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Progressive Voice: Building a Bench for Progressive Victories

Max Burns

Progressive Voice is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect the views of their organization or

Politics isn’t just a contest of competing visions for our community. As this year’s primary victories by Katie Cristol and Christian Dorsey and last year’s victory by John Vihstadt show us, successful campaigns understand the importance of a strong “ground game.” Message matters, but people need to hear it, see it and feel it.

Across Arlington and the broader 8th Congressional District, I’ve met progressive candidates with values and messages worth vocalizing. Yet they struggle with an important but often hidden problem: good campaign teams don’t fall out of the sky. Building top-notch campaigners takes training and hands-on experience.

We can do more to develop strong campaigners and campaign teams at the local level even though we lack the resources of a state or federal operation.

That’s why, in collaboration with the 8th District Democratic Committee, we launched the Next Generation Leaders Program. NGLP is unique mentorship initiative that connects passionate Democrats with elected officials, candidates and community leaders to build a strong bench of future campaign professionals.

Then we did one better and made sure the program would be absolutely free of charge. We believe financial limitations should never prevent a future campaign superstar from taking her or his first step.

Applicants to NGLP are largely younger Democrats and those looking to make a career out of campaign management, and we built the program with them in mind. After our successful applicants are chosen from those who apply before our July 15 deadline, they’ll work directly with active campaigns and Democratic leaders to learn a broad range of fundamentals, from fundraising to event management, campaign communications and crafting direct mail.

We’re especially focused on applying at the local level, where reliance on volunteers is no longer enough for candidates in competitive races. These skills are vital in races that lack large resource pools.

By building up real-world political management skills, NGLP offers diligent, committed Democrats the opportunity to stand out over the course of a campaign. It also marks the start of a growing network of NGLP participants and mentors with long-term value even for those who decide professional campaigning isn’t in their future.

I’m proud of the hard work of the 8th District Democratic Committee and the volunteer mentors from every city, county and magisterial district in developing NGLP. This program and its future participants will ensure that our candidates’ progressive values are backed by strong campaign organizations that ensure a good dialogue between voters and candidates and that those progressive values are communicated effectively in Arlington and beyond. It makes us more competitive as a party, and fosters a new generation of experienced, skilled political managers.

There’s still time to apply for our 2015 Pilot Program. If you’ve been looking for an opportunity to turn your progressive values into marketable job skills, look no further. We’re ready to see what you’ve got.

Max Burns is a member of the 8th District Democratic Committee and served as President of the Arlington Young Democrats.

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