In 2017 I ran for a rural county legislature office in a Republican-held district that had not been contested by a Democrat for the preceding 18 years. It was my first try at running for office. I lost as expected, but it was a lot of fun and I gained useful experience. Importantly, my run was part of a coordinated county-wide effort in which Democrats picked up several seats and literally doubled the voter turnout rates over those of the same elections in 2015. This experience crystallized for me a set of reasons why it is critical that the Democratic Party adopts a nationwide fight-for-every-seat strategy:
Because Democracy means less if there is only one candidate on the ballot. The very concept of Democracy demands, at a minimum, that there be a competition of ideas and principles from which to choose on election day.
Because, on principle, we shouldn't continue to politically cede America's rural areas without a fight. The urban/rural party divide will only get worse if the parties give up on whole swaths of territory.
Because we might get lucky! Established, seemingly unassailable candidates withdraw from races all the time for unexpected reasons. Yet that good fortune goes to waste if we don't already have someone on the ballot running against them.
Because conducting campaigns and get-out-the-vote operations, even for long-shot races, builds the human infrastructure, relationships, networks and donor lists that are necessary if we ever hope to win in the future.
Because running for office is good practice for the next generation of candidates and volunteers. It helps build the pool of human resources available for future political efforts and it strengthens the careers of those who want to go into politics.
Because even a losing campaign creates mountains of useful data that can make the difference in future elections.
Because even a long-shot campaign can activate dormant Democratic voters who will be more likely to show up for future elections if they perceive that someone is paying attention and trying to get them to the polls.
Because contesting Republicans in “safe” districts forces them to spend time and resources locally that they would have otherwise directed towards other districts—potentially creating openings for Democratic candidates to win in close races.
Because a strongly contested election can cause even an established politician to defensively shift their policies on certain issues in potentially favorable ways.
Because the Blue Wave is coming and we just might win. It's 2018, a tabloid-grade reality TV show host is president, and crazy things are happening. Democrats are more mobilized this year than any time in the last five decades and that energy is flowing into campaigns in all locations and at every level of government. Democrats are already winning in previously unimaginable places. If there was ever a year to fight for every single political seat it is 2018.
Chad McEvoy, 2018 Candidate for NY State Assembly in District 101