Winning for Women Takes Progressive Teamwork

Progressive all-stars made thousands of calls in the days leading up to and on Election Day 2012. Here members of PPV!RI, CWA, OSA, MERi and various other campaign activists huddle up in Richmond, RI on Nov. 6th to make GOTV calls for Cathie Cool-Rumsey.

What is the elections’ postmortem week in Rhode Island without the subjective coverage of those who really “won” in state races? I think many progressive voters and activists in Rhode Island can agree that women were a force to be reckoned with up and down the ballot. More so, that Planned Parenthood Action Fund was one of the most successful and strategic PACs, with a near perfect record on all the national races we played in—a true winner. Karl Rove may be in denial, but we take nothing for granted in the electoral landscape. After all, Planned Parenthood used those magical tools like the 2010 census, the voter file and data to talk strategically to the right subset of voters:  women.   Consequently, this subset now comprises a majority of the electorate.

In addition to the work of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund (Planned Parenthood Federation of America’s federal PAC), Planned Parenthood Votes! RI worked hard in the Ocean State to use the resources and momentum that existed nationally and statewide to leverage our advocacy on behalf of women. Going through our own mandatory ultrasound fight in Rhode Island this spring and helping identify progressives to run for office with partners like Ocean State Action helped us put more energy into the movement locally.

The unsung heroes of the 2012 elections consist of approximately 100 new and veteran volunteers who participated tirelessly to generate over 26,000 educational calls over the course of three months. Furthermore, our supporters raised nearly $20,000 for our PAC over the past year. PPV!RI had to ensure our legislative champions had proper backing to win re-elections and that non-supporters of women’s health did not go unnoticed in a hostile year for women’s health. I guess in the words of Bob Dylan, I really hope and believe that for Rhode Island women, Times, They are a Changing.

Having come into Rhode Island politics from Missouri just this year, I am constantly amazed and reminded just how tangible victories are in the Ocean State. We don’t have to raise $100,000 for a single State House seat and candidates really don’t campaign for 10 months. In fact you’re lucky if they’re building campaigns 10 weeks before the election. Our win numbers are 3,700 not 13,700. Women can win in Rhode Island. Progressives can win in Rhode Island. It takes a laser-beam focus, a clear message and a real grassroots strategy. At Planned Parenthood Votes! RI, we are positioned to do just that, especially when we work effectively in coalition.

There is a multitude of progressive groups, allies and players who helped bring in a new wave of legislators for Rhode Island. When we all work in unison to communicate to our constituencies, we win, and Planned Parenthood modeled that behavior. We messaged to thousands of progressive women about which candidates you can trust to stay out of personal health care decisions. Planned Parenthood Votes! RI doesn’t have a history of heavily promoting our publicly endorsed candidates like Marvin Abney, Linda Finn, Gus Uht, Cathie-Cool Rumsey, Adam Satchell, Art Handy, Laura Pisaturo and the others to the mainstream media, we spend our time   speaking with and educating the voters that matter in those races.

I for one am proud to have spent Election Day in Richmond in a faux wood paneled HQ with a pretty cold bathroom, making thousands of calls around folding tables with plastic patio furniture alongside Clean Water Action staff, Marriage Equality RI interns, Ocean State Action staff and former members of the Libby Kimzey and Gus Uht campaign. We did more than help Cathie Cool-Rumsey win and the many other candidates win, we worked together to build a winning formula for 2013, 2014 and beyond.

Together, we can and will continue to win for women.

Paula Hodges is the Public Policy & Advocacy Director for Planned Parenthood Votes! RI and PPV!RI PAC.  Interested activists, pundits and politicos may follow PPV!RI’s work on Facebook and Twitter.

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