After the legislative session, Retake Our Democracy leadership revisited its purpose, goals, strategies and the action teams that could support the work in 2019-20. We are poised, focused, organized and ready to get to work. We have 30 volunteers who consistently attend our monthly meetings, but now we need to include more of you. Details.There is much to do.
Retake Our Democracy Strategies and Action Teams
We invite comment from our readers. Does what follows capture Retake Our Democracy? Do the strategies make sense given your understanding of where we are as a state? Is it clear how our action teams will work to implement our strategies and advance our fundamental goal? What is missing? Most importantly, can you find a niche role in one of our teams? With the publication of our Report Card next week, we are expecting a sudden burst of interest in our work. We want to take advantage of this opportunity, expand our base throughout the state and prepare for advocacy in the Roundhouse in January 2020 and for supporting candidates in the June 2020 primary. Let us know what you think and where you might fit in.
What is Retake Our Democracy? Retake Our Democracy is a volunteer-based non-profit organization committed to making personal and collective activism easier and more effective. Our fundamental goal is to build grassroots power to successfully advocate for social, racial, environmental, and economic justice at local and state levels. Guided by the belief that lasting social change emerges from dedicated local activism, we engage, educate, organize, and activate people through trainings, actions, town halls, and online alerts. We also provide resources, issue analyses, news, and upcoming events in our blog and on our weekly radio show on KSFR.
We honor the knowledge and experience of communities across our state, and much of our work is informed by our commitment to listening to leaders from advocacy and service organizations that have been “on the ground” for many years. Retake’s unique contribution is to organize the skills, expertise, and financial resources of its volunteer members to support and advance the goals of these frontline activist organizations.
To advance our advocacy goals we have developed three core strategies and four Action Teams in which advocacy, planning, research and outreach is conducted to support our strategies.
Our Core Strategies
Statewide Election Advocacy. Since 2016, Retake Our Democracy has played an important role in local and statewide elections, working closely with allies, gathering information about key races and candidates, and guiding our volunteers to become involved in campaigns that interest them. In 2016 we promoted candidates in 10 State House races and 7 of them won, helping Democrats flip the House in a year that was not good for Democrats nationally. In 2018, we supported 11 Democratic House candidates and Steve Fischmann in his race for PRC Commissioner. Retake used its blog to educate volunteers about the candidates and about how they could be involved. We staged house parties and promoted other candidate events. We recruited volunteers to canvass and participate in phone banking. All 12 candidates won. In both elections, we stood behind and worked with allies like Working Families Party, Progressive Democrats of America, and other statewide groups. It was a team effort.
In 2019, we have begun planning to support a number of primary and general election campaigns in 2020. Among those campaigns that will most certainly be a high priority:
- Progressive Democrats challenging one or more of the eight NM State Senators who voted NO on HB 51 Abortion Decriminalization and while their vote on HB 51 is reason enough to challenge these incumbents, most of the eight are among the conservative Democratic Senators who chair committees, and use that power to stall progressive legislation
- Democrats challenging vulnerable incumbent Republicans in the November general election for NM House & Senate seats.
Over the summer and fall, Retake leadership will meet with allies to identify criteria to determine which races to support. At the same time, our Outreach and Organizing Team will cultivate relationships with advocates and organizations in the eight Senate Districts, to identify individuals willing to commit time to building a base in those districts to prepare for the 2020 legislative session and primary election.
Legislative Advocacy. Retake consults with 20+ non-profit advocacy allies such as Common Cause, Prosperity Works, NM Voices for Children, and WildEarth Guardians to identify legislation that, with stronger advocacy, could become law. We organized volunteer advocates at the Roundhouse in the 2017, 2018, and 2019 legislative sessions. Our volunteer Research Team reviewed every bill introduced in 2019 and, in collaboration with allies, we identified 28 Must-Pass and 18 Priority Bills. We activated a statewide Response Network, emailing daily alerts with bill info and contact info for legislators who would vote on those bills in committee or on the Senate/House floor. Advocates receiving the alerts routinely circulated the alerts to dozens of other progressive advocacy groups or personal email lists, magnifying the impact many times over.
Over the summer, we will begin planning for the 2020 legislative session by:
- Participating in the Interim Hearings to build relationships and credibility with legislators, to track what bills are being prepared for introduction in the 2020 session and to surface ideas for bills with legislators to explore what might be feasibly introduced in 2021.
- Conducting statewide outreach and organizing, prioritizing communities whose legislators might need constituent pressure in the 2020 session and/or who may be challenged in the 2020 primary.
Sustained Climate Action & Advocacy. This is a new strategy that will offer Retake advocates and Climate Action Team members a framework for advocacy year-round. While the Roundhouse meets only for 30- and 60-day periods, many commissions and state agencies make decisions about our environment throughout the year. We plan to launch ongoing advocacy with regulatory commissions and state government agencies responsible for issues related to climate change, environmental concerns, and the use and preservation of New Mexico land, water, and air. Among those Commissions we will follow:
- Public Regulatory Commission
- Bureau of Land Management
- Water Quality Control Commission
- Oil Conservation Division
- With more state departments and commissions to be identified and followed.
Our Action Teams
This spring and summer, Retake is forming action teams that will focus on specific strategies that can be undertaken by volunteers to support the goals above and to advance our overarching goal of building statewide power to effectively advocate for social, racial, economic, and climate justice. While Retake volunteers meet in Santa Fe monthly to organize and activate the teams, individuals in other parts of the state can easily participate in the work by contacting me at paul@RetakeOurDemocracy.org. Every one of the teams below would benefit from involvement of people from other parts of the state. Team coordinators will reach out to those in other parts of the state to orient and activate individuals and groups in other parts of the state.
Media and Marketing Team. The Media and Marketing Team will develop and manage a statewide media contact list that includes radio, television, political blogs, and print media. The team will also develop a ‘toolkit’ for statewide Retake advocates to more easily and effectively mount local media campaigns. Grassroots media campaigns will seek to educate communities on specific issues, specific candidates, and specific legislation. It will also serve to expand recognition of Retake and encourage people to explore our blog and sign up for our alert system. Initial priorities include:
- Updating existing media list;
- Mounting a media campaign announcing the release of the 2019 Legislative Report Card, including securing radio and television interviews and blog posts from prominent political bloggers (Pat Monahan, NM Political Report, NM InDepth etc.), as well as traditional print media;
- Media campaigns focused in the Senate Districts that are represented by the eight Democratic Senators who voted against HB 51, Abortion Decriminalization and/or other conservative Democratic legislators whose challengers in the primary are more aligned with Retake priorities;
- Other issue-related campaigns designed to build an ongoing presence of Retake Our Democracy in letters to the editor and op-eds.
Outreach and Organizing Team. We will continue to use our statewide Action Alerts to organize volunteers to participate in Interim Legislative Hearings, to organize local Town Halls, and to share information about election strategy. Unifying all these strategies is an ongoing effort to build power among people and communities that have been historically underrepresented so that we can more effectively advocate for change and promote justice and equity in our state. These Outreach efforts will be reinforced by Retake leadership when visiting communities across the state to learn more about their local issues, to meet with grassroots advocates, and to share our strategies.
The Outreach and Organizing Team will work with Retake leadership to build a database platform to house information about Congressional Districts, counties, cities, and House and Senate Districts. They will begin with outreach to the eight Senate Districts but will quickly move on to other prioritized cities, counties and districts. Outreach efforts will begin with calls to individuals subscribed to the Action Alerts with the goal of finding volunteers to:
- Help us organize in those communities by contacting others on our behalf and encouraging others to participate in our work;
- Help organize Retake Community Meetings in NM communities with leadership presentations about our work and, more importantly, to hear from locals about their unique political, social, economic, and environmental challenges.
- Inform us about the various organizations in the community that have a history of advocacy (e.g., labor, Indivisible, faith-based, Democratic Party, etc.) and help connect us with those organizations’ leadership;
- Help us compile local media contacts (and share this with the Media Team);
- Identify community influencers, whether progressive or conservative. This could be Mayors or City Councilors or other community leaders people trust as a source of information on local and state issues;
- Distribute flyers that describe Retake, the Action Alerts, and the blog, in Santa Fe and in other larger population centers where Retake has a base. The Outreach Team could organize canvassing efforts, and volunteers distributing flyers at Farmer’s Markets, Democratic Party meetings, and other venues/events that draw significant numbers.
Research and Ally Liaison Team. This team will expand on the work accomplished during the Roundhouse session, researching high-priority issues, e.g., issues pending with the PRC and other regulatory bodies, studying model legislation that is aligned with Must-Pass and Priority bills that we want to resurrect in 2020 or 2021, and conducting research on Senate and House districts and elected officials who might be subject to a primary challenge. As we get closer to the 2020 session, the team will work with our allies to identify priority bills and focus research in those issue areas.
Climate Action & Regulatory Advocacy Team. We advocated extensively on climate issues in the 2019 legislative session, with more energy and environment bills on our Must-Pass list than any other issue area, by far. We will extend that advocacy with this team focused on regulatory bodies and state agencies with responsibilities over land, water, air, and natural resources. The initial priorities would be:
- Brainstorm a complete list of regulatory bodies with oversight over the issues described above;
- Assemble contact info for commissioners or directors or managers of above agencies;
- Develop an understanding of the scope of issues over which they have jurisdiction;
- Obtain meeting schedules and lists of the more immediate issues each body will address in the coming months, and;
- Identify how Retake can support the Green New Deal, the planned General Strike on Sept. 20 and other state and national climate actions..
The Climate Action & Regulatory Advocacy Team will work with the Research Team to coordinate research on solutions and alternatives whenever a commission is about to decide on an issue, work with the Media Team to focus a campaign, and work with Paul on topics for the blog and Action Alerts.
The above summary is intended to provide a clear framework of action to guide Retake organizing efforts over the next two years. We invite comments from you to help us hone this statement.
Paul & Roxanne