Exclusive Profile: Hillary Clinton Deputy Operations Director Alessandra Biaggi

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On October 15, 1991, at age five, Alessandra Biaggi’s passion for women in politics was awakened. She was attending the opening of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial, which was founded by her grandfather, Representative Mario Biaggi of New York. Then-State Attorney for Dade County and eventual-Attorney General Janet Reno spoke at the dedication. After the ceremony, Alessandra met Reno personally. Though Alessandra has been told before that women could succeed in politics, seeing Reno in real life was concrete proof of it.

Throughout her childhood, Alessandra’s family supported her political ambitions. They encouraged her to be thoughtful and critical. “When I’d say ‘I really wanna do X,’ my parents would ask me why I want to do that, who it’ll help, how it would affect the community, stuff like that. They were priming me.”

Alessandra entered politics with an internship for Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-NY). She went on to work at the Kings County D.A.’s Office, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of NY, the Presidential Succession Clinic at the John D. Feerick Center for Social Justice as an editor, and the NYS Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery as Assistant General Counsel.

In early 2015, Alessandra was offered a position on the vetting team of the Hillary Clinton campaign. She accepted immediately, ecstatic about the opportunity to help elect the first female president in United States history.

On April 1, her official title on the campaign became Deputy National Operations Director. She described her roles and responsibilities as “literally everything.”

“I was helping balance the budget, I was requesting extra funds, I was helping them sort all the merch while working the compliance… All of the hiring for all dates as well as all of the offices, which includes negotiating leases… All of the paid canvassing programs, GOTV, everything that you can imagine at this point fell underneath operations.”

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Alessandra described the days following Election Day as a “blur.” The sense of loss was heavy, with two suicides in her network of friends occurring “as a result of the stress caused by the current state of our country and the political climate.”

However, she did not fall into a state of despair. She said that there was a quote from Persian poet Rumi that became her mantra following the election: “The wound is the place where the light enters.”

So along with thousands of other women across the country, Alessandra redirected her suffering into action.

She created an extensive “Take Action Guide for Activism” to help activists and organizers get involved with progressive politics and stay informed in a time when every Trump tweet becomes a national headline. The guide is unbelievably comprehensive, providing readers with links to grassroots organizations across the country that focus on everything from immigration to rebuilding the Democratic Party at a state level to helping women run for office to civics education, and so on.

Alessandra also got involved with countless progressive efforts such as Ladies Get Paid, Rally + Rise, New York University’s Women’s Initiative, Impact Hub, Solidarity Sundays, Columbia University, Changemaker Chats, All In Together Campaign, and the latest, with Diane Von Furstenberg. She currently sits on the Advisory Board of the New Leaders Council, is a member of The New Agenda’s Young Women Leadership Council, and serves on the host committee for the Arena Summit. She describes all of these organizations as “communities” of politically active progressives from across the country.

“We all need to jump on board and link arms. That’s how you get stronger.”

One of her main focuses has been connecting people. “I would say that one of my superpowers is identifying what people are working on and identifying people in my network already and then connecting them… This is my ritual of democracy.”

For example, at The New Agenda, a nonpartisan organization “started after the 2008 election cycle because of how the media was treating Hillary Clinton,” Alessandra helped organize National Girlfriends Networking Day. “They have different events across the country that they stream the one event from New York City into. It’s basically a network of women to support other women, so it’s like a mentor-mentee networking group focused on young women, middle-aged women, and older women.”

But while she has found many meaningful ways to get involved, Alessandra knows that civic engagement is not easy. She recommends that folks start by asking themselves three questions.

The first is a personal one: “What does it mean to be a citizen?” In other words, the infamous words of President John F. Kennedy: “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”

To Alessandra, the question of what it means to be a citizen “begs the answer” of “social change.” “How we’re going to have that social change” leads to the next question:

How do you create community?

Once you pinpoint what you care about, Alessandra says, you should find a community that shares your interests.

“You can never underestimate a quick Google search of ‘progressive millennial organizations.’”

If “it doesn’t exist… create that group!” And that leads to the final question:

What’s the way in which my voice can be most heard, or where can I make the most impact?

Alessandra said that once you have found your “tribe,” you have the strength in numbers to set concrete group goals that can make a real difference. Whether it be making 50 calls to a senator, holding workshops, creating a PAC, or signing up for ResistBot, Alessandra’s final question is meant to guide people to their own “Rituals for Democracy.”

“I think we need to treat activism and our engagement as another thing that we schedule… What can I do in a day, what can I do in a week… We have to break it down for people like that because not everything is for all of us.”

For progressives who want to get involved in politics in particular, Alessandra says that the best way is always to volunteer.

“Volunteer in a campaign office, and from there you meet the staff, and then you become an organizer and then organizers go into headquarters, and it just grows there. But you have to start with what you got, and usually what you got is a field office, so volunteer for a candidate that you care about.”

“Volunteer, cause that’s where the people are.”

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Alessandra speaking at NYU.

Volunteering for progressives candidates is especially important given the midterms occurring next year. But women can do more than just volunteer.

“My call to action for women would be to consider running for office even if they’ve never considered it before and if not for federal office or even state, consider putting their name in the ring for non-competitive seats on the county level. There are many roles, upwards of 500,000 public offices that you can hold, and we need more women.”

But what are the next steps after consideration? How can women actually prepare themselves to run for public office?

“You can do all the training in the world, and you’ll never be ready. You just do it because you make the decision. There will be a support network around you once you decide to do it, that’s no question, so equip yourself with the right tools. Take a training. Go online, look at the courses. She Should Run has an online incubator that you can do from home. Look wherever you are, see what training groups can help. The Yale Women’s Campaign School or New Leader Council, these different groups have all of these different trainings and make yourself the most prepared that you possibly can. Figure out what issues you care about and just run.”

Alessandra already knows what her top issue is: women in politics. It is what she’s dedicating her life to at the moment through public speaking and advocacy. But she hopes that soon, she will be able to empower women from a different position. When I asked her if she plans to work on the presidential campaign in 2020, she told me:

“If it were a campaign I believed in as much as I believed in Secretary Clinton’s. So the bar is very high. But the next campaign I hope to work on is my own.

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Indigenous Democrat James Singer challenging Orrin Hatch in 2018

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Indigenous activist James Singer officially launched his candidacy for the United States Senate this week. He will be challenging Senate president pro tempore Orrin Hatch as a Democrat in the 2018 Utah race.

Singer is a 34-year-old Utah native who has spent his life fighting for equality, particularly for Native Americans. He was inspired to run for office by the sickening treatment of indigenous water protectors at Standing Rock, and what that said about the American political system.

“I was moved to action as I saw my Native sisters and brothers stand against an encroachment which threatened not only their inherent sovereignty, but also their humanity,” the Navajo Mormon wrote in a campaign mission statement. “These water protectors were pummeled with rubber bullets, sprayed with powerful water cannons in freezing temperatures, attacked with dogs, and shot with pepper spray, while bulldozers cleared away sacred land and burial sites so that a pipeline could be pushed through. The love of money by a small, but powerful few, is sickening to the rest of Americans, regardless of political affiliation.”

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Singer has crafted a platform that successfully combines economic populism with equality for marginalized Americans, something the Democratic Party has struggled with, especially in the past year with the failure of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. Inequality “exacerbates racism and sexism” and “has a direct effect on many of the social problems we face in healthcare, education, and the environment,” says Singer.

Though Singer is clearly running a quite progressive campaign, he, like many other liberal candidates, is trying to brand himself as an outsider who does not fall into traditional partisan categories. In his mission statement, he criticizes both Democrats and Republicans, essentially saying that they have become one and the same by embracing corporate capitalism that exploits working Americans. Like Bernie Sanders, who Singer states he was inspired by, Singer ends his mission statement describing “A Future to Believe In” – “We can move towards a socially democratic future of shared prosperity, justice, respect, greater equality, and cooperation.”

Democrats have not seriously focused on Utah for many years now. Utah has not elected a Democrat to the Senate since 1970. No recent Utah Senate races have even been competitive. In 2016, incumbent Republican Mike Lee crushed Democratic challenger Misty Snow by a whopping 41 points. In 2012, Hatch crushed his opponent by 35 points. And the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) has already announced that it plans to focus its resources on re-electing the 10 Democrats who are running in 2018 in states won by Donald Trump. As with other Democratic Senate candidates in red states, it seems that Singer must rely on grassroots liberal enthusiasm if he is to compete with Orrin Hatch, or potentially Mitt Romney or Evan McMullin, in 2018.

So far, Singer has raised almost $3000 of his $5000 Crowdpac goal. This is nothing compared to Hatch’s $3.5 million, but it’s a start. And even if Singer doesn’t win the seat or even secure the Democratic nomination, he is still doing important work as an indigenous candidate. At his campaign launch, he told the crowd: “In 2018, there should be native people running in every contest.”

Support Singer’s grassroots progressive populism by donating to his Crowdpac here!

Can 1,000 Democratic candidates take back the House?

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The House of Representatives had 435 seats, and they’re all up for grabs in 2018. Democrats need a net gain of 24 seats to retake the majority. And with 1,000 Democratic candidates running next year, it looks like they might actually be able to do it.

Democrats have not had a majority in the House since the GOP landslide of 2010, where Republicans capitalized on the anti-Obama sentiments of their base and the fact that liberal voters tend not to show up on off-years to pull off a net sweep of 63 seats. That left Democrats with only 193 of 435 seats. Today, they still only have 194, though some special elections this year like Georgia’s 6th could potentially give the party an edge before the 2018 onslaught.

Most of this energy is coming from grassroots activists, who have formed organizations like Brand New Congress to replace corporate incumbents in the House with progressive outsiders. So it is not just your typical elite who was primed for politics entering these races; it is just your average dedicated American. The campaigns too are driven by grassroots enthusiasm, with much of the money coming in through crowdfunding, as has been the case with Jon Ossoff in Georgia and Rob Quist in Montana. With the DCCC and other national party organizations endlessly failing to invest in races the people care about, liberal activists have realized that if you want to get something done, you have to do it yourself.

According to VICE News, there has been an almost 60% increase from 2014 in the number of Democrats who have announced their candidacy at this point in the race. And this is just the beginning.

Incumbent Democrats and Republicans alike should be scared about next year. A new wave of enthusiastic citizens is coming, and it’ll be unlike anything they’ve ever seen before.

Democrat hoping to replace Chaffetz raises over $600,000

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Democrat Kathryn Allen has already raised over half a million dollars for her campaign to replace Rep. Jason Chaffetz in Utah’s 3rd congressional district.

Allen created a Crowdpac for a potential 2018 campaign on February 11 of this year, but her campaign didn’t gain momentum until March 7, when Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz – best known for his obsession with persecuting Hillary Clinton – said regarding the GOP’s then-ongoing first attempt at repealing and replacing Obamacare: “Maybe rather than getting that new iPhone that they just love and they want to go spend hundreds of dollars on that, maybe they should invest in their own health care.”

Allen, a family physician, immediately contrasted Chaffetz’s words with her experience and compassion. “More medically trained people are needed in government,” read her fundraising page. “Congress is ailing and we have a prescription.”

Within just a day of Chaffetz’s insulting remark, Allen raised $40,000, a record for a Crowdpac campaign. At the time, her goal was $50,000. She promptly raised it to $75,000. The following day, her total was over $200,000 from over 5,000 individual donors.

By April 19, the day Chaffetz announced that he would not be running for re-election to the House of Representatives in 2018, Allen had raised over half a million dollars.

Allen was prompted to run by both Chaffetz’s awful performance in the House as well as Donald Trump’s Electoral College victory. She told USA Today: “I became very angry and interested in what I could do about it.”

The 63-year-old political outsider identifies as a progressive, but is running on a populist platform that uses nonpartisan language to appeal to all voters. This is incredibly important given that Chaffetz’s seat has not been won by a Democrat since 1994 and Donald Trump won the district with a 47% plurality to Hillary Clinton’s 23%.

“Coalitions of citizens are important for effecting change,” she writes in the 24-point principles section of her fundraising page. “It is my hope to bring together moderate democrats, moderate republicans, liberals, and concerned citizens of all stripes to fight against an administration which has threatened freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and freedom of the press.”

Her platform includes many popular bipartisan policies such as campaign finance reform, an end to gerrymandering, equal pay for equal work, healthcare as a right, and cuts to regulations that “hamper innovation and morale.” She even frames her progressive policies in in human rather than partisan terms, writing: “Empathy and respect should guide our interactions, even with those with whom we disagree.”

Unfortunately, it is unlikely that the DCCC and other national Democratic organizations will contribute to Allen’s campaign, as they tend to focus on what they consider swing districts rather than traditionally red districts, as demonstrated by their lack of interest in Jon Ossoff in Georgia and Rob Quist in Montana. As with those two campaigns, Allen will have to depend on grassroots activism if she wants to flip Utah’s 3rd congressional district blue.

Donate to Kathryn Allen’s Crowdpac here!

Joe Biden still considering 2020 run

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Joe Biden speaks at the 2016 Democratic National Convention. (Alex Wong / Getty Images)

By Election Day 2020, Joe Biden will be 78 years old. But age isn’t stopping Biden from considering a run in the next presidential election.

According to POLITICO, Biden and his staff are already planning out the next three years, should the former vice president and Delaware senator decide to run again. Should he go for it, it will be Biden’s sixth time either running or considering running for the Democratic nomination.

Biden’s previous attempts have been wildly unsuccessful. He ended up dropping out of the 1988 race before the primaries due to several controversies, while he dropped out of the 2008 primary race after the very first contest, where he received only 1% of the vote.

Though he said that his 2008 presidential run would be his last, Biden seriously considered running in 2016. Despite the creation of a “Draft Biden PAC,” the then-vice president declined, stating that he needed to focus on family in light of the tragic death of his son Beau in 2015. However, he later told NBC Connecticut’s Keisha Grant that he regrets not running “every day,” though the decision was ultimately right for his family.

Since leaving Washington alongside his best bud Barack Obama, Biden has spoken at numerous colleges and political events. “He wants to have a voice,” a Biden adviser told POLITICO. “The more stuff he does like this, the more people hear his voice.”

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Joe Biden on the 2016 campaign trail with Hillary Clinton. (Dominick Reuter / AFP)

Biden believes that he has an answer to the question of what the Democratic Party should be in the Trump era. Though many commentators, strategists, and party leaders claim that Democrats need to abandon “identity politics” in favor of appeals to the “white working class” that supposedly delivered Trump his Electoral College victory, Biden has a vision for America that includes both the middle class and civil rights. This kind of populist message, one resembling Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Coalition, is what the Democratic Party truly needs right now. It is especially important in retrospect of the Hillary Clinton campaign. Biden, along with commentators from across the political spectrum, criticized Clinton for weak messaging rooted in her confusion as to why she was running in the first place. “I don’t think she ever really figured it out,” Biden told the Los Angeles Times. “She thought she had no choice but to run. That, as the first woman who had an opportunity to win the presidency, I think it was a real burden on her.”

Should Biden win the 2020 race, he will be the oldest candidate to be elected to the Oval Office. Ronald Reagan currently holds that mantle, being 73 years of age at the time of his 1984 landslide victory.

But does Biden actually stand a chance in the 2020 election? At the moment, it’s unclear. Early polling suggests that he would be the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination, with incredibly high approval ratings among Democratic voters. However, the same Public Policy Polling survey shows that only 8% of Democratic voters want a candidate in their 70s.

With a presidency as scattershot as Donald Trump’s, it’s impossible to know what the political landscape will be like in three years. But if Democratic leadership still aims to snatch up the vote of the “white working class” as well as mobilize minority voters who stayed home in 2016, Joe Biden certainly has a lot to offer.

Iraq War vet to run as Democrat against Bob Corker in Tennessee Senate race

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Iraq War veteran and attorney James Mackler announced Sunday that he will be running for the United States Senate in 2018, making him the first Democratic challenger to incumbent Republican Bob Corker.

In a video announcement, Mackler establishes his campaign as one for the people, and not partisan politics, Wall Street, or the congressional incumbents who have failed to deliver on their promises. Appealing to both Trump supporters and those who protested Trump – even Bernie Sanders supporters, the 44-year-old veteran says that he will advocate for the everyday American who is frustrated about jobs being shipped overseas and a system that only works for those at the top.

Branding himself as a patriot, a family man, a man of faith, and a political outsider, Mackler attacks Corker for his opportunism, bringing up the numerous times Corker has discussed taking offices other than the Senate – including VP and Secretary of State to Donald Trump. Mackler asks: “How about the job you have, Senator?”

Mackler joined the United States Army after 9/11, serving as a Blackhawk helicopter pilot, where he “shared airspace with drones.” He believes that his military background is a valuable asset, particularly to helping break the partisan deadlock in Washington. “As a veteran, I know first-hand the strength of teamwork, cooperation, and the benefits of diversity to accomplish even the most difficult mission.”

Following his time in the army, Mackler worked as an attorney specializing in drone law. His LinkedIn bio reads:

I am the founder of the premier Unmanned Systems (Drone) Legal Practice. I advise governments, individuals, and corporations on managing the risks and opportunities associated with the commercial use of drones.

I also lead complex criminal litigation, regulatory compliance, and assist corporate clients in responding to law enforcement investigations.

My law practice leverages my extensive experience in civilian and military aviation including a combat deployment as an assault helicopter pilot.

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Bob Corker speaks at a Donald Trump event on the 2016 campaign trail. (Joshua Roberts / Reuters)

The last time Tennessee elected a non-incumbent Democrat to the Senate was 1984. Tennessee Democrats have struggled to find formidable candidates, with Bob Corker winning re-election in 2012 by almost 35 points and Senator Lamar Alexander winning re-election in 2014 by over 30 points. The situation has been so desperate that the Tennessee Democrat Party outright disavowed 2012 candidate Mark E. Clayton. They wrote in an official statement:

Mark Clayton is associated with a known hate group in Washington, D.C., and the Tennessee Democratic Party disavows his candidacy, will not do anything to promote or support him in any way, and urges Democrats to write-in a candidate of their choice in November.

But can James Mackler finally take back a Senate seat for Tennessee Democrats? With no polling available yet, it’s not very clear. But Mackler is clearly trying to capitalize on the anti-establishment sentiment that rose to the forefront of the political scene last year through the candidacies of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. And while Sanders lost by a miserable 33.62 points in the Democratic primary in Tennessee, Trump won the state by a massive 26 points in November.

Then again, the “political outsider” narrative might not mean all that much given that the incumbent senators in Tennessee aren’t actually unpopular. A recent Morning Consult poll showed Corker with a 57% approval rating with his constituents, up from 51% in September 2016. A lot can happen between now and the 2018 midterms, but at the moment, the 64-year-old junior senator doesn’t seem to have much reason for concern.

The question right now really comes down to how much energy Democrats are willing to invest in Mackler, or whoever the Tennessee Democratic Senate nominee may be. National Democratic organizations have already expressed that they will be focusing on defending the 10 Democratic senators running for re-election in states Donald Trump won, so it’s unlikely that the deep red state of Tennessee will be a priority of theirs. It’s up to grassroots political activists in Tennessee to ensure that Corker doesn’t go without a legitimate challenge next year.

Sen. Chris Murphy to use 2018 funds to Fight Back against Trump and GOP

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Chris Murphy and Senate colleagues advocate for gun control following the Pulse massacre. (J. Scott Applewhite / AP)

Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) has announced that he will be using the millions raised for his 2018 re-election campaign to “build on the astounding grassroots energy that has manifested since the election” to fight for progressive values and electoral engagement against the specter of the oppressive Republican Party. Murphy is calling the effort Fight Back Connecticut.

Fight Back Connecticut will connect professionals and progressive activists together “to organize volunteer networks, turn people out for protests and events at a moment’s notice, make our voices heard in Hartford and Congress, and to conduct the largest voter ID, persuasion, and get out the vote operation Connecticut has ever seen.”

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Chris Murphy at the 2016 Democratic National Convention. (Paul Sancya / AP)

It’s odd for a senator to use campaign money for something other than a campaign. But Murphy doesn’t seem to be worried about his 2018 prospects.

Murphy was first elected to office in 1998. At age 25, he ran against a 14-year incumbent Republican for a Connecticut House seat. With the support of the six largest unions in the state, Murphy defeated the incumbent with 55% of the vote. He won re-election with 68% of the vote.

He went on to win a State Senate seat at age 29 with 53% of the vote. He won re-election with 60% of the vote.

Murphy continued his winning streak in 2006 by beating a 12-term incumbent Republican by 14 points in a United States House of Representatives race. In 2012, he was elected to the Senate with 55% of the vote despite the fact that his Republican opponent spent five times more than him.

He made a name for himself across the country in 2016 following the Pulse mass shooting, the deadliest anti-LGBTQ hate crime in United States history, by launching a filibuster to force Republican leadership to vote on gun reform. The filibuster lasted almost 15 hours, making it the 9th longest in United States history at the time, recently topped by Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley’s filibuster against Trump Supreme Court appointee Neil Gorsuch.

The freshman senator’s filibuster was particularly important to Connecticut voters given that Murphy took office less than a month after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, the deadliest school shooting in American history. This and his other efforts in the Senate have made him popular in his state, with a majority consistently approving of his performance.

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Chris Murphy discusses gun control in front of assault rifles. (Alex Wong / Getty Images)

To no one’s surprise, not a single Republican has formally declared that they are running against Murphy in 2018. So it actually makes sense that Murphy feels confident enough about re-election to use his campaign funds for another cause. Murphy is passionate about civic engagement, and Fight Back shows it. He wants to use the energy of the Trump Resistance, of which he is one of the main leaders in the Senate, to further mobilize activists and organizers.

“People all over Connecticut are so worried about what the Trump agenda will mean for their family and the people they care about,” Murphy said. “This angst has caused thousands of people to organize themselves into new grassroots organizations or informal social media groups.  Every single day, I get asked, ‘What more can I do to fight back?’  I’m launching Fight Back Connecticut because I’ve never seen such spontaneous, passionate grassroots activism and organizing before. I want to do my part to help grow this organic movement.”

But Fight Back CT aims to do more than simply oppose Trump. In 2016, though Hillary Clinton won the state by over 14 points, Connecticut experienced a minor but significant red wave. Democrats lost three Senate seats, creating an 18-18 party tie, the first since 1893. They also lost seven House seats, bringing Republicans four seats away from a majority. Hopefully, Murphy’s effort will be able to mobilize progressives in Connecticut to get involved in local races that often go ignored.

“We’re going to help give this new generation of inspiring activists the tools and training they need to organize and contact voters. By working together, we can fight back against backward policies with the biggest grassroots army Connecticut’s ever seen.”

Join Fight Back CT here!