It meant freedom. Freedom to reach more voters, freedom of time that I didn’t have to do the fundraising at house parties, and freedom to not be beholden to special interests. It meant that I could run on the values of our community.
First Mile is a donor circle that supports progressive candidates of color in down ballot races across Washington state who are bold, transformational, and accountable to the communities they represent.
In a democracy, representation matters. Yet Black, Indigenous, and People of Color are underrepresented in all levels of government. Local races tend to favor white candidates who struggle to represent their increasingly diverse communities. By contrast, many progressive candidates of color are better aligned with and accountable to their community. Because of the correlation between race and America's wealth gap, the interests of communities of color and all low-income communities are highly aligned - and critical for electeds to represent. For Washington state to meet the challenges of our times, we need the perspective and leadership of those whose communities are most impacted by public health, economic, and community safety responses.
Despite the need for more representative governance, leaders of color face headwinds in pursuing elected office almost everywhere they run. They must grapple with the legacy of systemic racism and historical white dominance in politics. Among the numerous challenges that uniquely affect candidates of color in their campaigns, candidates often face fundraising challenges and bump up against the myth of “viability” in which political elites write off new or first-time candidates with less access to resources. This is a problem for leaders of color and a problem for democracy.
First Mile was founded in 2019 to change this. Each year we recruit a circle of donors who will support and stand behind progressive candidates of color across Washington state and contribute meaningful funds in a calibrated, aligned way. We are interrupting notions of “viability” by placing our trust in candidates of color, many of whom are running for political office for the first time. For most candidates, the support they receive from First Mile Circle members is game-changing, enabling them to hire otherwise unaffordable campaign staff, run outreach programs, and focus on engaging their community rather than fundraising. Many have told us that the contributions also brought them the boost of confidence they needed to carry on in the face of intimidating opposition.
And by coming together as a circle, we can bring attention to local races statewide that would otherwise be very difficult for any single donor to discover and follow. Bringing donors together energizes us, builds community, and reinforces our shared values.
Since its founding, our cross-class, multi-racial donor circle has moved over $430,000 to more than three dozen progressive candidates of color throughout Washington. In 2019, First Mile candidates were over 40% more likely to win than historical benchmarks would have predicted. We are building a high integrity process that brings resources to the authentic leaders of our communities.
Together, we are helping to grow more representative local governance, pass more impactful and just policies, engage more diverse communities in voting and elections, and strengthening a more representative candidate pipeline for future leadership in our state.
To learn more, visit the First Mile Circle website: www.firstmilecircle.org