Lessons of the Avalos campaign - Page 2

The mayoral candidate demonstrated what can be accomplished with a new kind of progressive leadership

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The campaign board — including John himself—shared a vision for building progressive power. The campaign plan was explicit and specific about achieving outcomes that included winning room 200 but went beyond that central goal. We set out to strengthen progressive forces, to build towards the 2012 Supervisor races, and increase the capacity of the community-based progressive electoral infrastructure so we can keep building our collective power year-round, for the long-term.

We hope these victories will shape progressive strategy moving forward:

1. In just a few months, Team Avalos consolidated a new and unique progressive bloc. We brought together people and organizations who'd never worked together before — white bike riders and Latino anti-gentrification organizers, queer activists and African American advocates for Local Hire. The Avalos coalition was largely community forces: SF Rising's base in working class Black, Latino, Filipino and Chinese communities; the Bike Coalition's growing base of mostly white bike riders; affinity groups like Filipinos, Queers, Latinos and Arabs for Avalos; progressive Democrats; social networks of creative, young progressive activists affiliated with the League of Young Voters; and loyal families and neighborhood leaders from John's own District 11. The campaign prioritized communicating to voters in four languages, and according to the Chinese press, John Avalos was the only non-Chinese candidate with a significant Chinese outreach program. There were stalwarts from progressive labor unions (most notably SEIU 1021 and USWW) who threw down — but overall, labor played it safe and invested resources in other guys. And then, in the great surprise development of the race, supporters of the new national occupy movement came to be a strong part of the Team Avalos base because the campaign was so well positioned to resonate with the call to take on the one percent.

2) Team Avalos built popular support for key progressive ideas. We used the campaign to build popular support for a citywide progressive agenda. Instead of leading with our candidate we led with bold, distinctive issues that provided a positive alternative vision to the economic crisis: Progressive taxation, municipal banking, and corporate accountability for living wage jobs instead of corporate tax breaks. By the end of the campaign, at least three other candidates came to support the creation of a city-owned bank, and the idea had enough traction that even the San Francisco Business Times was forced to take a position against it.

3) Team Avalos built the electoral capacity of grassroots organizations whose members have the most at stake if progressives gain or lose power in SF: poor and working-class communities of color. We developed the electoral organizing skills of a large new cohort of grassroots leaders and organizers of color with no previous leadership experience in a candidate campaign. They are ready for the next election.

For the last few months, I had the privilege of working with an unusual but extraordinary Avalos campaign team, who were exactly the right people for the right moment in history, to lead a long shot campaign to an unlikely, remarkable and inspiring outcome. Let's build on these gains. In the coming weeks and months, we must be thorough in our analysis of this election, engage and expand the Avalos coalition base, and build unity around one or more collective demands of Mayor Lee from the left. And in time, we will have a progressive voting majority and a governing bloc in City Hall. We will win, with the mass base necessary to defend gains, hold our own electeds accountable, and truly take on the city's one percent.