advocate for progressive values now and for the next 30 years, with the ultimate goal of building a progressive bench.
  • We take a chance on people the usual “institutions” might never encounter. We help people run for offices like state legislatures, mayorships, city council seats, and more. We do whatever it takes to get more young people on the ballot.
  • We won’t serve as the purity police around specific issues. However, we do care about values.
  • Our goal is to have our candidate pipeline and endorsed candidates be comprised of 50% women, 50% people of color, and generally non-traditional folks.

A word about our candidates…

Run for Something candidates are:

  • Able to articulate their “why.” We believe that a candidate’s “why” — their rationale for running — is one of the most important parts of a campaign. As a result, we take that question very seriously, and we only endorse candidates who similarly take it seriously. We want candidates to be able to explain why they got into the race and their positive vision for their community. This question takes on even greater weight when a candidate is running against a Democratic incumbent, especially one with a strong track record of standing up for progressive values. Voters should have candidates they are proud to stand with, and we will search endlessly for candidates who have a reason to be in the race and are willing to work hard to for their communities.
  • Proud to be a part of the RFS team. We prioritize candidates who are interested in being active members of the RFS community. This will look different for everyone, but includes engaging with RFS resources and publicly talking about our endorsement.
  • Reflective of their communities in terms of demographics and lived experience. It is extremely difficult for a candidate to represent their district well if they cannot understand what their constituents have gone through, are experiencing, and are looking for from their elected public servants. That doesn’t necessarily mean our candidates are born-and-raised in the place they’re running — we’re looking for people who have connections in their districts, regardless of the amount of time they’ve lived there. We want candidates who already play an active role, whether through volunteer activities, political clubs, or just keeping up with what’s happening.
  • Courageously living their values. We look for individuals who know what matters to them and are willing to stand up for those values even when it is difficult. This is not the same thing as being unwilling to change a position with new information. The distinction is that candidates should know the values they are and are not willing to compromise on.
  • Full of heart and hustle, and thus pioneering a new model of political viability. In many cases our candidates may not be the top fundraisers, but they will care the most and be the hardest workers. We want candidates who will knock the extra five doors, make the extra five phone calls, and do whatever it takes (within reason and within the constraints of the law) to win their elections and do their absolute best each and every day. Our candidates are on Team “Get Shit Done.”
  • Unambiguously Democrats and unambiguously progressive. We support folks who are Democrats with progressive values. While we will not be the purity police, we do expect candidates to fight to uphold the progressive values outlined in our endorsement application. We do not support folks running as independents or third parties unless they do so as a part of a ballot line that includes Democrats (e.g. a candidate for New York City Council could be on the ballot both as a Democrat and Working Families Party member.) While many of the races we work on are non-partisan by nature, we expect our candidates to uphold Democratic values.

Of course, there are exceptions:

If someone is not reflective of these statements, we might still work with them because they are compelling in other ways. We may also choose to delay an endorsement because a candidate is still building their organization, and has not hit some of the targets that indicate the candidate will run a strong campaign. Even without an endorsement, candidates can still get support from the RFS network.

So what does all of that mean?

To be as concrete as possible, we want candidates and interested stakeholders to understand that:

  • Diversity, inclusivity, and creating a representative democracy are extremely important to us. That means we will choose to endorse folks who we think will help move us toward that goal. It also means that we will sometimes choose not to endorse candidates because they do not represent their district.
  • We will endorse in Democratic primaries, even ones that include a Democratic incumbent. We are not afraid of challenging the status quo and giving new voices a chance to be heard. This does not mean we will endorse everyone in a primary by default — our criteria for endorsing candidates are paramount — but we will take every endorsement application seriously and give the same consideration to candidates running in the same race. Additionally, we have a stricter standard when endorsing candidates running against Democratic incumbents. We are not here to protect incumbents, but we also want to make sure we aren’t doing harm by going after incumbents who are good at their jobs.
  • In primaries, our endorsements are not statements about a candidate’s opponent. When we endorse a candidate, we do so exclusively because that individual met our criteria, passed a vet, and fit the description and values listed above. When we endorse, we are not making a statement about the other candidates in the race; we will endorse multiple candidates in the same primary. While there is no cap on the number of candidates we will endorse in a primary, we expect to endorse no more than two candidates in a winner-take-all primary. In multi-member districts, we will aim to endorse no more than the number of open seats that are available.
  • Our endorsements are rooted in one of our fundamental value: Trust voters. We are not trying to tell any citizen who they should pick to represent them; it would be the height of hubris for us to assume we know best. Instead, our endorsement should be seen as a signal that the candidate is worth investing time and resources into because they are running a good campaign, have a compelling rationale for their candidacy, and that we have confidence in them as individuals.
  • We take risks on candidates, but we will not endorse everyone. In order to create an environment where candidates are proud to be a part of the RFS community, we simply cannot endorse every person that comes our way. However, we endorse everyone who meets our criteria, passes a vet, and fits the descriptions above. If doing that somehow begins to negatively impact our community, we will reassess our process.
  • We are looking for candidates who pass the ‘hell yeah’ test. We look at each candidate’s endorsement application, background, and public persona, and say to ourselves, “Is this someone we feel strongly about?” If the answer is “hell yeah!”, then we know we have a keeper. Anything less than that requires us to take a second look to determine why we don’t feel pumped about the candidate.

If you’re reading this and think “This sounds exactly like me” — APPLY RIGHT NOW.

If you’re a woman or a person of color (and especially if you’re a woman of color) and you think “I’m not sure if I qualify” — APPLY RIGHT NOW.

Seriously. And because women and people of color need a double-, triple-, quadruple-, quintuple-tap on the shoulder to remind them they are qualified, we’ll repeat this again: If you are a woman and/or a person of color who is even considering applying — APPLY RIGHT NOW.

There is absolutely no penalty for applying for an endorsement too soon — if you apply today and your campaign is not yet strong enough, we will coach you to success and you can re-apply as many times as needed.

Run for Something will be making endorsements on a rolling basis through November 2018. Once we make a decision on your application, we’ll let you know.