Sarah Ullman On Lessons From The Election
by Sarah Ullman
November 28, 2018
Sarah Ullman is a director and founder of One Vote At A Time. One Vote At A Time is a group of a female filmmakers who create campaign ads for progressive candidates without the means to make their own.
My team criss-crossed the country this year to make free campaign videos for 190 candidates for office who believe in gun safety. Here are a few things we learned.
Democrats have flipped 40 Congressional seats this election cycle and hundreds at the state level. It’s more than enough to put the House of Representatives in the hands of Democrats and ensure that the worst legislative impulses of the Trump administration have a check and balance. The wins mostly come from suburban districts like Michigan’s 11th, where Trump won by 4.4%. Democrat Haley Stevens focused on her message of jobs for Michiganders and won by 6%.
In Wisconsin, a state so gerrymandered that the maps are being litigated in the Supreme Court, we worked with 23 candidates including two statewide candidates. Both of those statewide candidates won handily, along with the rest of the top of the ticket: Josh Kaul won his race for Attorney General and Sarah Godlewski won her race for Treasurer. We worked with 21 state legislature candidates, and gerrymandering in Wisconsin was so effective that we only won ONE seat. Robyn Vining, an advocate for victims of sex trafficking and a believer in universal healthcare, won her race for State Assembly. It was the first flip for Wisconsin Democrats in literally a decade. Tony Evers, the new Democratic Governor, will have to approve Wisconsin’s maps in 2020. Fair maps will even the playing field and will likely lead to a more equitable state legislature that is reflective of Wisconsin’s demographics.
Flint, MI still doesn’t have clean water, but neither does Wilmington, NC. Or rural Texas. Or rural Pennsylvania. In Michigan, a chemical from flame retardants called PFAS is contaminating 11,000 sites across the state. Parents who give their kid a glass of water don’t realize they are poisoning their child. It’s a public health epidemic, and it’s not getting enough attention.
An elected representative serves as the district’s voice in government, but they also have the authority to interface between governmental agencies and their constituents. Representatives help their communities navigate the government; this is called “constituent services.” For example, as a state representative, when Rashida Tlaib’s community became concerned about a pile of toxic waste left on a river bank, she asked the state to test it to see if it was toxic. When they declined, she did it herself and used the power of her letterhead to release test results. This forced the state’s hand and the toxic waste was eventually cleaned up a year later. Other examples of constituent services include helping veterans navigate the VA, residents navigate the immigration system. Also, when your Representative gets you White House tour tickets? That is constituent services in action.