How He Won

January 30, 2015

(Picture Credit: Elect Aaroun Regunberg)

It’s not easy to win a deeply competitive campaign for the State Assembly at age 24. It’s especially tough when you’re a first time candidate, not originally from the area, going up against the corporate education reform movement, and an opponent funded by people like Michael Bloomberg.

Aaron Regunberg spent college and the years since graduating organizing his Providence, Rhode Island community. He organized youth, their parents, and their teachers to advocate for meaningful change in the schools. And he saw the tremendous impact that giving people a seat at the table, and a voice in the process, can have on winning progress.

“Too often that sort of inclusive governing that I fought for doesn’t happen in the halls of government. I decided to run for State Assembly to continue this work, to bring more voices into the decision making process, to strengthen the community that I love.” Explains Aaron.

Towards the start of his campaign, before his official announcement, Aaron, along with his campaign manager and deputy campaign manager, joined us for a training. We were in Providence for what we call a political pipeline training, giving community leaders the confidence to plan for a campaign, and then take the step to run for office with the skills they’ll need to win.

Aaron faced a tough Democratic primary that included the leader of Teach for America in Rhode Island. Both believed that public schools needed to change, but they had vastly different visions for how to do that. So running a smart, effective campaign with a clear message was key:

“Those 2.5 days made every day following on the campaign trail more valuable for me and my team. It was an important bump in morale, it gave us the confidence, and the skills, to know we could run a people powered, values first campaign and we could, we would, win.”

Aaron and his team dove into our training. And a few days later, he launched his campaign with the same stump speech he built with us. “Wellstone guided us through a process to understand what a stump speech was all about. Our trainer helped me distill into a clear message my belief in bringing people together, and that our community has the answers to our toughest challenges if only we bring more voices into the process. The fundamentals of the message I wrote during that training was what I said at my kick-off and repeated a couple times a day for the next 6 months.”

Aaron won his primary, and the general election, and is starting his career in the State Assembly. But his connection to Wellstone isn’t over. “My biggest suggestion for prospective candidates is to attend a Wellstone training, work really hard and win, and then attend another training.” Says Aaron, “After the election, I attended a governing as a progressive session. We focused on how to move our agenda through the process in the same inclusive way we ran our campaigns. I came into this campaign with a healthy skepticism about electoral politics, Wellstone gave me a vocabulary, the Wellstone Triangle, to understand what Paul Wellstone knew: my organizing and commitment to progressive public policy remains a crucial part of my work now that I’m an elected official.”

Today, our stump speech session at Camp Wellstone includes an example from Aaron’s stump. We highlight his stump speech not just because he won a tough campaign against a well-funded opponent but because of how he won: people first, values first, community first. He won the Wellstone Way, and now he’s governing the Wellstone Way.