Winning in Georgia, the Wellstone Way

July 28, 2014

(Photo credit: Georgia Democratic House Caucus)

Change is going to come from the states, not from DC. Progress is going to be won by building an enduring movement, state by state. Wondering how we do that? Take Georgia as an example. Take the example of Georgia House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams.

The daughter of Mississippi ministers, a lawyer and businesswoman, State Representative and now Georgia House Minority Leader, Stacey Abrams is on a mission.

In the heart of Georgia, Abrams is a champion for great public schools, for access to good, affordable healthcare, for an economy where everyone who works hard has a fair shot at the middle class.

She’s the first woman to lead either party in the Georgia General Assembly and the first African-American to lead the Georgia House of Representatives. She has won considerable national recognition, including becoming the inaugural recipient of the EMILY's List Gabrielle Giffords Rising Star Award. And she’s just getting started. Next up, replacing the “Minority” in her title with “Majority.”

To do it, she’s leading the resurgence of the Georgia Democratic House Caucus, where she’s created an organization built to win and sustain a movement.

Abrams, and her team, have spent much of the last year in communities across Georgia, meeting with local leaders and recruiting top-notch candidates to run for the State House. As her focus shifted to supporting those candidates towards victory in November, she knew that Wellstone should be part of that work.

Wellstone came highly recommended from state based political leaders in other states. So Stacey and her team reached out.

“We’re building our bench in Georgia,” explains Abrams. “We’re running races with first-time candidates, so starting right, building capacity early, is vital. We must make certain that for each race, the candidate has the internal wherewithal to run and technical skills to win. Wellstone has best the reputation for helping to build that wherewithal, and those technical skills, with candidates and their staff.”

So in early June, we spent two-and-a-half days in the Peach State, with a union hall full of candidates and campaign managers. The result was something tremendous.

We practiced giving stump speeches, offered intense feedback, and then practiced again. We talked about the field component of a campaign, how to raise money, how to use paid, earned and digital media and how to display strong and confident leadership.

Says Abrams:

“I’ve heard nothing but rave reviews. From our brand new candidates, the unanimous, positive response was that the training was eye opening. Wellstone made them feel capable of doing the hard work of running. For our candidates with a bit more experience, Wellstone helped them understand how to improve and offered a roadmap for what could happen next. The weekend gave our candidates a renewed sense of confidence; they believe they can win, and they have the tools to win. That wouldn’t have happened without Wellstone. Wellstone harnessed their potential.” 

Georgia is a state of rich diversity, from its city centers to its sprawling farms. For the better part of the past few decades, conservatives have held most of the seats of power. If progressives can change the game in Georgia, it will offer a roadmap to progress across the country.

“Our candidates represent all the geographies of the state because we are growing progressives everywhere. Wellstone offered the candidates specific and focused content so they could adapt what they learned to their particular race.” Adds Abrams, “The Wellstone team was remarkable. I appreciated their diversity, which reflected the diversity of our candidates and state. Georgia is going through rapid demographic changes and the training reflected what Georgia is and what it is becoming.”

That’s how you change the game in the states, the Wellstone Way. With inspiring leaders, candidates whose passion is matched by their technical skills to run and win, with training that helps fuel a movement. We are doing that in Georgia. We are doing that in places like North Carolina and Ohio. And together, with leaders like Stacey Abrams, we’ll do just that across the country. Or, as we like to say at Wellstone, we’re painting America green.