It’s been nearly a year since the 2018 midterm elections delivered a House majority for Democrats. While anticipated to a degree, it was unprecedented in flipping historically Republican Districts to Democratic ones by substantial margins. Since then, progressive voices have been energized. You don’t need to look on Twitter to see the massive following of young people behind the likes Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, or the massive organizing game behind Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren in their respective presidential campaigns.
However, while it’s easy to forget, the road to victory in 2018 was paved by winning moderate, suburban districts across the country. It remains a fact that, in order to grow our House majority, regain the senate, defeat Donald Trump, and flip state and local offices from red to blue, that we will have to stay on message and continue this path into 2020.
This is where our party could learn from Ken Meija-Beal: a Democrat from Illinois’s 42nd State House District with a background in finance and community activism who prides himself in being able to reach across the aisle to work towards positive change.
With experience as a mortgage manager where he helped citizens affected by the housing crisis in his constituency, he understands that our economic system needs work. He is a self-described “bleeding heart capitalist” that understands the importance of reaching across the aisle and working for policy change in his constituency. Ken proposes common-sense solutions such as requiring employers statewide to disclose their workers’ schedule two weeks ahead of time, investing in green jobs through incentives, and implementing stricter straw buyer gun laws, ensuring the person purchasing the gun won’t resell it to an unlicensed person. Ken understands the needs for progress, along with the need to work with others who may not necessarily agree in order to obtain that progress.
It’s important to note that this race is far from a safe bet though. Illinois’s 42nd State House District was held by Jeanne Ives, a controversial hard-line Republican who was considered homophobic and racist by members of her own party. It wasn’t until 2018, after Ives left her seat for a failed gubernatorial bid, that this seat was contested. Republican Amy Grant edged out Democrat Kathleen Carrier by a little more than a 4% margin.
Ken is young, charismatic, charming, and pragmatic. He’s got a historically winning combination for Democratic candidates facing off against Republican incumbents. He’s readying his ground game and gearing up to fight 200 days before the primary election and over a year before the general election. He’s shaking hands, making public appearances, releasing policy proposals, and garnering endorsements from political heavyweights such as CNN Legal Analyst Renato Mariotti.
This is something that Democrats should remember going into 2020 and beyond.With all the talk of flipping Texas and holding the rust belt, we need to remember that in order to do so, we need to be realistic. We need to nominate people like Ken who understand the importance of progress and the importance of bread-and-butter issues in local elections. We need to remember that a strong organizational structure, along with an effective message will be the path to victory for Democrats going forward and Ken Meija-Beal embodies this in every way.