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How do we save a democracy under threat?
How do we make our politicians listen to us instead of becoming paid actors for lobbyists?
How do we make sure that the American Dream is enjoyed by and created for ALL –– not just the wealthy, old, white men?
Financial Feminism is built on the concept of fighting against systemic oppression –– and the best way to do that is to be engaged in our civic process. Yes, that means voting. Yes, that means donating if you have the financial means. Yes, that means contacting your state and local representatives and showing up to town halls.
But it also might be time to bring it closer to home.
If you’ve ever considered running for office, or you’ve watched your town held hostage by extremists in government ignoring the voices of your community in favor of the whispers by big donors and lobbyists and wondered what you can do, this episode is for you.
In this episode, we’re joined by Amanda Litman, who founded Run for Something –– a nonprofit dedicated to helping young progressives run for office. Amanda worked on both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton’s campaigns and has helped over 400 candidates in 2022 alone run for offices ranging from school board to city council and beyond.
What you’ll learn:
How much it actually costs to run for office
How to help local campaigns if running for office isn’t for you
Why extremist groups often target small offices to gain power and influence –– and how we can stop them
How to save our democracy
When we say this is the most important episode we’ve ever recorded, we mean it.
To changing the world, Financial Feminists.
https://abortion.cafe/ – collection of abortion resources
shoutyourabortion.com – campaign to normalize abortion
https://donations4abortion.com/ – donate to support abortion funds by state
https://secure.actblue.com/donate/supportabortionfunds – donate to the national network of abortion funds (donations split between 80+ abortion funds)
https://usow.org/repro/volunteer/ – abortion clinics across the country that need volunteers
https://dontbanequality.com/ – language for companies to use to stand against the ruling
plancpills.org/ambassadors – early abortion access pills you can store in your cabinet
https://prochoice.org/ – this is an abortion access hotline
https://natalist.com/products/early-pregnancy-test-strips – buy early pregnancy test strips
https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/birth-control – get info on types of birth control
https://www.guttmacher.org/state-policy/explore/abortion-policy-absence-roe – abortion policy by state as of June 1, 2022
More in-depth version: https://www.guttmacher.org/state-policy
Hello Financial Feminist listeners. My name is Kristen and I am the Podcast Producer here at Financial Feminist. Before we get into today’s episode, we wanted to take a moment to address the Supreme Court decision on June 24th that overturned Roe versus Wade. This decision stripped away the legal right to have a safe and legal abortion.
Restricting access to comprehensive reproductive care including abortion threatens the health and independence of all Americans. This decision could also lead to the loss of other rights.
To learn more about what you can do to help go to https://choice.crd.co/ – We will also have links in our show notes. We recorded this episode with Amanda a couple of months ago after the leak happened but it was before obviously this decision was made. We wanted to give this little disclaimer off the top and I especially wanted to give it as a woman who lives in a southern state who has just severely restricted abortion. This episode is one of the most hopeful things that you could listen to it this time. It really genuinely will give you hope.
We here at Financial Feminist and Her First 1$00k encourage you to speak up, take care and spread the word. Thank you, Financial Feminists.
Hello, hello, financial feminist. Somehow we are already at the end of June. Which means that 2022 is halfway over, which is absolutely wild. So, as we finish out pride month, today’s episode feels particularly relevant with everything happening in the United States, everything happening in the world, especially considering it’s an election year, if you are based in the United States.
Something you’ve heard me talk a lot about, of course on this podcast, is fighting the patriarchy, fighting these patriarchal systems that exist that keep folks disenfranchised. Women, people of color, members of the LGBTQ plus community, disabled people, anyone who’s in a minority group. And in fighting the patriarchy, we do that with our time, with our money, with our vote. And one of the biggest ways to make meaningful change is by engaging with elections and elected officials. And that means not only showing up on the first Tuesday in November and voting in national elections, voting for our president. It means the random Tuesday in May to vote for the school board primaries, for our mayor, for the sheriff, for even the coroner, which doesn’t sound important. But let me tell you, after this episode, you will understand why it is.
Tori (00:01:12 a>):
It means emailing, calling your elected officials, engaging in the process outside of election day and making your voice heard. It is so important to engage with your politics at a local level. I didn’t even realize how important it was until after I did this interview. These national elections are incredibly important, right. The presidential election is incredibly important. However, the things that you can actually do in terms of seeing your impact on a day to day basis, that happens at the local or state level. That happens with local government. You can have more influence and more sway, and local and state officials are going to have a bigger impact on your life, on your day to day life. Their decisions about schools, about policing, about healthcare, about pretty much anything is going to affect you more personally on a day to day basis.
What’s even more important than these elections, is running for office. So if you’re like me, again, I walked into this episode thinking, oh, running for office seems fun. Yes, I would like to live out my Leslie Nope dreams. However, that sounds I’m busy. I’m a busy person. And also, don’t elections take a bunch of time. That’s not for me. But today’s guest is here to dispel that myth. I literally walked out of today’s interview… It’s one of my favorite interviews we’ve ever, ever done. I literally called Kristin, our podcast producer, after I walked out the studio and just… I am an absolute awe of Amanda. And in addition, I left the studio wanting to run for office and realizing I actually could.
So today we’re joined by Amanda Litman, the founder of Run for Something. Amanda is impressive as fuck y’all. She has worked for both the Hillary Clinton campaign and Barack Obama’s campaign. And now helps progressives under 40 run for local office. This episode is incredibly inspiring, and if it doesn’t make you want to run for office yourself, or at least get more involved, it will at least have you thinking about the town you live in new ways. Please do not skip this one. Please share it. I was, again, so inspired walking out of the studio after we recorded this one. Amanda is one of the most intelligent people I’ve ever met in my life. And I was so thankful she came on the show. So without further ado, Amanda Litman of Run for Something.
I’m so happy. You’re here. We had a fun little rendezvous before this, because of a studio mix up. So it’s fun. We’ve already chatted for a while, which it’s great.
Amanda Litman (00:04:11):
Amanda Litman (00:04:13):
Hanging out makes us a little less awkward for two people who haven’t met prior to this.
What got you into politics in the first place?
Amanda Litman (00:04:20):
I have never not been into politics, which is a really bad answer.
It’s not a bad answer.
Amanda Litman (00:04:24):
So I grew up in Northern Virginia. My best friend’s mom used to take me to marches and protests. And the first thing I remember doing was stuffing envelopes for narrow pro-choice Virginia. When I was in my teens, knocked doors for Virginia Democrats. I just always thought politics was the way you could change the world. I thought it was interesting. And that if you wanted to make this a better country and a better democracy, like duh, elections were the way to do it.
You had the Padmé Amidala version of democracy.
Amanda Litman (00:04:52):
Kind of, yeah. It was, it was pretty cliche.
No, because I grew up thinking politics was very gross. Not gross, but just grew up with parents who were very disillusioned by the whole thing.
Amanda Litman (00:05:10):
My parents were not political in any way. My dad was Republican. My mom voted, but
it just wasn’t the primary topic of conversation. But I did grow up pretty religious. Jewish, went to summer camp. And a big part of the summer camp I went to was that it is your responsibility as a Jewish person to try and fix the world, to save the world and to fix the broken pieces. And that included social action projects, recycling and cleaning up parks, but also through government. And I did a program once where you went to the Hill, and you lobbied about minimum wage or whatever the Jewish issue of the moment was. And that was just baked in.
Amanda Litman (00:05:50):
So, I knew I wanted to work in politics. I didn’t know exactly what sort of part of it. I thought maybe campaigns, maybe journalism. Junior year of high school, I skipped a day of class and went to go see Barack Obama speak. Before he announced his presidential campaign he was doing a speaking tour, and I heard him speak at George Mason University and was sold. I was like, that’s what I want to do. I want to work for him. So my senior year of high school, I skipped another day of school to go to the DNC winter meeting, because that’s what I did as a high school senior, my little truancy. I got to see all the other Democrats speak. And that was when the presidential campaign primary was still in full swing. And you got to see Hillary, and John Edwards and Obama, and the whole field.
Was Liz Warren at that time?
Amanda Litman (00:06:35):
She was not yet.
Amanda Litman (00:06:38):
I had a family friend who was at Northwestern University, who was working or interning on the Obama campaign. And I was like, I want to do that. I want to go to Northwestern. I want to work for the Obama campaign when I’m in college. Which is not a great way to pick a university, but it’s not a bad one. And so that’s what I did. In college I jumped around a little bit. I did college journalism. So I did a summer internship at The American Prospect. I worked at Maze Magazine at one point. I did a summer on the Hill as a Hill intern, which made me realize I don’t like governing that much. I worked for my local county democratic party. But by my senior year, I knew I wanted to work on campaigns. So in between writing my thesis, I majored in American studies and I wrote my thesis on women running for office against other women and the way it changes gender performance in TV ads. So I’ve been always on brand.
Tell me more about that.
Amanda Litman (00:07:25):
The gist is that as more women ran for office, and as gender became less of a differentiating factor, there were more ways to perform gender. So you went from the singular, women in kitchen with kids and pearls to, women outside, women at work, women in pants, women in short hair, long hair. And now it’s actually really… I think 2018 in particular, you saw women breastfeeding walked on their TV ads. Women showing off somewhat traditionally masculine coded activities like motorcycles, women in hijab. And it’s an expansion of what is possible. When more women run, you get more examples of how we can do it. So I got an internship on the Obama campaign my senior year of college doing online fundraising. And I’ve been working in this field ever since.
Sounds like you’ve been laser focused. Did that focus ever weigh in?
Amanda Litman (00:08:10):
I always knew campaigns, and I always knew… I wasn’t sure, again journalism maybe. But by the time I was a senior, I sort of caught the bug of, you do a hard sprint to a full finish. Either you win or you lose. If you win, the possibility for progress is exponential. It’s unbelievable. If you lose, the consequences are also really high and the stakes are really high, but that’s what makes the work worth it. And you can do anything for 10 months, nine months, six weeks. You can work until you can’t see straight. Until you get shingles, until you sacrifice your family and your friends-
Which isn’t ideal.
Amanda Litman (00:08:56):
No, it’s not good. And it’s not a good work culture. But you do it because, if you don’t, at the end of the day after the election, did you do everything you could? And at the end of election day 2012, when we were in the McCormick Center, seeing Obama except and win that reelection. And a thing that in retrospect feels very obvious, but in the moment felt so improbable. That makes it worth it. Plus you build an incredible family of friends that you work with, and it’s
like being in the trenches with people.
I was just going to say you’re in the trenches together.
Amanda Litman (00:09:31):
Yeah. So some of my closest friends are people I’ve now known for over a decade, having worked with them in 2012.
Why did you start Run for Something?
Amanda Litman (00:09:39):
So, Run for Something was born of the ashes of the 2016 election.
HFK was two. Her First 100K was born as well, yeah.
Amanda Litman (00:09:47):
Just a time for us to rise like Phoenixes. So after I worked for Obama, I worked for his nonprofit for a year. I moved down to Florida and worked on the governor’s race for a while. And then I moved to New York to work for secretary Clinton’s campaign, which was a dream come true. All I wanted was to elect the first woman president. I’m going to get teary thinking about it.
No, and I literally… You just said that I’m… Yup.
Amanda Litman (00:10:08):
It felt so possible. We worked so hard. I worked from before the campaign launched all the way through, to days and days and weeks after. And we used to get pep talks throughout the hardest days of, if we win, little girls across the country will be able to say that you did this. You gave me an example of what is possible to achieve. And if we lose, everything is on the line. We used to make up headlines of what we would see under a Trump presidency. And honestly, we couldn’t have made up with reality of [crosstalk 00:10:41]. It sucked. And afterwards in the weeks after election day, it’s not just a personal failing, because I, Amanda Litman failed to do my job, which was to elect Hillary Clinton president. And because I failed, so many people are going to suffer. Did I do everything I could?
At some point you have to let that go.
Amanda Litman (00:11:03):
Yeah, a lot of therapy. But you find a way to-
That’s so heavy.
Amanda Litman (00:11:09):
It sucks. I mean, it was a privilege. It was a privilege and an honor to work for her. And it was one of the coolest, hardest, best things I’ll ever do. And it was crushing, the week after election day, I’m still in a haze, and depression and grief. And I know I haven’t been to a grocery store since March 2015. So I’m hungry.
Amanda Litman (00:11:30):
I get a message from somebody I went to college with. Hey Amanda, I’m a public school teacher in Chicago. I’m thinking about running for office because if Trump can be president seems like anybody can do this. You’ve worked in politics, you know this space, what do I do? And I didn’t have an answer for them. And I was getting messages like this from people all across the country. I was getting people, DMing me on Twitter saying, I want to run, what do I do? People on Facebook just reaching out, asking me what do I do?
Cold DMing you.
Amanda Litman (00:11:59):
Because if you don’t really know how the political system works, you don’t even know where to start. So the friend of a friend who works in politics feels like a pretty good entry point. The more that I thought about that. The more that I realized that the fact that I didn’t have an answer for them. The fact that there was nowhere you could go. If you were in your twenties or thirties, and maybe didn’t have the capacity to raise a bunch of money, but maybe you weren’t new to super new to politics.
Amanda Litman (00:12:21):
But you knew that this was a way you could solve a problem you cared about. You didn’t want to vote, or you wanted to do more than vote. You want to do more than volunteer. If you wanted to actually lead, there was nowhere you could go that would take your call. That felt like a symptom of really big problems in the democratic party and in our democracy. So on a very depressing vacation that I took with some colleagues a couple weeks later, during which I read the book by Ellen Malcolm about how she created Emily’s List, which is the organization that elects pro-choice democratic women.
Yep. I’m a big supporter of them.
Amanda Litman (00:12:49):
They are phenomenal. And she talks about how one of the reasons she created Emily’s List was because women were not seen as viable candidates. They did not see them-
By who or whom?
Amanda Litman (00:12:58):
By the gatekeepers. By the donors and the party officials, and the people who make-
Amanda Litman (00:13:03):
Yeah. So she created Emily’s List to give those women, who were not seen as viable candidates, a base, a place to call home, a political entry point. And I was like, oh, we could do something kind of like this. I would do it a little differently. It’s 2016 at this point, not the eighties. I would do a little differently. But we could do something like this. But for all those people who were reaching out to me, what if we created a place for young people who wanted to run for local office for the first time, for them to get help? I sent an email to a whole bunch of people saying, here’s my idea. Tell me why this is dumb.
And talk me down if you need to talk me down.
Amanda Litman (00:13:40):
Talk me down. Surely this feels really obvious. Surely somebody must have tried this. Tell me why this is stupid. And instead I got back dozens of emails being like, yeah you should absolutely. It’s really hard.
Amanda Litman (00:13:51):
But you should do it. And one of those people connected me to her husband who’d been working in politics for about 15 years. His name is Ross Morales Rocketto. And he had been chewing on this idea for a while too. And Ross and I sat down and we wrote a plan, and we built a website, and we filed the legal paperwork. I was unemployed-
A what point… What month is this?
Amanda Litman (00:14:12):
This is December 2016.
Amanda Litman (00:14:16):
I’m a workaholic.
You got your shit together in like two months? Six weeks?
Amanda Litman (00:14:20):
Amanda Litman (00:14:22):
Yeah, I was-
Are you sleeping? Well, you probably haven’t slept for a year.
Amanda Litman (00:14:25):
It was less time sleeping, and I’m writing a plan. And I’m getting on the phone with people to ask them to tell me why this is a good idea or a bad idea. I’m getting feedback. Ross is managing a congressional campaign out in California. So he’s working, and then we’re talking at night. By January… Now I’m like really in the shit, because I dislocate my knee on new year’s Eve. So I’m literally-
Doing what? Are you drunk?
Amanda Litman (00:14:45):
Just dancing in a friend’s apartment.
Amanda Litman (00:14:47):
And being like… Way more fun to end new’s Eve than in the emergency room.
I have so many friends who have gotten fluke injuries because they’ve been drinking.
Amanda Litman (00:14:54):
And like shit happens.
Amanda Litman (00:14:56):
Yeah, I’m sorry.
Amanda Litman (00:14:57):
So I’m literally sitting on my couch. Can’t do anything, can’t go anywhere, can’t have any fun. Can’t go to the March. Can’t go put… Can’t go anywhere.
Oh yeah. Because that would’ve been… Yeah.
Amanda Litman (00:15:06):
So this is January 2017. We’re like, okay, we will launch Run for Something, if it works great. If not, what a cool hobby this will be. I had sent out my resume to some online marketing jobs, because that’s what I’d done before. Who knows what I’m going to do with my life. I had envisioned a world where Hillary Clinton was going to be president. And I didn’t know what I would do in that scenario either. But the very least I would have friends with interesting jobs, I could find something.
Amanda Litman (00:15:30):
So we launch Run for Something on Trump’s inauguration day. That morning, a little blurb goes out in Politico. Our website goes live. I send an email to, I don’t know, a thousand people who I’ve ever talked to in my entire life, being like, I just put this thing out into the world. Tell me what you think. Please give us money. And it goes viral. We thought we’d get maybe a hundred people who’d sign up to say they want to run in the first year. We have a thousand people in the first week. My inbox is flooded with people who want to help. All of a sudden I have people reaching out to me saying, let me talk to the folks in Kansas. Let me help the people in Florida. I have seven friends in Maine who I think you should talk to.
Amanda Litman (00:16:10):
So I figure out how to build the thing, and fly the plane, and hopefully not crash the plane as we go. As of today, we’re up to more than 113,000 young people, mostly women, mostly people of color, who’ve raised their hands to say they want to run. My multimillion dollar 24 person, maybe six people, 20 something staff, has helped endorse more than 2000 candidates. And we’ve helped elect 640 across 48 states. All people 40 years old and younger, all first time candidates. All to things like state house, state senate, city council, school board, library board, water board, university of Michigan board of R
egents, community college board of trustees.
Amanda Litman (00:16:46):
They have done things like expand Medicaid in Virginia to hundreds and thousands of Virginians. And bring early voting to New York. And get police out of traffic enforcement in Berkeley. And bring paid family leave after pregnancy loss to the employees in Waterloo, Iowa. They have fought to reduce the cost of insulin in Texas, and personally helped nearly 50,000 Floridians access broken unemployment search system. They’re amazing. And they are just the beginning, because we have so much more work to do. But getting to be a part of this, and what it was going to be my hobby. Now my full-time, more than full-time job, is just such a privilege, and such a joy, and so exhausting. And has transformed my understanding of what is possible in politics, both for better and for worse. So that’s Run for Something.
I don’t know what to say. I always joke that I cry on the show, but I’ve never cried this early.
Amanda Litman (00:17:43):
It’s a good thing. I’m in awe of you.
Amanda Litman (00:17:46):
Oh thank you.
Oh gosh, where do I even go? One thing I’ve thought about a lot, is how secretary Clinton must have felt to be the most qualified person to ever run for that office, and to lose to an absolute buffoon. And what that must say about this state of our world. I have thought about, if that was me, what that… How much that would fuck me up, to be honest.
Amanda Litman (00:18:13):
On election night, I was at the Javits Center. We were in the backstage in this little staff holding area with digital and calm and research people. We were waiting to see what the results were, because we had plans. We had a website to switch over. We had an email to send, social tweet, all of that. And when the results came, obviously we all crumbled. And the conversation I remember having most vividly, with one of my friends, was what are all the little girls going to think? And just as [inaudible 00:18:42], what are all the little boys going to think? That they can, and maybe have to behave in a certain way to gain power. What kind of example are we setting for kids?
Well, for all of us.
Amanda Litman (00:18:54):
I mean for all of us. But what does this mean for what is possible for women? And a little bit later, I wrote a book in 2017 as well about how to run for office. And in it, one of the things that I put pen to paper in, it was the hardest part for me to write, was Hillary Clinton losing didn’t feel just like a professional failure. It was the rebuke of a woman who was smart, and ambitious, and qualified. And was told over and over again, you are too much, too loud, too aggressive, too bold, too bra. And, I’m an ambitious young woman. I get told I’m too loud. I get told I’m-
You do all the time.
Amanda Litman (00:19:33):
Which, what does that mean for people like us? What does that tell us? What I choose to interpret it, and what I choose to take away from that experience and from seeing how she has thrived. Well, at the very least come back from that with incredible grace and poise.
Amanda Litman (00:19:48):
And what I’ve seen, the tens of thousands of women more, who’ve said her loss may have broken me, but it does not discourage me. It makes me think, she went first so I could come next. Jennifer Palmieri and her amazing book, Madame President, talks about the Secret Service expression, step forward, draw fire. That’s what Hillary Clinton did, she stepped forward and drew the fire.
And regardless of how you feel about her.
Amanda Litman (00:20:15):
She took the hits.
Yep. She did.
Amanda Litman (00:20:19):
So that the rest of us can come next, and maybe it’s a little bit easier. Maybe there’s more of us. Although you see what the other side is now doing to AOC. And it’s what they did to Hillary Clinton 20 years ago. But, to know that that path has been paved, and now we get to walk on it. And we get to make it better, and prettier, and wider, and bring more people with us.
Right. Well, and I think there was… I think more harm than good that of course came out of that. However, you and I are both sitting at this table in the positions we’re in because of 2016.
Amanda Litman (00:20:54):
A hundred percent.
I would not be here if 2016 hadn’t happened.
Amanda Litman (00:20:58):
No, I think about the alternate universe, where Hillary Clinton had won my life would be wildly different.
In a lot of better ways, of course, right. But I also am like, my business would not exist. I would not feel as activated as I do.
Amanda Litman (00:21:11):
Run for Something would not exist. I would not have met my husband. I wouldn’t live in New York city. And every level, my life would be wildly different. And I… Would I trade this life for that one on a heartbeat. I don’t know. But, that’s not a productive counter factual, but it is-
Well and we’re also sitting here and it’s a very privileged statement to be like, our lives are this way when… But I’m just more thinking about, I think, especially hearing everything that you’ve accomplished since then, right. It was the catalyst that I think-
Amanda Litman (00:21:42):
I wish we didn’t need it.
Of course. God I want to be clear. Of course, I wish we didn’t need it. It’s just incredible that you took that and was like, okay, let’s fucking run with it. Pun intended, right?
Amanda Litman (00:21:57):
For every person who has a different response to trauma, and to grief, and to anger. And I am a campaign person whose response is to work, which is-
Both good and bad.
Amanda Litman (00:22:06):
Not great necessarily, but has its pros.
Totally. Oh man. I have so many questions for you, but it’s also… What is the most surprising thing that a regular person doesn’t know about a campaign or an election?
Amanda Litman (00:22:24):
I think people think that it’s rocket science. People think that it’s hard. And I want to be clear, there is a distinction, it is hard. Running for office is difficult. It is time intensive. It is a personal bearing of who you are and what you believe. [crosstalk 00:22:38] You’re putting yourself out there and asking people to put their faith and trust in you. And to delegate honestly, some of the most important decisions that are ever going to be made into someone that they’re going to barely know, or maybe know for a couple minutes at their door. You’re going to decide how well their streets are paved and how fully their schools are funded, and whether or not they have access to the reproductive rights that they deserve. And, the mechanics of a campaign are actually not that
difficult. There’s a lot of jargon around it. That’s meant to keep-
It’s like personal finance too.
Amanda Litman (00:23:06):
Yeah, it’s meant to keep normal people out.
Yup. Sounds about right.
Amanda Litman (00:23:09):
And it’s not that hard. The point of a campaign is to be able to answer as a candidate, three key questions. What is the problem` I care about solving? How is the office I’m running for giving me a place to solve it? And why should voters want me to win? Which is different than why do you want to win? You want to win because winning is great and losing sucks. Voters want you to win because you’re going to deliver for them. You’re going to do something for them. You’re going to stop something from happening to them. But you’re going to touch their lives in a meaningful way.
Amanda Litman (00:23:37):
Once you can answer those three questions, the rest of the campaign is just figuring out when and how to communicate that before the deadline. Knocking doors, making calls, sending text messages, doing ads. It’s mechanics, and it’s logistics, which is complicated in of itself. But most races are not that expensive. Most races aren’t that many voters that you actually have to talk to. We’re thinking hundreds or thousands. Most races-
That’s way less than I thought.
Amanda Litman (00:24:03):
I mean, think about a school board race in Kansas city. Or a city council in Oklahoma. Or even in rural Florida, a county executive race or county commission.
Can I stop you for a second?
Amanda Litman (00:24:17):
So we were talking before we got on mic. I think a lot of people assume, if maybe somebody’s just kind of learning more about politics. A lot of the media and a lot of the splash right is on these… We spent what, 25 minutes talking about a presidential election, right. So I hear you say city council, right. Or, the school board. And if I’m a listener I might be going well, what does that matter? Can you tell me why those matter?
Amanda Litman (00:24:45):
Okay so let’s zoom out for a moment. You think we have one government. We have the President, Congress, Supreme court. We have the federal government. We actually have 50 state governments, plus D.C. and territories. Three thousand-ish county governments. Thousands more city governments. And within those cities and counties, various governing districts that cover things like water, and agriculture, and mosquitoes, and fire safety. And then education governance boards like-
Amanda Litman (00:25:20):
Health care boards, public health officials. Most of which are elected. There are half a million elected offices in the United States.
Is it… Because Sheriffs are elected too.
Amanda Litman (00:25:30):
Sheriffs in many places. 1300 counties elect coroners, which feel… The coroner’s actually a really good example here. Feels like a position that like who cares.
Amanda Litman (00:25:39):
I don’t know, we just lived through a global pandemic where coroners in many places were making critical decisions about what went on death certificate.
Amanda Litman (00:25:46):
So for example, there was a coroner in Missouri, I believe, who would not put COVID as cause of death on death certificates.
Because of his politics?
Amanda Litman (00:25:55):
Yeah. Directly affects the way that we measure things.
Right. And therefore how many vaccines are available in that county. The masks support. The ventilators in the… Yeah, ooh.
Amanda Litman (00:26:11):
Coroners will often make decisions about whether someone who died at the hands of the police, was killed by the hands of the police, or by something else.
Amanda Litman (00:26:20):
It’s a criminal justice issue.
Amanda Litman (00:26:22):
Another coroner example, we had a candidate running for coroner in Jefferson county, Colorado, whose big issue was gender affirmation on death certificates. Trans people within the county were being mis-gendered on their death certificates, which has a direct effect on the way that we measure homicide and suicide statistics.
That’s such a great example. You said coroner, and I was like, oh, okay.
Amanda Litman (00:26:40):
You’re right. I’m like, okay.
Amanda Litman (00:26:43):
There are hundreds of thousands of elected positions like coroner, that directly affect your quality of life. [crosstalk 00:26:50] That can make your life infinitely better or infinitely worse. Library boards, it’s been in the news a lot lately because we’ve seen a lot of far right efforts to ban books out of libraries, and to remove funding from libraries.
Amanda Litman (00:27:00):
We worked with a woman, Dr. Katie Clark, who is the president of the board of trustees at the Alta Dina county library board in California. And she explained this to me in a way that I’d never actually heard articulated, the library is the place of government where every citizen and non-citizen comes into contact. It’s where homeless people go to apply for jobs. People who don’t have access to computers. It’s where immigrants go for English language classes and citizenship classes. It’s where kids go for story time. And senior citizens go for social hour. It is the center of government. And it maintains the space. The idea of what a community is.
Amanda Litman (00:27:36):
She was telling me how her library board at that point in time was thinking about the civil rights and historic monument walk throughout the town. It was maintained by the library. A library creates a sense of place. What a beautiful thing. And what a thing that could get utterly fucked if the wrong person is in charge.
Yeah, I think about my own experience. I would li
terally get out of school, and before I’d have an hour before my piano lessons, when I was growing up. And so my mom would drive me, and I’d do homework in the library pretty much every day after school. And I was thinking about two years… What a year ago, when the library’s reopened, I cried. I was so happy because I had missed books and going to the library so much.
Amanda Litman (00:28:16):
It’s he third space for a lot of people.
Yeah, it is.
Amanda Litman (00:28:18):
And they’re governed by, in many places, elected officials.
Amanda Litman (00:28:23):
So, as you think about where is the place I can solve the problem I care about-
That directly affects you in a way that maybe a national election or a federal election won’t, right.
Amanda Litman (00:28:32):
The answer is almost always, on basically everything except for foreign policy. And even that, sometimes you can find a way in. The answer is local. And especially right now when the federal government, I guess, God bless them, has absolved themselves of the responsibility to act on so many issues. We are going to see even more importance of who is in charge locally, in red states and in blue states. And purple states, if one believes those are a thing.
Amanda Litman (00:29:03):
I think for young people, especially, you think about housing. Housing is not a federally solved problem. I mean, there’s stuff that the federal government can do, obviously. But housing is about zoning and building codes.
I live in Seattle, which is, it’s has a massive houseless issue. Massive. And every person comes in and claims they’re going to solve it, and no one has. But it is any sort of progress has been made at the local level.
Amanda Litman (00:29:31):
And I think especially with housing, it is one of the issues where it is even more important that young people are involved. Because right now homeowners are the primary stakeholders in these places. The number of candidates and elected officials we’ve worked with who are the first or only renter to win a position on their elected body. The perspective that you bring as a renter or as someone who maybe is still saving to buy a home or thinking about your first home-
Or can’t fucking buy a home because the homes are a million dollars, yeah.
Amanda Litman (00:29:58):
That is a very different perspective, than the room full of homeowners and all the landlords that are there.
And the people who’ve had the house for 40 years, that it’s now quadrupled in value.
Amanda Litman (00:30:08):
Who are… It is against their best interests to build more housing.
Amanda Litman (00:30:13):
So, on basically every issue, I think, housing is the one where it’s the most clear. I’ve had people come up to me and say, my parents don’t understand why I live with three roommates that I met on the i
nternet. Because they don’t understand what the housing market is like for a 20 something right now.
Right. It’s everybody on Twitter being like, well I had to go to college and I paid $2, so you should too. And it’s like, college isn’t $2.
Amanda Litman (00:30:38):
No, but it would be nice. Wouldn’t it?
It would be nice. It would be very nice.
Amanda Litman (00:30:41):
So, even college affordability. A lot of these decisions are being made by state legislatures, community college affordability. University of Michigan board of Regents is an elected position in the state of Michigan, and it’s governed by a board. One of the members is Jordan Acker, who when we helped him win, I think it was in 2018.
Also, can I just… So impressive that you’ve got… You have this shit down.
Amanda Litman (00:31:03):
Oh man, my brain is 80% rounding percentage stats and 20%-
No, and I love it. [crosstalk 00:31:11] Because I do this shit with HOK. Like 45% of Americans over the age of 55 have nothing saved for retirement. I can spout that like, let’s go.
Amanda Litman (00:31:16):
It’s just ingrained in my soul.
Yup. No but, you can tell you’ve been courting donors for a couple years. You’ve been doing this a while.
Amanda Litman (00:31:25):
Well I think it’s, they’re compelling stats and they’re compelling stories.
No. I am again in awe of you. I think it’s great.
Amanda Litman (00:31:30):
You’re just spouting it like its nothing.
Amanda Litman (00:31:32):
So Jordan Acker is on the board of Regents at University of Michigan, and he was the first person to graduate from the university in this century to win a seat on this board that governs one of the biggest public universities in the country.
Say that again.
Amanda Litman (00:31:43):
Jordan Acker, first member of the University of Michigan board of Regents to graduate from said university in this century. So Jordan wins. It’s a statewide position. Very cool.
Oh, so they’re alumni. They’re just older.
Amanda Litman (00:31:57):
Amanda Litman (00:31:58):
They’re in their fifties and sixties.
Oh I see. I see what you mean now.
Amanda Litman (00:32:01):
Since 2000. So Jordan comes in with the perspective of, hey, we should raise the minimum wage for university employees. We should change the way we handle sexual assault complaints on campus.
Amanda Litman (00:32:11):
Right now he’s talking about what it will take to, if Roe V. Wade falls, which feels very likely, and abortion becomes illegal in Michigan, as is currently on the law books there. What is the university of Michigan going to do to make sure that it’s a safe space for its students? That they can get their students access to the care that they need. It matters to have people who share our lived experience in these rooms at every level. And I think, sure Congress is good. I think it sounds like the most miserable country club in America. But Congress is good for many things and has importance. But the further down the ballot, the closer to your door. The closer to your home, the closer to your daily life.
Amanda Litman (00:32:52):
So, think about what you can do locally. It is so powerful to get to walk, or drive, or bike, or live the outcomes that you work so hard to bring about.
I’m thinking about the media I consume, even just as… And again, listeners please do this yourself. If I’m thinking about, is it a lack of discussion about these sort of issues locally, because the other stuff’s sexier? Like presidential campaigns are much sexier. Or am I not looking in the right places to get news about what’s going on in my city?
Amanda Litman (00:33:27):
Little bit of column A, a little bit of column B.
Amanda Litman (00:33:28):
So the death of local news is a huge problem. And there’s really interesting studies about this. When local news outlets disappear, as we have seen thousands of local newspapers and magazines disappear over the last 20 years.
I’m from Tacoma, Washington. Tacoma News Tribune, if you get it still… You can’t see me. But it’s like an inch… No, not even. It’s like a fingernail big.
Amanda Litman (00:33:47):
This is the story in countless communities across the country. And there is a local news desert. When local news outlets disappear, local lawmakers pass fewer laws, civic engagement and voter turnout and local elections goes down. Fewer people run for mayor, because there’s less exposure to what is happening. It has a direct outcome on civic engagement. So, the news problem is a democracy problem.
Amanda Litman (00:34:10):
And compounded by that, national outlets have to find a way to make, the ones that still exist, have to find a way to make the local news stuff exciting.
Mm-hmm (affirmative). Sexy.
Amanda Litman (00:34:20):
I work with reporters every day for my job. I help tell the story of what Run for Something is doing and what our candidates and our alumni are doing. And every day I get reporters who say to me, I would love to tell this story, but how do I
convince my national editor that our readers will care? [inaudible 00:34:33] Let me help you tell the… I’ll help you make the case.
Like you’re the reporter. Figure out the headlines, not my job.
Amanda Litman (00:34:34):
But okay, what’s the trend? How can we… What’s the bigger meaning here? So-
Give it the razzle dazzle.
Amanda Litman (00:34:48):
But I do it. I think part of it is the death of local news and part of it is, the outlets that still remain have to tell the bigger story.
Amanda Litman (00:34:56):
And, that’s not to say that what happens in Washington doesn’t matter. It does. Is it going to affect your day to day lived experience in the same way that-
Or could I affect it?
Amanda Litman (00:35:04):
Yeah. Could you affect it?
Probably not. Doesn’t mean don’t vote in a national elections, but it’s like-
Amanda Litman (00:35:12):
If you call your city council member to complain about something, they personally will probably pick up the phone. When you email them… They probably don’t have staff. Maybe they have one, right. When you call your school board member or reach out to them, you’re going to talk to them directly. One of the coolest things I got to do when I wrote my book a couple years ago was, talk to a bunch of now higher elected officials who started out locally.
Amanda Litman (00:35:36):
And I talked to one person who told me how, when he was still, I think he was on the city council at that point. He would go out to dinner with his girlfriend, I believe. And would have people come up to them at the table and be like, hey, my trash didn’t get picked up. Hey, you didn’t pick up my trash. Your staff didn’t come pick up my trash. He was like, I would have to apologize to my lovely girlfriend for the guy yelling at me about trash pickup over dinner. But like that was their job. [crosstalk 00:36:13] And it’s like, you can have these personal relationships. The people who serve on your school boards and city councils-
Respect their boundaries please. But yeah-
Amanda Litman (00:36:21):
Yeah. My dad, I said was a Republican for a long time. In 20… I think either 17 or 19, I forget what year it was. He was like I’m going to vote for a Democrat. And I was like, oh, why? He was like, well Kathy, Kathy Tran, who was the candidate for state house, she goes to our synagogue. I know Kathy, I’m going to see Kathy at Shabbat services. If I don’t vote for her she’s going to know. And I was like, well, she’s not going to know. But you should think that she’s going to know. And you should feel personally accountable.
It’s like Santa. He will see, he will know.
Amanda Litman (00:36:51):
Yeah. That personal relationship between voter and candidate is what makes those offices so compelling, and is what makes those elections so meaningful. Because if you’re running for state house, or state senate, or city council, or school board, whatever it is. The doors you knock, the voters you talk to, are also going to show up for everything else. But that the reverse isn’t necessarily true.
Amanda Litman (00:37:10):
Because especially in a lot of places where the top of the ticket just isn’t competitive.
Can we break down the financials of different levels of campaigns. So if I am listening and I’m like, could I run? Is this a possibility? I even… You and I were talking before, I’m like, maybe I’ll run for office. How much does it take to run at different levels? How much money do you need? How much money do you need to raise? Am I on here pounding the pavement? If I’m not ridiculously wealthy, can I run for office? What does that look like?
Amanda Litman (00:37:47):
So, obvious caveat to all of this, there’s so much variety here, totally. Between cities, within cities, campaign finance laws vary wildly. In New York city, if you run for city council, there’s matching funds, where every dollar for the first, I think it’s either 200 or 500… Gut check me on this. But if every dollar up to the certain amount gets matched eight to one by the city.
Well we’re recording this in New York City. So let’s use New York as our hypothetical example.
Amanda Litman (00:38:15):
I’m actually going to go even broader than that.
Amanda Litman (00:38:16):
So let’s take it by types of offices.
Amanda Litman (00:38:17):
School board races, many places that elect school boards, generally speaking-
What is a school board? Can we go even back-
Amanda Litman (00:38:23):
School boards govern schools.
Amanda Litman (00:38:26):
School boards… And there’s a lot of different ways that these get cut. Sometimes-
These are public schools?
Amanda Litman (00:38:30):
Public schools. Elementary school districts, high school districts. Some places they’ll divide them by level. Some places they’ll be countywide, or citywide, or there’ll be multiple ones within a county or town.
What sort of decisions are they making?
Amanda Litman (00:38:42):
They’ll make decisions like hiring who principals or superintendents are. They’ll make decisions about teacher pay. They’ll make decisions about capital campaigns and funding.
It’s almost like a board of directors, if a school was a company.
Amanda Litman (00:38:54):
Yep. Sometimes they’ll make decisions about curriculum. They’ll make decisions about books that are available within a library. We saw a lot of
this over the pandemic, of mask mandates was a school board decision, testing requirements. Basically everything that determines the quality of the school, which is, as we know, often used as a shortcut to determine the quality of a community. It’s a good place to live because the schools are good.
Right. Well, and I’m thinking of… I mean, pandemic last two years would be a very interesting… You have a lot to your point. You have a lot of influence there, a mask mandate, anti-racist curriculum, or lack thereof. You have a lot of influence just right there.
Amanda Litman (00:39:28):
You get to decide what kids are learning, which helps shape the kind of citizens they grow up to be. So one of the leaders of one of the far right sort of Christian moral majorities in the nineties told folks, I’d rather have a thousand school board members than one president. Because if you have the school boards, you get to shape the kind of kids people grow up to be. I mean, we see this in textbooks. There’s a difference in the way that textbooks in California and Texas describe the bill of rights. The second amendment in Texas is framed very differently than it is in California.
Amanda Litman (00:39:56):
So, school boards, boards of education, I would cover library boards in there too, all directly affect how kids are being taught and what kids are being taught.
So what kind of funding, if you were running for school board, what does that look like?
Amanda Litman (00:40:09):
75% of school board races cost a thousand dollars or less.
Amanda Litman (00:40:13):
85% cost $5,000 or less.
I have a thousand dollars.
Amanda Litman (00:40:18):
You don’t even need it all yourself. That’s the thing.
I know. But I have a thousand dollars.
Amanda Litman (00:40:21):
Most of these races-
Amanda Litman (00:40:24):
Amanda Litman (00:40:27):
More money. Oakland more money. Big cities, big, big districts, more money. Most place is not that much money.
What’s the kind of time commit? Now I’m literally just interviewing. Tell me if I can do this? What’s the time commitment?
Amanda Litman (00:40:40):
So the campaign itself is pretty time intensive, but most candidates that run for something works with. And in fact, most candidates generally are not full-time candidates. You work a nine to five, you campaign five to midnight. You work whenever it is that your hours are-
Do I have to campaign for a school board?
Amanda Litman (00:40:57):
Yeah, you got to knock doors. You got to talk to voters.
Amanda Litman (00:40:58):
And that’s the thing, for most of these races, and this is true really at any local level, up until about state house, state senate. You can outwork someone who’s outspending you, because the doors that you knock and the conversation you have-
It’s always AOC on a higher up level, but yeah.
Amanda Litman (00:41:12):
Totally. The conversations you have with voters are more meaningful, and political science research has proven this, are more meaningful than any amount of TV ads. Because how many TV ads do you just breeze right through? You don’t remember.
Especially when they’re back, to back, to back, to back for like two weeks.
Amanda Litman (00:41:27):
Yeah. And, okay, if you see a newspaper ad, you see a yard sign, whatever. You meet someone at your home, who shows up and says, hi, I’m Amanda. I want to talk to you about what our kids are wearing.
This is my face. This is my name. This is my hand shaking your hand.
Amanda Litman (00:41:40):
This is my name. I want to drink iced tea with you. I want to have a conversation with you about what you care about. Pat breaks through the bullshit, in a way that most other stuff doesn’t.
Especially right now.
Amanda Litman (00:41:49):
And, what that does is annoy you to the bullshit that your opponents are going to say. Because they can drop some mad that’s like, Amanda is a monster, and a socialist, and a whatever, whatever. And it’s like, I don’t believe that. I met her. She’s pretty normal. I see her at the gym.
She posts photos of provocative bikinis on Instagram.
Amanda Litman (00:42:09):
That’s not… I mean, [crosstalk 00:42:12] maybe that’s true. Maybe that’s true. But I was also like, I met her. She’s smart.
She has great tits and she’s smart.
Amanda Litman (00:42:19):
Get you a candidate who can do it all.
Get you a girl who can do it both.
Amanda Litman (00:42:23):
So that conversation and those hundreds and hundreds of conversations, can outweigh the money. I mean, at the end of the day, what you need money for is the filing. Because sometimes it costs money to get on the ballot, a certain amount of filing fees.
Filing’s just getting on
Amanda Litman (00:42:38):
It’s getting on the ballot.
Amanda Litman (00:42:39):
And there’s some-
Why does it cost money to get on the ballot?
Amanda Litman (00:42:42):
Some places you can do petition signatures instead. Some places it’s an administrative cost.
Amanda Litman (00:42:47):
And you raise it. That’s the thing, campaigns in some places, in some races, it would be nice to have money, because then you can pay for it yourself. And then maybe you probably have wealthy friends who can donate to your campaign. But most candidates do not self fund. Most candidates… In fact, I would say 99% of candidates, and definitely all the ones that Run for Something works with, are asking people to commit, not to them, but to their community. I’m not asking you for money for me. I’m not asking you for a loan for lunch. I’m not asking you to buy me a sandwich. I’m asking you to invest in this place that we live and we love. I’m asking you to invest in the shared vision we have for our hometown. That’s not in money for me, that’s money for you.
Right. And your children or your-
Amanda Litman (00:43:28):
Your kids. I’m asking you to invest in what we believe is possible. And a good candidate… I often say, fundraising is an active service. Asking someone for money is an active service. And here’s why, think about what you did in the weeks and months and years since 2016. Something terrible happens. And yes you March, and yes you protest. But also, maybe you make a recurring donation to a bail fund. You throw somebody at the ACLU. Or you give five bucks to Planned Parenthood, or-
Or you donate to Run for Something.
Amanda Litman (00:43:56):
Donate to Run for Something.
Run for Something.org?
Amanda Litman (00:43:59):
.net. Boom we’ll [inaudible 00:44:02] it of course.
Amanda Litman (00:44:03):
You give money, because it is a way to fund the people doing the work. And it is a way for you to have value. So for me to ask you to give to my school board race, to make our schools a better place for our kids, is a way for you to do something practical and tangible for this place that we love. It’s a gift I’m giving you. It’s the opportunity to help do something meaningful.
Well, and I’ll talk about it in the intro. But that’s our whole mission at HFK, is it’s, financial feminism is build your own foundation, take care of yourself so that when you’re taken care of you get to use your resources, financial, social, emotional, every resource, you have to be able to affect change in your community and in the lives around you. So we have an obligation as if you’re going to commit to listening to this podcast. If you’re going to commit to this sort of lifestyle, it’s a commitment to, okay, I’m going to take care of myself first, because I can’t take care of anybody until I take care of myself. But then when I’m good, it’s my job to take care of everybody else, or to use my resources in order to make the change we want to see.
Amanda Litman (00:45:03):
You know, we work with a lot of candidates who say I’m not in the right financial, my financial house is not in order. I can’t run for office yet. That’s a totally reasonable thing to say. Absolutely. You should make sure you know how you’re going to pay your rent or your mortgage.
Right. Or please don’t donate to a certain fund if you are not ready.
Amanda Litman (00:45:19):
If you’re not ready, you’re not ready. And there are so many, such a need for people who have been where you are, who understand your lived experience to serve. So when you are ready, those months or years where times were tough, where you had bankruptcy, or overdraft, that makes you a better candidate not a worse one.
Well that, all this… Again, we keep coming back to AOC, but she’s a great example. I think everybody… We all know that campaign, where it was, the right makes fun of her for being a bartender. And she’s like no. I’ve talked to people basically for a living. I make drinks. But I talk to people, and I know what’s going on in people’s lives, and I’m a regular person.
Amanda Litman (00:46:03):
People will come to us and say, I’ve been divorced. I have student loan debt. I got a DUI once. I have pictures of me on the internet that I would find embarrassing. All of that makes you the kind of person who more people can relate to. Because who’s the least relatable human being alive, is the guy who’s been preparing to be president since kindergarten. That dude’s never made a mistake, that dude’s never learned, that dude’s never lived. And that dude almost certainly has some secrets that he’s ashamed of. For you to be your full, authentic self… And that’s why they make campaigns very scary, is because you have to be your full authentic self. Is an MRI for the soul. But to do so and to put yourself out there, is to give people a leader and a champion for their lived experiences too. You can be the candidate who’s got bikini photos on the internet for all the other women who have bikini photos on the internet.
Again, get you a girl who’ll do it all.
Amanda Litman (00:46:59):
Get you a girl who’ll do it all.
Okay, school board. What other options we got? School library board. What else we got?
Amanda Litman (00:47:04):
Do you think about city council? Which covers-
Amanda Litman (00:47:07):
Leslie Knope, city council.
Queen Leslie Knope.
Amanda Litman (00:47:10):
Our angel from the great state of Indiana.
I love her so much.
Amanda Litman (00:47:13):
City councils, the rules vary a lot from place to place. But they’ll do things like building codes and zoning. They’ll do business licensing.
Do you feel Parks and Rec… I mean, obviously it’s a show. But do you feel it’s pretty accurate?
Amanda Litman (00:47:25):
I think in terms of the minutia, that a city government deals with it actually directly affects people.
Right. Or that the change she can make, because she did. She made a lot of change in peoples lives.
Amanda Litman (00:47:33):
Remember how they filled the pit? The whole first season was filling the pit.
Right. They didn’t get the pit filled for eight, what seven seasons? Six seasons.
Amanda Litman (00:47:40):
See how much better all those family’s lives would’ve been if they filled the pit.
Amanda Litman (00:47:43):
It’s good. So its city councils and city governments-
Getting Sweetums in check.
Amanda Litman (00:47:49):
Bringing business to communities, making sure that communities are family friendly.
Making sure all… The harvest festival. I’m a big Parks and Rec fan.
Amanda Litman (00:47:56):
Oh, so good. I would also loop county governments in here too. Because some places it’s governed on the county level.
What are the sort of positions in-
Amanda Litman (00:48:05):
So you might have your county counselor, county commissioner. In Texas, for example, the county executive is called a judge. It’s a judge of the commissioner’s court.
Do you have to be a lawyer to be-
Amanda Litman (00:48:16):
Nope. Certainly do not. Not a single position, as far as I know, or almost none. DAs maybe you have to be a lawyer, have a law degree. But there’s no where in any of these places that says you need a law degree, or 10 years on your resume, or-
Or any… Do you need any schooling?
Amanda Litman (00:48:30):
Amanda Litman (00:48:31):
Sometimes there’ll be residency requirements. You need to have lived within the district. But that’s not even true everywhere. Most places you probably need to be a registered voter. Some offices, there are age restrictions. So it’s maybe 18, maybe 21. To be governor of Oklahoma I believe you need to be 31, oddly. But generally speaking it’s somewhere in the 18 to 25 range for most places. These cover everything from county services, to how the county or city employees are treated. Public health, trash pickup, water cleanliness that comes through our pipes. There’s a huge stuff to do around climate, in terms of city and county government.
Tell me more.
Amanda Litman (00:49:10):
Building codes are actually a really big way you can do this. You can require that buildings are built in a way that is more climate friendly. That is something that New York city has done. You can change electricity delivery, from whatever it is to solar, or wind, or whatever makes sense for that place. You can change recycling rules in that place. You can switch the entire county or cities cars over to electric. Could be cool. There’s a lot of different ways in which you can do this. You can govern… A lot of cities and county governments oversee police departments or police budgets. So it’s a direct way to play into criminal justice. You can often govern the way in which higher education interacts with the city or the county. Often the biggest employer, some of the hospitals.
Now I’m listen to you I’m like, this is everything.
Amanda Litman (00:49:52):
Mm-hmm (affirmative). Think about health, community healthcare centers. That’s how they get funded, is often through city or county government. Especially right now, we’re talking about abortion access and reproductive care, cities and counties can do a lot around… Is this place a safe haven for people seeking care? Are our community health centers, what are the protest zones around them like? What kind of rules are we issuing around crisis pregnancy centers, which are meant to trick patients into getting, not the care they are seeking? All of these issues are touched by city and county government.
Amanda Litman (00:50:22):
The cost to run for the one of these offices can range from a couple thousand bucks to hundreds of thousands. Really depends on how big it is and how competitive the race is. But it’s not millions in most places, almost nowhere. And depending on where you are, the campaign finance laws will really vary. Like I said, New York City has really interesting public financing. Seattle has fascinating stuff.
Amanda Litman (00:50:43):
They have this thing called democracy vouchers. I think it’s like 200 bucks. They basically mail it to every Seattle voter.
Yes, I’ve gotten.
Amanda Litman (00:50:50):
And you get to disperse them to the place, to the candidate that you like. I think it’s so cool. It helps candidates get sort of a head start in their fundraising. Lot of cities have some really interesting stuff like that. So, you can look all of this up. If you go to Run for What.net. It’s a website, it’s a tool that Run for Something has built, where you can enter your address and it will show you all the local offices available to you.
I was just about ask.
Amanda Litman (00:51:12):
In 22, 23 and 24 we’re adding the next two years in next week or so. But you go, you’ll see the address, you’ll see the requirements to file, you’ll see when the elections are. And you’ll click through, you can get guides on how to file to get on the ballot in every state. We have written it for real people. We are trying to democratize access to the information you need to get on the ballot, no more gate keeping. And then we’ll help you. You sign up, you’ll start getting emails from our team that will say, did you know there’s a candidate training coming up? Read this article about the young woman of color who ran and won. Aren’t you inspired? Join this call, come to this conversation, come to the-
Come to the Financial feminist podcast episode. All of that-
Amanda Litman (00:51:47):
Yeah, all of this is in service of making sure that if you are thinking about running, you know that the door is open to you. You know there is an on ramp. And you know that once you do Run for Something will hold your hand every step of the way. We will be with you all the way through win or lose on election day, which is not the end of your civic engagement no matter the outcome, just another part of the journey.
Mm. I’m like pumping my fists. Okay. Let’s say I live in a Republican state with a blue city. Texas, Georgia. How can having locally elected progressive candidates impact the issues that we care about when these general state politics are counter to somebody’s values.
Amanda Litman (00:52:33):
So, some examples in Texas, really good place for proof point here. Run for Something helped elect Lina Hidalgo, the county executive. She’s a judge of the court commissioner’s court. So she’s judge Lina Hidalgo in Harris county, which is the third biggest county in America. Blue county is-
Is there a major city in that?
Amanda Litman (00:52:48):
Okay. Got it.
Amanda Litman (00:52:49):
Mm-hmm (affirmative). Third biggest county in America. She’s one of the most powerful women in Texas. Was 28 years old when she was elected. [crosstalk 00:52:57] In 2018 nobody thought she could win. She took on an 11 year Republican incumbent. Let’s talk about some of the things Lina has done since she took office. 10 next to the election administration budget. Reformed the way the county does budgeting. Expanded homelessness services. Ended cash bail. Worked with the district attorney to sue the state when they passed voter suppression laws. Changed flood relief management, which is really the reason she ran for, emergency response relief. Because the way that the county, which Houston is undergoing some serious flooding, thanks to climate change, has transformed it.
My best friends from Houston.
Amanda Litman (00:53:33):
Over in Austin, blue city in a red state. I was just reading earlier this week, Vanessa Fuentes, who’s a member of the Austin city council, is currently working to make sure that there’s infrastructure and services for people in Austin who need to seek abortions. That they can go to New Mexico to get the care they need.
Amanda Litman (00:53:51):
All of this matters. All of this matters. And even in the state legislature, Run for Something has alum who are serving in the state leg, including Jasmine Crockett, who’s currently running for Congress. Aarons Wiener, who has helped lead some incredible work on getting student IDs being able to be used for voting. James Talarico who changed, lower the cost of insulin in the state after he personally underwent a diabetic episode. John Busey the third, who has been an incredible leader on some of these fights. All of them, along with Jessica Gonzales and others, were champions and left the state when they tried to pass egregious voter suppression laws over the summer. They were the champions who led this work.
Amanda Litman (00:54:32):
It matters, even in a red state, to have people who are willing to fight.
So, I’m sure you have it somewhere. Is there a list on the website of every Run for Something candidate?
Amanda Litman (00:54:44):
If you go to our website, you’ll be able to see our full candidate directory broken out by year, by state. You can go read their stories, go to their websites, find a few that inspire you. And we’re doing more endorsements every month. Run for Something is going to endorse probably 700 candidates this year.
Well, do you have to… You have to be progressive, right? Any other requirements for participating?
Amanda Litman (00:55:04):
Run for Something exclusively works with people 40 years old and younger. Which is not to say that folks older than 40 shouldn’t run. You should, we’re just probably not the right group for you. We had to limit our focus a little bit, and young people are wildly underrepresented in government at every level, so.
I don’t think anybody’s mad about it.
Amanda Litman (00:55:17):
I get some people mad about it, but-
Anybody listening… I don’t think anybody who hopefully is not listening.
Amanda Litman (00:55:21):
Amanda Litman (00:55:22):
Okay. You need to be running up for office for the first or second time. So if you run before and you’ve lost, that’s okay. But if you are mayor seeking to run for state leg, we’re just not the right group for you.
You’re really trying to get newbies then?
Amanda Litman (00:55:35):
Yeah, we’re trying to expand the pipeline. You need to be running for something local. So state house, state senate, city council, school board, library board, any of the other offices we’ve talked about. You need to be progressive, but we define progressive pretty broadly. And I think that’s important. Because we work in all 50 states, because we work with a range of offices, we have a set of values that we hold dear, pro-choice, pro-quality, pro-tolerance, pro-working families, pro-raising the wage for working for American people, pro-comprehensive and compassionate immigration reform, pro-reducing gun violence, pro… Climate change is real. [crosstalk 00:56:03] It tends to be more left leaning.
Sounds like it.
Amanda Litman (00:56:05):
But there’s a lot of different ways that shows up in your race. And we ask you as part of your endorsement application. Okay, what does it mean to be a pro-choice school board member? What does it mean to be a pro-choice city council candidate? Other than that, we want to see people who are willing to work hard, who have a strong rationale for running. And who just make us say hell yeah. You know it when you meet them. And the stories of the folks we’re working with are incredible.
It sounds like it.
Amanda Litman (00:56:33):
It’s what makes this worth it. This is so hard. It’s so hard. But, getting to see people take that journey, from I’m a person who cares, to I’m a person who’s running, to I’m a candidate, to I’m an elected official. And to, I have done something meaningful for this place that I love. I ran a podcast for about a year, Run for Something podcast. It was super fun. If you go back and listen, I did a conversation with three amazing trans women who ran for office and won, each making history in their own state. Delegate Danica Roem in Virginia, representative Brianna Titone in Colorado, and state senator Sarah McBride in Delaware.
Amanda Litman (00:57:06):
And Sarah in particular said something that I have repeated one million times over, because I think about it every day. She said, if you want to fall in love with your community, run for office. Talk to your neighbors, you’ll learn about the people around you in a way that you have never even considered. You will see, and hear, and learn things that will blow your mind. And you will love this place that you live. What a beautiful sentiment.
It’s like the feeling you get when you travel somewhere new. Because, I don’t live in New York and I walk around my neighborhood now that I’ve lived in for three and a half weeks, and still in awe. And I feel it would probably be a similar feeling, even if you’ve lived in that neighborhood for 20 years.
Amanda Litman (00:57:49):
You know what, every candidate I talk to will say the best part is when I knock doors, and I talk to a voter who unloads on me. Because you are the first person who have ever asked them, what is wrong and how can I help? Most people never meet someone running for office. Most people never meet a candidate. They never meet an elected official.
I’m trying to think if I ever have. Probably not.
Amanda Litman (00:58:09):
I mean, I understand that I am acutely atypical in this regard. And I know I’ve worked in this space my whole life. Most people never meet an elected official, or somebody running for office. So for you to show up at their door and say, hi, I’m Tori. I want to serve you. I want to care for you. Tell me what’s going on? What a gift you are giving, to make someone feel seen and feel heard. Which really is all any of us ever want anyway, you know?
So, that’s all we all want.
Amanda Litman (00:58:37):
I think it’s beautiful.
What does it feel like to elect these firsts? First trans woman, first Muslim person? What is that feeling for you?
Amanda Litman (00:58:48):
It is both incredible and infuriating. It is equal parts amazing and infuriating.
It’s how I feel about my work too. It’s like, this is amazing. Also, what fuck.
Amanda Litman (00:58:58):
This is so broken.
Amanda Litman (00:59:01):
And the thing I have to always remind myself is, calling someone the first implies that there will be a second, and a third, there will be more. And I have… Again, I mentioned earlier talking to reporters a lot and some of them will be like, well, it’s kind of boring that a lot of women are running for office. I’m like, that’s the point. That’s the point. It should be boring.
It should be boring. It should be… They said that to you?
Amanda Litman (00:59:20):
That’s the goal. Yeah, I think it’s awesome. It should be boring. I don’t think it’s boring at all.
Six years ago it was not a… Barely a thing.
Amanda Litman (00:59:27):
It’s like first woman, ugh. Who cares? And I’m like, well, one, a lot of women care.
A lot of fucking people care.
Amanda Litman (00:59:32):
But two, it should be boring. The goal is to make this very boring. And I understand that’s a harder story for you. But my dream is that it’s totally-
The goal is to make this normal and less novel.
Amanda Litman (00:59:41):
Not newsworthy… It should be totally not newsworthy in the slightest. But until it’s boring, I think it’s amazing.
Yep. I have to touch on this before we go. And then I’ll ask you one other question. We are recording this about a week after it’s been kind of public that Roe V. Wade will most likely get overturned. Which, if you’ve been paying attention is not really shocking. How
ever, is very infuriating. We’re protesting, we’re marching, we’re voting. What else can we do?
Amanda Litman (01:00:08):
Run for local office. The fights for reproductive choice and reproductive freedom are going to be local. They’re going to overturn Roe V Wade. And then hopefully, as long as Joe Biden remains president, there will not be a national abortion ban, because he will not sign one into law. Which means we’ve got two years maybe, because let’s assume Republicans win in November. Which is always a thing that could not happen, but could. The places where reproductive choice and abortion access will be decided will be in state capitals. They will be in counties. They will be in DAs who get prosecutorial freedom to decide what they will or not prosecute. They are sheriffs. They are county executives and cities who decide how easy or hard it is for people to get the care they need. New York has an abortion fund. The city has it, if you need access to care, they’ll pay for it.
Amanda Litman (01:00:58):
We have seen in Washtenaw county in Michigan, which is where Ann Arbor is. The county attorney is a guy named Eli Savit, he’s a Run for Something alum. He has said he will not prosecute abortion providers or patients. We have a woman running for Maricopa county DA in Arizona. It’s where Phoenix is, who has said, if she wins, she will not prosecute the Republican. So when you think about abortion care, when you think about the most basic fundamental right to control what happens to your body and your life, the decisions that are being made will happen locally. So whether you are running yourself, or working on a campaign, or voting, or donating. Especially in state legislative races, and counties, and DAs, these are the races where it’s going to come down to the wire.
So if I’m an individual, because I am, I’m sitting here actually asking you as me, but also listeners. Obviously women’s issues are my big thing. And pro-choice is the one that’s most obvious, in terms of needing support, especially at this moment. What office should I run for?
Amanda Litman (01:02:01):
Think about state leg, depending on where you are. There might be also something in the city or county. You should think about whether you want to volunteer for your governor’s race, depending on the state you’re in. Governor’s going to be really important.
Right. Because they’re signing that in too.
Amanda Litman (01:02:12):
Mm-hmm (affirmative). Attorney generals are also going to be really important.
Yup. You said DAs, right?
Amanda Litman (01:02:17):
DAs, county attorneys. There is no race too small. Even think about school board, what kind of sex ed are our kids getting? What kind of contraception is available in our kids high schools?
Amanda Litman (01:02:27):
All of that plays a role here.
Healthcare. Yup. All of it.
Amanda Litman (01:02:33):
In a lot of counties and cities, healthcare providers are some of the biggest employers. What does it mean when they can no longer provide care? [crosstalk 01:02:40]
Mm-hmm (affirmative). OHSU. There’s a ton in Portland.
Amanda Litman (01:02:42):
The university health healthcare systems, are often really big employers.
The University of Washington or and alternatively insurance companies, they’re also really big employers.
Amanda Litman (01:02:50):
Yes. So, all of these offices interact with abortion care in some way. Which means we need pro-choice people in them who are willing to fight and stand up for our values.
It’s 2016, election night. What are you saying to that, Amanda, that you know now?
Amanda Litman (01:03:09):
The future seems so dark, but I promise you, it is brighter than you ever could have imagined. The present right now is really bleak. And even, I still say this to 2022 Amanda too. The present’s pretty bleak.
Yeah. Not great.
Amanda Litman (01:03:22):
I see the amazing young women, young women of color, young LGBTQ. I have folks, young teachers, and parents, and nurses, and scientists, and musicians who have said, I am willing to brave the fear.
Be very vulnerable.
Amanda Litman (01:03:37):
Be very vulnerable. Who have said to me, I am afraid, but I’m doing it afraid. Which I love.
I love that.
Amanda Litman (01:03:43):
Yup. I’m doing it afraid.
Being fearless is not the absence of fear, right. It’s deciding to do something anyway.
Amanda Litman (01:03:49):
To do it anyway. I am doing this because I believe that what I want to fight for is worth it. Every candidate we work with to a T, win or lose, has said that was worth it. I’m glad I did it. The future… If our democracy survives, if things survive, has the possibility of being so bright.
Amanda Litman (01:04:12):
We’re just going to get up there.
Every way we can support Run for Something tell us, plug away.
Amanda Litman (01:04:16):
Okay, so you can go to our website, which is Run for Something.net. There you can learn more about the candidates we work with. You can learn how to run for office. You can learn how to volunteer. We will take your time, your talent, your treasure. We will take whatever you are willing to give. There is so much to do, and we need lots and lots of people to do it. If you want to run, and you’re specifically looking for offices available to you, that’s Run for What.net. Although, you can also find that on our website. You can find us on Twitter, at Run for Something and on Instagram at Run for Something now. I am too often just being mad on main on Twitter at Amanda Litman, and on Instagram I’m Amanda L-I-T-M.
We’ll link it all. Thank you. Thank you for your work. Thank you for being here. I am so inspired by you and I just so appreciate it.
Amanda Litman (01:05:00):
Thank you for letting me convince you to run for office.
I mean, I’m like-
Amanda Litman (01:05:03):
Tori for Seattle city council.
I know. I kind of like it. It’s got a good ring to it. I got to delete some photos though. Thank you for being here.
Amanda Litman (01:05:10):
You’re quite welcome.
The most massive thank you to Amanda for joining me for this episode. Holy shit y’all this episode it’s just so good. I hope that this conversation got you excited to vote in your local and state elections. And maybe also inspired you, like me, to explore running for office, running for your local school board, running for your city council to make the change that you want to see in your community. And again, financial feminism, right, is not just about your personal finances, it’s a very small part of it. It’s about being an engaged and informed citizen. It’s about showing up in your community and making an impact to not only fight the patriarchy, but to elevate the communities that so often don’t get a voice. And one of the best ways to do that, not only is voting, but actually running for office, running for something.
So if you’re interested in getting more information about becoming a candidate or exploring that, visit Run for Something.net to learn more. We’ll also link into the show notes. And I actually did this literally after my conversation with Amanda, I donated directly to Run for Something. So if you cannot run in an election right now, it’s just not for you. You can support Run for Something with your dollars as well.
Again, cannot be stated enough, change at the national level often starts just outside your front door. So if you can’t run, that’s not an option, donate. If you can’t donate money, offered to phone bank or to canvas. And please, please vote. It is a privilege to be able to vote. And in every election you can vote from the comptroller to the president of the United States, or the president of your country. So engage in the civic process. We are not hopeless. We have more power than we know, and we just need to use it to make our communities the best that they can be.
Thank you so much for listening financial feminists. As always, if you love the show, feel free to subscribe. Feel free to leave a review, share this episode with friends, especially if you’ve had those conversations that I think we all have had lately, of I am hopeless, what do I do? This is a great episode to spark a conversation with your friends and family. So thank you for your support of the show. Thank you so much for engaging in potentially difficult topics. We always love and appreciate your vulnerability and your openness. And we can’t wait to see y’all later.
Thank you for listening to financial feminist, at Her First 100K podcast. Financial feminist is hosted by me, Tori, produced by Kristen Fields. Marketing and administration by Karina Patel, Olivia Coning, Cherise Wade, Alina Helser, Paulina Isaac, Sophia Cohen, Valerie Oresko, Jack Coning, and Ana Alexandra. Researched by Ariel Johnson, audio engineering by Austin Fields. Promotional graphics by Mary Stratton. Photography by Sarah Wolfe. And theme music by Jonah Cohen Sound. A huge thanks to the entire Her First 100K team and community for supporting the show. For more information about financial feminist, Her First 100K, our guests and episode show notes, visit financial feminist podcast.com.