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. In 2021, the RFS Ascend program focused it’s support on strategic races in Virginia.
Since launching in 2017, RFS has become the preeminent organization supporting young, progressive candidates running for local and state legislative office. We’ve propelled hundreds of candidates to victory by providing 1:! campaign support, elevating their profiles with the press, and connecting them to top-level resources provided by partner organizations.
In 2020, Ascend PAC—an organization that has similarly focused on building the bench of Democratic candidates by providing direct financial support—merged with RFS to help directly fund select RFS candidates in key target tates, starting with Texas and Pennsylvania. Ascend PAC and RFS Ascend have collectively funded over 100 candidates, 60% of whom have won since 2017.
In 2022, after two successful years, the RFS Ascend program will continue to support candidates in Texas and Pennsylvania.
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.
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.
Lina Hidalgo was raised in an immigrant family and had the opportunity to attend some of the nation’s greatest universities; to work as an advocate and researcher on criminal justice reform; to serve as a medical interpreter; and to promote transparency and accountability internationally. She is working so that we are running a criminal justice system that operates as fairly, effectively, and transparently as possible; and that we are making smart spending decisions to give people every opportunity to build a better future. As the county judge of Harris County, Texas, Lina has helped steer her county through Covid by scaling up contact tracing. She has also been instrumental in passing ethics reform and ending the cash bail system.
Before her campaign, Sophia Garcia-Jackson was the Chief Deputy Coroner of Chester County, PA, overseeing all aspects of office. Sophia is passionate about this field and has dedicated her education, career and life to it. Sophia holds a master’s degree in Forensic Medicine, a bachelor’s degree in Anthropology and a certificate in Forensic Identification. She is certified by the American Board of Medicolegal Death Investigators and the Pennsylvania State Coroners’ Education Board, In 2021, Sophia became Run for Something’s first coroner to be elected to office, where she is focused on leading and modernizing the Chester County Coroner’s Office, a critical and essential service, especially during a global medical crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic.
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.
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