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RFS Ascend

WHAT IS RFS ASCEND?

Run for Something (RFS) recruits and supports young, diverse progressives running for down-ballot races, building the bench of talented Democratic candidates for the future. In 2020, we launched the RFS Ascend program, aimed at providing high-impact donations to candidates in Pennsylvania and Texas.
Ascend PAC and RFS Ascend collectively funded nearly 100 candidates, 60% of whom have won since 2017.
In 2021, after a successful first year, the RFS Ascend program will expand to support candidates in Virginia.

OUR APPROACH

We take a long-term, investment-oriented approach to identifying and supporting top candidates running for local and state legislative office.

The Long View. Our mission is to build the next generation of Democratic Party leaders. This work is less about 2021-2022 and more about 2030 and 2040. We only support first and second-time candidates running for local races — like school board, county commissioner, city council, district attorney, and state representative.

Compelling Candidates. All of our candidates are impressive. We will contribute to candidates who are particularly compelling, hold a track record of driving change in their communities, engage directly with voters, and those who carry a lifelong commitment to service.

Impact. Our priority for investment will be high-leverage races. Candidates with budgets lower than $250,000 will be prioritized over those with higher budget goals, so an RFS Ascend investor’s donation will have a bigger impact. We’ll also work with candidates in flippable races who are getting less attention.

Diversity and Representation. Diversity, inclusivity, and creating a representative democracy are a part of our core values — and vital to a functioning democracy. We will endorse and support candidates whose diversity in gender, race, and sexual orientation move us closer to that goal. 

OUR WORK IN 2021

RFS plans to endorse at least 300 candidates in 2021. In the RFS Ascend program’s second year, we aim to raise $250,000 — a 25% increase over last year — to benefit 20 – 25 candidates in Texas, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.

In 2020, we focused on supporting state legislative candidates in Texas and Pennsylvania. This year, we’re supporting candidates running for both state legislative and local office. We’re also adding Virginia to our list of target states. Texas, Pennsylvania, and Virginia are states that we know well and are critical in expanding and maintaining Democratic power moving forward.

SUPPORTING CANDIDATES WHO REPRESENT THE FUTURE

RFS Ascend focuses on identifying candidates who represent the future — individuals who can be successful in their current run, but more importantly, have the potential to become leaders at the state level and beyond. While many of our candidates remain in local and state legislative offices for some time before running for higher office, here are a few endorsees who have made a mark in their state legislatures and are already pursuing higher office:

Representative Malcolm Kenyatta is a third-generation North Philadelphian and fierce civic and community advocate. The grandson of Muhammad Kenyatta, Malcolm is a graduate of Temple University, and recently headed the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia’s diversity and inclusion initiative. He was elected a delegate to the 2016 Democratic National Convention with 82,000 votes. With our help, Malcolm was re-elected to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives for District 181, where he has been an outspoken advocate of LGBTQ+ issues, working class and poor people. In February 2021, Malcolm announced his bid for US Senate.

Delegate Jennifer Carroll Foy was the first public defender to serve in the Virginia General Assembly. Delegate Carroll Foy was also a foster mother for eight years. Because she believes that no child should be without a nurturing home, she started the Foundation for Foster and Orphan Children, a non-profit committed to building better futures for orphan and foster children. She recently announced her resignation as Delegate of Virginia’s Second House District so that she can focus full-time on her campaign to be the first Black woman to be governor of Virginia. 

Delegate Hala Ayala is a single mother who worked for 20 years as a cybersecurity specialist. In 2017, she ran for Virginia’s 51st House District and won against a four-term Republican incumbent in the diverse and fast-growing suburbs of Prince William County. Since then, she has made good on her campaign promises – expanding Medicaid for 400,000 Virginians, raising teacher pay, passing the Equal Rights Amendment and expanding background checks to keep guns out of dangerous hands. She is currently a Democratic candidate in the 2021 Virginia lieutenant gubernatorial election.
*Endorsed by Ascend PAC

SUPPORTING THE RFS ASCEND PROGRAM: BECOME AN INVESTOR  

The RFS Ascend program follows a high-impact investment, donor-advisor model where we identify mid-level and high-dollar donors who support our mission, and provide them with the advice and guidance to effectively support emerging Democratic candidates. 

Investors commit to donate between $2,500 and $25,000 per year. Half goes directly to RFS Ascend candidates, and half supports RFS as an organization (which allows RFS to run the RFS Ascend program and continue providing cost-free resources and 1:1 support to the thousands of young, diverse progressives who raise their hand to run every year.)

In exchange, investors can expect: 

  • Email updates sharing the impact of their investment and the candidates we endorsed. 
  • Monthly Zoom calls, where investors receive updates on the status of the program and have an opportunity to connect directly with our candidates.
  • Invitations to Run for Something events — virtual events for now, and in-person events when it becomes safe again. 
  • Ability to suggest candidates for RFS’s overall endorsement, and to be considered for selection to receive the RFS Ascend program’s direct funding.
  • An opportunity to serve on the Selection & Investment Committee. All investors who commit to $2,500 per year or more will be able to serve on the state-based Selection & Investment Committees. 

SUPPORTING THE RFS ASCEND PROGRAM

Click here to learn more about the program, including details like how to join the investor community, which gives members an opportunity to recommend candidates, how to serve on state-based Selection & Investment Committees, and more.

If you’re ready to join as an investor, you can make your donation here.

If you’re not ready to join at that level, but would still like to offer grassroots support for our work, please contribute here.

Still have questions? Email us at ascend@runforsomething.net

RFS ASCEND TEAM

Supporting the RFS program and our investor community are:

  • Ross Morales Rocketto, Co-Founder, RFS
  • David Burd, Co-Founder, Ascend PAC and Chair, RFS Ascend
  • Lavanna Martinez, Senior Political Manager, RFS
  • Robert Wrasse, Development Director, RFS