A reflection on Lancaster Stands Up’s first candidate endorsement vote
The following reflection is provided by the coordinating team to Lancaster Stands Up members in preparation for the first LSU all-member candidate endorsement vote being held this week (Wednesday 9/27 - Friday 9/29). Rather than weigh in on each candidate individually, this reflection provides an overarching strategic framework for thinking about Lancaster Stands Up endorsements in the 2017 local and state election. All LSU members who became members prior to the announcement of this endorsement vote (9/22) are eligible and encouraged to participate by voting. If you are not a Lancaster Stands Up member, you can find out what it means to be a member and sign up here (and you will be eligible to participate in future endorsement votes).
What is our goal?
After the 2016 election, hundreds of Lancastrians gathered together for an emergency community meeting. “How are we going to turn this around?” we asked ourselves. We’ve been busy since then. These past months, Lancaster has stood up in record numbers — for health care, for our immigrant and refugee sisters and brothers, for racial justice, for education, and for a livable planet. At public demonstrations we have numbered in the hundreds, sometimes in the thousands. And in the months ahead, we will continue to mobilize and to stand up.
Uniting to defeat the unique threat posed by Trump and the GOP-controlled Congress has been our number one priority. However, since Lancaster Stands Up’s inception, we’ve been asking ourselves hard questions about how we got to this place as a country. One important factor we have emphasized is the decline of civic and political involvement of everyday working Americans over the past four decades. From volunteering to voting to joining grassroots organizations, we as a people have been less engaged in collective action. It’s no coincidence that this civic decline transpired over the same time period when Wall Street and big business were consolidating control over our political and electoral system.
The 2016 election taught us that we cannot afford to leave politics to the political establishment. We have to breathe new life into our democracy. The way to turn this around is to get ourselves active and organized into a grassroots force capable of applying pressure and pushing back. Lancaster Stands Up has set out to provide opportunities for everyday people to get more involved: to attend public demonstrations, call their elected representatives, write letters to the editor, join a working group, become a Lancaster Stands Up member, go door-to-door, and engage more in elections.
So, what’s next?
Our plan is to put this growing capacity to work to help elect candidates that LSU members vote to endorse. We want to put candidates in power who share our values, and who will fight for all of us.
This week’s endorsement vote is the next step. This summer when we polled the full Lancaster Stands Up email list, an overwhelming majority of respondents supported developing a membership structure and endorsing progressive candidates for public office. Our leadership team first took on launching the membership structure, and over the past several weeks 350 people like you have become official dues-paying and voting members. Now we are ready for our first all-members endorsement vote.
Why do these endorsements matter?
The next wave of elections—2017, 2018, and 2020—will widely be viewed as a referendum on “Trumpism.” We believe it is critically important that voters turn out en masse to soundly defeat the vitriolic and reckless politics that Donald Trump represents. In the short-term, we think that means casting strategic votes for Democratic candidates wherever they are running against Republicans, at the national, state, and local level.
Is the idea to just support Democrats?
No, not exactly. Lancaster Stands Up is not the Democratic Party, and we want to maintain our independence. Moreover, we want to contest the direction and leadership of the current Democratic Party, to make it into a party that is in touch with everyday working people and that represents all of us.
It’s not a secret that Lancaster Stands Up members lean Democratic in terms of voter registration. However, most of us are critical of the current leadership and direction of today’s Democratic Party. Indeed, we think Democratic Party leadership deserves a considerable share of the blame for the situation we are in as a country — because of its decades-long failure to stand up to big money and Wall Street, and to fight visibly for working people.
We want to make clear that we are not merely interested in returning to an unacceptable status quo that has left so many Americans behind. Put generously, there are some Democratic candidates who inspire us more than others. In the current populist landscape, it is the visionary candidates who will have the edge in elections. We need candidates who are willing to pick open fights with an entrenched political establishment, including that of their own party. We need candidates who decide that the key to victory is inspiring and activating an enthusiastic base of volunteers, rather than courting campaign cash from huge corporations and the one percent. We are done with passively waiting for whichever candidates emerge through the party’s internal processes. We want more people to have more of a voice in the process — and we think that’s also the best strategy for winning elections. In the future, we look forward to endorsing in primary elections, and doing what we can to support the emergence and recruitment of strong progressive populist candidates.
But the next congressional election isn’t until 2018, and presidential, 2020, why does this matter now?
We can’t vote out Smucker or Trump this year, but in the meantime, down-ballot and “off year” elections have consequences, and we want to do our part between now and November 7, 2017. These local races matter. We know, for example, that city government will have a tremendous impact in the years ahead when it comes to economic opportunity, racial justice, public education, affordable housing, policing, and other important issues. And there are many candidates who share the values of Lancaster Stands Up, who will on the local and state level work towards a government that works for all of us. We want to support these candidates.
What to consider when voting?
For this week’s endorsement vote, we encourage Lancaster Stands Up members to apply both a values lens and a strategy lens to the question of which candidates you vote for in our endorsement vote. Is there a candidate running who is aligned with Lancaster Stands Up’s mission? Is that candidate serious about winning? If there is not a candidate fully aligned with LSU’s mission, is there a far worse candidate whom we should consider helping to stop? This year’s statewide judge races, for example, will have major implications for fair districting efforts a few years down the road.
To prepare for this endorsement vote, we recently organized a meet-the-candidates fair, attended by 250 Lancastrians (many of them LSU members) and by 18 Lancaster City and County candidates who will be on the 2017 ballot. We know that not all LSU members were able to attend this event or meet the candidates. In future endorsement votes, we would like to have a candidate questionnaire, but for this round, LSU members will have to do their own research into the candidates. We have included a link to each candidate’s campaign website below. Where a campaign website was not available, it goes to the campaign Facebook page. Where that is not available, it goes to articles of coverage that we could find.
Thank you for being part of this process. Let’s turn it around.
Note: To the best of our ability candidates are listed here in the order on which they will appear on the November municipal ballot.
Key: D = Democrat; R = Republican; G = Green; I = Independent
Judge of Supreme Court (1 open seat)
Judge of Superior Court (4 open seats)
Judge of Commonwealth Court (2 open seats)
Mayor (1 seat)
City Council (4 open seats)
School Board (4 open seats)
Magisterial District Judge 02-2-01 (1 seat)
Sheriff (1 seat)
East Hempfield: Supervisor (2 open seats)
Hempfield: School Director (4 open seats)
Manheim Township: Commissioner (3 open seats)
Manheim Township: School Director, 4-year term
(4 open seats)
Manheim Township: School Director, 2-year term
(2 open seats)
Millersville: Borough Council (4 open seats)