Way Forward Day 2 celebrates primary victories, shares the data-driven strategy on how to keep winning

Way to Win
6 min readDec 1, 2020

On Day 2 of Way Forward, attendees heard from a slate of local leaders engaging high-potential voters to get out the vote, and were inspired by organizers supporting new progressive candidates like Jamaal Bowman and Ricky Hurtado. The virtual event opened with a call by emcee Nsé Ufot, Chief Executive Officer of the New Georgia Project, to “bend the arc with all our collective might” — to bend it so hard that we don’t just win in November, but win by enough to usher in a new era of progressive, reflective democracy. Nsé recalled the wise words of John Lewis. “It is the time to get into what my former congressman John Lewis calls ‘Good Trouble,” she said.

Nsé then passed it on to Anathea Chino, Co-Founder of Advance Native Political Leadership, who spoke about indigenous people building power in this movement of cultural and electoral shift. “When a country is built on stolen land and consistently attempts to dehumanize its inhabitants, everyone loses. We are constantly reminded that the system was not created for us to succeed, so we need to change the system.”

Tory Gavito, Co-Founder and President of Way To Win, followed up by emphasizing that attendees continue doing two things. “First, we must keep supporting local organizing. And secondly, we must fund local organizations’ innovations to get their messages on air and online.”

Tory then introduced a panel of movement leaders. “Movement is the predicate to victory,” she said, as she passed it on to moderator, Ashindi Maxton, Co-Director of the Donors of Color Network. The panel, “Win By A Lot: Creating a New Reality Through a New Movement Model,” discussed how they are rewriting the civil rights leaders’ playbook from the 1950s to a new reality. Maurice Mitchell, National Director of the Working Families Party, recalled Obama’s victory in 2008. Even though Democrats won at the top, they also lost 1,000 state legislature seats, he recalled to the audience. To make a durable movement, we need to win up and down the ballot, he said.

Alicia Garza, co-founder of “Black Lives Matter,” reminded the audience of the brass tacks. Even though it is a new playbook, we still hope to achieve the same goals that we have been working on for a long time, “The brass tacks is basic. It is making sure that our community is at the center. And making sure that we have the infrastructure that allows our community to be powerful.” Garza also stressed the importance of viewing black people not as a monolithic group, but as a diverse demographic throughout the country.

LaTosha Brown, Co-Founder of Black Voters Matter, said that in her playbook, there needs to be a greater investment in the South to challenge the historical center of racism. “There cannot be a progressive movement in this country without activating the South,” she said.

The second panel, “Win By A Lot: When Movement and Math Meet” kicked off with reflections by Katherine Peck, who most recently served as Senior Vice President of the Civic Participation Action Fund. She shared lessons learned as the fund sunsets after 5 years of catalyzing change in the 501(c)(4) ecosystem. “We needed a squad of donors and a squad of state-based leaders who were each connected with the other if we were going to be able to win and to sustain those wins,” Katherine said. “Winning elections and building power are team sports.”

Katherine spoke about the impact that Way to Win had on the donor landscape when it was founded in 2017. “Together, we won ballot measure campaigns and electoral victories. Those wins had happened largely due to work of the activists and organizers, but also in part because more and more donors had decided to support that work.” Katherine then passed the mic to Way to Win President, Tory Gavito, who ran the numbers with the political team — Jenifer Fernandez Ancona, Vice President, and Colleen Loper, Director of Political Strategy.

“Winning is inherently solvable given the math,” Tory said. And Colleen shared the 3 strategic imperatives of the Plan to Win: 1) Seeing voters as full people, not just numbers, and making it incumbent upon Democrats to appeal to the high-potential voters to turn out; 2) Listening to leaders in the state; and 3) Stacking electoral opportunities with plans rooted in data and built with local leaders.

“We infuse these perspectives into a multi-faceted, multi-modal strategic Plan To Win,” Colleen said.

Still, even with Biden leading in the polls, Jennifer reminded us we cannot be complacent. “That’s exactly why we need to win by a lot,” she said in light of the GOP and their massive attempts to suppress the vote across the country.

The discussion then turned to the states as Alexis McGill Johnson, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, drew out the state forecasts from local leaders in Texas, Arizona, Michigan, North Carolina and Florida.

In Michigan, where Trump won by less than 11,000 votes in 2016, Branden Snyder, Executive Director of Detroit Action, shared his organization’s plan to talk to 150,000 Black and Brown, working-class, low-propensity voters to engage them on “the world that they want to see, about a Michigan that looks like them and reflects their values.”

Brigid Flaherty, Co-Director of Down Home North Carolina, spoke about the challenges and close margins in NC, as well as the hope for candidates such as Ricky Hurtado, who is running for NC state legislature.

Ricky later joined for an appearance and discussed the issues facing North Carolina, including the contentious issue of Medicaid expansion. “I’m hopeful that this is not just a moment, but a movement, and that we will see better days come November.”

After Ricky’s appearance, there were 8 breakout sessions on the themes: Disinformation; Content Creation and Testing; Youth Organizing and Engagement; Voter Education; Voter Registration and COVID-19 Challenges; Pushing Biden on Policy; Local and State Governance: Meeting the Movement; and Digital Organizing + Tools.

In the final panel on “Win By a Lot: The Power to Lead,” Alexandra Rojas, Executive Director of Justice Democrats, spoke with Jamaal Bowman, the Democratic Nominee for New York’s 16th Congressional District whose primary victory over a 16-term congressman was supported by Justice Democrats.

With Jamaal’s humble background and 20 years working in education, some may think that these candidates are once-in-a-lifetime politicians, Alexandra said. “We flatly reject that…There are thousands of people like Jamaal Bowman and AOC who are ready to get in the fight, but we have to be there to support them infrastructurally and to get behind them very early.”

The pair’s journey circles back to the Plan to Win, which includes ushering in a new generation of leaders.

“It was a match made in heaven,” Jamaal said of his relationship with Justice Democrats, made possible by the support of the Way to Win community.



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